Saturday, May 29, 2010

Film Review: 'How I Got Lost' (2009)

By Lars Trodson

Here is a film, "How I Got Lost", that actually has the feel -- depth is a better word -- of time and place. It is too easy these days to watch a movie, even a movie you have liked, and emerge from it with the feeling that it has floated away on air; those movies have the gnaw of an undernourished meal. Often enough it is because the film has no sense of place -- or time. The place could be New York, or Chicago, or even L.A., but the architecture has a slight hint of Europe, or Toronto. And no one in movies seems to go anywhere any more.

So it's with more than just a hint of satisfaction that Joe Leonard's "How I Got Lost" (from Osiris Entertainment) shows off Manhattan to great effect. You are on Wall Street, you are in a New York City taxi, and you're having a drink in a New York bar (when you could still smoke inside!). As someone who believes that film should be, as much as anything, an honest chronicle of time and place, then it is easy to say that "How I Got Lost" is a minor miracle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today Is Mr. Cheever's Birthday

By Lars Trodson

John Cheever was once called "Ovid In Ossining." What you have there are two references that may mean little or nothing to today's reading audience, and so it goes with Cheever. He seems fixed in some awkward artistic purgatory, only in Cheever's instance heaven and hell could be J.D. Salinger and John Updike. No one seems to know who Cheever is any more, or what he was talking about.

Salinger and Updike have staked out their territories quite clearly. Salinger was the voice of post-war New York and Updike trained his eye on a more fluorescent age. But they are most definitely realists. Given that Cheever is always lumped in with this small crowd, you open his books and very much expect him to be in that tradition, and he is not. He is the suburban surrealist, even though his topography appears quite real. So there is a vague notion of being disappointed when you finish a Cheever story, but only because you were told to expect the terrain to be related to Salinger and Updike. It's not, though. It's Cheever's own vision.

Salinger also did something incredible with his art. He got out of its way. Salinger the man is a void, and so his personality impinges not one whit on his art. What you are left with are the stories.

With Cheever it is the opposite. Portraits written by his children, as well as the subsequent publication of his journals, show a breathtaking difference between the man and his prose. The difference is so spectacular, and the revelations are so fascinating (even though, in some instances, this is due to their sordidness), that Cheever's writing almost strikes one as a fanciful pose, a facade. That's a problem for a writer; you always want to think that the writing came from an honest place.

I think with Cheever it did, though. The writing was scrupulously honest. He was, page by page, word by word, story by story, trying to create a world he could understand. It's like the process of the old aboriginal songlines -- Cheever was singing his world into existence.

So, today, May, 27, John Cheever would have turned 98. With the death of Salinger earlier this year, the old New Yorker triumvirate is gone. Maybe this will finally give Cheever a little breathing room.

But gone only in flesh. John Cheever's books are still happily in print. If you have a few minutes, celebrate his birthday -- if not today, on another day -- by reading some of his words. He's a writer to be cherished, and we should be happy that he lived.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mr. Arkadin, The Novel, Is One Sorry Mess

By Lars Trodson

I don't think I have ever come across a book by someone I respect that has pissed me off more than this novel called "Mr. Arkadin" that was supposedly — but maybe not — written by Orson Welles.

Welles, of course, directed a movie of the same name. The movie was accompanied by a novelization of the screenplay that was published in 1955, ostensibly to support the film, and now a new edition of the novel, published by icon!t, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, has just come out. I decided, dupe that I am, to pick up a copy at the local Barnes & Noble.

The subtitle of the novel, at least for this version, is "The Secret Sordid Life of an International Tycoon." The cover is a pretty miserable affair, black and yellow with a hand-lettered title.  A blurb promises a "witty, madcap, pulp-noir adventure." It is not.

The back cover describes the film version of "Mr. Arkadin" as "controversial" — a term so broad as to mean everything and nothing. But "Mr. Arkadin" is not controversial. It is a terrible film. It may be, in fact, the one film in the Welles canon that cannot be redeemed in any way. It's a shoddy, lumpen affair.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ladies And Gentlemen, After A Five Year Delay, 'A Bootful Of Fish'!

Four or five years ago we had a plan. 

In 2005 a small group of folks got together on two freezing nights in New Hampshire to create a short film called "The Listeners." That group included the actors Kristan Raymond Curtis, Tim Robinson and the late, great Bernie Tato. When we finished "The Listeners" it was garnering some attention and so we -- or perhaps it was just me -- decided on a brilliant plan.

Let's make another movie right away! 

So we made "The Listeners" and then right on the heels of that we made "A Bootful Of Fish." 

By the time we were finished with "Bootful", which by our standards was a huge production, and after it went through a particularly painful editing process, we were all but wiped out. We had kind of blown it with "The Listeners", which should have gotten much more attention than it did. With "Bootful" we didn't know where to go or turn - our finances were so strapped we didn't have any money for festivals, and we were exhausted. It had exactly one showing, at the New Hampshire Film Festival in 2005.

And then it sat on the shelf, as it were. And that is altogether too bad.

And now, with the passage of time, Mike Gillis (who directed) and Jonathon Millman (who shot it), recently looked at it, and saw it for what it is, which is a sweet, lovely little film about this theater group trying to put on a show.

It was shot at the Rochester Opera House, which looks gorgeous, and we had a lovely, lovely cast of actors.

We have a marvelous opening song from the great Michelle Lewis, which should have been a hit on the radio, and great opening title sequence and a really funny dance number at the end. That's right, it's a bit of a musical. A lot of enormously talented people worked on the film, which runs about 15 minutes.

If the film has any flaws, don't lay it at the feet of the actors, or the choreographer, or the folks who contributed to the music. They worked very hard on this - and you can see all the hard work right up there on the screen.

So, without further adieu, here's "A Bootful Of Fish". You'll have a fun time.

But don't take our word for it, check it out. 

And if you like the work of any of the people in the film, or helped contribute to it, seek them out and hire them!

Mike Gillis, Lars Trodson and Jonathon Millman

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Norman Corwin Turns 100

By Lars Trodson

Our friend Norman Corwin turned 100 years old yesterday.

Please help honor this wonderful American writer, who was always an eloquent proponent of tolerance and true American values, by participating in an effort to have the United States honor him appropriately for his work.

Please visit here: 

…and join the effort as you see fit.
If you have not read Norman, or heard his broadcasts, please seek them out. They are stirring, beautifully crafted pieces of prose poetry that you will not forget.

Happy Birthday, Norman.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Photos From the Set of 'Tuesday Morning'

We've just begin editing our latest Roundtable Pictures production, "Tuesday Morning," and we like the way it's turning out. Here are a few nice shots from the shoot, which took place in Dover, New Hampshire. The first stop for the film, we hope, will be the New Hampshire Film Festival 2010. Thanks to Stan Barker and other members of the crew for the pics.

The cast includes Whitney Smith (in the blue blouse) and Teddi Kenick-Bailey (in the purple hat). Director of Photography was Jonathon Millman. The picture was written by Lars Trodson and directed by Mike Gillis.

We'll post more about "Tuesday Morning" soon.