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2015 Top Films Grouped in NBA-Style Teams


2015 Top Films Grouped in NBA-Style Teams

Not going to numerically rank again this year so here's a pool of my favorite movies sorted into groups a la NBA end-of-season teams. You could rank these titles in any order and I'd agree with you.

*Recently watched movie that was added after initial writing of this post

All-Movie First Team
It Follows
Mad Max
Diary of A Teenage Girl

All-Movie Second Team
What We Do In The Shadows
Inside Out
Mistress America
Queen of Earth

All-Movie Third Team
World of Tomorrow
The Assassin

All-"Deserves More Attention" Team
Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
World of Tomorrow
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Mississippi Grind

All-Doc Team (Didn't watch enough)
Montage of Heck
Going Clear

All-"Not Only Did We Not Fuck Up The Franchise But It's Great" Team
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Furious 7
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Magic Mike XXL

All-"Honorable Mentions That I'm Not Clever Enough to Fit Anywhere" Roster
While We're Young
The Hateful Eight
*Clouds of Sils Maria
*Bridge of Spies
*The Revenant
The End of the Tour
Love & Mercy
The Big Short
Straight Outta Compton
6 Years

Movies I need to watch: Steve Jobs, Phoenix, Son of Saul, 45 Years, The Look of Silence, The Lobster, Taxi, James White, Heaven Knows What, Mustang, White God, Look of Silence, Seymour: An Introduction


Favorite Films from 2014


Favorite Films from 2014

A bit late but here are my favorite films of 2014, in no particular order. However, those marked with an asterisk will likely stay with me beyond the year.





The Grand Budapest Hotel*

Gone Girl


Nymphomaniac Part 1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Top Five

Under the Skin

Inherent Vice*


Only Lovers Left Alive


True Detective* (It's really an 8-hour film)

The Homesman


Force Majeure


Goodbye to Language 3D


A list of movies I plan to watch or catch up on:

A Most Violent Year

Two Days, One Night



A Girl Walks Home Alone

Listen Up, Phillip




"Spit Gold Under an Empire" from Dir. Emily Kai Bock

Really love the 35mm look, steadicam shots, and sound design in this short doc from Emily Kai Bock. You've likely seen her music video work for Grimes, Grizzly Bear, Lorde and more. Check out the underground rap doc below followed by a little VICE-made feature about her. Or her work here.



Inspiration: "Keep Exploring" short film

Found this through my usual Vimeo browsing and it's an amazingly shot video portrait video of French photographer Brice Portolano. Climbing up mountains and seeking out gorgeous angles, this is a nice feat from director Mathieu Le Lay. Major props.


Austin Film Festival Recap


Austin Film Festival Recap

I was recently able to attend Austin Film Festival and caught some screenings & panels. Here are some highlights.

Wild, by Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Reese Witherspoon, surprised me the most out of the group. I just hadn't heard enough about to it to draw an expectation. It's right on par with Fox Searchlight efforts, a movie with indie feel and a star actor attached. You can expect to think about your relationships, the experiences that shape you, and how you carry them.

The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones at his finest - co-writing, directing, and starring. Seemingly set as a Western, it's everything but. There's no folk hero or lore here. Instead, it's a display of characters at their most desperate and how they come together to be an unlikely family. You'll think about what motherhood, feminism, and romance means. Along with Tommy Lee Jones's beautiful dialogue.

The Imitation Game is as precise and well thought out as any invention from Alan Turing's mind. This biopic is not about a life, but about a romance, and how a man attempts to reach it. Things to look out for: what it means to be misunderstood, the cryptography of love, and the battle between humanity and intellect.

Other screenings worth noting are Rosewater and One Eyed Girl. I may post a thing or two about the panels, one of which was a live Scriptnotes podcast, which you can listen to here.



x-men, from scratch, mad men and the lift app - this week's content consumption

Another busy week eating up content here, especially with the long Memorial Day weekend. I spent the extra time being productive (part of those efforts soon to showcase here!) while also catching up on my many content addictions. For some of the movies and TV wrap-ups, I have to be vague to avoid spoilers, but my general thumbs up/down is given. Here we go.


X-men: Days of Future Past - Starts off with a gimmicky premise but after getting past that, it's one of the better movies of the franchise. Doesn't live up to X-men: 1st Class but is certainly entertaining and includes cameos from many of the characters along with some new ones (in the movie franchise).


*Mad Men - In this final season, the show has yet to take a dip or make choices (so far) that compromise the integrity of the story just to hit crowd-pleasing marks. If anything, it actually brings new challenges to Don and Peggy, and really realigns the story back on them in the midst of a dynamic cast and setting. The show's historical context is as prevalent as ever. Too bad this first half of the season will also soon become history to us since AMC won't be airing the second half of final season until 2015.


*From Scratch - Just discovered this one a few weeks ago, but I've already added it to my 'must listen' queue. It features intimate 30 minute interviews with entrepreneurs in all industries, giving insight to their backgrounds and how they make their visions happen. As a part of NPR, Jessica Harris gives a more structured, edited interview typical of the network as opposed to the freeform podcasts, which feature the tangents of natural discussion.

The Nutrition Diva - I wouldn't consider myself a health nut, but I do think I'm conscious of healthier lifestyles. In that vain, I'm always searching for info about nutrition and came upon this podcast when I was looking to find out the differences between farm-raised fish and wild-caught fish. This was one first hits and after listening to the episode I needed to, I realized that the podcast's full title may target women, but 90% of the episodes are for general nutrition, with some even for men. Most of my podcast consumption consists of lengthy episodes that go in depth, but I enjoy how these are under 10 minutes and are concise and to the point.


*Lift - This one may change your life! It's been popular for awhile and I've been meaning to jump on it forever. Had I had Lift to motivate me to get & use Lift, I would've blogged about it much sooner. This app helps you build habits to complete long term goals or just to motivate you to do weekly tasks. So it's a weekly to-do list that not only reminds you, but tracks your progress, turns it into a game with achievements, and adds a social factor to find what other people are doing or to give/receive "props" with friends. For example, I some health habits, such as juicing everyday and playing basketball, alongside production things like blogging and learning code.



podcasts, books, and apps galore - it's a weekly wrap up

I'll try to do these as consistently as possible, but I'm as much (if not more) of a content consumer as I am a creator and strategist. So here's some my mainstays and then a few specific discoveries from the week. Those marked with an *asterisk are favorites that I always revisit.

*You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes - Mostly features comedians, but delves into comedy, sex/relationships, and faith/religion. It's not your typical comedy podcast, but more of a therapy session with laughter. It has the potential to change your life and promotes empathy and awareness.

*Foundation - Hosted by Kevin Rose, formerly of Digg and now an angel investor/Google Ventures Partner, this is a video series by TechCrunch TV that deeply interviews founders of innovative companies. Guests have included Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams, Elon Musk as well as new players. The new one with DogeCoin founder, Jackson Palmer, is an insightful one because I'm especially interested in the possibilities behind BitCoin's block chain.

Comedy Bang Bang! - Love this comedy podcast but I can't say I've listened to every episode, but the recent Ben Schwartz episode is great because it's solely him as the guest and there's lots of room for improv genius. SOLO BOLO!


Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday - Old one, but I never got around to it. As Director of Marketing for American Apparel and PR man for Tucker Max, he outlines how news and media disseminates in the digital age and how it's possible to play the system to your advantage in controlling public opinion. I'm only halfway through but it's an entertaining read (perhaps moreso than a technically insightful one as some of the tactics are not as disruptive as they used to be, even a couple years ago). Sidenote: Ryan Holiday has been active on the podcast circuit to promote his new book "The Obstacle is the Way" about stoicism and turning trials into triumphs.

Trust Me, I'm Lying - Book Trailer


Godzilla - I went with friends. It was okay. Fine, I'll elaborate a little. For a blockbuster movie, it retains all the usual characteristics of a bubblegum popcorn flick, but I always have some more hope now for the resurgence of Kaiju films (Godzilla/Japanese monster movies) in the US. I loved Pacific Rim because it was kitschy in all the right places like a great pop song. This Godzilla movie, however, falls flat without the same intention or deliberateness.

*Her (rewatched) - This came out on DVD last week and I finally got to rewatch it since it's theatrical release. Already know this will be a film that will always stay with me. It's not only a great subject matter on surface level, but it's script is incredibly aware of the human condition in every phases of relationships. It then conveys those emotions with subtly poetic scenes.


Litely - I havent used this much but it's getting great reviews and traction (helps when you're an Editor's Pick in the app store) despite a very crowded category with other great photo apps. However, it looks as though it's improving the typical UX and providing excellent filmic filters. Looks like they have a similar business model and approach as VSCO.



old photos from cali

It's been awhile since the last post. Work has been busy so this has taken a backseat but I'd like to get back to a regular routine. This weekend I'm in California to visit family very briefly for a couple of days. I won't have much time to take photos unfortunately or explore, but it reminded me of the last time I was here a few years ago. So I dug into some old stuff and found a few of the snaps I took back then. I hadn't thought of photography as more than a fun hobby and primarily used the Olympus Stylus Epic 35mm film point & shoot - still one of my favorites to this day (sadly it was lost on an expedition in NOLA). It was so nice back then just to worry about focus and framing, to shoot in a very minimalist way.



saturday stills & motion

Grabbed images at the Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee and had a great time. Reenactors have a quiet passion and confidence when in their world. Watch the video below in HD here.

time is a flat circle



video color grading with light room 4

A couple weekends ago I went on a quick trip to the park with a photographer friend of mine to get some test video footage using a rig I'm trying to get used to. It consisted of a monopod, fluid head, baseplate + rods, and follow focus - along with my (soon to be secondary cam) Canon 550D. With more practice, this could be my most used rig, at least for B-roll/inserts. I also tried some rig maneuvers  and grabbed some extra footage to use for testing in Light Room to color grade. I was pleasantly surprised with the results after such a simple process. It won't be able to do any complex grading, but will do for tweaks. Check out the footage, which could be a teaser for a series I have in mind.



scorsese's open letter to daughter


This is beautiful. Scorsese pens this to his daughter, but he's speaking to every young creative person, especially those who feel paralyzed by ambition. Creating something is a vulnerable act because I think a majority of people believe they know and recognize good work but they are never sure if they can craft it themselves. Sometimes we don't even give an attempt because we falsely believe our ability won't ever catch up to our taste. We then rationalize this fear by blaming the barriers of technology, knowledge, money, or resource. But in this letter by Scorsese, he, a legend of American cinema, has deemed the system of 'cinema' to be gone. This change is bright, though, he tells his daughter. Making movies (anything, really) is easier and more fun than ever - so all you need is your persistence.

Read the original publication on L'Espresso

"Dearest Francesca,

I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.

For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.

I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.

We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.

I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.

And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.

But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.

So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.

But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make - is something else. There are no shortcuts.

If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.

This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.

That’s you. That’s the truth.

All my love,