Saturday, March 31, 2007

Government Regulation Debate

Neal over at Leftwich called me out for a response on government regulation.

Read his post here and then come back and read my response below.

I think that if the long history of industry to favor profit over all over concerns, safety included, this is one area where government regulation not only makes sense, but is required. Look at the kinds of abuses that were rampant in meat-packing and featured in Upton Sinclair’s "The Jungle." It took the publication of the book, a startling social event, to coax the government and industry to agree regulation was necessary.

And I think the situation here is telling. We’re regulating the practices for food producers in the US (some might say not very well in light of numerous E. Coli, Salmonella and other out breaks) but what are we doing for food items with purposes other than human consumption that are imported? Enough? It would seem not.

I know Neal and I have different views on regulations (over beers last week we had quite a discussion), but active measures to ensure the safety of people and pets in light of current events is something that even the most ardent opposition to government regulation should be able to support.

Personally, I think the government should constantly be re-evaluating how best to keep the people of this country (and others, where possible) safe in ways much better and more productive than killing (or creating, depending on your point of view) terrorists.

It makes me sad, though, that it took numerous deaths (even those of pets) to shock people into even realizing there was a problem and that they should consider addressing it.

With the ever growing popularity of organic and whole foods, this would seem to be the best time for organic growers to step in and say “if you were using our products, this probably wouldn’t have happened.” Not only would this aid their cause in public perception but also increase their economic viability considerably.

Although I disagree that government regulation is a bad thing (I think it can be quite an effective tool depending on its use), I would agree that no matter how horrible this situation was, it will cause government to take responsible and proactive measures to ensure that it never happens again and at the end of the day that benefits us all.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Australian review of This Divided State

I just wanted to point everyone over to a review of the film from Australia.

It never ceases to be fascinating to me to see an international perspective on the film. And it's twice as interesting because we talked a lot about it at the discussion we held at Salt Lake Community college yesterday.

The review comes from the Web Wombat and was written by a fellow named William Barker.

KVNU for the people

A news organization in Logan ran our press release verbatim.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Official Protest Site

Here is the official protest site of the organized students.

It's officially up now. Check back for details, I imagine.

"DIVIDED STATE" Screening

A film class at Salt Lake Community College invited Bryan, Elias, and myself to a screening of THIS DIVIDED STATE today.

It was great to watch the film again. It has been a year since I'd last taken a peek at it and it was nice to see an audience react to it again. I'd forgotten how emotional I get during the election day montage when everyone cast their vote for President of the United States. Probably my favorite moment of the film.

Anyways, we held an hour long Q & A session with the students after the film. It was a brilliant discussion, one of deep thought and great insight. Especially given the recent Cheney/BYU controversy, it felt really good to talk about the status of free speech in America.

Here are some pics from the event:


Steve, Bryan, and Elias, while mutually crossing their legs, talk about making This Divided State

Yahoo News: Opinion

Yahoo News ran with Steve's Huffington Post Editorial.

Cheney Update and Blog Roundup


The LDS Church has issued an official response to the Cheney-BYU foofaraw.

They said:
Whatever the personal views of individual students or other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the invitation is seen by the university's board of trustees as one extended to someone holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather than to a partisan political figure.
To me, that's like asking a torturous dictator to speak and say: "We're not inviting him as someone who tortures people, we're inviting him as someone holding the high office of Ruler of a Sovereign Nation." It just seems obvious to me that Cheney doesn't represent anything even close to a Christian ideal.

And before all of you freak out about me comparing Cheney to some torturous, Cheney is one of the most outspoken defenders of the practice of it.

BLOGS: Mercury Rising, The Third Ave., By Common Consent (really interesting stuff about RFK's 1968 trip to BYU), Edgeing

And Joe Vogel has a few good posts at Free Speech 101. 1) A good round up of Cheney videos, 2) a recap of the situation and 3) some really interesting analysis.

Huffington Post and Other News

First off. Steve and I both wrote editorials about the Cheney thing for Huffington Post.

Steve's can be found here and mine can be found here. Both were featured on the front page.

As far as filming events and protests about this whole Cheney debacle here is the story at this point: We are producing this. We're so busy with the obesity documentary though, that we're not going to be able to film as much on this personally as we did on This Divided State. I don't know if it's going to be just a short, a feature, a TV miniseries or what, but we're making something. We're trying to get as many people with cameras in their hands to film for us as much as possible.

We've already rolled 5 hours of footage.

I'm serious when I say that anyone who is here and has a camera and wants to be a part of this follow-up to "This Divided State" needs to send me an email to contact@shineboxmp.com.

Press Release

This is the press release we sent to the media, officially commenting about the Cheney foofaraw.

I also submitted an editorial about it to Huffington Post and as soon as they post it I'll let you know.

And if anyone is interested in filming anything about this, the events, protests, anything, contact me as soon as possible.
We're putting something together. I'm not exactly sure what yet, but we're putting something together.
PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EMAIL: contact@shineboxmp.com

'DIVIDED STATE' FILMMAKERS REACT TO BYU-CHENEY CONTROVERSY

Provo, UT -- It was announced almost one week ago that Vice President Dick Cheney will offer the commencement speech to the graduating class at Brigham Young University. In less than a week, a grassroots swell of BYU students, faculty and concerned citizens have launched a petition to rescind the invitation to Cheney and for the University to choose a less-controversial speaker. "Commencement should not be a negative experience for anyone," said one student at an anti-Cheney meeting in Provo on Wednesday night, "And that is all having Cheney speak will accomplish."

Petitions are being circulated, protests are being planned and letters are being written. It echoes the events of 2004 when liberal filmmaker Michael Moore was invited to speak on campus at Utah Valley State College, mere miles away from BYU. As captured in the documentary film "This Divided State", Moore's visit drew the ire of many local citizens and students that led to lawsuits, death threats, bribery and more than a few protests and rallies.

Director of the film, Steven Greenstreet offered advice to the participants on both sides of the debate, "If 'This Divided State' can teach anything to BYU students and local citizens on both sides of the issue, it's this: kicking and screaming will do the community no good. Try to have a civil and well-mannered dialogue about the issues at hand. And listen to each other! People didn't listen to each other during the Michael Moore controversy. And don't take your cues from the pundits on TV by telling each other to shut up."

"Have protests, engage in civil dialogues and, above all, remember that we're all Americans, whether we agree with Cheney or not," said Bryan Young, one of the film's producers, "The best thing about America is that we don't have to agree with each other and I can see already that there are lot of people who will be forced to opposite sides of this debate but they should all work their hardest to make that debate productive."

"Having said that," Greenstreet added, "I'm excited to see the first amendment in action within one of the most conservative colleges in one of the most conservative states in the union. The die has already been cast. At this point, I think we should welcome Cheney and then we should welcome the thousands of people who will come to protest. In fact, I plan on being one of those protesting. It's exciting to see Mormon BYU students voicing their opinions on how they are morally and fundamentally opposed to the policies of the Bush Administration. It means we've come a long way here in Utah since Michael Moore's visit."

The filmmakers are available for comment. Please contact Bryan Young by email at contact@shineboxmp.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Dick @ BYU

The state of Utah is once again at the center of another passionate free speech war. Vice President Dick Cheney has been confirmed to speak at Brigham Young University's commencement on April 26th. Brigham Young University (BYU) is owned and run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), and it was the top leaders of the church (including "the prophet", Gordon Hinckley) that wrote the letter of invitation to the Republican Vice President.

BYU Spokesperson Carri Jenkins says, “We are honored to have the Vice President be with us at the April commencement.”

You would think that inviting one of the nation's most conservative leaders to one of the most conservative universities located in one of the most conservative states in the union would be a slam dunk success. Think again...

Hundreds of upset BYU students, professors and alumni are signing a petition in an attempt to convince BYU's administration to cancel the Cheney speech and invite someone else.

In their own words:
  • “As someone who’s been heavily involved and advocated for things like torturing prisoners, and what-not, I just feel like that doesn’t coincide with a Christian university.” - BYU student Eric Bybee
  • "In our estimation, Vice President Cheney does not embody the ideals taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Inviting Cheney ... violates long-standing LDS Church and BYU policies regarding political neutrality and sanctions the actions of a prominent political figure who demonstrates questionable ethics," -Portion of a letter written by four BYU professors
  • "Cheney is of such an unsavory character, that he makes his protégé, felon Scooter Libby, who was recently convicted of perjury and obstructing justice, seem as pure as a nun. If BYU seeks to bring a model of abuse of power, greed and political extremism, which seeks to decimate citizens' rights guaranteed by our laws, then Cheney is a perfect choice. But if, on the other hand, the university hopes to offer a model to graduates of love and service to humanity, then better candidates are available." - BYU Professor Warner Woodworth
  • "If Cheney's visit comes to pass, I will withdraw my support to BYU. I will not make any more donations, purchase another sweatshirt or attend another of its sporting events." -Katie Hatch in American Fork, Utah
Wow. This sure sounds familiar. Why you ask? A brief history:

During the heated 2004 presidential election season, Utah Valley State College (a slightly more liberal college about 7 miles from BYU) invited Fahrenheit 9/11 director Michael Moore to speak on campus. UVSC resides in the town of Orem, which had been officially named, by city councilmen, "Family City, USA". A predominately Republican town with strong Mormon roots, residents were foaming at the mouth about Michael Moore's approaching speech. They claimed he was "the devil" and "would corrupt the children" or, even worse, that would "destroy us all". A social and political firestorm descended upon UVSC with petitions, lawsuits, bribery attempts, and even death threats towards the student government officers responsible for inviting Moore. At one point during the me lee, it was asked if they should wear bullet-proof vests for safety.

Michael Moore pissed a lot of people off in Utah.

Arguments over free speech were shouted up and down the hallways of the college. Conservatives claimed that Michael Moore did not "represent the family values" of the community and thus shouldn't be allowed to speak. Liberals claimed that since they were the minority voice in Utah, a spokesperson representing their views should be welcomed with open arms. In retaliation, Republican donors to the college pulled over $200,000 in donations. One even offered the administration $25,000 to cancel the Moore speech.

In the end, despite all this, Michael Moore came and spoke at UVSC. But not before Utah conservatives invited FOX News' Sean Hannity to speak the week before Moore to "balance" the debate. (As if there exists only two points of view in this complicated world).

And then it was all over. We made a movie about it, THIS DIVIDED STATE. It's an observational documentary that shows what happens when civil discourse fails and name-calling and ad hominem attacks prevail... division and hatred.

And here we go again.

But now the tables are turned. It is now a conservative speaker who is getting the ire of those opposed to his ideology. And many of the Cheney opponents are reacting the same way as the Moore opponents, claiming "he doesn't represent our religion", "he doesn't represent family values", or "he is pure evil". Republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, are fighting for Cheney's right to speak.

Will BYU Campus greet the Cheney posse as liberators?
  • Marian Monnahan, chairwoman of the Utah County Republican Party, does not see a problem with Cheney speaking at BYU. "I think it's wonderful," she said. "I don't know what the problem is. ... Republicans in this county are still with President Bush."
  • "I'm fine with Dick Cheney coming," says BYU student Brad Royal, "I'm a Republican and I support, usually, President Bush and what he's doing right now."
  • David Laffen, chairman of BYU's College Republicans, said that he was "excited about the vice president of the United States coming to BYU. Cheney's visit is good because it is sparking debate and dialogue, as well as encouraging people to become involved. Whether you agree or not, you should be excited."
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Laffen. Cheney's visit is good because it is sparking debate and protest at a highly conservative university that has a history of suppressing free speech and endorsing prejudice toward minorities. It is a great opportunity for those who oppose the war in Iraq, who oppose torture, who oppose corruption and greed, and who oppose what the Bush Administration has done to tarnish the ideals of the American Way, to stand up and march in protest against BYU and the Vice President.

But don't cancel his speech. Yes, let him speak. All those Utahns who fought to get Michael Moore into Utah and now want Dick Cheney silenced should step back and re-evaluate. It is in our system of democracy to provide forums of free speech, especially for our elected leaders.

Some will argue that Cheney is speaking at a BYU's Graduation Ceremony and that he "doesn't represent" the student body. I spoke to a BYU student today who said, "If this was a mid-semester speech where one could decide to go or not, then fine. But this is graduation. I paid tuition for 4 years and worked my butt off. I want to go and enjoy it. I don't want to sit through Dick Cheney's rhetoric."

I guess that's a good point, but boo-hoo. BYU makes every student sign an "honor code" document before admittance can be delivered. All the rules and ideology of the school are right there and students sign on the dotted line. So BYU students know exactly what they're getting into. It's like a Berkeley student freaking out because Al Franken was invited to come speak at graduation. So, BYU students and professors, go ahead and pass around the petition and fight your damnedest, but the fact of the matter is that the Mormon First Presidency, who claim to personally talk to God every day, invited Cheney. They're not going to back down.

Mormon President Hinckley (left) says, "I like Dick."

I'm not saying, "don't try", because it's your American right to do so. I'm just saying, welcome him to Utah, voice your idealogical dissent, and then protest the hell out of his speech. Imagine the headlines, "Conservative Utah Sees Mass of Dissent Against Cheney". So get out your Sharpies and make up those "Impeach Him" signs. And I'll be right there with you. My sign will say, "Surprise, Surprise. Another Dick At BYU". Because you can't have a Cheney protest without a "Dick" joke. That's the real American Way.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Piccadilly Cowboy

Jaelan Petrie, star of Missy (the first film Elias and I directed) wrote, starred and produced in a film called "Piccadilly Cowboy".

It's playing locally here in Utah and I'm told it's pretty good.

I had tickets to the premiere, but was in Washington, D.C. shooting and couldn't make it.

Of the film, Jaelan said:

"I absolutely hate romantic comedies," Petrie said, "but this is, by far, the best film I've worked on."

I'm sure he forgot that he starred in Missy when he said that. Actually, maybe he didn't forget.

And just so everybody knows, Jaelan is really good. Posted below is all the stuff that he's been in of ours that's on Youtube.



This is the trailer to Missy, starring Jaelan. This was the first film Elias and I wrote, directed and produced.



This is the trailer for a film that never got finished. It's called Infidelity. Elias and I wrote and were producing this. This was also the first 16mm we ever worked with.



And here is Jaelan once again in what was a "ShineBox Motion Picture" years and years ago.

Let me know what you guys thought of these videos.

Letter to the Editor


Some of you may remember the Letter to the Editor I wrote to the UVSC College Times a couple of weeks ago. If not, read about it here.

Well, the College Times ran an abridged version of the letter.

Here it is as it was printed:

I just wanted to take the time to write you about Luke Hickman's review of Zodiac from the Mar. 5, 2007 edition of The College Times.

When I read movie reviews, I generally expect the reviewer to know a little about what he's talking about and if he doesn't, I would expect him to do some research to find out.

Hickman goes through a list of Fincher films declaring his first to be The Game when a simple check on IMDb would have reminded him that Fincher's feature film debut as a director after a successful career in music videos was the under-rated sci-fi/thriller Alien 3 and his second film was Se7en. THE GAME was actually his third film.

I understand that this is a college paper, but I still expect accurate information and relevant articles. This felt like Mr. Hickman was closing in on a deadline without having seen the movie and "reviewed" it based on other reviews and his own obviously limited knowledge of David Fincher.

And don't get me wrong—I liked Zodiac, just not this particular review of the film.

Bryan Young

And, some of you may also remember that Luke Hickman wrote me personally to start an open and honest dialogue about this. He also commented thusly on the blog below today (edited to remain topical):
I told this to Bryan, but I actually like feedback - if you hate me or not.
The truth is that Ebert is one of the most hated critics, yet one of the biggest. Hate me or not, that's up to you, but I'm not going to write the same crap that every other critic writes.

You can blame me of writing a review for something I never saw, but that's absurd. Anyone who knows me also knows that I see everything... and for free before its release! And, for your information, I don't read reviews of movies that I haven't already reviewed because I fear it'll tamper with my opinion and become a type of indirect plagerism.

After Bryan wrote me, I realized that I did make a mistake. Who doesn't make mistakes?

But in my defense, who cares if I failed to mention that Fincher made Aliens 3? That was an aweful flick! If I'm going to write an article on how great a director is, I'm not going to mention his biggest mistake!

If you don't like my reviews, I'm sorry. Look elsewhere. Because I've got a good fanbase here at UVSC and I'm not going anywhere for a while. And that whole "sticks and stones" crap applies here. You can try to be demeaning and angry, but, despite what some post in comments, I DO know what I'm talking about. If you disagree, you should read more of my stuff or just talk to me in person. It's not an easy job carving out your feelings and emotions about a movie for everyone to read (unless it's Number 23; I've never had an easier time writing about such a piece of crap).

Have fun. Keep watching movies and keep reading.
Luke Hickman
http://lukehickman.blogspot.com
He's a stand-up guy, he just made a small mistake. I've forgiven him and I'm interested to check out his reviews from here out. I wonder what he thinks of mine.

Although I have to say that Alien 3 really is good. It's worth another look. Seriously.

ROCKY v. FARTBAG

I just watched the following clip of Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson on The O'Reilly Factor. Wow. What a great example of someone striving for open and civil discourse. He didn't ONCE pick up on O'Reilly's name-calling douche-baggery. He kept it simple, quiet, and civil. Bill flew off the handle with insults and piss-offiness, but Anderson eventually brought Bill to his knees by making him actually AGREE on a few points. Well done, Rocky. Run for President one of these days. Or the Senate. Or something for God's sake. We need you.

P.S. I just noticed that I commended Rocky for his "civil discourse" and then called Bill O'Reilly a "fart bag". Oh well. I don't give a shit.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Back from D.C.

Normal posting should resume later today or tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.


It's fitting that the 900th post on this blog should be dedicated to a movie review of one of the most enjoyable films I've seen this year. TMNT was everything I wanted out of a turtles cartoon and more. And with one small exception, I think this was a phenomenal treatment of the Turtles.

Let me first disclaim, however, that I am a huge fan of the Turtles.

I was there in the front row at Kevin Munroe's turtles panel at Comic-Con last summer (read about that here) and since then, I've been stoked beyond all reason to see this film. In fact, as soon as I got home, I had to write a script for an issue of Turtles to put on my short story blog (seriously, you should read that here). Now if I could just get a kick-ass artist to draw it, I might write the next part to it. I've written other posts about the Turtles too (click here) and if one thing is certain that I'm a fan.

So, going into this film, I had high expectations and I must say that they were delivered. The backdrop of the film, the "story" as it were was as comic-book as you could get, but the great part about it was that it was just a backdrop. And it was this backdrop that Munroe was able to tell an interesting, engaging and fascinating story of sibling rivalry. He hit upon the perfect relationship between the four brothers and really ran with it and at times it brought smiles to face and shivers down my spine.

Face it, there have been numerous incarnations of the Ninja Turtles, from their mildly satirical but dark beginnings at Mirage, to the cartoon and Archie books, the Image series, the movies and so on. A lot of people have had input in the way the four Turtles interact with each other and how people respond to them in the popular culture and I think the strained sibling rivalries of the early comics, the first movie, the Image series and now Munroe's wonderful animated feature, bring out the best of what comic and cartoon story-telling can do to reveal things about sorts of relationships people have with themselves and each other. And it wasn't just limited to immediate familial relationships, either, there was a lot of good work done on Raph and Casey's relationship too. At one point, I had to wonder if the film was written to exactly my sensibilities of what the Turtles world should be. If you watch the film and read that comic script I linked to above, I think you'll see what I mean.

It was also very interesting to see some very good writing. I'll offer two examples of many I could choose from:

1) None of the Turtles sounded the same. Each had a distinct style of speaking and talking (I'm not just talking voices and accents, either) and vocabulary. They truly were separate and distinct characters.

2) Some of the conflicts with Raph and Leo are sort of mirrored in the group dynamic of the villains. It seems a little hard to explain, but when you watch the film, you'll get exactly what I mean.

Now, I mentioned one exception to the greatness of this film and it was minor, but in my opinion an odd choice. In this film, it seems as though April O'Neil is now a ninja version of Indiana Jones. I'm not sure why because it would have been easy enough for her to still be a reporter, or even just an archaeologist, but the ninja thing? come on. But even that wasn't enough to drag down the enjoyment of this film for me. And thinking about it, there was one other weird thing and that was the Matrix narration at the beginning, but, like I said, I just don't care. (No really, the Matrix, it's Laurence Fishburne....Serious.)

The animation is very good (there's a couple of times where the lip-sync gets a little rubbery, but other than that...) the lighting is great, the voice and foley work was great and the action sequences... The action sequences really go out of their way to show you how much shell the Turtles can kick. They're fast paced, tightly choreographed, well-animated and each Turtle seemed to have his own version of ninjitsu. And it was quite a special treat to finally see Master Splinter kicking ass and taking names.

This is what it's like when someone who understands the spirit of a franchise gets to take it over and step into role of shepherd and produce an amazing piece of art that is both respectful of the source material and knowledgeable about the way films work. It makes me excited to take my kids to see it, to experience it with them through their eyes and it also makes me excited that I get to take my kids to go see a movie over and over and over again that kicks ass for a change.

So, to the guys at Imagi: good work, I hope to see more (and if you ever need someone to work on some writing, consider that comic I wrote and linked to above a spec... ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Greetings From D.C.


Here is Steve and I with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in her office where we interviewed her for our documentary on Obesity. She is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.


This is (from left) Me, Steve and John. We're standing on the balcony of the Russell Senate Office Building after filming the Senate-FCC Task Force Meeting on Media and Childhood Obesity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FCC Obesity Task Force Meeting


We spent most of the day today in the Russell Senate Caucus Room (the very room John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the office of President) filming the Senate and FCC joint Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity. Senator Brownback (R - Kansas) was there. Senator Harkin (D - Iowa) was supposed to be, but there was an unfortunate death in the family that prevented him from attending.

It was a great learning experience, we were able to put a lot of names to faces and were able to meet representatives from companies like McDonalds, Pepsi, the GMA and others.

It's been really hard to nail down people from that side of the argument and we really do want to be balanced, so I think meeting a lot of these people today showed them what we're like and what we're really after.

And the shoot went really, really well. We covered it with three cameras, two wireless mics and two shotguns, so the sound should be pretty sweet, too.

Hopefully, there's some more cool news tomorrow. I should also have some pictures of us in the Senate office building.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Huffington Post Editorial

The Huffington Post ran the editorial I wrote below.

Click here to check it out and join the discussion.

Washington, DC


We've got two interviews done and tomorrow is going to be a busy day with the FCC conference on obesity for our film, but I had some thoughts about Bush and his press conference today I wanted to get out there.

I'm sure all of you have been following the Attorney General scandal that has plagued the Bush administration in the last couple of weeks. If not I suggest you read up on it here.

Bush himself finally held a press conference today to outline his stance on the position. His stance is essentially this: "Maybe there was some wrong-doing, but if you start investigatin' it, then you're guilty of partisanship. If you hand out subpoenas, I'll be sure to block 'em."

This is most troubling for me because this is essentially Bush thumbing his nose at us, the Congress and Democracy itself.

Here's what he actually said:

"If the Democrats truly do want to move forward and find the right information, they ought to accept what I proposed," Bush said. "If scoring political points is the desire, then the rejection of this reasonable proposal will really be evident for the American people to see."

Bush said he would aggressively fight in court any attempt to subpoena White House aides.

"If the staff of a president operates in constant fear of being hauled before congressional committees ... the president would not receive candid advice and the American people would be ill-served," he said. "I'm sorry the situation has gotten to where it's got, but that's Washington, D.C., for you. You know there's a lot of politics in this town."

Reading this scares the hell out of me and it should scare the hell out of you, too. The staff of a president should operate in constant fear of being hauled before a congressional committee. That's pretty much what Congress is for, isn't it? I mean, aside from legislating, they're there at the pleasure of the population to provide oversight into the potential wrong-doing of any other branch of government. That's why they've been given powers of impeachment and oversight in the Constitution. Everyone should operate under the fear that if they do something wrong or illegal in their job that they will be held accountable. Public servants, who serve at the pleasure (or displeasure in Bush's case) of the people absolutely need to worry about what they say and do in the name of the American people.

And so for Bush to say that his people will talk to Congress but not under oath or in public means that they are not confident in the legality of their dealings. It has nothing to do with the fear of losing "candor in advising the President" and it has everything to do with the fact that they've done something wrong.

All I can say is that I hope that Congress does go to the mat with Bush over this because I want every presidency, Republican or Democratic, to have as much transparency in their decision-making process as possible short of risking national security. And I want every Congress, regardless of majority, to have the ability to demand that transparency.

It seems to me to be the best way for Democracy to thrive and it's no surprise to me that George Bush clearly disagrees with that philosophy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What Lies Ahead

Never a dull moment here at Shinebox. As Steve and Bryan are away, doing their best to appear neutral in DC, Elias continues to burn the midnight oil in the State of Deseret. As we fight to sustain the feverish shooting schedule on our obesity documentary (title coming very soon, we promise) we look ahead to what comes next.

Feature films and scripts are always in the works but another documentary subject has caught our fancy and is in the very beginning stages of development. While collecting data and reading up on the subject consistently over the last few months, I've also been conducting some more hands on research when the opportunity presents itself.

The subject is one that I feel is ripe for the picking and no doubt effects far more people than we may realize in one degree or another, as scientific studies on the phenomena are in their earliest stages, which, in my opinion makes it all the more exciting to dissect.

I'm not giving away the subject for a number of good reasons but I will say that it heavily involves human (often romantic) relationships, global economics, obsession, isolation, fantasy and in some extreme cases, murder and suicide. It's probably not what you're thinking either.
Sounds like fun, right? That vague description, accurate as it may be makes it sound a bit more bleak than I believe the film will turn out if we get the opportunity to produce it, but we shall see.

That's all for now.

Plenty of cool DC updates to come, I'm sure.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

DC

Steve and I are leaving for DC today.

Posts could get dodgy depending on our internet situation out there. Or Elias could step up to the plate and post something up in our absence.

Just a reminder: Fleapit Three is over on the IMDb and quite a few of the credits have been added. And check back, we should have some cool announcements about the film over the course of the next week. The documentary, not Fleapit Three....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Man Uses Air Sickness Bag to Relieve Himself

This headline would seem pretty outrageous to anybody, but it seems twice as outrageous when you learn the specifics and find out that it happened in Utah.

You can read about it here.


A Sandy resident, one James Whipple, was not allowed to void his beer-filled bladder of excess fluid while on a flight from Boise to Salt Lake City so he was allowed to courses of action: to pee himself or to pee in the bag.

Well, peeing in the bag got him detained by police on the tarmac.

They held him in custody for two hours before letting him take a taxi home.

It's not like he didn't ask to use the restroom though. He did. Repeatedly. He was told that the seatbelt light was on (for the entire duration of the flight) and that it was against the rules to let him pee. It's stuff like this that makes me think that FAA security regulations are both silly and ineffective in this "post-9/11" world.

I'm not quite sure why this story is compelling to require a newspaper article in the Salt Lake Tribune, but I have to admit, it is oddly compelling.

Night at the Museum


I decided I needed to go see a movie the other night and I was too late to catch anything up in Salt Lake. I hadn't seen a movie in a theatre this week so far and the desire to do so was pretty much overwhelming. Knowing full well that there would be nothing to see at the local multi-plex, I went anyway. I figured that watching literally anything would be better than not going to the movies.

When I arrived at the box-office I realized how right I was in my grim assessment of the pickings.

300: Already saw it, no interest in seeing it again.

Number 23: I've successfully boycotted Joel Schumacher since he took a big flaming turd on Batman.

The Ultimate Gift: Pass.

Smokin' Aces: It started two hours previous.

And the list went on and on like this until our choices were narrowed down to two: Ghost Rider and Night at the Museum. I'm a huge nerd (as most of you know) and that's the only reason Ghost Rider was still on the table. And Night at the Museum looked sort of okay, but it's like three weeks away from being released on DVD, right?

Maybe not, but anyhow, I went to Night at the Museum.

It wasn't bad. In fact, I really enjoyed myself. In fact, I think it was like a 7 and half out of ten. Some of the screenwriting was a little weak and there were a few scenes that Ben Stiller just didn't manage to carry (but maybe it's because I don't think he's as funny as everyone else does) but other than that it's solid and fun.

The plot is simple but dwells in that fantastical realm of 80s movies where One-Eyed Willie has a pirate ship full of treasure waiting to be found, 'Toons can commit grizzly acts of murder, November 5, 1955 was a red letter day for science and the Shankara stones can hold the fate of hundreds of Indian villagers. It felt very much like an 80s movie and that's pretty much a good thing.

I mean, it was thoroughly enjoyable and I couldn't ask for much more than that.

And the only thing I would have to add to a write up of the film is a note on a couple of hilarious bit-parts: Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Steve Coogan.

Those three were riotously funny and should be in more movies.

Four Star Reviews


“Four stars” and “utterly fantastic”
—Felix Vasquez, Jr. of cinema-crazed.com

“9 out of 10” and “downright riveting”
—Chad Connelly of moviesmademe.com

John over at the Video Kitchen has got some critical reviews back on his film "Blood, Boobs & Beast".
• Review on Cinema-Crazed.com:
“’Blood, Boobs & Beast’ is one of the most heartbreaking and heartfelt explorations of a cult icon, that remains a wonderful footnote in horror movie fan’s hearts. With a wry sense of humor, and wonderful direction, Kinhart pays homage to a great director.”
http://www.cinema-crazed.com/bloodboobsandbeast.htm

• Review on MoviesMadeMe.com:
“Everyone involved has a lot of interesting stuff to say…and it's all spliced together perfectly…”
http://www.moviesmademe.com/show_mov.php?d=1031

• Write-up on TwitchFilm.com
http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/009315.html
You can read my write-up of the film here. And here is the link to the films trailer.

This better earn me some type of special thanks in the credits....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

D.C. for reals


Steve and I are leaving for Washington D.C. for a week on Sunday. Hopefully for real this time.

While we're out there, we should have some pretty kick-ass announcements about some people that will be appearing in the film. Our rule, so it doesn't seem like we're idiots when things fall through as they sometimes can, has been to make no public mention of anyone we're in talks to interview until their interview is in the can and a release has been signed.

So, that's why I'm not making any announcements yet, but the D.C. trip is shaping up to be pretty important.

Also, Elias and I are putting together a proposal for another documentary we want to do, so hopefully we'll have some news on that front in the next few months.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fleapit Three on IMDb


The Fleapit Three finally made it onto the IMDb. Get on there and rate it with your opinion.

All the credits will be up there soon, I'm sure.

A little audience participation, please.

Elias' 6 word story...

This time, you ask too much.

I thought it was pretty good until I heard Hemingway's...

Baby shoes for sale. Never used.

Evil genius, that Hemingway.

Six-Word Story

Not too long ago Neal from Leftwich ran a post about Hemingway's six-word story. I wrote one and posted it up over at the short story blog and I was quite happy with it.

Wired Magazine took things a step further and asked for well known authors, filmmakers and various others in the horror and sci-fi genres and published about a hundred of them.

You can read them here.


A couple of my favorites:
Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
- Kevin Smith

Good stuff.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Have any of you guys taken a spin over on the "Way Back Machine"? It's basically an archive for the internet and it has old webpages that no longer exist and old incarnations of pages that have long since been re-re-redesigned.

So, I found the old ShineBox Motion Pictures website and found a couple of great old pictures that I thought some of you might find interesting:

This is the old ShineBox Crew and others on the set of Handcart. ShineBoxers are in bold, Clockwise from the Left: Dave Skousen, Jason Young, Me, Elias, Paul Green and Kathy the Makeup Girl.

And this was my store. ShineBox Comics. God, I miss that place. That's Jason on the left reading a comic and Elias, on the right, painting the sign we had in front of the counter. Man that place was cool. I swear to God, I'm going to open up another comic book store when I can afford to hire someone to run it for me.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Important News Flash

Ok, so maybe these two items aren't that important but they certainly make me giddy.

First up is this picture of Yoda from the forthcoming Animated Star Wars TV series, set during the Clone Wars.


That pretty much kicks a whole bunch of ass. But the Star Wars news keeps rolling in. In order to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm has teamed up with the US Postal Service to turn those little blue mailboxes you see everywhere into Artoo units. TheForce.net is reporting on this here.


For the record, I probably like Star Wars more than you do.

Borrowed Time

Neal Shaffer, the good man over at Leftwich, has seen fit to release a graphic novel of his available for free on the web.

Click here to read the comic.

UK Guardian Arts Section

The Arts section over at the UK's Guardian quoted me in an article about the death of Captain America.

Check it out here.


It's interesting to see the difference in impact my writings have when you compare those I do here with those I've done for the Huffington Post. It makes this humble blog seem a little bit smaller than I would have hoped...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Worst Movie Review Ever

I'll admit, my movie reviews aren't exactly perfect 10s, but I don't actually publish mine in newsprint. This is for the blog and is completely my visceral reaction to films I see.

But I randomly picked up a copy of the UVSC College Times and found this review of Zodiac. (you can read my review of it here.)

It was so bad and poorly researched I was compelled to write the following letter to the editor.
I just wanted to take the time to write you about Luke Hickman’s review of “Zodiac” from the March 5, 2007 edition of “The College Times”. When I read movie reviews, I generally expect the reviewer to know a little about what he’s talking about and, if he doesn’t, I would expect him to do some research to find out. Hickman goes through a list of Fincher films declaring his first to be “The Game” when a simple check on IMDb would have reminded him that Fincher’s feature film debut as a director after a successful career in music videos was the under-rated sci-fi/thriller “Alien 3” and his second film was actually “Se7en”. “The Game” was actually his third film. The review of the film just seemed to run as follows: 2 paragraphs of inaccurate information, 6 paragraphs that could have been lifted from any synopsis of the film, a sentence on each actor (that could have been lifted from any other review), a sentence outlining the length and content of the film and then a sum-up that guarantees this film to become an American classic. Why? I don’t know. There was nothing in the review to support that idea.

I understand that this is a college paper but I still expect accurate information and relevant articles. This felt like Mr. Hickman was closing in on a deadline without having seen the movie and “reviewed” it based on other reviews and his own, obviously limited, knowledge of David Fincher.

And don’t get me wrong, I liked “Zodiac”, just not this particular review of the film.

Bryan Young

contact@shineboxmp.com

I'll let you know if they print it.

UPDATE: I got a reply from Robbin Anthony, the Business Manager for student publications letting me know that this letter would be forwarded to the Editor-in-chief, Mr. Hickman himself and the opinions editor.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bad Move For Democrats?


I've been reading about the foofaraw surrounding the Fox News sponsored debate in Nevada for the Democratic candidates and I have to say, I'm not as thrilled about this as everyone else is.

I agree with the sentiment of the argument: Fox is not a legitimate news agency and has an editorial stance governed by right-wing looneys. I don't think there's much of an argument even from the right-wing looneys on that score.

I also agree that something needs to be done to or about them. But I think that the Democrats refusing to participate on Fox "News" is going to send the wrong message. Fox is viewed by millions of people who feel that they are represented accurately by the coverage and that Fox really is fair and balanced. While I might argue the fact that I think they're wrong, the problem is that they aren't getting their news anywhere else. In a time when politics can be extremely polarizing (granted, a lot of the polemecism is caused by Fox and it's pundits (read: Sean Hannity)) is it wise to alienate an entire group of people because you don't exactly agree with the editorial policies of the venue?

I can understand if these Democrats didn't want to speak at a KKK event, but to say, "I'm not going to speak anywhere in the entire state the KKK event is being held," is sort of childish.

I think given the chance, Democrats can seem quite reasonable to people on the right side of the aisle, the very people who get their news solely from Fox. And all they're doing by boycotting Fox is alienating those who feel Fox represents them and handing cans full of gasoline to windbags like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to ignite them with. Doesn't it also say to the people who are devoted to Fox news, "We don't care about you and aren't willing to work with you."?

I don't know, am I the only who feels like this is going to turn into a bad move, tantamount to some sort of tantrum, on the part of the Democrats?

ROCKY ANDERSON vs. SEAN HANNITY

"This is a president who thinks he is above the law. He has taken on the role, basically, of a dictator. And I say that without exaggeration".

Rocky Anderson has gone nationwide speaking out against the war in Iraq and calling for the impeachment of President Bush.

"Never before has there been such a compelling case for impeachment and removal from office of the President of the United States," he said in today's paper.

He's the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. Yeah... Utah. The most conservative and Republican state in the nation. A place where "family values" run rampant and Wedding and Gun Expos are held on the same weekend. A place where people love Jesus Christ and war. And a place of blissful ignorance and frequent numb-skullery.

So, you can understand why FOX News' Sean Hannity loves this place. Hell, he's all but been crowned king out here. In my film THIS DIVIDED STATE, giddy Utahns begged Hannity to move from New York to Utah and "run for office". During one scene, a mother offers up her new born child to be touched and blessed (or "Hannitized") by Sean Hannity. I kid you not. So, yes, Hannity is quite the golden boy here in Utah.

But today, it was announced that a scheduled debate between Hannity and Mayor Anderson was suddenly canceled. The Mayor was going to push his case for President Bush's impeachment. At the last minute, FOX News pulled the plug.

"I think Sean Hannity knows we have a strong case [for impeachment]," Mayor Anderson said. "Now they call with some vague message... they are calling it off."

BUT!! This is far from over....?

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Sean Hannity, the popular conservative commentator, told listeners of his national radio program Thursday he is willing to fly to Utah at his own expense to debate Rocky Anderson about the Iraq war and the liberal Salt Lake City mayor's call for President Bush's impeachment. "I will go head to head with him for charity," Hannity told a Salt Lake City caller on the radio show, which airs on KSL NewsRadio. "You tell Rocky I'm ready to come out. I want to talk about the merits of the war. I want to talk about the democratic strategy of cuttin' and running. . . . We'll talk about his silly ideas about impeachment and how political they are." Bring it on, Anderson says. "I look forward to a good, open, fair debate with anyone on this topic," he said. "The facts are clear. This country was defrauded."

If this debate happens, I'm going to be there. Maybe I'll give Hannity a copy of THIS DIVIDED STATE. And maybe this time, his body guard won't throw me into a wall.

Political Cartoon from 2004 when Sean Hannity came to Utah a week before Michael Moore to give comfort and solace to thousands of upset Utahns. He had also come out a few months before that to host Utah's "Stadium of Fire" 4th of July Republican Masturbatorium.


Comic Justice


More fallout from Captain America's death in the media. Of particular note was Stephen Colbert's "Word" last night.

The fine gentleman over at One Good Move posted it up and you should click here to watch it.

Also, a half a dozen other blogs all picked up on my Captain America editorial.

Check those out here. Here. Here. Here. And here.

There's also quite a spirited discussion on the actual article if any of you feel like you might want to join the debate.

I have to say, I wish the mainstream media would have focused as much on the death of Captain America as they did on the death of Anna Nicole Smith. At least the issues surrounding his death are conducive to important conversations that need to be had in these stressful times of war. We need to be discussing in the popular press the give and take of liberty vs. security. We need to talk about heroes standing up for what is right as opposed to whatever the hell the Bush administration has to say. We need to talk about the patriotic nature and history of dissent.

More attention should be paid to this.

That's what I think, anyway.

Movie Review: 300


I saw a midnight showing of 300 and I have to say that my quick one-word review could be summed up thusly: Yawn.

I wanted so badly to like this film. I tried. I went in expecting it to be terrible but hoping for it to kick ass but it did neither definitively.

I'm a huge Frank Miller fan and I love the source material and I can accept a certain amount of tinkering with the source material when it's for the better of the film. A few perfect examples would be The Prestige, Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban or Kubrick's The Shining. What I take issue with are changes that serve to the detriment of the piece.

In 300, they added an entirely superfluous plot with the Queen of Sparta, doing her best to wangle reinforcements for her husband.

So, this added a full 20 minutes to the film that just made it drag. I was bored.

Add to that another 25 minutes of superfluous slow-motion and you've got a movie that is 45 minutes too long. The film was so bogged down it couldn't keep any momentum and it made me more than a little sad. And there were parts of it that were just cheesy as hell (like Leonidas posing nude in the moonlight or some of the terrible makeup jobs that would make Lon Chaney roll in his grave.) I was worried the music wouldn't fit, but it worked. The imagery was stunning most of the time and the recreation of shots was quite faithful to the source material at times.

The thing that kept driving me up the wall was the fast-motion/slow-motion transitions. Can't filmmakers of today put a moratorium on that for a while? It might look cool now and again but there were entire sequences put together in this fashion and it gave me a head ache. What happened to rolling in good old fashioned 24 frames per second? And then, when things need to get a little dramatic now and again, switch it up to 48 per, but only when something needs to be emphasized. But in this picture, slow-motion was employed any time a character looked in the direction of... well... actually, any direction. And any time they took a step, or put their hands in water, or turned around, or...well...you get the idea.

I'm not saying the picture was God-awful. I think it was a 6 out of 10. Is a 6 out of 10 worth your money at the box office? I would say probably, only because the 60% of the film that is good is worth seeing on the biggest fucking theatre screen you can find.

Also, having seen this, I'm starting to have reservations about Zach Snyder being in charge of Alan Moore's Watchmen.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Huffington Post Editorial


Like I said, the Huffington Post ran my editorial about the Death of Captain America, but I found out that they also made it a "featured post" and pasted it up on the front page.

So, if you haven't read it, take the time to do so.

Here's the capsule they threw up from the article:
From torturing prisoners and killing civilians to warrantless wiretaps and invasion of privacy rights, the real American government has abandoned the ideals America traditionally represents.

In Memoriam


Steve Rogers aka Captain America
1941 - 2007


I wrote an editorial about this for the Huffington Post. I'll post up the details as soon as they post it.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the Huffington Post editorial. It's good times.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Short Story

I've posted up a new short story over at the short story blog.

It's called "The Reckless Abandon of Youth".

As usual, be sure to let me know what you thought, if anything.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Personal Responsibility

Elias and I put together another editorial for the Huffington Post that went live today. This was in response to the "personal responsibility" argument that everyone always seems to call out every time we talk about the frustration of government inaction in the obesity epidemic.

Read it here and come back to tell us what you think.


In other news we're just working overtime to get the film done.

No rest for the wicked... And according to some, there are none more wicked as we.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Zodiac Review


I went last night to go see David Fincher's new film "Zodiac".

Now, I have to say going in, I'm not a die-hard David Fincher fan. I've got a couple of favorites of his, but by no means do I think he's batting a thousand on his career. I didn't even see Panic Room and my favorite two movies of his are Fight Club (predictably) and Alien 3 (seriously).

But, I have to say, I enjoyed Zodiac immensely. I can see where a lot of people would see it as "dull" but those are the same ass-holes who probably wouldn't watch what I would call Zodiac's investigative predecessor, All the President's Men, because it's too old. This film is as much about the Zodiac killer as All the President's Men was about Richard Nixon. Both films were more about the thrill and obsession of an important investigation than the actual object of the investigation itself.

The Zodiac killer, like Nixon, was a brilliant MacGuffin, an amazing set to stage a tale of delusional preoccupation with a quest for truth.

The script and story offers each actor, bit player or not, a spotlight for his capabilities. Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo and Downey, though, go above and beyond to truly inhabit this world and the obsession involved in investigating so heinous a series of crimes. (Or, in Robert Downey Jr.'s case, the lack of obsession.)

The film is constructed in such a fashion as though it's barreling freight-train of murder and the investigators never get out from in front of it until well after the murders are over. The most interesting part of this film, for me, was the idea that the killings were well over before everyone involved in the investigation were even able to tread water with the immensity of the crimes and evidence (or lack of it.)

The editing, visual style and cinematography of the film were capably shepherded by Fincher and make this film worth watching. It's a fun, intense ride through the investigation and, at the risk of sounding like a film-review cliche, it really did keep me on the edge of my seat. It was anything but dull.

I don't think the film is perfect, but if I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 I would place it at a very solid 8. Everything was solid, it just wasn't my favorite...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Fleapit Three in India

I just got word. "The Fleapit Three" has been accepted to the Pumelo International Film Festival in Mumbai, India.

We are one of five films screening out of competition.

So.

That's pretty cool. Now that I know this, it would be a shame not to have some sort of public screening here in Utah sometime soon.

I'll look into it and get back to everyone.

Back from Los Angeles

We got back into town last night and things are moving full speed ahead again starting tomorrow.

Just wanted to let everyone know.

Also, as though I didn't have enough to do, Joel Petrie, the gentleman who did all the D.P. work on "The Fleapit Three", asked me if I could help him shoot a sequence from Romeo and Juliet for a stage version of it that he's doing for UVSC. It's actually quite an interesting concept, about half the play will be played out on video moniters, with the actors coming on and off stage at specific cues.

He's also doing it in sort of an urban motif, so we shot in some alleyways in Salt Lake City last night. Actually, it was the opening fight of the play between the Montagues and Capulets. Joel was in the scene so he needed me to D.P. that sequence for him and for all the grumbling I did leading up to it, I had a lot of fun and I think it's going to turn out well.

You can see sort of what they're going for down below. This is the apothecary scene:



It's pretty good looking stuff. I really want to see the play in it's complete form. I would advise all of you to do the same.

Also, we've done a bit of work on "The Fleapit Three" since last anyone saw it. If there is any interest whatsoever in doing another screening, everyone should let me know.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Los Angeles Pictures

These are of us on Santa Monica Pier.


Obviously, this is Steve with the Avon sunglasses and MacCauley Culkin scarf.

STEVE says: The glasses are from Zumiez and the scarf from GAP.


And here I am, a well-dressed fop.

STEVE: "Fop" means corporate fag whore.

And this is the ferris-wheel that we rode romantically at sunset.

Actually we didn't ride it. It was closed. But that's a good story. And if I didn't jump on it first, Elias was sure to.