Monday, December 31, 2012

My IMDB Movie Ratings

As a movie fan (and, yes, as an industry semi-professional), I've always loved The Internet Movie Database, AKA IMDB. Back in the olden, pre-Web days, a number of movie fans congregated around the USENET group rec.arts.movies (since split into many other areas). A guy named Chuck started collecting movie information and encouraged people to share their votes on movies. Eventually, this blossomed into IMDB, now owned by Amazon.

Much as I really love the IMDB voting feature, I've only ever voted for a small fraction of the movies/TV shows I've seen. So, here's my rating chart, for the movies I've remembered to vote for. The ratings skew high, but that's because if a movie looks bad, I don't bother seeing it.

2012 IMDB Ratings

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Glimmer to Shoot in Pittsburgh, Spring 2013

A science fiction movie (probably YA as it will star teens) is being shot in Pittsburgh next spring. It's called Glimmer, it's about time travel, and the script is rumored to be pretty good.

There's information about the project at Scriptshadow.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Casting Call for Wrestling Movie

A movie is being shot here locally, and it is recreating a number of wrestling matches during the '80s and early '90s including the '88 Seoul Olympics. If you have free time over the next two weeks, especially Thursday, December 13, especially if you're a man over the age of 18, they are looking for people who have full availability on Thursday, submit your photo, age, name and phone number to:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Pittsburgh-Made Films Win National Board of Review Honors

Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower and Gus van Sant's Promised Land were named by the National Board of Review as two of the top movies of 2012. Perks is a smart teen flick and van Sant's deals with the impact of fracking in a small town (and won't be released until late December).

Tbe National Board of Review named Zero Dark Thirty its best film of the year. Here's more information about the National Board of Review 2012 award winners.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Casting Call for Umbrella Man

[from Craigslist]

Don't miss your chance at being a featured extra in THE UMBRELLA MAN, a feature film shooting in Pittsburgh until October 26th!! Please send a headshot, contact info, and your availability to for more details! All extras will be entered into a raffle for the chance to win Apple's New iPad, an Amazon Kindle Fire & Apple TV!
  • Compensation: Chance to win an iPad, Kindle Fire & Apple TV!
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

So, say, you're an extra. Why in the world would you want to work for free on a movie? The first three years I did extra work, I ignored all calls for volunteer work. Shouldn't I be paid?

Generally, yes, you should.


I went to the stadium shoot for The Dark Knight Rises, which called for volunteers. About 11,000 volunteers showed up. Even though I got heat exhaustion late in the day, I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about large scale movie-making. I didn't win anything and the food wasn't so hot, but that was OK. It was only one day. (Ironically, while I was in the stadium, I was called to work for pay the next day...and I had to turn it down because I was too busy working on another project to do a second day of movie work. Oh well...)

Last spring, I worked two days on Monongehala. That was ultra-ultra low-budget, and I had the chance to help run errands and carry equipment. The second day, I was more of a PA than an extra while I watched tables and guarded food while the crew was in another area shooting. Fun time.

So, if you have the time and some group making a movie on the cheap in Pittsburgh is making a movie (like, say, The Umbrella Man folks), you might consider donating a day of your time. If you really hate volunteering for a movie, don't do it, but if you don't, it's a worthwhile experience.

The Pittsburgh Film Office has a list of all kinds of projects, both volunteer and for pay.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Film Office: Major Motion Picture Looking for Extras

Feature film being directed by an Academy Award nominated filmmaker is scheduled to shoot in the Pittsburgh area in November and December. 

The casting department is seeking men and women over the age of 18 interested in taking part as extras (background artists) in the film, who would portray characters such as police officers, wrestling world people (coaches, trainers, refs, wrestlers, etc.), business men and women, politicos, photographers, owners of cars from 1975-1998, general background wrestling match spectators amongst many other characters. 


Double Tree Hotel Pittsburgh-Green Tree
500 Mansfield Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15205

9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.

Please bring along a recent photo or snapshot, and a pen. These are paying positions. Must be 18 and over.

If you can't go to the casting call, send questions, headshots and resumes to:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quick Reviews: Perks of Being a Wallflower & Won't Back Down

Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the better teen flicks of recent times.  While I wasn't familiar with male leads (Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller), they could match wits against the excellent Emma Watson in a movie about early '90s teenage angst.  Set in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, novelist/screenwriter/director Stephen Chbosky did a fine job with his first book/script/movie.

One highlight of the movie is that most of the characters are fairly well-developed.  Even without knowing everything about him, Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller) can tell our hero Charlie (Lerman) is another "misfit toy," just as they are.  All of the kids have had trouble in the past or in the present, and they're generally dealing with it.  But Charlie, especially, has difficulties. Chbosky shows how Charlie's past problems can't always be hidden, and emerge in some unexpected ways.

The movie makes good use of its Pittsburgh location, particularly with some memorable trips over the Fort Pitt bridge.  Any movie that can both cast Tom Savini and give Eide's a plug is good in my book!  I'd give it a 9 on the IMDB scale, and think it might be a movie like American Graffiti in the future - a movie with an awful lot of young talent in one place at one time.

Won't Back Down is less a movie about living, breathing characters (with one exception) and more a political polemic about bad schools and bad unions.  Viola Davis manages, as usual, to rise above surprisingly simplistic material and give a fine performance.  But most of the characters were reduced to giving talking points, and some usually good actors gave surprisingly bad performances as a result.

This movie also made pretty good use of its Pittsburgh location, particularly nice use of the the incline.  Points for the many sports-related T-shirts and the Giant Eagle bread.  And, it was fun to see many people I've gotten to know from extra work playing teachers. just wasn't a good movie, and I can't give it more than a 5 on the IMDB scale.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trailer Season - Perks/Won't Back Down/Promised Land/Jack Reacher

Over the next three months, four major movies made in Pittsburgh within the last 18 months will be released:
The first three trailers feature some great photography of Pittsburgh.  Promised Land was filmed northeast of Pittsburgh in the Apollo area, so you're treated to many shots of the countryside and small towns.

Perks is basically a teen flick, about growing up in suburban Pittsburgh in the early '90s.  The highlight for me will be watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show re-enactment, with many characters in full costume.  The son of a longtime friend is one of the re-enactors.

Won't Back Down is about a pair of mothers (one, a teacher) taking on a failing school.  It was mostly filmed just up the hill from the old Civic Arena, which has since been torn down.

Jack Reacher - One Shot seems to be very dark and gritty.  It was filmed last fall and it was cold and rainy much of the time.  Many shots of the Strip District, some of the South Side and a few quick trips across the 10th Street Bridge.

Promised Land pretty much follows the flow of the movie, and features some lovely shots of Armstrong county from the air.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hysteria - One Power Tool Up!

There was a time when women were discouraged from speaking in public...

Wait, that's 2012.

But it was worse in 1880s, when women's votes didn't matter and when they were deemed "hysterical."

Hmmm...maybe times haven't changed so much.

Set at the height of Victorian London in 1880, Hysteria is about Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), a young doctor who keeps getting fired for advocating that doctors study science and wash their hands.  Luckily, he lives with a rich foster brother, Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), a tinkerer and a bit of an inventor.   Edmund's parents had taken Mortimer in after he'd been orphaned. After pounding the pavement looking for a medical job, he's hired by Dr. Robert Dairymple (Jonathan Pryce) who's so busy he needs an assistant.  He treats rich women for "hysteria."

There was a belief among some doctors, at least among those who treated upper class women (those women who could afford to pay for odd treatments), that their over-emotionalism and depression could be treated by manual genital stimulation.  By doctors, of course.  It had to be by a professional.

What's incredible to me about this belief was that some number of men and women understood how to sexually satisfy one another.  It's not like sex was universally misunderstood. Some people got it.  And for those who didn't get it, women would pay to get sexual from their doctors, while men would pay to get sexual satisfaction from their mistresses.  But, for many generations, there was a complete disconnect between married couples having sex and sexual pleasure for millions of people.

Anyway, Robert is a widower with two daughters, the firebrand Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and the quiet but studious Emily (Felicity Jones).  Charlotte runs a settlement house that always needs money (her father is stingy with his charity) and Emily plays piano and practices phrenology. Robert trains Mortimer to manually stimulate the female patients, who, eventually, have paroxysms (orgasms) and feel much better.  But, the problem for Mortimer, is it takes work to satisfy all these women all day long.  Luckily, Edmund has been trying to invent an electric duster, which shakes and makes Mortimer's hand feel much better.  Which gives him an idea.  He tests out his idea on a young woman of easy virtue, and then on the more typical clientel.

They are hooked.

In some ways the plot doesn't matter so much, as the movie does a fine job showing class/gender struggles in England in 1880. While that part of the movie felt right, I was sad to learn that Mortimer, while based on a real person,
was quite different in real life than in the movie.  While Granville invented the first vibrator, he meant it to be for men and didn't feel it should be used on women.  He also seems to have written one book, Modern Mind Troubles.  In the movie, Granville is played by the dishy Hugh Dancy and he stumbled over the vibrator quite accidentally.  It looks like none of the other characters in the movie are based on anyone real.

The actors are all lovely in their roles, the movie looks right, and things work out in the end.  The editing is maybe a little off, and it might have been interesting to make the Mortimer character more like Granville in real life.  But if you're tired of over-the-top action/adventure flicks, this comic look at the Victorian age is a more pleasant diversion.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two Current Flicks with Pittsburgh Ties (Hysteria and Rock of Ages)

Hysteria is about a controversial subject, and, these days might be banned in Michigan since it deals with the female orgasm during the Victorian age.  Yes, while the film might not use the word vagina in the movie, there will certainly be many allusions to it, which will probably make some people uncomfortable.  Tough.  Hysteria was partially inspired by the research of former Pittsburgher Dr. Rachel Maines.  I met Rachel once or twice in the late '70s when she lived in town. Hysteria also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal who shot Won't Back Down in Pittsburgh in late spring 2011 (and will be out in September 2012).

Rock of Ages, that ode to late '80s rock and big hair, was first produced on Broadway by former Pittsburgher Mike Wittlin

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Promised Land and Out of the Furnace Continue Shooting, Other Local Movie News

It's been a busy spring (again) for movie-making in Pittsburgh.  Both Promised Land and Out of the Furnace have been shooting in the region since April.  In addition, the ultra low budget Monongahela also shot here this spring, featuring the Monongahela River!

Pittsburgh was also supposed to be the home of two TV series, but Hemlock Grove pulled out, apparently due to some tax credit dispute.

Trailers for movies shot here last spring are either out (Won't Back Down) or will be making a grand debut on the MTV Movie Awards on June 3 (Perks of Being a Wallflower).  The first poster for One Shot showed up at Cannes this week.  These movies will come out in the fall of 2012.

Foxcatcher, a movie starring Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell, is sue to start filming in Western Pennsylvania this fall.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Potentially Bad News for Charlie Kaufman Fans

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that as of now (3/6/12) there is no deal to shoot Frank or Francis in Western Pennsylvania. While this contradicts previous reports on this movie, this is straight from the Pittsburgh Film Office's Dawn Keezer. It's not definitely off, but it's not definitely on either.

The Frank or Francis shooting in Pittsburgh rumors were rampant on local movie sets last fall, and the rumor hit the local paper last December. However, it did not seem to ever be formerly confirmed by the Pittsburgh Film Office.

So, while I hope this flick is eventually shot here...there's no definite word yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Out of the Furnace Confirmed for Spring Shoot in Pittsburgh

A few months ago, I read about a new Christian Bale movie to be shot this year called Out of the Furnace. It sounded like the sort of thing that could, indeed, be shot here. And so, it will be. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Out of the Furnace will be shot in Braddock this year. The Website Deadline: New York notes that Casey Affleck has been added to the cast. Scott Cooper, whose flick Crazy Heart won two Oscars a few years back (for Best Actor (Jeff Bridges) and for Best Song), is directing and wrote the script.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Promised Land to Film in Pittsburgh This Spring

PittsburghLive reports that Promised Land, a movie written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, will start filming in Pittsburgh this spring. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the movie will also star Frances McDormand.

Steeltown Presents The Writer's Pitch

The Steeltown Film Factory has been running short script competitions for the last few years, culminating in three presentations involving the competition finalists. The first presentation, The Writer's Pitch, will run on Saturday, March 17 at the Frick Fine Arts Building at the University of Pittsburgh. Buy your tickets now - this event sold out last year.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Annual Look at Oscar

One person's opinions, on movies in general and Oscar in particular.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pittsburgh Film Office's Oscar Party "Lights Glamour Action!"

Most years, I watch the Oscars at home, but every few years, I like to go to an Oscar party.  I went to one about 20 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts when Billy Crystal did his famous Hannibal Lector imitation as host.    I was rooting for The Silence of the Lambs, which did well at the Oscars that year.

In 2004, I came as close to actually going to the Oscars themselves as I'll ever go.  I went to Hollywood for The Return of the One Party, the Oscar party for The Return of the King.  Billy Crystal again hosted.  I was rooting for The Return of the King, but never in my wildest dreams did we think it was going to sweep the awards.  That was the best place to have been on Oscar night in 2004.  That was also the first time I saw a lot of newly-minted Oscar winners, not to mention those bright, shiny Oscars, in real life.  Quite a night.

So what does it sound like when nearly 1,000 Lord of the Rings fan hear that The Return of the King won the Best Picture Oscar? Watch this clip from New Zealand TV The Return of the One Party.

While I've been staying home and watching the awards the last few years, it was time to finally go to the annual party thrown by the Pittsburgh Film Office: "Lights, Glamour, Action."  After all, Billy Crystal is hosting again this year.  ;->  While I saw most of the major movies, I'm not strongly rooting for anything, though I'd particularly like to see Glenn Close and Janet McTeer win for the woefully underseen Albert Nobbs.

If you'd like to go to an Oscar party and you live in the Pittsburgh area, there are still tickets left if you'd like to go.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kate Winslet Probably Not in Frank or Francis

While this was reported in several places, she hasn't been added to IMDB and there's been no news on this front.

However, both Elizabeth Banks and Peewee Herman have been added to the cast.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Great Frank or Francis News!

Cool!  Two of my favorite actresses, Kate Winslet and Catherine Keener,  are in talks for Frank or Francis, Charlie Kaufman's next flick, due to be shot here in Pittsburgh soon! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pennsylvania Film Industry Association Event

The PFIAA is running an evening event.  On Thursday, January 19, Jake Meyers, the executive producer of the locally-shot One Shot, will come and talk about moviemaking at the Westin Convention Center.