Monday, March 31, 2008

Lady Magdalene's Culver City Press Junket

Filmmaker J. Neil Schulman's Lady Magdalene's will screen on in Culver City's Backlot Film Festival, on April 3, in preparation of which he organized the below press junket:

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Trouble With Indie Films

I love indie films, for many of the reasons that filmmaker J. Neil Schulman (Lady Magdalene's) doesn't. However, Neil makes so many valid observations about indie films, I asked if it were okay for me to reprint them here:

"Independent film has become, in its own way, as strict and narrowly selective as commercial movies. I did not set out to make an arthouse film for a limited audience. I set out to do what I have always done, first as a novelist then later as a screenwriter, which is to make an entertainment for as large an audience as could possibly be receptive to my own admittedly idiosyncratic esthetics and opinions. I have always enjoyed suspense and strong plots. Many in the indie film community today consider plot to be atavistic or bourgeois. My favorite books and movies have always been uplifting, romantic, and driven by heroic characters. This is at odds with the spirit of much of independent film today, which is existentialist, naturalist, and tends to regard good as less powerful than evil. I am not a Candide who sees only the rosy side of life; but I do feel it to be my job as an artist to make it easier, not harder, for the person I entertain to confront the challenges in their own lives. To me, the purpose of fiction and drama -- even comedy and farce -- is the same as myth: to infect us with hope, and silence despair.

"We did everything we could to make an entertaining movie with appealing, memorable characters as well as a strong plot, and as high production values as we could achieve on our budget. I think if there is such a thing as a formula for box office success, this is it. But the only way anyone can know for sure is to be offered to an audience and let them decide.

"That opportunity is what we're working towards."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rocket Science Censors Christ from Battle Hymn of Republic

I don't know if this was intentional, but it is curious.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic has five stanzas. It's the epitome of a Judeao-Christian song, in that it combines Old Testament imagery with specific reference to Christ. You thus have both the "Judaeo" and "Christian" parts.

But I guess the "Christian" half of Judaeo-Christianity bothers some people.

The recent indie film, Rocket Science, features a modern version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic over the end credits. The first four stanzas are sung. There's time enough to sing the fifth stanza, that one that references Christ. Instead, the song repeats the refrain a second time.

I wonder, was somebody at HBO/Time-Warner uneased by the Christ reference? And if Christ was censored out, did that decision come from the creative or corporate end? If you're gonna do the first four stanzas, it makes sense to sing the fifth as well.

You hear about "liberal" Hollywood. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it's a curious omission.

Rocket Science itself is a so-so indie film. A teenage, coming-of-age film; the difficulties of being an outcast, finding a girl, dealing with oddball parents and hippy-dippy teachers or guidance counselors. (The clueless speech thearpist in Rocket Science reminded me of the clueless teacher in Heathers -- a far superior film.)

For the curious, here are the complete lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

REFRAIN: Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.


I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My Grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."


He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His Judgement Seat.
Oh! Be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.


In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.