September 30, 2003

Shorts, 9/30.

Kandahar A.O. Scott in the New York Times:

[M]ovies like Majid Majidi's Baran, Hassan Yektapanah's Djomeh, Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Kandahar and his daughter Samira's At Five O'Clock in the Afternoon do more than simply document the sufferings of Afghans at home and in exile. They appeal not only to the audience's conscience, but to its curiosity and imagination as well. A deep, even primal fascination exists for stories about people whose bad luck or inherent pluck propels them away from home and out into the world. Such people may, in the modern world, provide statistical fodder for policy debates, but they are also, archetypally, the heroes and heroines of fairy tales, picaresque novels and pop-culture epics.

Scott also has an appreciation of Elia Kazan running today. So does David Thomson in the Guardian; Slate reruns Jacob Weisberg's 1999 piece.

And thanks to Ian Whitney (follow those Running on Karma links as well) for pointing to Richard Severo's piece in the NYT on Donald O'Connor.

Also in the NYT:

  • Quite a bit about TV, actually, starting with Frank Rich on James Carville and George Stephanopoulos: "To watch The War Room now is to realize just how radically our media culture has changed in the wake of their success."
  • Baz Dreisinger: "Call it what you will - nouveau blackface, hip-hop-face, or simply an 'act black' routine - the white-as-black character that Ms. Regen has perfected is fast becoming an American comedic staple."
  • "On TV, Men Are the New Women," announces Alessandra Stanley.
  • David Edelstein revs up the Mystic River machine with a profile of Clint Eastwood.
  • Jon Caramanica on Fear of a Black Hat. Watching it today "is like replaying the history of hip-hop on fast forward."
  • Daniel J. Wakin on the other movie based on the Gospel of John.
  • Mim Udovitch interviews Mike White re: School of Rock.

    Oh, look, a School of Rock "Super Fan Site Weblog." Also via Fimoculous: "If They Mated" in Springfield.

    Greg has three ideas that might fix K Street.

    Kill Bill review alert: Mike Goodridge in Screen Daily. Lessee... Ah, here's a good blurb: "A delirious cinematic confection which bears a signature all his own."

    The Tagliners take a very close look at that Revolutions trailer.

    Speaking of which, Nick Edwards profiles Yuen Woo Ping. Also in the Independent, David Thomson again, this time on women in artist and writer biopics.

    Sean O'Hagan profiles Dan Aykroyd for the Observer.

    John Torvi files a fine diary from the Calgary International Film Festival for filmjourney.org.

    Chokher Bali Rabindranath Tagore meets Aishwarya Rai in Rituparno Ghosh's Chokher Bali. For Outlook India, Ashis K. Biswas writes hopefully that it "could well usher in a new era for better-made non-Bollywood films."

    Meanwhile, British Asians are hoping to break into Bollywood, reports Nick Meo in the Guardian. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit here is that one of the films mentioned, Boom, a critical bomb, Padma Lakshmi, Salman Rushdie's partner.

    David Vest has a different take on Masked and Anonymous from just about everybody else.

    Kerry Gonzalez, 25, three years probation, a $2000 fine and $5000 in restitution to Universal for leaking that copy of The Hulk this summer.

    Matt Hines in CNET on Disney's new VOD service, MovieBeam.

    "Is Christopher Nolan selling out?" asks Alison Parker. If so, he joins the company of Sam Raimi, Doug Liman, Alfonso Cuaron, Pitof, Steven Shainberg, Ang Lee, and... well, Paul Schrader, notes Hugh Hart for the San Francisco Chronicle.

    "Voilŕ, mon cinéma est mort," writes Alain Delon in Le Nouvel Observateur.

    Mighty congrats to Matt Clayfield!

    Posted by dwhudson at 3:27 AM | Comments (4)
  • September 29, 2003

    Elia Kazan, 1909 - 2003.

    Elia Kazan "Elia Kazan, the immigrant child of a Greek rug merchant who became one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history, died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 94.... Mr. Kazan also received an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1999. The lifetime achievement award was controversial because in 1952 Mr. Kazan angered many of his friends and colleagues when he acknowledged before the House Un-American Activities Committee that he had been a member of the Communist Party from 1934 to 1936 and gave the committee the names of eight other party members.... Arthur Schlesinger thundered, 'If the Academy's occasion calls for apologies, let Mr. Kazan's denouncers apologize for the aid and comfort they gave to Stalinism.' Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro extolled him, Mr. De Niro calling him a 'master of a new kind of psychological and behavioral faith in acting.'"

    - Mervyn Rothstein, today's New York Times.

    "Probably no single individual could have broken the blacklist in April 1952, and yet no person was in a better strategic position to try than Kazan, by virtue of his prestige and economic invulnerability, to mount a symbolic campaign against it, and by this example inspire hundreds of fence sitters to come over to the opposition.... It soon became clear that whatever Kazan's motives, his reputation as the epitome of a betrayer would outlast the Party's ritualistic indignation. When HUAC asked the folksinger Tony Kerber, another Group Theatre alumnus who had been named by Kazan, whether they had known each other in the Party, Kraber responded, 'Is this the Kazan that signed the contract for five hundred thousand dollars the day after he gave names to this Committee?' To the day he died in 1977, Zero Mostel, who made it back to a stardom he had never known before he was blacklisted, referred to Kazan as 'Looselips.' Sidney Zion, the editor of Scanlan's Monthly, a brash magazine that flourished briefly in the 1970s, once ran an article called 'Hello, Informer,' and to accompany it, he republished Kazan's 1952 ad and sent him a check for $150. No matter how unrelated the occasion, few serious interviewers fail to ask Kazan about his informing."

    - Victor Navasky, Naming Names, 1980. (Thanks, Ed).

    "To be considered an 'actor's director' is a double-edged sword.... A Hawks or a Welles or a Visconti or a Fassbinder is not primarily known as an 'actor's director,' but as a film artist who integrates the work of his actors into a larger and all-sided aesthetic effort. One of their films is instantly recognizable in a fashion that a Kazan film never is.... As for Kazan, somewhere around page 600 in his autobiography he sums things up fairly well: 'For years I declared myself an ardent liberal in politics, made all the popular declarations of faith, but the truth was - and is - that I am, like most of you, a bourgeois. I go along disarming people, but when it gets to a crunch, I am revealed to be a person interested only in what most artists are interested in, himself.' A remarkable comment.... In applauding Kazan the members of the Academy are applauding themselves. What are they saying? 'In similar circumstances, we would behave in precisely the same way.'... As James P. Cannon, a genuine anti-Stalinist, observed two months after Kazan's HUAC testimony, in regard to another specimen of the McCarthy days, Whittaker Chambers: 'American capitalism, turning rotten before it got fully ripe, acclaims the stool pigeons and informers, who squeal and enrich themselves, as the embodiments of the highest good they know. By their heroes ye shall know them.'"

    - David Walsh, WSWS, 1999.

    Posted by dwhudson at 12:34 AM | Comments (6)

    September 28, 2003

    Donald O'Connor, 1925 - 2003.

    Donald O'Conner "The man who performed the most sensational solo number in the history of musical comedy is dead. 'Make 'em Laugh' was like an expression of Mr. O'Connor's showbiz philosophy. Using a movie set as a backdrop, he danced, did acrobatics, tumbled to the floor, engaged in a one-sided fight with a dummy, and ran up a wall to do a backflip - singing most of the time."

    - Roger Ebert.

    Make 'em laugh
    Make 'em laugh
    Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?
    (Ha ha!)
    My dad said "Be an actor, my son
    But be a comical one
    They'll be standing in lines
    For those old honky tonk monkeyshines"

    Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
    And you can charm the critics and have nothin' to eat
    Just slip on a banana peel
    The world's at your feet
    Make 'em laugh
    Make 'em laugh
    Make 'em laugh

    Posted by dwhudson at 12:43 PM | Comments (4)

    September 27, 2003

    Weekend Shorts.

    Decasia "In this world of the perpetually vanishing present, in which only the thing not yet unwrapped can truly be trusted as new, Bill Morrison's Decasia sticks out like a leper's thumb. This film doesn't so much savour the past as make perverted love to the silver, shimmering dead."

    Do explore the site. Do watch a clip or two. I've wanted to see this film since last year's article on it in the New York Times Magazine (like several other reviews, it can be read at the site as well), and now, Jonathan Jones brings word that it's making its way to Europe.

    Also in the Guardian:

  • Steve Rose: "In the hurricane of incidents, insults, opinions, speculations and projectile groceries whirling around the calm centre of David Blaine's Perspex box over the past couple of weeks, it has almost passed without notice that the person filming it all is none other than Harmony Korine."
  • John Patterson wants his gore straight up, thanks: "PG-13? The hell with that: 13-year-olds should be at fat camp or at the junior-high prom, failing to grope their dates. I say keep the little pubescent bastards out of my grown-up bloodbath experience."
  • Tony Blair's former deputy press secretary and a Tory MP debate Stephen Frears's The Deal, which, as a political junkie, particularly when it comes to three countries - the US, where I'm from, Germany, where I live, and the UK, the key to transatlantic relations - I'd love to see.
  • Jon Henley's update on those volatile Depardieus: "The colossus of French cinema and his colossally unhappy actor son are, as they say here, en rupture."
  • David Thomson on London's Gainsborough studios, "a reason why so many British people went to the movies so often" in the 30s and 40s.

    "[Y]ou just don't go after the NRA and its supporters and then not expect them to come back at you with both barrels (so to speak)." But for Michael Moore, it's getting a little out of hand. Time to respond in full on a new page at his site devoted to "wacko attackos," and I certainly don't blame him (love the bit where the independent 'xpert on CNN is unveiled as a contributing editor to Gun Week Magazine).

    Many thanks to Ed Champion for this one: An extraordinary column by Mark Millar:

    The embryonic superhero concept wasn't even ten years old when perhaps the most illustrious director of his day, Orson Welles, seriously considered doing a Batman picture and even got as far as production designs, an early draft of a script and some casting photographs featuring various friends and colleagues in prototypes of what would eventually become the finished costumes... The real treat for me was the casting notes and confirmation letters from the actors themselves such as George Raft signing up for Two-Face (after Bogart turned it down), James Cagney as The Riddler, Basil Rathbone as The Joker and Welles' former lover Marlene Dietrich as a very exotic Catwoman with the same salubrious past Miller gave the character forty years later in Batman: Year One.
    Just imagine. As as for the Bat-Man himself, Welles was naturally thinking of... himself. But the studio wanted Gregory Peck and get this: Peck had agreed. Read the column for background and for Millar's thoughts on why the film "could have redefined cinema."

    Update: Once you've been taken, it seems so obvious in immediate retrospect. How could a project that large, involving so many well-known and well-researched names, have slipped under the radar? But: Many thanks again to Ed for swinging right by here, leaving a comment below and pointing to the AICN discussion of this hoax. More than a few of us, evidently, were snookered.

    Greg Allen makes a very nice find: 13 whiskey commercials Akira Kurosawa made in the 70s, tucked away in this doc.

    Masters of Cinema brings great Region 2 news: a 5 DVD Aki Kaurismäki boxset just in time for Christmas and, on November 3, The Battle of Algiers: "Rumours abound of US companies preparing this title for the R1 market." Let's hope one of those rumours pans out.

    There's little doubt that the future of movies is digital, but before we rush head-long into the revolution, there's no harm in thinking twice. Roger Ebert certainly has; Nikos Theodosakis responds. Interesting poking around there at Volksmovie.com. Over at the Stranger, Bradley Steinbacher previews the First Person Cinema series (on now through October 5 in Seattle) and wonders:

    What is the future of digital filmmaking? Will it lead, as I've often dreaded, to a massive flood of hack films from self-important "auteurs"? Will it become harder and harder, in coming years, to sift through the crap that's produced and find whatever quality might be buried beneath? Or will digital equipment expand the art of film, continually bringing fresh voices to a formerly cost-prohibitive art form? Will it be a true revolution?

    He settles for "probably all of the above."

    "For a small, isolated country, beset by war, and in some of the worst economic shape in its history, Israel has churned out some widely successful little movies in the last year or two." Anthony Kaufman takes stock. Also in indieWIRE: Erica Abeel interviews Jim Jarmusch and Wendy Mitchell talks to all three leads - Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo and Scott Speedman - of My Life Without Me.

    In the LA Weekly, Jon Strickland places the work of Fernando DeFuentes's "high-minded films of the 1930s" and two 50s-era horror flicks in the context of the history of Mexican cinema.

    Karisma Kapoor Aakash Gandhi in Planet Bollywood on what we can expect next from Karan Johar. Meanwhile, George Thomas points to "a nice little featurette on actors as composers" - but not before washing his hands of rediff.com's extravaganza devoted to the wedding on Monday of "Bollywood's blue-eyed girl Karisma Kapoor."

    At filmjourney.org, J. Robert Parks points to an Iranian New Wave primer and writes, "After watching In This World, it's clear that [Michael] Winterbottom's been paying attention. His movie is a virtual homage to Iranian cinema, though it has more than enough creativity to stand on its own."

    "It's clear from the previews of Ron Howard's The Missing that producers are wary of even revealing that their films are westerns." That's Scott Simmon, author of The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-Century, giving heavy quotage to the BBC's Ryan Dilley for his piece on how poorly the western, 100 years on, is faring at the moment - though we can soon look forward to Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain and John Lee Hancock's The Alamo.

    Widely blogged and for good reason: Jaime Wolf in Slate on what American Splendor owes to Annie Hall.

    Great opening quote for Rebecca Traister's New York Observer piece on the 13th annual IFP/Gotham Awards: "This is like the New York Oscars, except without any of the annoying prestige." Even so, check that list of "usual suspects"!

    In the NYT:

  • Jack Valenti strikes again: No DVD or VHS screeners for Academy members, meaning that indies' shots at an Oscar will be crippled considerably. Anne Thompson quotes ThinkFilm's Mark Urman: "It's obscene." Indeed.
  • Nancy Ramsey on the Heddy Honigmann retrospective at MoMA.
  • Elvis Mitchell is underwhelmed by PBS's The Blues, but Neil Strauss finds a problem with the series that could be easily remedied: the artists are being underpaid.
  • Alessandra Stanley and Bill Carter on the "sharp right turn" taken over at The West Wing.
  • Michael Kimmelman on "The Eerie Exactness of the Daguerrotype."
  • And in the magazine, Josh Rottenberg profiles Jack Black.

    As Sean Axmaker has done for us, Dan Fainaru ties up some loose ends left over from Venice for Screen Daily: reviews of Francois Dupeyron's Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran and Jan Jakub Kolski's Pornography.

    While most of us have given up on reading the Los Angeles Times online, fortunately, Movie City News is keeping an eye on it in case the editors slip anything past the subscribers-only barricade. And lo, not one, not two but three Manohla Dargis columns have. At MCN itself: Gary Dretzka interviews the fascinating Hamlet Sarkissian.

    Gundam Seed Natsume Maya points to a lively discussion at Anime on DVD: Who's anticipating the new seasons of which shows where? "Of the current shows, favourites seem to be Gundam Seed and Onegai Twins. For what fans in Japan are looking forward to, see graphs 11 to 15 below." There are 17 graphs in all. Meanwhile, Bamboo Dong finds two shelf worthies and five rentals: "Still no perishables for this week. Come on companies, you can sling stinkier crap than that!"

    As David Poland (currently favoring Texas Chainsaw Massacre over Kill Bill) and Jeffrey Wells (who would evidently disagree but isn't coming right out and saying as much quite yet) will tell you, it's never too early to start thinking about the Oscars. A wave of rejoicing went out across Blogdom (see Matt and the Tagliners, for example) as it was announced this week that Billy Crystal will be MCing the ceremony in February. Personally, I thought that once he got over his nervousness, Steve Martin's hosting, i.e., the second half of it, was as good as it gets, but one thing you can always count on when it comes to Crystal is an abundance of self-confidence.

    Sony wants to turn your cell phone into a TV. Might be ready by the time Doctor Who returns.

    Online viewing tip. Once again, I bow and scrape before Persistence of Vision, where there is a well-annotated pointer to AnimWatch, a site so fine a link to it now resides over there in that right-hand column.

    Posted by dwhudson at 10:33 AM | Comments (10)
  • September 26, 2003

    Returns.

    I'll have to keep it brief today (look for "Weekend Shorts" tomorrow), but a bit of good news at least: Rick McGinnis, feisty and opinionated, and therefore, a great read whether you always agree with him or not, is back and blogging. And how. "Yes, I'm back, and yes, this is a bloody huge entry."

    Luther

    Luther

    Brian Helgeland's The Order is the catalyst for a lengthy contemplation of "the spectre of resurgent anti-Catholicism," which is actually all the more interesting because he acknowledges that it's "a pretty toothless thing if its most visible manifestations are crap thrillers with unearned pretensions." I look forward to his comments on Mel Gibson's The Passion and wonder if we'll ever get the chance to read his take on Edgardo Mortara, a movie that was to have been based on the famous kidnapping of a Jewish boy by that name in 1858, instigated by Pope Pius IX (to have been played by Anthony Hopkins, while Javier Bardem was to have played the boy's father).

    My understanding is that the movie was eventually put on ice when Film Four was shut down (though you can still trade shares in the film at the Hollywood Stock Exchange). Maybe it's just as well. The Passion has been rough enough on Vatican-Jewish relations recently and Pius IX's beatification a few years ago kicked up enough dust at the time; Edgardo would more likely rub salt into rather than heal wounds.

    But what of this apparent return of religion to the screen in the wake of the wars waged by a fundamentalist Christian president against predominantly Islamic countries? Whether they take the form of "cheap thrillers" or attempts at the old-fashioned historical epic, like Luther, wouldn't it be, you know, kind of nice if, among them, there were at least one or two films that depicted the positive effect religion can have on lives? Or even a positive role model like, say, Susan Sarandon's Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking.

    Stephen Holden, though, reminds us today in the New York Times that the last thing global conflict is going to be breeding, onscreen or off, is peace, love and understanding:

    With religious fundamentalists of every stripe ferociously resisting globalization and modernity, variations of the same primal struggle are still being acted out all over the world. And you are likely to come away from Luther with the useful but gloomy realization that the movie's essential conflict is a never-ending ideological rift programmed into the species.

    By the way. Allow me this somewhat related, though not exactly film-related, pointer: Darren Hughes, specifically, the recent entries on Edward Said and Barbara Ehrenreich.

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:36 AM | Comments (3)

    September 25, 2003

    Online viewing tips.

    Online Viewing For a few months before launching GC Daily, we were running a sort of mini-blog at the site proper. Entries would often sign off with an "online viewing tip," an odd tick you'll see here now and then as well. A little something to watch, usually, though at times, just pretty pictures or a labyrinthine puzzle worth exploring.

    As a little experiment, I thought I'd round them up and post them here, but I ran into a few surprises. The first was simply how many there were, so right off, I settled on dealing with a little less than half of them, saving the rest for another day if this whole idea plays halfway decently. The second was the realization that this would be no quick cut-n-paste-n-run sort of link dump. About half of that half are no longer out there.

    Gone. 404. Or, as John Cleese might say, "This is an ex-online viewing tip."

    We're not dealing here with ancient runes chiselled into stone tablets that have since turned to dust. Or the fading pigments of centuries-old paintings. Just little files that no more than a year ago, definitely, and in most cases, just a few months ago, were still there. But aren't now. Many of them might actually still be out there, only they've moved and there's no redirect from the original URL, so they'll have to be rediscovered all over again some day. But some are truly gone. Some may be sitting on a private hard disk somewhere, but have disappeared from public view after a server blew or a domain name lapsed or what have you.

    You want a jolting reminder of how ephemeral this medium is, poke around. You don't have to stray far from the well-beaten paths.

    Is it a problem? If all you've got in mind is the disappearance of some cute little Flash animation, no, not really. Pull back a bit, though, and you begin to see all sorts of problems, and they more or less fall into two basic categories: the organization of information and the preservation of information. (Or media, or art, or stuff, whatever you want to call it.)

    The first is the lesser of the two problems. Move that cute little Flash animation and Google won't know about it until enough people discover its new location and adjust their own references to it accordingly. But if it still exists at all, there are enough curious minds scurrying around that eventually, it'll turn up again, like the love letters of a famous poet or politician, stashed in the secret compartment of an antique desk, now discovered and sending a new generation of biographers off on a new tangent of their careers, or the previously unknown screen tests of a long gone Hollywood icon. The global library shudders and shifts a bit, but its foundations don't budge.

    But at least those papers and that can of film are still around to be found. The impermanence of the digital media we're racing to load all our culture onto is not a new worry, of course. But just as an update, a reminder: It hasn't been taken care of yet.

    Digitalization has done wonders for film culture, no doubt. The DVD brought pristinely restored film classics to places they'd never been before, i.e., just about anywhere but a select few arthouses in major cities, and whatever form film's equivalent of the "celestial jukebox" eventually takes, may it carry on the trend, and hopefully, affordably, too. But the speed at which this transformation is taking place - just as an example, Kodak is announcing today a major shift of focus away from film; Kodak! - has me wondering whether there really might be something after all to the title of an article that Wired News ran in 1998: "No Way to Run a Culture." You see this sentence?

    "While most consider digital data to be the ultimate repository of information, participants at last weekend's "Time and Bits: Managing Digital Continuity" gathering at the Getty Center, warned that in reality, society is courting disaster."

    Try clicking that link. "The specified server could not be found."

    Well. On to the fun stuff, the stuff that's still there. Arranged in no order whatsoever, not chronological, not alphabetical, not thematic, a few online viewing tips.

    QT bar

    Kubrick2001: the space odyssey explained. Flash. 20 min.

    RE: THE_OPERATION.

    Andrea Flamini via ArtKrush.

    [Sadly, this one's been edited down considerably:] "A vog is the video equivalent of a blog... an informal, personal, desktop authored, low bandwidth, interactive digital movie." In an essay, manifesto and tutorial all in one, Adrian Miles, who teaches and researches this sort of thing at RMIT in Melbourne, introduces the world to what he's been up to for the last couple of years. He runs one of the first vogs we came across a while back and, via another, Solublefish.tv, we've come across online viewing tips galore: Uda Atsuko's site has gone all Japanese and seems to be rarely updated. But audiovisceral.net is jam-packed and hopping even now [it was; now, it's slowed down again]; are-f stands for Ryan Francesconi and, for the first-time viewer, is loaded with fresh QT and Flash...

    God Save the Sex Pistols. By Red via NTK.

    Go to the site for Richard Elfman, Danny's big bro. Find "Movies" and watch the clip from Forbidden Zone. Then start exploring for more.

    Jeff Krulik is probably most widely known for Heavy Metal Parking Lot, but at Planet Krulik, you can watch about 40 more plus a dozen or so films made by others he happens to like.

    Mind as Master, a pen-n-ink kung fu short.

    Toei Yakuza movie posters, via Coudal Partners.

    Take a break from the video stream. Today's Front Pages. 216 [now 261] of them from 27 [35] countries on weekdays, [fewer] on weekends.

    David Crawford's Stop Motion Studies, updated.

    Mill Showreel

    Mise-en-scčne, schmise-en-scčne. Get your quick cut kick in the gut from this showreel by one of the hottest effects houses, the Mill. Via Newstoday.

    do it tv features short video work by the likes of Gilbert & George, Jonas Mekas, Yoko Ono and more.

    A sloshed Orson Welles is featured in one of ten outsider videos that'll restore your faith in humanity. Via Boing Boing.

    Jellylova.

    Instant Films.

    A treasure trove of Japanese movie posters. It's going to look frustrating at first, but trust me. Just start clicking around.

    Mumbleboy. Via Weblogsky.

    Clips from three docs by Albert Maysles. Also: an interview. Via Signal vs Noise.

    The short films and videos of Ruben Fleischer.

    "I work mostly alone in producing my short documentaries and I have an average budget of under $100 per film. Using the Internet, it costs me next to nothing to distribute one of my films to thousands of people, and they show in a venue that never closes and requires almost no maintenance." That's Nathan Bramble, talking to the Hartford Courant. His docs. His blog.

    [Once, there was Sharpeworld. And there, it was written:] "phew... i'm finally done with the new coyle & sharpe website, an archive of mp3s, video clips, photos, and so much more, i can't even begin to tell you how much work it was to put it all together. if nothing else, it's a window into the sharpeworld ancestry, which originated on the ancient streets of san francisco in the early 1960s."

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:31 AM | Comments (4)

    September 24, 2003

    Shorts, 9/24.

    A BAMcinématek series of films directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshirô Mifune has PopMatters film critic Josh Jones writing up a sort of primer on their collaboration. The film-by-film run-down may be well-traveled ground for some, but many who may not know that "all moviegoers have felt [Kurosawa's] influence whether they know it or not" ought to find it handy.

    kurosawa.jpg

    Frederick Schroeder "caught a brand new print of Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress in a packed theater tonight. On one hand, it was great to see so many people out to see a classic film but on the other hand, it was awful because people are hell." But he's able to overcome his inner Sartre and enjoy the film: "[W]hen the climax finally comes it is such a joyous release that you want to stand up and cheer... I wish someone made movies like this today." Two Kurosawa sites via Masters of Cinema: 1, 2.

    Yi Yi tops the "Unofficial Milk Plus Canon: 2000 - September 2003." By a long shot.

    Ian Whitney points to Katie Dean's story in Wired News on the enormous and consistent popularity of Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer on P2P networks. And once again, Ian hits the nail directly on the head:

    [W]hen US companies actively block the importing of DVDs in the US - as Miramax has tried to do with Shaolin Soccer - I figure you're own your own, ethically speaking. If Miramax doesn't want you to give them your money, and they won't let you give money to the HK companies behind the film, then perhaps you should save that $10 for a pizza to eat while watching your downloaded copy.

    By now, you've probably seen that Tarantino rant Empire's snipped and run to promote its upcoming November issue: "This CGI bullshit is the death knell of cinema." Then, it gets spicy. I saw it first at Gothamist, where there's also a bit on Sam Mendes's advertising debut, a couple of spots for eBay.

    J. Hoberman in the Village Voice: "This has been an outstanding month for male comic performances - Bill Murray, of course, but also Nicolas Cage's manic turn in the otherwise bogus Matchstick Men, and Bruce Campbell's sustained impression of a geriatric Elvis in the midnight wannabe Bubba Ho-Tep." Since he's mentioned that one, let's note that Roger Avary caught Bubba director Don Coscarelli on NPR yesterday: "Listen to the webcast here, and rejoice in the possibilities of Bubba Sasquatch or Bubba Nosferatu!"

    But that's not what Hoberman's writing about. He's writing about School of Rock. Good news: "Jack Black is consistently hilarious" and the movie may be Richard Linklater's "most commercial" (obviously) but it is also his "funniest." Also in the Voice:

  • Yossi & Jagger, an Israeli gay romance set at an army outpost near the Lebanonese border, has been well-received in Europe, but would it play in Israel? Richard Goldstein reports that the reception has been better than it could have been; Hoberman reviews.
  • Melissa Anderson on "New French Connection," another BAMcinématek series.
  • And Jessica Winter handles the Voice's Michael Winterbottom interview.

    In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Robert Avila previews the local 7th annual Arab Film Festival, "now one of the largest of its kind in the country... The results are always surprising and - given the recent expansion of conflict in Iraq and Palestine and the deterioration of civil rights in the United States - have rarely seemed more urgent."

    Touchez pas au grisbi Also in the SFBG: Chuck Stephens on Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi, a "forerunner of Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur and Jules Dassin's Rififi," Johnny Ray Huston on Matteo Garrone's Embalmer and David Fear on István Szabó's Taking Sides.

    Dan Fainaru's Screen Daily reviews from San Sebastian today: Grimm ("The way Dutch director [Alex van] Warmerdam applies his wicked touch to what could vaguely be defined as a modern take on Hansel And Gretel will not be to everyone's taste," but there's potential cult material here, he says) and La Pelota Vasca, the Julio Medem film we noted yesterday was rousing such a ruckus.

    "Twin Peaks could afford to be as strange as it pleased because at its heart it was a simple whodunit," writes Dennis Cass in Slate, but Carnivŕle "groans under the weight of too much weird."

    For Movie City News, Leonard Klady lays out the nuts and bolts of focus groups and market research.

    Ever heard of Luminal? "Sounds like it could be cool," notes "sh" at Coudal Partners, "but if it never gets a distribution deal, we may never find out."

    Today's online viewing tip comes via MCN and with mixed feelings. If Linklater's venture into unabashed commercialism pays off as well as it looks like it will, in terms of both dollars and laughs, based on a viewing of the trailer, I fear the same may not hold true for Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl. Let's just hope that's just one really poorly cut trailer.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:09 AM
  • September 23, 2003

    Shorts, 9/23.

    The editors of Reverse Shot believe demonlover is "one of the most fascinating and relevant films thus far in our very young 21st Century." Accordingly, the September/October issue is all about Olivier Assayas: Six articles on various aspects of demonlover - shortish, but still, six - plus seven on his other films and a three-part interview.

    Olivier Assayas

    Midnight Eye, meanwhile, is taken with Junji Sakamoto, chatting with him briefly and reporting from the set of Out of This World, due on Japanese screens next February. Nice premise: Americans and Japanese playing jazz together in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Also: reviews of last year's Bokunchi and Tokarev (1994).

    "Rape and cinema are seemingly becoming more and more willing bedfellows." For kamera.co.uk, Bob Carroll reviews a film that sounds disturbing but not easily dismissed, Bad Guy, and points to an interview with director Ki-Duk Kim in Senses of Cinema and to the release dates, which turn up empty for the US.

    "There was once a time when Lollywood, Pakistan's movie industry centred at Lahore, rivalled Bollywood, India's moviemaking powerhouse. That was long ago. From churning out 120 films a year in the 1970s, Lollywood currently produces less than 50 movies a year." A distressed "chlim01" points to a report and starts a discussion at Plastic. (A related entry from June.)

    As for Bollywood, Outlook India's Namrata Joshi has seen the future and its name is "e-cinema." You know, that aside, some day I want to wander into a place like this:

    The fantasy is unfolding almost invisibly in Prakash Talkies, a decrepit theatre with shocking pistachio green walls. On any given day, it's peopled as much by stray cows as film junkies. A poky stall outside briskly sells oil-laden bread pakoras and privileged street dogs move in and out of the hall.

    "The first Indian film to be shot in New Zealand was Sanam Harjai in 1995 and since then 90 films have been produced entirely or in part in the country." But the competition among countries to nab Bollywood productions is heating up, evidently. Also via Movie City News: Ridley Scott, interviewed; Uma Thurman, profiled; Cate Blanchett, too; and marvelous excerpts from Christopher Doyle's journal in American Cinematographer - plus photos, all as he prepped for and shot Zhang Yimou's Hero.

    Casa de los Babys For indieWIRE, Claiborne Smith talks to John Sayles about Casa de los Babys.

    Ed Gonzalez looks ahead to the New York Film Festival for Slant. But the festival underway at the moment is Donostia-San Sebastian (great site - explore!). For the Guardian, Fiachra Gibbons reports on the storm kicked up by Julio Medem's La pelota vasca, la piel contra la piedra (The Basque Game, Skin Against the Stone). The film "urges the authorities in Madrid to reopen talks with Basque extremists," an absolute heresy in the eyes of Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and his government: "Even so Spanish critics, including some who had been hostile to the film before it was shown, as well as several ETA victims and those on death lists, gave it a five-minute standing ovation at its premiere."

    Also in San Sebastian is Screen Daily's Dan Fainaru, and fortunately, reviews at the site are still accessible to us cheapskates. Today's offerings: Fernando Perez's Suite Habana and Gerardo Herrero's The Galindez File.

    Sarah Vowell in McSweeney's: "John Ritter, Greatest Mom-Kissing, Tranquilizer-Laced-Cookie-Baking, Serial Killer Robot in TV History, Dead at 54."

    Trash City asks, "Is it live, or is it anime?"

    "As genres go, 'anthropomorphic food' has a fairly lousy track record," writes James Norton at Flak. "But Adult Swim mainstay Aqua Teen Hunger Force may be enough to singlehandedly rehabilitate the genre." What follows is a pretty entertaining interview with the creators. And there'll be a DVD in November. Any sculptures out there? Of course. Games? You bet.

    Online viewing tip. The right thing to do today is to pass this one right over Persistence of Vision where, following a collection of wunnerful tips, Greg Allen adds another in the comments lounge.

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM | Comments (4)

    September 22, 2003

    Shorts, 9/22.

    Newsweek very much wants you to see a certain movie on October 3.

    School of Rock

    David Ansen reviews it: "Let's come right out and say it: School of Rock made me laugh harder than any movie I've seen this year." Devin Gordon does the obligatory profile: "[T]his man can rock you like a hurricane. He can sing like Robert Plant - well, like Sammy Hagar at least - and he can act like John Belushi and tickle your soft spot like Elmo. [Jack] Black doesn't have fans, he has acolytes."

    Well, you know what. I don't care if it is Newsweek. I'm hoping that this movie really is wall-to-wall Jack Black and that it really is as fun as they say.

    "Coming soon, advertisements won't only be in the movies. They will be the movies." This latest development that Evelyn Nussenbaum describes in the New York Times - the "moviemercial" - is depressing, but to an extent, a lot of Hollywood product has been just that for some time. Studio packages have increasingly been tightly knit constellations - soundtracks, games, live action figures and other merchandise, DVDs, and of course, the theatrical release, which has become primarily merely the "event" to sell all the other stuff. But that's not news, is it.

    Ranting against such bald-faced salesmanship would be too easy, though, as Elvis Mitchell reminds us in his piece on Disney's summer. Few companies represent brash and ruthless commercialization of the arts quite like Disney, and yet, argues Mitchell, "two of the season's best performances, which also happen to be a couple of the best comedy turns of the year, were in Disney live-action movies." Those being, in case you haven't been taking notes, Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday, a remake, as clear a sign as any that Disney is poking around in its dusty vaults for cheap properties, and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, based on a ride, the most recent addition to that aforementioned constellation, and a sort of appealingly retro one at that.

    Also in the NYT:

  • A rather disturbing dissection of Alec Baldwin's finances and his divorce.
  • Maureen Dowd casts a glance at the Schwarzenegger campaign and smells blood.
  • Another talk with Michael Winterbottom, only Caryn James takes in the whole career, before and after In This World.
  • Matthew Rose has a piece in the magazine on Merhan Karimi Nasseri, the "inspiration" for Spielberg's next project, Terminal with Tom Hanks. Watch this space for more on another film, this one opening in December, with a similar premise. Soon.

    I wouldn't have thought it'd be Lillian Ross who'd set a per-column-inch cussin' record in the New Yorker. Then again, when it comes to Scarface, it's probably tough to avoid. Also in this week's issue: Nick Paumgarten chats with Peter Dinklage and Hendrik Hertzberg bones up on "Schwarzeneggerology."

    "He is a coward, a cheat and lazy." No, not Ahnuld. That's just Guillaume Depardieu talking up his dad.

    Back in June, Jonathan Rosenbaum called Tian Zhuangzhuang one of his favorite Chinese filmmakers and was glad to report that he hadn't botched a classic, Springtime in a Small Town. Well, I can't tell whether or not the film will see a release in the US beyond last year's Chicago International Film Festival, but Australians will be able to see it in a few days and some poor un-bylined writer for The Age talks to the director. Via Movie City News.

    "[E]ven though some fans hate this, the more popular it gets the more money can go into it and the better the quality will be - it's a self-feeding thing. I think the state of anime in general is that people care more about the quality, especially English speaking product." And he would know. That's Chris Patton, voice of, among others, Ayato Kamina in RahXephon, talking to Anime News Network's Jay Levy. Love that his favorite movie is Eyes Wide Shut.

    The new issue of Kinoeye focuses on Czech film.

    "There's something about the Bay Area that's really relaxing." Now there's a quote Carla Meyer nabs from Sofia Coppola that the San Francisco Chronicle is happy to run. Also in the paper:

    Sunday, Bloody Sunday

  • On the occasion of the release of Sunday, Bloody Sunday on DVD, Edward Guthmann recalls the film and the career of director John Schlesinger.
  • Peter L. Stein checks in on local filmmakers rushing to get their work ready in time for Sundance and runs down a list of titles.
  • Carla Meyer again, quoting Diane Lane this time.

    Roger Avary is "pumped and primed and ready for THE 4TH FILM BY QUENTIN TARANTINO." Since he's avoiding industry screenings, and probably pre-release press as well, he'll have missed Sean O'Hagan's long feature on Tarantino and the movie in the Observer, but maybe he caught:

  • A dangerous (but fun) article by Tim Cooper on the nutty making of Abby Singer. Why dangerous? Because now everyone will want to Frank Abagnale their way into celebs' faces.
  • The Weather Underground is opening in the UK, so Mark Honigsbaum fills out the historical background.
  • Kenneth Branagh is back; on stage rather than on screen, but still.

    Screen Daily's Denis Seguin is impressed by "the underlying humanity of this circus of the bizarre," Anders Thomas Jensen's The Green Butchers while Jennifer Green spots "a sharp yet ultimately gentle comedy" in Madrid, Dunia Ayaso and Felix Sabroso's Chill Out.

    Michael and Amanda watch Bound.

    Online viewing tip. Pictures that don't move this time: 5th graders reluctantly illustrate Radiohead.

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:07 AM | Comments (2)
  • Spots, 9/22.

    TV The morning after the Emmys is as fine a time as any to point to TeeVee's anti-Emmy TeeVee Awards (intro) and round up some of the recent TV-related verbiage out there.

    PBS's series on The Blues is being treated as the event of the season, and for contributing directors, you could certainly do a lot worse than Scorsese, the executive producer of the series as well, plus Wenders, Pearce, Burnett, Levin, Figgis and Eastwood. Still, the New York Times's Jon Pareles gives the sum of these disparate parts a decidedly mixed review. Nancy Franklin, writing in the New Yorker, isn't exactly blown off her couch, either.

    Also in the NYT, Jim Rutenberg captures some of the desparation at ABC, where suits and writers alike are hoping It's All Relative, one of 19 new sitcoms spread out over 6 networks debuting this season, will save the very idea of the situation comedy. And Alessandra Stanley ponders God's TV comeback.

    Fimoculous is chock full of TV stuff recently: R.E.M.'s Morning Team, "TiVo'd," a still-fresh piece from the always astounding Joshua Allen and "Things Viewers Never, Ever Say," such as, "Oh, they're LIVE at the State House. Well, alright then. There was no way I was going to believe a pre-packaged story about the budget."

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:02 AM

    September 20, 2003

    Weekend Shorts.

    The Collector "The night view is very beautiful, a spill of endless jewels glittering in limpid air; chains and towers of light that stretch as far as one can see. This is the mad, rich woman America; with the courage of her convictions, her rich madness."

    That's John Fowles, writing in March 1964 in Los Angeles. He's there because William Wyler is adapting his book, The Collector. Things did not turn out well for the movie, but for the journals, due out in the UK in early October and excerpted in the Guardian, they turn out splendidly. On Terence Stamp: "Terry has created a sort of dream life-style for himself. He says whatever comes into his head, does what he likes, lives like a sort of Hamlet without neurosis, eternally white-shirted, open-throated, thrusting, on the crest of the wave." On Samantha Eggar:

    I took Sam out this evening, to hear Segovia and to try to get to the bottom of the mystery of her nothingness. I felt like Seneca locked up with Poppaea... or something. A pretty corrupt Seneca, as I have done my best to get her [in] the sack these last days; and like everyone else have indulged wholeheartedly in the favourite sport on the Columbia lot - making fun of her behind her back.

    And so on. Read it now or save it for dessert. Also in the Guardian:

  • The fascinating story of how Andrei Tarkovsky came to direct Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov in 1983, as told by Stuart Jeffries.
  • "Perhaps the Bennifer mania really is a form of celluloid fundamentalism, a fully realised faith, its form of communion transpiring in the darkness of the theatre, not a cathedral, but transubstantiating nonetheless." Heavens, B. Ruby Rich.
  • Andrew Pulver on the making of My Summer of Love, Pawel Pawlikowski's "follow-up to Last Resort, one of the most influential and acclaimed British films of the last decade."
  • You may remember this summer's hullabaloo about the relevance of film theory. Well, that's my excuse for pointing to this extract from Terry Eagleton's After Theory. Don't let the title fool you: "If 'theory' means a reasonably systematic reflection on our guiding assumptions, it remains as indispensable as ever."
  • Another extract: Emily W. Leider's Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino.
  • Geoffrey Macnab on Sergio Leone.
  • On a related note, Sam Delaney meets Robert Rodriguez.
  • Suzie Mackenzie interviews Tilda Swinton.
  • Take the Young Love quiz. (My worst score yet: 6 out of 10.)
  • And finally, a Guardian article that's two years old. Because, as whoever it is behind Persistence of Vision writes, Gary Susman's piece on Hollywood accounting "is a vertiable master class. Yes, a slew of bloated-budget movies have come and gone since it was written, but really, nothing's changed." This entire POV entry is a wonderful rant, by the way. Do follow all the links, but particularly those to the infuriating Respect Copyrights campaign and to Ken Womack's open letter to Hollywood.

    Ian Whitney, who's just filed his Toronto report at Duell Lens, points to a profile of Takeshi Kitano in Time Asia and adds:

    [O]ver and over again, Kitano's films are catagorized as "ultra-violent", which is just a simple way Westerners (and apparently Time Asia) use to pigeonhole him. As we near the release of Kill Bill and any number of Japanese and/or Hong Kong "inspired" films, complete with pumpin' sound and 20-minute wire fights, I find it weird that Kitano's films, in which characters spend more time staring at the waves than they do fighting, are continually called "ultra-violent." Of course, the films that do get wide release in the US - Violent Cop, Fireworks and (hopefully) Zatoichi - are the violent ones; while the quiet films - Scene at the Sea, Kids Return, Kikujiro, Dolls - are given the smallest releases possible, if they get a theatrical release at all. Perhaps describing Kitano's films as violent says more about us than it does about him.

    Speaking of violence. The 20th anniversary of Brian De Palma's remake of Howard Hawks's Scarface (1932), with Al Pacino reinventing the role created by Paul Muni, has the Washington Times's Scott Galupo musing that the 1983 version "is still a touchstone for gangsta subculture, in ways both superficial and substantive." The Chicago Sun-Times runs an excerpt from Roger Ebert's original "**** review" and tells us to look forward to a reassessment next Sunday. Both via Movie City News. The DVD, by the way, is out on September 30.

    David Caute reviews Peter Conrad's Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life for the Spectator.

    Didn't I just write, "the argument over Mel Gibson's The Passion is entering a new phase. The shouting is dying down," etc? Well, Frank Rich doesn't exactly come out shouting, but he's certainly not eager to put this to rest. Also in the New York Times:

  • Stephen Holden on "Film's Hottest Composer," Stephen Trask.
  • Alexander Stille: "Inexpensive modern media, like the audio- or videotape, have helped level the playing field between small rebellions and large established states."
  • "In any given week, you can easily watch 24 hours of Law and Order product, an entire day's worth, and in some weeks the total reaches 30 hours or more." Charles McGrath explains how that's happened.
  • Noam Scheiber asks FCC Chairman Michael Powell what he watches. Just about everything, turns out.

    Maybe he should turn to Salon's Heather Havrilesky for advice on which sitcoms to catch this fall and which to avoid.

    Robert Duvall finally has his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    "It's a very participatory thing - the filmmakers and cast have been great, coming to the shows and judging costume contests, doing give-aways, performing music from the film," Wet Hot American Summer producer Howard Bernstein tells indieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell about the recent "Rocky Horror-like midnight screenings" in New York. Mitchell's got more newsy bits, too, on November's AFI FEST, San Diego's fest, wrapping this weekend, Slamdance Screenplay Competition winners, and a brief chat with Chloë Sevigny about demonlover: "It's pretty hardcore. I was shocked."

    Also in indieWIRE:

  • Howard Feinstein on Nicolas Philibert and To Be and To Have - a rerun, I believe, but relevant to the current release. He also talks with Michael Winterbottom about In This World.
  • Brian Brooks looks ahead to the London Film Festival (October 22 to November 6) and Slamdance (January 17 - 24).

    Sight & Sound, October The October issue of Sight & Sound is up and onliners get Edward Buscombe on Once upon a Time in Mexico and Paul Merton on Charlie Chaplin. In the print edition, there are evidently more contributors to the magazine's Chaplin package, but Merton is more than fine:

    Charlie's own favourite among his films was The Gold Rush... I took my wife Sarah to see the film at the Royal Festival Hall a couple of years ago. She couldn't believe a film could be so funny. For the seven minutes that the cabin teeters on the brink of the precipice, the audience couldn't stop laughing. And there's nothing that compares to being engulfed by waves of beautiful laughter.

    Debra McCorkle in AlterNet: "For the mere price of nine months in jail, [Tommy Chong] can spend the rest of his life as a hero for libertarian ideals. He doesn't have to kiss John Ashcroft's ass." Let's hope Chong feels the same way.

    Peter Debruge interviews Underworld director Len Wiseman for Film Threat.

    Online viewing tip. Well, I want to point to a couple of silly things, neither of them particularly new, either, so let me preface with: If you're looking for a good meaty read this weekend, take a ride beneath the "Empire's Shadow" with Susan Willis in the New Left Review.

    Now then. Awful Plastic Surgery. Stealth Disco.

    Posted by dwhudson at 9:48 AM | Comments (5)
  • September 19, 2003

    Austin, Texas.

    That's the place to be this weekend, and for that matter, the next couple of weekends as well. Just listen to Marc Savlov running out of breath trying to get it all into his "Short Cuts" column in the Austin Chronicle.

    nuclear-family.jpg

    Cinematexas, still on a roll with that incredible roster of speakers, not to mention the films themselves. Loud and Clear Youth Festival, coming up tomorrow.

    Screening tomorrow evening is Babette Mangolte's Les Modéles de Pickpocket, a film that, as Marrit Ingman explains, "catches up with the principals of Pickpocket - [Pierre] Leymarie, Marika Green, and Martin Lassalle - more than 50 years later, examining how their work with Bresson shaped their lives."

    A few days later, the Texas Documentary Tour rolls into town. "Most simply put," writes Anne S. Lewis, "Nuclear Family is a film in three parts about Texas-style cheerleading tryouts, high school football, and weddings, and how these cultural rituals - shot through, as they are, with outrageous stereotypical excess and hubris - are handed down from one generation to the next." But reading director Don Howard elaborate for Lewis, you realize that might be a bit too simple.

    Then, next weekend sees the premiere of local hero Richard Linklater's School of Rock, with the director and stars Jack Black and Sarah Silverman in attendance and, take it away, Savlov, "the premiere of the locally shot remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, sponsored by the Alamo Drafthouse and Ain't It Cool News, at the Travis State School for the Criminally Insane (or, as we like to call it, the School of Shock/Schlock/Beef Stock)!"

    Hundreds of Austinites no doubt had a blast pitching in as extras this summer on The Alamo and are now anxiously awaiting its premiere on Christmas Day.

    But for those of us who, very unfortunately, cannot be in Austin this weekend or next or at Christmas, the one thing we can share with the lucky bastards who can is a good read: Tim McCanlies, at length on screenwriting, shooting Super 8s and shorts, where Dancer, Texas came from, why The Iron Giant isn't a musical, and of course, on his new film, Secondhand Lions. Not all reviewers are as enthusiastic about the film as Chronicle editor Louis Black, but McCanlies's tales of its making are great fun.

    Also in the Chronicle: The Secondhand Lions (and Spy Kids and Chainsaw Massacre) menagerie; Raoul Hernandez on Skin Deep: "[W]atching [John] Ritter carry a film with such ease is to mourn the fact that no one other than [Blake] Edwards ever realized the comedian's big-screen potential"; and, though only tangentially related to film, a brief, entertaining email interview with Mark Dery.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:33 AM

    September 18, 2003

    Shorts, 9/18.

    "Here is a potentially remarkable career taking shape. A sprightly 42 (and looking considerably younger than that), Michael Winterbottom has already directed some two dozen films and telefilms." So begins Scott Foundas's quick assessment, laced with quotes, of the versatile, prolific yet accomplished director.

    in-this-world.jpg

    Ella Taylor's isn't bad, either: "Michael Winterbottom belongs to a shrinking fraternity of filmmakers driven more by the desire for an interesting life than for a linear career path." More importantly, her review of In This World, the Golden Bear winner at Berlin this year, a decision I'd have made as well, will get people out to see it.

    Also in the LA Weekly: Foundas's report from "not so much the Toronto Film Festival as a Toronto Film Festival."

    Fresh from the Yes-No-Maybe-I-Don't-Know-Can-You-Repeat-The-Question Dept: The original Star Wars trilogy might come out on DVD after all. "You know, it seems like we go through this about once a year," sighs Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits. This year, "Word is that Lucasfilm is pleased with the format of The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection they're releasing on 10/21 in conjunction with Paramount - so pleased, in fact, that they're planning to use the same format to release the classic Star Wars films."

    Well, I hope so. But probably not for the reasons you might guess. If these films are finally released on DVD and, far less likely, considering George Lucas's well-known contempt for his fans, in their original theatrical versions, we'll be able to see all the more clearly that, of the successive late 70s hits that created the blockbuster mentality in Hollywood - to a certain extent, The Godfather and The Exorcist, but most definitely, Jaws and Star Wars - it's only on the latter that time has visited its full, merciless cruelty.

    Via Fimoculous, "The Fast-Forward, On-Demand, Network-Smashing Future of Television," by Frank Rose in Wired. The piece had Rex "all bubbly at first, but it didn't really say anything we don't already know." Indeed. On the rad scale, it comes nowhere near Michael Lewis's piece in the New York Times Magazine on what TiVo was going to do to TV as we know it three years ago. Then again, that may be a good thing. There is still such a thing, after all, as commercial television and Lewis at least implied back then it'd be a goner by now. No, Rose's article is less about revolution and more about the nitty gritty of a long-term evolution.

    In an accompanying piece, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's K Street is held up as an example of how technology is "opening up possibilities," but to Noy Thrupkaew at Alternet, the series "seems a little drab," upstaged as it is by the ongoing circus in California. For Michael Kinsley, though, the series is a sign of a-changin' times:

    With the premiere last Sunday of K Street, an HBO comedy/drama series about Washington lobbyists, the industry has plunged to new depths of respectability.... There was a time - until, say, 25 years ago - when lobbyists used to deny being lobbyists... And now, hand-held-camera populist nobility has been conferred upon a group of people who charge a lot of money to give disproportionate influence in our democracy to people with even more money. And somewhere in America, there is a child who watched K Street and is thinking this week, "I want to be a lobbyist when I grow up."

    Also in Slate: A piece by Steven Waldman, editor of Beliefnet (where they've got an "Exclusive Webcast" of the Dalai Lama's appearance in Boston last Sunday), is a sign that the argument over Mel Gibson's The Passion is entering a new phase. The shouting is dying down, giving way, at least in some quarters, to a more considered give-n-take. Waldman makes three proposals: 1) "Jews should admit that some of their forefathers probably helped get Jesus killed." At the same time, 2) The Gospels do tend to willfully distort their role, and 3) Christians who cling to the "Christ-killer" epithets for Jews "are being transparently un-Christian" - and not just because it isn't nice. More importantly, because Christ's very mission was to die.

    Well, Waldman doesn't put it quite that way, of course, but still. Via Movie City News, another interesting piece on all this from Donald Harman Akenson, an author of a couple of books on the subject, in the Globe and Mail. His argument is that Gibson hasn't done himself any favors by basing his movie on the Gospel of John, "the closest [of the four] to being hate literature." Which is an eye-opener to me, since I was always taught that John was both the headiest - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"? As Keanu would say, "whoa" - and the one to turn to for reassurances that what it all boils down to is God's love; come hell or high water, the ending's going to be a happy one. But then again, it's been a very, very long time. I suspect that, for all the controversy, Gibson may well be pleased that many of us who haven't given any of this a second thought in years are stroking are chins once again.

    Also via MCN, Suvendrini Kakuchi in the Asia Times: "It is no secret that Japan's independent film industry is at a crossroads.... Japanese releases peaked at close to 500 on the average in the 1960s, but has fallen to 293 releases a year these days."

    Veronica Guerin Paul Fischer talks to Cate Blanchett for Moviehole. They're supposed to be talking about Veronica Guerin, but they do get a few words in about Ron Howard's The Missing ("It's one of the scariest films I've seen") and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, in which she'll play Katharine Hepburn at a not-so-great point in her life and career.

    Sofia Watch: Tonight, Charlie Rose. Thanks, Matt.

    USA Today's Susan Wloszczyna rounds up a slew of fairy tale movies in production, including Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm. Via the SXSW News Reel

    Jason Silverman in Wired News on Mania Fest, opening today and running through Sunday: "[P]resenters and panelists include directors Clive Barker (Hellraiser), George Romero (Night of the Living Dead), Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Guillermo del Toro (Blade II). The 10-time Oscar nominee Stan Winston, who created the special effects for films including Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Terminator 3, Aliens and Artificial Intelligence, will be given the inaugural Maniac Award for lifetime achievement."

    And finally, news that can only give us hope for a better Friday. "jc" at Coudal Partners puts it this way: "No. No. No. If you've never read Confederacy of Dunces get on it, because if this report is true about the movie, it's really going to screw up your perception of the book." But of course, we've already found out that not everyone shares "jc"'s horror.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:46 AM

    September 17, 2003

    Our Japan thing, plus shorts.

    demonlover Quite a bit of overlap in the film departments of the duelling NYC alt.weeklies this time around. And why not. After all, there's an Olivier Assayas retrospective in town, opening tomorrow, and his demonlover is, as Film Comment dubs it, the "movie of the moment." Can't ignore that.

    But let's start with this, from the Village Voice's Michael Musto: "Last year, the big indie movie trend, for whatever reason, was Douglas Sirk homages, and a couple of seconds ago, it was kids mutilating themselves and/or each other (Thirteen, Zero Day, Home Room, Party Monster, and soon Elephant). Well, drop your rifles and pick up your sake glasses because now it's quirky romances with a rarefied Japanese twist." No kidding. Musto mentions Sue Brooks's Japanese Story and, of course, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation.

    But drop the quirky romance criterion and take a second look at the fall schedule. We've got Japan on the brain this season. Quentin Tarantino cross-dresses the samurai flick in Hong Kong action attire with Kill Bill, Assayas has his demonlovers chase after hentai, and let's not forget the Yasuziro Ozu retrospective next month. One could strain for some sort of explanation - the Japanese economy is finally on the mend, helping Japan to reclaim some of its former global mindshare or some such - but that'd be quite a stretch. It's more likely simply a confluence of individual interests and experience on the one hand - Coppola's lonely nights in Tokyo, Tarantino's grazing on, Assayas's long-term interest in pan-Asian modernity - happenstance in the release schedule on the other hand.

    At the same time, there's something to what Assayas tells Dennis Lim in the Voice:

    It scares me that independent films are not evolving fast enough. Mainstream films are at least somehow connected with a collective subconscious. They're collective works - there's a director, but ultimately no one made it, the machine created it. Without knowing it, they end up expressing pretty complex things about our fears and obsessions, even when they have the most primitive narratives. Something like Terminator 3 - on the one hand, it's a conventional third installment, but it's also a movie about how men are scared of the modernity of femininity. To me that film was saying that men are outdated, but girls are so connected, so much sharper, and a major threat.

    Pop culture as the most telling set of symptoms of whatever's ailing us at the moment? Hardly a fresh idea, but it's expressed well and with a twist, a reminder that independent work might tell us something about the next five minutes, but it's far from reliable; whereas pop can only speak to the present moment, maybe the past five minutes, but is far more often right on the money.

    Ok, but what about the film. Lim is impressed, though he does note that demonlover "start[s] to fissure somewhere around the halfway mark - a detonation that may at first seem Lynchian, akin to the rupture that splits Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive in two, though it's more of a terminal hemorrhage in this case." J. Hoberman more or less agrees, but over at the New York Press, Armond White isn't having any of it: "Problem is, like any Prada-wearing hipster, Assayas easily accepts moral defeat." While he's at it, he takes a swipe at David Cronenberg's Spider for good measure. It's left to Saul Austerlitz to recommend the retrospective anyway.

    Also in the NYP: Matt Zoller Seitz's substantive and fair obit for Leni Riefenstahl: "One can no more imagine moving pictures without Riefenstahl than one can imagine the alphabet without the letter 'E.'" By comparison, it's difficult to know what Michael Atkinson is after with his two paragraphs other than maybe a prose poem. Then again, Voice critics have been leaking that, with the paper's new design, their word count has been considerably snipped.

    Even so, besides the usual reviews, there's still room for:

  • Elliot Stein's preview of the John Frankenheimer retrospective.
  • Jessica Winter talks to Jörgen Leth about the hoops Lars von Trier made him jump through for The Five Obstructions.
  • John Giuffo interviews Neil Gaiman over breakfast.
  • Rick Perlstein dreams up some kickass TV spots for the Democrats.

    And then there's Toronto. Yes, still. It may have wrapped on the weekend, but festivals are pretty intense and this one, already major, may have just become a little more major this year. Attendees are still working through what they've seen; some of them are:

  • J. Hoberman, placing emphasis on films by two Canadians, Guy Maddin and Neil Young; plus, an amusing footnote: What Toronto had but the New York Film Festival won't.

  • "Sex made a big comeback, and it was amazing how graphic it was," reports Rex Reed in the New York Observer. "Meg Ryan, Ewan McGregor, Mark Ruffalo, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts all turned up naked onscreen." But even that wasn't enough to keep Reed from bailing out early.

  • Johnny Ray Huston goes against the flow in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, championing Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and Bruno Dumont's Twentynine Palms. And where others saw Toronto 2003 as a festival all but obsessed with sex, Huston saw "an event containing some angry responses to Stars and Stripes warmongering." Also in the SFBG: David Fear previews ˇCine Latino! and Laurie Koh blurbs Resfest.

  • The indieWIRE team picks out a sort of Toronto top ten while Brandon Judell looks back to the Montreal World Film Festival, listing and annotating the winners.

  • David Poland lists the films he liked and the ones he has reservations about.

  • In Screen Daily, Allan Hunter reviews John Irvin's The Boys From County Clare and Lee Marshall is still digesting Venice, handing in a review for Jacques Doillon's Raja.

  • And in the New York Times, Elvis Mitchell zooms in on three films, The Five Obstructions, Mario Van Peebles's How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass and Afropunk: The Rock 'n' Roll Nigger Experience; Dave Kehr captures a moved Omar Sharif and grabs a few quotes from Denys Arcand.

    Filmmaker Hey, looks who's on the cover of Filmmaker. You figure half an hour for most interviews, who knows what sort of access for the NYT Magazine, travel and so forth, and you're looking at one helluva campaign. She must be exhausted. But Anne Thompson doesn't have to try to sell a movie ticket or the brand "Sofia Coppola." She can assume the magazine's readers are more interested in the actual making of the film, which makes her piece, even after all the other Lost in Translation pieces strewn around out there, worthwhile.

    By the way. A slightly tipsy Rex sez: "And dude, you've totally gotta see this Chemical Brothers video she starred in." True, true. So, is hubby Spike Jonze about to do something with Chuck Palahniuk? Could be, could be.

    Also in the Fall issue of Filmmaker:

  • Nick Jarecki interviews Tom McCarthy, whose debut feature, The Station Agent, picked up a couple of awards at Sundance.
  • Peter Bowen on Shattered Glass.
  • Anne Thompson again: "This summer, indie counterprogramming worked like a charm."
  • Don Lenzer on shooting docs.
  • Mary Glucksman focuses on six genuine indies.
  • Jason McBride visits Guy Maddin.
  • Bari Pearlman checks in on the Flicker film festivals, little celebrations of Super 8 in ten towns here and there.
  • And then, 8 suggestions for further clicking.

    Interviews at Moviehole: Joe Pantoliano and Diane Lane.

    Some of us have read all the critical thrashing and heard all the nasty things there are to be said about Quentin Tarantino and yet remain... well, I'm no fan of the word "fan," but let's just say, supportive. And yet the trailers for Kill Bill leave some of us - me, anyway - a little antsy. Chris Suellentrop gives voice to our worries in Slate:

    After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix movies, will yet another kung fu movie choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping seem tired? Given Tarantino's time in the wilderness and the middling box office gross for Jackie Brown, are there enough Tarantino fans left to make Kill Bill a big hit? How will it fare in the Oct. 10 critical face-off with the Coen brothers' Intolerable Cruelty? Is Tarantino becoming a cult director, or will he again achieve mass appeal? But the most interesting question has gone largely unasked: Will this movie finally put to rest the whispers that Tarantino can't write a screenplay by himself?

    Speaking of The Matrix, if you're hardcore about it, your reading assignment for this evening is "Making the World Safe for Fashionable Philosophy!." Joe Milutis in CTheory. And yes, this will be on the final.

    "How To Build Your Children's Self-Esteem Using the Wizard of Oz." It's a a 45-minute workshop in London. Pete May reports in the Guardian.

    Online viewing tip. Michael at SignalStation points enthusiastically to the trailer and official site for Battlefield Baseball, "a Japanese horror-comedy that looks to be a surefire hit for fans of Shaolin Soccer and Versus. It's got nerds vs. zombies on the baseball diamond and if you missed it, the Midnight Eye review is still right here."

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:48 AM | Comments (6)
  • September 16, 2003

    Shorts, 9/16.

    Paper The dead-tree version of the October issue of Paper looks like it'd be fun to flip through. Available online is Frank Owen's Party Monster package: profiles of Macaulay Culkin, Chloë Sevigny and producer-writer-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The film's based on Disco Bloodbath, a memoir by James St. James, who's profiled in the New York Times today.

    While we wait for the new issue of Filmmaker, there is at least one new short piece up. Andre Salas talks with Passionada director Dan Ireland.

    Heather Havrilesky watches K Street for Salon: "'Look how we get to play, play, play wherever we want with whomever we want!' is the smug message of this project... Instead of blurring lines between fiction and reality, K Street sharpens them, making us so aware of the manipulations and setups and improvised moments that we can't remotely get involved in the drama."

    You've surely noticed that the lesbian kiss is the fashion statement of the season; Bollywood has, too. Via Beware of the Blog.

    "The bittersweet realities of a post-Communist world are threatening to create a mini movie genre." Allan Hunter in Screen Daily on Vodka Lemon.

    At Movie City News, Gary Dretzka goes chasing after the answer to the question: Whatever happened to Ripley's Game with John Malkovich, "exactly the kind of stimulating and intelligent motion picture that's now become an endangered species in Hollywood"? Turns out, no one seems to know, really. Also at MCN: Ray Pride on Lost in Translation and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

    Speaking of which. Ann Hornaday spends some quality time with husband-and-wife team Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellán for the Washington Post: "It's a love story."

    Bookforum Doug Cummings announces a poll for the "DVD of the Year" hosted by the moderators at the amazing Masters of Cinema. There's no rush; this'll take months yet, of course, "but you may wish to start thinking about which disc you'll pick." Doug's also been reading Fritz Lang: Life and Work, Pictures and Documents, a book reviewed in the Winter 2001 issue of Bookforum by one of my own favorite writers on film, Geoffrey O'Brien.

    Online viewing tip. Rob Walker on the new Converse ad:

    Converse is the no-BS yin to Nike's all-style-and-image yang... The clever thing about the "First School" notion is that while it appears to push the idea of an "authentic" basketball shoe, it's really more about an "authentic" fashion statement. That sounds like an oxymoron, and strictly speaking it is. But in marketing, and maybe everywhere in pop culture at this point, "authentic" doesn't really mean authentic. It means "not so obviously phony."

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM | Comments (2)

    September 15, 2003

    Shorts, 9/15.

    Indira Gandhi Having gone a little bonkers over the weekend, let's keep these shorts short.

    In Outlook India, Sheela Reddy surveys the coming onslaught of books and movies about Indira Gandhi now that there's a full-blown nostalgia wave going on. Quote from Kamleshwar, the screenwriter for Aandhi and another upcoming loosely-based-on-the-real-life biopic: "Wherever you go, people talk of her, wish she was here now. They are feeling the vacuum."

    For the Globe and Mail, Ben King describes what it's like to be an extra for a Bollywood production - there's even a sidebar telling you how you can, too.

    Mark Olsen interviews Quentin Tarantino for the Independent. Once the whole why'd-you-split-it bit is over, it gets pretty interesting.

    The Deal, a TV movie about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, may not sound like riveting entertainment when you first hear of it, but consider that the director is Stephen Frears. Tim Adams preps us before talking with the director: "Frears's film, scripted by Peter Morgan, borrows much of the substance of its story from James Naughtie's book The Rivals. It has, since it was announced, enjoyed an intriguing little history of its own." Also in the Observer:

  • Amelia Gentleman on the "sordid aftermath of the death of one of France's best-loved actresses (Marie Trintignant) at the hands of her rock star lover."
  • Peter Conrad on Leni Riefenstahl. Very biting towards the end there - there are times when I share the sentiment, but I'd still like to see what Jodie Foster would do with the story.
  • Liz Hoggard on Jürgen Teller's home movies.

    Toronto wrap-up No. 1: Eugene Hernandez does the honors at indieWIRE. And how. Quite a report, the gist of which, if you haven't heard, is that Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi and Denys Arcand's Barbarian Invasions came away with top honors.

    In the Guardian's Toronto report, B Ruby Rich says she quite likes Jane Campion's In the Cut. Her take on Meg Ryan's career move - "So long typecast as the kittenish girl next door with clean-cut sex appeal, she thoroughly reinvents herself as Frannie, an introverted schoolteacher who, opening up to the kinky seductions of a homicide detective, becomes the target of a serial killer" - is shared by just about everyone - except for Ryan herself, as we read in Moviehole.

    Greg Allen caught K Street and has a few things to say about the show's camerawork and its metrosexual agenda.

    Today's Bill Murray piece: A fashionably late entry from Venice, via phone no less, from Lillian Ross at the New Yorker.

    In the New York Times:

  • Frank Rich: "Only in America could a guy who struts in an action-hero's Hollywood costume and barks macho lines from a script pass for a plausible political leader."
  • J. Hoberman: "The Manchurian Candidate belongs to a cycle of movies specific to the Kennedy era."
  • John Schwartz on who's leaking those digital copies of Hollywood flicks to KaZaA - it's "an inside job"! Cindy Sherman
  • Jacques Steinberg on the Hollywood Reporter's new ad campaign. The idea: poke fun at their reader's "self-involved world of overnight grosses and plastic surgery."
  • Dave Smith on clueless parents in the movies.
  • Amei Wallach on Cindy Sherman curating a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. Worth another look if it's been a while: Sherman's Untitled Film Stills.

    Rex Sorgatz has found the uber-meta MP3 of the moment.

    There's something about George Lucas that's bugging Tagliner Alistair Reid these days.

    Bamboo Dong's fallen for a robot. She's still got time to watch anime, though: 3 shelf worthies, 5 rentables, no perishables.

    Online viewing tip. The CBC's feature on Norman Jewison.

    Posted by dwhudson at 11:21 AM
  • September 14, 2003

    Sunday Shorts.

    Tokyo Story Thanks to infuriating connection problems, these "Weekend Shorts" have a new name. There's a lot to catch up with, so fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy entry.

    As Doug Cummings writes at filmjourney.org, "The latest issue of Film Comment has been released and thankfully it's better material than the magazine has generally offered the past year. Its article on Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) and his centennial celebrations is particularly of note, particularly since it's online."

    There's also a piece on Olivier Assayas's demonlover: "[T]his elegant cyberthriller captures a certain state of the contemporary world with the acuity, sensitivity, and precision of a seismograph registering the planet's tectonic shifts."

    But back to the Ozu article, where Richard Combs writes, "The remarkable imposition of the Ozu 'image' beginning in 1949 depends on a narrow range of subject and theme, worked through a comparably narrow range of stylistic choices-choices made from the common pool of classical or mainstream movie techniques," and reminds us that that is certainly not the complete picture. If for no other reason, the program for the retrospective, with film descriptions by Derek Lam, looks like a feast.

    Like many of us, Matt Clayfield is eagerly awaiting the Criterion release of Tokyo Story. A footnote: Richard Corliss's overview of the relationship between Japanese film and Hollywood, part of a special issue on Japan in Time back in April 2001.

    The films screening at the Global City exhibition in Tokyo look fascinating. Via Natsume Maya.

    "The American firebombing of Japanese cities in 1945 is the defining imagery in the new documentary film by Errol Morris, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons of Robert S. McNamara to be released in December by (Catch the irony) Sony Pictures Classics." Larry Calloway's perceptive piece on the film and its historical context - "[McNamara] is not actually doing mea culpas... He does not follow the postmodern argument... that genocide is an absolute crime and that America throughout its history has failed even to recognize it" - comes by way of Matt Langdon's Rashomon. See also Matt's father's review of the film and our own conversation with Morris.

    Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney have run into severe trouble with their show, set to premiere Sunday night on HBO, K Street - there's a clip there in which they and their star political consultants explain the concept of the show, a "fusion of reality and fiction," incorporating behind the scenes wheeling and dealing on Capital Hill (though, of course, those scenes wouldn't be behind anything at all anymore, would they?) and featuring cameos by some of the Senate's better known faces. But now, as Greg Allen and others are noting, Trent Lott and George Voinovich, the Republican chairmen of the Senate Rules Committee and Ethics Committee, have just thrown a hefty wrench in the works. They say the show flies in the face of a ban on filming in the Capital for "commercial or profit-making purpose." Now what? Greg offers a solution: "[G]et the crew - and the talent - some press passes and slap some CNN logos on those cameras."

    K Street

    The logos might not hack it, but the passes conceivably could. At any rate, Greg makes some interesting associations between who's appeared on camera so far and who's collected the most contributions from the cable industry. On top of that, the folks at Boycott-RIAA.com take note of who's on the guest list for the red carpet premiere. Worth a peak.

    Festival round-up:

  • Beginning, of course, with Toronto, which has just wrapped. First things first, though: head back to filmjourney.org for J. Robert Parks's terrific reviews; personal, diary-like entries are the way to go with film festivals. The "news article" format just doesn't hack it, even for the best of papers.

  • The highlights are still at indieWIRE: Eugene Hernandez takes notes as John Sayles talks about screenwriting and, with Wendy Mitchell and Brian Brooks, at the European Directors Panel, at some secluded spot with William H. Macy and on and on; Peter Brunette reviews Michael Winterbottom's Code 46 more positively than others have, plus Jim Jarmusch's Coffee & Cigarettes and Siddiq Barmak's Osama; and Anthony Kaufman has a very bookmarkable run-down of new international directors to keep an eye on.

  • Screen Daily reviews: Allan Hunter on Shattered Glass (he likes it) and Underworld (he doesn't like it) and Dan Fainaru on The Company (not one of Altman's best, but not bad, either).

  • Elvis Mitchell talks with Denzel Washington for the New York Times.

    The 11th Cine Latino! fest kicks off on September 17 and runs through the 21st in San Francisco, where the World According to Shorts is already underway (wraps on the 17th) and RESFEST (9/18 - 21) events are also happening.

    Jen Tracy and Anes Alic look back at the 9th Sarajevo Film Festival for Transitions Online.

    cinematexas

  • Meanwhile, the Austin Chronicle runs a package on what looks like quite an event, the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival: "It's a tribute to Cinematexas 8 that we couldn't hope to do justice to its overwhelmingly inviting lineup by discussing each and every program... not to mention each and every attendee." Nonetheless, Marc Savlov does talk to Todd Haynes, who says about shorts, "I think it's the only way to start making films, period." Kimberley Jones looks ahead to the Oskar Fischinger retrospective and Wells Dunbar previews the films of Jean Painlevé.

    Also in the Chronicle: Busy Marc Savlov has a long conversation with Robert Rodriguez's wife and producer, Elizabeth Avellán, about Once Upon a Time in Mexico. It must have been quite a shoot.

    "[Boze] Hadleigh has written 15 books, mostly on the movies and Hollywood, and most famously on gays and lesbians in Hollywood." Hazel-Dawn Dumpert meets him and writes him up in the LA Weekly.

    Question. Is it time to start worrying that Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation is getting too much good press? Here's what's supposed to be a little movie, "a tiny movie," as Bradley Steinbacker puts it in the Stranger, and yet: "It is as close to a miracle as you're likely to get this year." And then along comes a massive cover package in the LA Weekly: Ella Taylor's profile of the director, Juan Morales's chat with Scarlett Johansson, Scott Foundas's review and assessment of Bill Murray's career and John Payne's appreciation of the soundtrack.

    Then, in the New York Times, there's Elvis Mitchell's rave ("[O]ne of the purest and simplest examples ever of a director falling in love with her star's gifts. And never has a director found a figure more deserving of her admiration than Bill Murray") and AO Scott's laudatory profile of the star; and Slate's David Edelstein, who hasn't liked a lot of movies recently: "This is the Bill Murray performance we've been waiting for: Saturday Night Live meets Chekhov." And so on and so on. You want to yell out, "Don't peak too early, Sofia!", but it may be too late.

    Speaking of Slate, by the way, it's there that Ed Finn tackles the question: "Can Wham-O Sue Over Dickie Roberts?"

    Daniel Kraus, a filmmaker himself, has a rip-roaring conversation with Cabin Fever director Eli Roth. Also in Salon, Charles Taylor: "Next to the Hong Kong action picture So Close, nearly every Hollywood thriller of the summer looks like an elementary-school project thrown together the Sunday night before it was due. Director Corey Yuen's work here is fast, exciting and, above all, clean."

    Quite an interview Todd R. Ramlow's conducted with Peter Friedman, director of Silverlake Life: The View from Here, for PopMatters. AIDS, science, activism... this is not typical press junket fare.

    Top ten Bollywood bad guys? Planet Bollywood's Vijay Ramanan runs them down.

    Michael Caine tells Moviehole's Paul Fischer what it was like salvaging The Quiet American: "I wouldn't do it again. It was too tough for me; nearly killed me that did; nearly killed me."

    In the Guardian:

  • Julie Flint never met Leni Riefenstahl, but she has quite a story to tell: "Riefenstahl had been beguiled by a dictator once before and we were afraid she might make the same mistake again." By the way, if you thought she wouldn't be kicking up storms anymore now that she's gone, just check this thread over at Plastic.
  • John Patterson is horrified by the recent slew of American remakes of British originals.
  • Brian Helgeland to Sean Clarke: "You have to decide you're a director, and stop taking the shit."
  • Brianne Murphy, pioneer, 1933 - 2003: "She became the first woman to join the American Society of Cinematographers, and remained its only female member for 15 years."
  • Molly Haskell sorts out which of the recent mother-daughter movies is the best. You might be surprised.
  • Nick Paton Walsh on the real-life tragedy that shadows Venice winner, The Return.
  • David Thomson says they just don't make movie posters like they used to. Not to mention movie theaters and: "No one now seems to know how to take movie stills that feel like moments from the dream." Boorman's Book
  • The unstoppable Thomson also reviews John Boorman's book, Adventures of a Suburban Boy.
  • Andrew Mueller explains why Gregor Jordan's Ned Kelly in no way measures up the real Ned.
  • Nick Cave on Johnny Cash.
  • Guardian reader Michael Ahmed's marvelously funny review of Gus Van Sant's Gerry.
  • The superhero quiz.

    Microsoft aims to have Windows Media Series 9 supercede MPEG-2, "a compression standard that is the foundation of satellite, cable, video-editing systems and DVDs," reports Stefanie Olsen in CNET. Apple, in the meantime, is quite pleased Manito director Eric Eason uses Final Cut Pro - and that he's quite pleased to talk about it.

    Angelina Jolie tells all. Via Movie City News, where we find:

  • Leonard Klady on changing times: "In the past, the emergence of one or two indie hits during the summer was the norm but this year had at least a dozen such films."
  • Gary Dretzka gets real about digital piracy.

    Peter Campbell in the London Review of Books on what technological advances are doing to an art form that's been too often sidelined in the past: "Early video art was very often a way of recording performance art. Now more of it takes the form of pictures which move but which are not, in the ordinary sense, moving pictures."

    Amanda's been watching The Conversation. And taking notes...

    HIM: I can't stand it. I can't stand it anymore!

    HER: You're going to make me cry.

    HIM: I know, honey, I know, me too.

    HER: No, don't. - Pretend like I just told you a joke.

    They both laugh.

    Online viewing tip. Roommates. Via Avary's Domain, so you know it's not one for the kids.

    Posted by dwhudson at 3:49 AM
  • September 12, 2003

    Johnny Cash, 1932 - 2003.

    Johnny Cash Johnny Cash was, of course, not known for his movies, but there's a mighty, iconographic overlap between the Man in Black and, at the very least, the American Western: the outlaw as a beloved and admired hero with a mile-wide anti-heroic streak running right up under the skin. Just sample this bit in Bob Townsend's fine obit in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and tell me some screenwriter isn't sharpening a pencil (or firing up Final Draft) right now:

    Embraced by presidents, preachers and punks, he performed at the Nixon White House and on evangelist Billy Graham's crusades. He also staggered through outlaw days, when he infamously kicked out the footlights at the Grand Ole Opry, and got caught trying to smuggle amphetamines across the Mexican border in his guitar case.

    Whether it'd really make a good movie or not, who knows. It hardly matters; he lived out the tale for all to see, always aware of its potential as legend, never shirking from exploiting it, yet never afraid to reveal his deepest, most disturbing flaws, above all, in that almost frightening but intimate voice of his. Like frail iron.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:03 AM

    John Ritter, 1948 - 2003.

    Could the deaths of two more different celebrities be announced on the same day than Johnny Cash and John Ritter? Oddly enough, Ritter was the son of a country singer called Tex, but that's about it. Other than maybe - and this is the sort of thing only a random stroke of destiny could get you thinking about - the idea of what it is to be a man and how that idea has evolved over the last few decades.

    You think of the way Bogart haunted Woody Allen in Play It Again, Sam or Springsteen visited John Cusack in High Fidelity and that would be the only sort of scene imaginable that these two could share. "Buck up, kid." In all three cases, though, it'd be the one with the insecurities who's our protagonist, the one we're meant to identify with. And of the three, Ritter would be the most "normal," the statistical compromise settled on in some Central Casting office in Omaha.

    Which is evidently precisely the image he was trying to break free of when, in the last few years, he took roles in indies such as Sling Blade, Tadpole and, yes, Manhood.

    There's no getting around the running motif in Ritter's career, whether it's Skin Deep (the one with the then-infamous duelling glow-in-the-dark condoms) or Real Men. But if I were going to throw a tape in in his memory (since it's not out on DVD), it'd be Peter Bogdanovich's underrated Noises Off.... There's the evidence that his true calling wasn't delivering sitcom one-liners but outright farce.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:00 AM | Comments (2)

    September 11, 2003

    Thanks a Million

    Thanks a Million

    A quick pointer to an event of our own. On Thursday, September 25, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, GreenCine will present its first Eclection Film Screening, with a brand new print of Thanks A Million (1935). On the eve of our own wacky gubernatorial election, the film's story - which the All Movie Guide calls a "sharp satire of small town politics" - is suddenly relevant again.

    Thanks a Million chronicles a troupe of entertainers who are hired to liven things up at a political event. When the candidate for governor is too drunk to make his speech, the lead crooner from the troupe (played by Dick Powell) steps in, and the crooked political backers decide they want the entertainer to run for governor instead. Doesn't sound so implausible these days, does it? Thanks A Million is an undeservedly obscure film that has long been out of print and unavailable on VHS or DVD – so this is truly a one-in-a-million opportunity.

    The screening is free to the first 300 people (GC members and non-members alike) who go this Thanks a Million screening link and fill out the form. We'll send you a postcard good for admission for two to the screening (which, as with any free screening, is never guaranteed, so we advise getting there early to ensure admittance).

    It'll be great fun, or at least, a lot more fun than a fairly nauseating recall race. Okay, enough advertising. Thanks (a million)!

    Posted by cphillips at 3:56 PM

    9/11x03.

    For a while there, it looked as if "September 11" would mean one thing and one thing only. It may be a sign of some sort of collective recovery, then, that the US and UK papers this morning are running, besides their 9/11 packages, articles on another grim anniversary, the 30th since General Augusto Pinochet's military coup toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. And the German papers are marking yet another: the 100th birthday of Theodor Adorno.

    WTC

    So, for today, three pieces, none of them "news." A break from the buzz. Starting with what I still consider to be a remarkable article J. Hoberman wrote for the Village Voice just three months after September 11, 2001. If I were compiling some sort of broad 9/11 anthology and could include only one film-related text, I might very well choose "All as It Had Been." Here's how it begins:

    For everyone who saw the events on TV, movies offered the only possible analogy - blockbusters are what bring us together, all at once, around the world. The moving image and synchronized sound are how information is transmitted. The blockbuster's lingua franca is violent action, and since the collapse of the Soviet empire, those sounds and images have belonged overwhelmingly to the American-run multinational force conveniently designated "Hollywood." The movies are stamped on our DNA. Thus, the déjŕ vu of crowds fleeing Godzilla through Lower Manhattan canyons, the wondrously exploding skyscrapers and bellicose rhetoric of Independence Day, the romantic pathos of Titanic, the wounded innocence of Pearl Harbor, the cosmic insanity of Deep Impact, the sense of a world directed by Roland Emmerich for the benefit of Rupert Murdoch.

    On September 11, the dream became reality.

    The Pinochet Case

    Patricio Guzmán's The Pinochet Case (2001)

    It's also in the Voice that Michael Atkinson wrote, almost exactly a year ago: "Possibly the most riveting and vital historical document ever put on celluloid, Patricio Guzmán's three-part 1975-79 guerrilla epic The Battle of Chile is an unforgettable experience." Yes, another DVD we need. It seems to have been in 1998 that Andrea Meyer spoke with Guzmán for indieWIRE:

    I made the film because I was passionate about what was going on. It was like opening your window and seeing a whole social movement reveal itself right before your eyes. We were contemplating history right in front of us - Allende talking, fights on one side, struggles on the other, the police... It was a huge spectacle.

    [...] Something like this only happens to a country every hundred years. Like in Portugal, Nicaragua, Cuba. In Cuba, the first five years of the revolution were absolutely magical. And then afterwards was a different story... For us, it was romantic. Beautiful. It's as if everyone in your country fell in love.

    Chaplin

    And finally, Theodor Adorno, who once wrote (with Hanns Eisler), "one cannot see the film as an isolated art form of its own standing; it rather must be understood as the most characteristic medium of our present mass culture which uses the techniques of mechanical reproduction." From "Chaplin Times Two":

    There is something about the empirical Chaplin that suggests not that he is a victim but rather, menacingly, that he would seek victims, pounce on them, tear them apart. One can well imagine that Chaplin's cryptic dimension, or precisely that which makes this most perfect clown more than his genus, is connected with the fact that he as it were projects upon the environment his own violence and dominating instinct, and through this projection of his own culpability produces that innocence which endows him with more power than all power possesses. A vegetarian Bengal tiger: comforting, because his goodness, which the children cheer, is itself in a compact with the very evil that in vain seeks to destroy him - in vain, for he had already destroyed that evil in his own image.

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:54 AM | Comments (8)

    September 10, 2003

    Shorts, 9/10.

    Naked Lunch "Why would one attempt to cinematically recreate literary incoherence?" asks Ashley Allinson in his contribution to the Senses of Cinema "Great Directors" series. His subject is David Cronenberg, his question pointed at the case of Naked Lunch and the one possible answer he puts forward isn't particularly encouraging to those looking forward to the recently announced Criterion release on DVD: "One conclusion that can be drawn is that Cronenberg adapted a screenplay from the Burroughs mystique, not directly from his text, as many argue, a snuff pastiche enveloped within Cronenberg's 13 years of adaptation."

    More from David Thompson:

    David Cronenberg has described his "adaptation" of Burroughs' book as if he and the author had ventured into The Fly's telepod together and produced an unexpected hybrid. This is not any kind of direct transposition of an intangible and hallucinatory text, but a film on the act of writing itself, with fictional narcotics as a guiding factor and the biography of Burroughs as an anecdotal reference point... If its virtues lie in its vices, then the dangerous liason between Cronenberg's vices and Burroughs' was simply too much for any one feature film to contain.

    Frankly, that's just the sort of review that has me anticipating the "unexpected hybrid" all the more.

    More news via the DVD Talk newsletter: Francis Ford Coppola seems to be something of a Guest Star on the DVD that comes along with the latest issue of McSweeney's, described at Powell's as "[a]n instant classic of the DVDs-attached-to-literary-quarterlies genre." DVD Talk describes Coppola's "Director's Audio Commentary": "The result is HILARIOUS as Coppola comments on footage he's never seen with long tangential tales spawning off some of the most mundane aspects of the segment."

    Also at DVD Talk: An interview with Neil Gaiman. And also at McSweeney's: Richie Chevat's "The Screenwriter's Vacation."

    Back to Coppola for a moment and another DVD on the way. Yes, it's One From the Heart, the movie Coppola feels was "assassinated" before it ever had a chance. He tells the Toronto Star's Geoff Pevere why. Meanwhile, Armond White who, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, never reads a film quite like anyone else, has this to say about Lost in Translation:

    Although I defend Sofia Coppola's performance as Mary, the cosseted Italian-American princess in the criminally undervalued The Godfather, Part III, her recent turns at film directing suggest that she wasn't really acting. It's hard to think of other filmmakers who tried this hard to make a virtue of privileged-girl petulance or other films by women that so evidently bought into patriarchy and the male point of view.... My interpretation is not necessarily what Coppola intended... It's poignant proof of complex father-daughter dynamics that Sofia Coppola translates her personal family tension into Lost in Translation's very chaste girl-to-father-figure rapprochement.

    Good Lord. After hiding out in Japan for eons (that's eons measured in blog time, of course), Roger Avary is suddenly posting up a storm. Five entries in as many days? And what entries.

    Festival round-up? Let's go:

  • As for Toronto, the best place to begin is indieWIRE, what with all the photos, tidbits on who's sealed what deal with whom and reviews of the films others ignore, such as The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a doc focusing on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

  • Then there's Moviehole's Paul Fischer (reports 1, 2 and 3), plus an interview with Nicole Kidman.

  • Matt Langdon, who's covered Telluride for FilmCritic.com and the Durango Herald, points to Mike D'Angelo's Toronto coverage: "He's a bit harsh at times but worth reading especially for buzz on films way out of the mainstream."

  • Via Greg Allen, two more alternative routes to Toronto coverage: The folks at Cyan Pictures describe what it's been like promoting their latest film, Adam Goldberg's I Love Your Work. Quite a cast, by the way: The film stars Giovanni Ribisi, Franka Potente, Joshua Jackson, Christina Ricci, Marisa Coughlan, Vince Vaughn, Jason Lee, Jared Harris, Nicky Katt and Elvis Costello. Liam Lacey talks to Goldberg and Ricci about all this in the Globe and Mail. And then, there are the FilmNerds.

  • David Poland's in Toronto, too.

  • Screen Daily reviews from Toronto: Allan Hunter on Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things and Girl With A Pearl Earring; Mike Goodridge on Jane Campion's In the Cut and Carl Franklin's Out of Time; and Patrick Frater on Im Sang Soo's A Good Lawyer's Wife.

  • But probably the most fun Toronto piece out there, taken in context, is Rex Reed's in the New York Observer (where there's also a report on the troubles "Stapleton Studios, a movie-making complex in Staten Island whose best-known backer has been tough-guy actor Danny Aiello," has been having).

    Two non-Toronto related interviews: Iranian director Jafar Panahi in the Independent and Ewan McGregor in the Observer on, among many other things, Young Adam (see also our recent chat with Tilda Swinton).

    Underworld Intriguing news via Fimoculous: "Don DeLillo's White Noise has been adapted for the screen," reports Amy's Robot in an entry spiced up with other DeLillo-on-film tidbits.

    In the run-up to 9/11/03, Danny Schechter lifts the hood off DC 9/11: Time of Crisis and peers deep inside for Alternet: "Laugh if you will - as are many of those familiar with all the deceptions and contradictions in the President's post 9/11 responses - but don't underestimate how a well-produced story technique can shape and 'embed' a pro-Bush narrative in our brains." Also: Ric Burns takes New York Times readers' questions concerning the WTC.

    Also in the NYT, "A Star's Real Life Upstages His Films" is an appropriate headline over a piece on Tab Hunter; the news hook: With the help of Eddie Muller, he plans to have a book out in two years.

    Along with its fall preview, the Village Voice this week runs a mad, mad interview with Guy Maddin, conducted by himself.

    Online viewing tips. First, Four Minutes with Frank Chu. Second, Fensler Films, via SignalStation. Third, a trailer for the 10th Anniversary DVD Ninja Scroll DVD, via lots and lots of places.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:24 AM | Comments (8)
  • September 9, 2003

    More DVDs We Need

    sturgesandsturges.jpg
    Preston Sturges would have celebrated his 105th birthday on August 29th; I celebrated it by watching Sullivan's Travels for the 8th time, and then by reading Anthony Lane's often wonderful collection of reviews and essays, Nobody's Perfect. In it is a piece on Sturges which neatly encapsulates this enigmatic film director. Lane writes:

    By trade, Sturges was a screenwriter who became a director. To us, that seems old hat, one of the paths by which the ambitious get to run their own show, but back in 1940, when The Great McGinty came out, it was very new hat indeed; the opening credits proclaimed "Written and directed by Preston Sturges," and it was the first time in the history of talkies that the two passive verbs had appeared together onscreen. From that conjunction sprang a whole tradition of filmmaking: literate, spiky, defensive, markedly personal, and almost always funny. One cannot say that without his example there would have been no Billy Wilder or Woody Allen, but it was Sturges who made the breakthrough. The fact that all three men use movies to caution us against the perils of overestimating human nature is, needless to say, sheer coincidence. In the course of an eight-year spree, Sturges directed eleven features; in the first five years, he set off one of the most deafening fusillades that moviegoers have ever had to face. The Great McGinty and Christmas in July came out in 1940, The Lady Eve in 1941, Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story the year after that, and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero in 1944.

    Lane also concocted a useful list of the things that Sturges found amusing:



    1. Money.
    2. Alcohol.
    3. What you do with No. 1 when No. 2 gets hold of you.
    4. And vice versa.
    5. Running.
    6. Falling over.
    7. Fat people.
    8. People in fancy clothes.
    9. People who talk funny.
    10. Politicians who get away with it.
    11. Politicians who don't.
    12. Prigs.
    13. Patsies.
    14. Coffee.
    15. Marriage.
    16. Gambling. (Note: Try not to confuse this with No. 15.)
    17. Misunderstandings. (Ditto.)
    18. Mussolini.
    19. Hitler.
    20. A lion with its head in your lap.

    Fired together, the prejudices of Preston Sturges constitute a broadside against the blandishments of an orderly life.

    Obviously some of the items in the Sturges pantheon are on the dated side of the humor scale, but many more of them are not. And put together, as Lane says, his perspective overall is still wonderfully appropriate. And in today's chaotic and circus-like political atmosphere, a good dose of Sturges is what we really need. When The Palm Beach Story (which Lane calls his favorite Sturges), Hail the Conquering Hero, and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (a hilarious WWII screwball satire in which Betty Hutton is married to a man she can't recall and does her patriotic duty with one of the war-bound soldiers, becoming pregnant with septuplets) come marching on to DVD, the world, or at least my little corner of it, will be a better place.

    Posted by cphillips at 9:50 AM

    Leni Riefenstahl, 1902 - 2003.

    Leni Riefenstahl

    "They kept asking me over and over again whether I was having a romance with Hitler. 'Are you Hitler's girlfriend?' I laughed and answered the same way each time: 'No, those are false rumours. I only made documentaries for him."

    Leni Riefenstahl, A Memoir, 1995, quoted at the German-Hollywood Connection.

    "Artistically, though, her distinction as a trailblazer remained intact, and her influence has gone multimedia. Think of the big events - rallies, US presidential inaugurations, even sporting events - that are essentially huge photo-ops. 'There you have her genius, but also that of Hitler,' says Thomas Elsaesser, professor of film studies at the University of Amsterdam. 'They thought up the idea of an event that exists only to be recorded by the camera, shot and edited so as to give the mass spectator the illusion of being the disembodied, ubiquitous eye of God.' Open a magazine and look at the muscly ads, like those for Calvin Klein fragrances. 'The aesthetics of this heroic vibe were taken from her movies,' says Polish artist Maciej Toporowicz, whose video Obsession juxtaposes Riefenstahl clips with other Nazi-era footage and samples of modern advertising that use what he calls 'fascist iconography.'

    "Few movie fans realize how many of Riefenstahl's ideas and images have slipped into recent film. In addition to Verhoeven, George Lucas echoed her in this year's Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones; snippets of Triumph of the Will appeared in Oliver Stone's The Doors; and James Cameron's Titanic took many details from her little-seen 1954 film Tiefland, about a woman who falls under a tyrant's control but eventually finds freedom. 'I was sitting in the theater thinking, "I've seen these scenes somewhere before,"' says film scholar Robert von Dassanowsky. 'Isn't that the hallmark of a truly influential artist, that her work survives and influences, even detached from her name?'"

    Jeff Chu in Time, August 26, 2002.

    "[W]hat does the fact that Riefenstahl is a woman have to do with her continuous and overwhelming image as unrepentant Nazi agent?... Certainly Riefenstahl's political taint is not unique. Other artists tolerated or supported European fascism and continued their stardom in the postwar era: Céline, Roberto Rossellini, Salvador Dali, G.W. Pabst, Douglas Sirk, Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, Gottfried Benn, Ernst Jünger, and Gustaf Gründgens, among others.... The absence of women in this list is glaringly obvious."

    Robert von Dassanowsky, "'Wherever you may run, you cannot escape him': Leni Riefenstahl's Self-Reflection and Romantic Transcendence of Nazism in Tiefland."

    But then again, a year ago, I wrote elsewhere:

    Another nasty flare-up from Leni Riefenstahl's past, just days before her 100th birthday. Kate Connolly explains the situation quite well in the Observer.

    I can't point you to another Riefenstahl-related piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung because faz.net tosses stories into its pay-per-view archive these days almost immediately. But in sum, she gave a television interview on Thursday that Niklas Maak, one of the FAZ's better writers, dissects expertly.

    The interviewer was Sandra Maischberger, an award-winning and popular journalist in Germany, who, to sum up Maak's argument, didn't do her job. She didn't ask about the Gypsies forced to act as extras in Riefenstahl's Tiefland, nearly half of whom went on to die in the camps, even as that controversy was brewing. She didn't, in fact, press her on much of anything but did ask, as Maak writes, "one of the oddest questions: 'You and Marlene Dietrich have one thing in common, namely, that you were both unpopular in Germany after the war. She was unpopular because of her propaganda against Germany in America; you were unpopular because you did just the opposite and were even officially seen later as a fellow traveler. What does this mean? That a woman in a higher position can't do anything right?'

    "'Well,' answered Leni Riefenstahl benevolently, 'I can understand Marlene's behavior one hundred percent" (as if Marlene Dietrich's emigration to the United States were an irritating but excuseable faux pas). 'It's perfectly understandable that she, who had many Jewish friends, hated everything that had anything to do with National Socialism.' Were there perhaps other reasons? No further questions from Frau Maischberger..."

    Maak steers to the following: Maischberger is "for the entertainment industry what Gerhard Schröder is to politics: the prototype of a professional, friendly generation of pragmatists who's nobody's fool and who won't reveal in the least what they're after, what they stand for, what really moves them. A generation that finds everything 'interesting' with a critical distance that becomes a pose."

    Maak's argument would have been, well, more interesting, though, if he'd taken into consideration the actual brutal pragmatics of the situation: Had Maischberger fried Riefenstahl on screen, Riefenstahl's company would have fought the broadcast, or, had they suspected Maischberger might have even considered pressing her at all, would never have granted the interview in the first place. In which case, of course, Maischberger should have refused to conduct it.

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:37 AM | Comments (3)

    September 8, 2003

    Shorts, 9/8.

    manchurian.jpg So Jonathan Demme is remaking The Manchurian Candidate with Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington. That seems to be the occasion for Louis Menand's piece in the New Yorker on the movie and the book, though he buries it way down there towards the end. The article is terrific on the historical context and repercussions of both the film and novel, but the focus is on the author, Richard Condon:

    Michael Crichton writes books that any idiot can film; he practically supplies camera angles. But Condon's is not an easy book to film, in part because its tone is not readily imitated cinematically, and in part because much of it is, or was in 1962, virtually unfilmable. Strange as the movie is - a thriller teetering on the edge of camp - the book is stranger.... Some people like their bananas ripe to the point of blackness. The Manchurian Candidate is a very ripe banana, and, for those who have the taste for it, delectable.

    Also in the New Yorker: Noah Baumbach eavesdrops behind the couch ("Maybe you wish Disney was your parent company, too. Any associations?") and David Denby reviews two movies I'd very much like to see.

    I don't know about you, though, but the fall preview in Sunday's New York Times left me rather... unexcited? Maybe because I'm already looking forward to Lost in Translation, Dogville, maybe a couple of others. And of course, The Return of the King. I haven't really drilled into the month-by-month breakdown yet, but I can't help wondering: Is that all there is? Not a good question to have lingering in the air after a ho-hum summer like this one. Anyway, also in the NYT:

  • Brent Staples's editorial places The Human Stain in the context of the 40s, "a neglected period in the racial history of this country."
  • Yet another piece on that Pentagon showing of The Battle of Algiers. Michael T. Kaufman has a few more details; e.g., only "about 40 officers and civilian experts" attended the screening? Then again, if it's the right 40...
  • Virginia Heffernan on And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, a TV movie HBO hopes is "both grander and more precise than ordinary television." Antonio Banderas at the official site: "When you tell people about this story - that there was an American crew filming Pancho Villa in battle, in 1914 in Mexico - they say that's not true, that it is a fantasy, a legend. But it is true. It happened."
  • Laura M. Holson on the changes going on at Warner Brothers: "[T]he chill at the studio is beginning to thaw."
  • With "control of the film, television and music industries in the United States [down] to a half-dozen conglomerates," David D. Kirkpatrick examines why "mergers may not be the solution to the industry's problems."
  • You might want a shower after this one: "And I said, 'Mr. President, I can't make the movie work because I can't sort out three different people: the president, the commander in chief and a guy called George W. Bush who is married with kids and a full complement of emotions.'" The president, Mr. Chetwynd said, was sympathetic. "He said: 'Oh, I understand. Here's what happened.'"
  • And Elvis Mitchell settles on a theme - music - and files from Toronto, which leads us to...

    The festival round-up.

  • One last look at Venice (it "ended with two surprises") from Derek Malcolm in the Guardian.
  • IndieWIRE reports that Miramax has picked up Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi.
  • And Screen Daily's last review from Venice. For Lee Marshall, Michael Winterbottom's Code 46, an "all-British sci-fi movie," is "a disappointing use of over Ł1.5m in lottery money." Saddest Music in the World
  • On to Toronto, then, where Denis Seguin, like Elvis Mitchell, has been lucky enough to see the new Guy Maddin, The Saddest Music In The World: "Endlessly inventive, brimming with spit-fire wit, an homage to cinema stretching from formalist silent melodrama to screw-ball comedies of the 1930s and underpinned by contemporary political satire: this is a true work of film art."
  • Seguin also likes Gun-shy, "a slow-burning yet always engaging psychological thriller."
  • Fall might be better than it looked at first glance. For indieWIRE's Peter Brunette, Alejandro Gonzáles Ińárritu's 21 Grams is "a triumph from beginning to end." Meanwhile, Wendy Mitchell, Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks track the wheeling and dealing and Hernandez sez The Corporation, a new doc from Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, "is bound to have people buzzing after its press and industry screening... At the core of the movie, which includes a collection of stories illustrated with archival footage, is a diagnosis of the corporation as meeting the criteria of a psychopath."
  • And heavens, here's someone who's having a good time in Toronto: JRobert. Leaves Darren Hughes - and me, for that matter - "more than a wee bit jealous."

    John Boorman in the Guardian: "The blockbuster movie, now utterly dominant and crushing better films, is set to destroy the Hollywood studios; the monster is turning on its makers.... The American military, able to crush every opponent, is in danger of bankrupting the US. Is there an inherent flaw in a system whereby everything gets bigger and bigger until it collapses under its own weight?"

    In the Independent, Charlotte O'Sullivan talks to Rebecca Miller and Geoffrey Macnab surveys the chances Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers has of making to the US without getting cut.

    Edward Guthmann profiles Javier Bardem and Bart Mills does the honors for Lili Taylor, both in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Jonathan Rosenbaum on why September 11 is "indispensable."

    It's nearly all "Shelf Worthy" this week for Bamboo Dong.

    Online viewing tip. Nicolas Cage, losing it on Letterman.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:56 AM | Comments (1)
  • September 6, 2003

    And the winners are...

    katja-riemann.jpg The Official Awards of the 60th Mostra were announced this evening. At first glance, it looks like the jury has done a fine job of spreading their nods around evenly and fairly. Andrej Zvjagintsev's The Return may have nabbed the Golden Lion, but Marco Bellocchio's Buongiorno, notte, the film many were pulling for (and there were a lot of Italians who simply hoped any of the four Italian entries would come away with something) was recognized with an "Award for an Outstanding Individual Contribution" given to Bellocchio for the screenplay.

    Takeshi Kitano scores the Special Director's Award, Sean Penn wins the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor (and, to hear Sean Axmaker tell it, it sounds like it was well-deserved) and the Germans are particularly proud of Katja Riemann this evening.

    Posted by dwhudson at 1:46 PM

    September 5, 2003

    Oh, joy.

    Until the End of the World "Hail and Hosanna, it's happened, good news too good to be true." Well. That announcement may have been buried way, way down in Glenn Erickson's "Savant Newsletter," but it certainly caught my attention. Turns out, the songs of joy are well-warranted: "Anchor Bay has announced that they're releasing the LONG, 4.75 hour Until the End of the World to DVD in Spring of 2004."

    The moment they start accepting preorders, I'm there.

    Back up to last October. Mark Wickum was writing "text supplements," the DVD equivalent of liner notes, for Anchor Bay's "Wim Wenders Collection" and posed 19 questions via email which Wenders answered generously yet succinctly. The resulting interview, in fact, is probably about the best quick intro to the man and his work around. Now, of the original New German Cinema triumphirate - Herzog, Fassbinder, Wenders, the three who, right or wrong, achieved the most international fame and acclaim - Wenders is the most often disparaged.

    There are a couple of reasons for that. Of the three, Wenders is the most accessible and least idiosyncratic. The same might be said of his work, but that's not such a clean argument. Secondly, he has an unabashed affinity for contemporary pop culture. And, while all three have made at least one dud, Wenders's triumph-to-dud ratio is the least pretty.

    But here's where one of my own affinities comes in. I like directors with spotty track records. I get a little suspicious and uneasy with straight-A directors ("What, every Bergman is a masterpiece?"). I'm trying to avoid the phrase "takes risks," but I'm glad that, say, after the Godfathers, Coppola didn't say to himself, "Ok, there's my modus operandi." I'm glad he made One From the Heart, and I'm glad to have seen it. It may not "work," but it's a fascinating document in its own way; the question, "What were they thinking?," so often posed derisively, can actually be a fairly helpful way in to a better understanding of the films that do "work."

    Actually, Coppola and Wenders, who managed to fail together with Hammett, are an interesting pair in the light of next spring's release. It must have been at around the same time, two decades or so ago, that each dreamed up his Really, Really Big Film. For Coppola, it was Megalopolis; for Wenders, Until the End of the World, or as some like to call it, UTEOTW.

    The major difference between them, of course, is that UTEOTW actually got made. But that certainly was not the end of that. Back to that interview with Wickum. Wenders:

    Until the End of the World

    The Reader's Digest version I was forced to release at the time would have broken my heart if I had left it at that. I knew that. And I felt I owed it to my actors, to my crew and to the musicians who had worked on that fabulous score, to finish the real work we had done. It had epic proportions, that was for sure. Together with my editor, Peter Przygodda, we added another full year after the delivery of the commercial version at the time, at our own expense, and finished what I considered "the real film." Of five hours. Which exists since then and which hopefully will see not only the light of day in the form of DVD releases, but also a few theatrical screenings here or there. I have shown it four or five times already, and EVERYBODY who saw it had the same reaction. "Wow! Now we get it. That's a whole different ballgame!" At the time we had to condense the film so much that all the fun had gone out of it. The "message" had become very heavy, if not to say heavy-handed. The very narrator had become more or less a side character, for instance.

    Blessed, or just really, really lucky, are those who have seen that full-length version. Glenn Erickson is one, and he has his theories about what Wenders was after, too. German critics are especially unkind to Wenders, but when he showed the 5-hour UTEOTW in Munich, the Süddeutsche Zeitung absolutely raved. And take it from me, the SZ is not a paper given to raving.

    I have yet to be blessed or get really, really lucky. But I am so looking forward to next spring. And so glad the DVD format has launched this ongoing wave of restoration and reclamation of cinematic history.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:30 AM | Comments (6)

    Shorts, 9/5.

    Spirit of the Beehive Peter Lennon revisits The Spirit of the Beehive with director Victor Erice: "Perhaps not for the first time, a lack of money helped forge a masterpiece; he was driven to make a 'poorer film,' entirely powered by his own imagination." Back in 1999, Derek Malcolm wrote: "I once showed a dozen or so classic non-American films to students at the Royal College of Art. To my surprise, despite the fact that the list included the work of such world-renowned directors as Luis Bunuel, Satyajit Ray and Kenji Mizoguchi, the film they fell in love with was Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive." Looks like another DVD we need.

    Also in the Guardian:

  • David Mamet hates sequels.
  • Steve Rose on the hell Tony Luke went through making Britain's first computer-animated film, Dominator.
  • Duncan Campbell talks to David Lopez Jenkins, the subject of the film The Boy David, 20 years in the making.

    A follow-up to this earlier entry: The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter offers more thoughts on what lessons the Pentagon might be drawing from The Battle of Algiers.

    "The Piersons are back, and the New York independent film community is happy to see them home," announces Dave Kehr in the New York Times.

    Festivals:

  • Today's new Screen Daily reviews from Venice: Intolerable Cruelty, "the Coen brothers' big, commercial breakout movie"; and, with Penek Rattanaruang's Last Life In The Universe, "Thailand can finally join the big boys."
  • The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw and Derek Malcolm share their Venetian notes.
  • Shasta Darlington on Marco Bellocchio's Buongiorno, Notte.
  • For Moviehole, Paul Fischer sets off for Toronto (and previews of James Cox's Wonderland, Carl Franklin's Out of Time, Émile Gaudreault's Mambo Italiano and Sue Brooks's Japanese Story).
  • IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez on Toronto's rising star. He agrees with festival director Piers Handling, who says: "Toronto is now positioned as the major fall fest of the year, and Cannes is the major spring festival of the year."
  • For its 10th anniversary, Slamdance promises to get even bigger.
  • The first Iranian.com Film Festival opens this evening in Berkeley. Three nights, seven docs.

    Johnny Depp's retraction. Also via Movie City News: John Walsh in the Independent on the unsightly schadenfreude in the wake of the flop of Emma Thompson's come-back movie.

    Those Tagliners are having a good laugh at the expense of the oppressed celebrity class again: "On one poster you can actually tell I'm starring in the movie and that, you know, perhaps I've got an equal part to Angelina, and on the other I look like I've sprouted out of her bloody chin! I mean, what's she playing in this one, a bloody ethereal goddess?"

    "[I]f it doesn't have a hobbit in it, they should ask themselves... is this scene REALLY necessary?" asks a friend. But that's not enough for Amanda. She has a dream: "[E]ventually, someone will make the all-hobbits LOTR."

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:25 AM | Comments (2)
  • September 4, 2003

    20 sets of tips, plus short shorts.

    If you're a filmmaker in any way, shape or form, the must-read of the week is "The Buying Game," indieWIRE's "Guide to Acquisitions Execs at 20 Film Companies." There usually isn't nearly enough response to indieWIRE articles at the site, but this one's generated some well-deserved applause. Gary Meyer, who, as a co-founder of Landmark Theatres, should know, comments: "I urge anyone interested in this business to read it, make notes, take a copy to film festivals, bookmark the piece for future reference, and forward the link to others."

    Logomania

    Thing is, even if you aren't involved in filmmaking but wonder why certain indies and foreign films make it to theaters and others don't, you'll probably find this pretty interesting stuff. The execs are asked about their favorite films, about the ones they've had a hand in acquiring for distribution, what they're looking for, how a filmmaker can blow it, which festivals are the most important, and then, just their thoughts on all this in general. All in all, an intriguing window onto the way this system, often as competitive and ruthless as Hollywood's, actually works.

    Hands down, the three most important festivals for these execs are Sundance, Cannes and Toronto. Berlin gets a frequent honorable mention with specific regard to foreign films. But one of the top three opens today: Toronto previews from David Poland and USA Today.

    Fresh reviews from Venice from Screen Daily: Once Upon A Time In Mexico ("Rodriguez' appetite for twisted baddies and creative killing seems, if anything, to have increased with the years"), The Return ("[D]oes everything a Hollywood picture doesn't... spare, rigorous visual conception"), The Human Stain ("[S]ome stirring moments of drama. But they don't add up to a satisfying whole") and The Dreamers ("]T]hree parts Last Tango and one part Novecento").

    This just in, 6 pm CET Our own report from Venice. Sean Axmaker sets the scene and offer his own takes on the new films from Bernardo Bertolucci, Takeshi Kitano, Christopher Hampton, Bruno Dumont, Babek Payami and Raoul Ruiz.

    Forrester Research is forecasting a relatively rapid decline for both the CD and the DVD. By 2008, about a third of all US households will be able (and so, probably inclined) to call up and watch movies streamed to them. Reuters's Jesse Hiestand quotes a Forrester researcher: "The idea that anyone who has video-on-demand access to any movie they are interested in would get up and go to Blockbuster just doesn't make any sense. [The decline] begins with rentals, but eventually I think sales of these pieces of plastic are going to start going away because people will have access to whatever they want right there at their television set." More from CNET.

    "A human look is much more than the movement of hundreds of points of skin on the face," Dr. Ulrich Neumann tells Eric A. Taub in the New York Times. Simulating the human face is hard, but they're getting there, and filmmakers are keen to see it happen sooner rather than later. Also: A NYT editorial on the probable merging of GE and Vivendi Universal's media assets and a catch-up piece on the Big Brother Africa phenom.

    The Writers Guild is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a fun billboard campaign. FX Feeney, who writes the accompanying story, also previews two local programs of films by Chris Marker and Elio Petri for the LA Weekly, where Nikki Finke lambasts the media for not lambasting Schwarzenegger.

    Fresh newsletter, pointing to fresh content at Wim Wenders's site.

    Two new reviews at Midnight Eye: Toshiaki Toyoda's 9 Souls and Rokuro Mochizuki's Coward.

    So, is Salman Khan getting off too easy?

    "Does it matter if the world loses its rich diversity of film cultures and one nation dominates international cinema? Or have we all grown so used to ubiquitous Hollywood that it seems churlish even to ask the question?" Cherry Potter fumes in the Guardian. Where we find seven online viewing tips.

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:03 AM | Comments (6)

    September 3, 2003

    Shorts, 9/3.

    We begin, once again, in Venice...

    Robbins and Kitano

    Robbins at the Oscars, Kitano in Venice.

  • Following up on that speech he made back in April, and not to be outdone by Johnny Depp, once again, ladies and gentlemen, Tim Robbins: "I think we are being fed a lot of fear by people who would rather we were afraid than aware." The platform this time is the screening of Michael Winterbottom's film Code 46.

  • Shasta Darlington reports for Reuters: "Censorship of defiant new movies cast a cloud over the Venice Film Festival after one Iranian director was blocked from leaving his country and another had his film seized."

  • Fortunately, Screen Daily's reviews continue to be free to the public: Allan Hunter on Alison Peebles's Afterlife and Dan Fainaru on Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi and Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men. (Scott, by the way, tells SCI FI Wire what'll be back in the restored Alien, out this Halloween: "The scene really explains what happened to Dallas [Tom Skerrit] and the others.")

  • At some point, I've wanted to simply acknowledge that there are, of course, other things going on in Venice right now besides movies. Right alongside the 60th Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, you've got the 50th International Art Exhibition which opened in June and perseveres through November 2. "Perseveres"? Reviews have been, to put it politely, mixed. Dip into the new issues of Artforum and Frieze. Also, Cathryn Drake writes in Metropolis: "The topic of conversation this summer in Venice, Italy, is the $3 billion MoSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), a series of 78 hinged movable steel gates that officials hope will stop the flooding that is destroying the fabled city." Very nifty graphics with that piece as well.

    Speaking of Artforum: "How is it that a British doctor fifty years dead, an oddball amateur who made advertisements and corporate training films, instructional works, and propaganda for the Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Information, is suddenly being discovered as one of the great eccentrics of film history?" James Quandt on Richard Massingham.

    More festivals:

  • Cheryl Eddy, author of our new primer on Italian Horror, previews the MadCat Women's International Film Festival (September 9 to October 2) for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
  • Matt at Rashomon has been catching the films at Telluride.
  • Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelganger will open the Pusan International Film Festival on October 2.
  • Ed Halter and Jorge Morales in the Village Voice on LatinoBeat 2003 at the Film Forum in New York.

    Also at the Forum, also in the Voice: J. Hoberman accompanies his review of "two Columbine movies," Zero Day being one of them, with a list of eleven cinematic landmarks of "Schoolyard Terror." Plus: Ed Park has an update the mess Miramax is making of the release of Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer, Ed Halter on Hollis Frampton's Magellan Cycle and Michael Musto buries a telephone chat with Penélope Cruz.

    Sean Clarke in the Guardian: "[T]ime and time again we find that British films admit of only two plotlines. They are: 1. It's really terrifically brutish being working class. 2. It's really terrifically spiffing to be middle class."

    DVD news. It may seem pretty elementary to many of us, but for many, it isn't: Brendan I. Koerner offers a primer on getting around those blasted regional codes in the Voice.

    Gary Dretzka at Movie City News is glad there'll be a DVD release of Pumping Iron in November, but: "[T]he movie I wish MGM would release on DVD is Bob Rafelson's offbeat 1976 comedy Stay Hungry, in which newcomer Schwarzenegger portrayed a fiddle-playing body-builder in training for the Mr. Universe contest." Co-starring Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. I actually caught about the last half of this or so on TV one late night a few months ago. If it had been 1976 instead, it'd have been a waste of time, of course. But in 2003, the movie's too much of a curiosity not to stick with to the end.

    ICv2 reports that 3.5 million The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVDs were sold on the first day of that release; and Tokyopop will be releasing the first collector's set of Marmalade Boy DVDs next April.

    Gothika

    Halle Berry in Gothika.

    Highlights of New York magazine's fall preview: First, that John Frankenheimer retrospective. Then, besides blurbs on a couple of dozen up-n-comings, a few short (very short) talks with Human Stain screenwriter and director Robert Benton, Under the Tuscan Sun "stud" Raoul Bova, Kill Bill's Uma Thurman, Gothika's Halle Berry, Sylvia's Gwyneth Paltrow and The Station Agent writer and director Tom McCarthy.

    "'I decided to make a Dogme movie about a power outage,' she says, shrugging and smiling at the absurdity of the situation. 'It makes you look at the things you need to work out.'" Caroline Palmer profiles Twin Cities filmmaker Ayesha Adu for City Pages.

    We let MTV's Video Music Awards parade on by without comment, and in fact, would have forgotten about them altogether if it weren't for the stone cold fact that 87 percent of all blogs out there are still sporting a shot of that kiss. So, what the hell. We'll point to Marina Hyde's mercifully brief yet somehow satisfying verdict: It was "the most corporate pucker-up of all time." Still, the best piece on the VMA's remains Neal Pollack's.

    But seriously. "By all reports, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a good Lutheran who spent most of his life in a linden-lined Saxon town, playing organ, siring children, and writing church music." But musicologists have turned up a disturbing trend. The Los Angeles Times's Scott Timberg reports: "These days, when you hear Bach in a film, he tends to accompany serial killers, Nazis and mad scientists." Via The Morning News, where we also find our first online viewing tip: "Videos from the talent show that brought us Matrix ping pong."

    Online viewing tip No. 2. Howard Dean's summer tour Flash promo. Via Fimoculous.

    Online viewing tip No. 3. Sometimes at Pleix.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:14 AM | Comments (2)
  • September 2, 2003

    Shorts, 9/2.

    Given lemons, Greg Allen knows how to make lemonade. Delicious and refreshing, too. No one involved has a particularly good time on press junkets, but from the moment "Sofia enters and joins our table. Cue greetings. We all feel protective of her immediately, just like Wes Anderson predicted..." all the way through to that little tidbit we really wanted to know about...

    Sofia Coppola

    BW: What is this we've read about you and Spike? That you're breaking up and you moved into the Chateau Marmont?

    SC: I don't know where they get this stuff in the Post. I mean, I like to read gossip, too. They said it was from a close friend or something? Do they just make this up?

    Everyone (protectively, and in unison): Oh, they DO. They DO.

    ... Greg has made his interview with Sofia Coppola (and his characterizations of his fellow interviewers) a fun, fun read.

    Coppola and her Lost in Translation star, Bill Murray, have been quite a hit in Venice. While Murray entertains the press corps, the movie itself is getting those thumbs up all around. "An enormously accomplished, highly affecting story of loneliness and human connection," raves Mike Goodridge in Screen Daily. And Reuters quotes "one American critic" as saying, "It's the best movie I've seen yet. My only question is why isn't it in the main competition?"

    So what else is going on in Venice? Peter Bradshaw: "One of the most unexpectedly pleasurable things about Venice was the new Lars von Trier film: The Five Obstructions, a collaboration with Danish documentarist Jorgen Leth." The Guardian critic also lets on that Johnny Depp has stolen another show and that, while it's evidently baffled some viewers, Manoel de Oliveira's new film is "sublime." Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Bernardo Bertolucci is worried that his entry, The Dreamers, based on Gilbert Adair's novel, The Holy Innocents, will be "coming out amputated, mutilated in the United States." And Leslie Felperin offers her "midway" report in indieWIRE with early word on the new films from Takeshi Kitano and Michael Winterbottom.

    Ian Whitney passes along good news: We are about to be treated to a cleaner, finer-grained Rules of the Game than has been available for years and years. View a clip of what we've got at the moment; dive into James Leahy's hefty piece on Jean Renoir at Senses of Cinema.

    Spinsanity has been on Michael Moore's case for a long, hard time and, as much as I admire Moore's chutzpah, and for that matter, his politics, I also think he tends to overstate his case at times, often to his own detriment. Moore shouldn't object to efforts to keep him honest; he should appreciate them. Today, Brendan Nyhan focuses on a slight but important variation in the DVD version of Bowling for Columbine.

    Hugh Hart checks up on two "indies," one that could be "shaping up as the biggest indie film of all time," Around the World in 80 Days with Jackie Chan, and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, about which the director says that splitting it will keep it from getting "pretentious." Right... Also in the San Francisco Chronicle:

  • Mick LaSalle lists his favorite film books.
  • John Clark talks to John Landis about the Saturday Night Live. By the way, the first chapter of Live From New York is one of the most generous chunks of free reading from a major publisher out there.
  • Peter L. Stein on one of "the best-kept secrets of the American film industry," educational and industrial films, many of them viewable at Rick Prelinger's Internet Archive.
  • Peter Hartlaub rates one-liners, "from classic to disaster, with a special shout-out to Al Pacino."
  • Pam Grady on a dozen new DVDs featuring Santo, "the legendary masked Mexican wrestler and movie superhero."

    Back to the indie scene. Salon's Charles Taylor argues that the fate of Lift is proof that "independent film is failing its mission of giving a chance to movies that might otherwise get overlooked."

    In the New York Times:

  • Laura M. Holson, accompanied by a handy little chart, on the winners and losers of summer.
  • Elvis Mitchell on the past, present and future of Telluride.
  • Terrence Rafferty on Jacques Becker.
  • "Reality backlash has finally arrived," announces Alessandra Stanley. It's a TV column, of course, not a pitch for mind-altering substances.
  • AO Scott's appreciation of Charles Bronson.

    Did you know that Prakash Mehra wanted to make a film with him? From rediff.com: "I will make Charles Bronson cry and sing."

    Tufts University associate prof Gary Leupp offers 50 points to consider regarding Mel Gibson's The Passion at Counterpunch. Also via Movie City News:

    Toronto poster

  • Santa Sangre is now one of Roger Ebert's Great Movies: "[H]orror, poetry, surrealism, psychological pain and wicked humor, all at once." Click on to Ebert's 1989 interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky.
  • Rick Groen in the Globe and Mail: "Audiences may go to their local Bijou as a reprieve from the daily grind, but what stares at them in the dark is the very thing they're trying to escape - a job, a vocation, a way to earn a livelihood."
  • Several Canadian newspaper pieces anticipating the Toronto Film Festival, opening Thursday. Two (1, 2) report that local novelist Joy Fielding has written a thriller set during the fest (there's a similar novel out there by a German writer, a murder set against the backdrop of the Berlinale, but I can't seem to find it at the moment); another appreciates festivals in general as "a chance to sit back and be drawn into a film, instead of being assaulted by it"; two more (1, 2) preview the program.

    We Interrupt This Empire... opens the Other Cinema fall series on Saturday at Artists' Television Access in San Francisco. Then, it's off to Amsterdam for Next 5 Minutes, the festival of tactical media, back to SF, LA and so on. There's a tremendous amount of online viewing behind most of URLs, much of it unlike anything you'll see on your living room TV.

    Scott Steffans chases down Woody Allen's typeface. Via Chuck's Blogumentary.

    A trio of fine interviews in the Guardian: Julie Walters talks to Simon Hattenstone, Jafar Panahi chats with Xan Brooks and Oliver Stone sits still for a moment for Tim Adams.

    Brian Helgeland talks to Paul Fischer in Moviehole.

    Seanbaby rounds up "The 10 Eightiest Movies" for The Wave.

    Time's Richard Corliss is looking forward to Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.

    Bombaby Slave Labor is previewing eight pages of its new Bollywood comic, Bombaby.

    New "Shelf Life": 4 shelf worthies, 6 rentals, no perishables. Also at Anime News Network: A report from Otakon 2003 in Baltimore (not much yet from the Big Apple yet, though) and an interview with voice actor Monica Rial.

    Anime Tourist lives up to its name, launching a series of Eric Ng's brief glances at real-life landmarks appearing in anime, beginning with the Tokyo Tower.

    Online fooling around tip. Tweak your own Matrix bullet time sequence. Via Incoming Signals.

    Online viewing tip. The "hand crafted short films" of Evan Mather. Via Matthew Clayfield's Esoteric Rabbit Films.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:34 AM | Comments (1)
  • September 1, 2003

    Charles Bronson, 1921 - 2003.

    Charles Bronson "Charles Bronson was one of my favorite actors in the '50s and '60s. I first saw him in a television series called Man with a Camera - I was into photography, so the idea of a heroic crime-fighting photographer seemed pretty cool."

    Jon Lebkowsky.

    "At the height of his career, Mr. Bronson was hugely popular in Europe; the French knew him as 'le sacre monstre' (the sacred monster), the Italians as 'Il Brutto' (the brute). In 1971, he was presented a Golden Globe as 'the most popular actor in the world.'"

    Bob Thomas in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    "But reporters who checked out his stories found no police record, no assault and battery, no predisposition toward violence. In fact, they learned that Mr. Bronson's hobby was painting and that he was a quiet, personable, gentle man.... There was no question, however, that Mr. Bronson had known hard times.... By the time he was 16 he was working in the coal mines, earning about $1 for each ton of coal he clawed out of the earth."

    Richard Severo in the New York Times.

    "Westerns really are about politics, and The Magnificent Seven were kind of a Peace Corps/Green Berets combo. This fairy tale of mercenary killers being elevated and transformed by a noble cause is not an outgrowth of the 'adult psychological' western of the '50s, but a new kind of western where history (even John Ford's history) is irrelevant, and the trappings of style and affectation are all. Yul Brynner struts around, Steve McQueen acts alternately coy and petulant, Robert Vaughn broods and whines, Charles Bronson is the sour hardass, and James Coburn does a zen act. Poor Brad Dexter thinks he's in a movie from the '40s, unfortunately, and Horst Bucholz is having fun playing Roy Rogers. After four years of television packed with Western shows focused on shootin'-iron talents, the Western had finally reached the stage where the star's basic job was to be a mobile weapons platform, in boots."

    Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant.

    "It opens with a riff on High Noon as three expressive gunmen - Woody Strode, Jack Elam and Al Mulock - wait for a train, bothered by a drip of water and a buzzing fly, and [Sergio] Leone stretches out what ought to be dead screen time into an operatic crescendo of suspense (scored by the great Ennio Morricone) that pays off when a granite-faced Bronson, stepping into the Eastwood No-Name role as the vengeance-seeking Harmonica, arrives in a shimmering haze to face down the killers in a few brief, eventful seconds."

    Kim Newman, reviewing Once Upon a Time in the West for Empire.

    "When it comes to conservative vigilante revenge fantasies, one should always go back to the granddaddy of the entire genre: Michael Winner's Death Wish.... Bronson is his usual stoic self through much of the film, though at one point he becomes nearly giddy with his power over criminals and even cracks a smile."

    Mark Zimmer in digitallyOBSESSED

    "The story makes no sense whatsoever and most of the performances are awful, but that's not important in a Charles Bronson vehicle. His is an implacable movie presence, quite unlike any other. It's good to know that he's still in there, squinting at the bad guys and occasionally dispatching them with as little effort as possible."

    Vincent Canby, reviewing Assassination for the NYT in 1987.

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:22 AM | Comments (5)