Exciting Things Ahead!

20 05 2012

Hi All!  Many apologies for the lack of content as of late and I appreciate all the consistent viewership from all you wonderful people.  To update you all on why I have been lazy on content, I want to share a bit of the exciting news that has been going on in my life and promise you that many new reviews and updates lie ahead here on the blog as things begin to settle down a bit.

Firstly, I’m happy to announce that I will be beginning a new job tomorrow morning as the Video/Web Specialist for Inmar in Winston-Salem, N.C.  A reverse logistics and online rebates technology company, this will be their first time integrating a video producer into their team, and I’m happy and humbled that I was selected to fill the position and get to be a part of this very exciting upstart within the company.  Friday marked my last day at Novant Health after nearly a year of service there and I wish to express my gratitude to the position they provided me, as well as express my appreciation in getting to meet and work with all the wonderful people I encountered during my time producing content for their organization.

Secondly, I’m happy to announce the many progressions with Down Fenix Media, LLC in the past few months.  DFM, LLC is a combination of many talented individuals and former colleagues that have come together under one roof so to speak and build a brand that will be a solid outlet in multimedia production.  Our new and vastly improved Web site is nearly complete and will be launched within the coming weeks, as well as our first big project as a company going into production.  Furthermore, our arsenal of gear grew this past weekend as I participated in the auction of the late Viewpoint Studios of Greensboro.  I heard about the auction via the Web by hap circumstance, and immediately took a paddle number and bid via proxibid.  The final tally of gear, all at a great auction price, includes: three 600w Tweenies with stands and barndoors, a 2k molette with stand, five Bogen Manfrotto light stands, a 22ov to 24 outlet 120v distribution box on cart, a tenaba air bag for stands and stingers, a full pallet of stingers, nearly 50 lamps of varying size, two medium bank chimeras with speedrings that I will modify for two Ianebeam 650w redheads I recently acquired for free, some snoots and a few other odds and ends.  Not a bad a haul and a nice way to bring my tungsten lighting package up to a nice solid 10 unit set.

Not necessarily a career related entry into my business schedule, but surely a very important and time consuming project for me has been working towards the completion of my first novel.  After many false starts over the years, this bucket list item will finally be checked off quite soon.  The novel, which carries what I would consider a “science fiction lite” element, began in July, 2011, and I have been consistently working on it and developing the story as time has allowed since.  I do have a title for the book, but want to keep all that under wraps until I have the chance to complete, revise and submit to several literary agents.  However, I will say that I am currently at 60,000 words and am working on the final stretch of the novel; my guess is final word count length will be somewhere in the 72,000-80,000 range.  It’s been a great experience and I hope I get the opportunity to share it with as many people as possible once it’s fully completed, perfected and marketing avenues lined up.

As for the Notesonafilm.com, I’m happy to report that my site was deemed worthy of being included in the new WordAds feature of WordPress which is currently in a Beta testing state.  So, the new ads you see here on the site are because of my recent inclusion in that program.  Hope you all will check out some of the sponsors as WordPress begins the launch of this wonderful and innovative way to allow their faithful WordPress.com members to get some paid hits.

Lastly, either this week or the next, I will be releasing my directorial debut on the Web for all to see and enjoy.  Based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, Beyond the Door was filmed over Labor Day weekend 2010 and completed post production in April of last year.  After a festival run and several other screenings abroad, I’m happy to share it with everyone and look forward to comments and criticisms.  So, stay tuned for the release of this very dear film to me; you’ll see it here first!

Thanks for taking the time to read these updates and I look forward to returning to this site with some new and interesting content in full force very soon!


Opening the Flood Gates

15 06 2011

After careful consideration, I have decided to “open the flood gates” so to speak and go into back log film reviews.  Up to this point, every film review I have posted has only been reviews of films I have watched since beginning this blog back in March 2011.  However, since I am currently in the midst of watching several television series, my output to the blog has decreased to a degree.

To help close this gap and keep constant posts, I am going to go into my back log of films I have seen.  The primary difference between back-logged reviews and new reviews will be the length.  The usual length of my normal reviews runs about 450-500 words because the film itself is completely fresh in my mind and I am able to analyze a bit more without reference.  The back-logged films will come a bit shorter than this and be in the form of a “mini-review”.  It will still give basic overviews, thoughts and a 5-star rating, but just with less depth; it will be a quick guide if-you-will to what the film is about and whether or not it is worth watching.

What does this mean?  Well, this means that any film I have ever seen is now fair game for a review.  What kind of an amount are we talking about?  That’s a bit hard to tell, but definitely in the thousands.  So, I hope you stay tuned and appreciate the influx of reviews to come from early cinema to present day, black-and-white to color and foreign and domestic.

Twilight Zone Master Guide has a Main Page

27 05 2011

So, to not junk up the site with hundreds of posts on the various Twilight Zone episodes I’m watching, I have created a main page for them.  This master guide will continue to be updated regularly until completion.  Check back often to see new episode reviews!

Continued Twilight Zoning

26 05 2011

Season 1, Episode 9 – “Perchance to Dream”

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Released on November 27, 1959, this episode was directed by industry veteran Robert Florey, written by Charles Beaumont, with basis on his short story of the same name, and starred Richard Conte.  Conte plays Edward Hall, a man who is afraid to go to sleep for fear of dying.  He enters Dr. Rathmann’s (John Larch), a psychiatrist’s, office for an appointment.  In questioning him, Dr. Rathmann finds out that Hall has been awake for 87 hours.  Hall explains that he has always had a vivid imagination, as well as a heart condition since he was 15 years old.  His imagination is so vivid that it causes him to see and believe things to be there that are truly not.  Recently, he began having recurring serial-like dreams in which a strange woman named Maya is forcing him to do things that might endanger his life because of his weak heart.  Will the doctor be able to save him?

I love the cinematography in these early episodes.  The bulk of the series was shot by George T. Clemens and the style he put forth in giving such an eery quality to the crisp black-and-white through lighting and in camera tricks is truly breathtaking.  Director Florey was said to strive for perfection on set and was deeply influenced by expressionistic filmmakers of the past like Robert Wiene, Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau.  This episode certainly evokes an expressionistic quality that works beautifully for the story.  Beaumont’s script, and short story for that matter, are very cleverly put together.  Unfortunately, Beaumont suffered from believed Alzheimer’s and Pick’s disease and passed at the young age of 38.  Conte’s performance is also very believable and exudes interesting subtleties in the character.  So far, this has been my favorite episode since beginning the series for review.

As an interesting six degrees of separation side note, Richard Conte’s son, Mark, is a film editor.  The film I worked on a few years ago that was shot here in the Piedmont, The 5th Quarter, was edited by Mark.

Entering the Twilight Zone…

24 05 2011

Copyright Cayuga Productions and CBS Corporation

Maddie and I have gotten a little lax on finishing Twin Peaks.  We only have four or five more episodes to go before finishing the series completely, but we have taken a decent amount of time ever since the Laura Palmer episodes ended in watching new episodes.  A full series recap will be forthcoming once we finish.  In the interim, outside of watching movies, we started to spark up some of the old Twilight Zone episodes (original series era 1959-64).

It’s been awhile since I’d seen any Twilight Zone episodes, so I was excited to see that Netflix has nearly 140 Rod Serling-era episodes on instant watch.  Whatever is not up on the instant watch, I’m sure I will be able to find in my brother Patrick’s collection.  He literally has every episode of the entire original series and, if I am not mistaken, has seen all of them at some point or another, possibly twice.  Anyway, since Maddie had never seen an episode of the show, I felt it only right to introduce her.  Last night we saw three episodes.  I was immediately entranced with the series just as I had been years ago when watching them late night on the Sci-Fi Channel, and Maddie really enjoyed the episodes as well.  As an ongoing feature here at the blog, I will rate the episodes as I see them.  Hopefully, as time goes by, you’ll be able to check back here and get a nice overall guide to the entire series.  Once all episodes are watched and rated, I will make a main page with chronological listing from season one through season five.

Of course, a large part of the fun in watching Twilight Zone episodes are the twist endings and surprises.  To not spoil the story and thematic representations of the individual episodes, I will only give brief overviews of the plot.  Hope you guys enjoy, and now for the first three:

Season 1, Episode 5 – “Walking Distance” 

★ ★ ★ ★

Released on October 30, 1959, this episode was directed by Robert Stevens, written by series creator Rod Serling and starred actor Gig Young (eventual Academy Award-winner for Best Supporting Actor in 1969 for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, whose career later ended in tragedy).  Young plays a middle-age advertising executive from New York, Martin Sloan, who is traveling back to his hometown on a whim for nostalgia’s sake.  When he arrives, however, he finds that the town is just the same as he remembers it and, eventually, realizes it actually is the same.  He has traveled 25 years into the past, where he runs into his mother, father and former self.

The direction of this episode and cinematography by series DP regular George T. Clemens is amazing.  The final scenes, with their dutch angles and atmospheric lighting, create an intriguing dream-like effect.  Time Magazine later rated this episode as the eighth best of the series.

Season 1, Episode 8 – “Time Enough at Last”

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Released on November 20, 1959, this episode was directed by John Brahm, adapted by Rod Serling and starred actor Burgess Meredith (probably best known as the coach in the Rocky series or Jack Lemmon’s father in the Grumpy Old Men series).  Meredith portrays bookworm bank teller, Harold Bemis, who is constantly in trouble at both work and at home for his insatiable reading habits.  While retiring to the bank safe to satisfy his desires, a Hydrogen bomb wipes out everything above ground.  Bemis exits the safe and realizes that he is the only person left in the world.

This episode is based off the short story of the same name by Lyn Venable and won director John Brahm a DGA award for excellence in television directing.  Meredith would go on to appear in several other episodes in the series and this episode is consistently rated as one of the best of the series.

Season 1, Episode 18 – “The Last Flight”

★ ★ ★ ★

Released on February 5, 1960, this episode was directed by William Claxton, written by Richard Matheson (of I am Legend, Stir of Echoes, Incredible Shrinking Man, etc. fame) and starred British actor Kenneth Haigh.  When Flight Lt. Decker (Haigh) gets lost over France during World War I in 1917, he lands his plane at an air force base.  Unbeknownst to him, he has landed at Lafayette Air Force base in 1959.  The Major General of the base at first thinks his outfit, plane and story are some kind of joke.  In the end, however, they realize he is not joking and this chance landing in another time is important in helping Flight Lt. Decker do the right decision in his own time.

Though not necessarily as flashy or well-revered as the other two episodes I reviewed today, I really liked the plot of this one.  It kept you interested from beginning to end and Haigh’s performance was perfectly on par.


11 05 2011

After much deliberation, I have decided to revise the rating system for the movies I review slightly.  With just the 5-star system, I feel it has been difficult to accurately quantify my feelings for several films without undercutting them or giving them the benefit of the doubt.  To help alleviate this problem, I have decided to introduce a half star increment to my ratings that will better reflect my true feelings towards a given film.  The new rating system is as follows:


★ 1/2 – VERY BAD

★ ★ – BAD

★ ★ 1/2 – SUB PAR

★ ★ ★ – DECENT

★ ★ ★ 1/2 – GOOD

★ ★ ★ ★ – VERY GOOD

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 – GREAT

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – AMAZING

If, by chance, you ever want to go back and review the rating system for clarification on a particular review, I have added this rating system as a page.  It is viewable as one of my main headers now.  All previous films will be slightly revised to this scale by the end of this evening and all films following will be reviewed with the half star additions on the 5-star scale.

It’s been two months since I started this blog and I have been really happy with all the positive feedback it has received!  Thank you for your continued patronage and, as always, I love to hear your opinions!

Two Long Form Articles Added

11 03 2011

I’ve added two of the long form articles I’ve written in their own separate links above.  The first, “Joan Barry: The Most (In)famous Actress to Never Appear on Screen” was written over a course of about 6 months in 2009.  The final draft was finished in late 2009 and it was published on the site Alternativereel.com.  It explores, in great detail, the relationship between Charles Chaplin and Joan Barry in the early 1940s which lead to an international scandal.  Furthermore, some of the information within had never before been released; primarily, the aftermath of what happened following the scandal.

The second, is an in depth retrospective piece on film director Frank Perry, whose credits include David and Lisa, The Swimmer, Last Summer and the infamous Mommie Dearest. It was completed in the fall of 2010 and this is the first time its been released to a viewing audience.  As far as I know, it is the only in depth retrospective of Perry’s entire career with analysis of each of his films from David and Lisa to On the Bridge.  Each of these articles run about 5,500 words and a good deal of research went into each.  I hope you enjoy!

Introduction from the Author

11 03 2011

So, who am I, why did I start this blog and what should you expect from it?  Well, my name is Matthew Mandarano.  I grew in a small town named Mocksville in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.  My affinity for the cinema grew from a very young age from watching Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton silent comedies with my grandfather and my dad (who is currently in his nineties; yes, he had me at 65).  This introduction into the early era of cinema from an early age separated me from many of my contemporaries.  Though my childhood in the 1980s should have exposed me first to the likes of the Star Wars trilogy or The Little Mermaid, I had an introduction to motion pictures from very near the dawn of the medium.  Because of this, my palette and taste for films allowed me to progress and enjoy films without the inhibitions of not liking black and white or silent films being dreadful to me or not being able to stand a film in a foreign language.  Though many of my contemporaries progressed into liking a more tasteful cinema appetite as we grew older, I was able to appreciate “classic” cinema before I was barely out of diapers.  Following grade school and high school, I pursued a degree in Media Studies with a concentration in Film and Video Production from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts.  Since then, I have worked primarily as a cinematographer on short films, web promos, commercials, weddings, industrial films, music videos and practically everything in between and am currently the Director of Photography on a media team at my alma mater in their Office of Online Learning.

Outside of making films, I also love film history, theory, analysis and viewing; however, currently I have no outlet to express my feelings and opinions on these topics.  Thus, we arrive at the creation of this blog and its purpose: to be my personal outlet to express my opinions on recently watched movies, favorite films, theory in cinema, the process of making films, projects I’ve worked on, frustrations with media, etc. etc. etc.  So, in addition to being a cathartic, strongly opinionated outlet for myself personally, I hope you, the readers, will also (hopefully) be stimulated, outraged, encouraged, delighted or any other excess of emotions from my postings and always feel free to comment, criticize, lambast or express your opinions in the comments section.  Thanks for reading and I hope this will be a great journey through film!

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