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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breakfast At Tiffany's

Meant to film and post this a while ago, but only got around to doing it on Friday...

A parody of Deep Blue Something's Breakfast At Tiffany's. Except ... not.

Monday, November 24, 2008

22 Sketches Breakdown

So, 22 Sketches You Must See Before You Die played on the weekend at the Metro Arts Theatre, and went really well in my opinion.

The show's surreal opener involved three grown men wearing yellow shirts walking around like chickens, suddenly breaking out in some choreography to The Sylvers' Boogie Fever, before a farmer comes in and shoots one dead. It was the second time in my life I'd been in a show where Boogie Fever opened the performance - but I don't remember having a bruised knee from falling down dead the first time I did it. :p

Tom and Grdo played twins whose mother had implemented a unique parenting system. It featured funny digs at Coldplay and Powderfinger.

Grdo then switched to the parent role as a traumatically blunt father breaking the news to his kids that their pets had... run away to the circus.

To conclude the "parent and children" trilogy of sketches, Georgie played a precocious and questioning child with Alex playing her badly influential father, projecting his own marital inadequacies onto why his child's praying mantis has been eaten by its mate. It featured the word "cunt".

Anna played a woman who's convinced she was a gay man trapped in the body of a woman. The transvestite at her bus stop tries to convince her she's just a straight woman and that the estrogen pills she's taking are unnecessary.

Tom played the narrow-minded agent of a black actor who failed to fit the stereotype of black men. Adam - our sound and lighting guy - cameo-ed as the actor very well, very good comic timing.

Georgie played a bizarre HR person interviewing Lawson for a job that for some reason requires the applicants to name as many Pokemon as possible, fit as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible and realistically draw penises.

We also did a trilogy of "shop sketches" following the typical shop sketch formula which was parodied in the third. There were some suitably stereotypically Asian accents.

I pretended to masturbate underneath a sheet to awkward comic effect when Anna my stage wife caught me.

Tom played a stripper. He then proceeded to method act.

Grdo and Alex gave brilliant performances as commentators for a televised race of emotional cripples. Top writing and top performing from both.

We witnessed the evolution of man in an unexpected way which involved the milking of a cow. Very Jo.

Tom and I played rival gang leaders about to rumble - turns into a political discussion about the appropriate usage of the word "nigger". Basically, there is none. There's only one thing less intimidating than me and Tom as gang leaders. And that's me and Tom as gang leaders armed with coloured tee-ball bats.

I did four or five musical numbers - including the Anne Hathaway song; a big number that turns out to be very anticlimactic (the most Micallef-y kind of gag I've done I think); the Twelve Bar Blues; a thirty second parody of Breakfast At Tiffany's which gets aborted after descending into presumptions about ethnicities; and a patter song about things that I've mistakenly assumed throughout my life. I fucked up this last one on the last night - forgot a verse, blanked on stage, moved on to the end.

Tom used me as a last minute replacement for a sketch with him as a terrible backing singer trying to steal the spotlight from the lead singer doing Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth.

Closed the show with the Anne Hathaway song - worked like a charm on both nights. Me on lead, flanked by four very talented men singing backing vocals - including Donnie who learned the song only the day before. Outstanding stuff boys. Was nervous about using it to close the show given the randomly specific subject matter, yet it did enable to end the show with a joke about Scarlett Johannson's boobs.

We fit it in under 90 minutes without an interval which was our goal. There ended up being 26 sketches instead of 22, but, meh, so what.
"So ... if the show's called 22 sketches... and there are 26... which four are optional?"
"Well, this one for starters."
For those who missed it, I don't know if I'll post any clips from the show on YouTube, sorry - we did film both nights, but it was done statically and from an angle with nobody operating the camera, so I have no idea of the quality of the footage yet. Nonetheless, I'll end up posting recordings and music videos of my songs that I performed in the show.

I will post some pics when they become available.

--

It was a fantastic experience to be able to get up on stage with all of these very talented people again - something which hasn't happened outside of the Law Revue for most of us - and it felt really good to be able to collaborate again. Thank you to everyone involved especially Jo - whose brainchild it was - for having the balls and the discipline to lay it down, book the theatre, set deadlines, and effectively force us to commit ourselves to it. Which is what we always needed.

So, until next time, it's back to the writing.

--

Post script. After party story. I didn't think I could be bruised in a barechested permanent marker fight. But Jo proved me wrong. The most fun I've had being bruised. :p

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Number One

Also, I just looked at my YouTube account and noticed that the Mel Gibson-dubbed ending to 300 I did just over a year ago has surpassed the video of Harry Potter's Scar as my most watched video.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PythonTube

So the five surviving Monty Python guys have finally come around (or at least, I imagine Idle or Gilliam - the franchise conscious ones - convinced the others) to start their own YouTube channel.



For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands.

We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we've figured a better way to get our own back: We've launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube.

No more of those crap quality videos you've been posting. We're giving you the real thing - HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

What's more, we're taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what's even more, we're letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

But we want something in return.

None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.
I think it's an excellent decision on their part. Because the Pythons formed their own business company back in the sixties and effectively own all of their own filmed material (with the exception of the movie And Now For Something Completely Different), they're in a position like any other YouTuber to post their own content and make money off of it. And like their little statement on their channel says, people have been posting and circulating their sketches for years - this will be a high quality place for people to find clips. I anticipate a HQ, not subtitled version of The Society For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things.

Then again, I just suggest you go out and buy the complete boxset.

Obviously, there won't be any new material, but it's good to see them officially jumping on the bandwagon.

This was the earliest Python sketch I remember seeing after school at 6 o'clock on a weeknight on the ABC back in the 90's...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Update - 16/11

Less than one week to 22 Sketches... it's a fun and exciting process, but, Baz Lurhmann-style, it's going to come damn close to the wire. A lot of work left to be done in a week. But like I said, exciting. But nervous.

I'm in a sketch where I have to pretend to do something of a rather sexual nature. And I'm suddenly really happy my grandmother's not going to be in the audience. Yet I feel I'm going to have difficulty looking at my mother in the eye in the foyer afterwards.

I performed some of the songs from the show at an open mic night for Ignatians, and they went down really well - it's a shame the show's sold out that I didn't have any tickets to pimp. I did an extended version of Anne where I was adding extra gags to see if they got laughs. I think it works fine in its current form, and will go down well in the show as well. :)

Due to people being dispersed across the country today and with official law school duties that could not be avoided, I had a Sunday at home for once. I thought about doing a video for this Nova competition which closes tomorrow, but I didn't have a decent idea or the energy, so instead, I recorded and filmed this silly little song.

YouTube user jewelchic invited people to post comments or video responses to a particular video she won't watch again until her birthday on December 8th (here is the original video). I haven't seen a lot of her videos yet (and there are a LOT of them), but I've been in a musical/songwriting state of mind at the moment so I ran on an impulse and wrote a short song for her birthday.



I think it would be fun to just keep posting musical video responses to videos I find interesting. They're a lot of work, but fun to keep my musical intuition active. And it might set me up as something unique online.

Maybe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Partial Retraction

In my last post I said...
There is no way they can make a movie based on a board game good, even if Ridley Scott is directing it.
I partly retract this - Clue (1985) was a brilliantly hilarious movie.

But I'm still spectacularly cynical (and I doubt that I'm alone) that this Monopoly movie will work.

AusOne - The Sydney YouTube Gathering

So I've made the commitment - flights are booked - I'm going to Sydney on November 29th for the AusOne YouTube gathering at Circular Quay.

Here's a fun video by Yakovich.



It's the weekend after "22 Sketches ..." Excitement much. The pressure's on.

--

Excellent movie news of the day - Marc Forster (who is I'm yet to see set a directorial foot wrong) is signed on to direct the movie adaptation of Max Brooks' excellent pseudo-realistic zombie epic "World War Z". Excellent story, excellent screenwriter (the writer of Clint Eastwood's Changeling), excellent producers (the producers of The Departed) and now an excellent director.

Bad movie news of the day - Ridley Scott has signed on to direct the Monopoly movie. There is no way they can make a movie based on a board game good, even if Ridley Scott is directing it. But if you've ever wondered what Russell Crowe looks like with a top hat, monocle and big white moustache, this is your chance.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This pissed me off...

The Courier Mail today (November 6th) published an article written by Paul Syvret titled "Embracing The Horror" - an article discussing the emergence of Australian horror films over the last five or so years; an article written to coincide with the release of Dying Breed - a Tasmanian-set cannibal feature with Nathan Philips and Leigh Whannell.

It contained these paragraphs:
"The rebirth of the Australian horror film began in earnest in 2004-2005 with the release first of Saw, then the Outback chiller Wolf Creek. Saw was dreamed up by two struggling filmmakers, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who had only enough money to fund a seven minute short film featuring Whannell with his head caught in a gruesome trap.

They hawked it around Hollywood and Twisted Pictures agreed to fund a $US1.2 million feature. Saw grossed more than $US100 million at the box office and spawned a film franchise that has so far raked in more than $US1 billion in worldwide box office and DVD sales."


Omitting the fact that they were completely snubbed by all Australian financing bodies/companies and making it seem as if Hollywood was their first port of call. And yet it's still an "Australian horror movie".

But this seems to be part of trend when it comes to reporting about Australian horror movies now.

Now Aussie horror is a subject that's personal to me. I was a fan of it before it suddenly became cool again. I love every inch of the Spierig Brothers' Undead from the first moment I heard about it. It was positively inspiring to me. I felt the same way seeing that movie as I did when I saw El Mariachi/Desperado - I could see and feel the filmmakers' love and affection on every element of every frame of every reel of the movie, even if it was just a silly zombie/alien flick. These guys wrote it, produced it, shot it, edited it, did the special effects themselves (which were damn impressive considering the low budget) and they raised the money totally independently. They shot it in their hometown north of Brisbane, they used local actors, they used local crew. And it got a significant following via the web and film festivals and is a cult film now.

I consider Undead to be one of the best Aussie horror movies, because it's fun, it's scary, it's impressive and it's locally made. I really get a sense of pride and inspiration out of it.

I also loved the first Saw. None of the sequels have held a torch to the original. The sequels have been all about the gore, but with little of the tension or character or mystery of the original. And none of the movies have matched the first one's ending twist. Saw II was okay, but a helluva lot gorier.

Like I said, I loved Aussie horror movies pre-Wolf Creek. In 2005 I wrote an essay on Australian horror movies for my Australian Cinema class, and I got top marks for it because, at the time, it was a fairly "unresearched topic". And I was interested because Aussie horror movies presented this combination of the two ideals of a national cinema: developing a national identity (for ourselves and to show to the world) and to be commercially viable (i.e. a bit of dumb fun and thrills). Indeed, there was very little research done at the time. Australian horror was a very cult property - on Amazon.com I discovered an Australian Horror Boxset including Patrick and Long Weekend being marketed to the Americans as a niche item. I discussed primarily Undead and the woeful post-Scream slasher Cut. I got to see Patrick, which I had heard about but never had the opportunity to see it till I chose this topic.

But I omitted Saw from most of the discussion for this reason. It got a mention, but I didn't discuss it in detail, even though it would have been the hot "Aussie" horror movie at the time. And I omitted it for this reason: I don't consider Saw an Australian film.

Now I mean absolutely no disrespect to James and Leigh - if anything, I have so much respect for them, it hurts. I respect any filmmaker who has the balls to go out and just make their movie. These guys are cool. They did it. They had an idea. They did it on a low budget. Between the two of them, they covered the script, the production, the acting, the directing, and probably some uncredited editing as well. They made their movie themselves. And it paid off big time.

But when Saw first came out, all I remember hearing was two things: 1) it was going to make people sick, and 2) these two young Australian filmmakers couldn't get their foot in the door with Australian investors. They had to take it overseas. And there's no doubt that it's paid off well for them.

But now every time there's an article in the Australian press about an Aussie horror film that's being released, there's an inevitable reference to either/both Saw and Wolf Creek. And every time I read them, there's a complete omission of the fact that James and Leigh were completely shut down at every turn in Australia by the film investment bodies. Oh how the times have changed.

Even though these guys were Australian and wrote/produced/directed/acted in their own movie, I do not consider Saw an Australian movie. It may Aussie connections with the crew, but it wasn't shot in Australia and it doesn't have an ounce of Australian financing in it.

And it really pisses me off when I read articles that gloss over the fact of their rejection.

Did it kickstart the Aussie horror trend? Probably, meaning that the quote from the Courier article is probably correct: financiers learned from their mistakes. I don't know if Wolf Creek was greenlit before or after Saw - probably before with a large amount of trepidation and hesitation.

But it really really shirts me when we forget that Leigh and James HAD to go overseas - not just wanted, but HAD to. And the continual publication of quick retrospectives like the article I read today means that sooner or later, we won't remember at all.

(I don't mean to pick on the Courier Mail article solely, but it's just the last one that I read and it was the stimulus for this blog/rant. It's part of a sad trend where we pretend like it never happened that annoys me.)

Anne Hathaway


So this is a song I wrote for the 22 Sketches show - it'll still be in it, so don't watch if you want to enjoy it at the show if you're coming. You've been warned. :p

Watch it here - It's a torch song for Anne Hathaway. Or at least, words that rhyme with Anne.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Updates - 4/11

So this is what's going on with various projects...

22 Sketches You Must See Before You Die

All of our scripts and songs for the show we're performing on November 22nd and 23rd at the Metro Arts complex on Edward Street in Brisbane are about to start being rehearsed.

There's some very funny stuff that I've read from the others guys that are provocative, surreal and snappy. I have so far been cast as a chicken, a horse and an Asian... not all at the same time, of course. I can't wait to get into rehearsals. I've contributed five songs and one sketch - more than likely at least two of those will be cut for time/not making the show too musical. Two of the songs I've written I will make videos for and post on YouTube.


Engineering Videos

I have four more engineering/mining/resources videos in the pipeline (pun intended) - one is a song that's recorded and I have to shoot, another one I'm waiting on approval to do, and two more that I'm yet to crystallize as ideas, just vague concepts.


Second Chance Program

I'm also assisting a local organization called the Second Chance Program which raises awareness and raises funds for other charitable groups which assist homeless women. They're a small group of benevolent and very caring locals who do this job selflessly and for no pay to try and get accommodation for women who would otherwise be living in extremely dangerous conditions on the street. They're prone to violence, rape, poor hygeine, unable to access dental care or clean underwear. It's shocking to hear that in Australia, 1 out of 57 females between the ages of 15-19 are living on the streets.

I'm helping them out by producing two PSA's for them for a fund raising function next year, but I thought I would raise awareness of them on my blog here first.

From their site...

Nearly 80 women who would otherwise have been sleeping rough have been housed through the SCP partnership with the Brisbane Housing Company – and the ‘bridge the gap program’. Close to fifty women have been accommodated in Bed 14 at the Anglican Women’s Hostel, and have been provided with counselling, services, and assistance with appropriate accommodation.

Because it is young women who are now in such great need, most recently SCP has embarked on a program with Zig Zag in housing young women and assisting them to lead independent lives: Funds have also been provided to Bahloo to reunite young women with their supportive families.


I'll keep a link to their page on the side of my page as well. You can click through and learn about what they do and how you can get involved - whether it's making a direct donation or organizing a school/church raffle, etc.


Other YouTube stuff
  • The YouTube AusOne Gathering is coming up in a few weeks. I am still as yet unsure if I will go, since it conflicts with some personal/family stuff up here, but I would love to go down to Sydney if I can.

  • I have a video where I can FINALLY use my Guy Fawkes mask coming up this week.

  • Nova 106.9 is running a competition for their breakfast crew I want to enter soon - a 20 second tv spot that could score you $20,000.

  • A prominent Aussie YouTuber liked my Unsubscribed song (which I admit I botched the performance of in that video) so I sent him the much much better mp3 file I'd recorded and mixed and he may have a go of doing a very cool video to it. No time of arrival yet, but I'm super psyched to see what he does with it. :)

  • Bob Dylan's Facebook Song may appear on British TV by the end of the year, but I'm yet to get confirmation on that, so I won't say anymore, but that's pretty cool.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The (Un)Life Of The Author Plus Seventy Years

Since Halloween has just passed, I thought I'd reproduce a horror-themed, moderately factual satirical essay I wrote about this time back in 2006. It was from when I was one of three co-editors of Obiter, the UQ Law School's student comedy magazine (you can read the issue in full colour here with pictures of Sadako crawling out of an iPod and everything...)

If any aspects of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) have changed rendering this article legally incorrect now, just keep in mind that it was only a joke and was written two years ago.

And it was probably legally incorrect then too. :p


-----------------------

THE LAWS OF THE RING
Intellectual Property Rights In Cursed Japanese Videotapes


The Japanese horror film Ringu (and its American remake) featured a cursed videotape which condemned its viewer to death seven days after watching its series of bizarre images. In the climax of the movie, it is revealed that the only way for the viewer to prevent said horrific death is to make a copy of the tape and screen it for someone else. If not done, the ghost of Sadako Yamamura emerges from the nearest TV screen seven days later Candyman-style, in a mess of matted black hair and kills the lazy arsed viewer with, quite literally, a death stare.

Chances are you’ve seen the famous scene by now, but in case you haven’t, my description really doesn’t do it justice without watching it in the context of the film. You can say “the shower scene in Psycho”, but it just doesn’t have the same impact until you watch Mother’s silhouette rip the curtain away. Sadako crawling out of the TV was one of the most fuck-you-up scary moments I had seen since the final scene of The Blair Witch Project.


Filmic and horror value aside, Ringu (or The Ring) highlights significant problems in the treatment of the legal rights of the undead, particularly the neglect of Sadako’s intellectual property rights in the cursed tape.

It seems somewhat ironic and unfair that for a tortured artist like Sadako to be able to exercise her rights as the author of the work and express herself in an adequate manner, it must done by infringing copyright. It’s a lose-lose situation for her audience: if you infringe, you could be liable under the Copyright Act. If you don’t infringe, she will emerge from your TV and murder you.

First of all, it’s important to note that the video in Ringu would attract copyright protection. It may do so under Part III of the Act which deals with “works” and would be likely to be classified as an original artistic work.

It may also attract protection under Part IV as a “matter other than works”. In the movie, it is revealed that the video originated from a broadcast to a remote cabin on an unknown television signal, where it was then committed to tape. Therefore, it is possible to assume that publication occurred upon broadcast of the images and sounds. Sadako holds copyright as the broadcaster, since the images were being transmitted from her dying (or already dead) thoughts while she was still in the well.

International agreements on copyright have also affected the rights of the undead. Ringu’s success ensured that it would be remade by Hollywood and was done so successfully in Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, featuring a second haunted video and a second murdered girl who emerges from the TV – “Samara”. Japan, the United States and Australia are all parties to the Berne Convention. It is therefore irrelevant which version of The Ring we are talking about, since this international agreement bestows upon Sadako/Samara the right to bring an action in Australia as if she were an Australian national (see Zeccola v Universal City Studios). If she really wanted to sue here.

On the other hand, other international agreements severely disadvantage the undead. The US Free Trade Implementation Act 2004 extended the period of copyright protection under the Copyright Act to “the life of the author plus seventy years”. This not just neglects the rights of the undead like Samara, but creates even more confusion. What happens if the work is created after the author has died? It is unclear whether or not this protection is afforded to authors of published artistic works that are vengeful spirits and/or already dead at the time of publication.

The Australian case law and legislation are, at best, “hazy” on the civil rights of the dead, or even the undead. However, if one interprets it as Samara “publishing” the “work” while she was still alive in the bottom of the well, there would be no issue of her rights as owner of the copyright. Unless of course she was never really alive in the first place, which has been suggested from subsequent Asian sequels to Ringu – kind of a “half-spirit” from hell. And that just makes the matter really confusing.

Of course, if you haven’t guessed already, the most likely defence available to any infringement of copyright in the tape is that Sadako/Samara provides her viewers with an implied license to copy. Licenses do not need to be in writing, and thus can be given, say, ooh, I don't know, over the phone, perhaps?

Sadako/Samara had created a legitimate artistic work from which they have the right to enjoy the benefits. It seems somewhat odd then that the only safe method for patrons to enjoy her work is to have it continuously infringed upon. Why would she impose such a restriction upon her own curse? It just doesn’t make sense. When she calls the doomed viewer, she merely says “seven days” - not “you will die in seven days”. People assume that the impending death is inevitable. But her shyness as a reclusive artist (so reclusive, she lives in a well) prevents her from properly telling the viewers what she really wants — “Please show my work to the world. I have a MySpace and everything..." If you don’t I will murder you in a week.” It’s really her own fault. Sadako is essentially the Blockbuster Video From Hell. “I’m sure other people want to watch this. So be kind. Please rewind.”

So that aside, if one were to view the video somehow, how does one go about defeating this curse? Well, you can use the neglect of the undead under the Copyright Act to your own advantage!

With VCRs going the way of the dodo, it’s going to become increasingly unlikely that copying the cursed video onto tape is a sustainable medium of transfer. However, advancing technology has given us potentially twisted-face corpses the chance to avoid their fates with a little technological know-how. The Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000 has made it possible for the digitization of works to constitute an act which falls under the terms of the exclusive rights within s.31. Therefore, it should be adequate enough to defeat the curse by digitizing the cursed video to your computer and uploading onto the internet! File sharing programs such as Kazaa and You Tube have made it infinitely easier for a file to be copied and viewed by anyone in the world - as long as one person views the video within those seven day you’ll survive!

And don’t worry about copyright infringement IF ANY – they’re off chasing down people who post Metallica songs and bootlegged
Lost episodes to worry about someone posting some weird David Lynchian shit like this.

BUT if worse comes to worst and you just have to let seven days elapse without copying the video AND showing it someone, why not learn a lesson from the movies? In the Ring movies, Sadako/Samara crawls out of a television screen, allowing her to emerge at her full size – why not transfer the digitized video to your iPod?

So when the seven day time limit is up and you’ve been too lazy to show it to someone else, make sure your iPod screen is the only screen available and she’ll be forced to crawl out of it. She’ll be two inches tall at most! Can you take something that small trying to kill you with an evil eye … seriously? Better yet, transfer it onto someone else’s iPod and trick them into watching it.

So there you have it – the undead have a pretty rough trot under Australian copyright law. No superior court judge is yet to give an opinion on where these individuals stand (or levitate or hobble or lurk) in respect of the law, for fear of being accused of betraying their allegiance to the fully living… or just for the fear of having their brains eaten. Either way, The Ring raises significant issues for future consideration – IP is a booming area and, like the vampire that could very well become tomorrow’s litigant, will eternally be in need of fresh blood.