Wednesday, January 04, 2017
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
For the past five years or so, Mad Men has been by far my favorite show on TV, and a real inspiration for the kind of work I want to create. I love the casual surrealism of the world and the winding, almost short story quality of many of its episodes. It really picked up where The Sopranos left off in terms of telling riveting stories about quest for meaning in everyday life. And, for all the joy you can get from a densely plotted roller coaster ride of a show like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, it's ultimately the mysterious and philosophical wonder of this show that inspires me and lingers in my brain.
The finale was perhaps a bit too generous in giving the audience/characters what they wanted for really the first time in the show's run. It's great that Joan got to open her own company, but not necessarily true to the story we've seen over the past few years, which stacked on top of Peggy getting together with Stan and the great breaks for Pete felt a bit too fairy tale.
But, to me the heart of the show was always Don, and his impact on the two most important people in his life: Peggy and Sally. They could see him at his best and inspire him, and also suffer in the wake of his worst impulses. Sally was able to grow up and accept hardship and struggle at a young age whereas it took Don his entire life to reach that point. Both Sally and Peggy have taken the best of what Don had to offer and grown up and seem like, despite struggles ahead, they'll be okay. I actually like the Sally resolution much more than the other story lines because it shows her growth without feeling like a happy button on the story.
And just like The Sopranos, we're left with a final moment that leaves you a bit unsettled and full of mystery to ponder. Did Don return to advertising, and turn his experience on the road into grist for a new campaign? Or has Don found legitimate peace off in the wilderness, only by leaving an advertising machine that substitutes the desire for a product for genuine human experience?
Ultimately, the finale offers a fascinating portrait of the 60s counterculture becoming just as commodified and false as the 50s nuclear family that dominated advertising at the show's start. For all the changes that happened, advertising is still the vampire that turns something real into a way to make money.
It's a mix of cynicism and wonder like I've never seen before, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around what it all means. To me, the end of Mad Men marks the end of the TV revolution that The Sopranos started, when TV became a place for winding character-centric narratives that explored the world we live in and the human condition in a depth that no films had attempted. Shows like Mad Men, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos all pondered the meaning of life in a way that has been a massive inspiration.
And just as the movie business left behind the auteur driven experimental filmmaking of the 70s for the (frequently great) blockbusters of the 80s, so too is the TV business moving towards bigger and bigger storytelling and "13 hour movies." But, I think something is lost in trying to tell a "13 hour movie," and that's the amazing variety and unpredictability of Mad Men. Every episode offered something confounding and thought provoking, and I don't know that we'll ever see anything quite like it again.
Monday, January 14, 2013
It's been almost two years since I've posted on this blog, but a rewatch of Evangelion had me looking back through the archive, and reminiscing on regular blogging. I'd love to blog more, but I've luckily been creating more of my own material than writing about others' work. What have I been up to? Here's a brief rundown.
My biggest project of the past few years was Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, which you can now check out for free on Hulu. I followed that film with Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, now available on DVD and download.
I'm currently working on a documentary about the founding and history of Image Comics. Image has been dominating the comics marketplace for the past year or so, and it's a pretty crazy story that got them there. It's a really fun project, and should be done early this year.
I'm also working on a shorter doc about Chris Claremont. It's been a great opportunity to get to speak to him, and once Image is done, I'll kick that one into high gear and get it done.
I've also just completed a short film starring Brea Grant, called The Viral Man, which I'm currently working on developing into a feature. It's a long ways off, but I've been getting the script into shape and am getting things together to raise some money for it.
And, the rest of my webseries The Third Age is finally coming out on January 23rd. I re-edited everything from Volume I into director's cut versions, which you can check out below:
There's a few other big projects that can't be announced yet, but I'm sure they'll be exciting. I'll try to blog here from time to time, but keep an eye on my Twitter (@patrickmeaney) for all the latest updates!
Posted by Patrick at 9:20 PM
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
It's been a long time since a post, but I've been busy, busy with projects. Like a lot of bloggers, the blog led to other things that unfortunately took time away from blogging. One of those has been production of Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, my forthcoming film on comic book writer Warren Ellis.
We're currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the film, and I'd love your support!
And, hopefully I'll have some time for some more posts soon!
Monday, January 03, 2011
I saw a lot of movies this year, thanks to my membership in the WGA and the flood of screeners that arrived at the end of the year. So, I caught almost all the big Oscar movies, and, ironically, few of them actually made it to the list. But, some did in what I'd consider over all a fantastic year for movies.
10. The Fighter
There were a bunch of movies in contention for this tenth spot on the list (and I still haven't seen a couple of big 2010 movies I'd like to have seen [Blue Valentine and Mesrine in particular]), but The Fighter ultimately won out over True Grit, Somewhere and The Runaways. The reason is it was one of the most emotionally engrossing films I'd seen this year. There was some cliché plotting along the way, and it sort of fizzled at the end, but through the Sanchez fight, this was a consistently intense, and emotionally gripping film. I hated Christian Bale's character so much, and Amy Adams really jumped out as a hard edged lady who took no shit from anyone. Her performance totally changed my perception of her as an actress, it's one of the most electric roles of the year, and really made the movie. I just wish it had kept up that momentum and ferocity to the ending.
9. The Kids Are All Right
I've written a lot about how TV is the trend setting, innovative visual storytelling medium now, so consider a huge compliment to say that The Kids Are All Right had the character depth and easygoing realism of a great TV show. Tonally, it recalled Six Feet Under in its depiction of a family that has its issues, but loves each other and is trying to do good in a world full of temptation. The loose narrative leaves plenty of room for character exploration and the uniformly excellent cast makes it all work. Julianne Moore is fantastic here, reminding me why she was once my favorite actress out there. But, Mark Ruffalo really steals the show as the ne'er do well, but charming absent father. He's so charismatic and engaging, it's easy to see why the whole family falls under his spell. A really satisfying adult targeted film. This is one of those movies that people say they don't make any more.
Inception is one of the most visually ambitious films of the year, and features some of the most dazzling action sequences I've ever seen. It's the action movie as crazy videogame, stacking level after level of crazy obstacle on top of each other, and indulging in a mix of intense psychology and pure action movie joy in sequences like the snow attack or zero gravity battle. It's a great looking movie, with a phenomenal score. What holds it back from greatness is the reliance on a dour, tormented hero who can't express himself emotionally (i.e. every single Chris Nolan character ever). It's a film about dreams that feels so utterly controlled and without any random elements sinking in. That stops it from being an all time great movie, but there's so much good in here, I can forgive the flaws.
7. Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
The second new Evangelion film didn't quite pull all its elements together. But, it was full of very haunting moments, and its finale was exhilarating and points to a bold new direction for the rest of the films in the series. This whole project remains caught between breaking new ground and paying homage to the past series. This one manages to strike a pretty good balance, and presents a nicely distilled version of the original series' psychological troubles. But, I would still point a new viewer to the original series over this version.
6. Toy Story 3
Pixar continues one of the longest hot streaks in film with their most emotionally potent film yet. Toy Story 3 is about 80% really good, fun film. The whole imprisonment at day care is funny and full of well executed set pieces and gags. But, it's the other 20% of the film that just emotionally anhialates viewers. There's hints of this in the opening, particularly during the videotape sequence, but it comes to the fore most notably in the inferno sequence, where the characters confront their own mortality and prepare to face death. Lingering in the fire past the point where it's a cliffhanger and to the moment where everyone accepts death, it's intensely harrowing. After crossing through death, they make it out to a new life in the emotionally overwhelming finale. For what's ostensibly a kid's film to be so emotionally effulgent is a real feat, and a testament to Pixar's skill.
5. Tron: Legacy
In a year of visually stunning films, none could match the production design and overall aesthetic of Tron. Updating the 80s style for the present day, everyone in the film looked intensely stylish as they moved through gorgeous environments, backed by the fantastic Daft Punk score. Beyond the fantastic look, the film offered a solid take on the hero's journey, definitely calling back to Star Wars at times, but delivering a story that satisfied. Its video game based universe might not make any sense objectively, but in the world the story it all hangs together for a visually dazzling, emotionally engaging ride full of really cool moments. I wish everyone dressed like the characters in this movie do.
4. Black Swan
Black Swan is another great Darren Aronofsky film about obsession and a character's desire to be the absolute best, at the cost of their sanity. I love the intensity of the film and the frequent surreal indulgences. Natalie Portman is fantastic, and everything in the film draws you into her mental world, which is less intriguingly ambiguous when everything wraps up in the end. It's a totally engrossing film, and one of the most refreshingly insane movies I've seen in a while.
3. The Social Network
The so called 'Facebook' movie is actually a rather classical look at the corrupting influence of power and money. But, thanks to David Fincher's ice cold direction and Trent Reznor's alien electronic score, it becomes something more. It's a deconstruction of a world that becomes increasingly separate even as technology brings us together. I don't usually love Fincher, but the really strong Sorkin script proves the perfect anchor, filled with biting humor, keeping him from drifting off into the excess darkness of some of his other works. This is a great example of two auteurs coming together to make one great film.
This Kanye West film wasn't a feature, but it demonstrates a wonderful understanding of what film can do as a medium, an audacious half hour full of incredible visuals and strange ideas. The film throws back to European art cinema motifs, with a portentious symbolic storyline that recalls Fellini, and a strangely mannered acting style that is at once alienating and intriguing. But, combined with an incredible soundtrack, it becomes a really unique package full of amazing moments, like the opening slo-mo shot of Kanye in front of a fiery explosion, or the final Phoenix ascent. So many films fail to make use of true visual storytelling, this one is a consistently riveting experience, one that lingers with me far more than most traditional features.
1. Enter the Void
Speaking of experiences, Enter the Void is attempting something entirely different from virtually any film made this year, or any other year. Gaspar Noe isn't telling you a story about someone else as he is in making you feel and experience things. The movie's title is a command, you must enter the void, and by the end of the film, you'll have passed through death and rebirth and experienced a dizzying array of images and sounds. At times, it's an assault, at times it's soothing and beautiful, this movie did things that no other film ever has. I think it's less cohesive and emotional than Irreversible, but it's just as technically dazzling and has more moments of abstract transcendence than Irreversible did. Watching the final half hour or so, in which the camera winds its way through Tokyo's sky before settling in a hotel to watch a variety of couples have sex, you reach a total altered state, and what could be vulgar becomes absolutely beautiful. This film is an experience, and I'd love to see more filmmakers approach the medium like Noe does. Film can be a great narrative medium, but it can also be so much more, and this film shows you that.