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Ken Burns is our Hero

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2009 at 3:44 am

@ GM's preview of The National Parks in Central Park

@ GM's preview of The National Parks in Central Park

This week is the PBS screening of THE NATIONAL PARKS and if you aren’t watching it, you had better start re-evaluating your priorities.

Austin and I had the pleasure of attending GM’s preview of Ken Burns’ new 12 hour documentary in Central Park on Wednesday (VIP style, bien sure) and I must confess, I actually squealed when I saw Mr Burns.  He stood but 5 feet away from us, greeting friends and colleagues.  His hair was perfectly feathered.  His jeans were rugged, but clean.  Oh yes, I was smitten.

The whole night was incredible. The food and drinks were delicious; the performances were surprising and highly entertaining. My favorites were Alison Krauss (of course) and Peter & Paul (sans Mary, sadly).  Peter & Paul had such amazing joy that it was contagious. And seeing as how theirs were the songs on which I learned how to play guitar, I was filled with nostalgia.

However, the greatest surprise of the night was meeting the dashing James Nations of NPAC.   He informed Austin and I of a new mine, Pebble Mine, which is on the boards to begin construction just outside Lake Clark National Park in Alaska.   This is a BIG, BIG PROBLEM because it will destroy one of the LAST natural salmon fisheries on EARTH.   As Northwesterners, Austin and I have a huge soft spot for all things West Coast, but especially salmon.  Be sure to stay tuned here to learn more about this issue.  And if you are jonesing to support some independent film, look for the documentary Red Gold. We have to keep an eye on this planet of ours, people.


the Chop Shop reel

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Here is our latest reel! Enjoy!


In The Films in Our Lives, Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 12:08 pm


We as an audience sometimes fall victim to disregarding talented actors because they are the best part of shitty film. We qualify their performance by saying that he/she ‘were good, but…’, which is an attempt to distance ourselves from liking something that we deem unlikeable, whatever the reason.

A Perfect Getaway , which is not a shitty film, stars Timothy Olyphant and Milla Jovovich, actors who have fallen into this category often in their career. (Hitman, The Girl Next Door & Resident Evil, The Messenger)

I will not argue the fact that these films are good or bad, or that I’ve seen them all and enjoyed them. (Well, not The Girl Next Door it’s absolute shit, but I really loved Timothy Olyphant.)

Timothy Olyphant: probably best known for his portrayal of Seth Bullock in Deadwood, and that more than likely he was born with a Cheshire Grin. His first noticeable role was the villain in Scream 2. (Which more or less was a knock off of the villain that Matthew Lillard played in the original.) He played the unnamed hitman in Hitman. A pimp in The Girl Next Door. A pissed off computer tech in Live Free or Die Hard. He’s played the gamut of villains, high & low, and always been the best part of those films.

He has spent the better part of his career wasted in films unsuited for his talent. ‘A Perfect Getaway’ is a great role for him. It plays off his villainy, as no one trusts a man who smiles too much, they seem to have something to hide.

‘Outstanding!’ Nick (Olyphant’s character) smiles. But it’s more like ‘Out.Standing!’ (The period is properly spaced.) The key to every Olyphant performance is reading his smile. Is it joy? Is it masochism? Is it the fact that he knows he’ll get away with it?

There is revelry in his performance.

And there is too little joy in cinematic performances; film actors seem to think that you have to be tortured to be believable. (Benecio Del Toro, have some fun, you’re really talented.) Or you have to be careless to have fun. (Transformers, I’m looking at you.)

Olyphant is measured.

Milla Jovovich: model/actress not always a great combination. Rule of thumb, model/actresses tend to be able to pose like they know what’s going on, but fail to connect with the emotion behind it.

Milla Jovovich is not measured.

Watch The Messenger, she fidgets, emotes, wiggles, and generally suffers from some mild form of Parkinson’s for the duration of the film. She’s almost unwatchable in her movements. (For the sake of your time and energy, don’t watch The Messenger.) Now watch Resident Evil, again, she emotes, she kicks ass, she plays the scenes and according to the DVD Commentary, she also made her outfits. Point I’m making, she throws herself into the roles (literally, if she could, she would), who cares what people think of it.

She’s a committer.  What she lacks, more times than not, is a director to guide her to realistic, human outcomes. That’s is to say, you can present emotions but not the right emotions at the right time.

In fact, watching the Resident Evil Trilogy there is nothing wrong with her performance. There is a lot wrong with the script, the direction, the leaps of faith. But she follows the path of her character come hell or high water.

In A Perfect Getaway she has a little monologue that ends with ‘It’s amazing how much you talk about yourself when you’re on vacation.’ (Paraphrase.) A bad actress would not be able to say that with the right amount of conflicting emotions, she does.

Final point: no one wants more shitty films. What we want is good films that entertain us. Films that we enjoy, films that make us think, films we can walk away from and go on with our day. One way we can do this is find actors whose performances we enjoy, flock to the cinema to support them.

Support Timothy Olyphant and Milla Jovovich.

(Another post could be made to follow Steve Zahn, but he is often referred to as brilliant and a comedic force, neither of these arguments I disagree with. But the case for Timothy Olyphant & Milla Jovovich, is much more interesting to me at this moment.)

What will the Groundhog see this year?

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2009 at 3:53 am

chop shop groundhog day

groundhog shadow provided by lula prints

Happy Holidays!

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2008 at 12:37 am

Happy Holidays from Chop Shop! We wish everyone a safe and happy season and a very very happy new year!

Chop Shop Lights Up

Holiday logo designed by Lula Prints and Design : www.lulaprintsanddesign.blogspot.com

Back from Los Angeles

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Austin and I have just returned from a fabulous trip to Los Angeles where we documented the LA Auto Show for the AutoAlliance. We had the opportunity to chat with Dave McCurdy just before the Governor himself showed up for a personal tour of the new cars.  I must confess it was my first time being part of the paparazzi and what a blast! Having the body guards guide the ebb and flow of bodies scrambling to capture that one perfect shot.  It was exciting!  We also caught the unveiling of the new electric Mini and got a few great shots of the Volt. It was great being in sunny California, but after a few days I didn’t mind coming back to the 30 degree cloudy days of DC.


Reviewed in the Washington Post

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Our dance film, Other Life, was reviewed in the WASHINGTON POST this morning!  Click HERE To see it! Can you guess that Austin, Kelly, and I are dancing around our apartments, giggling like mad fools?  Yes, yes we are.

Be sure to come see the final night of OTHER LIFE at the Source Festival tonight at 8pm. Tickets are only $15!  

Next up:  We’ll be screening Other Life in early November at the Roundhouse Theatre in Silver Spring with Contradiction Dance!


the review…. by Celia Wren in the Washington Post

“To look on the bright side, one of the evening’s three offerings was an elegant and winningly mysterious stylistic melange. “Other Life,” a 15-minute movie by Austin Elston, Emily Gallagher and Kelly Mayfield, told a wistful love story through balletic modern dance and stylish black-and-white footage.

Choreographed by Mayfield (founder and artistic director of Contradiction Dance), the film interwove an intense, closely embracing pas de deux sequence — Mayfield and Boris Willis, in resonant interpretations of two lovers — with sequences evoking an elegant boudoir and (shades of “Anna Karenina” here) a 19th-century train station. Terence Nicholson’s melancholy original score, with its minimalist arpeggios and yearning string sounds, gave way now and then to suspenseful footsteps and ticking clocks. With enigmatic silent-movie-style captions (along the lines of “Doubt returns!”) and resonant imagery — billowing train-station steam, faces captured in an ornate hand mirror, fleeting glimpses of subsidiary characters portrayed by other dancers — the piece was stirring and poignantly open-ended.”

Other Life opens tomorrow!

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2008 at 6:58 pm

OTHER LIFE opens tomorrow in the INTERDISCIPLINARY portion (Section D) of the SOURCE FESTIVAL. Be sure to check it out.  Screening starts at 8pm every night through July 3rd.  Buy tickets here. Only $15!

What we’re working on now…

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2007 at 2:41 am

This month we have begun working with the Century Council.

Starting with their 2006 Year in Review DVD, and ending with a nice fat photo slideshow, we here at Chop Shop are excited about embarking on a new project.

What we especially enjoy about End of Year videos is the chance to dig into another company to learn about what they have to offer. The Century Council does not let us down. With programs such as Girl Talk, Ask Listen Learn, and B4U Drink, it’s exciting to be part of the solution.

At the Cinema | The Queen

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Inspired by the Golden Globe awards, last night I attended the 5.15 screening of The Queen with my parents at the AFI theatre. What a glorious theatre!

The only time I had been in the large cinema at Silver Springs before was at Werner Herzog’s presentation of his new documentary, Grizzly Man, and of course at the time, all I could focus on was Herzog’s stories of bar brawls in Bavaria and the greedy legal system in the US.

Last night, however, I was free to admire the architecture of the AFI’s large cinema and the comfortable VIP chairs which gave my very tall father plenty of leg room.

The movie itself deserves equal praise. A solid story that span the few days following the death of Princess Diana was built from a strong, straight-forward script, excellent performances from Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen, and was rounded out with a sprinkling of actual news footage.

Afterwards, I was surprised with stories from my parents about their friendship with Tony Blair and the time they had tea at the Palace with the Prince and Princess.

Overall, while you might not be treated to soup, tea, and entertaining stories of the English Royalty after, I highly recommend attending a screening of The Queen before it leaves the theatre.