Like most people in the known universe, I feel compelled to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the photographer who took the now infamous picture recently featured on the front page of the New York Post.
As you can see in the comments below this Toronto Star article, the overwhelming and all-too-predictable reaction has been to condemn photojournalist R. Umar Abbassi for his failure to save the man on the subway tracks - even though he wasn't close enough to do so. He's also condemned for taking a picture at all, and for making money off the image. It all reminds me of an exchange from the movie Monsters, wherein a woman asks a photojournalist, "Doesn't it bother you that you can only do your job when other people suffer?" and he answers, "You mean, like a doctor?"
Photographers take photographs. Professional photographers sell photographs. What else would you expect to happen when a photographer sees something dramatic? That's his job. When Salmon Rushdie was given a death sentence by Iranian Mullahs for writing The Satanic Verses, I can remember people saying they had no sympathy for him because he'd only written the book to make money. Assuming that they had the ability to read his mind and know that this was the case, I would still ask Why else would you expect him to write a book? He's a professional writer!! He makes his living by writing books!
To condemn people for making money reflects a primitive medieval mindset. For some reason, people seem especially inclined to apply the make-no-money standard to photographers, writers, musicians and artists. Perhaps they retain some weird Romantic conception of these crafts. But it's a silly - and ugly - viewpoint nonetheless.
My latest Obscure Movie Review...
Years ago, several people told me that Blood Simple was the worst movie they'd ever seen. Truly God awful, was their judgement. Not so long after that it was on TV, so I made a point of watching it for no other reason than to see how bad it was. I was all ready to mock. Pumped up for it.
I loved the movie within 30 seconds. I loved it all the way through and still do.
My point is that whatever my flaws (too handsome, overly generous, etc.) I am objective about movies. A big director's name - even one I admire - will not buffalo me into liking a movie. The obscurity of a film's creators will similarly not cause me to assume it can't be any good.
Which brings me to Red Hill (2010). A privately-financed film shot over a four week stretch in Australia and originally released at the Berlin Film Festival. It was bought by a studio on what's known as a 'negative pickup,' which means it barely received any distribution, since no one at the studio had any personal stock invested in seeing it succeed. So it didn't make any money.
It would be easy to call Red Hill a revisionist, modern day Australian Western and that description wouldn't be totally wrong. As Larry McMurtry famously said however, the problem with revisionist Westerns is they don't really contain any ideas or themes that the original old-fashioned Westerns didn't have in the first place. Some people might also call the film a sort of post-modern, neo-Western parody, and I think some of the reviews I've read - though generally quite positive - confuse the movie for something like a parody. But it's not.
Let's just categorize the film this way. Red Hill is flat out great.
Very importantly, it's a visual smash. The cinematography by Tim Hudson whacks you right from the opening shot of the misty Australian high country, and continues with outstanding and often rain-soaked night work. Every flash of colour and glimmer seems to (but certainly doesn't) come from a practical, on-screen light source. The editing, by writer and director Patrick Hughes is fluid, and almost musical in its rhythm.
And what did these two guys do before this movie? Well, as far as I can tell, just a couple of shorts.
The star is Ryan Kwanten, of True Blood fame. The story revolves around a police constable's transfer to a small town and a prison break by a remorseless, scarred villain who has only one line, yet is still a real, fleshed out human character. If I've scared away anyone who thinks I'm talking about some kind of arthouse snoozefest, Red Hill also has lots and lots of cool gunfights. The icing on the cake is the inclusion of a recurring image and seemingly throwaway plot element that some will say pushes too far. I won't spill the beans about what I'm referring to, but I think it's crucial to the film, telling us that, at some level, life is always inexplicable and out of our control.
One final tease: the film uses the ludicrously obscure 'Black Eyed Bruiser' as the background for one especially knock out sequence.
Way before Jeremy Lin, Yao Ming was the NBA's Asian Sensation. I can actually remember him rejecting Shaq - and I think he's about the only person who ever did. He's currently touring Africa for WildAid. Their mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade within the next generation. A worthy enough goal but one that will be very tough to achieve. The striking images on the blog are provided by video director Kristian Schmidt, who is now concentrating more on photography.
Lots of great stuff on this site and lots of proof that Yao is really, really tall. In case you didn't know that...