October 29, 2006

Sunday shorts.

North by Northwest Todd McEwen in Granta: "North By Northwest isn't a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it's about what happens to his suit." Via wood s lot. Related: GQ presents the "25 Most Stylish Films of All Time," a list better than it has to be.

"British filmmaker Peter Watkins' nearly six-hour film, La Commune (Paris, 1871), made in the year 2000, is without a doubt one of the best and most important films of the decade," writes Doug Cummings. "Watkins offers a bracing critique of mass media by imagining how Commune life would have been represented by competing modern news sources, the National TV Versailles and the independent Commune TV. The result is a multilayered and thoroughly absorbing work that is as informative and thought-provoking as it is feverishly dramatic, suspenseful, and surprisingly brisk despite its length."

Nicholas Wood reports from Sarajevo and the set of Spring Break in Bosnia, "a black comedy loosely based on an actual attempt by a group of journalists to track down [Radovan] Karadzic. The filmmakers say they hope the movie, due out next year, will shame the international community into making his arrest a higher priority, so that he will finally go on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity." Richard Shepard directs Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Diane Kruger and Jesse Eisenberg. More from Ian Traynor in the Guardian.

Also in the New York Times:

Harsh Times
  • Sharon Waxman reports on how Harsh Times has fallen through the cracks. First-time director David Ayers, though, is described by MGM chief operating officer, Rick Sands, as "the next Quentin Tarantino."

  • John Leland visits the set of Ridley Scott's American Gangster, "based on the real-life heroin kingpin Frank Lucas [Denzel Washington] and the detective-turned-prosecutor Richie Roberts [Russell Crowe]," and contemplates the evolution of the genre: "In a nation of immigrants, the movies pit audience sympathy for the new immigrant against fear of the unassimilated ethnic clan. They are epics of nonassimilation: no one is more Italian than an Italian Mafioso and his kin."

  • David M Halbfinger on the consequences of last week's weak opening for Flags of Our Fathers: "For Paramount, which inherited the movie when it bought DreamWorks last year, the combination of a weak opening and good reviews made for a problem that has become all too familiar to major studios offering big dramas at awards time: it now will have to mount a costly Oscar campaign, but it hasn't yet made the money to pay for it."

  • Halbfinger again: "Hollywood appears to have hit upon a fail-safe strategy for getting attention for just about any kind of film: get someone, anyone, to try to suppress it, and then rush to the news media with breathless warnings about the First Amendment coming under attack." The problem with this approach: if, for example, ads for Shut Up & Sing had run on NBC, tens of millions of people would have seen them. I seriously doubt tens of millions have heard that they aren't running.

  • "The universal Bollywood hit is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off," writes Anupama Chopra. "A decade ago, the Hindi film market was largely considered a homogenous monolith. What worked in one town was likely to work in another. But over the years the business has splintered dramatically, forcing industry pundits to create new labels for films."

  • "When the 30-year-old singer Jeff Buckley, best known for his haunting 1994 album Grace, walked into a Memphis river fully clothed in 1997, he wrote a Hollywood-ready end to a brief but compelling life story." Mary Guibert, his mother, has turned away several film projects that would tell that story. Now, she's "working with a young producer, Michelle Sy, and an even younger screenwriter and director, Brian Jun, to develop a film she plans to call Mystery White Boy." Kimberly Brown reports.

  • It's time to assess just how very good an actor Leonardo DiCaprio actually is, argues Caryn James.

  • Jeannette Catsoulis endures Saw III: "The most depressing thing about this series is not the creativity of the bloodletting but the bleak view of human nature, specifically our talent for ruining the present to avenge the past. In the opening scene, a man frees himself from an ankle restraint by pulverizing his foot with a brick; fortunately, all we have to do is get up and leave." More from Richard Corliss in Time. Related (and recommended) online listening: the BBC's Mark Kermode.

  • Laura Kern on 20 Centimeters, "a brash, vivacious concoction of dark comedy, light drama and musical performance written and directed by Ramón Salazar."

  • Conversations with God, writes Andy Webster, is basically "a feature-length commercial for a popular series of inspirational books, ostensibly depict[ing] the life story of the series' author, Neale Donald Walsch."

"There are feel-good films and feel-bad films," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "And then there are feel-downright-uncomfortable films that leave you squirming and gasping for two hours. The British thriller Red Road belongs in the latter category: it's a wonderful surprise that's full of nasty shocks." More from Tim Robey in the Telegraph: "[Andrea] Arnold's film is laced with an ambiguous menace that sets it apart - it's one of the most impressive films of the year, and certainly the strongest British debut." And more from Philip French in the Observer.

Fred Astaire Happy Feet vs Fred Astaire? "Let's see how tap dancing looks with legs," suggests Colin Giles. Via Amid at Cartoon Brew, who comments, "It's a testament to Astaire's talent that using only a cane as a prop, he can outdance $100 million worth of flashy CG effects."

"[F]or roughly 15 minutes we follow Clive Owen as he navigates three blocks of intricately choreographed urban warfare in a deconstructing British society, circa 2027, as envisioned in director Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men." Sheigh Crabtree describes the difficulty of pulling it off, especially given the unusual choices Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki made going in. Related: Nathan Kosub in Stop Smiling on Sólo con tu pareja: "In short, there is none of Y tu mamá también's spark or discovery, none of its reserve or humility."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • Josh Kun: "If all arts aspire to the condition of music, as Walter Pater once wrote, then [Penélope] Cruz's art, most recently on display in Pedro Almodóvar's Volver, aspires to the condition of flamenco."

Alpha Dog

Awards season, now so long (October through March!) and repetitive (the number of awards handed out each year now surpasses the number of films being made; this is a verifiable fact) that the coming months can only be greeted with utter dread, has begun. The British Independent Film Awards has announced its nominations. Meanwhile, at indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman rounds up reactions from industry types to the already-controversial shortlist of nominees for the Gotham Awards. Example: "'I am confused about what the Gothams are supposed to represent,' agreed Gary Meyer, new co-director of the Telluride Film Festival and a co-founder of Landmark Theaters. 'I am a big fan of both The Departed and Marie Antoinette, but was quite surprised to find them as nominees in a competition I thought was to celebrate independent films." Related: Reid Rosefelt's modest proposal at Zoom In Online.

Cynthia's got the nominations for the Golden Horse Awards at Twitch.

"2006 has proved to be the year of the concert film," writes Jason Jackowski.

The Guardian launches a slew of arts blogs, one of them, of course, devoted to film. If I can get the feed to work for my reader, it'll be perfect. Meantime, in the Guardian and Observer:

Bowie as Tesla

Geoffrey Macnab talks with Isabelle Huppert for the Independent.

George Wayne interviews Carrie Fisher for Vanity Fair. Via ScreenGrab.

"Is there some sort of a Jedi master of auto-fellatio?" Jason Shawhan talks with cast members of Shortbus for the Nashville Scene.

Peter Smith interviews Crispin Glover for Nerve. Related online viewing at ScreenGrab: Glover on Letterman in 1987 and 1990.

Michael Guillén talks with Deliver Us From Evil director Amy Berg.


Fantastic Mr Fox

"It may say something wild about present times that the gravest constitutional business can best be played out as situation comedy, but there are enough laughs in The Queen to make you think so," writes Andrew O'Hagan in the New York Review of Books. "If one chose two dysfunctional families struggling with image problems, big appetites, and tearful neighbors, it would be difficult to slide a cigarette paper between the Windsors and the Simpsons, yet [Stephen] Frears's movie pays Britain's first family the supreme compliment of taking it seriously, and it's hard not to feel that the results will enjoy a long and fruitful reign in the affections of moviegoers."

MS Smith on Marie Antoinette: "[T]he real question about the value of this film does not center on its historical specificity, but on its emotional specificity."

Gautaman Bhaskaran in the Lumière Reader on The Wind That Shakes the Barley: "Loach never loses sight of the fact that his stories are essentially of ordinary men and women, and though socio-economic events may engulf and overtake them, it is the personal that triumphs over the political."

Exiled Matt Riviera on Johnnie To's Exiled: "[T]he film's saving grace is its refusal to take itself too seriously."

In the New York Press, Eric Kohn reviews Conventioneers and Jennifer Merin finds Sleeping Dogs Lie "at considers the question of whether complete honesty in a relationship is a good thing or will cause disastrous confusion and hostility between lovers."

Cinematical's Kim Voynar talks with Augusten Burroughs about seeing his bestselling memoir, Running With Scissors, become a movie.

"As for The Bridesmaid, it isn't Chabrol's best film, but it may be the funniest," writes Kathy Fennessy at the Siffblog.

Filmbrain on Pauline Kael on John Cassavetes: "That the realism in Cassavetes's films is not [to] her liking is acceptable, but her attitude towards those genuinely moved by them is nothing short of condescending."

Who Wants to Kill Jessie? "Forty years before Michel Gondry shot The Science of Sleep, Czech New Wave director Vaclav Vorlicek unleashed what may be the greatest film ever created about dreams intruding on the real world," writes David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back. "Who Wants to Kill Jessie? truly has something for everybody – the arthouse crowd, fans of science fiction and fantasy cinema, political junkies seeking coded criticisms of the faltering Communist regime, and those just looking for a superior piece of light entertainment."

Nick Davis: "[M]aybe [Boyz in the Hood - scripted, shot, acted, and edited with a clenched and gathering force that excuses its occasional gracelessness - derives its very potency from [John] Singleton's first-timer energy, and the proper response is therefore not to mourn the disappointments that followed but to preserve our marvel at the might and the moment that Boyz so definitively embodied."

Dave Kehr spells out what makes Michael Curtiz's The Lady Takes a Sailor worth catching if you can.

Gabriela-Sylvia Zabala and Ismet Redzovic at the WSWS: "Anna Kokkinos's first feature Head On - an adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas's novel Loaded, although also heavily relying on 'shock tactics' of explicit sex and drug taking (like the novel itself) - while quite flawed, nonetheless had certain endearing qualities, in particular the treatment of the migrant Greek family life in Melbourne and the difficulties facing the gay son. The Book of Revelation seems a step backward."

As Tower Records closes down, taking its video outlets with it, Craig Phillips recalls his days as a clerk.

Yesterday, Tom Sutpen celebrated what would have been Don Siegel's 94th birthday at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

Robert Cashill sees five lessons to be learned from this fall's releases; Nathaniel R's got a top ten for 2006 - so far; Matt Riviera lists the top ten dance scenes ever in non-musicals.

Just out: Volume 5 of the Journal of Short Film.

Online viewing tip. Morgan Spurlock on the CBS Evening News. Via Ed Champion, who has a few sharp words for Spurlock in reply.

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Posted by dwhudson at October 29, 2006 8:45 AM