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Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders
Despite the current trend for serious-minded documentaries, it’s still something of a surprise that there is a movie about the American culture of debt getting a cinematic release. The reason for this, however, is that Maxed Out in fact makes for very entertaining and engrossing viewing as it lifts the lid on the Machiavellian practices of credit card companies and debt collection agencies who prey on the vulnerable - something which has plunged the nation as a whole into massive, spiraling debt. The director James Scurlock (a business school whiz kid, not to be confused with fellow doc-maker Morgan Spurlock) not only explains the financial complexities, but treats the whole subject with unusual wit, and reveals the heartbreaking stories behind the stark statistics.

HOST
This stupidly enjoyable, no-holds-barred creature feature from director Bong Joon-Ho (‘Memories of Murder’) has quickly become the most successful film in South Korean box office history. The host of the title is an enormous mutant created when a U.S. army man tosses old chemicals into the Han river, and which is the carrier of deadly new virus. One of the film’s highlights is an extremely memorable sequence in which we are introduced to the beast as it snatches a young girl from the riverbank. Blending familial drama, genuine thrills and sly (mostly anti-American) political humor, ‘The Host’ is surprisingly thoughtful for its genre, but is still an unashamed crowd-pleaser that gives us the kind of monster movie that many films promise but seldom deliver.

THE FUTURE OF DISTRIBUTION?
This past weekend I was in San Jose for Cinequest, which is known for being on the forefront of technology, and came across what may become the newest answer for indie filmmakers who can't find traditional means of distribution. The site is called Jaman and along with being a social network it's also an online distribution site. Currently with over 1,000 shorts and features in its library from all over the world, you can rent ($1.99) or buy ($4.99) the films and with their peer-to-peer network can deliver movies that are — their site boasts — better than DVD quality (I've seen it, it's quite good). And the best thing about it, the filmmakers get something out of it: 30% of the gross revenue from rentals and sales go to the filmmakers. Along with Cinequest the site has partnered up with the Miami International Film Festival and the San Fancisco International Film Festival which will put a few films on the site from its 50th anniversary program....

 
     
 

POLITICAL MASH UP
Possibly the first of what will be countless political 2008 campaign mash-ups has appeared on YouTube. And even with its subject transposed, Ridley Scott's famous "1984" Apple Super Bowl ad -- here, retooled by a Barack Obama supporter -- packs a punch...

 
     

RECOMMENDED READING, PART TWO
I want to bump producer Ted Hope's response to the "Recommended Reading" post, below, to the main blog because he expanded upon the concept of the list by naming three non-film books (and one other non-obvious selection) that challenge us to think about cinema and image-making in new ways. ...

Read the complete stories at Filmmakermagazine's Blog...

   

LESSONS IN DIY - BY LANCE WEILER
“Do it yourself” is a simple phrase. Filmmakers have been “doing it themselves” for years, especially when it comes to production. However, the concept of DIY distribution, often considered to be a last resort or even a sign of failure, has recently become a first choice for many filmmakers.

The digital video revolution of the late ’90s ushered in a new wave of filmmaking by making the tools of production accessible to the masses. That democratization has, in 2007, become a bittersweet reality. While producing new voices and stories, it has overloaded the current system, flooding festivals, distributors and theaters with movies. The old adage that quality work floats to the surface is quickly becoming a myth, especially with the thousands of films produced every year...

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