New Orchard Media

Highly Creative Video Production, Filmmaking and Education

Nathan Jongewaard is a veteran videographer, editor, producer, director, writer and teacher. He brings a lifelong passion for moving image media to every gig, every project, every lesson. He has hung his shingle, as New Orchard Media, in Alameda, California.

Movie Favorites: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In the Coens’ first two decades of filmmaking, they created one terrific movie after another—but their gleeful playing around with genre tropes, ironic homages to film history and formal exercises, while sometimes exhilarating (viz. the Danny Boy shootout in Miller’s Crossing), tended to leave their work just shy of greatness. There was a small distance there, which critics said was created by the overly cerebral, self-satisfied filmmaking of brilliant mimics, if not quite great artists.

On the one hand, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is susceptible to many of the same charges. On the other hand, there is much that is transcendent here—a screwball goof on Preston Sturges, prisoner comedies, musicals, gangster Americana and the Old South turns out to be a near perfect cover for a brilliant meditation on and summation of the sweeping cultural shifts of the 20th Century, particularly mass media and other technology, and a sharp critique of nostalgia and national mythologies.

In these ways the film far surpasses its own limitations and shortcuts and points the way to the more personal masterpieces the Coens would create in the coming years—from No Country for Old Men, to A Serious Man and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Favorites of 2017: Kong Skull Island

Subtracting a star right off the bat for the script, everything else conspires to create an often glorious retro B-movie romp. From the  gorgeousity that is Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, their stylists and her Wonderbra, to the burnished sunset visuals, to the Vietnam-WW2-Lost World mashup storyline, it's a helluva lotta fun.
Gotta wonder, though, why Larson's embedded photographer isn't constantly taking pictures. Lots of possibilities there, instead of treating this gifted, Oscar-winning actress like mere arm candy for Loki. Which is not to say that she isn't stunningly perfect in shot after shot, unable to be anything less than exactly smart AND sexy at any given moment, and with perfect hair. But, girl, you should be running out of film on this crazy island, if you're this big respected photographer.

This illustrates what I mean about the script. Countless opportunities for creating character go by—for everyone—with no effort from the filmmakers in this regard; instead, we get an oddly rote Sam Jackson barking lame cliches and too many wasted supporting players.

John Goodman fares a bit better, as the nominal expedition leader, because he's John Goodman and thereby infallible. And when crazy John C. Reilly shows up as the Randy Quaid character, who's also weirdly the Tom Hanks character, there's just the right sense of the absurd.

Overall, I would much rather see this kind of movie—lovingly pop big budget B movie, but WITH A SCRIPT—than any "prestige" or "Oscar-bait" bullshit or any portentous superhero sequel. Or even than most indie films.

They say dialogue-driven movies don't play internationally as a way to paper over pure laziness when it comes to developing characters in films. But behavior doesn't require much dialogue, and it's behavior that makes characters more interesting; and interesting characters is what makes good movies great and great movies classics.

Which this Kong ain't.

The Stanley Kubrick Exhibit

Recently I finally made it to the Kubrick exhibit, about to close at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It was a huge thrill for a giant Kubrick nerd like me.

A man at the salon

Got a haircut over the weekend. At the salon was a remarkable book, created by Crew, which I think makes hair products. 

Where there's man there's Crew.

Oh, believe me, I do. Sometimes twice!

At least not for white men.

Mm, yeah, that and a pair of testicles.

His eyes are telling you you're fat.

Okay, now you just gotta give me a fucking break with this shit. Jesus. Someone, somewhere wrote this. And someone approved it. Then a bunch of Hitler Youth posed for the pictures. And someone printed it and put it in my barbershop. But why? That's what I can't figure out. For the love of god, why?

It doesn't take much

I was walking my toddler to daycare today, as I do most weekdays, and we arrived at a busy intersection nearby. The OX bus to San Francisco had just dropped off a heavily eye-shadowed sullen Goth teenager with dark feathered hair and was preparing to turn the corner on a green light when it just...stopped. Traffic starting backing up several blocks to the bridge to Bay Farm Island.

What was the deal? Why was the bus driver just sitting there? Did she have to stay there until a certain time? Was the bus broken? Were my son and I too close to the curb? I stepped back, then saw the problem. 

In the turn lane of the cross street, in the car-sized box of the lane with the giant words KEEP CLEAR painted in it, a woman was sitting in her minivan. Was she oblivious? Stupid? Selfish? Ignorant? Illiterate? Had she just made a mistake?

The KEEP CLEAR was added to the street about a year or so ago because the many busses that make that turn each day were always having trouble managing it without smashing into other vehicles, and snarling traffic. The OX literally could not have made the turn without the clearance afforded by KEEPING CLEAR that spot of the lane.

So in one dumb/oblivious/stubborn/mistaken stroke, this woman had instantly caused a traffic jam at 8:20 AM at a very busy intersection, one that would probably have a ripple effect that would last for an hour.

It doesn't take much to foul up the social system on which our daily lives depend. We don't often stop to recognize this, nor the immediate corollary: that the system is extraordinarily, almost magically, robust and complex.

The irony is that human beings long for the explicable, the comprehensible, to the extent that we rarely even acknowledge the incredible complexity of the systems that flow into our everyday lives, and even deny it outright (viz, Creationism). Yet this complexity is all around us, all the time.