Friday, August 31, 2007

Short Films:

méditation (2001)

méditation from chris anthony diaz on Vimeo.
inspired by antonio carlos jobim’s classic bossa nova tune and the melancholic
aftermath of “the chairman of the board” & “the flower child’s” break up

todd brown write-up on méditation at twitch

the road less travelled (2006)
the road less traveled

music video for hélène renaut’s lovely ballad and dedicated to merlot

pssst (2005)

pssst from chris anthony diaz on Vimeo.
wtf! why the title ‘pssst’… because that’s the sound filipinos make to get your attention

interlude (2006)

barbara finds solace from her mundane reality through her imagination

celebrating mullets (1999)
celebrating mullets

documentary investigating the mullet hairstyle in santa cruz, california

lo-fi tangents (2007)
lo-fi tangents

cell phone video clips assembled to ‘the photo sticker machine’s music

Monday, June 18, 2007


‘what is luxury?’ (sept. 9, 2007)

Created with flickr slideshow.

what is luxury?

headshots & portraits

Created with flickr slideshow.

still life

Created with flickr slideshow.

fashion designers josh podoll & lauren berdell podoll press kit photos

josh and lauren berdell podoll

the archive

my slideshow on the archive

Created with flickr slideshow.

Created with flickr slideshow.


Created with flickr slideshow.

press conferences

Created with flickr slideshow.

tear sheets

Created with flickr slideshow.

paul hornschemeier

art spiegelman

gary groth of fantagraphics publishing

natalie bowen designs

Wong Kar Wai’s There’s Only One Sun

i normally don’t write extensively about a commercial… unless it’s by wong kar-wai and william chang

i don’t know what to say to everyone and make you feel any differently about the current perception you probably have formed already about wong kar-wai’s recent output, being redundant since in the mood for love. all i can do is speculate on wkw’s intentions with there’s only one sun, his new short commissioned by philips electronics. it’s possible philips electronics liked what they saw in 2046’s futuristic section and wkw’s musical choices (connie francis’ siboney and umebayahsi’s long journey) and wanted a generous helping of straight pastiche for their extended commercial. i know when i ask for sketches from my fave cartoonists that i expect them to replicate an image, which is iconic/representative of their drawing style for my request. or maybe wkw felt the futuristic section of 2046 was still novel or went unnoticed or underappreciated the last time around and borrowed it for this occassion without reservations. wkw’s practice is to reappropriate visuals and themes from his previous work by squeezing every last drop of usefulness out of them (i.e. 2046, the hand, in the mood for love and days of being wild) before finally moving on to something that looks superficially different from what he and william chang (wkw’s long-time collaborator in production design, costume design and editing—who is absolutely essential and responsible for a lot of the magic in wkw’s work) have already done. hopefully, wkw will not reference my blueberry nights, especially from lawerence block’s reportedly wooden dialogue, for the lady from shanghai or for any future work for that matter. by the way, wkw and william chang’s new muse for this piece appears to be louise brooks made up to be an assassin uniformed in couture, played by amélie daure as agent 006 of the central authorities.

i was taken aback how much this new piece looks like 2046 shot for shot, but it also has a vibe like jean-luc godard’s alphaville to it. and i’m not quite sure where the russian elements come from and why the use of it, especially wkw’s intent of having “the light” (and the senior agent) speak to agent 006 in russian while she replies to him in french plus the russian epigram placed at the end. for a piece done in shorthand, as far as concocting the scenario and plot, wkw made a fine effort disguising how contrived the whole affair is. plus, wkw did an admirable job of conveying all of the details/info of the characters and locale by embedding them into the images and tone/mood of the narrative, which has been his forte throughout his career. and i think the earnestness of the casts’ performance and wkw’s direction is the finishing touch, so the whole situation doesn’t end up being so laughable.

craftsmanship-wise, i think this piece is well done. (wkw’s and william chang’s efforts nowadays manifests itself into very highly stylized execution, i.e. the lancôme commercial with clive owen.) william chang’s fingerprints are all over this thing from the editing technique (especially his fetish jump cuts cued to movement or incorporating retakes) right down to the production/costume design. wkw’s preoccupation with memory, the flashback story structure, which the viewer is whisked off to and away from the story’s present as the plot begins, and the characters not being physically together by the end of it all. anyways, wkw romanticizes the memory of a person, or at least, for this particular piece, the visual representation of that person through a flat screen tv (nice touch by wkw to make the television a key element in the story but showing it to the viewer only twice even though it’s the whole reason for him being commissioned to make this piece… his private in-joke that he got away with possibly?).

in addition, memory induces a feeling (i get the impression wkw and his characters are addicted to living in their heads and see personal memories as a fetish more alluring than reality since imagery in wkw’s eyes is a type of narcotic, according to david thomson). in wkw’s worldview, there’s no need for agent 006 and “the light” to actually run off and have a real life together, i.e. no happy ending for us since wkw is really a cold hearted intellectual french dude! but it’s a happy ending for agent 006, who prefers the memory (since she is now blind, she has no other possibility to see images besides her memory… another deft touch by wkw to write that into her character and a plausible means to advance his thematic preoccupation with memory plus hinting at having agent 006’s superiors remove her memories, the last refuge for indvidual freedom and privacy, is a very disturbing personal violation) of seeing “the light”’s younger image on a flat screen tv and its accompanying feeling than actually being with him. it was clever how agent 006 rationalized/imagined that “the light” would betray her, motivating herself to follow thru and assassinate him, thus carrying out her assignment even though she had fallen for him. or did she actually fall in love with him? wkw nicely leaves that open to the viewer’s interpretation.

from my initial viewing of it, it didn’t resonate for me all that much. by writing about it, the philips piece is growing on me. kinda like how wkw’s the follow for bmw was underwhelming for me at first and seemed like a pastiche of iconic shots from chungking express and fallen angels before i grew to like it very much. for what it’s worth… at least, wkw and william chang seemed to have made this piece according to their vision rather than conforming their style to constraining directives from the philips corporate office, which might have rendered this piece unrecognizable to their fans. predictably, wkw and william chang are just being themselves to the point of extreme self-parody, but in a really well-done and enjoyable way even though we have seen this stuff before. and yes, it seems wkw has lost his humor since chungking express and fallen angels, or at least he keeps it somewhere where it’s not readily handy. i don’t think the heavy-handed dourness is going to disappear from wkw’s work any time soon either. i give wkw and william chang a pass on this one since it’s a commissioned commercial piece.

i will be a lot less forgiving of wkw if my blueberry nights sucks though. and most especially if he messes up ashes of time’s new re-edit!

prose: grindhouse & olivier assayas

sorry this is such a long entry but if you’re gonna sit through over 3 hours of ‘grindhouse,’ reading this takes no longer than blow drying your hair… if you’re still doing that sorta thing.

‘grindhouse’ is not a bad movie. but why does quentin tarantino think he can act? he’s like the pick-up artist (who always strikes out) at the neighborhood bar with nothing going for him but a big ego to disguise his small dick, no style, lousy pick-up lines and terrible looks. furthermore, he doesn’t know when to hang it up for good, playing cameo roles. (hitchcock had the wisdom of not overstaying his welcome by making brief silent cameos in his films, and he is probably a lot more amusing to watch than tarantino.) plus, tarantino’s not a very believable looking character actor and can barely say his lines without stuttering or letting spit fly out of his mouth onto the other actors he plays opposite. tarantino is just taking away a role and a paycheck from a starving bit-part actor, needing a big break to launch a career. who else would cast tarantino in a cameo besides robert rodriguez?

and speaking of rodriguez, will he ever use his high level of skillful mimicking and direct something besides dumb fun, or at least add something new to dumb fun besides a flawless but heartless execution of craftsmanship? in her future roles, it should be a requirement that rose mcgowan only utter one word lines. she definitely has camera presence but she can’t deliever a line (anymore than she can help herself from wearing red lipstick or having a pale complexion) without betraying what a weak actress she is. it also got pretty annoying when all the simulated analog glitches kept cropping up throughout, which distracted from watching the movie… being playful or emulating the authenticity of a beat up movie print has its limits, guys. i think the trailers and theater messages throughout the movie, plus the posters in the theater lobby, get that point across just fine. besides, the car duel in the final half of ‘death proof’ looked absolutely stunning in daylight photography, especially since it was not marred by any glitches and was shot live rather than created with cgi.

however, i did enjoy tarantino’s injury-to-the-eye moment during ‘planet terror’ and would have loved it even more if he got impaled in the throat or better yet, in the mouth instead. so, we wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore on the dvd extras of ‘chungking express’ or ‘hero’ bragging about how he discovered those films or name dropping all the films he loves. high five to whomever came up with that scenario for the fate of tarantino’s rapist—that person must have known i would truly appreciate it!

boo-yah! happy halloween everyone

and why does tarantino think he is black when he writes dialogue? would the cool black kids in high school let him be part of their inner circle? could he even fit in posing and just get by name dropping all the 1970s stax r&b slow jams (that no one remembers anymore or are too young to remember nowadays anyway) and jive talking? can he even dribble? or even make a free throw? or will he kick ass or get his ass kicked in a fist fight? or can he not live without eating chicken? or does he use activator for jerry curls? or breakdance or rap? (actually, scratch that… i don’t care to hear tarantino rap or see him breakdance either.) btw, as a teenager would you have been intimidated by tarantino if he got in your face yelling with his pussy voice, demanding your lunch money? not me.

all the women in ‘death proof’ sounded like tarantino trying to be sassy. but rosario dawson, zoe bell and tracie thoms really inhabited their characters and took ownership with their top notch performances of lovely hard-ass (but bitchy) ladies with very similar taste and attitudes as tarantino’s toward pop culture and life. transcending their grindhouse antecendents and elevating them above tarantino stock characterizations—i ate their shit up everytime they were on screen because of how likeable they are. (when tarantino’s camera circles and snakes around them at the diner, it’s as though we are the quiet friend sitting at their table, just listening.) ditto, forold schoolers kurt russell (right on, snake plissken!), michael biehm, jeff ‘lawnmower man’ fahey (who i never liked until this role) and danny trejo as ‘the wrong mexican to fuck with’ being a joy to watch.

tanrantino’s strongest suite happens to also be his biggest weakness and that is the screen/sound time he gives to his dialogue. it’s a nice touch because it’s the quickest way for us to get to know the characters, but it also shows tarantino’s preference for an inert plot. so, it seems like he is padding his running time with long scenes of conversation, consisting of characters rationalizing their attitudes about life and esoteric pop culture references (which one cannot fully appreciate if not familiar with them) because he has nothing for the characters to do. however, ‘jackie brown’ is an excellent example of tarantino reining in his tendencies and fusing his colorful dialogue with an active plot, beautifully working in tandem like a theater’s movie projector and sound system do to screen a movie for us. (probably because elmore leonard’s novel gave him a plot to play off of, which is why ‘jackie brown’ is a top notch film.)

my new screen crush is marley shelton… this the first thing i ever saw her in. i am glad i saw ‘grindhouse’ to discover her; she was worth every cent of what i never paid on my free pass. she’s one fuckin’ hot mama-sita… my hands broke out in a cold sweat and started quivering everytime she was onscreen, plus my leg started wiggling on its own too, once she was running around in high heels and that skimpy sleeveless spaghetti strapped top.

all in all, i did enjoy and liked ‘grindhouse’ but you know i wasn’t going to give tarantino and rodriguez a freebie hall pass without ripping them first. besides my sarcasm is more amusing than my idolatry i have been told.

Noir City 6: Intro to The Grand Inquisitor (Saturday, 01.26.08)

Noir City 6: Joan Leslie Interviewed Opening Night (Friday, 01.25.08)

olivier assayasQuestion and Answer session following the
screening of Irma Vep on Friday, Oct. 05, 2007.

Q&A following the screening of Demonlover on
Sat., Oct. 6, 2007.

Q&A following the screening of Cold Water on
Sun., Oct. 7, 2007.

the bill walsh memorial ceremony at candlestick park, san francisco (friday, 08.10.07)

Olivier Assayas introducing Cold Water on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007.

Question and Answer session following the
screening of Irma Vep on Friday, Oct. 05, 2007.

I’d only seen Irma Vep previously on dvd, so catching this projected
at the Pacific Film Archive was an enriching experience. In the past,
the ending always baffled me—the work-in-progress rough cut Maggie
Cheung footage directed by rene Vidal, the first director who has a
nervous breakdown in the middle of principal photography. Watching it
on a televsion, I didn’t know what to make of the scratched print, a
form of graphic design animation. Seeing that ending again in the
theater, I had the epiphany that Vidal had no control over the
principal photography and lost his way as to what inspired himself to
direct the remake, so only in editing could he shape the film closer to
his sensibilities and vision. Furthermore, adding the scratched film
quality which transforms the film into something more visual than the
raw footage could be by itself. Assayas gives his explanation in the
q&a video above, which also helps in making sense of the ending.

Q&A following the screening of Demonlover on
Sat., Oct. 6, 2007.

I really think Demonlover is an overlooked film because it is so
complex and touches upon many of Assayas’ observations of
modernity. Listening to his answers at the Pacific Film Archive q&a,
one gets the impression that Assayas himself can’t quite put his finger
on everything the film is. That’s not bad thing… it only means that the
film is open to several interpretations. Another hat trick Assayas was
able to pull off was making Diane’s characher sympathetic by the end
of the film.

Q&A following the screening of Cold Water on
Sun., Oct. 7, 2007.

Cold Water gave me the vibe of Nicholas Ray and Robert Bresson even
though Assayas was not conscious of those influences when asked q&a
about the influences of other directors. Assayas’ response gave me the
epiphany that the viewer should not make references to other
directors’ films seen previously when watching a different director’s film.


inspired by antonio carlos jobim’s classic bossa nova
tune and the melancholic aftermath of “the chairman
of the board” & “the flower child’s” break up

Q&A following the screening of Cold Water on
Sun., Oct. 7, 2007.

the bill walsh memorial ceremony at candlestick park, san francisco (friday, 08.10.07)

Conversations with Olivier Assayas in residence at the Pacific Film Archive: Cahiers du Cinéma week (Oct. 4-11, 2007)

watch the q&a videos and read my unfinished rough draft about olivier assayas.

wing shya, image maker

Wing Shya is a Hong Kong based photographer (schooled at the Emily Carr Institute in Canada for four years), who also runs a design studio called Shya-la-la Workshop. Beginning with 1997’s Happy Together to 2046, Wing is best known as the exclusive still photographer and graphic designer for director Wong Kar-wai’s films and projects, which examine time, memory, nostalgia, missed connections, and melancholy. While his primary contribution is shooting publicity stills for the director’s films, Wing, through his studio, also produces special edition books, compact disc chapbooks, postcards, and posters, which allow one to relive Wong’s films—in effect reinterpreting those films in print (since a lot of the photos are of scenes not in wong’s final cut). My appreciation of Wing’s work for Wong is that they are both presenting a modern image of the Chinese as hip, complex, sophisticated, glamorous, and contemporary, showing us that the Chinese are just as fascinating in their own way as the rest of us.

Wing’s first involvement with Wong was a poster he designed for Chungking Express (1994), a film that finds hip citizens of Hong Kong, falling in and out of love. The poster is a collage of different characters that capture their celluloid moods along with objects and moments from the film. The poster immediately elicits intrigue derived from the situations and attitude of the narrative. By choosing collage, Wing accomplishes the dual feat of communicating different aspects of the film as well as designing a strikingly bold layout. He uses yellow type to set apart the text information from the images, but it also compliments the photos. The torn edges of the character photos symbolize their individual hipness that is the badge of youth. Happy Together (1997) is Wing and Wong’s next film, which produced a photo book, two different versions of compact disc packaging, and Shya’s graphic design and photography, which found its way onto some international posters. Wing shot with AGFA film stock, using Fuji mid-format cameras with auto-focus along with snapshot cameras. His decision to use these tools captures the complexity of two Chinese gay men’s dreamy melancholy as they fall in and out of love during their stay in Buenos Aires. Green is one of the symbolizing colors, along with the murky saturated look of other colors (such as brown and red), which capture the sadness of tears. The sepia color tone of some images in the Happy Together book conveys the passage of time, and the mementos of the two characters’ travels recorded and kept in this personal diary of sorts. Wing achieved some of these effects by staining the prints with coffee sometimes or bathing the prints for about a month. Also, the collage of photo scraps conveys the intimacy of personal experience. The film was released in 1997, which parallels the year the British transferred Hong Kong back to China. This was a watershed year for modern Hong Kong culture and identity. The world certainly knew Hong Kong was under British rule but had a vague association of who these people are. In Happy Together, Wing portrays these characters as rootless exiles who are emotionally complex.In the Mood for Love (2000) is the third project that Wing, once again, designed a photo book, two different compact disc packages, and his photography was on most of the international posters. The film nostalgically revisits Hong Kong’s recent past of the early 1960s about two neighbors who discover their spouses are having an affair with each other. The two neighbors decide to investigate how the affair started and how it thrived through role-playing. Nostalgia is a key theme, and red (a traditional Chinese color tied to passion) symbolizes it as though scorching an impression on to memory. Hong Kong looks just as modern as Las Vegas of that era, yet uniquely Chinese. Modern loneliness of uprooted young married couples moving to a cosmopolitan city, such as Hong Kong, is captured. The surface glamour of the new class of working professionals and their possessions are motifs that Wing and Wong incorporate into the imagery, which show a glamorous and sophisticated but lonely side of the early 1960s’ Hong Kong lifestyle. Wing created the compact disc release as an LP format booklet. He emphasizes red as the expressive color of repressed desire and crops the main characters into legs and torsos, emphasizing the mystique of role-playing an illicit extramarital affair yet not wanting to be caught. For the photo book, Wing photographs in tight close-ups and crops set in bedrooms or hotels that the young neighbors frequent to discover themselves how their spouses’ affair carried on. Wing and In the Mood for Love’s nostalgic tone of 1960s seems to say that Hong Kong had also begun grappling with modern society’s dilemmas, such as infidelity due to professional careers causing spousal neglect.A non-film project that Wong and Wing collaborated on was a 2001 photo shoot for French Vogue with actress Gong Li. Gong typically plays roles set in feudal China or looks very frumpy in more contemporary roles—an image a few people associate Chinese women with. Wing and Wong succeed in updating Gong Li’s image as a very feminine and erotic character caught in intrigue. The photos express, a kind of vampy kinkiness of femininity if you will, that the West finds alluring.

2046 (2004) concerns one of the characters from In the Mood for Love coping with an unrequited love. In order to maintain the sensation of that feeling, the character writes a novel set in 2046 based on people and experiences in his present reality. For 2046, Wing shot in a wide aspect ratio that parallels a film frame. By using the wide aspect ratio, Wing is able to utilize space to isolate characters in the frame, thereby conveying emotional distance and loneliness. Since the narrative goes back forth between the 1960s and a futuristic 2046, Wing is able to play with different moods. The future is shot in saturated colors predominately in an orange, red hue. The settings are sleek and new and the costumes are edgy-looking, hence Wing and Wong’s projection of what the Chinese will look like in 2046 looks very contemporary today. The 1960s are shot in darker colors predominately brown, which subconsciously conveys an aged passage of time or more precisely Wong and Wing’s color to represent nostalgia. The settings are aged, such as walls that are highly textured from cracking or peeling. The costumes evoke an early 1960s decadence of modernity. The focus in the photos is some times soft and the prints are grainy. This adds to feeling of traveling back into one’s memories, seeking an image of a particular moment. Although the film is fictional, the eras allude to Hong Kong before and after the British transfer, a sort of time capsule of Hong Kong’s development as an international cultural presence.Wong Kar-wai is the key to Wing’s most recognized work. The production of Wong’s films provides the mood, characters, set pieces, and scenario, which Wing then captures with his expressive and striking photography. Wing then alters the images and designs books, posters, postcards, and chapbooks to re-express the mood and feeling of those films. Through his use of film stock, camera formats, design layout, and printing techniques, Wing has re-expressed Wong’s films in photography and print. When Wing does not work with Wong, his photos are well crafted but lack a subtext that is only found in his work for Wong. For instance, his photography for the Louis Vuitton campaign seems to force the melancholy and pensiveness that are evocative in his photographs for Wong; part of the problem is editorial parameters from clients—an issue Shya doesn’t encounter with Wong, who allows Wing to work freely from his suggestions. The body of work that Wing has done for Wong is key to presenting a modern Chinese persona of being hip, complex, sophisticated, glamorous, and contemporary. Wing as a photographer and designer has cultivated the modern Chinese image, which is the next most influential facet (after its military and economic might) of a nation wanting its presence felt throughout the world.