November 30, 2003

Bright Lights 42.

Bright Lights Film Journal I think we're going to make it a tradition around here. Each time a new issue of that "popular-academic hybrid" Bright Lights Film Journal comes out, we'll herald its arrival with a stand-alone entry. This time, we have reason to make an especially loud noise since it happens that, as Issue 42 arrives, editor Gary Morris has just contributed a primer over at the main site, "A Brief History of Queer Cinema."

Bright Lights has always balanced any heaviosity with a breezy joviality and, oddly enough for a November issue, this one seems to be one of the most playful issues in a while. The photo essay of Hitchcock's "fetishes - uh, motifs" is a fun example. Pieces vary in length and voice, but there is a sense overall of a celebration of movies. Maybe Gary's not just jesting after all when he writes, "[W]e're doing our part... to remind readers of the many good things to appreciate in l'art du cinemaWe've always prided ourselves on seeing the cup half full - whether it's got anything in it or not."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:23 PM

November 27, 2003

Long weekend shorts.

"Meeting Tony Kushner at Starbucks is a little like running into Walter Benjamin at Disney World," writes Richard Goldstein in the Village Voice. But would that really be so surprising? Benjamin's ghost has surely haunted the place out of morbid curiosity if for no other reason.

Angels in America

At any rate, Darren Hughes, a judge you should trust when it comes to Kushner, also credits Goldstein with "the best one-paragraph synapsis of Angels in America that you'll ever read."

Also in the Voice: David Ng meets Sylvain Chomet, writer and director of The Triplets of Belleville and J. Hoberman reviews the film - and then blurbs three books. I want them all.

Otherwise, with the exception of the screener's debate moving into the courtroom, it hasn't been a terribly eventful week. The holiday movies have been previewed - and in case you missed it all, Slate's Ben Williams reviews reviewers' reviews - and now it's a matter of gearing up for the December onslaught, itself, in a way, a mere prelude to all those year-end top tens.

Jonathan Rosenbaum actually got the jump on discussing "this year's independent and mainstream hits and flops" on Working Assets Radio on Wednesday, but rats, I didn't catch it and, doubling the frustration, it looks like the show's archives haven't been updated since June...? Meanwhile, the LA Weekly's Ella Taylor is previewing her list as well: "This year, for the first time that I can recall, I'll have two animated features on my 10-best list."

Update: Thanks to Robert Davis for pointing us to the Working Assets program with Jonathan Rosenbaum.

IndieWIRE's taken an innovative approach to a week like this one with a look back at the "Sundance Class of 2003: Where Are They Now?" and "Cannes 2003 Six Months Later: Not So Bad After All." Is it just me, or do those headlines sound like they come from McSweeney's?

DVD news isn't quite as seasonal yet, and what's more, interest seems to be rising in those who produce them. Doug Cummings, for example, has talked with Kate Elmore, producer of Criterion's DVD for Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest; at filmjourney.org, he writes, "The biggest scoop? The disc will include 11-minutes of deleted scenes!" Unfortunately, as Darren Hughes points out, it "also feature one of Criterion's uglier works of cover art."

Some unbylined individual at DVD File has had a nice long talk with Charlie de Lauzirika about his overseeing the "Alien Quadrilogy" project.

And in City Pages, Jeremy O'Kasick reports on a Minneapolis DVD rental outlet that aims to become "a hub for local filmmakers."

Then there are the New York Press DVD reviews, picking up in volume as holiday shopping begins in earnest. They come in batches from Jim Knipfel, Matt Zoller Seitz and Armond White.

I can also throw in a pointer to a piece about the recordable DVD standards wars with the hopeful subheading, "Sony spells the end of the format wars," though I'm not sure I really understand it. See, it's written by Emru Townsend, who also happens to have written the sort of piece I was looking for when I read that Hugh Kenner had died. I'd read Kenner on Ezra Pound; I didn't know he'd also written about Chuck Jones. Townsend, as it happens, edits fps: The Magazine of Animation, and wrote just the sort of review of Kenner's Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings I was hoping to find.

Walken Bust Alec Baldwin explains the "vast right-wing sandlot game" to Frank DiGiacomo. Also in the New York Observer: William H. Macy drinks with yet another writer, Anna Jane Grossman, who also reports on the short-lived 12-inch Christopher Walken action figure. I went looking for one at eBay, but found only bronze masks and this ghostly bust.

Via AICN, a teensy sneak peak at Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic from Michael Fox in SF Weekly.

Robert Rodriguez may be contributing to the score of Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2, reports the Austin Chronicle's Marc Savlov. By the way, don't confuse Ed "Speedo" Jager with Speed Levitch.

Erin Thompson in the Stranger: "Everybody and their grandmother wants me to see The Station Agent with them. Like Peter Dinklage, the star of the film, I am a dwarf."

"Bollywood has taken to brands and vice versa," writes Revathy Menon in the Times of India. Via Beware of the Blog.

We'll wrap with - what else? - Margaret Cho on Thanksgiving. Not that we agree with every word, mind you. Just for, you know, balance.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:37 PM | Comments (3)

November 25, 2003

Georgia on his mind.

Power Trip With Power Trip, Paul Devlin has a pretty timely movie on his hands. What's it about? He tells novelist JT Leroy in Filmmaker:

Paul Devlin: "Power Trip is about corruption, assassination and street rioting over electricity in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. It follows the story of an American corporation trying to solve the electricity crisis there which is crushed by post-Soviet chaos." I've got that pretty well memorized.

Leroy: It's almost like a Catholic catechism.

Devlin: Can't stumble on the pitch...

He's also got quite a main character in Piers Lewis, a manager for that US corporation, AES. Devlin again: "He's a progressive, Berkeley-educated, world-traveler, NGO type, but he winds up working for this huge multi-national, disconnecting the Georgians from their electricity."

And yet, according to both Leroy and Devlin, neither of them exactly ruthless entrepreneurs or hardass capitalists, you can't help but end up sympathizing with him. A fascinating interview with links at the bottom to the latest news from post-"velvet revolution" Georgia.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM | Comments (7)

November 24, 2003

Shorts, 11/24.

Stepford Wives Nearly 30 years on, what will the remake of The Stepford Wives look like? Maybe more importantly, what ought the 2004 version address? Writing in the Atlantic Monthly, Margaret Talbot offers a few suggestions (focus on the kids, not the women) and, while she's at it, speculates as to why "the term 'Stepford wives,' which has enjoyed such a sturdy life in our culture, is so seldom used in the critique of sexism" and "why the reference has served more effectively as a dis of (overly domesticated) women than of (tyrannical) men."

Over at Alternet, Robert Redford tells Amanda Griscom:

From the moment Bush stepped into office, not only has he been leading a vast and disciplined campaign to cripple environmental protections and enforcement across the board, he's been manufacturing more immediate crises - war, for one - that have kept the American public distracted and completely in the dark. And what makes our Republican leadership, both in the White House and Congress, seem all the more stupendously ignorant is that they're implementing these backward policies at a time when they could be pushing forward a new era of solutions - tremendous technological advancements related to things like energy efficiency, renewables, sustainable building, and agriculture that are so incredibly exciting. It's as though they can't even see the historic opportunity they're passing up.

Doug Cummings listens to Agnes Varda talk about her new 12-minute short and "her acclaimed Jacquot (Jacquot de Nantes) (1991), a dramatization of the early years in the life of filmmaker Jacques Demy (1931-1990), her late husband." Do follow that link, too, to an earlier discussion of Varda that fans out to encompass the work of other filmmakers you might expect to be mentioned in the same breath.

I'd pull a quote from Jonathan Rosenbaum's very favorable review of Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but there aren't any flagging me down. It's simply a smart and sober appreciation and worth a few minutes of your time, that's all.

Newsweek Rings cover A little over three weeks to go and umpteen Oscar magnets left yet to open and here comes the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King PR juggernaut already: a Newsweek cover story. And yet, though I wouldn't bet money on it, I strongly suspect that there's not going to be any sense of Matrix-like overkill, at least unless there are too many widespread product tie-ins. Instead of the feeling of being pummelled into the theater for this third and final chapter, there's an air about Return of a triumphant homecoming parade.

So someone at the top of the Disney empire thinks Bad Santa "is just not in the spirit of Walt Disney"? Not so. "What is Drudge and his conservative ilk trying to do with a story like this? And what does the right wing have against Disney, anyway?" A lot, actually, outlines Sean Means in the Salt Lake Tribune. Via Movie City News.

Suzie Mackenzie makes the case in the Guardian that Holly Hunter is "the most erotic actress working on the Hollywood screen today."

And in the Observer, Sean Walsh tells Philip Watson why he's spent ten years making a film based on Ulysses, Joyce's novel "heralded around the world as the greatest novel of the twentieth century, and one of most important books in the English language, but the simple paradox is that we haven't read it, we've got no knowledge of it... My goal was to say this is bullshit and I'm going to change that. I'm going to open up these pages and show them to people, show them the story, show them all the humanity and humour of this masterpiece, and reveal some of its hidden tricks, links and connections."

Also: Amy Raphael meets Kelly Macdonald and Sanjiv Bhattacharya profiles Mickey Rourke.

In kamera.co.uk: Ann Lee talks to Sarah Polley, Antonio Pasolini catches Waiting for Happiness, the latest film from director Abderrahmane Sissako, "hailed as African cinema's next big thing," and three DVD reviews: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, The American Friend and Hulk.

Tom Carson reviews two biographies of Sammy Davis, Jr. for the Washington Post.

In the New York Times:

  • Caryn James on marketing "grim" movies.
  • Alejandro González Ińárritu gets around; this time he's talking to Karen Durbin.
  • Norm Alster on who's taking the Hollywood Stock Exchange seriously and why.
  • AO Scott has some fun with the Zagat Survey Movie Guide.

    Josh Tyrangiel profiles Tim Burton for Time. No frozen turkey moment in this story, though.

    Scott Green's weekly "AnimAICN" column.

    Courtney Love, 1964 - 2003 April Fool's Day comes several times a year over at the Stranger. You might remember, for example, William Steven Humphrey's ode to Nell Carter following her death; now comes another obit, a big multi-story cover package of an obit for Courtney Love. Then, besides Sandeep Kaushik's report on Bumfights 2: Bumlife, there's this: Bradley Steinbacher: "It is a bold move, to be sure, but it is also a brilliant one; shedding the standard cinematic shackles, Solomon immediately announces Paris Hilton Sex Tape as an exercise in artistic embellishment, refusing to be bothered with such normally necessary structures as setting and, as we come to find out, story arc..."

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:25 AM
  • November 21, 2003

    Early weekend shorts.

    "Dancer In The Dark - I know it's obvious, but this remains the best movie in the last 5 years. Hands down. No question."

    Dancer in the Dark

    That's Paul Thomas Anderson, answering eleven and a half questions for the Cigarettes and Coffee site. Via Matt Clayfield, who posed question #7.

    More Q&A: Manohla Dargis offers a patient and excellent defense of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's decision to call off its annual voting and awards ceremony, explains why film directors aren't "leaving the studio system en masse for the brave new world of video gaming," nods politely in Roger Ebert's direction and tackles the thorny issues of truth in documentaries and violence on the screen. If all this whets your appetite for more, the best map of where Manohla's coming from on a single page that I know of is Steve Erickson's interview with her in Senses of Cinema. Why did she leave New York for LA? It's all here.

    "Appearing before more people than any politician in history, Nixon worked the living room like a sitcom paterfamilias. He showcased his wife (another first), discussed the family pet and became a national hero - or was it a star?" J. Hoberman reviews David Greenberg's Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image in the Nation.

    More books: Tulsa Kinney reviews Larry Clark's Punk Picasso and John Waters and Bruce Hainley's Art - A Sex Book. Also in the LA Weekly: Scott Foundas on the Independent Los Angeles film and video series and, a bit further down, Alejandro González Ińárritu's 21 Grams; and then, Ella Taylor on Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions.

    Brace yourself: Andrew Sullivan deconstructs that radical spokesman of the "hard left," Frank Rich, in the New Republic. Update: Darren Hughes responds: "If Sullivan reads Angels in America as a Stalinist tract, then I pity his ideological blindness. He's missing a hell of a play."

    From "Don't make me laugh" to "All 40 in the right places," the Guardian runs reactions to its list of the world's top 40 directors. Also, B Ruby Rich: "What's up with Sean Penn playing two characters in one season, both bent on revenge at all costs and intent on carrying out cowboy justice all on their own? The irony, of course, is that Sean Penn, off-screen, is the actor who journeyed all the way to Iraq 11 months ago to bear witness against US foreign policy." And Steve Rose on music video-turned-feature directors.

    Todd Harbour, founder of the Mobius Home Video Forum, on two films released 13 years apart: "For all their narrative and thematic similarities - and there are more outside the scope of this essay - River's Edge and George Washington are night-and-day different in tone."

    So the new issue of Sight & Sound is up. Geoffrey Macnab on Lone Scherfig's Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Mark Cousins on Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle and a few reviews.

    What's Marc Savlov's cover story in the Austin Chronicle about? "[I]n declining order of specificity, Salvador Dalí's great, lost masterpiece; the implosion of Austin's dot-com bubble (and the resulting tsunami of free talent that -- even as this is being written -- has resulted in Austin being flooded with cheap geniuses); animated trivia games for interactive film geeks; and some of the most impressive animated music videos you're likely to ever see. And there are Kabuki snowmen. And kung-fu ninja robot-pimps, too. Possibly some foosball." Don't miss the sidebar. Also: a few questions for John Saxon: "From Brando to Argento and Battle Beyond the Stars? That's a hell of a career you've got." And as if that weren't enough, you'll definitely want to read Savlov's review of Cat in the Hat... out loud.

    Excuse me, but who is this man on the left?

    Nicholson and some guy

    I mean, I recognize the guy on the right. That's Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give. But that escapee from Dr. California's Wachsfigurenkabinett? No idea who that's supposed to be. Nicholson didn't look that young even when he was as young as that guy's supposed to look.

    In indieWIRE: Anthony Kaufman on how things are looking up for the German and Austrian film industries and Nick Poppy on "Five Hot Documentaries." Over at Movie City News, where Leonard Klady interviews Denys Arcand, by the way, the dozen docs the Academy is considering are listed and annotated with links (scroll down).

    Not everyone has an Amanda Filipacchi story. Greg Allen does, though.

    I know we keep pointing to Margaret Cho's blog around here, but damn, she can engage a reader. In recent entries, she replies to bigots re: gay marriage and recalls snoozing next to Tupac.

    "Converts talk about branding as if it were a religion - the only true way to approach the business." Angela Phipps Towle in the Hollywood Reporter on celebrity branding do's and don'ts.

    Bookslut points to a backgrounder on, among other things, Philip K. Dick's paranoic reaction to Stanislaw Lem.

    Online viewing tip. The Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection. Amazing stuff via Rashomon.

    Posted by dwhudson at 9:00 AM | Comments (3)

    November 19, 2003

    Shorts, 19/11.

    Chuck Stephens thinks he might have seen Chris Marker's Sans soleil 20 times or so in the last 20 years.

    chris-marker.jpg

    Chris Marker

    Well, he's wowed again: "[S]imply saying Sans soleil marks the apogee and outer limits of the essay film - in which images are assembled according more to themes and clusters of ideas than to personalities and narratives longer than a moment or so in duration - is a little like saying Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a book with a lot of big words." After a piece as fine as Stephens's, you might want to explore a Chris Marker site.

    Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Annalee Newitz: "While one should never underestimate the lure of spectacular CGI and Keanu's ass, the appeal of these films clearly goes beyond eye candy. The Matrix trilogy fascinates people across the globe because it manages, gloriously and terrifyingly, to capture turn-of-the-century paranoia about corporate control of our culture."

    And in the SF Weekly, Noa Jones catches the world premiere of Blood Money, a film by "Tony Tarantino, Quentin's father, a bit actor doused in Grecian Formula, and writer-director Jim Meyer, an ex-used-car-salesman who hosts a public access TV show in Marin County."

    Back in September, we worried about too much of a good thing going on all at once for Sofia Coppola. Would Lost in Translation "peak" too early, i.e., before awards season (for whatever that might be worth)? Would there be a backlash against Coppola herself? Two telling signs today that the curtain may have indeed begun to rise on that very worst-case scenario: Alexandra Wolfe's item #3 in the New York Observer's "Transom" column dares to suggest that Sofia's "nonchalant Oscar attitude" is... are you sitting down?... a put-on!

    And then there's Matthew Wilder in the City Pages praising hubby Spike Jonze's "unique genius for aping a discredited or sheerly cruddy pop-culture form and simultaneously sending it up, writing it a love letter, and giving it a 100-percent original spin" (no argument here) but only as a way to set up Sofia for the fall: "Me, I'd be afraid to go anywhere near the poker-faced abstainers of Lost in Translation. I might order them the wrong vodka and never hear the end of it." Pow! As if that alone weren't enough damage inflicted, someone's gone and given poor Mr. Wilder a headline that has absolutely nothing to do with his piece: "Spike and Sofia on the Skids?"

    Back to the NYO for a moment: Ron Rosenbaum was infuriating to read during the Bushies' year-or-more-long PR campaign building up to the war in Iraq, but he isn't always wrong. He's got a thought-provoking piece this week on, among other things, Martin Amis's Yellow Dog and Bruce Wagner's "brilliant" Still Holding; what's Wagner "getting at"? "Hollywood is our nation's head injury, the source of our spiritual retardation."

    Meanwhile, Neil LaBute. Not only is he currently writing a diary in Slate, he recently entertained an audience (note the frequent "[Laughter]" breaks) during one of those long Guardian/NFT interviews. Also in Slate, by the way: How stars get their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    In Salon: Amy Reiter talks to Alejandro González Ińárritu and Rebecca Traister rides the Middle-earth Shuttle.

    In the Guardian: Geoffrey Macnab on Alexander Sokurov, Ronald Bergan's obit for Ken Gampu, "the first black South African film star," and Martin Wainwright on the Salford Film Festival: "With real panache, Manchester's grubby kid sister is revisiting its truly remarkable silver screen past - and putting it to service in urban regeneration."

    "Dennis Potter is twitching back into life," writes Johann Hari rather morbidly in the Independent.

    Dream Life A nice pair, particularly in the immediate wake of the release on DVD of Once Upon a Time in the West: J. Hoberman's review and notes on Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker which, he writes, "belongs with the crazy left-wing westerns that mark the post-'60s wreck of revolutionary dreams: Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's near unwatchable Wind From the East"; and Mark Peranson's review of Hoberman's The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and The Mythology of the Sixties, which "[charts] America's plunge down the post-hegemonic sewer with typical wit and vigor. This subjective popular history crackles with you-are-there-ness."

    In the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz meets Robert Drew and Armond White on Isaac Julien, whose "Baltimore and Paradise Omeros revive cinema outside of cinema. Movies may have a future after all."

    Matt Langdon wraps up his final blurbs on the films he caught at the AFI Film Fest.

    Online viewing tip. The Flash intro and subsequent "pages" at the site for Teriha, which is to be a man-made island in Hakata Bay with 1500 houses over 400 hectares, all inspired by sketches by Hayao Miyazaki. Via Anime News Network and News of the Dead.

    Posted by dwhudson at 9:05 AM | Comments (1)

    November 18, 2003

    One with everything, please.

    You suspect that if the DVD had been around in Monty Python's day, they'd have done it with, say, The Life of Brian or The Meaning of Life: "The Slightly Over-Extended and Probably Completely Unnecessary Version." And many of us would snap it right up.

    Ripley's into aliens

    When movies, particularly series of movies, do an especially fine job of conjuring an alternative universe, some want to step in and not come back out again for a long, long time. They want to explore every nook and cranny of that universe as if it were the virtual world of an interactive game (which, of course, many game-makers recognize, and they oblige accordingly). Take the case of Jason Bovberg, for example. He was 11 in 1979 and his father took him to "the new whispered-about R-rated science-fiction horror flick Alien... Little did I realize at the time that my first viewing of Alien would become one of the defining moments of this film fan's life."

    The keyword here is "fan." On the one hand, his rave in DVD Talk for the "behemoth" nine-disc Alien Quadrilogy might be expected. For Bovberg, the more Alien the better, right? Not necessarily. A fan could just as well be a harsher critic than anyone if the set were a botched job. A more telling measure of how these multi-disc sets are being received might be Laura Miller's take on the newly released Extended Version of Peter Jackson's Two Towers; she does manage to find "the upside of a DVD made by a bunch of artists who are running low on their initial surge of adrenaline and gathering their strength for the final stretch," but you can tell she's not a deeply dedicated, fan site-building, merchandise-collecting fan. And yet she's had a good time. 43 extra minutes - more than were added to the EE version of Fellowship - may be a few too many, but she's enjoyed them nonetheless.

    This more relaxed sort of appreciation is going to be what counts in the end when it comes to studios' deciding to what distances they'll go in creating such packages. Hardcore fandom stretches far and wide enough to extend and sustain very, very few movie universes. But the vast soft middlelands of consumerdom seem to be able to support more than most of us might have imagined. I, at least, found the quote from the VP at Fox Home Entertainment in Peter M Nichols's story in the New York Times today pretty amazing: "For example, a lot of effects shots, especially in Alien3 and Resurrection, were never finished, so the home entertainment division went to the effects houses and got the computer imaging done. It's not a question of cleaning a film up, but having it made as well. We've been able to increase the scope and stature of the restoration department because of the revenue DVD is producing."

    It's interesting to ponder what, specifically, is justifying the costs. It can't be, just as an example, the total number of people rabidly eager to sit down and consciously take in 62 hours of Alien stuff (and maybe more than once, too); there are a lot of Alien fans out there that serious about all this, but that many? Could it be precisely the sort of person who could take it or leave it, who can casually wander in and out of that universe and is, in fact, so uninterested in paying such close attention to the film on her own that she'd rather watch it in the company of someone else, as it were, with a commentary track running this time, and a different one next time.

    Extras are usually perceived either as hardcore fan fodder or as terribly film school, but in reality, they may be received very differently. Perhaps what the actual packaging of these packages is really saying is, "You kind of liked this movie, remember? Well, for at least a couple of nights, here's a way of experiencing that rather pleasant feeling all over again when there's nothing else on."

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:43 AM

    November 17, 2003

    Shorts, 11/17.

    Cost of Living As part of a special issue of Outlook India on women, Namrata Joshi introduces a list of the magazine's favorite onscreen heroines: "Popular Hindi cinema, as far as gender sensitivities go, has been the playing out of a rather telling dialectic of radicalism borne forward on the bandwagon of conservatism."

    And get this (here's where I reveal how much I have yet to learn about Indian cinema): "Much before Dil Chahta Hai became synonymous with the hip and the cool, there was In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones. Set in the westernised campus of a Delhi architecture college, the movie revolves around Radha, the rebellious student, played by Arundhati Roy, who also wrote the screenplay." Yes, that Arundhati Roy.

    Meanwhile, Sandip Roy writes at Alternet:

    The Bollywoodization of American popular culture has long been underway.... But none of it amounted to much until Hollywood anointed us as cool. We were the model citizens - winning spelling bees, writing reams of code and buying responsible cars like Hondas and Toyotas. We had money, motels and a lobbying firm in Washington. But we were never cool. When Hollywood blesses you, however, you become transformed.

    Outside the Box: "About the interesting promotional items Variety receives in the mail. Written by Jim Hames." Other Variety blogs: Wicked Little Town and Bags and Boards. Got an idea for another one? They're listening.

    That's via Fimoculous, which is huge and fantastic today. Just one or two more highlights: Alfred Hitchcock Cameos. With pix! And Bodysong and The Elegant Universe and the Warhol tapes and... just go: Fimoculous.

    In the New York Times:

  • Jason Epstein on verisimilitude and Master and Commander.
  • Karen Durbin on Denys Arcand and the 20 years between The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions.
  • Nathan Lee on Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water.
  • Frank Rich: "Angels, Reagan and AIDS in America."
  • And AO Scott on piracy.

    And in the Observer, Ed Vulliamy delves deep into the death of Marie Trintignant.

    Occasionally, I'll experience whole days as if they were formatted by Final Draft. Greg Allen knows what I'm talking about.

    Cinema Aficionado passes along word of Henry Bates and the Sorcerer's Balls, a parody of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter sept-something. Says David Morgasen, one of the three screenwriters: "Our good wizard is Gandolfini, who goes against the evil wizard Enron. The quest involves Henry Bates, the rightful king of the land of Middlefinger."

    Bizarre Love Triangle

    Online viewing tip. Bits of Bizarre Love Triangle and "Deux pieds," a music video for Thomas Fersen. Via videos.antville.org.

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:58 AM
  • November 15, 2003

    Bottom 50.

    Perhaps it's only appropriate to follow the Guardian's top 40 with Film Threat's "Frigid 50: The Coldest People in Hollywood 2003."

    Christopher Walken

    #1's easy: Jack Valenti. But then the list turns fun and harsh but never too harsh. #2: Cuba Gooding, Jr.. "Has any one person done so little with an Oscar?" Don't get the impression, either, that the FT staff is merely shooting fish in a barrel blind-folded. #10's Christopher Walken, alright?

    It's in this spirit that FT publisher Chris Gore, ten years after writing and directing Red, has announced that he's writing and producing My Big Fat Independent Movie, taglined "a low brow comedy for the high brow crowd." Among the targets of the parody are to be, well, Wedding, of course, but also Amelie, Memento, Secretary, Pulp Fiction and Run Lola Run.

    And just as a reminder that it's not all ribbing and giggling over there at FT, a fine interview: Brad Cook gets Eric Saperston to talk about his Journey.

    Over at the Criterion Forum, there's a lot of speculation going on as to what Jon Mulvaney, the company's Customer Liaison, may be referring to when he says, "What's in the works? One dog, one cat, one bird, two Sicilians, three women, four cops, five films never before on home video (at least), and six hours of suffering. Not to mention a couple of masks, a mamma, and a messiah. And The Lower Depths."

    Doug Cummings offers a fascinating and important account of a screening of Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, a new documentary by Charles Burnett, "the epitome of a cult hero - almost famous for not being famous," as Nelson Kim writes in the Senses of Cinema piece Doug quotes. Read this entry through; Doug's tentative conclusion, which sound about right to me, is that varying reactions to Burnett's film and Claude Lanzmann's Sobibor reveal disturbing traces of racial and class prejudice that still linger.

    Mark T. Conard, co-editor of The Simpsons and Philosophy and Woody Allen and Philosophy, puts Tarantino on the couch for Metaphilm. In Kill Bill, "Tarantino is here not only confronting his past, in good psychoanalytic fashion, he is remaking it at the same time.... Our mothers were the heroes and villains of our lives. They were the leading players, the ones who held everything together in our fathers' absences." Meanwhile, the Metaphlog points to Jesse Walker's riffs on Revolutions.

    More Matrix explication: Corporate Mofo (via Tagline, where Stephen Reid seems very excited about Robert Zemeckis's next film, Polar Express) and Brian Takle (via Matt Clayfield, who's got a few legitimate and thought-provoking worries regarding the future of his filmmaking career).

    Lots of responses to Shroom's challenge at Milk Plus: "Name a family film that would be truly acceptable to the entire family."

    "They've been told it's too edgy. They've been told it's too indie. They've been told there are no stars. They've been told it's too dark, it's too light, too smart, too dumb; the only thing they haven't heard by way of criticism is that it's too in color and too in focus." SignalStation points to a piece in the Dallas Observer by Robert Wilonsky on Martin & Orloff, a film evidently very deserving of a distribution deal - but "you'll never see it."

    Margaret Cho defends Courtney Love.

    Oleg Kireev tells the Nettime list how Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy has been received in Russia. You've probably heard about the redubbings before but you may not have heard them compared to previous stunts by the likes of the Situationist International before. By the way, a minute or two of online viewing: "The Towers are the Players."

    Scott Green's roundup of anime news at AICN is actually digestible this time around. For Anime News Network, Allen Divers interviews Monkey Punch.

    In the New York Times Review of Books, Dwight Garner calls Bruce Wagner's Still Holding "the hippest, funniest and most angrily humane novel written about Hollywood in the last 20 years, and it bumps Wagner up to another level as a novelist."

    Garbo Laughs More books: Karen Karbo reviews Elizabeth Hay's Garbo Laughs a novel about Harriet Browning, "a melancholic novelist, a wife and mother of two, a woman so preoccupied by old movies and old movie stars that it threatens to break up her family." From the first chapter:

    "No, wait. Just this time. Who's better? Frank Sinatra or Marlon Brando?"

    "Are you ready for this?" she said. "Can you take it? I'd have to say Marlon Brando."

    "You're crazy, you're nuts. I can't believe what I'm hearing."

    She laughed, as one nut laughs with another, since she too wore her movie heart on her sleeve.

    Briefly noted: Phillip Lopate's Getting Personal and Patrick McGilligan's Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. And in the Guardian, Nicholas Lezard reviews Anthony Lane's Nobody's Perfect.

    In the NYT Magazine: Walter Kirn: "Remote-control sex ed. What's not to like?"; Johanna Berkman: "[T]here's a battle currently raging in Silicon Valley for control of your living room"; and from Ted C. Fishman's piece, a quote from a prof that resonates in ways he might not have intended: "Big TV's now require less depth than books."

    Posted by dwhudson at 1:25 PM

    November 14, 2003

    Top 40.

    "After all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era."

    David Lynch

    And that discussion was held by a panel of Guardian critics - Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks, Molly Haskell, Derek Malcolm, Andrew Pulver, B Ruby Rich and Steve Rose - that has been so bold as to name "The world's best 40 directors." In order of importance, mind you, based on how each scores in terms of "Substance, Look, Craft, Originality" and "Intelligence."

    Naturally, anyone would be a fool to take such rankings too seriously, but it's always great fun to sort through and note things like:

  • The top 5 are all American. Going down the list, the US's winning streak is halted only by Abbas Kiarostami at #6.
  • With Errol Morris at #7, a documentary filmmaker makes the top ten. But there's only one more, Michael Moore at #28.
  • Hey, hey, anime: Hayao Miyazaki at #8.
  • The British paper slips a British filmmaker into the top ten at #10: Terence Davies.
  • Lynne Ramsay hits the highest score for a woman: #12. But though there are two women on the panel, there's only one other woman on the list: Samira Makhmalbaf at #36; interestingly, her father, Mohsen, is not on the list at all.
  • 18 Americans in all, nearly half the bunch. Correction: Represented by three directors are Japan and the UK; by two directors: Taiwan and Iran. One each: Hong Kong, Brazil (Walter Salles, the only Latin American), Canada, Russia, France, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Austria, Finland and Sweden.

    All in all, a fun page to scroll up and down. Particularly since, besides the blurbs, each director gets a link to a lengthier feature or interview. Also in the Guardian:

  • Jo Tuckman: "Mexico's cultural elite is on the warpath, determined to stop a sell-off of state cultural institutions that will, they say, remove the last barriers to American cultural domination."

  • Mark Lawson on Nick Broomfield's Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer: "Broomfield's sequel arose because the first film became evidence - and its director a defence witness - at Wuornos's final legal appeal before Governor Jeb Bush was able to attach her to the Florida grid and throw the switch."

  • Peter Preston on Sönke Wortmann's The Miracle of Bern, a box office smash in Germany that's brought tears to the eyes of the country's #1 soccer fan, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

  • "It used to be the young who shocked their elders by their indecent clothes, louche talk and 24/7 obsession with sex; but the laugh of the year is watching the young being horrified by their sexy elders - elders going public with their desires, their bums and even their eye-popping sexual fantasies." Katharine Whitehorn on The Mother, directed by Roger Michell and written by Hanif Kureishi.

    Friday Review: Vincent Gallo

  • And a Friday Review cover piece on Vincent Gallo by Jacques Peretti, who's made doc called 48 People Who Should Be Shot in Hollywood, based on an interview Gallo did with, who else, himself.

    Elsewhere, the New York Times's David Pogue sees the future and it's still expensive: "Pioneer's new DVR-810H and Elite DVR-57H. Each of these remarkable machines is a TiVo recorder, DVD player and DVD recorder in a single box, with one remote that also controls your TV." Yours for $1200 and $1800, respectively, though they might be found a bit cheaper after a lot of digging.

    The Economist: "Ever since Wittgenstein, philosophers have argued that mental experience is essentially public and objective in a way that makes it hard to make sense of the internalised reality that is portrayed in The Matrix. Philosophers have largely raised the question of brains in vats in order to dismiss it without another look."

    Nice conceit for a review: "TO: America; FROM: The BBC; Subject: FWD: 'The Office' on DVD." Shawn Badgley: "The Office... is mainly brave, effective, existential comedy, inducing as many roars as chuckles, as many grins as nods. It's also Britain's biggest hit, and as such is a refreshing blast of the anti-Aaron Sorkin, one of the States' biggest hitmakers: There are no stirring speeches, no conspicuous stances.... We can now only wait for US TV to ruin it in remake."

    Also in the Austin Chronicle: Anne S. Lewis on Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, who was "black, gay (once arrested on a morals charge), once a member of the American Communist Party, once jailed as a World War II conscientious objector, and one of the architects of the civil rights movement."

    "Every now and then while I'm working in Japan, or here talking to the British journalists asking me about my films, while giving interviews I can't help shaking this fear of, 'What if I'm still dreaming?'" Takeshi Kitano, the 30th best director in the world, evidently, interviewed by Graeme Cole for kamera.co.uk.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:17 AM
  • November 13, 2003

    Red on green shorts.

    The online neighborhood out here has just been notched upscale a tad. Rouge is a new online journal, beautifully designed and smartly edited by Adrian Martin, Helen Bandis and Grant McDonald. "Our emphasis is on developing a creative approach to cinema through texts that are as poetic as they are analytical," announces Martin before sketching out the first issue's contents:

    millennium-mambo.jpg

    Hou Hsiao-hsien's Millennium Mambo

    "[A]n exclusive text by master Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien on new directions in Asian cinema; Yvette Biro on Tsai Ming-liang; fictocriticism by American director Mark Rappaport... Philippe Grandrieux in conversation with Nicole Brenez; and Arab film and video by Jayce Salloum. Also: tributes to Brakhage and Pialat; painter Gerard Fromanger on meetin' JLG; and a translation of Serge Daney on Philippe Garrel."

    Hou Hsiao-hsien:

    We watch all kinds of films, Hollywood and European films, and we may try different things. But local elements are the indispensable foundation on which each should try to find his ignition point. We saw Hollywood grab My Sassy Girl and Ring to make its own versions. It's an empire and will go after films with potential, as it did to Luc Besson's Nikita (1990). We shouldn't think that our own films are no good.

    To the shorts:

    Film-Philosophy is currently featuring three articles on cinema and history.

    In Alternet, Rebecca Carroll recalls when independent film "seemed the perfect opportunity for cool, smart, creative filmmakers from all cultural backgrounds to join together and kick Hollywood's slick, mainstream, tired white ass. Since then, however, we have all watched the independent film industry go from what it could have been to what it is - a scrawnier, slick, mainstream, tired white ass." Well... there's always another cop movie.

    "Now that the minstrel show has moved to television, gay filmmakers have been able to get down to the nitty-gritty." Ed Gonzalez previews the Minneapolis/St. Paul LGBT Film Festival for City Pages.

    Matt Langdon is blurbing the films he's catching at the AFI Fest.

    Persued Leonard Klady in Movie City News on Raoul Walsh, Pursued and the limits of auteur theory.

    Steve Rose talks to Dagur Kari about his festival hit, Noi Albinoi. Also in the Guardian: "For many Americans, Britain is a strange and exotic land glimpsed only through the work of Richard Curtis. While the picture he presents is, let us say, broadly accurate, first-time viewers may find some further explanation helpful." Tim Dowling and Mark Lawson on the director Brits aren't sure they're proud of; and Simon Hattenstone interviews Peter Mullan.

    "It's the most insidery of insider cases imaginable, from the moguls talking about it, to the media reporting on it, to the threatened LA Times writer, Anita Busch, who started it all." Nikki Finke in the LA Weekly on "Follywood."

    Geoffrey Kleinman interviews Geoffrey Rush for DVD Talk.

    In the Independent:

  • Adam Sweeting talks to DA Pennebaker, which actually makes for a nice companion piece to our latest interview with Robert Drew.
  • "'I am very sensitive, a very reserved person and very shy, and this was my very first movie and Bernardo had this reputation for being...' she pauses, ;not Hitler, but quite tough with the actors.'" Eva Green talks to Geoffrey Macnab...
  • ... who also talks to Yeslam Binladin, "older brother of Osama, [who] is fast establishing himself as a film producer. He is involved in three new films by the maverick Danish auteur Lars von Trier."
  • Ryan Gilbey on James Mason: "Frequently he sought out characters who would contrive emotional incarceration rather than face the daunting prospect of freedom."
  • David Thomson on Peter Jackson's salary.

    Sam Green takes the San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie for Film; Susan Gerhard meets him as he cuts a TV version of The Weather Underground.

    The Matrix: Resolutions. Via Cinecultist.

    Laura Silverman recounts her venture into "Celeb Dating Hell" in LA Innuendo.

    Online viewing tip. 1. Wim Wenders is showing his most recent photographs at the James Cohen Gallery; he'll also talk about them.

    Online viewing tip. 2. Nine 15-second Nokia Shorts. Via Fimoculous.

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:40 AM | Comments (2)
  • November 12, 2003

    Old celluloid, new words.

    Totally Tenderly Tragically With the November/December issue, Film Comment finally gets the new site its needed for a while. No more slo-mo Flash stare-off sessions between you and the cover while you decide whether or not to force it to move on and out of the way or continue admiring the audacity of a page without content that insists on hanging around anyway.

    In terms of sheer percentage, the online pickings are as sparse as ever, but in terms of selection, I, for one, couldn't be happier. Few writers conjure with mere words what it is that you love about movies like Geoffrey O'Brien, and even though he's writing about a movie I've grown tired of even hearing mentioned, I'm glad to be able to read him again:

    A director peculiarly inspired by place, whether the warehouse in Reservoir Dogs or the shopping mall in Jackie Brown or the nightclub in Kill Bill, Tarantino finally needs to invent a cultural space in which his movies can exist. Here he has woven it out of strips of old celluloid, a sort of carnival tent hoisted up in a void: a haunted funhouse for resurrected swordswomen, where they can eternally enact the same unfinished and unfinishable revenge drama.

    And then there's Phillip Lopate, writing about this year's New York Film Festival, which is especially sweet in the context of the afterward he wrote in the chapter of 1998's Totally Tenderly Tragically, "The First New York Film Festival - 1963":

    This was the first extended film criticism I ever published. It appeared in my college newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator, on November 1, 1963, two weeks before my twentieth birthday.... I probably should be more embarrassed by it as a piece of juvenilia than I am. Certainly I can see passages which convey a shallow bluff at authority; but what amazes me is how much of the style, the syntax, the argumentation resemble the way I write today. This is a case of either precocious or arrested development!

    What else: Olaf Möller on Venice and, online only!, Alex Reeds on "The Screener Fiasco," a primer, sort of.

    Posted by dwhudson at 3:30 PM | Comments (1)

    Critique.

    Why are the French ignoring François Ozon? Or, more specifically, why are French critics, particularly those canon-forgers at Cahiers du Cinema and Positif, ignoring him?

    Water Drops on Burning Rocks

    Water Drops on Burning Rocks

    That's the question Adam Bingham addresses in "Identity and love," one of four articles on French cinema in the latest issue of Kinoeye. The short answer: He doesn't fit in any of the schools or movements the critical establishment has mapped out for itself (and which Bingham handily summarizes). "Indeed, there are few film-makers for whom the title 'A film by' or 'a ... film' means so much and yet so little." Which is a fine thing, argues Bingham. But neglecting Ozon's work is a mistake nonetheless.

    Alongside links to over a dozen other pieces on French cinema that have previously appeared in Kinoeye, the other three articles are Felicitas Becker's piece on death in recent French films, Colette Balmain on Lionel Delplanque's Promenons-nous dans les bois (Deep in the Woods, 2000), "one of the few, and most successful, French horror films to come out since Georges Franju's Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face, 1959)," and Kathryn Bergeron on Christophe Gans's Le Pacte des loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf, 2001).

    Posted by dwhudson at 10:08 AM

    Art Carney, 1918 - 2003.

    Art Carney Eric Schaeffer for the Museum of Broadcast Communications: "In Ed Norton we find the pathos of Chaplin, the earnestness of Lloyd, and the physical grace of Keaton."

    "Mr. Carney's talents were by no means confined to The Honeymooners. He won an Oscar for his performance in the 1974 film Harry and Tonto, in which he portrays a widower who is evicted from his New York City apartment and who embarks on a cross-country odyssey with his pet cat. Over the course of his career he repeatedly won critical acclaim for the depth and breadth of his talent, even when he appeared in movies that critics did not like," writes Richard Severo in the New York Times. "'I love Ed Norton and what he did for my career,' Mr. Carney once said. 'But the truth is that we couldn't have been more different. Norton was the total extrovert, there was no way you could put down his infectious good humor. Me? I'm a loner and a worrier.'

    They're talking about Art Carney at BroadwayWorld: "Did you remember that he originated the part of Felix on Broadway in The Odd Couple?"

    TV Land will be running a 39-episode marathon of The Honeymooners starting on Friday night. TV Barn's got the schedule.

    Posted by dwhudson at 9:21 AM

    November 10, 2003

    8 from the heart.

    Zoetrope Cinema Issue Francis Ford Coppola introduces the current issue of Zoetrope: All Story, the Cinema Issue:

    Storytelling for film, or screenwriting, came to me not because I was a genius with magical narrative gifts, but because I was willing to try things out, rewrite continually, steal ideas, veer in strange directions, and make use of accidents and my own intuition.... This issue of stories by filmmakers is, for the most part, an inversion of my original idea for Zoetrope. It features the work of writers who have already been cultivated and who have already gone out and made films, as well as written scripts and novels. But it shows they still have the desire to tell a story solely with words, so as to allow the readers to supply the pictures in their minds.

    It's quite a package for seven bucks, designed by his son, Roman Coppola, and what's more, here's a pleasant surprise: the online appetizers are pretty filling on their own. Abbas Kiarostami's story, for example, "After the Rain," is there in full. So is Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's story, "Refuge in London." There are ample beginnings of stories by Neil Jordan and Neil LaBute, and the others, by Coppola, Eric Bogosian, Tamara Jenkins and Michael Tolkin, are blurbed.

    Steve Rhodes attended Tolkin's reading of his story, "The Return of the Player," on Wednesday at the Café Niebaum-Coppola in San Francisco. Steve sez Tolkin sez that it's "part of a work-in-progress novel which is a sequel to The Player. He said the original inspiration for Griffin was Elliot Abrams, particularly seeing him lie. He transposed the character to the more familiar landscape (for him) of Hollywood. And now that Abrams is back in the Bush administration, Griffin is back, too."

    Coppola ca. 1982 Coppola... well, I suppose, these days, you have to specify which one: Francis Ford Coppola also talks to USA Today's Andy Seiler, prepping for the re-release of the digitally restored, recut and remastered One From the Heart and dropping a few more hints of what we might have to look forward to in Megolopolis: "The older I get, I realize that all the conflicts in the world can be examined in your own family. It really deals with the question: What if we all got together and chose to make an extraordinary future we could live in?"

    Of related interest will definitely be the clips and links from this entry back in July.

    Short shorts, with a heavy emphasis on the 80s, as it happens:

  • The Reagans, of course: James Poniewozik in Time; Molly Ivins at Alternet; and in the New York Times, Dutch author Edmund Morris and former NYT executive editor Max Frankel.

  • More in the NYT: Brent Staples on Californians' "Fear of Blade Runnerization"; John Leland on "racial improvisation" and The Human Stain; Fred Kaplan with a piece whose title says it all: "When Bad DVD's Happen to Great Films" (why the apostrophe, though?); and Frank Rich: "Like all wars of the TV age, the war in Iraq is not just a clash of armies, but a succession of iconic images. Those who control the images, and the narratives they encapsulate, control history. At least until a new reality crashes in."

  • "There's never been a better time to be a female director.... But does the celluloid ceiling still exist in 2003?" Liz Hoggard in the Observer. In the same issue, Anne Thompson picks ten faves in the Oscar race; two are directed by women.

  • In the New Yorker, Tad Friend catches up with Tim Burton catching up with Billy Redden, "the banjo boy" in Deliverance.

  • And finally, the breeziest, most fun read of the day, albeit as part of the promo campaign for a work that promises to be anything but breezy: Another one of these everybody-sitting-around-talking things the newsweeklies have been doing so often recently - and let's hope they carry on. Newsweek corrals playwright Tony Kushner, director Mike Nichols and stars Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Justin Kirk to chat about the upcoming HBO production of Angels in America. The trailer and promo clips at HBO's site for Angels and the One From the Heart clips make for a nice little pair of online viewing tips as well.

    Posted by dwhudson at 6:18 AM | Comments (3)
  • November 8, 2003

    Weekend Shorts.

    "David Cronenberg is a director who I've always wanted to work with, and I'd be very verbal about it. Like in a forum such as this, I would say his name, many times. And it got back to him."

    Crash

    Crash

    Holly Hunter takes a load of questions from Sandra Hebron at the National Film Theatre in London and 15 more from the audience. In other words, it's a long interview, and you can be glad this is the weekend. There's more than enough reading material to fill the precious few hours left of it.

    All 213 pages of the screenplay for The Reagans, for example, which Salon is now making available as an 8MB PDF file. It's there, too, that Sidney Blumenthal chides CBS once more for wimping out; but in the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley lays part of the blame over the flare-up at the feet of producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. Not only is their mini-series "self-righteous" and "preachy," the two "were so intent on re-examining their subject's legacy that they missed the missile-defense shield surrounding Mr. Reagan.... He is not just a beloved former president; he is the Moses of the conservative movement." Michael Janofsky profiles one of the true believers and The Nation's David Corn faces off with the most famous of these, Ann Coulter.

    This weekend, you've also got the new issue of the New York Times Magazine, wall-to-wall movies, about 28,000 words' worth, most of them devoted to the fall marketing season and how it's all about the Oscars (and for two current takes on how that race is going, see David Poland and Jeffrey Wells). But before settling down with this film issue of the NYT Magazine, which looks, at least at first glance, far more substantial than the paper's Holiday Movies special just last week, spend a moment with Joseph O'Neill's very fine piece on why it is that Hollywood has such a weak and shaky relationship with "the Three" on "the medal podium of living American novelists," Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and John Updike.

    Another big package to sort through: The San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Noise" section this week addresses the "synergy" going on between "music, image, film and video." Good stuff, actually, a lot better than that sounds. Do dig in.

    "Two recent Hollywood films, ostensibly about the nature of faith - M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002) and Bill Paxton's Frailty (2001) - attest to the insidious power of Gnostic doctrines to deflect ethico-religious dilemmas into fantasies of national idolatry." Another sort of reading you might want to bite into this weekend: Peter Yoonsuk Paik in Postmodern Culture on "Smart Bombs, Serial Killing, and the Rapture: The Vanishing Bodies of Imperial Apocalypticism." And if the Matrix series has aroused an interest in Jean Baudrillard, you might want to check out Leonard Wilcox's reaction to Bradley Butterfield's article, "The Baudrillardian Symbolic, 9/11, and the War of Good and Evil," and Butterfield's reply.

    "How did something so good go so wrong?" Or: Why are the Matrix sequels disappointing fans of the original in droves? Matt Feeney offers a straight-forward and sensible argument that rings true enough in Slate: "The Wachowskis ditched the conceit of the Matrix.... That, in turn, removed virtually everything distinctive and meaningful about the original film - its hipster skepticism, its strangely compelling logic of human striving, and, perhaps most fundamentally, the storytelling discipline that imposed a gorgeous economy on almost every scene." Feeney gets some good lines in, too, but nothing approaching the manic brilliance of Metaphilm's take. But in their "Metaphlog," they're pointing to James Lileks's generally positive review (as well as to a preachy but viewable take-off, "The Meatrix"). While we're on the subject: Greg Allen has a little fun reading My Architect through Matrix-tinted glasses. He's not alone. The Nation allows us an all-too-rare online glimpse of Stuart Klawans, who also places both films on the same page, though that's as far as Klawans goes.

    As for the other trilogy wrapping this year, Peter Jackson sends an email to Harry Knowles to clear up "a muddle of half-truths" floating around out there. Yes, Christopher Lee's scene has been cut from Return of the King, but: "It was a film maker decision - nothing to do with the studio." The problem: The scene belonged originally in The Two Towers and in early cuts was delaying the kick-off of Return's actual story. "Thank God for DVD," writes Jackson, "since it does mean that a version of the movie, which has different pacing requirements, can be released later." Also at AICN: A monstrous load of anime news from Scott Green.

    "It's all about the money, honey." Persistence of Vision points us to the November issue of The Independent where, indeed, it is. Find out what gives producers headaches and get to know your specialty funders.

    Tom Mes interviews Takeshi Kitano. Also in Midnight Eye: Jaspar Sharp files from the Yamagata Film Festival and reviews Tatsuya Mori's A while Nicholas Rucka reviews Sogo Ishii's Panic High School.

    Eugene Hernandez lays out the nominations for the European Film Awards to be handed out on December 6 in Berlin by the European Film Academy. Good Bye, Lenin! leads in terms of sheer numbers. Also in indieWIRE:

  • Brian Brooks on how First Run Features aims to politicize its website - there's some good stuff there, but it's just a beginning at the moment.
  • Scenes from HBO's party for their Mike Nichols-directed Angels in America.

    In My Skin

  • Steve Erickson talks to Marina de Van about In My Skin.
  • Brandon Judell discusses Girlhood with Liz Garbus.
  • Anthony Kaufman looks back on the 14th annual Festival of Films from Iran in Chicago. Abbas Kiarostami wasn't there and "not a single one of Kiarostami's films played at the event. But the presence of the master of Iranian cinema was eminently felt."
  • American cinephiles may be tiring of the 70s but Europeans are just getting into it. "New Hollywood 1967 - 1976. Trouble in Wonderland." is the title of the retrospective for next February's Berlin International Film Festival, reports Berlinale regular Eugene Hernandez.

    There are a lot more foreign-language films in North American theaters than you might think, writes Leonard Klady in Movie City News.

    Think twice before you break up with Margaret Cho.

    Joshua Jabcuga talks to Dennis Widmyer who's made Postcards From the Future, a doc on Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Also at Movie Poop Shoot: D.K. Holm reviews Ellis Amburn's The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty and Josh Horowitz talks to Peter Sarsgaard.

    Is Austin "busier than LA"? That's what Austin Studios head Suzanne Quinn kept hearing on the left coast recently, reports Marc Savlov, who also interviews Peter Hedges in this week's Austin Chronicle. Also: Joe Bob Briggs is heading for the capital of Texas to promote his new book, Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History! (an excerpt), so Jason Henderson got him to promote the promotional tour. And Belinda Acosta tests the EZ-D: "If I opened my favorite book to a passage I marked and found it 'unreadable,' I'm sure I would burst into tears."

    "Jeff Bridges may have the only cool celebrity website," writes Wiley Wiggins.

    Kill Bill: QT shows up for a press conference in Tokyo wearing a Lost in Translation T-shirt and, according to Mark Thompson in the Japan Times, wins 'em over. Fun read via indieWIRE. Meanwhile, more on the discrepancy between the way we handle movie vs real-life violence from Jamal Dajani via Alternet. Note: One of the reasons for that discrepancy is that we know the difference. And then there's Molly Haskell: "I happen to think Tarantino's kung-fu divas are a great deal more original, even 'womanly' than they have been given credit for, and certainly a lot more exciting than the usual babes-in-spandex action heroines."

    Fresh news and reviews at Kung Fu Cult Cinema. Then, via Kung Fu Cinema sans the cult, a teaser for Silver Hawk, Michelle Yeoh's next one.

    Halle Berry, interviewed at Moviehole.

    "A good crossover film works as well for an Indo-Pakistani audience as it does for the Curzon Soho or the Odeon Piccadilly," director Vijay Singh tells Amelia Gentleman. He describes his film, One Dollar Curry, currently shooting in Paris, as "Bollywoodesque but without the slightly trite and jocular spoof-like elements of Bollywood." Also in the Guardian:

  • David Thomson disagrees with Martin Scorsese on Gaslight, but still values the underappreciated work of Thorold Dickinson. Cocteau and Piaf
  • Stuart Jeffries on an odd pair, Jean Cocteau and Edith Piaf.
  • London Film Festival round-up.
  • "The music in a film must enter politely, very slowly." John L Walters meets Ennio Morricone.
  • Jessica Weetch delves into the world of "specialist extras" whose greatest threat at the moment is visual-effects software.
  • And Maggie O'Kane on the origins of Guardian Films, whose series of reports from Iraq by Salam Pax begin airing in the UK on Monday.

    Charles Platt to the Politech list: "Any shortsighted policy that discourages consumers from watching broadcast TV or raises the price of equipment for receiving broadcast TV is a step in the right direction from my point of view." More seriously, the EFF's stand on the FCC's "broadcast flag" ruling: "Sadly, this represents a step in the wrong direction, a step that will undermine innovation, fair use, and competition."

    Two sign-o-the-times press releases: T-Online is stepping up its VOD services; and the gist of InterVideo's announcement: Linux, Pioneer and TiVo, all in bed together.

    Online fiddling around tip. Psycho Studio: "Edit your own version of the classic Shower Scene." A nice batch of Psycho-related links there, too.

    Online viewing tips. The Guardian's Kate Stables picks seven.

    Posted by dwhudson at 2:17 PM | Comments (4)
  • November 7, 2003

    Factoring consent.

    Dusk Till Dawn Edward Champion wonders if an indie filmmaker we admire might not be overstating his case...

    It could have been the greatest X-Files episode ever. A supernatural story directed by Quentin Tarantino airing right after the Super Bowl. A ratings bonanza. A fresh take on a show showing early signs of atrophy. But it didn't happen. Tarantino, you see, wasn't a union man.

    Tarantino's union aversion can be seen in Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary that chronicles the making of From Dusk Till Dawn. It's a documentary directed by Sarah Kelly, who served as a production assistant on Pulp Fiction. Dusk director Robert Rodriguez and Tarantino opted to head south with a non-union crew. But when the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) caught wind of this decision, they tried to shut the film down. Later in the film, Kelly heads off to the IATSE convention to get answers, but she's foofarawed away.

    Despite all of Tarantino's shameless mugging and Kelly's partisan antics, the doc does raise a valid issue: How can low-budget films get made while sticking with the frequently stern demands of unions?

    Filmmaker Brian Flemming has recently weighed in on the SAG Experimental Film Agreement, long the bane of lo-fi filmmakers hoping to needle professionalism and creativity in a pinch. Flemming writes, "I pour a year or more of my life into a feature film, then at the very moment all of that work is to pay off, an actor who worked one day on the film can make any demands whatsoever (money, credit, more close-ups, anything) and hold up the distribution of the film." A legitimate gripe. But the agreement summary states that the filmmaker need only "obtain each professional performer's consent [emphasis in original]," meaning SAG actors and not necessarily the non-SAG players who can fill a background.

    As described by the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the Experimental Film Agreement was borne out of a desire to find a middle ground. Before the EFA existed, a Low Budget Agreement served as the working template for any picture made under $500,000. But if a filmmaker's budget involved the periodic smashing of penny jars, she was SOL. The EFA hoped to find a compromise. Give SAG actors the opportunity to experiment; give low-budget directors a conduit to use low-budget actors.

    But film distributors often need name actors to sell their goods. Even if it is someone along the lines of Jason Patric or Linda Blair. This puts the budding filmmaker into Low Budget Agreement territory, assuming she can get the cash. And here's where you're really playing with numbers. Because a filmmaker now has to pay SAG weekly rates (assuming a name actor will work for scale) while keeping the budget under $2 million (or $3 million, if the filmmaker shows enough diversity). What this means is a fast, down-and-dirty shoot involving tremendous creativity and considerable accommodation for more lucrative gigs.

    Reportedly, Jon Favreau shot Made as a union film for $3 million. (So he says on the DVD commentary.) But to dream that impossible dream on a professional low-budget level involves considerable financial ingenuity. Despite the exponential rise in books which tell the layman how to create movie magic in two weeks or less, the union issue is legerdemain that still falls well under the radar. It's something that begs the question: How many great indie movies like 13 Conversations About One Thing (also a $3 million film) are scrapped because of SAG demands or troubled budgeting?

    Edward Champion

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:32 AM | Comments (3)

    November 6, 2003

    Hollywood and Whine.

    Hollywood landscape You'd think we have enough to worry about without even bothering with the inanities of celebrity. We do, though, in part because bemoaning the power over our culture we've given celebrities and all the dumb stuff they've done with that power is itself a form of entertainment. Years ago, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham devoted his "Notebook" column to the notion that celebrities had become as gods, that Hollywood was our Olympus. It wasn't news back then, either, but it was balm for the soul of anyone who enjoys a good tsk-tsk at the state the world. In other words, pretty much everyone.

    Novelist, director, screenwriter and occasional actor Bruce Wagner understands all this so well he's devoted the bulk of his considerable creative output to the cause. An excerpt from Force Majeure in some magazine - Esquire, back in the heyday of its fiction issues? - was the first sample of his writing to catch my attention. Bud Wiggins drives a limo for a living and uses his time off to try to salvage his screenwriting career. He's just come out of a meeting, if I remember this correctly, where he's been offered a horrid property to adapt. The producer, the star (I remember mentally casting Bill Murray in the role of the star) and a few other suits kept throwing ideas at him even more horrid than the junk at hand. Absurd, crazy ideas. But Wiggins, desperate for work, strains to conjure ways to fit it all in, to give them what they want. And now, he's back in his limo, and there, sitting in the back are the producer, the star and those suits. They don't recognize the driver as they fall over themselves laughing at the desperation of the miserable bastard so eager to sell off his last thread of dignity. Turns out they're putting a project together, a comedy, a scathing satire of Hollywood and the star's going to be this struggling screenwriter who... sure enough, all along, Bud Wiggins has been the brunt of a joke, the subject of the star's research into the spiritual, moral and intellectual squalor of any human soul drawn to the movie business.

    That same year, 1993, Wagner made a mark of sorts with the ABC mini-series Wild Palms (see Scott Woods's 1996 piece comparing it to David Lynch's Twin Peaks and this short bit on The Wild Palms Reader), and ten years on, a few novels behind him as well as his own adaptation of one of them, I'm Losing You, he's got a new one, Still Holding, excerpted in the current issue of LA Weekly and tagged as "a weird, coprolaliac amalgam of Buddhism and Us Weekly" by John Homans in New York. Actor Kit Lightfoot is hardly struggling but he's also hardly happy. Here, he meditates:

    A few months ago, he'd made vague plans to travel with Meg Ryan at Christmastime to see Ramesh, a disciple of the great sage Nisargadatta Maharaj. But now he was thinking he should make the trip alone, confining his visit to Bodh Gaya, where this year's Kalachakra would be held.

    He readjusted himself on the cushion and focused his breath, suppressing a smile as the mischievous, deconsecrated image of his old friend Alf bobbed before him. Alf wanted to go to a Golden Globe party at the Medavoys', but Kit had bailed because he didn't have a film out and was envious of those who did, jealous of the actors - some unknown, others long forgotten and now rediscovered - whose fates had contrived to cast them in one of those overrated, dark-horse indies that infect hearts and minds each awards season like a designer virus.

    More Wagner: David Abrams in January reviews I'll Let You Go, "a 549-page saga chock-full of characters that would make Mr. Dickens proud as Pumblechook... David Copperfield Will Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again." And Dan Epstein's interview with Wagner for Spike with a wonderful intro featuring a cameo by David Cronenberg.

    Shorts and more tomorrow.

    Posted by dwhudson at 10:11 AM

    November 5, 2003

    Talk about the weather.

    The Day After Tomorrow I see, by way of Movie City News, that the site for Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow is up. The trailer promises more of what we've come to expect from Emmerich, a 70s-era disaster movie sensibility dressed up in 21st century CGI. In June 2002, when I first heard about this one, I wrote:

    But the ways Emmerich's movies have jibed with the post-9/11 world have been particularly disturbing because those movies wear the absurdity of their premises and spectacles on their sleeves. They swagger and shout: This is escapist entertainment at its best because its just too plain crazy to ever actually happen.... So imagine the cognitive dissonance with which anyone seriously concerned about global warming is going to greet news that Emmerich and Murdoch are teaming up again to get The Day After Tomorrow in theaters by the summer of 2003 [which is what they originally had in mind; now the scheduled release date is Memorial Day, 2004]. The team is promising hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and the onset of the next Ice Age. As Bart Simpson would say, Coooool.

    It's impossible, of course, to know what the movie's bottom line is going to be, but it sure doesn't hurt to hazard a guess. Let's see, how about: Global warming is bad. It causes hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and could very well hail the onset of the next Ice Age. Is this going to be a movie you want on your side? That question's harder to answer.

    Ultimately, I decide, "We'll take it." But not without reservations. In the meantime, follow the planet's real-life disaster via the Viridian Design Movement and get your ire worked up with the films on a list Craig Phillips has compiled and annotated at GreenCine.

    Short shorts:

  • For all the hoopla over the "first-ever global theatrical debut" today, we tend to forget that the Matrix series is in part also a tale of environmental disaster. The Associated Press has sketched out a timeline of the war between men and machines as a reminder: "2098 - As cities fall beneath the might of mechanized forces, desperate military leaders attempt to block the main source of energy for the robot city: the sun. The plan destroys the atmosphere and fills the sky with choking black smoke - but does not stop the machines." A few Revolutions reviews: J. Hoberman in the Village Voice and Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press; David Edelstein in Slate and Andrew O'Hehir in Salon; AO Scott in the New York Times.

  • Shame on CBS for wimping out and cancelling The Reagans. The NYT editorializes: "His supporters credit him with forcing down the Iron Curtain, so it is odd that some of them have helped create the Soviet-style chill embedded in the idea that we, as a nation, will not allow critical portrayals of one of our own recent leaders." More from Rebecca Traister in Salon.

    TNR cover

  • On the other hand, CBS still has David Letterman. Liked this bit in Joe Hagan's column in the New York Observer: "From the most ironic American comedian - the man who practically gave his generation irony - Mr. Letterman has, like the country he speaks to, become direct, scarred, and strangely, emotionally direct." Also in the NYO: A juicy piece from Jake Brooks on how and why the elite watch movies; and Sridhar Pappu on how The New Republic is slyly cashing in on its own goof, thanks to the film Shattered Glass, while Forbes has completely let its opportunity slip right on by.

  • For SF Weekly, Matt Palmquist follows a team of film students as they scramble to make a movie in 48 hours.

  • Tenacious D launch a DVD.

  • Even if it's only for the pictures, you'll want to take a look at Jessica Winter's piece on Mel Gibson's martyr complex. Also in the Voice: A disturbing phone call and Leslie Camhi on those German movies at MoMA.

  • Dylan Hicks previews the City Pages Documentary Film Festival.

  • Prince Charles tours Bollywood. Registration's probably required for this Telegraph story.

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:01 AM | Comments (1)
  • November 4, 2003

    Pants on fire.

    We can be glad the 1980 Olivia Newton-John vehicle Xanadu was most definitely not a sign of things to come from producer and director Robert Greenwald. The Abby Hoffman flashback biopic Steal This Movie (2000) was more like it; more intriguing might be the one he's working on now, My Dark Places, based on James Ellroy's disturbing autobiographical book.

    Mission Accomplished

    See Greg Allen's terrific recent entries on "Sforzian Backgrounds"

    The project of greatest immediate importance, though, is Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War. The urgency is reflected in the way this documentary is being distributed. Sure, screenings are scheduled, such as the one yesterday in Washington hosted by Greenwald and Al Franken and the one tonight in New York hosted by George Soros. There'll be another in San Francisco on November 19, sort of a double launch for the Bay Area of the film and the Alternet book, The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq. But at the same time, you can buy the DVD now. 15 bucks for an hour of background and interviews with the likes of former Ambassador Joe Wilson; former head of the CIA, Stansfield Turner; CIA operative Robert Baer; weapons inspector David Albright; former Ambassador to Greece, John Brady Kiesling, who resigned over the war; and former anti-terrorism expert, Rand Beers.

    Most Americans haven't been particularly interested in how or why we went into Iraq. Many simply assumed Saddam had something to do with 9/11, a nonexistent linkage the administration was careful and diligent about cultivating, and thought: Let's take him out. But now, as it becomes clearer that perhaps the greatest misconception - I wouldn't call it a lie because I think that the White House, in some perverse way, actually believed it - was that the war was over six months ago, that we're in deep and for the long, costly haul, maybe, just maybe there'll be a few more inquisitive minds receptive to a doc like this than there were back in the spring when, to hear Rummy, Cheney and Co tell it, we'd have the entire axis of evil whipped and the boys back home by Christmas.

    Whether the current administration is one that actually believes its own rhetoric or one that cynically tells bald-faced lies without batting a lash (and it's probably a mix of believers like Bush and deceivers like Cheney), if you've had enough and you're a filmmaker or a filmmaker wannabe, you might be interested in entering the Bush in 30 Seconds political ad contest sponsored by Moveon.org and judged by the likes of Jack Black, Michael Moore, Gus Van Sant and several other illustrious lefties. Hurry, though. Just a few weeks left.

    Short shorts:

  • Why publishing on the Net is still a fine, fine thing: Two Venezuelans, one leaning right, one leaning left, comment on Peter Brunette's review of Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Also in indieWIRE: Three series devoted to German cinema at MoMA.

  • Speaking of Revolutions, tomorrow's the big day. In Kung Fu Cinema, Evelyn Garcia de la Cadena looks forward to the fight scenes; Newsweek's David Ansen isn't looking forward to much about the closing chapter of the Matrix at all; on the other hand, philosophers are, according to Andrew Potter in the National Post. And finally, Josh Horowitz digs up a 1996 interview with Larry and Andy Wachowski for Movie Poop Shoot.

  • For Artforum, David Rimanelli reviews Art - A Sex Book, by John Waters and Bruce Hainley, and the 2003 edition of Waters's Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters.

  • We make no secret around here of our admiration for and appreciation of Jonathan Rosenbaum. Besides writing both intelligently and accessibly about movies, usually bringing along a political slant we happen to agree with, one of the things Rosenbaum does brilliantly is select which films to review when and then often juxtapose two or more films in delightfully enlightening ways. He's done it again: Sylvia and In the Mirror of Maya Deren.

    Joseph Cornell DVD

  • The Joseph Cornell DVD-ROM.

  • Spike Jonze's next adaptation: a live action Where the Wild Things Are. Via Fimoculous.

  • The Salma Hayek versus Friedrich Hayek Scorecard. Via metaphilm.

  • Doug Cummings on Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story.

  • Today's best screener debate read: Gary Dretzka at Movie City News.

  • Producer Jonathan Black's dropped by to tell us Abby Singer has just won Best Feature Film and Best Independent Film at the New Orleans Media Experience Film Festival. Once again, congrats!

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:47 AM | Comments (2)
  • November 3, 2003

    Lord of the Ka-chings.

    It takes time and money to run an online community of 32,000. Lots of time, lots of money. Which is why Philip Kooijman, after founding the Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza in May 2001 and overseeing its phenomenal growth in the last few years, built a shop to meet mounting costs and keep the forum free to members. He also took care to set this shop up as an affiliate of the official shop run by New Line, which, of course, is the primary backer and distributor of Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy.

    Gollum gets green

    Kooijman saw to all this two and a half years ago. Suddenly, it seems, New Line can't remember. As he carefully explains in a lengthy post at the Plaza, Kooijman has received a letter from New Line's lawyers saying, basically, "What's all this then? A shop at the domain www.lordoftheringsshop.com? Never heard of it. Cease and desist. And give us that domain. For free. Immediately."

    The timing is either extraordinarily unfortunate or potentially quite lucrative, depending on whether you're the sender or receiver of that letter. Kooijman spells out how things look from his end:

    I have worked for over 2 years to get that shop so popular and high ranked in all search engines that we get about 8000 visitors daily in the shop. If we have to move the shop to another domain then we are going to lose our links from other sites and our high rankings will no longer be ours but New Line's. Two years of search engine optimization work will now become New Line's for free... you can understand how upset I am about this!

    Oh, yes. For the moment, with six weeks to go before the opening of Return of the King, he's moving the shop to a new domain, www.lordotringsshop.com, and then, in a very smart, very understandable, but for me, momentarily frustrating move, Kooijman has added a recent note: "In your posts keep your words civilised about [New Line]. We do not want to provoke them!"

    Very well. I suppose, though, it'd be alright to calmly note that New Line has already made quite a bundle off LOTR on its own and stands to make another big fat one this Christmas season with or without the fruits of Kooijman's labor?

    Short shorts:

  • A blush and a note of thanks to Manohla Dargis for her too kind mention of GC Daily in her column - and to the Los Angeles Times for once again running that column outside the subscribers-only area. We love and respect you, Manohla.

  • Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan raise hell in an extract from Norma Farnes's Spike: An Intimate Memoir. Also in the Guardian: Empire magazine's "cheesiest movie moments." Independence Day takes the cake, but you could have guessed that one.

  • Armond White in Alternet and Africana.com on The Human Stain, "one of the bravest - and strangest - Hollywood movies in recent years."

  • In the New York Times today, by the way, AO Scott responds to White's "awfully harsh" argument mentioned below, the one about the whole screeners brouhaha. And speaking of the NYT, 'tis the season already.

    Posted by dwhudson at 5:21 AM
  • November 1, 2003

    Weekend Shorts.

    Days of Being Wild Still running through November 9 at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is the series "Days of Being Wild: The Screen Life of Leslie Cheung." Many of us, of course, won't be able to make it. But the site really is worth a browse, and hopefully, the accompanying book, with contributions from Tsui Hark, Wong Kar-wai, Chen Kaige, Stanley Kwan, Christopher Doyle, Adrian Martin and more, will be available to those of us here up over at some point. What is available is Philippa Hawker's wonderful piece on Leslie Cheung in The Age. Via Movie City News, where Leonard Klady is currently reflecting on the almost complete lack of an alternative to studio fare.

    A pleasant surprise via Anime News Network: "Satoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers will be released theatrically in the United States and Japan simultaneously on December 29th, 2003."

    I'll disagree with John Laughland's take on Kill Bill, but see if this paragraph in the Spectator doesn't make you stop and think a moment:

    Fictional violence on television may not incite people to commit acts of real violence themselves, but the failure to depict real violence certainly raises the public's tolerance threshold for it. Numerous are the newspaper columnists who blithely rail against violence on TV, while at the same time egging on the government to unleash real violence in real wars. Yet if it is cool to have a fun evening out watching a fictional woman murder a mother in front of her child, why is it bad taste to show images of real mothers who have been killed in front of their children by the bombs launched by Tony Blair? And why are the instruments of censorship deployed against the latter sort of image, but never against the former?

    The quick answer to the second half of his last question is fairly obvious: Precisely because it is fictional; it is "expression" or "speech" which can and must remain "free." The good, meaty challenge here is that the same ought to apply to the first half of Laughland's question.

    "A succession of women film-makers have entered the formerly male territory of sado-masochism and screen violence. Is this a sign that women have finally thrown off their shackles?" asks Cherry Potter in the Guardian. Her answer, by the way, is no.

    "Cruelty is a basic element in comedy. What appears to be sane is really insane, and if you can make that poignant enough they love it." The Guardian runs an excerpt from Richard Meryman's 1966 interview with Charlie Chaplin, which'll run in full in Jeffrey Vance's forthcoming Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema. Also: Geoffrey Macnab on James Mason. And then, there's David Mamet. I'm not sure what he was sniffing when he wrote this, but while I think there's something to his conclusion, he's certainly chosen an odd route to get there: "As the canny politician has realised the error of the ballot box, the wise showman will see that it is only the existence of the theatrical release that contains risk.... I will conclude in predicting the disappearance of the motion picture theatre within the next 15 to 20 years."

    "Yaphet Kotto, the First African-American in Space." Marjorie Baumgarten talks to him. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Another horror list.

    Speaking of which. Metaphilm has a couple of links to some pretty interesting-looking Exorcist pieces, but only one of those links seems to be working at the moment: Sean Collins on the film that "begins in Iraq, an appropriate instance of synchronicity given that The Exorcist, the film widely considered to be the greatest horror film of all time, is actually a war movie."

    In the LA Weekly: Monroe, Brando, Dean, Bogart, Sammy Davis Jr., John Wayne, Louis Armstrong. Greg Goldin on the images photographer Phil Stern has "managed to slide into the popular consciousness." And Nikki Finke on the politicking and jostling that finally led to the hiring of a new Hollywood correspondent for the New York Times and a television critic for the Los Angeles Times.

    So... by openly criticizing the MPAA, the New York Film Critics Circle has only reconfirmed that there is "no longer a separation between movie journalism and the film industry"? Armond White's tirade in the New York Press is a mind-bender, but he's got a good point there about Miramax. He's got a couple of good points, actually. Critics are walking egos eager to be inflated. The Academy does often make lousy choices. Daring little films do go unrecognized. Does all this add up? Not when it comes to the principle of the screeners debate, no. Awards, and not just the Oscars, do matter and not everyone in on the process lives in New York or LA, where they can catch worthy candidates that go undistributed between the coasts. And yet the technology to work around that problem exists; Valenti wants to stomp it out. He'll win a battle here and there, but there's little doubt he'll lose the war.

    In the Voice: Chuck Stephens on Hong Sang-Soo, the "brightest filmmaker to emerge from South Korean cinema's recent boom years"; Howard Feinstein is hardly surprised to find the Marrakech International Film Festival dominated by political debate; Musto drops names with gusto.

    Hellboy "Hellboy is going to come out nice, because it's going to be a '2.5 DVD.' We're going to have two big ones and one tiny one. There will be a CD-ROM with a lot of goodies." Jason Bovberg interviews Guillermo del Toro for DVD Talk.

    "Can I keep up with Revolutions if I haven't seen the first two films? Forget it." A brief FAQ from Scott Bowles in USA Today.

    Mercy Bell talks to DJ Perry about Wicked Spring, an indie Civil War movie he's produced and starred in.

    TV: Very nice turn of a phrase from Cynthia Moothart in In These Times. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart "plays straight man to the day's events." For Kera Bolonik, writing in The Nation, Will & Grace "has become the craftiest, if not the most radical, show in the history of network television."

    "Apple's vision, in any case, was and is spot on. I wonder how much closer to reality it will be in another fifteen years." That's Jon Udell contextualizing a phenomenal online viewing tip sent along by a friend who may or may not wish to be identified: Apple's 1988 Knowledge Navigator concept video.

    Posted by dwhudson at 2:11 PM