Thursday, February 28, 2008


No surprises, no great losses, we move on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The girls once again proved that they are much better than the boys. The only real disaster of the night was Amanda Overmeyer. Even the women I don't like (Brooke White, for instance) did well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The boys showed again this week that they are much weaker than the girls, with several in danger of being voted off.

Danny Noriega continued his descent into Sanjaya hell. Luke Menard was hoisted by his own retarded petard. Jason Yeager looked like a reject from a Disney show on a cruise ship. Robbie Carrico is probably safe with those three, but will be in danger soon. Jason Castro is in the same range.

Chicezie (AKA Jacuzzi) was surprisingly good, as was David Hernandez and Daniel Cook. Michael Johns is safe this week, and David Archuleta is still the front-runner.

Mixer Training

I will be hosting 310/508 mixer training sessions for the next two Friday afternoons. USC students in any sound classes are welcome to sit in on them. These are particularly useful for people who hope to be employed in the department as a mixer on 310/508 projects.

The material is as follows:

Friday 2/29 2-5 PM Dub A Euphonix Training
Friday 3/ 2-5 PM Dub B Icon Training

Please contact me if you are interested in attending.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Last Saturday were the Cinema Audio Society Awards. The CAS award for Feature Sound Mixing went to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
Production Mixer: Peter Kurland, CAS
Re-recording Mixers: Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, CAS

This was what I predicted, and was my choice as well. I was on hand to present one of the Technical Achievement Awards, to Digidesign for their ICON controller surface.

Last night were the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards. The big winner in Television was BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, which sounded fantastic and won both the Dialogue/ADR Editing and Sound Effects/Foley Editing. I was also very happy to see my former student Becca Borawski win as Music Editor for the great musical episode of SCRUBS.

There were upsets in several feature categories at the MPSE.

In Music Editing for a Musical Feature, HAIRSPRAY upset the much higher profile SWEENEY TODD. In Music Editing for a Feature, INTO THE WILD beat several higher-profile films.

In Sound Editing on a Foreign Film, L'ORFANATO (THE ORPHANAGE) upset a number of other films with much bigger budgets. This one I am very happy to see, it was one of my favorite films of the year, and it had outstanding sound design.

And in the two big categories, Dialogue/ADR Editing and Sound Effects/Foley Editing, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM upset NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and several other big films.

Perhaps the only expected win in features was RATATOUILLE winning for animation.

I was on hand to present the Verna Fields Student Award to Cameron Grant of the AUSTRALIAN FILM, TELEVISION & RADIO SCHOOL for SHOT OPEN.

The award also comes with the Ethel Crutcher Scholarship, which was presented by Charlie Crutcher. Ethel was the backbone of the organization for several decades. She was the office manager when I was nominated as a student 20 years ago and her welcome to the evening really made me feel for the first time that sound editors were a respected part of the filmmaking community. It's because of her that I joined the MPSE, and because of her that joined the board of directors. Ethel gave the MPSE its firm start upon which we have been able to build over the years.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Garrett definitely needed to go... I hope he cleans up his obvious drug problem and redirects his energy. Unfortunately, Chickeze (Or Jacuzzi, as Simon "accidentally" called him) should have gone also, particularly after dissing Simon.

On the women's side, Amy definitely should have gone, but Joanne was nowhere near the worst. Unfortunately, "plus size model" and "American Idol voters" don't go in the same sentence.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Wow, the girls are a lot better than the boys.

Honestly, I wish they would keep the boys & girls separate through the end, and crown two Idols. Why only one?

There are about 3 women who are terrible, but they are attractive, so it's tough to tell who will go first with the girls.

Tomorrow should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The boys were nowhere near as good as the judges made them out to be. A few things are clear immediately. Danny Noriega is the new Sanjaya. (The two gayest guys both sang Elvis... perhaps the most macho performer of all time.) David Archuleta is bullet-proof and may be the next idol. Michael Johns looks 35 and has the rock vote. In between, there were a lot of weak performances, but it's the first week of the real competition, so there is still plenty of time for growth (which to me is the most interesting part of the show).

Monday, February 18, 2008


EASTERN PROMISES is a good film with some great acting. It's not as good as some of David Cronenberg's other films (I was a big fan of last year's HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), in fact, it's more restrained than his other films, although there are still very explicit moments of violence, inlcuding a naked knife fight. Viggo Mortensen deserves his nomination for his performance as a Russian mobster. Naomi Watts and Armin Mueller-Stahl are also excellent.

Perhaps the biggest weakness in the film is that it is a little on the predictable side. Otherwise, it's worth seeing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I don't get the big deal about ATONEMENT. It's not one of the best films of the year. It's extremely predictable. The structure is weak, and the story is not involving. The first third is pretty good, it's a British drama about a love affair. But then the movie suddenly jumps four years forward to WWII, and it falls apart completely.

There are some nice elements. The score is beautiful, as is the cinematography. The acting is split; some is great, some is not. The sound design is interesting; the music incorporates some of the sound effects from the film, most notably the typewriter. Unfortunately this is a very obvious use of sound, and reminded me of Leroy Anderson's orchestral piece "The Typerwriter," which has a percussionist playing the typewriter. Anderson is the "genius" who gave us "Sleigh Ride" (with a trumpet as a whinnying horse) and "Syncopated Clock" which sounds like... a clock. So that says a lot about this "creative" use of sound.

I'd say skip this one.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I can't for the life of me imagine why people think THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a good film. What I understand even less is how people think Daniel Day-Lewis is good in this film. He's not. He is, in fact, stunningly awful.

Here's the famous "milkshake" scene. Watch this and explain to me why he is anything but atrocious:

If you actually think he's good in that scene, watch this other actor's version of the scene, and explain to me why this kid is just as good and maybe even much better:

3:10 TO YUMA

3:10 TO YUMA is pretty good. It's not exactly original, but then again, it's a remake. And the pacing is a little too slow. The climactic ending shootout goes on so long it's impossible to believe so many shots are fired that miss their targets. But the acting is pretty good. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, and Peter Fonda are all very good.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I AM LEGEND is a great movie for an hour. The last man on earth tries desperately to figure out a cure for the virus that has turned humanity into zombies.

It's amazing how movies with no dialogue are always the most interesting.  There is an entire worldess scene played in one long take close-up on Will Smith that should have earned him an Oscar nomination. But then, as soon as another human character enters the film, the bottom falls out completely and the movie degenerates rapidly.

The last act is so weak that I cannot recommend the film. However, the sound design was outstanding. (Again, when there is no dialogue, everyone on the crew gets challenged to do their best work and be their most creative.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is an excellent film ruined by weak editing, terrible music, and horrendously written narration.

The movie could easily have at least 30 minutes cut from it to make it more palatable. The music and especially the narration ruin an otherwise outstanding film. It's a very, very strange story; so strange it could only be true. The acting is excellent. Brad Pitt is very good as Jesse, and Casey Affleck deserves his Oscar nomination for playing Ford. Sam Rockwell is excellent as Ford's brother.

The cinematography is excellent, and the sound design is amazing. I wish I had seen this before the MPSE had its sound effects nominations due.

I still recommend the film, even with its faults.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


THE GREAT DEBATERS is completely putrid. Produced by Oprah and directed with the subtlety of sledgehammer by star Denzel Washington, the movie starts out OK but paints each character in such broad strokes that it's almost impossible to believe that this is based on a true story. Denzel's acting is good, as is Forest Whitaker, but the performance of Denzel Whitaker is enough to ruin the movie long before the script accomplishes the same thing. Take the first name of Denzel, the last name of Whitaker, and the face of Gary Coleman, and you've got an actor I hope I never see again.

Skip this one. It's heart is in the right place, but the script and direction are awful.

Wait for the Broadway musical version.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


AMERICAN GANGSTER is an excellent film. I was a bit surprised. The film received mixed reviews, and I haven't been much of a fan of Ridley Scott's recent films. Plus, I recently watched an episode of the excellent documentary series GANGLAND on the History Channel that covered the same story in under an hour. I assumed that the 2 1/2 hour running time of the film would feel bloated.

I was wrong. The film is well-written and extremely well-acted, with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The only real surprise is that the only acting Oscar nomination went to Ruby Dee, who is quite good, but has only one major scene.

Definitely worth watching.

Best Digidesign Ad Ever


Tekon kinkurîto (AKA TEKKONKINKREET) is a Japanese anime film that was directed by an American in Japan.

I had hoped that the presence of an American would fix one of the major problems with anime: lack of coherent plot and structure. Unfortunately, having watched the 2-hour film, I still have no idea what it was about.

However, it was worth watching for the amazing visual style. Like much anime, the whole movies is very dreamlike and episodic. It feels a little on the long side, and some of the violence is too graphic for my taste (violence against children is not entertaining) but otherwise it's a very beautiful film.

Monday, February 11, 2008


SURF'S UP surprised me. It's a funny, well voice-cast film. Jeff Bridges in particular is very good, as is Shia LaBeouf. I had expected a cheap rip-off of HAPPY FEET, which wasn't that good of a movie to begin with, but this movie has very good characters (in writing, acting, and animation) and is much more original. However, in the end, it doesn't add up to much and will probably be quickly forgotten. A better payoff in the third act would have helped the film tremendously.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


It's always a pleasure to go to the Grammys, and this year was no different, seeing Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin in person was enough to justify the ticket price. Keely Smith was great, but her partner Kid Rock couldn't even tell when he was supposed to sing. Herbie Hancock outplayed popular Chinese pianist Lang Lang on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Kanye West is always entertaining, even in his acceptance speech. Amy Winehouse's performance via satellite was also very good.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Wow, what a crapfest is THE GOLDEN COMPASS! Take a very popular novel, add some classic British actors and some amazing visual effects and mix. Get a completely incoherent film with terrible child actors and plot that Sherlock Holmes couldn't explain. There is probably a great movie to be made from this book, but this sure isn't it. Perhaps the worst thing is that sitting through 2 hours of incomprehensible silliness has no payoff... the movie has no ending as it is the first book in a series.

Avoid at ALL cost.


MEET THE ROBINSONS is a disaster of a movie. There are dozens of great nuggets of ideas buried under gigantic mounds of teeming writers' feces in this script. Somehow it took seven credited writers to butcher this animated film, which was based on a well-received novel that apparently tells the story of only one scene that wound up in the movie. This movie is such a misfire of epic proportions that it's almost impossible to discuss everything that's wrong with it, from the voice casting and 3D character animation to the terrible music montages plastered all over the film. It's easier to say what's right: an orphan kid tries to be an inventor and ends up traveling through time. Almost anyone reading that sentence could have written a better movie.

Although John Lasseter's name is on the movie (and apparently he is responsible for much of the script mucking), the picture clearly lacks all of the things that make Pixar films so great: character, story and humor.

Friday, February 08, 2008


WALK HARD is incredibly juvenile, but it's pretty funny. It peters out (no pun intended) as it goes along, but the musical bio-pic is ripe for parody, and both Ray and Walk the Line are given the royal treatment here. The whole cast is good, even minor roles (although Jack Black as Paul McCartney is suprisingly unfunny, in a film where deliberately miscast parts like Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly are funny in a self-reflexive way).

Definitely worth a rental.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Well, the audition rounds are finally over. Some entertaining misfires, but I look forward to next week, when the read drama begins!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

USC Loses to Arizona

USC played a good game in spurts. In the first half they took a commanding 7-point lead, then immediately gave it up with 8 unanswered points from Arizona.

In the late second half, USC fell apart. Mayo has not turned out to be the team leader expected, offense was weak on drives, defense was weak on rebounds, and allowed Arizona an 80-69 victory. USC looked like a bunch of rookies, and Floyd's coaching does not appear to be making the appropriate adjustments with this team. It didn't help that Daniel Hackett went out of the game quickly with an injury.

USC plays Arizona State on Saturday.