Author Archives: Jason

And now for something different…

Today, I’d like to not talk about films and share with you a little decision I made while running. ImageThis morning, it was 3 degrees Celsius outside out in Vancouver. A little on the cool side, but it was dry and I finally had some spare time so I decided to join my partner for a run around Stanley Park. For those of you who are not familiar with Stanley Park, it is a 1000 acres oasis right in the heart of Vancouver and it is surrounded by water on three sides. Our destination: Third Beach! The idea of running out in the cold did not appeal to me at first and to where ugly bulky layers in public did not help put my mind at ease. Our neighborhood is a tourist destination and home of the gays. However, the thought of doing something different was more satisfying than being on Facebook.

The temperature was bearable and there were lots of people out in the sea wall. As long as you kept moving, it was fine. The sea was calm and the tide was low so you can see all the birds rummaging through the rocks for their morning meal. I found solace in the imagery. Continue reading

Beautiful Thing

by Jason

What’s a queer film that hits you right in the gut? I’m talking about that film that made you come out, or reaffirm who you are. For me that film is Beautiful Thing (1996), the tender coming of age story between a young outcast and a high school jock who fall in love with each other in the outskirts of London. It was a straightforward romance!  When that film came out, I was on my way to becoming a geologist. I didn’t know what to pursue and a career in the sciences seem like a good option that would set the bar for my siblings, and satisfy my parents.

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Blast From the Past: Home for the Holidays

Recently I discovered Home for the Holidays, a Jodie Foster film. I was surprised to find Robert Downey Jr. playing a gay sibling who is too afraid to announce to his parents that he was married to his boyfriend. For a 1995 film, this was a very progressive image to have in theaters and kudos to Jodie Foster for having the courage to make such a film so close to Hollywood. Home for the Holidays starred Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, and Claire Danes. It was made through Polygram Pictures, a film production company that differed from traditional Hollywood studios in that the power to make a film was decided by negotiations between producers, management and marketing rather than centralized in a small number of executives.

Fast forward 16 years and crowdsourcing (websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo) have largely replaced Polygram Pictures as a way to green light stories that would normally not be made in a traditional Hollywood studio model. Continue reading

Technical Problems Bring People Together

New York filmmaker, Joyce Wu, experienced something that no filmmaker should ever endure. She traveled all the way from New York to the Vancouver premiere of her short film, “Withholding,” and witnessed the presentation of her hard work on the big screen with technical problems. I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce in San Francisco and saw her well-made film presented flawlessly. We could imagine the agony she must’ve endured as she silently watched strangers critique her abilities. Sadly, this is not the first time I have witnessed good work presented poorly. And here are some prevention tips: Continue reading

Take Me Out Square Dancing for Halloween

by Jason

On a recent trip to Washington, I was confronted by a member of the audience about my claim that it was difficult to find young square dancers. She had watched “Square Dance Story” at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, and perplexed by my claim. It happens that she was friends with organizers of Square Dance Collective. The Collective is a local DC group  that hosts a square dance in the sanctuary of a local, social justice-oriented church (St Stephens) every month and is changing people’s Saturday night going-out plans.  Yes, square dancing, contra dancing and many traditional folk dances have a public relations problem, but it does not mean that they are not fun! It also means that they can be open to re-interpretation, and what generation to do this than the youth.

I asked Anne Uebelacker, an established caller, what makes an outfit western and she just said western boots. They could wear mini-skirts, tank tops, spaghetti straps, but in order to make it a western outfit, they’ll need boots! This gave me room to experiment, and I even bent some by having my lead character, the outsider,  wear black ballet shoes while the rest of his outfit remained “western”. Continue reading

We are the Packaged Generation

by Jason

How will history judge us? The Occupy Wall Street protests are a revolt to everything that is wrong in society. We are seeking truth in an age of flashy packaging, spin doctors and increasingly intrusive marketing techniques.

Are you married, or you must get married?

What is your income level, or you should attain to have this income level?

Are you gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered? Therefore you must be this way, or why wouldn’t you want to openly come out? Continue reading

Living Photos

by Jason

Wall art can be eclectic, inspiring and bizarre, but there is one common item that I have seen hanging somewhere on everyone’s walls and that’s photographs of themselves, family or friends. However in today’s age of the iPad, flat screen televisions and digital picture frames, I am surprised that there are not any looping videos, a living photo frame, on our walls similar to those found in the world of Harry Potter.

Not everything has to be recorded, but there is an ephemeral quality to see the moment before and after a very special photograph. Still pictures can create a false sense of reality, and be downright boring, if one chooses to only show people smiling. We tend to take notice when we see imperfections. I love candid stills, especially because people are caught in real situations.

These looping videos should not be long, perhaps only 40 seconds maximum, and there should not be any audio. Continue reading

Fresh from Cannes 2011

by Jason

When it comes to Japanese Cinema, I am quite green in terms of knowing its history and who’s who. Earlier, I stumbled across Takashi Miike’s remake of “HARA-KIRI” and the uneasiness this film has generated among fans and critics of the 1962 original by Masaki Kobayashi. Kobayashi’s classic is the equivalent to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969). Miike is no stranger to the revenge genre and his 13 Assassins has had great critical reviews. However, should masterpieces be remade to capitalize on newer technology and bring in a new generation of admirers? The answer should be a resounding yes, but we have seen some horrible reinterpretations. The intentions were noble, but circumstances can create different outcomes.

A great analogy to this is a lightning strike. Lighting happens all the time, but sometimes we witness a lightning bolt that leaves us breathless. A masterpiece is like a lightning bolt, a unique product of circumstance. As a filmmaker, I know how quickly circumstances can change no matter how much planning is involved. Lighting rarely strikes twice so why attempt to try? Continue reading

Mom, dad, where do you want to be in the social media revolution?

by Jason

I just got a call from the family to take down some family pictures from Facebook. It’s Mother’s Day and I thought it would be great to put up some pictures of my mom and the family. I am proud of my mom and even though we don’t always agree on everything, I have grown to respect her. The same goes for my family. My mom raised me well and perhaps, I have a hard time loosening up because my mom taught me to be cautious. However, this request perplexes me. It shows a growing disconnect between their perception of social media and mine. I understand people only want flattering pictures of themselves online, but they are concerned about how it will be used and security? Social media is the new frontier and everyday more information is uploaded. They have valid concerns, but should we let these concerns inhibit us? I think we can be pioneers and in order to keep up with technology, we take risks. With the death of video stores and the decline of traditional social activities like square dancing, the world is moving online and we need to change rapidly. Yes, online threats and security breaches exist but so does regular petty theft on the street and people continue to do business on the street.

“Social Media has overtaken pornography as the #1 activity on the web” Continue reading

Tim Hetherington

by Jason

I am deeply saddened to hear that documentary filmmaker, Tim Hetherington, has been killed in Libya.  Hetherington was the co-director of Restrepo, a documentary about a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan. He died Wednesday while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces in Misrata. He was 40. Misrata is the only rebel held city in western Libya and has been besiged by government troops for the past 2 months. Continue reading

My night with Guillermo

by Jason

Last Friday, a group of hardcore cinema aficionados gathered to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and Hell Boy 2. Outside, Vancouver Canucks fans were celebrating their second Stanley cup game win over the Chicago Blackhawks. They paraded down Granville and Robson streets, waving hockey jerseys and honking horns as if the second coming was assured. Inside, we watched with nervous excitement because just next to the screen was Oscar Winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro ready to talk about his films and experiences. Continue reading

Where Have All the Motion Picture Editors Gone?

by Jason

William Chang Suk-ping (art director & editor left foreground) is Wong Kar Wai's unsung hero...

Motion picture editors should be raised to the same level as directors in the indie film community. We often hear of a writer given credit for a story or an actor’s breakthrough performance, but rarely do we acknowledge the editor in the same stature. Not only do they have to be on top of every short cut and new software update that comes in, but sometimes they have limited coverage to play with. A film is sometimes salvaged in the editing room.

I went on IMDB to look at motion picture editors of two films that I saw recently, and for some reason they are not listed.

Who was the motion picture editor for Eat, Pray, Love? Why is this person not listed on IMDB? I want to ask the editor why this film was edited the way it was. It doesn’t seem to be edited for yogis or travelers. There were many missed beats in this film and I’d like to know why. For example, there is a moment where Liz Gilbert (Julian Roberts) finally decides to go to bed with Felipe (Javier Bardem) in Bali and it’s a substantial moment for her character. However, the film cuts to the next scene just as the door closes. There was no opportunity to savor the moment between them. Was this the editor’s decision or the director’s?

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by Jason

The Los Angeles I knew is changing and I think it’s changing for the better. This is my third time to the city of Angels and there are positive signs throughout. You just have to look at the nearest billboard and see the Battle LA movie posters. In a city known for hot, dry weather and chronic dependence on automobiles, this past weekend was definitely the contrary. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Marathon was held. I didn’t even know that Los Angeles had a marathon and to hear it went on as planned on a day of relentless monsoon-like rains is a testament to the commitment from the city. The Los Angeles Times published on the front page of its weekend edition that Metro was expanding its rail network. Americans often go big and since my last visit in 2008, new lines of the Metro have been built and opened. Canadian municipalities move in slow increments, holding healthy debates and community discussions along the way. Continue reading