March 31, 2004

Adaptations and shorts.

The winners of The Modern Word's "Adaptation" contest have been announced. The challenge, you may remember: "Imagine one of your favorite books has been turned into a movie, and write a review." And the response? "Over 50 delusional film critics entered this contest, with reviews ranging from absurd parodies to critiques so realistic we had to check the IMDB to be sure we weren't being spoofed." And the winners are:

Adaptation

And scroll down for the Honourable Mentions, "Movies We'd Most Like to See Actually Pulled Off," "Best Parody" and "Best Hope for a Lovecraft Film Done Right." By the way, another update: A clip of Thomas Pynchon's appearance on The Simpsons (again, scroll or read your way down).

The 22nd Annual Minneapolis / St Paul International Film Festival opens on Friday and runs through April 17. Rob Nelson introduces a hefty cover package in the City Pages: "[W]e decided to stage our own version of the lobby chat. We corralled five far-flung experts in the art of watching movies and discussing them - Bob Cowgill, Mark Peranson, B Ruby Rich, Amy Taubin, and Matthew Wilder - and got them to talk." And that they do. Then the editors pick the "Most Noteworthy Fare" for the first week and Peter S Scholtes rounds things out with a brief chat with Mara Pelece about her doc, Between Latvias. One more item worth mention, though: J Niimi on Blonde Redhead: "As 'cinematic rock,' they're much more Godard than Spielberg."

In Salon, Charles Taylor looks back and last year's roundtable on Showgirls in Film Quarterly and explains why he, too, is "a critic who loves Showgirls, who has loved it since it was released in the fall of 1995 and [... is...] happy to see the film being taken seriously but even happier by the sight of people owning up to their admiration."

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

A Thousand Clouds of Peace

The New York Press, where Armond White and Matt Zoller Seitz review, respectively, Patrice Chereau's Son Frère (His Brother) and Never Die Alone this week, has redesigned its site. Probably a step in the right direction; just wish it didn't even remind me of all those New Times sites.

In the Village Voice:

Posted by dwhudson at 8:32 AM | Comments (2)

Jacinta McKoy, 1959 - 2004.

Jacinta McKoy There are no remarks that can accurately describe the incomparable Jacinta McKoy. In the ten years that we were friends, she could be counted on to provide the most incredible wisdom in any situation. In a world that was hardly worthy of her many charms, she will be grievously missed.

Essentially anyone that ever made a film between Portland and Seattle knew (or knew of) Ms. McKoy. From her earliest days at Evergreen State College (which she attended as a student in 1982, became an employee there four years later and not long thereafter was elevated to the Media Arts Coordinator where she remained until her unexpected death a few days ago), she was a fixture (in the best sense) at the renowned liberal arts institution. When I briefly attended the school in the mid-1990s, Jacinta and I struck an immediate solidarity. We spent a great deal of time together over the next half-decade. When we would occasionally encounter my other friends, I would introduce her as my "favorite person in the whole world." Truer words are rarely spoken.

Although we spoke regularly in the last few years since I relocated to California, it was with particular disappointment that we failed to talk in the days before her passing. She wrote to me while I was in Austin (at SXSW); I telephoned her when I returned to San Francisco with the intention of dining together when I visited Seattle a few days later. She sadly passed away mere hours before my flight arrived.

For those located in the Northwest, a memorial is scheduled for Friday, April 9, at 1:00pm in the TESC Longhouse. This remembrance will be followed by a stroll through Olympia, a "flower drop" at Percival Landing and a "dancing celebration" at the Waterstreet Cafe (quite appropriate since she was a reluctant but exceptional dancer). I suspect that Jacinta would have gracefully accepted the attention and adoration but would have been a little embarrassed with all of the fuss. It is this humility and humanity, amongst other things, that will never be forgotten.

-- Jonathan Marlow

Posted by dwhudson at 8:29 AM | Comments (3)

March 30, 2004

Celebrating Sarah Jacobson.

Sarah Jacobson Tonight in San Francisco, Artists' Television Access hosts an evening under the banner Celebrating Sarah Jacobson. Jonathan Marlow remembers a remarkable filmmaker and friend:

When I first met Sarah at the Olympia Film Festival a decade ago, I admittedly did not know what to make of her. She had seemingly taken a garage band "do-it-yourself" aesthetic and applied it to the film business. She was also a tireless self-promoter, attending the event with her "featurette" I Was a Teenage Serial Killer. I have no idea how we ended up sitting together in the front row of the Capitol Theater that cold evening (for an OFF annual favorite, All Freakin' Night - a marathon screening from midnight to sunrise of some of the best of the worst films ever made). Still, we shared a blanket and endless tales of our predestined future success during the lengthy breaks between films. She has a listing on IMDb, an achievement that continues to escape me (twenty shorts and one feature later). She did pretty well for herself, all in all.

Although we kept in contact, it was a few years later before we met again. I was the curator of a film series at the Grand Illusion and she had just finished her full-length film Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore. She came to Seattle with her wonderful mother Ruth (who served as something of a best friend/agent during the Mary Jane roadshow) to introduce a few screenings. It was here, once again, that Sarah's exceptional personality revealed itself. A mutual friend (nameless for his sake) made an appearance at one of the screenings to see some work he had done on the title sequence. Sarah and I remained in the lobby of the theater, talking (again) of our great lives ahead, when this gentleman tried to sneak out of the screening about thirty minutes into the film. Caught, he made the usual polite excuses that a person in such situations are wont to do. Sarah wouldn't stand for it and proceeded to yell at him for several minutes until he bashfully left the theater.

If anything, it is that lack of an appearance by Ms. Jacobson that will make tonight's screenings less-than-perfect. Her frank admissions of why her films work and, just as important, why they don't will be sorely missed at the ATA's Celebrating Sarah Jacobson. The show, in two parts (starting at 7:00pm), is essentially a recreation of an event that Sarah assembled in New York (where she relocated a few years ago) which presents a fine overview of her varied (if unfortunately brief) career, including the feature and featurette above along with her documentary, co-directed with Sam Green (Weather Underground), on the legendary Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains. Other pieces and fragments will also be screened, along with remembrances "between sets" from those that knew her. Which, as I figure it, will include nearly everyone in attendance.

-- Jonathan Marlow

Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM

Cahiers and shorts.

Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 Nicholas Mosley nailed the 20th century most succinctly in the title of his novel Hopeful Monsters, and the new issue of Bookforum swarms with them, some more hopeful than monstrous, others not - Pound and Apollinaire, Sartre and Camus, Woody Guthrie, Georges Bataille, Walter Abish - and then there's a review of Colin MacCabe's Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy. Film Comment editor Kent Jones begins by noting right off that the book isn't really a biography, that it's both a little less (key events in the filmmaker's life go missing) and a little more (besides background on all that Cahiers and May 68 lore, we're treated to "historical digressions on the history of Switzerland, European Protestantism, Althusserian Marxism, and the inner workings of the Ecole Normale Supérieure"), all true and all contributing to my own enjoyment of the book, actually. But what disturbs Jones (and me, too, for what it's worth) is that MacCabe just barely manages "to keep his appreciation one small step away from hagiography." And for Jones, this prompts the question, "How great is Godard?"

In effect, Godard has given form to the sensation of revelation. Which is no small thing. As an artist, this has been his greatest contribution - to ground the cinema in the sense of discovery that marked its beginnings.

Yet I'm not sure that there exists in Godard's oeuvre a single film or video work that has the fearsome unity of an Ordet, a Voyage to Italy, a Fanny and Alexander, a Barry Lyndon, a Faces, or a Raging Bull. Fans would argue that concepts such as "unity" and, by implication, "narrative" are non-Godardian and thus beside the point. I would counter that unity and narrative hold more than usual significance for Godard himself, since he has spent the bulk of his life as an artist defining himself against them.

Filmbrain points to an English translation of an article by Luc Moullet that originally ran in the April 1960 issue of Cahiers du Cinema, "Jean-Luc Godard at the Tomb of Kenji Mizoguchi."

Segue alert: On page 186, MacCabe writes, "For the Cahiers critics in the fifties, [Robert] Bresson was one of the few directors who redeemed French cinema." For the P2P show at the Postartum Gallery in LA, Peter Luining interviews the artist currently known as Mouchette: "The work I created in reference to the film (the Film Quiz) is a homage. Too bad Bresson's widow didn't see it like that!"

For the Independent, John Walsh introduces and then listens in on producer Tanya Seghatchian's interview with Paul Schrader:

TS: How do your existential heroes compare with Quentin Tarantino's heroes?

PS: The existential hero asks: "Should I exist?" The ironic hero just "exists", in quotes.

Low culture redraws the map of Dogville.

Doug Cummings leafs through the new issue of Cineaste and watches Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Matt Clayfield answers five questions.

A cameo in The Ladykillers prompts Clara Jeffery to list all the films Mother Jones magazine has popped up in, however briefly.

Slamdance is looking for a new director. Via Cinema Minima.

Events:

Kubrick's Files on Napoleon "'Bloody hell,' I say. 'Every book in this room is about Napoleon!'" Jon Ronson explores what must be a simply astounding archive at the Stanley Kubrick estate. Also in the Guardian and Observer:

Online listening tip. The Glengarry Mix. Via the cinetrix.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:28 AM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2004

Peter Ustinov, 1921 - 2004.

Peter Ustinov
I always felt he was a most amazing man, a polymath polyglot who somehow managed to fit more into his life than anyone else I know. He not only had a very rich story to tell about where he came from, but was also very amusing when talking about life in general. He will, I'm sure, be greatly missed.

Chris Atkins, on the BBC tribute page.

I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me the most civilised music in the world.
Quoted by the BBC.

Being of extremely mixed blood, in Serbian terms, I'm ethnically filthy, and extremely proud of it. Therefore, my only real allegiance in this world, apart from civilized behavior, is the United Nations. I'm a firm believer that it's the only hope. After the failure of the League of Nations, we mustn't let the whole thing slip out of our hands, because it also recognizes things which NATO doesn't - that every nation is unfortunately, but inevitably, at a different stage of development at the same moment.

From "Peter Ustinov: Citizen of the World," Kevin Lewis, Moviemaker.

I don't think there's any alternative to optimism. One skeptical German journalist said to me, "Isn't all you try and do for UNICEF like just like a drop of water on a hot stove?" That's a German expression. I said I honestly think it's a little better than that: "It's a drop of water in the ocean: It doesn't get lost."

"The adventures of Sir Peter Ustinov," Daniel Mangin, Salon.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:23 AM

March 26, 2004

Shorts, 3/26.

SFIFF 47 The San Francisco International Film Festival has unveiled its lineup for the 47th round: Nearly 200 films from over 50 countries. Opening night: Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes. Closing night: Peter Howitt's Laws of Attraction, with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. Tributes: Chris Cooper and Milos Forman. For a quick but not quite so scant run-down, see Delfin Vigil's highlights in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Brian Brooks in indieWIRE: "The Tribeca Film Festival unveiled the feature film competition slate for its 3rd annual event Thursday, with five competitive sections containing 65 films - 30 world premieres, six international premieres, 13 North American premieres and 10 U.S. premieres." Also: Wendy Mitchell talks to George Hickenlooper about Mayor of the Sunset Strip.

Meanwhile, Dogville really, really pissed off David Edelstein. Also in Slate: Chris Suellentrop on the improbable longevity of Scooby-Doo and Josh Levin on how zombies got so damn fast. Neither offer definitive answers, but a good question is always worth a couple of hundred words.

The gaming industry is looking more and more like Hollywood, for better and for worse, notes The Economist.

Via Movie City News, Jennifer Barrett's big-picture interview with Jack Valenti for Newsweek.

In the Guardian: Desson Thomson and former UK defense secretary Denis Healey on The Fog of War.

And finally, a priceless editorial move over at the IMdb/WENN newsfeed. Today's edition, which we can assume will be archived here, wraps up a bit on John Baxter's new biography of Robert De Niro by focusing on the actor's pursuit of Whitney Houston. Last line: "He writes, 'Her parents with whom she lived, advised her not to get involved with a man who, besides being white, was almost twice her age. Record executive Clive Davis echoed this advice. For a young black singer such a relationship would have been suicide.'"

Very next story? "Bobby Brown Ordered Back to Jail."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:16 PM

William Moritz, 1941 - 2004.

Optical Poetry
William Moritz, a longtime California Institute of the Arts professor who was an authority on abstract animation and the work of experimental filmmaker Oskar Fischinger, has died. He was 63.... His death coincided with the publication of Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger his full-length biography on the avant-garde animator and painter who fled Nazi Germany for Hollywood in the 1930s.... Moritz made 44 experimental films, including live-action shorts and animation, which were shown at museums in Europe and Asia.

Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times, via the Charlotte Observer.

I saw a lot of animation in movie theatres, while growing up (there was no television then), like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Porky Pig, Woody Woodpecker cartoons, character animation made by studios. This was a vital part of everyday life. The big transformation for me was seeing interesting animation - the UPA cartoons in particular were really a completely different change. I saw things that were actually art, and not just cartoons..... I saw my first Fischinger film, and it popped all my buttons!

William Moritz, as quoted by Cindy Keefer, "A Lifetime in Animation: The Glamorous Dr. William Moritz," Animation World Magazine.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:31 AM

March 25, 2004

Shorts, 3/25.

Coffee and Cigarettes "So I have this theory, pretty much untested, that all arty, indie-type films made in the last 15 years or so in America and Western Europe fall into one of two categories: Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch." Launching a new column in Salon, "Beyond the Multiplex," Andrew O'Hehir expands on his whimsical theory, then recommends Nói with some hesitation, The Return with less hesitation, Osama with gusto, and then, just for the hell of it, evidently, Dawn of the Dead. Also: Rebecca Traister asks Rory Kennedy about her HBO doc, A Boy's Life

Speaking of Jarmusch, though: Coffee and Cigarettes, where you'll find the trailer and days and days' worth of desktop wallpaper. That's via Movie City News, and so are these:

  • Studios are trying to get serious about digital cinemas.
  • Disney's new "environmentally friendly pure-dye cyan soundtracks."
  • "Transvestites rescue Thai movies."

Gary Dretzka, writing for MCN sums up the speech in which Jack Valenti, at 82, has announced he'll finally be stepping down as head of the MPAA, and Leonard Klady takes a close look at the state-of-the-industry numbers Valenti rattled off and finds an "increased emphasis on ancillary revenues at the expense of theatrical exhibition."

"Lars Attacks!" reads the cover of the LA Weekly. Brendan Bernhard captures the atmo in Trollhättan, Sweden, where Von Trier is shooting Manderlay and then, tough as it must be at this point, comes up with fresh questions, sparking fresh replies: "Lauren Bacall said to me, 'You are one of the prominent anti-Americans!' Then she said something very good, which I would like you to quote if you can: 'But if you get all the anti-Americans in America to see the film, you'll be home free!'"

As for the review of Dogville, Scott Foundas does the honors. Also: John Powers on Millennium Mambo, James' Journey to Jerusalem and The Ladykillers; and Dave Shulman takes in a morning of sad surrealism: auditions for Gin and Tonic, "the story of Graham Chapman's rise from the depths of Cambridge medical school through the plateau of Monty Python's Flying Circus to the heights of death at age 48 from cancer."

Anthony Kaufman in indieWIRE: "Whether it's the United States' recent sober awakening to other cultures or simply the ever-shrinking world in which we live, a number of novice American independent filmmakers are looking abroad for inspiration."

The Austin Chronicle wraps up the SXSW Film Fest with 14 mini-reviews they didn't get around to last week; start here and click through the bunch (and there's more at PopMatters, by the way). Also: Samantha Paxton on a March 28 benefit screening of two docs on Bosnia and Rwanda at the Alamo Drafthouse; Anne S Lewis plugs a screenwriting seminar; the schedule for the Austin Jewish Film Festival (March 27 - April 3); and Marc Savlov wonders who went straight to McDonald's after a screening of Super Size Me.

Today - and, it seems, every Thursday from now on - Cinema Minima goes anything but minimal on festival news.

Via the cinetrix: The CineWomen Screening Series launches April 2 in Los Angeles. Also: Canuxploitation.

New Films / New Directors roundup: Out of Focus, the Cinecultist and Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times on Everyday People and Strong Shoulders.

"Like many people, I have often dreamed that the [Coen] brothers would one day be embraced by a massive audience," writes Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger, "but that dream was pegged upon their not deviating from their talent." Those sentiments are echoed in his brief review of Kevin Smith's new movie as well. Also: Charles Mudede on a startling issue of Soy Source.

Via Metaphilm, a reminder that there is such a site as Being Charlie Kaufman.

Via Brian Flemming: 4th Wall Films.

"Why is it that we, as an audience, are much more willing to accept the unmotivated actions of society's upper-crust than we are those of its lower-depths?" asks Matt Clayfield, segueing into the observation that, "The greatest lessons I've learnt this semester have been taught by the masters of post-war European cinema – particularly Godard and Fellini, but also Antonioni, Buñuel, Truffaut, Bergman, De Sica and Tarkovsky."

New essay at A Girl and a Gun: "Three by Carol Reed."

Droogies, final round, at Milk Plus.

Scott Green's "AnimAICN" column is huge this week.

Books roundup: Fassbinder

Also in the NYT: Sharon Waxman on Disney's Alamo troubles.

Sarfraz Manzoor in the Independent: "Everything I thought I knew about young America came from Hollywood films. In particular, it came from the work of one man and one film; John Hughes, director of arguably the greatest teen movie of its era, The Breakfast Club." The case is made and then followed by a melancholic where-are-they-now couple of paragraphs.

In the Guardian:

For the Globe and Mail, Jason Anderson quotes Rue Morgue editor Rod Gudino: "[H]orror fans are incredibly indiscriminate in terms of their tastes. In other words, yes, they will do a lot of grumbling and go on and on about all the little things that Zack Snyder got wrong in his remake. But they will watch it... and watch it over and over. And they will always watch it."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:34 AM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2004

Chaise 1 and 2.

Chaise 1 Chaise has put out a call for submissions for its second issue. Deadline's May 1, and if you're an artist whose work can be digitalized in any way, even if it moves or makes noise, you want to consider submitting. Take a look at Issue One. 17 videos, 12 audio pieces, still works from nine artists and five interactive DVD-ROM pieces. Go on, sample them.

Let's say you're not an artist, though, but want to play with that first issue anyway. Easy. A SASE will do. It's free. So you'd probably imagine all 2000 copies of the first print run are flying out of the Providence, Rhode Island, where Bennett Barbakow, Michelle Higa, Noah Norman and Chris Smith, all seniors at Brown University, put this together. You'd be right.

But! "Depending on how publicity continues, we may issue a reprint," says Michelle. Even if they don't or can't, though, copies are archived at local RI rental outlets - and we have several as well. A run of 5000 is planned for the second issue, scheduled for release in July or August. "We're spending extra energy this time around encouraging artists who are interested in exploiting dvd specific features," adds Michelle: "Stories that play with multi-angle/subtitling/audio tracks/dvd@ccess, even people who want to tell a story that takes place only in an interactive branching menu system."

There's also to be an emphasis on the potential of the DVD-rom artwork: "Generative software art, hypertext stories, video games, artist multiples on PDF for people to print out at home (comics, artists books, spray paint stencils, postcards, t-shirt image templates). There is no cap on submissions per artists and we are open to any medium."

Got questions? The editors will be happy to hear from you.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:57 PM

Shorts, 3/23.

Samira Makhmalbaf Let's point you immediately to a great swift read from Hannah McGill in the April issue of Sight & Sound on the Makhmalbaf family, focusing naturally enough on Mohsen and Samira, and yet with all five, there's also something of "a Makhmalbaf house style":

[T]he conscious politicisation of personal narratives; a poetic symbolism that privileges fleeting moments and physical details almost to the point of surreal fetishisation; moral, political and narrative ambiguities that demand the spectator's active interpretation; the deployment of non-professional performers. Yet Samira's personal poise and confidence bespeak a powerful intellectual independence and her age and gender as well as her artistic idiosyncrasies set her films apart from her father's (in a manner that might stand further comparison with Coppola père and fille).

Also in this issue: J Hoberman on the "almost ridiculously relevant" The Fog of War.

Steven Johnson, a damn fine blogger and author both, whose most recent book is Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, has a fascinating piece in Slate on what's scientifically feasible (and what's not) about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Also, the two Mafia experts, Jerry Capeci and Jeffrey Goldberg, continue discussion The Sopranos.

Via Movie City News: Biskind Blows. A quick check reveals it was set up by... a Star Wars fan?

The cinetrix has fallen hard for Anna May Wong.

Richard Corliss profiles Zhao Wei (So Close, Shaolin Soccer) for Time Asia.

In the Guardian, an update on the expensive saga that is Exorcist: The Beginning. From Paul Schrader, Xan Brooks hears that his version might at least come out on DVD. Also: John Patterson on Patricia Clarkson and zombies, albeit not in the same breath, of course.

In indieWIRE:

noi-snow.jpg

Over at the main site, anime fans are giggling over the "Good Times With Weapons" episode of South Park - and one points to Wild Willie Westwood's spoilerific key.

DVD Talk's Jeremy Kleinman attends the St Patrick's Day "Re-release Party" for the Special Edition DVD of The Commitments.

For Matt Zoller Seitz, Kill Bill is " zombie of a movie. Dawn [of the Dead] is a zombie movie, but it's alive." And from Armond White, two thumbs up, one each but intertwined for HBO's Deadwood and Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le Corbeau.

In the Village Voice, a preview of the new directors / new films series there in NYC (March 24 through April 4), Guy Maddin's third set of diary entries and J Hoberman's review of Dogville.

At Offoffoff.com, where there's quite a string of reader comments following Joshua Tanzer's review of Lars Von Trier's parable, Leslie Blake looks back on the recently wrapped Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series.

And Serge Raffy and Enki Bilal actually speak French in Le Nouvel Observateur. The topic: Immortel. Via Perlentaucher.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 PM

March 22, 2004

Shorts, 3/22.

Seijun Suzuki
So rarefied is Pistol Opera that watching it feels like landing on the very summit of a mountain, without benefit of the context gained from ascending the lower slopes. Can the director's earlier works reveal his embedded themes, encrypted meanings, or even a consistent use of symbols? Can the critical pickaxe chip away at solid themes of politics and gender?

Writing in 24fps, Robert Keser heads to the base camp and starts back up again as a guide to the career of Seijun Suzuki: "The unrealistic, highly stylized colors, the hyper aesthetic depiction of life, the experimentation with different cinematic styles, all these are the theater of existence, culminating in the radical theatricality of Pistol Opera."

For Film-Philosophy, Michael Abecassis reviews Martin O'Shaughnessy's book, Jean Renoir, and just as interesting is the author's reply: "I'm increasingly fascinated - predictably probably - by the Renoir films of the Popular Front era; about how they still seem to speak to us with tremendous political urgency, and also about how the key films - the breathtakingly great, astonishingly intelligent ones (Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, La Grande Illusion, La Regle du jeu) - are still ill-served by depoliticising humanist readings, formalist accounts, or tired but indefatigable auteurism." Extracts from the book addressing the Popular Front years are posted at the Online Jean Renoir Resouce Center.

In an engaging conversation found via Metaphilm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Philip Pullman discuss, well, religion, of course, but also religion in film, a tangent that leads, naturally enough, to The Passion of the Christ. And don't miss Brian Flemming's perceptive take, nor Gary Wills's in the New York Review of Books: "My wife and I had to stop glancing furtively at each other for fear we would burst out laughing. It had gone beyond sadism into the comic surreal, like an apocalyptic version of Swinburne's The Whipping Papers."

Back to the Telegraph (free res req'd):

Ruthe Stein interviews Joel and Ethan Coen - and Tom Hanks: "You can call me Zeppo Coen." Also in the San Francisco Chronicle: Hugh Hart reports on Universal's decision to air the first ten minutes of Dawn of the Dead on the USA Network. And John Clark talks to Raquel Welch.

The BBC is looking for 100 people who've never worked on a film before to work on a film. Apply here. Via Cinema Minima.

An Out of Focus entry on Robert Rodriguez need to resign from the Directors Guild of America in order to make the film he wants to make.

Maryann DeLeo, who won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short (for "Chernobyl Heart"), was held up at the airport in Durango, Colorado; security was worried that she might use the Oscar as a weapon. Question: Does she carry it with her wherever she goes? Anyway, via Rashomon.

In the Guardian and Observer:

Savage Island

Savage Island

Ongoing, through Thursday: Another Hole in the Head: Seven Nights of Unrelenting Terror at the AMC Kabuki in San Francisco. The sites for these films are a nice break from the usual sites for studio fare. Dead and Breakfast, The Visage or The Ghosts of Edendale, for example.

"It didn't work for you - I get it." With modest humor, Kevin Smith tolerates Newsweek David Ansen's criticisms of Jersey Girl. Smith is a bit more jocular in the New York Times when Bryan Curtis asks him about the Jesus movie:

I'm like, "What controversy?" The dude made a movie about Jesus in a country that's largely Christian - a very traditional movie - and it's made over $200 million in two weeks. There ain't no controversy, people. That's a hit. They took one or two Jewish leaders in the beginning and said, "This may be construed as anti-Semitic," and then spun it into a must-see movie for hard-core Christians. You've got to go see it if you love Jesus. I wish to God I had thought to do that when I was making Dogma.

Also in the NYT:

  • Walter Kirn: "Pack 'em up, intellectuals, we're headed West!"
  • We rarely point to reviews, but when AO Scott takes on Dogville - and at such length - there's more than a review going on. A position is being staked out in preparation for the debates to come.
  • What's more, Dave Kehr deems this an opportune moment to assess the Dogme95 movement, "still going strong... even though the Dogmesecretariat has been officially closed since June 2002."

Online viewing tip. "The Cat With Hands," via Neil Gaiman.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:20 AM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2004

SXSW Dispatch

SXSW 04 Hannah Eaves looks back on a lively week in Austin:

Austin may well be the only city in America where live music can be heard everywhere - through the inevitable crowds cramming the club doorways on 6th Street; over red checkered tablecloths at local restaurants; even at the airport! Over the last ten years, the city's reputation as an artistic (and political) island in the immense sea of conservative Texas has expanded to include expertise not just in music but filmmaking and interactive media as well, best witnessed at the latest installment of South by Southwest. In fact, this particular event has expanded so much that crowd issues have begun to emerge. Festival producer Matt Dentler acknowledged the surge when apologizing to a packed theater last week, "We just grew out of our clothes this year."

Imagine a relaxed combination of Sundance and Slamdance on a much smaller scale and with barbecue (and better weather). This winning combination means that it's quite possible to queue up for hours at the Paramount to see Ben Affleck and JLo in Jersey Girl and atone for it the next day at the Alamo Draughthouse (made famous by Quentin Tarantino's semi-annual film fest) with a beer and something truly independent such as Kevin Asher Green's Homework.

Homework Winner of Slamdance's Grand Jury Prize, Homework takes a cringingly clichéd story of racial romance in the dance world and makes it worthwhile through the exquisite photography of Richard Rutkowski (who has worked on Buena Vista Social Club, Julien Donkey-Boy and Requiem for a Dream, amongst others). Using low lighting, filters and subtle colors, Green and Rutkowski manage to make their miniDV (PD150) feature surprisingly filmic and the beauty that comes with it carries along through its many long silences.

Reconstruction As arguments continue over the narrative mincemeat made of 21 Grams, Danish SXSW contribution and winner of the Best First Feature (La Caméra d'Or) at Cannes Reconstruction manages to play with structure while keeping its emotional thread firmly intact. Alex's (Nikolaj Lie Kass) flirtation with Aimee (Maria Bonnevie) turns into an overnight liaison. The next day he returns home to find that it is no longer there. Literally. In fact, according to his erstwhile girlfriend Simone (again Maria Bonnevie, compellingly playing the "everywoman") and other friends, he's never existed at all. From there, things just get more confusing as fate twists Alex's life around in increasingly labyrinthine ways while he tries to construct a meaningful, linear relationship with Aimee. Or is it all simply Aimee's writer-husband, manipulating the story of his latest protagonist? As actor Nikolaj Lie Kass himself admits, it's "not so much about plot, and [don't] try to make sense of it." Cryptic as it may be, the film has some touching things to say about true love and the perils of hesitation.

Barbecue SXSW's Film Festival undoubtedly places an emphasis both on local filmmakers and documentaries that are unlikely to make it to the multiplex. Barbecue: A Texas Love Story, helmed by Austin documentarian Chris Elley (in its World Premiere), is an adulatory exploration of "the Texan life" told through the state's favorite food. Former Governor Ann Richards's pricelessly drawled narration is enough to give you the giggles, an experience made complete by the sight of her proudly brandishing a chunk of beef on the movie poster. But this documentary is about more than just laughing at eccentric Texans (which, let's face it, doesn't take a movie). To its sometimes treacly detriment, the film has a heart. "Holy" barbecue breaks through racial barriers at the New Zionist Baptist Church, fulfills a diplomatic purpose at LBJ's Ranch, is used as impromptu local currency, fosters dedication (in restaurant employees and owners alike) and keeps families together. Figures as diverse as Dan Rather, Kinky Friedman and the band Everclear all have something to say about the delicious and messy meal. Particularly moving is Denton local Steve Logan's tearful recollection of his self-owned barbecue joint which burned down recently after 23 years of hard work. The community is building him a new one and that's really what these filmmakers are interested in - their community.

As one conservative viewer observed, screening left-wing documentaries at SXSW is like "shooting fish in a barrel." He was referring to the much touted examination of GW Bush's key political advisor Karl Rove, Bush's Brain (based on the book by Wayne Slater and James Moore), which word-on-the-street had as poorly made despite the audience's rapturous response. Most of the people who missed the screening, such as myself, begged off because of the mind-blowing depression that even casual thoughts of Rove, political-manipulator-cum-evil-genius, tend to inspire.

Another documentary set to divide the politically conscious was Super Size Me (as a casual check of the film's message board on IMDb will reveal), the much talked about indictment of America's eating habits. Showing in the state which has five of the top twenty fattest cities in the country (including number one, Houston), this film is the perfect antidote to Barbecue. Director Morgan Spurlock won the Director's Award at Sundance for his hilarious and disturbing McDonald's-only eating experiment. The film is worth seeing even if just for the opening sequence featuring chubby kids singing a "fast food" school yard song complete with associated hand gestures. Later, a similar group of youngsters manages to identify a picture of Ronald McDonald but not Jesus. But it's really Spurlock's brilliant comic timing that makes this topical film (conceived during the McDonald's obesity lawsuits and certainly owes something to the recent popularity of Fast Food Nation) one of the inevitable slew of "must sees" this year. It seems that even American filmmakers have a problem with the US. Speaking of which, it was touchingly home-grown to see an audience of several hundred clap solidly for Dogville, Lars Von Trier's much anticipated anti-US film, which was funded by companies from Denmark, Sweden, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK... and the USA.

Undead Finally, what would a film festival be without its midnighters? Actually, a better question might be, "What would a film festival be this year if it failed to book Undead as a midnighter?" This Australian zombie/alien gorefest boasts both a good sense of humor and 600 liters of fake blood. When meteors start falling from the sky in the small outback town of Berkeley, things start to go awry. Though critics continually compare the film to Peter Jackson's Braindead (aka Dead Alive), it certainly survives on its own. Likewise, in the true spirit of independence, Undead was self-funded by the directors (brothers Michael and Peter Spierig) along with their friends and family, shot in HD and edited on their home laptops. One CG effect took the brothers an entire year to complete. As perfectly summed up by Harrison, the movie's annoyingly squealing police officer, "When I was a kid, we f***n' respected our parents, we didn't f***n' eat 'em!"

One closing note about the physical layout of the festival. While all of the venues mentioned above are indeed within walking distance of each other, a few theaters (one in particular) were located a considerable distance from the center of Austin. Seeing as most downtown hotels are booked solidly, it should be apparent that SXSW is full of out-of-towners with limited mobility. Rumors of a shuttle bus were sadly untrue, an eventuality that I hope organizers are able to rectify next year. In a festival that seems to be all about the little guy, presume that they can't afford $50 there-and-back taxi rides.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:58 AM

March 19, 2004

SS-20XX and shorts.

You'll remember Robert Levine's story in the New York Times about Seven Samurai 20XX, the videogame based on Akira Kurosawa's classic.

Don't Look Now

From Brendan Dawes's Don't Look Now

Well, Alex Lencicki took it upon himself to think of the children. That is, suppose Sammy Studios hasn't spiffed up the original quite enough? Suppose the kids nod off between the fights? He wrote a letter:

I understand why you felt it necessary to move the action from feudal Japan into the distant future, and to substitute the 40 bandits with hoards of killer robots, but I really do think you should consider trying to adapt some of the more quiet moments of the film. I've come up with some ways to spice up a few of the key slow-scenes for future upgrades, and I hope you will consider using them.

Hilarity ensues. But then even more hilarity ensues: "I heard back from Sammy Studios, and they sent me the following list of the six most memorable film-to-game-moments in the Seven Samurai 20XX. Yes, this is for real."

Meanwhile, Filmbrain designs the cover for the PS2 version of Ikiru.

John Cleese, Judi Dench, Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe are just a few of the names who've lent their voices to videogames and "it's not hard to see why," notes Clive Thompson: "They're a quick route to digital-age street cred."

While we're browsing Slate then, today's review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: David Edelstein. Also: Bryan Curtis's latest roundup of the best and worst of the SXSW Film Festival. Quite a batch, too, over at AICN: Brief reviews from Monki, Tom Joad and A Kellerman.

"No Asian-American actress has had a career that has lasted as long as Anna May Wong's and she died more than 40 years ago," writes Chuleenan Svetvilas for Alternet. But should we really be holding out hope that Lucy Liu might be the next Anna May Wong?

The People's Party of Spain has threatened to sue Pedro Almodóvar for mentioning in public a rumor he'd heard on election night that PM José María Aznar and Co might attempt to stage a coup. Giles Tremlett reports for the Guardian. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine taking such a rumor seriously; on the other, you have to keep in mind the sense of emergency at the time and the fury that spread once Spaniards realized they were being lied to. More on Almodóvar's situation from the Advocate. Back to the Guardian:

Don't Look Now

  • And then, via John L Walters, the eye-popper of the day, Cinema Redux: "Graphic designer Brendan Dawes has sampled his favourite movies, one frame per second, and arranged them to make giant digital posters." And, exploring further, Don't Look Now, a graphic representation of Nicolas Roeg's 1973 film, stacking every single frame of the film against the next, though each are rendered one pixel wide by 300 pixels high.

And finally for today, in the New York Times, William Grimes pegs us pretty well: "I scanned the first 20 titles listed under 'film noir' and found six films not offered by Netflix."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:37 AM

March 18, 2004

More SXSW, more shorts.

Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman's Hyperrealist Everyday First things first, though: Doug Cummings on Chantal Akerman.

Now then, the SXSW Film Festival. Wiley Wiggins catches Richard Linklater's Before Sunset and the panel discussion with Linklater and Jim Jarmusch.

Chuck Olsen's taken some Austin atmo snapshots.

In the Austin Chronicle:

It's not directly related to anything filmish (except possibly the release of Shattered Glass on DVD next week), but it's hard not to crane a neck and point to Christopher Frizzelle's joint interview with Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass in the Stranger. What is directly related, of course, is Bradley Steinbacher's review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a review accompanied by - wait for it - Sean Nelson's interview with Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry.

Two more noteworthy reviews of the film, though: John Powers in the LA Weekly and Susan Gerhard in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Short shorts:

Online listening tip. Jackie Chan and Ani DiFranco, together at last.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:08 AM

March 17, 2004

SXSW and shorts.

blackballed-poster.jpg The festival rolls on, but the winners have already been announced. Eugene Hernandez has the details at indieWIRE as well as solid bits on 2929 Entertainment and the UT Film Institute, but briefly, the top audience award winners are the narrative feature Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story (Kill the Bird's excited) and the doc A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (Eric Campos reviews it for Film Threat); the juries have gone for the narrative Luck (Scott Weinberg's interviewed director Peter Wellington for eFilmCritic) and the doc A Hard Straight (Weinberg, interview).

For Bryan Curtis, writing in Slate, SXSW "seems to have a singular purpose this year: advancing the art of lefty muckraking." But there's one film that stands out for him, a "magnificent piece of agitprop: Death and Texas, a mockumentary about pro football and the death penalty." I'm intrigued. Here's the site. Also in Slate: William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg on Bush and Kerry's ads.

Short shorts:

Posted by dwhudson at 3:43 PM

March 16, 2004

Kinoeye on Haneke.

The new issue of Kinoeye is devoted to Michael Haneke, "perhaps," as Christopher Sharrett writes in his introduction to his interview, "the most controversial of contemporary European directors." What follows is a discussion of music and time (among other things, of course, but that's the gist) and a brief mention of what was, at the time of the interview (November 2002 and April 2003), to be his next film, Hidden. It is, according to Haneke, "about the French occupation of Algeria on a broad level, but more personally a story of guilt and the denial of guilt... So it might be seen as more philosophical than political."

Wolfzeit

Le Temps du loup

At any rate, five pieces on five films follow:

Below are pointers to more: Adam James Horton on Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (Code Unknown: Incomplete tales of several journeys) and on a 1998 retrospective, and along the right, much more on German and Austrian cinema.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:29 PM | Comments (2)

Film Journal 8.

Whether it's the monotony of deadlines, eyes on the bottom lines or simply everyone reading everyone else all the time, the voices of film criticism in the mainstream press, and often enough in the alternative press as well, tend to blend these days. Sure, you'll find clever trickery or phrase-turning here and there, but on the whole, it's old hat and worn out. That's what makes editor Rick Curnette's decision to devote an entire section of the new issue of Film Journal, #8, to Christopher Mulrooney such a pleasant switch. It's not that Mulrooney, a poet, sketches his brief pieces on filmmakers in a voice that's all that fresh, but the form he gives it has an airy, liberating feel.

Ten and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Also in the issue:

That's about the half of it. Classics are revisited, a book, a festival and, of course, films are reviewed. Definitely a bookmark for the weekend.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:26 PM

Shorts, 3/16.

"Could Dogville be the art-house equivalent of The Passion of the Christ?" asks J Hoberman, introducing a tidy bundle of three short pieces on the film in the Village Voice: "Cruel stunt or spiritual masterpiece, it's already one of the year's most debated movies... Let the baying begin." Jessica Winter meets cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and Dennis Lim talks with Paul Bettany.

Dogville

Both interviewees are, naturally, very pro-Lars von Trier, and it's Michael Atkinson who talks to the "formal nose-thumber, pro-am Dogmatist, petulant artiste, phobic imp" himself.

Also in the Voice, two pieces on Spalding Gray, one in the theater section by Mark Russell and one very disturbing essay from Davis Sweet. And:

  • Joy Press on Family Business and The Sopranos.

  • Nat Hentoff on the debate among American Jews "about how they should react to Mel Gibson's passionate film." Are some overreacting, thus fuelling the fire? "My reaction is that this debate is essential in view of the continuing reverberations of the film here, and surely abroad, in both Europe and the Arab nations."

  • Alexis Soloski gently pans Tim Robbins's Embedded.

  • Ed Halter appreciates the fact that "the Whitney Biennial is one of the few major art events committed to showcasing cinema... Still, the ability of art critics to assimilate experimental cinema made outside the gallery system remains to be seen." And he finds corraboration in Chrissie Iles, one of the three curators. More on the moving images at the Biennial: Greg Allen and Steve Gallagher.

  • "Answers to the World's Hardest Movie Quiz."

  • Winter on the Marco Bellocchio series at BAM.

  • J Hoberman's reviews: Greendale and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Speaking of which: "There was a moment when suddenly people started talking about this movie Memento when I totally freaked out. I thought 'Oh I can't do this anymore,' and I called Michel and said 'I am not doing it,' then we called Steve Golin and said, 'We're not doing it.' Steve Golin was very angry and said, 'You are doing it!' So we did it." That's Charlie Kaufman, talking to CineMazing!'s Geoffrey Kleinman about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Michel Gondry gets a few words in, too, and you can listen to the audio version as well (link's right there on the page, top and bottom). Kaufman and Gondry have also taken their pomo promo campaign to indieWIRE, where they talk with Anthony Kaufman about Darwin and comix. Among other things.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Armond White sees the "direct eloquence of a pop song" in the film, which "brings Kaufman back to the true idiosyncrasy of Being John Malkovich." Also in the New York Press, DVD reviews and Matt Zoller Seitz on the films of Craig Baldwin and Jon Moritsugu; and on Spartan, which brings us, via Alternet back to Armond White, who explains in Africana.com how "Derek Luke's open, youthful quality helps [Spartan's] writer-director David Mamet deceive the audience and win its assent to a story that isn't altogether flattering to African Americans' political and cultural participation."

Pallavi Aiyar in Outlook India: "Hindi films are the only association that the average Chinese person has with India. Yet, over the last few years, there has been little noise and virtually no action to actively promote Indian cinema here."

"There's no escaping Chiara Mastroianni's genes. The daughter of two of European cinema's most beloved icons - Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni - looks as fabulous as you would expect." Fiona Morrow in the Independent.

It's a moot point whether [Italian PM Silvio] Berlusconi is even much interested in cinema. Though his wife Veronica Lario is a former B-movie actress (who comes to a very grisly end in Dario Argento's Tenebrae), the Italian prime minister himself doesn't seem overly preoccupied with the travails of the local film industry. None the less, the recent upheavals at the Venice film festival illustrate just how contaminated by politics Italian film culture has become." Geoffrey Macnab reports. Also in the Guardian: Tim Dowling talks to Gillian Anderson about her role as Dana (no, not that Dana) in Rebecca Gilman's play The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, at The Royal Court in London through May 15.

In the New York Times:

  • Sharon Waxman: "There is little doubt at the studios that [The Passion of the Christ] will affect decision making in the short and the long term. Some predict, as one result, a wave of New Testament-themed movies or more religious films in general."

  • Thumbs up for the "new new new Dangerous Liaisons" from Virginia Heffernan.

  • Sarah Lyall on the controversial Sex Lives of the Potato Men: "Is it really, as some critics have decreed, the worst British movie ever made?"

ChartAttack passes along news of Last Days, a film set against the mid-90s Seattle grunge scene to be directed by Gus Van Sant.

"How closely does the membership of the MPAA align with campaign contributors to [California Attorney General Bill] Lockyer, a Democrat likely to run for governor in 2006?" Brian Flemming lays out the numbers at LA.com.

Roger Avary: "A brilliant director, a member of the cognazetti, emailed me an alarming link regarding Kubrick's murder. What does everybody think about this madness?!"

Back at indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez reports - particularly on the political films - from SXSW.

Which is where Chuck is right now, blogging up a storm. If you feel you're missing out, you can watch at least a few of the goings on - Jonathan Demme's press conference and panel, for example - at the main site.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:23 PM

March 14, 2004

Head On

Gegen die Wand Ever since Fatih Akin's Gegen die Wand (Head On) won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in February, the film's been in the news. Good news and bad news. The good news is that this weekend it became the first German film to open simultaneously in theaters in both Germany and Turkey. Briefly, GdW is an unlikely yet lively and enthralling love story involving two Germans of Turkish descent; for more, here are my initial impressions.

Reinhard Hesse has a solid piece in openDemocracy on the potential political and cultural impact of the film on one of the major questions facing Europe at present - particularly since it now seems that Al-Qaeda may very well have been responsible for the horrific bombings in Madrid last week and the strongest ties possible with a strategically placed predominantly Islamic democracy seems like an awfully darn good idea: Should the European Union take in Turkey as a member? Hesse rephrases that question:

Can there still be a serious argument over Turkey's eventual admission to the European Union when that country has, for all practical purposes, already arrived at the heart of Germany? Could it be that, at least for Turkish-born Germans who speak Hamburg slang far more fluently than any Anatolian idiom, life in Istanbul provides more freedom and liberality than struggling for your place in life in a German city? Will German recovery, once again, come from the margins, at least in cinema?

In my own neighborhood here in Berlin, Turkish Germans, German Turks, whatever, represent nearly 20 percent of the neighbors. About a block away, there's a huge billboard for the newly opened Ikea nearby - in Turkish, rather than in German. The number of Turkish papers rival that of German papers at the kiosks and so on and so on. Part of the thrill of GdW - besides the pace, performances and plot which combine to make what Hesse calls "a wild, rough, refreshing windstorm" - is seeing this reality up on the screen.

So that's the good news. The bad news comes courtesy of Germany's down-n-dirty yet thriving tabloid, Bild. Two days after the Golden Bear came the splashy headline: "Film-Diva in Wahrheit Porno-Star." Yes, it turns out that Sibel Kekilli had acted in nine porn flicks before taking a quiet job in Hamburg's city hall and then restarting her career when Akin cast her in GdW. But the reaction to this "revelation," as Volker Gunske outlines in a terrific column in tip (in German), was probably anything but what the tabloid had in mind. At first things were going Bild's way: Kekilli's father, who had moved to Germany from Turkey in the 70s was shocked and furious and immediately disowned his daughter - eventually, on Turkish television as well. This is the sort of blood Bild was hoping to draw.

But not only did Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick just as immediately voice his full support of Kekilli - and though I'd already really liked the guy, he flew up several notches on my list that day; love the phrase he used, too, literally translated as, "We stand behind her like a number one" - and hire Germany's top media lawyer to be on standby should she need one, but, as Gunske writes, "The outpouring of fury and disgust... simply never came about. Instead, all sympathies flew to the young woman who'd found herself in Bild's crosshairs."

Fans of German cinema may know that Bild itself was a star of sorts in Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta's 1975 film The Lost Honor of Katrina Blum, based on the novel by Heinrich Böll. Jürgen Fauth writes in his review:

The cynicism of the film's epilogue, when newspapermen with blood on their hands sanctimoniously rattle on about the freedom of the press seems farcical until you remember that Fox News advertises "fair and balanced reporting" with the same straight face, that the New York Post recently portrayed international diplomats with rodents' heads, and that Germany's BILD-Zeitung is still the best-selling paper in the country.

Gunske wraps his own column with this key question: "Do Kai Dieckmann's parents know that he's the editor of Bild?"

Posted by dwhudson at 7:45 AM

Samurai @ Midnight Eye

Midnight Eye readers have voted Hideyuki Hirayama's A Laughing Frog (Warau Kaeru) best Japanese film of 2003. Takashi Miike's Gozu is a healthy second, then there's a bit of breathing room before Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Bright Future come in neck-n-neck in third and fourth place. The rest - and there are many - follow at a distance. Scroll down, too, for readers' comments.

Also in the new issue:

Seven Samurai

Impressed as I was with The Twilight Samurai, I'm delighted to read at Kung Fu Cinema that Yoji Yamada has begun work on his 78th film, Kakushi Ken Oni No Tsume, bearing the tentative English title, The Samurai's Hidden Sword. And heading to DVD is Kinji Fukasaku's Samurai Reincarnation.

In the Observer, Ryan Gilbey notes that western-made samurai films are on the rise: "Hollywood has realised, as it first did 50 years ago, that the swish of a sword and the espousal of an austere and exotic philosophy can set the tills ringing." Not much news there, but still. And Robert Levine reports in the New York Times on Seven Samurai 20XX, a PlayStation 2 game based on Akira Kurosawa's classic film and made in cooperation with his son, Hisao.

Also, somehow, it's only now that I've realized Harry Knowles has seen Kill Bill, Volume 2.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM | Comments (3)

Shorts, 3/14.

Via Greg.org, Todd Levin's painfully funny interpretation of the program for the New York Underground Film Festival.

Heavens. No wonder the cinetrix and Aaron are so enthusiastic: A Girl and a Gun, our freshest addition to that righthand column. Another new one to keep an eye on: Filmbrain.

Also via the cinetrix, Wesley Morris's suggestions for Hollywood adaptations of 70s-era TV shows.

Audrey Hepburn Charlotte O'Sullivan has a problem with Audrey Hepburn, though just how serious it is is a little hard to discern: "So maybe Audrey herself (sigh) isn't the Anti-Christ. The idea of her, nevertheless, needs exorcising. Some academics have referred to the current wave of Audrey love as post-feminist. Pish! It's anti-feminist, anti-human." Then there's the touch-n-go interview with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Also in the Independent, Nick Hasted meets Sienna Guillory.

"There are genuine criticisms to be lobbed at the Academy for the manner in which its chosen to honor foreign-language movies but, generally speaking, the press has opted for taking cheap, uninformed shots at the process. Once again, one has to keep in mind the Faustian nature of selecting a single film to represent all films made in a language other than English." For Movie City News, Leonard Klady explains. And via MCN, a few items in the Globe and Mail:

And speaking of The Passion, Katha Pollitt chimes in in the current issue of the Nation which features, by the way, a fine cover. But Gregg Easterbrook notes: "Working on a shoestring, Beliefnet has produced better coverage of The Passion of the Christ than all the newsmags and newspapers combined."

Mindjack, the fine online zine that dubs itself "the beat of digital culture," has opened up a film section and the most recent addition is Jesse Walker's review of Antero Alli's Hysteria.

Jerry Capeci, author of two books on the Mafia, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who's covered organized crime for New York magazine and the NYT Magazine, discuss the new season of The Sopranos in Slate.

Vadim Perelman's favorite film? Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves, hands down. David Gritten asks him about that in the Telegraph.

Lisa Bear interviews Lone Scherfig for indieWIRE. You might cringe at the unintentionally news-hookish intro, but in the end, there was probably no way around it.

If Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow is a hit, John Kerry could be "swept to an unlikely victory thanks to a blockbuster movie that focuses on the effects of big business and the agro-industrial complex," hypothesizes Dan Glaister. Wishful thinking, probably, but however major or minor, there may be an effect of sorts, a possibility I toyed with some time ago myself. Anyway, also in the Guardian and Observer:

Olympia

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, opening in June, promises to at least look like a very different sort of summer movie, even though it's got Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie in it. In case you haven't heard, it's a bit like Tron in some fantastic high modernist get-up. As John Hodgman explains in his New York Times Magazine profile of its creator, Kerry Conran, it's been composed entirely of...

...computer images, built and animated in a virtual 3-D environment, or stitched together from photographs, which are then draped around the flesh-and-blood actors, who have been shot separately on an empty set in front of a blank "blue-screen" background, along with those few minimal props with which they actually interact (a ray gun, a robot blueprint, a bottle of milk of magnesia). The film, in other words, is one long special effect with Jude-Law-size holes in it.

And in the paper:

  • Elvis Mitchell on David Mamet, Michael Mann and William Friedkin: "These directors' pictures are, quite possibly, the last reliable and consistently watchable school of noir filmmaking."
  • Kristen Hohenadel on recent French movies that've broken the nation's "ultimate taboo": mentioning money.
  • That piece follows Stephen Holden's thorough preview of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series in the city.
  • Another film hits the editorial pages. This time, Eleanor Randolph opines that the 1996 election in Russia was a whole lot more interesting than this year's in that the conclusion was not foregone. I'd link to Spinning Boris, but Showtime shows me this instead: "We at Showtime Online express our apologies; however, these pages are intended for access only from within the United States." WTF?
  • Dave Kehr talks to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun about his film, Abouna, and the "metaphorical identification of film and father as the two forces that shape the personalities of his young protagonists but that remain ultimately elusive and mysterious."
  • An excerpt from Spalding Gray's Life Interrupted.

Online viewing tip. The trailer and site for Immortel (thanks, M. SignalStation!), and if that intrigues you, the site for the film's director, Enki Bilal.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2004

Just fests, no shorts.

Unmentioned in the previous entry is San Francisco, already gearing up for its 47th International Film Festival (April 15 - 29) and currently taking in the 22nd International Asian Film Festival, which runs through March 21. Though we have mentioned the two below, those mentions flew by so quickly Jonathan Marlow thought it a good idea - and it is! - to flesh them out a bit.

Film South Asia Without much exaggeration, it could be stated that there is a new film festival in San Francisco every week. Last year, I would easily explain to out-of-towners that this city is the most festival-friendly place on the planet. An embarrassment of riches, if you will. This year, however, the bar is raised. There are two new film festivals every week. Something for every narrowly-defined interest. Fortunately, this weekend, there are two good ones.

TRAVELING FILM SOUTH ASIA 2004

Running from March 12 through 21 in San Francisco and March 26 through 28 in Milpitas, TFSA is a new festival comprised largely of selections from the Film South Asia festival in Nepal and the World Social Forum in India. In all, 19 films (all documentaries, most under an hour) from Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, providing a rare insight into a part of the world largely unrepresented on American screens. Co-presented by Friends of South Asia and the Berkeley-based Ekta (along with the Himal Association in Nepal), this event is a unique opportunity to see work that will likely never appear in this city again.

Opening this weekend with Amar Kanwar's A Night of Prophecy (a poetic work shot throughout Kashmir, Maharashta, Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh, censored at the Mumbai International Film Festival but presented here in its entirety) and Gopal Menon's Resilient Rhythms (an Indian film about the exploited Dalits), the festival continues with challenging works paired in complete programs that provide the best chance to understand the complex issues that are otherwise rarely mentioned in newspapers or news coverage. In particular, these highlights:

Itihaas Jitneharuka Laagi/History for Winners (screening March 27 at the India Community Center in Milpitas) contrasts two very different Nepalese singers, one "classical" and one "pop" (for lack of better terms). Kuber Rai was considered to be one of the finest singers of his generation, mentioned in the opening titles as the "likely successor to [the] late Narayan Gopal, 'the king' of Nepali modern songs." Two years after winning the National Singing Competition, he disappeared from Kathmandu. The early part of the film is largely an introduction to Kuber and his struggle to return to the music industry. He says, "I want to sing songs that are timeless," and indeed, he does. Beautifully, but without charm; his talents are unappreciated in this new era. Enter Dheeraj Rai, the self-proclaimed Michael Jackson of Nepal. If anything, he proves that pop music essentially sucks worldwide. However, his charisma carries him through and his songs are at once cheerful and instantly forgettable. "We are born to be winners," Dheeraj claims in the closing performance. Some of us are.

Buru Sengal/The Fire Within (screening March 21 at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco) is a troubling documentary about the exploitation of land (and people) in the unsavory pursuit of coal by strip-mining in the worst possible fashion. Mentioned in the end credits but not shown, "On 8-October-2001, 150 people die[d] when the illegal Lal Baand mine in Ranigjung area collapsed. Not a single body was recovered." What we are shown is the devastating effect of such despicable efforts on the people of these communities. The film was a Grand Jury Award winner at Film South Asia 2003 and winner of Best Film at the XVIII Black International Cinema 2003.

Finally, Made in India (screening March 26 at the India Community Center in Milpitas) was, as it says in the title, "made in India" by Madhusree Dutta and based on the curatorial concept for the "New Indian Art" exhibition by Gulammohammed Sheikh. The imagery often stunning, quite compelling, only occasionally lackluster. However, the paintings on roll-top shop shutters and the sky filled with hundreds of kites are unforgettable. Best of all (and worth the price of admission alone) is the conversation with a remarkably talented painter of Bollywood murals. Hearing him discuss his craft is fascinating and watching him white-wash an old mural is heartbreaking. This gentleman needs an entire documentary devoted to him.

FEARLESS TALES GENRE FEST

Boldly, this self-proclaimed "first annual" is off to a grand start. Tobe Hooper (director of the original, didn't-need-to-be-remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre) will be there, in person, to present his latest, The Toolbox Murders.

The Toolbox Murders

The great Jack Hill (Big Doll House and numerous other classics) will be present for his extended cut of the legendary Spider Baby. Catch a midnight screening of the sorely underrated, Roger Ebert-scripted Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-vixens, the last narrative feature (thus far) directed by Russ Meyer, or a revival of Demons by Mario Bava's son, Lamberto, and produced by Dario Argento (and starring his darling daughter Asia). You couldn't go wrong with any of these choices. While you're at it - see something you've never heard of before, too.

All events occur at the lovely Victoria Theatre (on 16th, near Valencia) in San Francisco's Mission district.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM

Fests and shorts.

Austin Chronicle: SXSW "[B]etween July and October 2003, five films made in Austin or by Austin based-filmmakers opened at either No. 1 or No. 2 at the American box-office." Once again, the Austin Chronicle is celebrating its local film scene. And why not. Editor Louis Black might set a few eyes rolling with statements like, "What is going on in Austin is unique. There is no other place in the country, outside of New York and LA, with the same quality and quantity of filmmaking and filmmakers," but mightn't there be something to what he writes immediately after that assertion: "Not just because so many successful, innovative, and recognized filmmakers - established and emerging talents - work here, but because they all talk to each other." One wonders if there aren't other scenes around the country with a similar sense of "community," but still, who's to begrudge a great town its party on the eve of SXSW.

Doubters are kindly referred to the list of films, their makers and the places where they do all this talking to each other. But satisfying a more immediate concern to Austinites and those who'll be at SXSW, the weekly offers its recommendations: Which films to catch when and where. Also:

Another town, another fest: the 9th Annual Seattle Jewish Film Festival, March 13 through March 21.

Distant

Distant

Brian Brooks previews the City of Lights, City of Angels festival, a week of French films in LA. Also in indieWIRE: Pointers to seven more festivals in iW Weekly; Howard Feinstein talks to Nuri Bilge Ceylan about Distant and Steven Rosen rounds up expert opinions in response to the question, "Is piracy a threat to indie film?"

Via Movie City News, the line up for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, April 21 through 25. In Champaign-Urbana.

Latinos are flocking to The Passion of the Christ and loving it and recommending it to friends, reports Nikki Finke in the LA Weekly: "Frankly, it never occurred to the godless Hollywood liberals - as the folks at Fox News Network and wacko right-wing Web sites refer to us - to use religion as bait for Latinos. And it never occurred to the Democratic Party, pal of most Hollywood filmmakers, to embrace Gibson or his movie. Big mistake. Huge!" Also: David Ehrenstein talks with Gavin Lambert, a "leading light of that brilliant band of British émigrés (Christopher Isherwood, David Hockney, Aldous Huxley, Tony Richardson) who helped to define Los Angeles and its chief industry, Hollywood."

Embedded, the new play by Tim Robbins at the Public Theater in New York, "is not only dumb," snarls Lawrence F Kaplan in the New Republic, "It is poisonous, a production-length conspiracy theory guilty of the very sins it attributes to the 'cabal' that it claims to expose." That hasn't stopped In These Times from gleefully running an excerpt, though.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 PM

March 10, 2004

60s and shorts

Warhol: Che Guevara In a piece for Slate that touches on Bertolucci's The Dreamers, Danger Mouse's Grey Album and a few other books and movies, Ted Widmer writes:

Certain years stand out for world-shaping events (2001; 1963), and others, more rare, for a feeling that our DNA itself is changing, and an alternative universe of human possibility is coming into view, if only for a brief, tantalizing moment. 1848 was such a year, and 1968 had the same electric quality.... Thirty-six years later, the blurry events of '68 are coming back into focus, more vividly than one might expect.

And if you consider that specific year as a vortex, a flashpoint at which several forces suddenly coalesced out of the history before it to warp history after it, all these years on down the line, you can easily tick off a few other signs of what's in the air. Docs like The Weather Underground and The Fog of War; and specifically related to film, J Hoberman's The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties and the evidently weaker British counterpart, Peter Cowie's Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the 60s.

There's also the return of Che Guevara, at least on the screen. Terrence Malick was to have made a film based on his last days with Benicio Del Toro in the lead, but as Variety is reporting (and linkables like Ananova are passing on), that project's been shelved for a year while Malick shoots a biopic of Pocahontas instead.

But Malick's film would have been the fourth Che movie in relatively rapid succession. The first, of course, is Walter Salles's The Motorcycle Diaries, which made a splash at Sundance and then news in Berlin for getting yanked out of the fest in favor of a spot in Cannes. The second, Gianni Mina's Travelling with Che Guevara (here's a PDF file with more info), is a doc, a sort of "making of" on the first but also has "a sense of Chinese boxes" about it, as Geoffrey Macnab wrote a few weeks ago in his Guardian profile of Alberto Granado, the biologist who took that famous bike ride with Che. The film retells that story, in a way, while peeking in on the progress of Salles's fictional account. The third is Romano Scavolini's Che: The Last Hours, which Macnab's also seen:

Guevara's war against injustice ended on a grim and squalid note in October 1967 at a school house in La Higuera, a poverty-stricken village in Bolivia... When the order came to execute him, none of the Bolivian soldiers was willing to take on the job. Eventually, a sergeant who wanted the money, and who was determined to prove he was not a coward, agreed to carry out the assassination. He was so drunk that his colleagues recall him vomiting outside the school house before he went in to shoot Guevara.

[...]

Nowadays, as Camillo [Guevara, Che's son] acknowledges, Che Guevara is a pop culture icon whose image is as ubiquitous as that of Elvis or Madonna. [Cough.] "People love the myth of Che Guevara and to have T-shirts, hats and posters in their room, but they don't respect the integrity of what he did. They don't really know the story. I'd love that they understood who he was... he was not a model."

But the attraction is there - quite possibly because we've come to realize that we've let ourselves slip into a state of stifling conformity and that there are - in the other sense of the word - models to look back to, possibly holding clues to how we might slap ourselves back into action again.

"For the past two nights the cinetrix has been rolling around in some of the 1960s most acclaimed cinema." On the program: Blow-Up and Cléo de 5 à 7:

So many convertibles! So many beautiful young women and hip, artistic young men! Such a preening overawareness of themselves as films in conversation with other films and genre and style conventions. It was great.

But really, I want to talk about three things: the pastoral, loft life, and - quelle surprise - music.

Also, the cinetrix has been following this whole movieoke thing forever; in the New York Times, Randy Kennedy catches up.

Back, generally speaking, to the 60s: "Auteur of the notorious Flaming Creatures, performance artist before such a term existed, photographer of unlikely incandescences, "the Alfred Jarry of the East Village," [Jack] Smith died without a will in 1989." So you'd expect his legacy to be up in the air; but as C Carr reports in the Village Voice, it's far worse than that. Also in the Voice:

The Lars Von Trier Retrospective at the American Museum of the Moving Image gives Armond White the perfect opportunity to tell us what he really thinks about Von Trier in the New York Press: "King of the Know-Nothings. The Jupiter of Cinematic Three-Card Monte. Expect historians to one day look back on the launching of Von Trier's Dogme95 (the manifesto that brought filmmaking closer to amateur porn) and laugh." Also in the NYP:

Doug Cummings on the industrious and creative experimental filmmaker and animator Norman McLaren.

In indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez covers an intriguing discussion in that it was held by a group of people all known for what they used to do - though few would doubt their collective savvy on what's going on now. The subject at hand: "The Indie '90s: How Down, How Dirty?"; the participants: "former United Artists head Bingham Ray, former producers rep John Pierson, and the moderator, former New York Times film critic Janet Maslin."

Read Spanish? Via Perlentaucher, the peerless cultural blog in Germany, a fine issue of Radar, the weekend supplement to the Argentinian daily paper Pagina 12:

Michael Chabon in the New York Review of Books on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

"As something of an anorak/geek/nerd myself, I must confess to deriving pleasure from our move to the mainstream," writes Sandy Starr in Spiked. "But enjoyable though it is, even an incorrigible geek such as myself has to confess that the mainstreaming of geekdom is far from a healthy phenomenon." Via Metaphilm.

Scott Macaulay asks, "Um, is anyone else out there following the very scary goings on at the FCC these days?"

In the Guardian:

Casting Doubt: a new issue of Invisible Culture.

Festival round-up:

NY vs LA, Round... I dunno, I've lost count. Anyway: Alexandra Jacobs in the New York Observer.

Film Comment Not much has made it online from the March/April issue of Film Comment, but still:

Sites to browse, via Cinema Minima: Undergroundfilm, Micromovies and Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

So long, Steve. Check you later, Rex.

Via Drew's Blog-O-Rama, a frighteningly thorough fan site for Lost in Translation.

Online viewing tip. Bush Ad Remix. Via SignalStation.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:02 PM | Comments (2)

More on Spalding.

Your endorsement of my importance provided me with strength that carried me through many trials that I might not have survived, so it proves that small acts of kindness reverberate in ways that we cannot predict, and that if we have the opportunity to be generous with our hearts, ourselves, we have no idea of the depth and breadth of love's reach.... My friend... gave me one of your books, Sex and Death To The Age Fourteen with the inscription, "M - This book is why I am still alive. Love, C." I wish that you had a book like that.

- Margaret Cho.

His loss is felt more deeply than the loss of many other actors might be, I think, for this reason - we all "knew" him.

- Craig Phillips.

"And so" is the kind of phrase he used a lot, because it allowed him to go anywhere he wanted in his monologues. It allowed him to weave a story around the story he found impossible to tell, the one without language that led him to take his own life.

- Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times.

His distinctive achievement, observed Simon Prosser in The Sunday Telegraph in 1993, was "the reworking of his own life as a tragi-comic road movie in which he stars as a perpetual innocent abroad, revealing elemental truths in spite of himself and evoking situations in which almost anyone can imagine finding themselves". He was, Prosser added, too funny for the avant-garde, too quirky for the mainstream.

- The Telegraph.

What all his work shared was an air of comic desperation, the amusement and fear that the knowledge that life is absurd can foster.

- Bruce Weber in the NYT.

And though he embodied the stereotype of the self-absorbed New Yorker - looking at the world through the lens of one who had known intensive psychotherapy, fad diets and mind-expanding drugs - his pursuit of a story had a degree of selflessness that often put the amiable, all-too-accessible Gray in harm's way.

- David Patrick Stearns in the Guardian.

And the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC is replaying an interview with Spalding Gray conducted in 1990. Via Out of Focus.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:53 AM

March 8, 2004

Spalding Gray, 1941 - 2004.

Stories seem to fly to me and stick. They are always out there, coming in. We exist in a fabric of personal stories. All culture, all civilization is an artful web, a human puzzle, a colorful quilt patched together to lay over raw indifferent nature. So I never wonder whether, if a tree falls in the forest, will anyone hear it. Rather, who will tell about it?

Preface to Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray, December 1985.

And the Cocktail Party voice of Celia Coplestone from her anthill crucifixion played in my ears:

But first I must tell you
That I should really LIKE to think there's something wrong with me -
Because, if there isn't then there's something wrong,
Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
With the world itself - and that's much more frightening!
That would be terrible. So I'd rather believe
There is something wrong with me, that could be put right.

And I thought, I've got to get back where it all counts. I've got to get back.

From Swimming to Cambodia.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:56 PM | Comments (1)

Shorts, 3/8.

Gielgud's Letters.jpg
To Paul Anstee
14 October 1959, New York

This doesn't seem to be my lucky month.... [Lawyer Aaron] Frosch even talked of getting someone to fetch me every night at the theatre so that I am never alone in the streets or restaurants. If one is to go about with a perpetual bodyguard, life is not worth living at all.... They have found out that [the blackmailer] has a criminal record in Boston, but one can't arrest him for this for fear something might come out if the police were brought in - one is helpless with the fear of publicity of any kind being unthinkable in my case.... It is a hard and wicked world.

John Gielgud's life before homosexuality was decriminalized was one of public triumphs and private agonies, though, of course, there were private pleasures as well. But the extent and depth of his troubles haven't been known until this weekend when the Telegraph began serializing excerpts from Gielgud's Letters, a collection due on UK shelves on in a few weeks (and in April in the US). 250 letters out of the 800 or so editor Richard Mangan's gathered are addressed to the likes of Laurence Olivier, Noël Coward, Cecil Beaton and Peggy Ashcroft, but most revealingly with regard to the revelations the paper's focusing on, to interior designer Paul Anstee. As Nigel Reynolds explains in his introduction to the paper's selections, "An American blackmailer threatened to ruin the actor by exposing his homosexuality." As cruel and infuriating as these passages are, there's also the sheer delight of all but literally hearing Gielgud's voice as you read about trips to Hamburg, a romp here or there and rave reviews from all but "[Kenneth] Tynan [who] has destroyed me more spitefully than usual, and I smart a bit under his lash."

For background on how and when Gielgud was eventually outed, the Telegraph points to Clarke Taylor's marvelous 1977 profile in the Advocate.

"I wish the guys in Hollywood had spent more time, maybe even just five minutes, to show the Russian side of the story.... But I know American movies are always like that." Nick Paumgarten hears Russian hockey player Igor Larionov's take on Miracle. Also in the New Yorker: Nancy Franklin catches up with the Oscars; but the real fun's in Steve Martin's "Studio Script Notes on The Passion," a piece from last week's issue that the magazine didn't put online but which can now be read at Movie City News. Definitely online and loving it this week, though, is Paul Rudnick's "The Gospel According to Debbie."

Krtek "Krtek films are, in fact, slow, but also lyrical and so hypnotically distinct that they can feel less like watching movies than climbing into another human's head. That would be Mr. Miler's." Ian Fisher profiles Zdenek Miler who, fifty years ago, created the character still known and loved around our place as Der Maulwurf or, if he ever makes it to the US, Little Mole. Also in the New York Times:

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opens next week, so it's hardly a surprise PR's already cranking, especially since the last film Michel Gondry made based on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, Human Nature, was no Being John Malkovich, either artistically or commercially. And yet Caryn James enthuses that it's "exceptionally good, a strange and touching romance," and what's more, "this may be the best work Jim Carrey has ever done." More from Devin Gordon in Newsweek.

  • Stop the presses. You can bet Hollywood will go after Passion's audiences, writes AO Scott. Meanwhile, going on the way he does, angrier and more personal with each passing week, Frank Rich is serving neither his own argument nor the rep of his paper. On a lighter note (and certainly not in the NYT), The Passion of the Curly.

  • Dave Kehr chats ever-so-briefly with Lone Scherfig about Wilber Wants to Kill Himself.

  • Rob Walker, the business writer you actually enjoy reading, explains how " the Apex DVD player fits into the bargain-culture tradition that [sociology prof and author of Point of Purchase Sharon] Zukin traces back to the five-and-dimes of the 1870s."

  • As he prepares to open a play, Alec Baldwin talks to Melena Z Ryzik about all sorts of other things.

  • Adam Liptak on the ongoing case of Sony's fictitious critic David Manning.

  • Nick Madigan says that everyone in Hollywood's having a ball watching Michael Eisner fall.

Josh Tyrangiel begins a profile of Johnny Depp in Time with a generous dollop of sympathy for his agent, Tracy Jacobs: "Only Crispin Glover's representatives have suffered more for their percentage." And as for Pirates of the Caribbean, "'He was pitched the movie without a script,' recalls Jacobs. 'They basically said, "We're going to make a movie out of this theme-park ride. Want to do it?" And he said, "Great! I'm in. I believe in the idea." I just thought, What idea, you lunatic?'"

"The phrase 'not presently available in any format' crops up under the majority of titles covered in this book." In Kamera, Paul Clarke reviews Creeping Flesh: The Horror Fantasy Film Book, edited by David Kerekes.

Danny Glover has joined Dogville veterans Jeremy Davies, Stellan Skarsgård, Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Jean-Marc Barr and Udo Kier in Lars Von Trier's Manderlay, reports Coming Soon. Bryce Howard (Ron's daughter) has taken over the role of Grace from Nicole Kidman.

Meanwhile, John Malkovich, who'll be playing Gustav Klimt in a film set to start shooting in Vienna in August, will take on a role in a play by Stephen Jeffreys at the Steppenwolf in Chicago from the end of March to the beginning of June 2005.

In the Guardian and Observer:

    Revolution!
  • "I condemn utterly films like Kill Bill. We are told it is about empowering women. All it does is empower a woman to kill other women." Patrick Stewart, speaking in the name of Amnesty International and quoted by Dan Glaister.

  • Michel Faber reviews Peter Cowie's Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the 60s: "Cowie conflates a reasonable claim - that film-makers in the 60s had greater freedom to explore sexual and political themes than their predecessors - with the dubious conclusion that the films they made were hugely more interesting. I happen to agree that they were, but if I didn't, this book would do little to convince me."

  • Juan Goytisolo grew up watching movies at the Murillo and the Breton in Barcelona, which is why he now favors the "fleapit" cinemas in Paris, Tangier and Marrakesh, "where the atmosphere inside is equally if not more inviting than the programme of films." A wonderfully evocative extract from Cinema Eden - Essays from the Muslim Mediterranean.

  • Audrey Hepburn would have been 75 this year and there's a retrospective running at the National Film Theatre in London through March 24. So the Observer's asked Rachel Moseley, author of Growing Up with Audrey Hepburn: Text, Audience, Resonance to explain the enduring appeal.

  • Philip French: "I've seen Orphée at regular intervals over half a century and, though it's no longer obscure, it has lost none of its magic."

  • The key to Nick Nolte, argues John Patterson, is Neal Cassady.

  • Miranda Sawyer charts crimefighters and their cars.

  • John Naughton briefly explains how BitTorrent works and concludes: "So we now have a software system that can be used for swopping [swapping?] movies, but has what lawyers call 'substantial non-infringing uses' giving it legal protection. Hollywood's ultimate nightmare has arrived ahead of schedule."

  • And then, for no good reason, one of today's lead editorials: "In order to save time, the following article is being printed several months ahead of schedule as a service to readers and nascent conspiracy theorists."

Does Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels send a liberal or conservative message? Matt Langdon: "I've told you what I think. Now it's up to you to decide." He then points to the National Review's list of "Best Conservative Movies," as of October 1994, that is, and a reply from Turn Left, "Best Liberal Movies of All Time."

A few items via the Res newsletter: National Geographic's All Roads Film Project; Pipilotti Rist at SFMOMA; calls for entries from the Brookyn International Film Festival and the Silverlake Film Festival; and even an online viewing tip, a few music videos from Traktor.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:50 AM | Comments (3)

Laugh track.

roseanne-esquire.jpg "People are paying for something they refuse to watch for free." Mike Reiss, interviewed in DVD File on the success of The Critic on DVD.

But all is not well with the American sitcom, at least to hear some of its makers tell it by way of Bruce Weber in the New York Times. On the one hand, panelists at the US Comedy Arts Festival seemed to agree that the four-camera set-up is all but dead; "Yet no one is quite writing off the sitcom as a leading cultural symbol."

Also in the NYT, Alexandra Jacobs profiles "that guy from Rushmore," Jason Schwartzman, who's got a new sitcom coming up himself, Cracking Up.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:44 AM

March 5, 2004

Short shorts, 3/5.

In openDemocracy, Siddiq Barmak tells Maryam Maruf and Maggie Loescher about the ending his film Osama might have had, about how bundles of films stored in the Afghan Film Institute were saved from the Taliban, about the state of cinema in the country now - as well as all around the world outside of the US - about all that Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf has done for Afghanistan (a lot), about traditional storytelling and about what is to be done in the war-ravaged country: "To build, to have windows in the houses, to find roofs for the house, animals, property. But even that is not enough. It's easy to build everything, but it's very difficult to rebuild the human soul. I think that what we are building now, we will only see the fruits of in the next generation. Maybe even the generation after that."

Osama

A few days ago, Cinecultist and Doug French of Filmington.com had a longish chat about Osama.

Liza Bear interviews Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, director of James' Journey to Jerusalem for indieWIRE: "I just knew that the tension between these two, the Holy Land one dreams of and the Israel one finds, was something that I should explore. And then I created this basic situation of someone who comes for a pilgrimage and then ends up as a migrant worker."

Always a compelling read, Slavoj Zizek explains in In These Times "why, ultimately, passion is politically incorrect; although everything seems permitted in our culture, one kind of prohibition is merely displaced by another." That doesn't steer, by the way, toward the defense of Mel Gibson you might already suspect you're seeing on the horizon; Zizek's essays are almost never straight-line arguments anyway - more like flailing clusters of little provocations.

Meanwhile, as if Disney didn't have enough trouble bubbling up all over, there's a dispute going on over just how true the story it's selling as "an incredible true story" actually is. For Slate, Anuj Desai hears out the supporters and debunkers of Frank T. Hopkins, the cowboy played by Viggo Mortensen in Hidalgo.

In his review of Starsky and Hutch in today's New York Times, Elvis Mitchell writes, "The film belongs, completely and utterly, to Snoop Dogg. Picking up the mantle of the police informant Huggy Bear, Snoop Dogg wears audience rapport as if it were a new fragrance. He plays the movie like a B side, and the stars have smarts enough to get out of his way. He's the man; everyone else is just standing in his shadow." Which is a fine introduction to Paul Fischer's interview with the man in Moviehole in which he announces, "I want to work with Halle Berry on a real movie. Some live action, you dig? Hopefully my acting skills are raised to the level of hers. She could be a love interest - some Bonnie and Clyde shit, you dig?"

Today's film fest blurb: Cinequest in San Jose, paying tribute to, among others, that overlooked maverick Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the Guardian:

  • Another "look at all these docs!" story, this time from Blake Morrison and with more of a Brit point of view.
  • The paper's prison columnist Erwin James on the movies prisoners go in for. Prison movies, actually. The occasion of the piece: The Prison Film Project.
  • And Molly Haskell asks: "Has film come to terms with feminism?"

Online viewing tip. Typographic Illustration. Via Memeslider.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:39 AM

March 4, 2004

Shorts, 3/4.

"There is a kind of seamlessness to your work. I guess you do a dissolve, while I do a jump cut."

blake-pdlove.jpg

From a dissolve sequence in Punch-Drunk Love by Jeremy Blake; more.

The observation, made to Jeremy Blake, is John Baldessari's and it comes relatively early on in the first of a newly launched series in Artforum, "In Conversation." Hard to imagine a more cinema-soaked talk between two artists.

For film buffs, this week's LA Weekly is a pretty thick issue, starting with Ella Taylor's cover feature on that big, loud bundle of contradictions, Michael Moore, and to an extent, too, "the legions of fans at home and abroad who have made his books and films runaway best-sellers and box-office successes, with a little help from the marketing departments of some of the very conglomerates he fingers as the root of America's troubles." Seriously, though, how you'd go about launching a bestseller or box office success without plugging into that system at some point down the line is beyond me; Moore himself sees it this way: "'As long as they can make money off me, it virtually doesn't matter what the message is,' he admits. 'Which is kind of sad when you think about it.' He laughs. 'But that is the fatal flaw of capitalism. They'll sell you the rope to hang themselves with if they can make a buck off it.'"

Michael Moore on the cover of LA Weekly That the right despises Moore goes without saying, but Taylor points to the many on the left who despise him in equal measure. Just a click next door, as a matter of fact, you'll find Marc Cooper wishing Moore were Mort Sahl.

Then there's Scott Foundas on Chantal Akerman. The occasion is a retrospective at REDCAT in LA and I'll bet Foundas enjoyed doing his homework for this piece: He met Akerman in Paris last month. And nabs some wonderful quotes. I won't even cut-n-paste one, just go read that piece.

Both Foundas and Taylor show up again in this issue, he on The Sopranos, "the greatest American family saga since the Corleones," and she on one of the other Coppolas and - this is disappointing, actually - her lead's misbehavior at the Oscars: "[I]t wasn't hard to see why Murray is so widely disliked around this town - not because he makes fun of Hollywood, but because he can be a royal jerk when he puts his mind to it."

But for Nikke Finke, the last several days have been about other things entirely: "Instead of talking about Adrien Brody and his Binaca blast, or Bill Murray and his televised temper tantrum, everyone partying post-Oscar in Hollywood was consumed with the past: Mel Gibson and his fixation on events that happened 2,000 years ago, and Michael Eisner and his secret 1996 letter to Michael Ovitz."

Rounding out the issue: Steven Mikulan on political maneuverings inside and outside the Writers Guild of America, Brendan Bernhard on Dennis Miller's new "openly pro-Bush" talk show and Kate Sullivan on the Howard Stern brouhaha.

In his blog over at the New Republic's place, Gregg Easterbrook argues that "mainstream porn studios such as Vivid Video, the number-one producer of porn in the United States, are more responsible in what they present to audiences than the big corporate studios."

For the Austin Chronicle, Courtney Fitzgerald meets the Red vs Blue team, winner of Best Picture, Best Independent Picture, and Best Writing at the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences and craigslist founder Craig Newmark, a chat that's linkable here because Michael Ferris Gibson's documentary 24 Hours on Craigslist will be showing at SXSW.

Another San Francisco International Film Festival item: Chris Cooper's to receive the Peter J. Owens Award; he'll be at the Castro on April 21. They'll show some clips, he'll do an interview and then there'll be a screening of John Sayles's Matewan.

Via greg.org, David D'Arcy in Metropolis on "building docs," predictable narratives of the "design and construction of prominent projects by celebrity architects." It's a genre so ubiquitous it's even "produced an odd subgenre: a look inside the unbuilt."

"Count Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me along with Bowling for Columbine and The Thin Blue Line when discussing contemporary documentaries which have actually produced real social change," heralds Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker's blog: McDonald's has announced it'll no longer be super-sizing anything. Or at least not by that name.

Two quick, minimal Passion pointers: Doug Cummings; and in Slate, Robert Alter and Stephen Prothero.

"Ever cutting-edge, the cinetrix directs you to the just launched Who's Who of Victorian Cinema." And you'll be glad you followed.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 PM

March 3, 2004

Two steps forward...

The Saddest Music in the World How much of the first couple of months of 2004 was spent arouwnd here slicing and dicing, collating and calculating the previous year in movies? I don't even want to know. You'll find this entry struggling to shake off the shackles of 2003 toward the end, but let's start out looking full-speed ahead with Michael Atkinson introducing the Village Voice's selective preview of the films set to hit screens between March 12 and May 28: "It's difficult to get hyperactive about the spring in film, generally speaking, but it's a relief to see movies shed their padded-pectoral identities as self-shilling juggernaut events and simply become movies again." Surely there's at least a handful in that bunch to get excited about, yes?

Also in the Voice:

Onward. IndieWIRE's launched a fine new feature, "Production Report," which'll be just that: News of indies in the making. Jason Guerrasio takes on the first five. Also in indieWIRE: Patricia Thomson interviews Good Bye, Lenin!'s director and star, Wolfgang Becker and Daniel Brühl.

Spring will also have its festivals. Two big ones in San Francisco, the SF International Asian American Film Festival (March 4 through 21) and the SF International Film Festival (April 15 through 29).

SF Bay Guardian: Anna May Wong On the occasion of the first, a terrific cover package in the SF Bay Guardian, with B Ruby Rich, full of hope and eloquence, explaining why "the legacy of the first Chinese American actress of extraordinary talent and fame may well be secured at last," and Chuck Stephens on the film that aimed to do just that back in 1929: "The wrong the film was most eager to right was the American film industry's underutilization of actor Anna May Wong, whose star turn in Piccadilly helped secure her fleeting international position as a trend-and-fashion-setting cause célèbre and the intermittently flickering status she's enjoyed, as one of the silent screen's most venomous vamps, ever since." And Johnny Ray Huston previews Im Sang-Soo's A Good Lawyer's Wife and Gina Kim's Invisible Light.

As for the festival that follows, Milos Forman is to be the recipient of the Film Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing. He'll chat onstage about Hair and the fest will also be screening his 1971 film Taking Off, and of course, Fireman's Ball, crest of the Czech New Wave in 1967 and shown the following year at the SFIFF.

Filmmaker has an update on Tom Kalin's recently announced next feature, Savage Grace with Julianne Moore. Do read the bit where Christine Vachon gives the elevator pitch.

For Time Europe, Jumana Farouky looks at the ways the European film industry is trying to reinvent itself so that it has a chance of "taking its place beside Hollywood on cinema screens, instead of just sulking in its shadow." And James Inverne explains what happened on the British film industry's "Black Tuesday."

The Guardian's Xan Brooks listens to Nick Broomfield talk about his father, photographer Maurice Broomfield; and vice versa.

For the New York Times, Carlotta Gall checks in on Marina Golbahari, the star of Osama. See if you don't come up with a few ideas for what a few Academy members might do with the schwag they scooped up Sunday night. Which leads us, of course, to quite possibly (but not necessarily) the last wrap-up of the 2003 wrap-up, the Oscars wrap-up:

  • Via Doug Cummings, the national screening schedule for Apollo Cinema's program of Oscar-nominated live action and animated shorts.
  • Big, gossipy report from Jake Brooks in the New York Observer.
  • The Snarkfest at Chuck's Blogumentary.
  • In Slate, Lee Siegel sees the Oscars as an opportunity to reflect on the state of acting in America.
  • Margeret Cho watches: "This is really getting long... Charlize Theron is more beautiful as Aileen Wournos. I mean really, she is hot in Monster."
  • In the Guardian, Andrew Pulver expands on the following thesis: "Antipodeans have taken over Hollywood."
  • Hoo-boy: "Now that Oscars are over for this year, Hollywood insiders are already speculating on possible nominees for the 77th annual Academy Awards that will be handed out in February 2005." Bill Zwecker reports for the Sun-Times.

To wrap on a fun note then, if you're a Thunderbirds fan, a Gerry Anderson fan, go vote for your favorite episode, why don't you. Looks like they're cooking up quite a 40th anniversary edition DVD set.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:27 PM

March 1, 2004

This one goes to 11.

In the end, it's all worked out just fine. At the Big Party, the Big Picture won all the Big Awards, eleven in all, while Lost in Translation swept the Independent Spirit Awards the day before. Seems about right. Even so, who can help but be glad it's all over. As Lynda Obst typed in her email conversation with David Edelstein in Slate, "Seeing the same people everywhere, exhaustion sets in."

Peter Jackson & Oscar

Of course, she's talking about face-to-face encounters, but even we, the vast, unwashed television-viewing public, wonder, after weeks of Globes, Baftas, SAGs and all the rest, how, say, Tim Robbins or Sofia Coppola can possibly think up something new and different to say, standing up there once again with yet another hunk of metal in their hands.

Still, if you can't get enough, there's Cintra Wilson, at least a bit funnier than Billy Crystal, over in Salon on just how dull, dull, dull the evening turned out to be. To the point of putting Cinecultist to sleep. Even "Jim Carrey managed to be not at all funny," notes the NYT's Alessandra Stanley. Aaron Barnhart was bored, too, but he did doodle a fun list while the broadcast droned on and on. Also in TV Barn, Gary Dretzka has ideas for how to attract the Gen Y demographic the show's producer, Joe Roth, claimed he was after (though you wouldn't know by what he came up with, would you).

Anyway, speaking of dead horses, though it'd be tough to come up with a fresh angle on The Passion of the Christ, New Yorker editor David Remnick has done it: He's called up Elaine Pagels, a historian of early Christianity whose popularity hasn't made her any less rigorous. She explains her initial take: "There are many examples in the film of a preposterous dialectic: the bad Jews and the good Romans... Gibson's movie is no more subtle than The Lord of the Rings. There is the side of good and the side of evil."

Ah, but good and evil in LOTR3 is a point of contention nonetheless. As anyone who's read our interviews with Viggo Mortensen and John Rhys-Davies already knows, they disagree sharply over how to read Tolkein politically. Steven Hart elaborates. Also in Salon, editor David Talbot talks to Errol Morris about The Fog of War; this time, it's back to politics.

"To revisit Fred and Ginger in the nine black-and-white films they made together for RKO between 1933 and 1939 is to return to the greatest archetype of danced romantic love in film, and one of the enduring archetypes of love in popular culture." Alastair Macaulay in the Times Literary Supplement.

In Kamera, Graeme Cole reviews Steve Chibnall's British Film Guide on Get Carter and Laurence Boyce reviews Colin MacCabe's Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70.

For Wired News, Jason Silverman tracks varying degrees of respect for online film critics; via Movie City News, appropriately enough.

Matt Langdon chalks up the all-time box office totals in the US for foreign films.

Soma Wadhwa introduces a film of "relentless brutality" and "repulsion," Matrubhoomi in Outlook India without condeming it. Also, Namrata Joshi: "Just when you thought there could be nothing more to know about the brassy bouncing superstar of Hindi cinema, along comes Hyphen Films' The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan, financed by the UK's Channel 4. It literally takes you where no SRK fan has gone before - a whisper away from the hero's innermost insecurities and fears."

"Owen describes us as Hope and Crosby without the huge following." Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson commandeer an interview in Time.

Is there a "statute of limitations" for certain widely popular or even classic movies when it comes to assuming surprise twists and endings are public knowledge? With common sense and winning humor, Chris Rywalt writes in TeeVee that we all ought to be a little more careful.

Chiaki Kuriyama Catching up with the weekend papers, first, that marvelous portfolio of portraits by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, "Great Performers," in the New York Times Magazine. Favorites: Chiaki Kuriyama and Judah Friedlander. Also in the NYT:

  • Terrence Rafferty on Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano.
  • Kicking off a trio of Oscar Eve op-eds, Sylvain Chomet offers a snapshot of the state of animation, the good and the bad;
  • Pankaj Mishra does more or less the same thing for Bollywood;
  • And Colin McGinn has a theory about movies and dreams.
  • Eric Dash in the Business pages on Lions Gate.
  • Bill Carter on Stephen King's 13-parter, Kingdom Hospital. If you click, don't forget to visit the Pain Room.
  • Virginia Heffernan talks about The Sopranos with its creator and executive producer David Chase.
  • Rebecca Traister gathers other people's theories as to why the post-Moulin Rouge, post-Chicago tsunami of musicals has yet to hit.
  • Robin Toner: "[C]ulture wars wax and wane. And in recent days, as the nation furiously debated gay marriage, Mel Gibson's movie... and Janet Jackson's raunchy half-time show at the Super Bowl, the culture war seemed to be waxing again."
  • On that note, Stephen Prothero, author of American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon: "One puzzle of the reception of the film thus far is why born-again Christians have given such a big thumbs up to what is so unapologetically a Catholic movie.... The culture wars no doubt have something to do with the evangelicals' decision to close ranks with Gibson, who must be commended for so adroitly spinning the debate over his depiction of Jews into a battle between secular humanists and true believers."

In the Guardian and Observer:

Read Italian? Via Perlentaucher, Daniela Giammusso's talk with Roland Emmerich in L'espresso about The Day After Tomorrow.

Casshern

Online viewing tip. There's been quite a bit of WTFing in the non-Japanese-speaking realms of the Net over the past week or so as the link to a trailer for a film called Casshern has been passed from inbox to inbox, blog to blog. What can be ascertained so far (and really, it shouldn't be this difficult), taking Brian Linder's piece over at FilmForce as a first batch of clues, is that Kazuaki Kiriya, a music video director married to J-pop star Utada Hikaru, is a fan of a 70s-era anime series which may have been called Shinzou Ningen Casshan (New Android Casshan) and has based this film on that series. More will filter out as the film opens in Japan in either April or June, depending on which blog entry you read, but in the meantime, the trailer.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)