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Great Danes

Dinka and I watched Italian for Beginners on Saturday night and it was quite good. This is the first Dogme 95 film that I had seen and I have to say that although it was hard to see the need for such a method before watching it, the overall effect of the film convinced me that they were onto something. What is Dogme 95? I'm glad you asked.

From my understanding, it is a simple set of rules and ideas, conceived chiefly by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, intended to rescue film from the familiar (Hollywood) traps of overproduction and technological illusion. They call it the Vow of Chastity:

"1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
10. The director must not be credited.

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a 'work', as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations."
Also, an excerpt from their statement of purpose, of sorts:
"Predictability (dramaturgy) has become the golden calf around which we dance. Having the characters' inner lives justify the plot is too complicated, and not 'high art'. As never before, the superficial action and the superficial movie are receiving all the praise. The result is barren. An illusion of pathos and an illusion of love.

To DOGME 95 the movie is not illusion! Today a technological storm is raging of which the result is the elevation of cosmetics to God. By using new technology anyone at any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation. The illusions are everything the movie can hide behind."
All this adds up to a very personal and refreshing way to tell a story. Instead of feeling like you are watching the characters play out the plot, it feels more like you are living it with them. Since there is literally nothing added, there is no magical "movie" sense about it, but what is left is not any less captivating than the $100 million blockbuster of the month and in fact is much more substantial. I'm sure this method can be used poorly as well and the quality of this particular film is not merely a result of the rules used to make it, but marry the method to a good story and well-developed characters and you've got something.

March 31, 2003

Things to Know About Sanding

March 25, 2003 | Comments (1)

First Pictures

We had our second ultrasound on Thursday and from what they can tell, the baby is healthy, growing and (still) a girl. I have posted a very small (5-picture) album here with the pictures they printed for us.

March 22, 2003 | Comments (1)

It's That Time of Year

It's the first day of March Madness. You would think that since I have to be at work and cannot watch the games, I would be at least a bit detached from the excitement of it all and released from its addictive adrenaline rush, but it is not so. I have my Yahoo! scoreboard open and set to refresh every thirty seconds. My heart has been racing all day, my hands are a bit shaky and I can barely contain myself. Too bad I can't afford the Yahoo! Platinum package of streaming audio and video that Bill and co. have been working so hard on, but then again, maybe it's for the best. It would probably prove to be counterproductive.

This is insanity. I now can appreciate why Dick Vitale is the way he is. Let's do it, Badgers.

March 20, 2003

Ibee cabn't feeble mybee libip

Modern dentistry is truly amazing. I just had a decayed tooth drilled, cleaned out and filled and I felt less than a pin prick of pain. Maybe I should give credit to advances in local anesthesia instead, which I can thank for the feeling that the entire right side of my face is sliding off.

For the quintessential humorous description of a trip to the dentist's office, please refer to Bill Cosby's "Himself". It's a childhood favorite and an absolute classic.

March 19, 2003

The Eve of War

I am too frustrated with this persistent feeling of helplessness to cite the endless sources of anti-war rhetoric. We are acting as the aggressor, going to war with a country that has not attacked us. Our administration is turning a deaf ear to the pleas of the rest of the world, members of the international alliance we have worked so hard to build over the last fifty years, but more dangerously, it is acting without any apparent historical awareness.

Let's hope it doesn't get as bad as it has the potential to be.

March 18, 2003 | Comments (1)

The Tortoise and the Hare

I have put together a small collection of the most recent Digby photos entitled "The Arctic Hare", for obvious reasons. As the weather improves, I hope to take more pictures of him outside and less in the boring hallway.

A few words on the album: the first few pictures show him prancing through the snow after the biggest snowstorm of the year. The second set of him in the hallway may seem repetitive and boring but they are part of an effort to document the fact that as he grows, his ears are clearly standing farther from his head, most notably moving outward horizontally. As a pup, they used to flop over cutely but now he resembles The Flying Nun more than anything else. The final picture is of Dinka at about twenty weeks with Digby in the background, unhappy that our full attention isn't focused on him.

Enjoy.

March 15, 2003

Just Exactly

We just finished watching The Rules of Attraction and upon googling for more information about it, I found that Roger Ebert quite efficiently captured almost my exact feelings about the film in his review:

"Avary weaves his stories with zest and wicked energy, and finds a visual style that matches the emotional fragmentation. I have no complaints about the acting, and especially liked the way Sossamon kept a kind of impertinent distance from some of the excesses. But by the end, I felt a sad indifference. These characters are not from life and do not form into a useful fiction. Their excesses of sex and substance abuse are physically unwise, financially unlikely and emotionally impossible. I do not censor their behavior but lament the movie's fascination with it. They do not say and perhaps do not think anything interesting."
The movie is visually engaging but that's about it. Bret Easton Ellis is a master of putting you through an endless line of hard to watch scenes with no redemptive quality. What a waste.

March 14, 2003

A Collection

March 14, 2003

Well Deserved

It warmed my heart to hear today that Bob Uecker will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While many may know him from Mr. Belvedere or Major League, I grew up listening to him call games for the Milwaukee Brewers. In the car, at home, we listened to him all summer long. Ever since I can remember, the Brewers have been pretty miserable and yet every game that Uecker calls is a worthwhile listen. He's the kind of announcer that people bring headsets to the stadium for, the kind that makes fans watch the game on TV with the volume down and the radio on. Just remembering his homerun call, "Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Goooooone!" makes my pulse race all over again. I wouldn't rather listen to anyone else call a game. Well done Ueck, you deserve every bit of it.

I'm just an innocent, sentimental kid from Wisconsin at heart. I accept this. I cherish it.

March 14, 2003

Crafty Craftsman

In late October of last year, as the leaves fell and the weather cooled to perfect outdoor working conditions, I decided that it was time to take my enjoyment of manual labor (albeit privileged) to the next level, to realize its full potential in the art of woodworking. It seemed to be a perfect fit, requiring an ideal combination of precision, power tools, creativity and general manliness. There could be no better venue for my urge to build and create (I realize that there's probably a humdinger of a metaphor in here somewhere).

And now, thanks to the overly generous gift-giving of my parents and the help of a friend, this dream is finally beginning to take shape. I began my first project this weekend, a bookshelf for my mom. It's simple enough and should be a good venture for me to cut my teeth on. I'll need every bit of preparation I can get for my much more ambitious second project: a cradle for our firstborn child, scheduled to arrive July 25th. A labor of love, indeed.

I have the plans, materials, tools and the desire. Now it's just a matter of finding the time. Pictures and updates to follow, you can be sure.

March 09, 2003 | Comments (1)

Tragedy and Recovery

To all the concerned Digby fans that have inquired about his health, I am here to let you know that he is fine. On Thursday of last week, he was neutered (or to call it what it really is, castrated). This was not an easy decision for anyone involved but Digby is a brave fellow and handled everything with the requisite amount of grace and composure. I would've posted a post-operation picture of him complete with the cone of shame/satellite dish but he did not require one. While he was briefly sidelined by the procedure, he is now healing quite well and has returned to smothering us with his love.

March 09, 2003

A Match Made in...

Every so often you hear about a merger or business deal and you can only think "Yes. This is genius, I can't believe it wasn't done earlier." This type of collaboration is a rare combination of enormous crossover marketing possibilities, the potential to outperform all competitors through combined effort, and good economic sense. Am I referring to the recent Google/Blogger deal? Think bigger my friends: Nelly/NASCAR.

"'Nelly is a race fan, he's been one for a long time,' Warmack said. 'We're very excited about him becoming a team owner.'
[...]
Nelly would certainly introduce stock cars to an audience rarely seen in the pits. It's hard to think of two things more different than hip-hop and NASCAR. 'You have to remember, hip-hop has become a crossover sensation,' Taylor said."
Smells like success to me. It really is getting hot in here.

March 06, 2003

Suggestions for the Midweek

A few activities to consider for a snowy Wednesday (tomorrow's only Wednesday?):

March 05, 2003