Live and Direct

Saturday, October 21, 2006

First week at work

This was my first week at the new job, and so far, I love it. Granted, there have been some reentry turbulence as I struggle to readjust to a regular, 40+ hour work schedule. For some reason, taking a nap every three hours during the day is totally frowned upon at my new place of employment, and evidently they expect me to show results in exchange for salary, which is a radical concept at my former job. But on the plus side, the people are really cool, the project is super badass awesome, and I think I can do the job right for them. I've heard an earful about the guy who was doing this job before me, or rather, not doing it, as the story goes. So while for my new coworkers, the bar isn't set too high, for myself, I really want to do a great job for them and prove myself worthy of their trust in hiring me.

The only real snag right now is that I'm taking the bus, which is fine for going to work in the morning but starts to suck the later you go into the evening returning home. If anybody knows of anybody selling a cheap, reliable car, I'd be happy to hear of it. Also, our cat is totally confused and apparently a little resentful that I'm no longer around during the day to cater to her whims. She's taken to ignoring me when I get home unless I'm willing to commit to at least a good fifteen minutes of playtime.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Favorite movies

Last weekend, I had an interesting conversation with Mark and Sally about favorite movies. I get asked for my favorite films a fair amount, given my professional interest. It's a surprisingly tough question to answer. First, there's the distinction between films that I admire as great art, and films I actually watch over and over for entertainment. Then there's the challenge of selecting the films. There are plenty of movies, like _Citizen Kane_ or _Rules of the Game_, that I recognize as revolutionary to the medium and yet can only appreciate in an intellectual way. Moreover, at whatever point you think you've come to a conclusion, three more movies crowd their way into the list. Finally, there's the slight feeling of arrogance, to look at over one hundred years of filmmaking and while fully aware of my own ignorance of important films and filmmakers, to say these are the great films. Still, there's something really fun about making the list and putting it out there, and inevitably, a few films show up on that list over and over. So after that lengthy preface, here is my current list of films that I think are great, in no particular order.

* _Touch of Evil_, Orson Welles, 1958. I first became aware of it through Robert Altman's _The Player_ (also a good film), where a naive screenwriter attends a screening before being killed by an amoral studio executive. I found the film, watched it, and was blown away. Charleston Heston plays a straight to the point of ridiculous cop on a border town surrounded by fascinating characters developed by some of the most skillful writing in film, over all of which towers Welles' own portrayal of a crooked cop shambling toward a bad end. The 1998 "alternate version" that cuts closer to Welles' original vision for the film cemented this as one of my favorites of all time.

* _Blade Runner_, Ridley Scott, 1982. I first saw this film on home video as a kid back in the early 80s, when laser discs still roamed the earth and the major studios were hesitant to release their big films to video for fear of cutting into box-office proceeds. In effect this meant that in the little town where I grew up, there were a limited number of movies to watch on video, and I saw most of them repeatedly. This one always stood out. Setting aside the endless debates about Deckard, is he or isn't he, this movie is just beautiful to watch, from the splendid decay of the future of Los Angeles to Rutger Hauer's avenging angel Roy Batty. There are probably more lines from this film that show up in my regular vocabulary than any other movie I've seen.

*_The Celebration_, Thomas Vinterberg, 1998. The greatest film most people haven't seen, and my first Danish entry. Striking a balance between bourgeois satire and grand Greek tragedy, the film is simultaneously hilarious, devastating, and reassuring. I've taught it numerous times over the past few years, and it always sticks with students in ways few other films do.

*_Wild Strawberries_, Ingar Bergman, 1957. While _Seventh Seal_ is a more striking film and does more to present Bergman's genius at a young age, this is the film that stays with me and pleases me more. An old man faces mortality, successful and yet full of regrets: Bergman transforms a typical Scandinavian depression-fest into a meditation on the important moments in life.

*_Unforgiven_, Clint Eastwood, 1992. In a way, this revisioning of the Western genre makes an interesting companion piece to _Wild Strawberries_, as both revolve around regret and the means, not the possibility, of redemption. Eastwood doesn't get enough credit for being a wonderful director, and by that I mean not just the kind of director that wins Oscars (which historically doesn't mean a whole lot), but the kind of director that makes lasting films. Another nice companion to this film is _High Noon_ (Fred Zinneman, 1952), starring Gary Cooper as a very human lawman faced with an impossible situation.

*_Steamboat Bill, Jr._, Buster Keaton & Charles Reisner, 1928. While _The General_ is more well-known, I think this is the best showcase for Keaton's physical comedy and has the best gags. It also has some of his most well-known sequences, such as him battling a storm through the streets of a small town as it collapses around him.

Those are the movies that make the cut right now. As soon as I hit "publish post" I'll think of several more. Of course, there aren't the movies I watch repeatedly for fun. Now that I've got less to prove professionally as a "serious scholar of film," I can freely admit that the three films I watch most frequently when bored are _The 40 Year Old Virgin_, _Notting Hill_, and _Jackass_.

Finally, the big news

The big news on the job front has finally come to pass. I've accepted a position as senior associate producer at a major local video game studio, and I couldn't be happier. The position is a considerable promotion from my previous work at SCEA, with considerable more responsibility. Basically, I will be responsible for building and maintaining the schedule for a very large budget, AAA title, or as the producer describes it, "second in command" of the game. There is plenty of room for growth and advancement down the road, and the game itself, well, it's very cool.

The process of getting the job was very tumultuous. It's been roughly two months since I first applied, and in the interim, I've gone from being convinced I had the job to knowing for sure I wouldn't and back again, several times. I went in for multiple interviews, sent out numerous e-mails, and generally had to fight to convince them that I am the right guy for the job. That effort, and a generous dose of good luck, finally paid last week when they made the offer. My start date is in a couple of weeks.