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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

UP and FUNNY PEOPLE Giveaway

upI realize that some of you would like to be able and cross off a few items off your Christmas list. To that end I am doing my bit and offering a couple of titles to those who are able to come out of your tryptophan stupor for just a little bit and send me an e-mail.

Without question, UP was a film that undeniably of the best films of 2009. No hyperbole. A story of a man who is learning to live after the departure of his wife, and trying to realize the one dream that remained unfulfilled, is not the usual fare for an animated movie but throw in a cub scout and some talking dogs and you’ve got yourself a movie. It’s sweet, tender and one that ought to pull at some of those hardened arteries.

I’ve got 3 copies of this movie and this isn’t just the DVD version. I’ve got 3 copies of the 4 disc, Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy version and all you have to do to win one is e-mail me at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com.

If you’re still sitting on your hands, here’s what is included on the discs:

* DisneyFile Digital Copy
* DVD Of Film
* Global Guardian Badge Game: Players try to locate countries and states around the globe in a multi-layered BD-exclusive and geography game enhanced by BD-Live.
* Cine-Explore: The making of by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson
* Dug’s Special Mission: An all new film original short that follows the hilarious misadventures of Dug as he attempts to complete his “special mission”.
* The Many Endings of Muntz: Many ideas were hatched about how to dispose of the film’s arch villain, Muntz and now viewers can see the many alternate endings proposed during story development.
* Partly Cloudy:–The hilarious short film that preceded screenings of UP. In it, a fanciful world where cherubic clouds jovially create the earth’s cuddly animal newborns, one depressed cloud must find the silver lining in his assignment: fashioning the less-loved critters like crocodiles and porcupines.
* Adventure is Out There: This documentary tells the story of the filmmakers’ visit to the Tepuis Mountains of South America to research the design and story of the film.
* Geriatric Hero: A character study of Carl and Muntz, from research to realization including art and design, rigging, animation and story. It focuses on the issues of aging, “simplexity”, shape-language and compelling character arcs.
* Canine Companions: For anyone who ever wondered where CG puppies come from, an introduction to the design, behavior and language of dogs.
* Russell: Wilderness Explorer: A character study of Russell from inspiration and design to finding the character arc and authentic voice for this wilderness ranger.
* Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin: Find out how Avian Research & Development at Pixar helped bring a mythical, 11-foot tall iridescent bird to life.
* Homemakers of Pixar: Carl and Ellie’s house is an important “character” in the film. Fans follow the development of the house from story to art to its ultimate realization in the computer.
* Balloons and Flight: Carl’s house and Muntz’s dirigible presented the filmmakers with two different problems, how could they make a physical impossibility possible? And, in the case of the dirigible, how would they unearth a fallen giant and let it soar?
* Composing for Characters: The collaboration between the Pixar filmmakers and Up composer Michael Giacchino.
* Married Life: An alternate scene and expanded character backstory
* UP promo montage
* Theatrical trailers

funnypeopleart1Second up to bat is FUNNY PEOPLE.

A movie that seem to come and then go it really is a story that seemed to want to be more than just a comedy. Mixing in drama with the usual Apatow special sauce jolted some people who were expecting something more puerile were disappointed. Once you realize what the Judd and Co. set out to do  you really have to hand it to the man who at least trying to craft a story that dealt with something innately human and infusing a little funny into it. I enjoyed it and think it ought to be a movie you should at least experience once.

And, to sweeten the deal, shoot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com to get entered to win one of a few copies I have lying around here, ready to shoot your way.

A film synopsis:

Over the past few years, writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) has shown that nothing—not even losing your virginity or the miracle of childbirth—is sacred. About his third film behind the camera, he says, “I’m trying to make a very serious movie that is twice as funny as my other movies. Wish me luck!” Apatow directs Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann in Funny People, the story of a famous comedian who has a near-death experience. Adam Sandler, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman, RZA and newcomer Aubrey Plaza join a cast that reunites Judd Apatow with Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill in their third comedy together.

Angels and Demons: Decoded - Review

angSo, I’m not a Dan Brown fan. Sue me. What I am, though, is a closet conspiracy theorist who attaches to any idea that might have some basis of truth. By all intents and purposes I ought to love light reading like Brown’s serialized novels that follow paper-thin, and hair-brained, leads which make extraordinary jumps in logic. But I don’t. I like my crazy in more digestible bites and Angels and Demons: Decoded provides the best kind of delivery for me to get into.

The  show is perfect for me in that I don’t have to sit through a movie that I am already predisposed to kinda not want to watch but this program breaks down the interesting bits I would have liked to linger on. For example, the program deconstructs plot points and actually delves into whether or not it is even possible. There is a professor of physics to actually talk about the nature of anti-matter and its properties. While the program shifts back and forth into the film proper, talking about particular plot points, it really was interesting to hear the science behind the fiction.

Further, we get a discussion of the Illuminati and their background which is rather all curious when you see how long these innuendos and whispers about its true origins, intents, have sustained throughout history. My personal favorite, however, is an exploration of the Swiss Guard and the role they perform within the papal walls of the Vatican. Anyone even mildly interested in the goings on behind this self-contained city ought to at least watch what this program has to say about an organization that hides out in the open, who are above reproach.

Without a doubt, I am much more in favor recommending this DVD than I would be revisiting the Tom Hanks actioneer which I had enough of the first time around. Although this program uses clips from the film and talks about particulars of it this is 90 minutes that I found not only satisfying but educational as well. Well worth checking out and finding out yourself.

Official Synopsis:

Investigate the fascinating truths behind Dan Brown’s (The Da Vinci Code) first novel. From centuries-old secret societies to real-world cryptography, from the high-stakes intrigue surrounding the installation of a new Pope to the sometimes uneasy relationship between the Vatican and leading scientists, this special will thrill and inform viewers about this monumental time in world history. The clues Brown’s hero Robert Langdon follows in frantic pursuit of the Illuminati will inspire further investigation–into religious conspiracies and the Freemasons, secret “codes” hidden in Roman architecture and artwork–as well as controversial theories about religious iconography. Features scenes from the new movie as well as interviews with renowned symbologists, art historians, religious scholars, scientists and other experts will help unravel the mysteries and expose the diabolical plot to destroy the Church.

Noah Buschel, Writer/Director of THE MISSING PERSON - Interview

Unequivocally, The Missing Person is a film you didn’t realize belonged on your top of 2009 list. After you see it, though, you can see why it should. It mixes the modern with noir in a way that not only feels like it could happen but that in a time gone by you almost wish that such people still existed. The Missing Person represents the third feature from writer/director Noah Buschel and the second time he’s worked with Academy Award nominated actress Amy Ryan. With a story that uses the mass confusion and desperation of those looking for people lost in the 9/11 attacks as but a plot point Noah crafts a story that is a delight to watch if for no other reason than to see great actors doing great work in a film that should be watched by anyone who also longs for movies with gumshoe detectives, femme fatales and where nothing is as it seems. Another Academy Award nominee, Michael Shannon, plays a detective hired to find one of those presumed missing after 9/11 and, once found, to bring that person back to New York. It seems like an easy enough task but, in the world of crime and detectives, nothing goes as planned.

Noah sat down to talk with me and we talked about the nature of independent film in the late 21st century and what Internet chatter really can do for a filmmaker just looking to make his next picture.

The Missing Person is out now.

missing-posterNOAH BUSCHEL: Hey, Chris.

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Hey, Noah, how are you doing?

BUSCHEL: Doing good. How are you doing?

CS: I’m doing OK. It was a wonderful film.

BUSCHEL: Oh wow. Thanks, man.

CS: I hadn’t seen a movie like this in a long time. It felt fresh and original and a movie like this is far too lacking nowadays. You got the idea for this film based on a short story you were reading by Raymond Chandler and came upon those memorials that were set up for those who were still missing from the World Trade Center. What piqued your curiosity to make a film that had something to do with that?

BUSCHEL: I grew up in New York and I think one way or another you gotta do 9/11 when you live there. So I guess this was just my way of dealing with it. Originally when I wrote it I didn’t want to show anyone because I was afraid that people would think it’s in poor taste or something. I think it worked in our favor – because I wrote it in 2002 – the first draft and I hadn’t heard anyone say that and I think it worked in our favor that it’s coming out now, years later. I wonder if it came out in 2003 if a couple people would have said, “What the hell.” I don’t know about doing a genre movie about this. But I’m not really interested in doing political movies. It’s not a political movie. It’s just how New York felt to me after that – 9/11.

CS: I am curious by your theatrical output, at least by the films that we do have that represent your work. You have one that came out in ’03 and ’07 and this one in ’09. Did you go through a lot of changes with the film? When you wrote it the first time did you nail it as we see it now?

BUSCHEL: You mean with the first draft being a lot different than what it is now?

CS: Right.

BUSCHEL: Yeah, the first draft was pretty close I gotta say. I think Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks, the guy who played the bad cop, they were very helpful in rehearsals. They were really helpful in the weeks leading up to the shooting. What’s this about? What’s this about? Does this make sense? Just really crystallizing and clarifying some of the plots twists. That was probably the stuff I had the most trouble with. But, yea, the first draft pretty much stayed. I wanted to keep whatever I wrote in 2001 or 2002, whenever it was, I knew that whatever I was writing was probably more true then, closer to the event than what I could write in 2006.

CS: Much love goes to Ryan Samul and your eye for clothing and I read you drew inspiration from comic books, of all places. That’s curious. What did you mine those for?

BUSCHEL: Well, comic books – I grew up reading – I’m not a DC fan, I’m a Marvel fan and some of those daredevils are just great metaphorical stories. I suppose I was interested in doing something like a comic book. The framing of it – it’s not taking place in this world. The world intrudes on it in the end. I’m not really into – like a lot of indi movie are – neo-neo realism – and I’m just a fan of that kind of feeling. Kind of a super hero played by Mike Shannon anyways.

noahCS: It definitely comes across. It’s almost like a noire super hero movie without the accruements of what we come to expect. There’s a definite bending of reality.

BUSCHEL: Yeah, for sure.

CS: And to your credit I noticed that you don’t have much love for the film classes or the boot camp you took on screenwriting. Your process is very curious. I would love to hear how you were able to avoid – and not that that’s a bad thing – but you avoided the normal route these upstarts take. And now you have a film with upstarts Amy Ryan and Michael Shannon.

BUSCHEL: Are people still going to film school??? I don’t really know.

(Laughs)

I didn’t really have a choice because I never graduated high school. So I just never really got along with school. And I was living Florida for a year and sort of sat in on some University of Miami classes and it just didn’t…and the boot camp was a waste of time because it just - like on page 20 this happens, on page 40 this happens and that just seems insanely crazy to me that there could be some sort of program that could make, for lack of a better word, just kind of nutty. I just started writing a lot and my babysitter was an assistant at Gersh. Not that I had a babysitter when I was 20.

(Laughs)

So I got in with Gersh and started meeting people.

CS: Was that a good process for you? The system of having representation and what have you. There’s obviously the horror story of – that agents are doing anything for them. Are you more in control of your own destiny or is it the other way around, are they?

BUSCHEL: The agent didn’t work out so well for me because I think a lot of it – especially if you’re younger – they like your writing but they see it as a writing sample. It’s the whole thing like, “OK, we like this writing now we want to push you into what we can sell.” So I tired. I wrote this terrible action movie called American Samurai. And I thought it was really good and sent it to my agent at Gersh and he said, “Are you mocking me?”

So I think there’s a skill set for making Hollywood movies that I just don’t have. I definitely would if I could. They just come out slanted and a little off. I just don’t have a choice.

CS: And that leads right into the next question that I have regarding this film. It feels like, and like I said it’s no hyperbole one of the most original visions of any film I’ve seen this year. There’s no prequel, no jump starting a new franchise, any of that. Is it tough to stay true to what you wanted to do and say this is the kind of movie I want to make and not be swayed by the money men or anyone else who might have a finger in that pie?

BUSCHEL: Yeah. It’s a constant. You are bound to fight with the producers. One of the things that my friends who are making movies – I’m kind of jealous because it seems like they are part of these movements – there’s the mumble core and neo-neo realism, like Wendy and Lucy and all those movies, and then there’s just people who are doing things that just don’t fit into that. When you are doing that, there’s a lot of doubting. There’s a lot of people……it’s nice that you said it’s original because there’s a lot of people who take anything that’s a little different to be like you are doing it wrong. There’s a lot of that - like you are screwing it up. So, yeah, it’s hard. I had one really great producer, Lois Drabkin, who basically allowed the movie to be what it was. Without her it would have been turned into…other producers kept talking about other films and wanting to make something we’ve already seen and I just don’t understand it. Without her, it would have been a low budget Chinatown.

CS: I read, and you can help fill the gap here, that the shooting felt a little rushed and that you didn’t get to spend the time to do what you wanted? Could you talk a little about the actual production of the film and why you felt it was a little rushed?

BUSCHEL: It was an ambitious shoot and it was the moving around so much that made it difficult to maintain that energy, because you are on a street that you are trying to close down or maybe on a train and you have 5 minutes to get the shot. So, I know some people thrive off that kind of energy. But when you are trying to do something low key, it doesn’t necessarily help your cause. If it wasn’t Mike Shannon and if he didn’t know his lines so well and if he wasn’t just literally good on every take, we would have been in a lot of trouble. He really saved the movie.

the_missing_person08CS: And that’s a curious thing. Obviously this work was excellent, who was the one to champion it or how did you get into the hands of Michael Shannon and Amy Ryan? How were you able to cut through the usual b.s. with scripts to get them onboard?

BUSCHEL: He was in my second movie, Neal Cassidy and she was really close with Mike and Mike came by the screening of Neal Cassidy and this other actor friend was there too and Brendon said, “I think you need to make a lot of changes because no one’s going to know what the hell you are talking about.” And Mike was, “No, man, I think it’s great, there’s a lot of people in Chicago that are going to love this.” And I said, “Alright, I gotta work with this guy.”

His favorite artist is Thelonious Monk. He’s not like a literal thinker. He’s very poetic minded and I just think he’s one of the few people that really got what we were trying to do. He’s just very open to things being ambiguous. And I think his performance is ambiguous too. He’s not necessarily a good guy or bad guy. That’s pretty amazing. He’s not one of those actors that needs to be liked.

CS: And he gets it. He got the material. The thing that made the film enjoyable to me is that he got what the part called for and he wasn’t campy about it. He played it straight up and was what you intended at least.

BUSCHEL: Yeah. It’s a pretty dark and depressing performance but he brought a lot of humor to it that makes the movie not just a downer.

CS: Completely. To judge a movie by it’s trailer would be a disservice to the film because there is an element to that that you don’t get. It’s actually surprising that you are able to get in there - almost a film noir with a slightly humorous edge.

BUSCHEL: Yes.

CS: The amount of producing that went into getting this film – I am curious to get your take because of your film really shows an independent spirit with regards to the production – someone couldn’t take a movie like this and sell it commercially in a big budget way without compromising your vision. Do you have a take on the Soderbergh’s of the world – the people who do art and then do commercial films in order to keep their art films, their passion projects, going? Is there an honor in that or should it be whatever drives you?

the_missing_person06BUSCHEL: I’ve never really been fond of Soderbergh. Who’s another example of a guy who does that? I mean, definitely from everyone I speak to it’s like definitely almost have to play that game because – Todd Fallon is having trouble getting his films made. The game has changed so much. Jim Jarmush couldn’t make it if he was starting now. There are a few people out there just doing art films. You can count them on one hand. I don’t know how to answer that. I think however you can get your passion projects made more power to you.

CS: You say, and I’ve talked to a couple directors, who said the independent world has changed, the game has changed.

BUSCHEL: Yeah.

CS: One of the things I wanted to ask is that a lot of people, depending on what year you ask them, say things are going downhill. Every year the sky is falling. Are things really changing in your world?

BUSCHEL: It’s a real thing at this point. You have a lot of people making $500,000 movies and then you have some people making $10,000,000 movies but what’s missing now is that $4M, $5M movie. That’s a great type of movie because it has a budget but it’s going to be artistic. That’s 70’s quality movie is going to be extinct. It’s just gone now. We went to Sundance with it to get financing. And maybe in 2003 we would have gotten financing but not this year.

CS: The reception you got at Sundance when you unveiled the film, what was that like for a director / writer such as yourself to spend as much time with this movie as you did and to finally let people see it, is that what you’re ultimately striving for is to see how other people respond or are you always satisfied with what you do regardless whoever sees it?

BUSCHEL: You just have to keep your head down because you’re going to hear people saying I love it and people saying I hate it. You just can’t stress. I think the best thing about Sundance is I didn’t feel necessarily that the Sundance crowd loved it that much, like the film buffs, but we took it to the middle of Utah one night and played it for a mostly Mormon crowd and that was the best reception I got.

So that was really pretty heartening – just that a bunch of Mormon’s liked it. Best thing about Sundance. They are not jaded and have a bunch of things on their mind. They are just going to see a movie. I’m trying to stay off the internet!

CS: Is that hard for you or are you one of those that says I don’t need to read any of that?

BUSCHEL: I’m tempted because it does have an effect on future projects. That’s the real reason.

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