Lifestyle

The Closing Scenes of a Labored Love

What’s a cowgirl like you doing with such a small truck?”” asks Jim, the head honcho at the Media Checkout. He smiles at us tying down dolly tracks protruding from the already-overstuffed bed of my truck. It’s Friday morning, and this is the last time Devin, Randy and myself (the small Friday crew) will pick up equipment and head out to Temecula before the rest of the cast and crew arrives. I am inwardly ecstatic. Rewind to a few years ago: me, terrified of going inside the Media Checkout – I don’t know what the equipment is called or what it’s for, and the gruff student employees have no time for newbies. “”It’s OK to be ignorant,”” says one of my film professors. “”But you must work to bridge that gap of ignorance.”” Skip back to this Friday: I waltz in with my cowboy boots on, I don’t have to say my name or what I am here for, because the people at checkout already know. I smile mischievously at the students just beginning, clutching their checkout forms while we stand next to our truck, roped and weighed down with hundreds of pounds of equipment. These are the kind of moments that interest me – moments of aftermath, where scenes drip with that invisible ghost of action that has led up to this moment. You can see the traces of movement, the invisible marks of my hands on the windowpane, Randy’s sweat on the truck bed and Devin’s fingers tying the rope, all intangibly marking the struggle that preceded this end product. This is, in part, what the world of my film is about: characters living in an aftermath. But this is also a parallel for the process of filmmaking. Film is an end-product, nothing more than two-dimensional ghosts existing in a frame, referencing the moment that existed at one point in time when these images were recorded on tape. Cut to a few hours later, in Temecula. I hold the camera while Randy and Devin throw logs into the water to simulate the truck crashing in – but the log keeps floating back into frame like an albino alligator. “”We should just drive the truck in the water,”” says Randy. “”Yeah, I guess we could,”” I respond. Ten minutes later, the back tires are spinning out of control, hopelessly stuck in the mud. Back up five days: Paul is spraying a violent storm of white powder from the fire extinguisher to put out the fire creeping up the side of the wooden shack we’re filming. Fast forward one day, Steven is yelling on top of the truck because I’ve slammed his hand in the closed truck door. Rewind a few hours and the sound of shattering glass rings in the canyon as Josh does a somersault down the side of a rocky hill. Fast forward to six days and five guys with hardhats are pushing the Volkswagen van up a hill; it’s my crew, my dad and my cousin, acting the role of construction workers, but we are not filming. We can’t get the key in the cantankerous ignition, so for every take where the van goes downhill, they must push it back up under the midday sun. Skip to the last Sunday. “”Dad, what’s the best way to cut a glass bottle evenly?”” A moment later my dad is raising an axe up while I hold a glass bottle against cement. Skip back to a quarter to midnight on President’s Day, and we have been rehearsing and setting up lights in an old abandoned house for hours. Everyone has gotten very little sleep in the past two days, and it is starting to show; the camera operator is nodding off, the assistant director has his eyes closed, the actors are falling asleep in between takes. Coffee keeps coming in, but is having no effect. I am shouting and trying to pretend I could go on all night. I pick up a c-stand and it drops limply out of my hand. Every glance I get and word I hear is asking me to utter those three pleasant words … that’s a wrap. A slow fade in to an empty field. It’s Saturday a week later, after the last shoot. I am back in Temecula by myself, filming forgotten shots. Holding the camera in one hand, a rock in the other, I am trying to scare some quails so they will fly up in front of the camera. It’s so quiet, you can hear the wind in the grass and the distant sound of children playing. The clothesline has fallen down. The plates are all askew inside the van, next to paper shreds gnawed by mice, and outside I can see a tiny piece of purple fabric stuck in a cactus. It’s another moment of comedown, of aftermath. No more Devin, no more Randy, no more Paul, Steven, Tricia, Mom, Dad, Tom, Josh, Jake, Norbert, Christie, John, Salomon, Adam. Just me in a field with a camera. Filming is done and now what’s left to show for all the action are seven Mini DV tapes, holding all our efforts in their tiny digital ones and zeros, like phantasms trapped on electronic tape. This is film, a 2-D memory. ...

Tuition Fee Policy Needed to Guard Student Interests

When the UC Regents meet on March 14, millions of dollars of student money will be in their hands. In Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal, he recommended that undergraduate student fees be raised 7 percent for the 2007-08 academic year, with some UC law and business programs facing 10-percent hikes. However, California’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, urged that fees only be increased 2.4 percent for all programs, arguing that given the absence of an explicit policy on student fee increases, fees should continue to cover the same share of educational costs. The LAO’s increase would account for inflation. It is time for the regents to formulate a fee policy that is more transparent than their current “”compact”” with Schwarzenegger, which stipulates that fees always rise in accordance with California’s per-capita income (not inflation rates) in addition to increases (up to 10 percent total) that the board feels the UC system needs. Essentially, this means that under the compact, the regents can raise student fees up to 10 percent per year with very limited accountability. It’s no secret that the regents and the state of California have been leaning on students to subsidize the university’s bills at their discretion. However, an explicit fee policy from the board that protects student interests in the face of much more powerful political actors would reflect an attitude of respect toward the population that gives the university its leverage as the premier educator of California’s future. ...

Attack of the 50 ft. Virus

Whether it’s the rubber costumes and visible zippers in the good ol’ days of “”Godzilla”” and “”Creature from the Black Lagoon,”” the cartoonish, computer-generated imagery of modern horror films like “”The Relic”” and “”Anaconda”” or the cliched casts of dashing heroes, brilliant scientists and savvy female reporters, it’s hard to take a monster movie seriously. But with his latest romp, acclaimed Korean writer/director Joon-ho Bong doesn’t ask us to do so. Instead, he embraces the slapstick action and absurd heroism that most moviemakers try to disguise, resulting in what might be the most fun – and most honest – monster movie ever made. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures To give the creature feature a fresh angle, Bong replaces the undefeatable monster with a clumsy animal and the dashing heroes with a family of buffoons. His clear affection for the genre spills into his work, adding an unabashed sincerity and that helps him bridge moments of terrible tragedy with campy comedy – a pairing that has rarely, if ever, been executed so successfully. But the emotional grip of the story never eases either, as one of the monster’s victims, a young girl named Hyun-Seo, struggles to survive in the sewers while her family desperately tries to find and rescue her. The family of half-witted protagonists is comprised of the genial grandfather, who runs a convenience store; his daughter, the bronze-medal-winning Olympic archer; his son, the unemployed grad student; and his other son, the half-retarded father of Hyun-Seo. When she’s abducted by the beast, the government is too inept and the community too paranoid to do anything to help, so the endearingly flawed family of underachievers sets out to rescue her themselves. Bong provides the film with an unflappable sense of humor, even amid the story’s most grim moments. Soon after the monster emerges from the Han River and abducts Hyun-Seo, a mass funeral is held. While her family is sprawled on the ground in wailing grief, crying her name to the heavens, wallowing in abject misery and surrounded by the grieving families of countless other victims, the mourning is interrupted by a loudspeaker announcement asking the driver of an illegally parked car to please come to the parking lot. Then, a government official wearing a yellow hazmat suit steps in to announce the quarantine of everyone at the scene – as if things couldn’t get any worse. But before the official goes in another word, he slips and falls – probably in a puddle of the tears from the bereaved – right on his ass. It’s a strangely comfortable mix of sweltering pity and Marx Brothers humor. Even the monster slips and stumbles in its pursuit of prey. And as the SUV-sized creature trips over its own feet, onlookers throw beer cans and government soldiers scramble to secure the quarantine, more concerned with containing any potential diseases the monster might carry than capturing or killing the ravaging beast. There are only three Americans in “”The Host,”” all of whom are quite blunder-prone: the environmentally callous mortician in the opening scene (who creates the beast by dumping hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde into the drain simply because the bottles were dusty), an American sightseer (one of only two people ever to confront the monster) and a cross-eyed U.S. official who wants to perform brain surgery on Hyun-Seo’s mentally deficient father because “”maybe that’s where the virus is.”” Bong’s film is more than a monster flick. It’s a spoof on global hysteria and our relentless fear of an ever-approaching apocalypse in one form or another. As the four pathetic protagonists struggle to find the missing girl, they pass through a crazy world of frightened citizens clinging to surgical masks and bumbling government officials more frightened of pathogens than of the monster itself. Every character, flawed to the core, seems to fail in everything they do, but it’s impossible to stop rooting for them. At times unbearably heavy – yet incredibly light-hearted too – Bong’s satirical monster action/horror/comedy is a rare treat. ...

Bear Gardens Merit Praise, but Council Work Remains

This year’s A.S. Council deserves credit for taking a cue from the Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction report and making an effort to revive beer gardens. And the accompanying advertising campaign hasn’t been too shabby either, with plenty of high-visibility posters and even a Facebook group to get the word out. The price of success: a 20-minute wait at the door of the last Bear Garden, followed by an hour-long wait in line for your plastic cup of booze. With such a wait, students might as well pick up a minimum-wage job for an hour and spend the money they earn on a pair of pints at Porter’s Pub, which has a far wider selection of brews, far fewer rent-a-cops and practically no line. But the popularity of this year’s beer gardens – and the lack of disturbances at them – drives home two important points. For one, including booze at on-campus events actually does encourage participation. Administrators should consider this when they decide whether to allow alcohol sales at the RIMAC Annex. More importantly, the gardens show that with careful planning, UCSD can host wet events and still ensure student safety, assuaging the administration’s long-standing and completely understandable concern. With a year of positive experiences, the door should be open to slowly expand the Bear Gardens, maybe through finding a new venue or streamlining the current one. It wouldn’t hurt to bring in bands, either, like at the Thank God It’s Fridays of yore. With a little compromise and responsibility on both sides, the UCSD experience can be made far more memorable and special than it is now. ...