Dear Father Time… where did you go?

The other day I heard from a new mother who was anxious to get back to work. She reached out to me to see if she could use my name as a reference in her job search and, of course, I said, “yes.” Her baby is only a two months old and mom is already turning her attention to her résumé.

As I reflected on how little time we each get with our kids I was reminded of a math calculation I performed about a decade ago when all my kids (I have 6) were under 10. Somewhere I had come across the idea of having one good hour of “quality time” with your child per week, and I thought, “how much does one hour per week really add up to?”

So the math was pretty simple…1 hour per week x 52 weeks = 52 hours per year. Now let’s say your child will move out for college when they are 18 years old. So, 18 years x 52 hours = 936 hours. And this is where I started to get depressed; when I performed the math to determine how few days this really is. I took the 936 hours and divided it by 24, and that’s when I realized that if you spend 1 hour per week of “quality time” with your child for 18 years you will spend a total of 39 days with your kid.

Yes, you read that right… only 39 twenty-four hour periods. If you want to feel a little better let’s put it into 8 hour increments (like work days). So we’ll take the 936 hours and divide them by 8 hour days. Now we have a whopping 117 days with our kids. To put that into perspective, your average work year is approximately 250 work days (fifty 40 hour weeks). So the average employee will spend twice as much time THIS year working at their job than a 1 hour per week “quality time” parent will get with their child over 18 years.

As I did the math and scratched my head I realized I was in trouble. You see, I have 6 kids and rarely do I get 15 minutes of “quality time” with any of them, much less, each of them! I’m a filmmaker and a small business owner and I work long days, and I occasionally have to travel, and I bring work home on weekends, and my phone connects me to email and business texts during meals and while we’re at baseball games and while we’re sitting in traffic. You can see why I can get depressed about this!

It was years and years ago that my wife and I committed to have family meals as often as we possibly can. And we committed to family vacations, and family car trips, and family runs to the grocery store, etc., etc. We’d do our best to make up for the lack of “quality time” with “quantity time” and we committed to making the most of the quantity time we had with our kids.

Today our oldest is a junior in college, but I’ll never forget that first night we brought her home from the hospital as a newborn and she slept all night long curled up on my chest. Time is fleeting. None us are guaranteed tomorrow and even if we were, our kids grow up so stinkin’ fast. 39 days goes very quickly and for many of us a bunch of those days are already gone. So my plea to new parents, like my friend who was polishing her résumé, is to be intentional about being with your kids. Teach them about life every chance you get… through words, deeds, and example. And of course, don’t forget to hug the hell out of them.

 

How many “F****” are too many in a film?

WARNING: This post contains a few words some readers may find offensive!

Motion Pictures have not always been saturated with vulgarities. And before you click away thinking my argument is one for purity of language within cinema, please don’t… two of my recent films contain the F-word. I’m writing instead to show how much the industry has changed since 1939 when the world first heard the word “damn” from the silver screen.

In the early days of Hollywood there was much more concern and respect for what audiences saw and heard. Filmmakers and studio heads were not quick to alienate the movie-going public. There were a few attempts at codifying some principals and guidelines for filmmakers that culminated in 1930 with the introduction of the Motion Picture Production Code or the Hays Code as some call it, in reference to it’s author William H. Hays.

The Production Code provided a list of Don’ts and Be Carefuls that helped guide filmmakers and the industry from 1934, when it was enforced, to 1968 when the rating system was introduced. Some of the Dont’s on the list included “pointed profanity,” “licentious or suggestive nudity,” and the “ridicule of the clergy,” while some of the Be Carefuls were “the use of firearms,” “sympathy for criminals,” and “man and woman in bed together.” This list obviously speaks to the sensitivities of the general public of the time, but also to the responsibility that filmmakers took, realizing that their films were cultural influencers.

In October of 1939, producer & studio executive, David O. Selznick wrote a letter to the overseer of the production code, Mr. Will Hays. Selznick requested special permission to use the word “damn” in the now immortalized line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” in his film Gone With the Wind. Think about that… a Producer requesting permission to use the D-word! And he did it with such elegance and conviction that only a genius from 1939 could have pulled off (see the full letter below). The film itself would go on to win 10 Academy Awards.

In the letter Selznick tried to convince Hays that this one exception of “damn” wouldn’t lead to more.

“I do not feel that your giving me permission to use “damn” in this one sentence,” Selznick wrote, “will open up the floodgates and allow every gangster picture to be peppered with “damns” from end to end.”

Selznick was right and unfortunately he was wrong. In 1990 Martin Scorsese’s gangster film Goodfellas was not peppered with “damns”, but instead with “fucks”. As Michael Medved pointed out in his book Hollywood vs. America, the 146 minute Goodfellas contained 246 F-words… peppered from end to end.

Do audiences really want more F-words? Medved included a quote in his book by Richard Pine, a respected literary agent in the business, who said, “Nobody ever walked out of a movie and said, ‘Gee, that was a great picture, but the only problem was they didn’t say “Fuck” enough.’ Who thinks like that?”

So how many “F****” are too many? I, personally, would think that perhaps 246 should probably be considered a tad “excessive”. But that’s just me. In 2013, Martin Scorsese would go on to break his own record in his film The Wolf of Wall Street. His new personal best over doubled his previous high with more than 500 uses of the F-word.

My films, on the other hand, pale in comparison. Rebellion of Thought and Stained Glass Rainbows each use the F-word only once and both times it occurs in spontaneous man-on-the-street interviews where I felt it made sense to leave it in the picture based on the context and content. In both cases it gives insight into the characters, the environment, and is not used in a gratuitous manner.

We’ve come long, long way since 1939. I wonder what a Martin Scorsese picture would look like if he would make one under the guidelines of Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. My guess is that he would do a brilliant job with it and that most audiences would not consider it puritan. Today, many filmmakers no longer consider the weight of their role and their responsibility to the movie-going public. And unfortunately, if you complain about it, I’m afraid they might just say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a f***”.


 

I’ve included Selznick’s letter in its entirety below. It’s well worth the read.

Selznick Pleads to Retain Famous Line

October 29, 1939
Hollywood. California

Dear Mr. Hays—

As you probably know. the punch line of Gone With the Wind, the one bit of dialogue which forever establishes the future relationship between Scarlett and Rhett, is, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Naturally I am most desirous of keeping this line and, to judge from the reactions of two preview audiences, this line ls remembered, loved, and looked forward to by the millions who have read this new American classic.

Under the code, Joe Breen is unable to give me permission to use this sentence because it contains the word “damn,” a word specifically forbidden by the code.

As you know from my previous work with such pictures as David Copperfield. Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Tale of Two Cities, etc., I have always attempted to live up to the spirit as well as the exact letter of the producer’s code. Therefore. my asking you to review the case, to look at the strip of film in which this forbidden word is contained, is not motivated by a whim. A great deal of the force and drama of Gone With the Wind, a project to which we have given three years of hard work and hard thought, is dependent upon that word.

It is my contention that this word as used in the picture is not an oath or a curse. The worst that could be said against it is that it is a vulgarism, and it is so described in the Oxford English Dictionary. Nor do i feel that in asking you to make an exception in this case, I am asking for the use of a word which Is considered reprehensible by the great majority of American people and institutions. A canvass of the popular magazines shows that even such moral publications as Woman’s Home Companion, Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s and The Atlantic Monthly, use this word freely. i understand the difference, as outlined in the code, between the written word and the word spoken from the screen, but at the same time l think the attitude of these magazines toward “damn” gives an indication that the word itself is not considered abhorrent or shocking to audiences.

I do not feel that your giving me permission to use “damn” in this one sentence will open up the floodgates and allow every gangster picture to be peppered with “damns” from end to end. I do believe, however, that if you were to permit our using this dramatic word in its rightfully dramatic place, in a line that is known and remembered by millions of renders, it would establish a helpful precedent, a precedent which would give to Joe Breen discretionary powers to allow the use of certain harmless oaths and ejaculations whenever. in his opinion, they are not prejudicial to public morals.

David O. Selznick2

2 Letter from David O. Selznick to Will Hays, from David O. Selznick Collection. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. The University of Texas at Austin.

Film Review: A Separation — 4 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwEgDPPATy0

ONE WORD REVIEW: Tragic!

SUMMARY: An Iranian man’s wife leaves him to care for their daughter and his aging father. The woman he hires to help brings a new set of problems that may just ruin his family and his good name.

DETAILS: A Separation is an Iranian film (The Separation of Nader and Simin) that won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards. Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, A Separation tells the story of the tragic breakup of an Iranian middle class couple, Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), and explores the consequences of their decision that includes lies, deceit, miscarriage/murder, child custody, and ultimately a quest for justice. The story begins with Simin attempting to divorce her husband who refuses to leave the country with her in order to stay and care for his aging father who suffers with Alzheimer’s. Their separation forces Nader to find a caregiver for his father and this is where their troubles begin. Nader hires a woman from a lower class who desperately needs work, but who (due to the intimate nature of care-giving involved) is forced to lie about her employment. A Separation beautifully explores the issues of class, marriage, parental care, sin, love, and the tragedy of a couple splitting up. The film is a slow and steady, beautifully shot, dramatic piece that I highly recommend for anyone desiring a glimpse into modern day Islamic life. The aging, nearly silent, grandfather in the film is wonderfully played by Ali-Asghar Shahbazi whose actions, mannerisms, and portrayal of a man with Alzheimers should have earned him a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. This film proves that the power of storytelling is truly a universal gift.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 4.0 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2011
RATING:PG-13
FOREIGN FILM: Iranian
ACADEMY AWARD: Best Foreign Language Film

Film Review: Intimate Stranger — 3 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVVGS1H_ZuQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Sad!

SUMMARY: The compelling, tragic, global story of Joseph Cassuto, a man who loved his work more than his family.

DETAILS: Intimate Stranger is the story of Joseph Cassuto, an average, hardworking Jewish man whose life changed drastically due to WWII. Living in Egypt prior to the war, Joseph had a lovely wife and four children and a very successful career exporting Egyptian cotton to Japan, but following Pearl Harbor his life and career would take a drastic turn. His American wife and his two youngest children were able to return to America just prior to the war breaking out with the thought that Dad and the others would soon join them. But as fate would have it, it would be several years before they would arrive in Brooklyn, and in America, their successful father was a nobody. Mr. Cassuto soon started rebuilding his relationships with the Japanese and he eventually would live in Japan, away from his family, for 11 months of the year. As he became more loved by the Japanese, he became more hated by his own family. The best quote of the film is by one of his own sons who said, “I never met anybody who disliked him, other than the immediate family.” Intimate Stranger was made by Cassuto’s grandson Alan Berliner and is a great look at a man who busied himself too much with his career at the expense of those who should have loved him the most.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 1991
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: The Sapphires — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJv1epnHKM4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Fun!

SUMMARY: Based on a true story, an Indigenous girls band from Australia earns the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to entertain the American troops during the war.

DETAILS: The Sapphires is That Thing You Do meets soul music and the Vietnam War. A group of Indigenous singers in Australia catch the attention of a makeshift music promoter (Chris O’Dowd) who helps them transition from country to soul music and take their show to Vietnam. Loosely based on a true story, their new manager secures an audition in Melbourne that will change their lives. The girl singers (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell) change their name to The Sapphires, and head to war-torn Vietnam to entertain the American servicemen. The Sapphires contains romance, laughter, and a fantastic soundtrack of 1960’s soulful music. The film deals with issues of race, belonging, and the universal language of music. Although I mentioned That Thing You Do to create a mental picture, this film doesn’t quite reach the same mark as that Tom Hanks classic. Ultimately, The Sapphires wants to soar at great heights, but instead settles for a low, but elegant glide across the screen… but regardless, this film does have a great soundtrack and is worth watching.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2012
RATING: PG-13
FOREIGN FILM: Australia

Film Review: La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) — 2 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7sIWNu4F4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Disappointing

SUMMARY: The body of a woman who everyone knew is discovered near an Italian lake and the small town investigator must determine who is guilty of the crime… but no one is talking.

DETAILS: Alright, let it be known that the only reason I watched this film is because I wanted to see Toni Servillo’s performance. I had enjoyed his acting in La Grande Bellezza and wanted to see some of his other films, but La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) left me disappointed on several levels. It’s the story of a woman’s body who is discovered naked, covered with a coat, by the lake in a small town in the Italian alps. The film begins with mystery and intrigue and the web is spun, but by the story’s end, you realize that most of the web was irrelevant. It just didn’t come together like it could have. Servillo’s performance is not up to his screen presence in La Grande Bellezza, but ultimately, this story just falls flat. Spend your 95 minutes on something more worthwhile.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 2 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2007
RATING: NR
FOREIGN FILM: Italian

Film Review: Man with a Movie Camera — 5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qflBTX-PfQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Magical!

SUMMARY: A celebration of modernism as seen through the eyes of a 1929 Soviet Silent Filmmaker.

DETAILS: Man with a Movie Camera is the most magical display of early filmmaking and avant-garde editing I have ever seen. A Russian film made in 1929 by Dziga Vertov, this silent picture celebrates machinery, industry, ingenuity, and beauty in ways no other film ever has. From weddings and divorces to funerals and childbirth we see the juxtaposition of emotion and imagery. It is certainly the earliest film about the art of filmmaking that I’ve seen and perhaps the first one ever made. It showcases the work and creativity of the Camera Man throughout the picture, even making him superhuman in a god-like scene where he looms like a giant above the city and the populace. There is also a special section featuring the film editor and her critically creative work. Man with a Movie Camera is edited amazingly well, with quick cuts, fast pacing, a beautiful images. Director Dziga Vertov was lightyears ahead of his time. I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves movies and especially to any student of film or any filmmaker. You won’t be disappointed.

WATCH THE TRAILER
WATCH THE FILM
SCORE: 5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 1929
RATING: NR
SILENT FILM
FOREIGN FILM: RUSSIAN

Film Review: The Silence of the Lambs — 3 stars

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1140457753/

ONE WORD REVIEW: Not-What-It-Was!

SUMMARY: A rookie FBI agent must trust her instincts and a locked up psychopathic cannibal in order to prevent a another psychopath from killing again.

DETAILS: It’s hard to believe that an entire generation has grown up since The Silence of the Lambs was originally released. The story was so unbelievably frightening back in 1991… a cannibal named Hannibal Lecter that gets inside your mind and literally under your skin (Anthony Hopkins), a novice FBI agent who is uncertain about herself (Jodie Foster), and a plot involving suspense, the skinning of kidnapped humans, and a transsexual antagonist who lodges sphinx moths in the throats of his deceased victims. I remember seeing this film with my wife back in the 90’s. For years I could make the rat-like noise that Hopkins makes with his tongue repeatedly striking his teeth and it would freak my wife out and of course it would typically be proceeded by my best Hannibal Lecter impersonation, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Unfortunately, time has passed and the world is literally a different place than it was in 1991. Perhaps the film was so shocking at the time, but we have all been so continually shocked since, that the film’s shock-factor has lost it’s punch. Perhaps there has been so much talk of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transvestites in recent years, that the antagonist is not nearly as “out there” any longer. Perhaps it’s that there are several scenes where the suspension of disbelief is not enough to justify the actions of the characters (i.e. how our heroine finds the murderer, how Lecter knows where to call her at graduation, etc.). Or perhaps it’s just simply because I knew how it was going to turn out. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and winner of 5 including Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Hopkins), and Best Actress (Foster) this film is definitely worth watching… but it’s just not what it was back in 1991.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 1991
RATING: R
ACADEMY AWARD WINNER: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress

Film Review: Monica & David — 4 stars

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf3gqx_hbo-documentary-films-monica-david_shortfilms

ONE WORD REVIEW: Uplifting!

SUMMARY: In spite of them both having Down Syndrome, Monica & David marry and start their lives together.

DETAILS: Monica & David have Down Syndrome… and yet they won’t let that stop them from being happily married. Although dependent on Monica’s mother and step-father, Monica & David begin their lives together and show us that love is so much more than what we typically expect it to be. The film covers the stresses of the first year of marriage including a big family move, David’s adjustment to diabetes, and the thought of losing those you love. We also see the struggles of their parents who ultimately fear the day when they are dead and gone and can no longer care for and protect the children they love so much. I watched this film because I have a 6 year old daughter with Down Syndrome and I often look into her beautiful blue eyes and wonder what her future will hold. I have 5 other kids who I know will do okay out in the world, but it’s my youngest, the one with Down’s that I worry the most about… and she’s only 6. Monica & David is uplifting and inspiring. I highly recommend this film because it will show you that just because someone has Down Syndrome, it doesn’t mean they don’t have dreams and aspirations. Monica & David captures the humor, the resilience, and the heart that is Down Syndrome.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2009
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: All This Mayhem — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wDiszmA2o8


ONE WORD REVIEW: Tragic!

SUMMARY: All This Mayhem showcases the rise and fall of the world’s best skateboarders; two brothers from Australia who launch from the vert into the limelight only to come crashing down under the weight of their own fame.

DETAILS: All This Mayhem is the most appropriate title this tragic documentary could have. It tells the story of the Pappas brothers (Tas and Ben) who grew up in Australia and started skateboarding as young kids. The motion of the skate ramp is very symbolic of the lives of Tas and Ben. Once they learned to ride the vert (half pipe) their careers and personal lives follow the same arc; fast motion, enormous energy, up the ramp, launch into the air, gravity kicks in, free falling back to the ramp… oh, and by the way, any error in timing the landing can and will be catastrophic. Soon after Tas and Ben learned to push the limits they took the skate world by storm and helped redefine the sport. As brothers, they went head to head with skate legend Tony Hawk… and they beat him, pushing the boundaries and creating new tricks every step of the way. But fame can lead to drugs, and drugs can lead to the downward spiral that would eventually wreck both Tas and Ben’s lives. Their tailspin includes arrests, drug abuse, physical abuse, and eventually murder, suicide, and prison. It’s a tragic story of two boys who couldn’t handle their own success. They had everything a skate kid could ask for… except the sense to handle it all.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2014
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY