A filmmaker in Hawaii contacted me on the day before his 80th birthday, Alan Gorg, asking me to review his “final three films.” He said that “this email is like asking for a birthday present” so how can you refuse that? I accepted, and decided to present the three reviews together. I was interested to see these films because the vast majority of the films I receive are from filmmakers in their 30’s and under, so I thought this may be a completely different perspective on the craft. You can check out Mr. Gorg’s blog here (http://alangorg.wordpress.com/) for more info on him. They are reviewed here in the order I watched them.
Peace & War (2011)
Description (condensed from the IMDb):
Part I. Why are wars started? WAR INVESTMENT SEMINAR (5 minutes) reports the history of the money generated for bankers, corporations, and politicians from the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
Part 2. How are wars started? The 20-minute video-within-a-video HOW TO JUMP START YOUR WAR reports the history of how modern wars are started with a satirical look at the four similar deceptive protocols used to start each of the last four big international wars: World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
Part 3. Can wars be stopped? In PEACE PROTEST (6 minutes) Gandhi, ML King, and Jesus present two modern wars which were stopped by the people.
Written and Directed by Alan Gorg
Alan Gorg, Norbert Weisser
When I first received these movies, I could not get them to play on anything. Not my computer, not my Blu-Ray, not my DVD player, nothing. So I emailed Mr. Gorg and let him know they weren’t working right. He said he’d go ahead and send some new DVDs, and that was good anyway because “HOLLYWOOD LOVE has had three minutes cut out, so I am glad the old version you have will not play. I am mailing you the new cut DVD.” I thought it was a little odd that a movie that is listed on IMDb as 1998 (more about that later) would still be going through cuts, but whatever. No problem. I got a second set of DVDs. When I put these in my computer, my iMac made noises I had never heard before, and after much coaxing I could get video but no audio. I tried my DVD player, and all I got was a blank black screen. Finally on my Blu-Ray they would play, however they went right into 16:9 even though the movies are seemingly meant to be 4:3 (see the screen caps throughout)… but at least I could finally watch them.
I decided to watch the shortest film first, and at 31 minutes PEACE & WAR was the winner. From the first moments of the film I knew something was not right. The edges of the screen were cut off, and everything was very pixilated. It seemed to me like the video had been rendered for very low-quality viewing on an iPod or YouTube, and then somehow was exported to DVD. The sound was not horrible quality, but it was certainly not professional grade either.
P&W is all about the nature of war: why wars are started, how wars are started, and can war be stopped is the heart of the film. The film itself has important messages to share, and a very important topic. Really, all boiled down, war = money if you know how to get your hands in the pot, and that is what P&W proves over and over again. What P&W has to say is very important, and it point it makes is very important. Unfortunately, the way in which it makes its point nearly undermines the film.
P&W is made up of a combination of animation and stock footage culled from a variety of sources. The animation consists of various historical figures talking about how to set up and then follow through with waging war, and also the profit that can be gained. The problem with the animation is… well, there are a lot of problems with the animation. First, it is off center, only filling up part of the screen at best, and badly cropped. Secondly, it seems like it was some drawings done by a tween that then had their mouths animated; sometimes bad animation is good in a kitschy way (think the pilot to South Park), but this is just bad animation badly done. Finally, and in what I think might be the worst part about it, the voices used for the animated figures are so over-the-top, so stereotypically (insert heritage here) that they go from being a parody to coming off as near-racism.
The stock footage used in P&W varies in quality. In a few instances it is pretty decent, but for the vast majority of the film it seems to be downloads from the internet, like pirated YouTube versions of things that were streamed in the lowest quality available. The fact that the DVD as a whole has seeming render issues, this use of low-quality stock makes things all the worse.
Overall, P&W is a good idea badly executed. The film has important points to make, but the way in which they are made makes it hard to take the film seriously, and that fact is further exacerbated by the horrible video quality. P&W has the potential to be something important, something that could be shown in college level sociology classes, but as it currently stands it just does not have the quality to get seen by those that really should see it.
Overall 3 / 10
P&W on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2058050/
Prophecy & Pollution (2010)
Description (from Amazon):
Part I: In AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A HOPI pueblo people lead a peaceful agricultural life. Part II: In EARTH SPIRIT oil and mining threaten pueblo people, who protest, with prophecy of disaster. Part III: In THIRD WORLD INVESTMENT SEMINAR prophecy is fulfilled as oil and mining on lands of indigenous peoples bring protests, war and devastation.
Written and Directed by Alan Gorg
The next of the three films, PROPHECY & POLLUTION, is a combination of documentary and docu-drama. Mr. Gorg presents it as a trilogy, made up of three short (well, see part 2) films that have a similar theme: the destruction of our planet in the name of greed. Unfortunately, the render quality issues continued with this DVD; there continued to be a horribly pixilated picture throughout the film, as well as issues with information being cut off, and the 4:3 vs. 16:9 issue that I observed with P&W.
Part I of P&P, a short film produced by Mr. Gorg in 1978 entitled AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A HOPI was an odd beginning. I was expecting a flick made in 2010, and the film opens with black and white film of the world of the Hopi that is obviously anything but modern. The story presenting in its short (9 minutes or so) running time is interesting, dealing with a Hopi who was taken from his home for schooling by the white man, and not returned for five years. It was during AoaH that I really picked up on a thing Mr. Gorg does a lot: repeating the same dialogue multiple times. I wondered at first if the narrator was just repeating himself, but then it became more obvious that I had heard a loop of the same bit of speech for the third time. Overall this section of the film was not bad, other than the previously mentioned (multiple times) rendering issues.
Part 2 is the “docu-drama” portion of the film: EARTH SPIRIT. From IMDb I learned that ES is actually a full-length (85 minutes) feature, but as Part 2 of P&P we get about 35 minutes of that movie. Through the pixilated muck I could tell that at one time this movie had nice picture quality; it appears that it was shot either on film or good quality digital, and the composition of the shots are certainly pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately the rendering again makes this hard to watch, and at times hard to understand what you are actually looking at.
Because of the fact that this is 35 minutes of an 85-minute movie, it was not long at all before I got pretty confused. While watching it I thought it was just very choppy editing and / or very bad plot, but afterwards in discovering this is just an excerpt of a full feature I realized that the confusion comes from the fact that big chunks of the movie are missing. However, the loss of 40 minutes of film does not excuse some of the goings on, e.g. the death of Uncle by being tapped by a bulldozer.
ES seems like it would be an interesting film. If rendered correctly, it seems like it may have some very beautiful camera work; it certainly has some stunning landscape photography. The acting in the film is not bad at all, and as a whole it is actually above par. There are of course some actors that lag behind the leaders, but it is a well acted, well directed movie… or at least, what I saw of ES is a well acted, well directed movie.
Part 2 ends with the full credits of ES (again adding to my confusion at the time, since I swear I didn’t see any inmates in that movie!), and then Part 3 – THIRD WORLD INVESTMENT SEMINAR – begins. And dammit, it’s that animation again. Taking a very heavy cue from P&W, TWIS is again famous people talking to a room full of investors (or at least four or five) about how to make money. You make money through power – it was oil but is quickly becoming nuclear, and some other natural resources as well – and to make the most money you exploit cultures that don’t understand the risks in getting that power for you.
Like P&W before it, TWIS again is a combination of really bad animation and over-the-top voice acting and really bad stock footage, in some cases just videos produced by others that were lifted and placed in TWIS (for example the piece on Gold). And like P&W before it, TWIS presents some really good, really important information, but does so in such a non-appealing way that it makes it hard to get the point of the film. You get the point – greed is bad, and greedy people are killing other people for their greed – but the point is hard to stay focused enough to get. TWIS could be a film that could be played in college classes, but it just isn’t high enough quality in either its presentation or its execution to actually be picked up by any professors out there.
Overall, the best part about P&P was (by far) the excerpt of ES. This seems like it may be a very interesting, serious drama about the horrible things we are doing to our planet and the way that affects some of our planets residents. AoaH was interesting, but repetitive, and TWIS was just hard to sit through. I really feel like there is a lot of good information here, but its just not presented in any way (with the exception of ES) that anyone is going to hear what Mr. Gorg has to say.
Overall 4.5 / 10
P&P on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1699688/
Hollywood Love (2011… or 1999… or 1998… or 1992)
Description (condensed from Amazon):
Shocking comedy about socially relevant issues to stimulate audiences. HOLLYWOOD LOVE is a comment on invasiveness and dominance, and the duet dance of perpetrator and victim that usually makes both partners losers, sometimes winners, always ridiculous. The sex scenes are athletic and loud, as in real life — and pointedly in contrast to the soft-focus, lyrical artificial look of most movie love scenes. Adult but not pornographic, not suitable for children, but a great starting point for discussion in a romance.
Written and Directed by Alan Gorg
Where to begin? Well, first off, let’s start with the date of this film. I found, while trying to do some research on it so that I can really explain it, that some people are under the impression that it is a 2011 film, and the fact that it was still being re-cut when it was sent to me made me think that as well. According to Amazon, it is dated 1999, according to IMDb it is dated 1998… and 1992; there is one entry on IMDb for HOLLYWOOD LOVE dated 1998, and there is another film called HOLLWOOD LOVES dated 1992. I think that this would have to have been made in approximately 1989 or 1990, and the evidence that I submit to prove my hypothesis is the fact that I saw a “Bo Knows” ad on the street in L.A. in one shot. A scene in which some of the characters are doing The Running Man further supports the evidence of Bo Jackson’s ad campaign in dating this film for the very late 80’s or early 90’s. Now I feel like a film archaeologist.
In my research, I found a preview for HL on YouTube that states “HOLLYWOOD LOVE was conceived as our second feature, sn [sic] MTV farce accompanied by music and dance, about the love adventures of a young guitarist in Hollywood. The problem with HOLLYWOOD LOVE came to be money — which we ran out of, and consequently could not complete shooting… HOLLYWOOD LOVE was finally edited into a short and is perhaps all the better at a brief length, as the pace and the farce are beautifully fast, especially with an approach using nothing but cuts for transitions, no dissolves or fades. It’s a feature in a flash!” This explains some things; I understand about running out of money, time, energy, access… these things can doom a movie. Somehow, Mr. Gorg finished the film; I wish I had seen the short he described (and is described on IMDb) as one of my bigger problems with HL was the length of the film.
HL deals with a “hippie” guitarist that is chased out of his mountain home by rednecks (who “mess with you” by shooting your hat off of your head… I don’t call that messing with, I call that attempted murder) and flees in his father’s truck to a new life in L.A. The plot is two-pronged: Conrad’s life in Hollywood, and his father’s attempt to find him in the big, bad city, which is supplemented by the local bible-thumping crazy-ass sheriff. Once he arrives in L.A. (somehow with all of his stuff, though he seemed to steal Dad’s truck on the fly), Conrad walks into a dance studio for an impromptu audition of his wicked guitar skills. Literally, he just walks right into an in-progress dance recital, grabs his amp and guitar and starts playing. When I mentioned before that the length was as issue, one of the major aggravating factors is that there is probably about 10 – 15 minutes (felt like longer, but I’m guessing this is a pretty accurate estimation) of time in this 71 minute film of three In Living Color Fly Girl wanna-be’s breaking it down, usually to the same song.
That song is a cheesy bit of late 80’s / early 90’s generic music (the bass reminded me of Seinfeld), that – we later learn – is somehow created when Conrad sits down to play his electric guitar. I am serious: somehow, and I can’t quite wrap my mind around this, when Conrad plays his electric guitar, out of the amp comes synthesized bass, drums, and keys. I’m dumbfounded.
The weirdness does not end there. The woman that gave Conrad a job has been hurt and doesn’t want to get involved with him – “I don’t want a man!” she exclaims… right before he forces his lips on her – but because he is so smooth, or maybe because he looks a bit like Tom Petty, she soon changes her ways and falls in love with him. I think. There’s sex, or at least naked wrestling, which then becomes extreme clinginess (“I would kill you! I would kill myself!” she says, when Conrad may have to fool around with the boss to get a head in his job).
Oh, and by the way, Dad and Sheriff McCrazypants are still tracking Conrad, and somehow find their way to his place in L.A., after which the Law shoots up his empty apartment (never mentioned by any other characters after that scene, though it sounds like he empties both of his revolvers). This goes on. And on. And finally, everyone is happy in the end, except for the Sheriff who decides that he’s had enough of L.A. (because he can’t even shoot out the side of the studio with multiple guns) and is heading back to the mountains to be crazy in his own element.
I don’t want to make it seem like this movie is all bad. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and it is not without redeeming features. The acting is ok, and the direction is pretty good overall. There is a montage of Conrad working that involves a bunch of forced focus shots that was really nice, and overall the video is not too bad. Unfortunately HL suffers from the rendering issues present in the other films, and on top of those issues, this one is cropped off to one side of the screen. There are some semi-funny bits, and a few interesting bits, and there are boobies so it can’t be all bad.
Overall, I just don’t get HL. The movie bills itself as a “…shocking comedy about socially relevant issues to stimulate audiences,” and I take offense to that. It wasn’t that shocking (maybe in 1989 a chick in mild bondage gear might offend…), it wasn’t that funny, it wasn’t that relevant, and it certainly wasn’t stimulating (unless you get off on the Fly Girls). I just don’t get it.
Overall 2.5 / 10
HL on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477718/