Sunday, August 31, 2014

Alec Kubas-Meyer's MIRANDA (2014)

Miranda - Final Confrontation [Original] from Reel: The Movie on Vimeo.

Before you even start reading this I have had an earth shaking change happen- at least as far as this piece goes- and that is that Alec has a new film project in the works. I knew it as I was tweaking this piece over the last week, and I was expecting the Kickstarter to appear this week, but stuff happens and Alec told me it wasn't going to go up until after this posted so I dumped a  rough draft and went with the place holder piece that I had scheduled- you see I didn't want Alec to read what I was writing until I was done.

Then on Friday after I had gotten a piece into readable shape Alec emailed and said that the Kickstarter is up.  This then caused a black cloud of profanity to go up over Long Island as not only did I have to write up the Kickstarter campaign, but I also had to re-tweak this piece...which would be fine except my original piece was accidentally deleted.

What follows is an frequently altered piece about a film made by a good friend, a great dinner guest and a damn good filmmaker. Its a damn good film that I would have written up even if Alec weren't my friend. Its a film that reveals its director to be possessing the right stuff.

I have been debating whether or not to do this piece ever since I decided to do a whole month of short films. The reasons not to do it number two, first the film discussed is not readily available yes Alec has some stuff on You Tube but things like Miranda are not there (not yet anyway). Its lack of accessibility is due in part to the film being slightly reworked, which says nothing of the film, only that it's completion was rushed. The other reason not to do it is that the director Alec Kubus-Meyer is a friend and a contributor to Unseen. If I write anything positive, which I would do, it would look self-serving or worse, which it’s not. Miranda is a good film and Alec is a great director. by writing up the film I felt that I could be sending my credibility out the window…

…and then it hit me, my website, my rules, which means I'm writing up Miranda.

Over the last year I watched as Alec put together his film Miranda together. I watched as the film went from being just a script on through the various stages to a finished product. I saw test sequences of the fight sequences and I heard the stories of it being shot over a few week period. Listening to the stories gave me a window on the film that made me feel that I was watching the process. It was the sort of real cool fly on the wall stuff that film geeks would kill to have.

Miranda is the story of a young woman who becomes obsessed with keeping her roommate safe from a tall blonde man (played by Alec) whom she thinks is up to no good. What starts as looks and words soon turns violent as Miranda kicks serious ass to keep her friend safe.

Miranda in its current form is a good little film. It is a bit jagged, the result of a hyper rushed post production.  As a result of rushing to meet  a required completion date the film ended up hurt by a couple of technical issues (the sound is uneven and some of the performances came off unevenly).  While the flaws are ultimately minor, they are noticeable. However in fairness I have to point out that the film is currently being reworked for future screenings-for example the final fight, which can be accessed above, as been re-scored and the sound remixed (The fight sequence above is the corrected one. I should also mention that when you do watch the clip please keep in mind that the sequence plays differently if you have the context of the sequence's placement in the film).

I've seen the film several times, both as a friend and as "critic" and what stands out about the film is the action sequences, which are truly masterful. They are so good that I have to ask "Could someone give Alec a job doing an action film?" (see below)

Let me be completely clear here the reason I’m writing up the film is the action. Never mind the fact I know Alec, if I wasn’t impressed with what he was doing with his action choreography I wouldn’t take the time to do this. When you get a chance to see the film watch the action sequences both in and out of the context of the film. Not only do they carry the film and move things along,  but they are good enough that once you’ve seen the film, you'll want to go back just watch the action sequences. When you see them, especially in context, I think you’ll be impressed.

When you watch the film the first thing you’ll notice about the action is that the sequences aren’t really amped up like in most big budget action films. Even if it had been an option Alec chose not to go that way. There is no pounding music score, there is no quick cuts to falsely pumping up the fights, there is just the action. Alec filmed them in such a way so that things play out in real time and from limited points of view. This is kind of counter intuitive to most fight sequences these days which give you quick cuts and spiffy angles. While  rapid fire looks great  it takes the weight of the sequences away. Watching those sequences we aren’t there. We aren’t really feeling the pain of the combatants because its all quick cuts that hide the impact. Here we feel the pain because the cuts are fewer.

The crowning achievement of the film’s multiple fight sequences is the extended "single take" that climaxes the film. The original intention was to shoot the film with multiple setups and then cut the whole thing together, however because of time constraints and an impending rain storm the sequence had to be done with less setups with the result it seems to be a single take. The resulting fight carries a weight and a sense of reality that’s hard to beat.

I’m going to compare it favorably, to Alec’s favorite action film The Raid 2. When you watch something like The Raid 2, you have these huge scale action sequences that are bloody and bone crushing. Terrible things happen and we in the audience ooo and ah. But it never feels real except in a movie real. The huge battles in a prison court yard aren’t going to happen. The final fight in that films hall way super villains that wield hammers and baseball bats aren't real. For all the blood you might as well be watching something like Peking Opera or Twyla Tharp, since ultimately it’s just a violent dance number.

However with the fight scenes in Miranda are real, there is an awkwardness of real people fighting not great movie actors fighting. Their blows have weight. You feel the punches. Something I read recently said that the easiest way to make a scene play real is to simply extend a take. Don’t cut away. Alec doesn’t cut away, or at the very least he seems not to.  Alec holds his takes and we’re sucked into the film. We go from this is cool to this is real…to oh crap that's gotta hurt (and I mean really hurt).

Alec is a true film geek with an eye for action. He needs to be given money and allowed to go make a balls to the wall action film and take what he's done with Miranda to the next level..

Miranda is in the process of being slightly tweaked before heading out on the festival circuit. Once it gets there make an effort to see it and get in on the ground floor of one of the new masters of action cinema. I will post it when the revisions are done and Alec says its fine to do so.
Addendum- As this posts Alec is preparing an action short called REEL (the Miranda fight clip was posted by the production company). There will is a Kickstarter campaign to get the funds to finish it. All the details can be found on the .Kickstarter page.

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