Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Staying Power

One of the more enjoyable aspects of a television producer's job involves the time spent actually editing a story for air. If you're creative, this is one of the places where you can truly shine -- using interesting shots and natural sound, subtle or not-so-subtle effects, and the right kind of music to turn an otherwise average story into something special and memorable.

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to win a Los Angeles Golden Mic Award, mostly due to the effort that an editor and I put into creating an actual atmosphere for a story we were working on. I basically insisted that the entire piece take on the slightly menacing surrealism of a Tim Burton movie. The result was far beyond my expectations, and that simple five-minute piece of video stands as one of the personal highlights of my rather notorious career.

Bottom line: it's a blast to basically make your own mini-movies.

Thousands if not millions of people obviously know this, because YouTube is crammed with homemade music videos created by would-be auteurs, each eager to use his or her favorite Nickelback power-ballad to set the perfect mood for a montage of scenes highlighting the somewhat dubious "connection" between Wentworth Miller's character and all the other men on Prison Break.

A good amount of effort is put into many of these DIY video clips, and I certainly don't mean to insult that; unfortunately, it doesn't change the fact that many of them are god-awful.

Once in awhile though, a rare homemade video comes along which manages to put the right piece of music to precisely the right images -- creating magic.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I sat on our couch and watched an overlooked gem of a movie called Stay. It stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and features a performance by Ryan Gosling that's both harrowing and heartbreaking, and certainly hints at the brilliant, Oscar-nominated turn that was to come from this extraordinarily gifted young actor. The kid can say more with his eyes than most actors can with twenty pages of dialogue.

The true star of Stay however, isn't an actor or character: it's the film itself. Put simply, I've never seen anything quite like it. Director Marc Forster, who also helmed Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland, turns the screen into a canvas -- using unusual transition edits, playing with background and foreground images, and stringing together similar and disparate shots to create an abstract collage that's nothing short of hypnotic. The effect is alienating at times, but once the film reaches its final act and all is revealed, that sense of isolation takes on a sad and tragic resonance. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but in the days since watching it, I've found myself haunted by certain aspects of its beauty and eager to recommend it to friends -- which is about the best compliment I can pay a film.

If you'll forgive the unintended pun -- it stayed with me.

The film, by virtue of its astonishing visual component, lends itself to music (in fact, there's one sequence within the movie that employs the gorgeous malevolence of Massive Attack's ubiquitous Angel better than anywhere previously). Someone else understood this, and created what's easily the best amateur music video I've seen posted on YouTube yet.

The visuals are from Stay; the song they're set to has been one of my favorites since the first time I heard it several months ago -- Keane's A Bad Dream. The result is just about perfect.

A spoiler alert: if you choose to watch, be aware that the clip more than hints at the film's final "twist," the knowledge of which, in my opinion, will take little away from the appreciation of the movie should you see it later for the first time.


Emily Blake said...

Huh. This is the first positive review I've seen. Then again, you concentrated on the visuals. Most reviews I've read have lambasted the writing.

Chez said...

I read a couple of the reviews and actually found most of them to be pretty unfair. Roger Ebert's was one of the few that I thought was dead-on; he liked it for a lot of the same reasons I did. Regardless, I kind of enjoy being a fan of a movie that was unfairly beat up on. I thought it was good; it's as simple as that.

Letthieri said...

I have the DVD and this, I think, is the first time I've ever pointed it out to anyone. Thanks for posting the review, I've really enjoyed reading it.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

On your review, I just rented / watched this movie. Agreed. Both the cinematography (Roberto Schaefer of "Waiting for Guffman" was the cinematographer / director of photography), and the musical score are fantastic. Nice call, thanks for the tip.