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Best of the Twin Cities: The UpTake
Seriously, this is a dream come true. I've always loved the City Pages Artists of the Year and Best of the Twin Cities issues. A few years back I got to writeup my Artist of the Year (Jehane Noujaim). And now, The UpTake is named Best Citizen-based Media Outlet. I know we didn't exactly face much stiff competition (or any?) but it's cool they came up for a way to include us. And it really, truly is an "us" thing, as Mike McIntee said in the UpTake email: "Everyone who has contributed video, text, time, comments or just moral support helped us win this. So this is an award, not for an organization as much as it is for a community and a movement."
Mad, Angry Props to my favorite local blog (heck, one of my favorite blogs period), Mediation.
Mostly unrelated: Minnesota Stories, which tragically never earned a Best of TC mention, is now back online. Thanks to everyone who let me know. I guess MNspeak isn't the only site that doesn't pay it's hosting on time.
MSPIFF Film Reviews
The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival is in full-swing. Lori and I have seen 5 films between us, and thought it would be fun to review a couple in video flesh. Behold, watch!
Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome ***½
There's a lot of good stuff here, but you know there's trouble when you're re-editing the film in your head after five minutes. Worth seeing if you're a fan for insider looks at Public Enemy and some good interviews with Henry Rollins and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
Traveling with Pets ****½
A gorgeously-shot, immersive essay about a young rural Russian woman (who looks like a young Tilda Swinton) faced with discovering who she is after her unsympathetic husband dies suddenly. Definitely an art-house film, but in the best sense. A few scenes are so striking and magical, it's hard not to feel you're watching something special. It can be a little slow, and some may not have the patience for the pace. I left feeling aglow.
Disappointing overall, but amusing observations on sex and relationships might make it worth a look. Unfortunately, the structure of a "film within a film" is a distraction and makes the whole thing disjointed. There's also some really unnecessary animation, yet another idea they threw into the mix instead of making the story more compelling and coherent.
You, The Living (Du Levande) *****
My favorite film of the festival. It's full of ugly Swedes, in all their angst and absurdity and despair – and it's funny! The film has a really distinctive, soft painterly look with a palette of pale greens and muted pastels. It turns out that nearly every scene was built and staged in a studio, though this is completely transparent when you're watching. The film is really a series of loosely-connected vignettes, with certain characters recurring along with their dreams. Various members of a Louisiana brass band provide an unlikely and comforting soundtrack. This is a hard film to describe, but don't miss it if it comes back for "Best of Fest."
Clash of Egos ***½
If you've ever hated a Lars von Trier film, Clash of Egos is for you. This Danish film is the perfect palette cleanser in your festival schedule. The crux of the plot is that a blue-collar fellow, Tonny, is furious at the piece of crap art film he and his children have been subjected to. He goes after the director and demands his money back, ending up badly injured on set. Rather than take a money settlement, he ends up co-writing and co-directing the director's new film, turning it into a ridiculous action flick with lots of f-bombs. This satisfying and well-acted plot is diminished by a sappy, boring romantic subplot that ends the film on a predictable note.
What have you seen? We're planning to see Mondo Bondo on Wednesday, followed by the Mid-fest party at Red Stag Supper Club. We're also going to see Lynch, the documentary about David Lynch, and possibly Dean and Me: Road Show of an American Primary to find out how the filmmaker spent $100,000. Finally, we don't plan to miss Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary about Antarctica by Werner Herzog.
UPDATE: Instead of Mondo Bondo, which we heard was so-so, we saw Full Metal Village (***). The quaint, imperfect country folk of a rural German town don't seem to mind the presence of Korean documentary filmmaker Sung Hyung Cho in their daily routines. In fact, a great deal of time is spent on languid still shots that let the often funny details of their farm lives unfold. And then... the death metal festival arrives.
There's something deeply satisfying about a herd of cows running to heavy metal. If you're a metal fan you might be disappointed, since most of the time is spent on the village characters. I found it completely charming and well worth my time.
This is for everyone who loved or hated Inland Empire. I kinda hated it, but somehow I can't get enough of Lynch telling weird stories, closing his eyes and demanding a one-legged 16 year old girl and a beautiful 23 yr old Eurasian, and yelling "fuck!" as often as possible. Glimpses into Lynch's filmmaking process are rare, and it's a little surprising he chose to let us in on his least cohesive, most haphazardly-envisioned film. Watching this documentary is almost enough to make me sit through Inland Empire again, though certainly not sober.
Guarding Cher's house in Aspen, Colorado
MSP mag has been hippin' it up on the computers lately. Their Twitter account has come to life, and now they have something called styleparlor.tv. What you see above is a few excerpts from their interview with Project Runway's Tim Gunn - for reals! Watch it to see who he thinks will bring the style to the White House.
A couple weird things: (1) styleparlor.tv is a good name if it's your URL - but it's actually not a URL. That's just kind of strange. At least they didn't call it styleparlor.com. (2) For some reason they haven't made the videos embeddable. They're using Brightcove, so I'm sure it's possible. I'm not sure why they wouldn't want people to share these videos. I emailed my friend over there but haven't heard back yet.
Quiet reverie... or, Jam Session!
My stepdad, Jerry, passed away last week. I just found out a few days ago from my mom. He was living in Texas with his daughter; here's the obituary. Doesn't mention me, but probably not surprising since I haven't been part of his life for at least ten years. When I was growing up in the 80's with him and my mom, he was obviously a HUGE part of my life. I haven't really had a chance to absorb it.
We're going to place an obituary here in MN where he lived his whole adult life, known to many Crown Auto customers as "Smitty." In fact, pretty much the only thing he ever wore was a blue mechanics' uniform with a patch that said "Smitty."
Random memory: Once he and I were eating dinner at a Rax roastbeef near Northtown Mall. He was drunk on a couple of Manhattans (his drink) and pissed off about something.
He told me: "Everyone's wearing an invisible sign around their neck that says, I Want to Feel Important."
"Let me be frank. We think you're all idiots."
I made this kinda-funny video about 4 years ago as a possible way to open my film Blogumentary.
Comcast Broadband Be Blazin'
I'm a bandwidth hog. I'm a bandwidth monkey. I'm even a three-legged bandwidth giraffe. That's probably why Tim Elliott asked if I was interested in getting a bump in my Comcast upload speed. I wasn't getting anything special, just a little head start for an upgrade coming to everyone: 6 Mbps download speed (staying the same), upload speed going from 384 kbps to 1 Mbps. In other words, upload speeds about 3 times faster. The more deluxe option is 8 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload.
Obstacle #1: I was actually an Earthlink customer for our internet service, not Comcast. Oops! The service and billing are all handled by Comcast, so it's easy to forget. I didn't want to miss out on the upload boost, so I switched over to Comcast's 8/2 service for $52.95/month. That's the cost to an existing Comcast cable customer.
Obstacle #2: We had an old cable modem, and crappy cable wiring in the basement. I've always been pretty happy with our cable internet service, but during this transition it became almost unusable. Because of my client video schedule, we had to live with it for a few days. On Saturday, everything changed when the Comcast dude appeared at my door.
Disclaimer: I really got the royal treatment getting our wiring, etc. upgraded and working smoothly because I agreed to be part of Comcast's PR effort.
The installer was a nice enough dude, but apparently Comcast installers still aren't familiar with Macs. That's not good. We got it working quickly enough, but Comcast really should train all their installers on Mac networking. Julio Ojeda-Zapata said his Comcast installer was very Mac-savvy, however.
OK. THEN, THE MAGIC HAPPENED:
We really should've made a video of me freaking out after the Speakeasy speed test. These numbers are 5 or 6 times faster download, and seriously 20 times faster upload speed. Holy f*cking shit!
Now, these speeds aren't there all the time. The big download boost is courtesy of Comcast's PowerBoost which can double (in this case, more than double) your download speed if the excess bandwidth is available in the network. Still - it's a phenomenal boost that's definitely going to make me more productive and just happier doing all the stuff I do with video, photos, and general web surfing. Yeah, we're talking really heavy HD porn usage here.
A FEW SPEED TESTS:
- Uploading a half-hour, 176 MB video of Norm Coleman's announcement speech for The UpTake took over an hour before.
Now: 17 minutes. This is where the boost will really make a difference for me.
- Downloading No Country for Old Men on the iTunes store. I first tried downloading it in the airport over my EVDO card, which would have taken 120+ hours (!). The 1.32 GB file was done in 22 minutes at home.
- Uploading 3 full-resolution photos to Flickr. I usually scale them down to 1200 pixels and have to wait awhile.
Now, by the time I was done saying, "Honey! I'm uploading 3 full-size photos to Flickr and it's going super fast!" it was pretty much done. Wow.
I haven't had a chance to do any live video, but that will be my next test. I'm literally trying to dream up ways I can take advantage of my new bandwidth superpowers. I'm sure the $150/month 50 Mbps service is crazy awesome – Julio has the whole rundown in the Pioneer Press – but this screaming 8/2 service is more than enough for my current needs at a third the price.
In conclusion: After a few snafus, I'm totally thrilled with the upgraded service. Unplug your Comcast cable modem, wait about 15 seconds, and plug it back in. You might be pleasantly surprised to see a nice speed boost. And if you're not on 8/2 - you're already wasting time watching stupid YouTube videos, do you really want to waste time waiting for them to load?