May 10, 2007

Shorts, 5/10.

Roy Scheider "In my capacity as Vanity Fair columnist and issuer of edicts, I am officially designating next Monday the 14th as Roy Scheider Day," declares James Wolcott.

"Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is under investigation by the US Treasury Department for taking ailing Sept 11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming health-care documentary Sicko," reports David Germain for the AP. Producer Meghan O'Hara responds: "The efforts of the Bush Administration to conduct a politically motivated investigation of Michael Moore and SiCKO will not stop us from making sure the American people see this film."

Tekkon Kinkreet Doug Cummings on Tekkon Kinkreet: "The film is a visual wonder, and I say that as jaded as can be regarding pat futuristic metropolises (metropoli?). Treasure Town not only has character, it is a character, cobbled together from vintage Japanese advertisements and pan-Asian architectural motifs, it shifts in atmosphere as the story develops, and even - through its copious displays of signage and graffiti - subtly comments on the action."

Alex Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side, "makes it clear that time is on the side of the 'bad guys,'" writes the cinetrix. "[H]ere's hoping it'll land distribution and be coming soon to the proverbial theater near you. If it doesn't, seek it out." She's got the trailer, too.

Tom Hall: "The genius of Killer of Sheep is found in its deeply moving portrayal of the streets and 'real life'; the images of the community, of lives locked in helpless orbit, of survival in a world built upon struggle." More from Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "The subject matter prompts knee-jerk comparisons to Rossellini and De Sica, but with its elusive structure and plain-spoken surrealism, Killer bears as much resemblance to another LA-shot feature released in the same year: Eraserhead."

The Quiet Man "[John] Wayne may be increasingly irrelevant to Orange County's multi-ethnic populace, but some part of his spirit - sadly, the malign, quasi-fascistic part - wafts in the national-political ether," writes John Patterson:

But for all his flaws and many bad movies, I still love the Duke. Why? For his old-school masculine authority; for his breathtaking physical grace; for the boxing match in The Quiet Man; for the terrifying close-up of him, eyes wild beneath the brim of his hat, after he meets the mad captive girls in The Searchers; for the bottle of vodka and 100 smokes a day; for the recording I have of him giving a spectacularly drunken graduation address, in the course of which he coined the inspired locution 'reee-godamn-fuckin'-DICK-ulous!'; for the image of him in an open-topped limo at Harvard University in 1968, being pelted by protesters with garbage and rotten fruit, yet comporting himself like a returning astronaut enjoying his ticker-tape parade, all smiles.

Related: The New York Post's Lou Lumenick on what links Wayne and Katharine Hepburn. Also in the Guardian and Observer:

  • Philip French notes that Goya's Ghosts, written by Jean-Claude Carrière and directed by Milos Forman, "is far from being a biopic of Goya (Stellan Skarsgard with a suitable prosthetic nose). It's a work of fiction set against a particular time of change and unrest, but manifestly refers to the modern world, to Iraq and Iran, to eastern Europe and Russia, to current dogmatic conflict and Guantanamo Bay."

  • "A movie based on a toy, and designed largely for the purpose of selling toys, might well become the biggest box-office hit of the summer," suggests John Anderson, perhaps overselling his own article a bit. Interesting nonetheless because "the history of using movies to sell toys is rather longer than you might expect, dating back before the commonly accepted date of 1977, when Star Wars and its accompanying range of merchandise were launched upon the world."

  • Under the Bridge: Reese Witherspoon's next "project is based on Rebecca Godfrey's account of the 1997 slaying of high school student Reena Virk, the daughter of Indian immigrants who lived in a sleepy Canadian town in British Columbia. Catherine Hardwicke, whose credits include Thirteen and The Nativity Story, is in talks to direct."

Rebecca Leffler in the Hollywood Reporter: "Bertrand Tavernier is crossing the Atlantic to direct his first English-language feature, In the Electric Mist, starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ned Beatty and Tom Sizemore." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

More up-n-coming news:

The Jetsons

"One of the most surprisingly tense experiences at the movies so far this year is Rock the Bells, a documentary about a promoter's attempt to reunite rap superstars the Wu-Tang Clan for a July 2004 San Bernardino festival," writes Michael Ordoña.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • "The surveillance thriller Civic Duty may be the second film in a month to court comparison to Hitchcock's Rear Window, but it's actually a dead ringer for Falling Down, Joel Schumacher's coda for the middle-aged, middle-class American white man that came out in 1993," writes Carina Chocano. "As the post-PC, postmillennial, somewhat Canadian edition, however, it dispenses with the reductive ethnic stereotypes that made Falling Down somewhat confusing (were we supposed to think that Michael Douglas's character was maybe a teeny bit justified?), instead setting its critical sights on the fear-mongering news media and its role as national psychotic." More from Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times, R Emmet Sweeney at the Reeler and Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Robert W Welkos: "Columbia Pictures and the Weinstein Co are battling in court to see which will win the potentially lucrative follow-up to Ang Lee's epic martial-arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of the most successful foreign movies of all time."

  • "Because our own lives are so hard to grasp, so fluid and messy, we want our parents' to be simple and consistent - even when we discover them to be imperfect, we need them at least to be imperfect in a reliable way," writes Robert Lloyd. "Every step away from that surety makes the world less secure, and this is what gives 51 Birch Street an aura of suspense and danger." More from Dennis Cozzalio: "[Doug] Block's spectacular achievement here is rendered completely on a small scale, but it's within that small scale that the detail and resonance of the cold war that his parents experienced holds its power."

  • "Because [Drew] Emory doesn't grapple fully with the issues that loom over the film, there is something soppy and soft-headed about Inlaws & Outlaws," writes Mark Olsen.

  • "Private Fears in Public Places is an adaptation (by Jean-Michel Ribes) of an Alan Ayckbourn play so cinematic that it could stand as a treatise on how translation to the screen can bring added dimension and meaning to theatrical material," writes Kevin Thomas. More from Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat.

  • Kenneth Turan: "As neutral as it is possible to be with a subject so inflammatory, Zoo is notable as much for what [Robinson] Devor, who said at Sundance that he'd 'aestheticized the sleaze right out of it,' doesn't include in his film as for what he does."

The Golden Door For Ed Gonzalez, The Golden Door is "a singularly weird and enthralling cinematic experience. One thing I can say is that Golden Door may confirm Agnès Godard's stature as our premiere cinematographic artiste... [T]he film is evasive about its intentions - though its ambiguities are in service of a great critical perspective."

Also in Slant:

  • "There's an inspirational story lurking within The Hip Hop Project, but directors Matt Ruskin and Scott K Rosenberg can't quite seem to bring it out," writes Nick Schager. More from Jessica Grose in the Voice.

  • Also, Disappearances is muddled by "mounds of metaphorical gunk," while "the degree to which Georgia Rule exploits this is-it-true-or-isn't-it mystery for dramatic tension is shameless, reducing childhood abuse to merely a manipulative plot device. Alas, it's not even an effective one." In the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor calls it "an incoherent dramedy of rampant parental insufficiency from director Garry Marshall."

  • Ed Gonzalez on Private Property: "[Isabelle] Huppert, most of us know, can do anything, and what she achieves here is almost as grandiose as the straight face she kept during Lily Tomlin's meltdown on the set of I Heart Huckabees.... Huppert's state of dead-end panic during one scene is an example of how she keeps the story at a human level, preventing it from becoming some stale and intellectual homily about female emancipation, giving tragic expression to the ethos of a great Godard film: My Life to Live."

  • And: "Anthony Giacchino uncovers a gripping lost chapter in the history of human rights activism with The Camden 28, a confident and astute reminiscence about a predominantly Catholic group's efforts to defy the Vietnam War by compromising the Selective Service System."

  • And on The Salon: "I've seen porn with better dialogue and SNL sketches with less amateur production values."

Matt Singer at IFC News: "She was brutally abused, emotionally and physically, but does that justify murder in a manner that's hard to describe as self-defense? Provoked says yes." More from Nick Schager at Slant.

"In the week of April 18th - 24th 2007, there were 190 first-run feature films playing in the city, as well as 67 re-releases, 193 films playing as part of festivals, seasons and retrospectives, 35 films shown at the Cinématheque Française and an additional 35 films screening in museums or cultural institutes," writes Matt Riviera from Paris. "This diversity, in my view, is made possible thanks to several factors: an education system which encourages cultural curiosity, critical thinking and the learning languages in school, and strong support from the State, for whom cultural diversity has been an undeniable priority, at least until now."

In the NYT:

Wall Street

  • Michael Cieply: "Even as their boss, Rupert Murdoch, pursued an uninvited takeover bid for Dow Jones this week, Fox movie executives quietly sealed a deal to revive Gordon Gekko, the suspender-loving financial prowler who made grabbing seem good in Oliver Stone's 1987 film, Wall Street."

  • For Stephen Holden, The Flying Scotsman is "a conventional underdog sports movie that should have been much more gripping." More from James Rocchi at Cinematical.

  • Jeannette Catsoulis on Race You to the Bottom: "In this walking, talking, whining movie, [Amber Benson] is charged with teaching us that relationships are complicated. Maybe so, but they're a lot easier if you lift your gaze from your navel once in a while."

  • Matt Zoller Seitz finds L'Iceberg "earns two adjectives that rarely go together: breezy and bold." More from Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE: "[I]t seems the deadpan ethos of Wes Anderson has found a home in mainland Europe. In a way, this style has come full circle - one of his guardian angels, Jacques Tati, harkened from France, and it makes conceptual sense that the playful wonders of controlled composition and quirky production design should return to their Gaul origins. But something has gone wrong here." And then, David Edelstein in New York: "It is to die and go to heaven - or at least the North Pole - for."

"If Adam's Apples isn't the best movie I see in 2007, whatever movie is will be really, really, really good," writes Dennis Harvey; also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Jason Shamai on Jindabyne.

"Filmed over 21 consecutive days, 23 years-old Kevin Smith's Clerks launched his career by famously maxing out his credit cards to finance the movie for $27,000 in 1994. Twelve years earlier, three 12 year-old boys began a shot-for-shot recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark." And Adam Besenyodi has seen it and writes for PopMatters, "The resourcefulness and originality (which might seem an odd word choice considering they copied a blockbuster frame-for-frame, but trust me, it applies here) of the production itself is a marvel."

"[Francis] Veber's latest film, The Valet, is, it must be said, not one of the director's tightest contraptions, with an inert protagonist and an ending that just sort of... ends," writes Andrew Wright. "Still, even if the belly laughs aren't there, there's just something about the old-fashioned construction that makes you grin." Also in the Stranger, Annie Wagner on Forough Farrokhzad and Little Children.

With Zodiac opening in the UK, Geoffrey Macnab, writing in the Independent, looks back over the history of serial killers in the movies.

The Odyssey is the fourth project in the Pocket Myths project; 24 groups of filmmakers make 24 shorts that, strung together, retell Homer's tale. Mickey Jou explains in the Philadelphia City Paper.

In the New Statesman, James Medhurst calls for "subtitles for the benefit of deaf viewers, or an audio description track to help blind cinema-goers.... The absurdity of disability discrimination is that protagonists often forget that we are consumers too and make decisions which actually cost them money in the long run."

New: MTV Movies Blog.

Online browsing tip #1. thefabone's stills from Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Via Coudal Partners.

Online browsing tip #2. Faux "Grindhouse Movies" at Something Awful. Via Looker.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 10, 2007 10:15 AM