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But amongst all the new announcements, one relatively goofy one has gotten a lot of buzz. Apple announced a new version of its video editing software, iMovie '11, and it's got a new function -- making movie trailers. You know how most trailers, with their portentous title cards and triumphant musical scores, could have been stamped out by a computer? Well, Jobs and his software designers at Apple certainly did. But rather than whine about Hollywood's formulaic marketing techniques, they monetized their critique. They came up with 14 or so pre-cut trailer templates, with title cards already written and underlying scores played by the London Symphony Orchestra laid in. All you need to do is select your clips, stick them into the readymade "drop zones" and output your trailer. It's so fast that moments after the product was announced I found one guy's trailer up on YouTube. To see iMovie '11 and its trailer function in action, check out the demo video.
When I first heard of this new feature, I thought it was kind of ridiculous. Who would cut a trailer this way? Then I watched the demo, and I realized that this has been designed as something of a toy. Apple's taken the worst of movie marketing, acknowledged its cheesy qualities and turned it into something for people to have fun with. Movie trailers in iMovie are not about promoting movies, they are about pretending that your life, or yours kids' lives, are movies. Now, I think this is going to get old pretty fast -- I can already count all the holiday cards and party invites I'm going to get in the form of these things. And we can debate the deep psychology of all of this, and what it says about us as a culture. But I'm sure at the outset for many people it's simply going to be a lot of fun.
But here's what I think is going to be interesting. What happens when, a year from now, an audience full of people who have auto-trailered their last trip to the beach sit in a theater and watch a generically cut promo for the latest swords-and-sandals epic? Or couples who gave themselves silly Valentine's Day trailer cards with the "Romance" template see a similarly cut spot for the latest Katherine Heigl flick? There will be snickers and, later at home, mash-ups. Movie marketers will notice and realize they are being laughed at. The cliches that Apple is cleverly making money with will be put out to pasture and maybe trailers will start getting creative again.
I like this new product of Apple's and hope they do more like it. I'd like to see their "Indie Movie" iMovie program with "coming of age," "conquering the psychological backstory," and "ensemble comedy secretly modeled after Friends" templates. Then once the mechanical qualities of some of our less illustrious films are similarly exposed, these too can be put out to pasture in favor of movies that could never be evoked by a computer program.
See you next week.
Editor NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS™ Twenty-six films were announced on Monday as the nominees in the six competitive categories for IFP's 20th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards™, the first major honors of the film awards season. Cited for Best Feature were Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine, Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right, Matt Reeves' Let Me In, and Debra Granik's Winter's Bone. Best Documentary feature nominees are Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's 12th & Delaware, Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, Laura Poitras' The Oath, Martin Scorsese's Public Speaking, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash's Sweetgrass. Of special note in the nominations this year was the strong showing of films by women filmmakers, with 11 films directed or co-directed by women. The Gotham Independent Film Awards will be held November 29th at Cipriani Wall Street. A complete list of nominees and more info on the awards are available here.
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BOXING GYM Documentary pioneer Frederick Wiseman has been studying human behavior in his works since the 1960s. In his latest film, he focuses on a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, populated by every walk of life - young, old, amateur, professional, or just anybody trying to be their best. Wiseman's films let his subjects speak for themselves, often simply capturing their behaviors in long takes. An official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, Boxing Gym gives the audience a sense that they are there, smelling the staleness and dried sweat on the ring and the power and exertion that it takes to get better at "the sweet science." PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 A sequel to the breakout indie horror hit of last year, Paranormal Activity 2, directed by Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor) and written by Michael R. Perry, revisits the nightmare saga experienced by couple Katie and Micah in the first film. This time, Katie's relatives believe their home is being burglarized, so they install security cameras, only to see that not only Katie's demons have returned but that Katie may be one of them. The trailer to the film has been deemed so frightening that it was removed from several theaters in Texas. Check it out this weekend if you dare. 11/4/08 Jeff Deutchman weaves together footage from all around the world on the day Barack Obama was elected the U.S. President in his documentary 11/4/08, exploring how different people chose to acknowledge that momentous election. People speak about what they feel will be the historic significance of the day, how his election may change the world, whether the election will live up to the hype, and what it means for civil rights and a more progressive America. Needless to say, it's fascinating viewing given how much has changed in this lead-up to the 2010 midterm elections. THE COMPANY MEN As the U.S. economy has not picked up much within two years, more feature films are being made about characters going through financial struggles. Last year it was Up in the Air, and this year it's The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck as a laid-off businessman who, along with his co-workers (Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones), feels defenseless and unable to provide for his family. With strong performances by Affleck and Jones, the film dramatizes not just one man's layoff but the changing face of the American economy. Company Men was written and directed by John Wells. THE TAQWACORES In predominately Muslim countries such as Iran and Pakistan, there has been a huge metal and punk rock underground scene going on for decades. The Taqwacores, directed by Eyad Zahra, centers on a fictional Islamic punk rock scene called Taqwacore in Buffalo, N.Y. Yusef (Bobby Naderi) is the straight-laced square amongst the punked-out artists, balancing his religious identity with their cultural upbringing. As one puts it, it is the "mismatching of disenfranchised subcultures." The stories cross cultural boundaries, flipping audiences' expectations of what the "typical" Muslim person should be like, and is a faithful adaptation of the novel by Michael Muhammed Knight, who also wrote the screenplay. This week on the blog, the nominations for the Gotham Independent Film Awards have been announced; Nicholas Rombes gives his take on Let Me In; Zachary Wigon analyzes Enter the Void; Todd Solondz goes into production on Dark Horse; and On Coal River (pictured left) examines the costs of mountain top removal in coal mining.
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CAMERON YATES & MRIDU CHANDRA, THE CANAL STREET MADAM By Mary Anderson Casavant
An unflinching portrait of Jeanette Maier, a woman made famous for running a brothel that serviced the New Orleans elite and made infamous for allowing her daughter to work there as a prostitute, The Canal Street Madam follows the former madam as she seeks to make a life for herself post-prison. As she struggles financially, she becomes an advocate for sex workers, speaking out against the legal system that put her in prison but keeps her former clients in higher office. read more
Boston International Film Festival
Early Deadline: Oct. 29
Regular Deadline For Features: Dec. 3
Regular Deadline For Shorts: Dec. 23
Festival Dates: April 15 - 24
Slamdance Film Festival
Final Deadline: Oct. 29
Festival Dates: Jan. 21-27
Cleveland International Film Festival
Late Deadline: Oct. 31
Extended Deadline: Nov. 30
Festival Dates: March 24-April 3