Light and Trees

Light and Trees

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Clint Eastwood

I’ve heard rumors that a Clint Eastwood movie set works like clockwork. The days rarely run into overtime, the set-ups are painless, and the climate is harmonious. I’ve heard that the miserable contention and bombastic complaining fueled by over exhaustion common on film sets are seldom experienced by the cast and crew of an Eastwood movie.

I’ve also heard that he breezes through his shot lists with a consummate confidence that only comes from experience… As a crew member myself (IATSE local 600), I’ve wished on more than one occasion for the chance to work on an Eastwood movie. I am certain that the education would be invaluable.

Clint Eastwood once said, “When it stops being fun, I will stop making movies”… I hope that day never comes!

Jean-Luc Godard

Arguably one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history Jean-Luc Godard will be 80 years old before the end of this year. Multitudes of aspiring film makers, and endless film school graduates revere Godard as a living legend. They’ve studied his technique and style, the phenomena of realism, the charge of “the jump cut”. Still many of them have no idea what he has been doing in recent years.

His latest movie “Film Socialism”, is currently screening at the most prestigious film festivals around the world. If I were ever to permit an old geezer to slap me across the face it would be Godard… In many ways, he has already profoundly done so with his films.

Martin Scorsese

Many people have mixed feelings about the films of Martin Scorsese. Personally, I love them. The journey ventured by the characters in his movies is often extreme, but there is always a pay off. As well, the emphatic exploitation of music synchronized with dramatically charged situations in his films is incredibly visceral. Isn’t that what Eisenstein was jabbering about?

Martin Scorsese struggled, and persevered early on despite “critical failure”. That is an inspiring feat in and of itself. I’m talking about the days before “Mean Streets” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More”… even before “Boxcar Bertha” the exploitation movie he directed for Roger Corman. If he had thrown in the towel like many young film makers do, we never could ask ourselves the age old question... “Are you talking to me?”

Jim Sheridan

If I could spend an afternoon at a coffee shop asking questions of Jim regarding actor’s performances and measures to achieve tremendous scenes I would feel invincible. Jim Sheridan’s grasp of constructing meaningful dramatic scenes that resonate and drive a movie forward is mind blowing… Okay, maybe not mind blowing. How about, inspiring? His appreciation for, and acquiescence of the “human experience”, is reflected forcefully. If you're reading this and wondering, Jim who? The name is Sheridan. His early movies launched the career of one of the most astonishing actors of our time, Daniel Day Lewis.

David Cronenberg

There is a certain humility in David Cronenberg’s work that imparts an honest reflection of human desire and impulse at a base level many people are afraid to cross-examine. We can vicariously venture down a path seldom journeyed, and find ourselves feeling vulgarly at ease with the subject matter… and still maintain the safe vantage point of outsiders looking in.

Chan-wook Park

Chan-wook Park’s work reflects a chromatic love of movies. He entwines bold elements of style, fashion, cinematography and compelling story telling with above par acting. However far fetched, his movies honor the goals of the characters involved and their stories, and as a bonus, often dish out allusion with a heavy hand.

I found “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” several years ago, an obscure title in a low key Los Angeles video store. I watched it when I was completely fed up with everything in the theaters and on the “new release” shelves. It was inspiring proof that compelling films are still being made for the purpose of telling great stories regardless of formula and industry. Then “Old Boy” sealed the deal.

Myung-se Lee

There is a movie called “Nowhere to Hide” about a group of cops who hunt down a bad guy (who also happens to be a master of disguise). It’s an action movie that has choreographed fight scenes that seem like they could readily be performed on a Broadway stage. The movie is striking visually and at times poetic. The details are tremendous. The shots that construct the scenes are amazing, thoughtful, and stunning… Myung-se Lee is creatively fearless.

Woody Allen

One of the most prolific filmmakers alive, Woody Allen has shot a movie a year consistently for three decades. If you put aside the details of his private life that have soiled the tabloids and all personal judgment you might come to appreciate the extraordinary force of talent and creative energy that drives his work. After all, it is undeniable. The next time you see an actor “break the fourth wall” (conceited and pointless phrase- break the 4th wall…) and speak directly into the camera, like Ferris Beuller, consider Woody Allen’s groundbreaking contribution to cinema.

Steven Spielberg

The man with the golden hand… His movies are so huge I am reluctant to include him on my list. It goes against my DIY attitude. However, his influence is vast and his credits make up some of Hollywood’s land marks. Yes, I too cried watching “ET”... and when I was seven I watched “The Raiders Of The Lost Arch” 14 times.

Francis Ford Coppola

American Zoetrope Winding down my list is “The Godfather” guy. Not for reasons you might presume. It’s not because of “The Godfather” movies or “Apocalypse Now”. Although those are great movies, Francis is on this list because one of my favorite movies of all time is “The Outsiders”. Let's do it for Johnny… We'll do it for Johnny!

I read an article awhile back that said Mr. Coppola was moving to Europe to experience life "as a struggling artist" and make movies outside the studio system based purely on raw inspiration. Thus, reigniting his passion etc… I couldn’t have heard anything more aggravating and annoying (I would have liked to remind Francis that being a starving artist is really not that much fun, I know from experience, and I’d happily trade my resources for his resources for a month if it would help him to find himself). Likewise, even though I might not agree with the eccentric impulses of the iconic filmmaker I will always revere his movies, value his influence and find inspiration in his work.

As you come to the close of this list, you are likely wondering where is David Lynch? Where is Polanski? Where is Tarantino? Where are the Coen brothers? Where is Fincher? Where is Sidney Lumet? Where is Soderbergh? Where is Boyle? Where’s Mann? Howard? Craven? Bay? Spike Lee? Ang Lee? Stone? Anderson? Where is Waldo!? …What about so and so- and the other guy… and how come there are no women on the list, where’s Kathy Bigelow for crying out loud- she just won the freaking Oscar. That's what the comment section is for. I’d love to hear from you and find out who deserves to be here more than Cronenberg, or Lee... Agree, disagree, something you don’t understand? Feel free share your thoughts and enthusiasm.

Thanks for reading.


Virgil London