May 31, 2004

Shorts, 5/31.

Christopher Walken For the New York Times Magazine, Stephen Rodrick checks in on Christopher Walken during the shooting of The Wedding Crashers:

His bizarro word rhythm and gleeful disregard for punctuation makes even his most banal utterances sound dramatic. At the grocery store, he stared at a plump tomato and then put it back. ''I DON'T. Buy the tomatoes with. The stems. On them. They don't. Degrade. They go. Down the sink. And into the WATER. Then. They get lodged in the throats of little. OTTERS.''

Armed with the voice and the hair, Walken merrily hoofs his way through the Hollywood minefield with the blissfully oblivious demeanor of someone who doesn't know any better or, more precisely, doesn't know any other way.

In the paper:

  • Marcelle Clements watches the Criterion edition of 3 Women, listens to Robert Altman's commentary and notes that "the film's notorious ambiguity seems to have dissipated."
  • AO Scott files one last Cannes piece. About dogs.
  • Annette Grant visits Gregory Crewdson, whose photographs bear the "trademark look of tableaus that suggest complicated narratives, as if a whole movie were being condensed into a single shot."
  • Virginia Heffernan profiles the women of Six Feet Under.
  • Thomas Hine: "In the age of the remote control, of HBO and endless cable choices, and of TiVo, the recording device that lets viewers skip commercials, the marriage of mass entertainment to 'a word from our sponsor,' appears to be in trouble."
  • At first glance, it looks as if Sharon Waxman has your usual story about a big dumb Goliath of a corporation - in this particular case, Fox - bringing its mighty club down on a swift innovative David of an indie - here, Bryan Michael Stoller - for daring to parody one of its properties. Second glance: The twist here is that Stoller's short features Michael Jackson.
  • Nancy Ramsey tells the story behind The Story of the Weeping Camel.

Anne Thompson's "LA Diary" in the Observer opens with speculation surrounding James Cameron's upcoming sci-fi blockbuster, tracks DreamWorks's current success, notes the dangers of making docs and asks for the umpteenth time this long, long weekend, "How much destruction can New Yorkers take?" For the Washington Post, Thompson profiles Roland Emmerich.

Via Bitter Cinema, Kathryn Joyce in The Revealer: "If Gojira was 'the A-bomb made flesh,' Godzilla is the gospel as A-bomb." More from Filmbrain.

So Michel Gondry's directing an adaptation of Rudy Rucker's Master of Space and Time with Jack Black taking the lead. That inticing bit of news comes by way of drew.

Via Defamer, Lia Haberman passes along news from the LA Times to E! that MTV's running that ad for Super Size Me after all and "blamed a 'junior-level employee' for the mix-up."

Mira Nair? Very, very busy, surmises Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Some of us don't have subscriptions to the LA Times, which makes us all the more grateful to Matt Langdon for excerpting the bits from Manohla Dargis's Cannes story related to Jean-Luc Godard and Wong Kar-wai.

Amanda Doss offers a brief history of the Producer's Action Network.

Elizabeth Carmody has been casting kids and she's bumped into a few surprises.

Chernobyl Dead Zone

Just because, a few summertime travelers:

  • Elena rides through the "dead zone" surrounding Chernobyl (eerie, captivating photos; thanks, Francine). Update: A reader has pointed out that Neil Gaiman recently passed along a message revealing that this travelogue is a hoax. Can't help but agree with Gaiman: "This one left me blinking. Not so much because it was a fraud, as why anyone would bother to create such a fraud..." Even so, still grateful for both the link and the correction.

  • Matt Clayfield: "Jeremy Harrison, eternally deluded filmmaker-cum-backpacker, has hit Belgium [and is having trouble typing as a result]."
  • Via Eugene Hernandez, the "Year of the Goat."
  • Morgan Spurlock's new diet? Kangaroo.

Online viewing tip. "Beasts" and "Arrogance" by Mark O'Connell.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:04 AM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2004

So here's the deal.

Fahrenheit 9/11 According to Sharon Waxman in the New York Times, it goes like this: Bob and Harvey Weinstein get the rights to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 - as Bob and Harvey Weinstein, not as Miramax. As punishment - albeit of an agreeable sort - for going ahead with the film when they were told not to, they won't be allowed any "monetary benefit" from all this and will instead hand over what they make - a predetermined amount, it looks like - to charity.

The good news, then, is that the film will probably appear in theaters this summer with Lion's Gate and Focus Features most likely handling distribution. The interesting news is that the Weinsteins are in the movie business in some form or other independent of both Disney and Miramax; for now, they're calling it the Fellowship Adventure Group. Movie City News points to more: A Reuters story and just look at what those Republican bastards have done: fahrenheit911movie.com. Now, that's low.

More Waxman: Who will replace Jack Valenti? Does anyone actually want to?

Also in the NYT: A few pretty interesting book reviews.

Sontag & Kael

  • Initially, Michael Wood doesn't seem terribly convinced that Craig Seligman's project in Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me makes much sense. "[S]urely they inhabited different critical worlds? Yes, and it's hard to bring these worlds together." Seligman's early run-downs of the similarities in Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael's lives doesn't really get him anywhere. "But then something begins to happen in Seligman's book, and it has to do with art and trash and the concept of seriousness." It's an appealing exercise; and here's an excerpt.

  • Jodi Kantor reviews The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex by Maureen Orth, who "could be the Paul O'Neill of Conde Nast! No such luck."

  • James Fallows on Paul Starr's The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications: "What Starr argues - and, in my view, powerfully demonstrates - is that every branch of the communications system reflects deliberate political choices made under particular historic circumstances." First chapter.

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids, edited by Giovanni Chiaramonte and the director's son, Andrei A. Tarkovsky, is due out next week in the UK. The Guardian presents a marvelous sampling.

Also in today's edition: It's Spike Lee vs Snoop Dogg in Dan Glaister's story on the controversy kicked up by Soul Plane; and John Patterson on the young, beautiful and famous who flare and fade out all too quickly.

Why isn't anyone re-releasing Three Kings, asked B Ruby Rich in our interview earlier this month. Andrew Gumbel might well raise the same question. In a solid consideration of the film in the Independent that begins with an encounter between director David O Russell and then-candidate George W Bush in 1999 - "Russell told him that he was making a film that was critical of his father's Gulf War legacy in Iraq. To which Bush shot back: 'Then I guess I'm going to have to go finish the job, aren't I?'" - Gumbel also notes: "The wonder of Three Kings is that it was not some low-level art-house labour of love, but a big-budget, big-studio action adventure with an all-star cast led by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube."

And finally for now, and via MCN: "The wait is over. The Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko premieres at the Seattle Film Festival on May 29, 2004 and passionate Donnie Darko fans will finally get to see the movie writer/director Richard Kelly intended to make all along." Rebecca Murray has a good long talk with Kelly and offers loads o' relevant links.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:25 AM

May 28, 2004

Shorts, 5/28.

High Art B Ruby Rich:

While actual lesbians continue to prowl the earth, the cultural, cinematic, and lifestyle acreage that could remotely be called "lesbian" has shrunk precipitously. It's time to return to the base, retrofit the foundation (as we say here in San Francisco earthquake country), and begin to imagine what a fresh, contemporary and dynamic "lesbian" identity might resemble, at least on screen.

Also in the Guardian Leo Benedictus checks up on former child stars; and even though he's losing his eyesight, Alex Gibbons still loves the movies anyway.

Rebecca Traister reports that Michael Moore interviewed Nicholas Berg for Fahrenheit 9/11 but that none of the 20 minutes of footage have wound up in the final cut. Also in Salon: "Does anyone really care about any of the upcoming summer blockbusters?" asks Charles Taylor. It's a purely rhetorical question, of course, since we all know the answer. The point is to trace the many ways it's come to this.

Two via Roger Avary: YouthQuake Magazine is now online with features on Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, James Duval and more; and Elvis Mitchell's interview with Mark Romanek.

Via Alternet, disturbing questions raised by Jason Vest after viewing Iraq - On the Brink, a documentary on what Americans are actually doing over there that aired in Australia well over a month before CBS's 60 Minutes II story on Abu Ghraib.

Also in the Boston Phoenix: Chris Fujiwara previews the "Peter Lorre: A Sinister Centennial" series at the Harvard Film Archive.

IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks previews the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (June 11 - 24).

Poor Seattle Maggie. She caught the wrong movie at SIFF.

Via drew, news that David Mackenzie will direct a biopic of Nico.

Matt Langdon watches Disney's WWII-era propaganda.

Via Tagline, Austin Bunn's cover story in Wired on Pixar, and specifically, of course, on The Incredibles.

Any Jonathan Rosenbaum review of a Jim Jarmusch film needs reading. Coffee and Cigarettes, he writes, "is certainly less ambitious than Dead Man or Ghost Dog, though it's by no means less personal."

Via Ain't It Cool News Karey Kirkpatrick's interview with Karey Kirkpatrick. Both are the same guy, naturally, the screenwriter behind the upcoming version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Maqbool Maqbool: George Thomas raves.

Rediff.com runs a brief excerpt from Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari's book, Indian Cinema: The Bollywood Saga.

For Kung Fu Cinema, Jean Lukitsh reports on Zhang Yimou's "triumphant appearance" in Boston on Wednesday night as he accepted the first Coolidge Award for indie filmmakers.

I think the last time we linked to Moviehole, actually a nifty place to scan headlines, it was to Paul Fischer's interview with Snoop Dogg. That would have been around the time of the release of Starsky and Hutch. So, in keeping with tradition: In Moviehole, Paul Fischer talks to Snoop Dogg about Soul Plane.

Via Greg Gilpatrick, FactCheck.org, which does just that on the steady stream of political ads coming from both parties.

Dan Whitcomb for Reuters on Rance, the supposed Hollywood celeb blogger: "Could he really be, as some believe, Owen Wilson, Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey or even George Clooney?" Via Defamer, naturally.

So we're all in agreement, then. Aaron and the cinetrix, and in subsequent comments, Cynthia and Filmbrain: Gwyneth Paltrow has no business even thinking about Marlene Dietrich, much less attempting to portray her.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:12 AM

May 27, 2004

Shorts, 5/27.

A Matter of Degrees At a loping, casual pace, John Powers pours out the read of the day. Here's how it begins:

Fahrenheit 9/11 was clearly not the best movie at the 57th Cannes Film Festival. But it was undeniably the defining film of the historical moment. And so, in a festival that will be remembered for its good humor and modest pleasures, Michael Moore's cauldron of Bush-scalding agitprop enjoyed a visibility as oversized as the director himself.

More than Moore follows. Pour yourself something fine, get comfortable and listen. Then, also in the LA Weekly:

  • Tulsa Kinney talks to Bukowski: Born Into This director, John Dullaghan. Sounds like your run-of-the-mill interview with a filmmaker? Hardly. Kinney's in a unique position to offer a unique intro.

  • Scott Foundas on Tian Zhuangzhuang's Springtime in a Small Town: "Simply put, it represents the work of a filmmaker so exhilaratingly in command of his craft that he can, among other things, turn a single image of two people standing next to each other - fully clothed, their bodies not quite touching - into one of the most sublimely erotic moments we have ever beheld on the screen."

  • Erin Aubry Kaplan on the rhetoric and politics of Bill Cosby and Chris Rock.

For Movie City News, Leonard Klady traces the history of the rocky relationship between Miramax and Disney and then maps the current "game of chicken over profits" to be reaped from the Palme d'Or winner. On the one hand, "The Mouseketeer Mutineers of Miramax made a tidy personal profit from their ownership of Dogma and O and, no doubt, based upon those experiences had an even better idea of how to structure favorable deals on Fahrenheit 9/11." On the other, "There's also finally a degree of hypocrisy in the whole affair as Disney will see a tidy amount of money from the arrangement."

In indieWIRE: Rania Richardson on regional indie hits; for example, Rivers and Tides, which was huge in the SF Bay Area but practically unheard-of elsewhere; Lily Oei on new prospects for short films; and Brian Brooks looks ahead to the "grand dame of gay film festivals, Frameline."

Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column returns to Salon: "Improbable as it seems, Control Room looks like the season's smash documentary." Also: Catching up with Dogville, Twentynine Palms, People Say I'm Crazy and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring.

The SXSW News Reel points to an eyebrow-raising Reuters story: MTV is refusing to show ads for Super Size Me because "the ads are 'disparaging to fast food restaurants.'" Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they are. And MTV's point is...? Get your body looking like Andre 3000 or Beyonce, but keep on wolfing down those Big Macs, too?

Ronald Bergan remembers Czech filmmaker Jiri Weiss. Also in the Guardian: News that would be far more appropriate on April Fool's Day: "Gwyneth Paltrow is to produce and star in a film about German screen idol Marlene Dietrich."

"Whatever its flaws, The Day After Tomorrow could do more to elevate the issue [of global warming] than any number of Congressional hearings or high-minded tracts," writes Robert B Semple, Jr on the editorial page of the New York Times. "But if the film is meant to prod anxieties about ecological catastrophe and to encourage political action in response, it seems unlikely to succeed. Not because the events it depicts seem implausible, but because they seem like no big deal," counters AO Scott in his review.

In German: Diedrich Diedrichsen in Die Zeit on this weekend's summer movie, plus: Gero von Randow on the political quagmire the film presents us with and Christoph Drösser on why the movie gets its portraits of scientists right, even though the science itself is screwy.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:37 PM

May 26, 2004

Shorts, 5/26.

For Pacific News Service, and via Alternet, Shahla Azizi - not her real name; she lives in Tehran with her two children and is evidently being careful - reflects on the spectacular but all-too-brief success of Marmoolak (The Lizard), a comedy first approved and then pulled by Iran's "all-powerful, un-elected Guardian Council."

Marmoolak

It's a tremendous loss for Iranian audiences; you can see photos of crowds eager for the intelligent comic relief the film offered at the official site and at Iran: Translated.

Six films, six reviewers. The Village Voice samples Film Forum's Ingmar Bergman retrospective. Also:

Sheelah Kolhatkar: "[C]orporations and those who operate them are destined to behave amorally because, well, that’s what they do, according to The Corporation, a film that won the World Cinema Documentary Audience award at Sundance and opens in New York on June 30. The filmmakers' reasoning is simple: Corporations by their very nature are psychopathic." Also in the New York Observer: The Transom and Jake Brooks's column.

Colour Me Kubrick Robert Davis wonders if Colour Me Kubrick will be more like Close Up or Catch Me If You Can.

In her "Art & Industry" column, Amy Taubin considers Jennifer Reeves's The Time We Killed and Peggy Ahwesh and Bobby Abate's Certain Women, two "grim, unsparing little movies about women who have been betrayed and/or brutalized by men, other women, and/or society at large."

Interviews at indieWIRE: Anthony Kaufman with Jorgen Leth and Erica Abeel with Jehane Noujaim. Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indie films in production.

Kevin Conley files a fun piece in the New Yorker on the Taurus World Stunt Awards.

Matt Dentler: "[C]ompanies like Films We Like need to be promoted, supported, and explored by audiences all over North America.... I would suggest an American open mind about what's going on in the Canadian film scene."

David Fear finds the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation squelching misconceptions about local one-screen theaters - and serving a need few realized existed. Also in the SF Bay Guardian, reviews: Fear on Word Wars, Johnny Ray Houston on Los Angeles Plays Itself and its director (see also the ongoing series at the Pacific Film Archive), Dennis Harvey on Bukowski: Born Into This and Lynn Rapoport on Saved!.

In the New York Times:

Reader reviews are pouring into AICN from the Seattle International Film Festival. The Cinecultist has a SIFF correspondent as well. And speaking of the CC, she caught an onstage conversation with Zhang Yimou last night, "though when we call it a conversation we're using the word loosely."

How do you know you're watching a Hollywood epic? Why, it's the "vaguely ethnic wail" that's the true tell-tale sign, points out David Roos in Salon.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Guardian preps for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with a "special report" (i.e., a page collecting all its coverage, sure to go almost daily between now and the film's premiere around the world over the next several days). David Poland, who hasn't read the books and didn't much like the first two movies, is quite taken with this one and the "one central reason" is Alfonso Cuarón.

Via Movie City News, Karishma Vaswani's BBC story on the Fifth International Indian Film Awards. Kal Ho Na Ho snapped up eight out of eleven honors. More on the awards at Bitter Cinema.

Oh, this is too rich. McDonald's is getting into the DVD rental business. Steve Gallagher has the news and links at Filmmaker. Besides the most obvious prediction - that Super Size Me will not be among the 350 titles available - the punchlines practically write themselves. And most would probably be better than the Washington Post's.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:25 AM

Wrapping Cannes and measuring the Fahrenheit 9/11 factor.

Cannes Rob Nelson arrived a tad late at Cannes, but once he arrived, he started keeping a very fine diary for the City Pages, culminating with a face-to-face with Wong Kar-wai.

For indieWIRE, Stephen Garrett offers one of the most comprehensive wrap-ups around. The man was busy. He caught 50 films in 10 days - just ten short of George the cyclist's tally. And here are George and Jesse's final lists of favorites.

Filmbrain is collecting guesses: "Which film did Quentin hate?"

Time's Richard Corliss gets to expand on his coverage for the US edition of the magazine; in Time Asia, he writes, "What you need to know, what 2046 makes unavoidably clear, is that Wong Kar-wai is the most romantic filmmaker in the world." And in Time Europe, an assessment of a "brighter and more fun" fest this year than last. Meanwhile, Mary Corliss presents the newsweekly's "Parallel Awards."

Via Movie City News, Roger Ebert's Cannes Photo Album. More pix at indieWIRE.

For the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, it was a "very good year for Cannes, though not vintage." The most remarkable highlight, of course, was the way Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 "was operating outside the world of arthouse festival aesthetics. A widespread cinema release could bring anti-war/anti-Bush opinion to the political tipping point.... It isn't often that Cannes juries have it in their power to change the course of history." Also: Cannes clips from German, French and US papers.

Gary Younge, in the meantime, takes a closer look at how the Palme d'Or winner might impact the US election by asking media and political observers such as Howard Kurtz and Todd Gitlin.

Michael Moore

Sharon Waxman spells out what's known publicly about the complex behind-the-scenes haggling between Harvey Weinstein and potential US distributors for Fahrenheit 9/11. She also measures out the egg on Michael Eisner's face: Lots. Accompanying that piece, by the way, is AO Scott's full audio report from Cannes, updated with observations on the Asian and European presences at the festival.

And finally for the moment - because the Fahrenheit 9/11 story probably has legs that reach from here to November - David Poland offers a far livelier, opinionated and provocative take than Waxman's on the marketing of the film's back story. That's right: Not the film itself, but the spin on how it's come to pass that there's a distributor lined up for nearly every territory in the world but the US. You may not agree with every offhand comment and you may even get ticked off here and there, but this is compulsively readable stuff.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:19 AM

Emmerich vs NYC.

Randy Kennedy and Dale Peck seem to have either caught two different movies or two very different sets of New Yorkers watching Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow. Or more probably, the two writers simply have very different dispositions. Kennedy was at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday night for the New York Times: "When the waters finally leveled off, there was silence, and then a huge round of applause. 'Wow,' one man said, clapping like a basketball fan after a half-court shot. 'Wow.'"

The Day After Tomorrow

Peck, the novelist famous for his Hatchet Jobs, as he calls his own collection of essays, claims in the New York Observer that the same Manhattan-engulfing tidal wave "elicit[ed] little more than slightly embarrassed titters" from the audience at the Ziegfeld Theater.

Doesn't matter. Peck's piece is the more interesting of the two because he takes those titters as a starting point from which to riff on the mood in the city: "The point is not that New Yorkers are living in fear, but that we're not." From there, he explores a mindset fully aware that some sort of attack is inevitable "sooner or later, be it another bomb, or radioactive device, or chemical or biological agent," but just as convinced that whatever happens, it'll happen with the sort of objective, birds-eye scope of Emmerich's narrative - that is, masses will die, but no individuals.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:16 AM

May 23, 2004

Cannes and shorts, 5/23.

Corriere: Cannes Scan the papers anywhere in the world today, and you'll naturally find that the top film-related story of the day is the Palme d'Or for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (here's a photo by Eugene Hernandez; more pix from the fest from Brian Brooks).

In the New York Times, AO Scott, both in print and in an accompanying audio slide show, registers both Moore's surprise and the audience's jubilation immediately following international jury president Quentin Tarantino's announcement. Scott also quotes Moore stressing, "If you add Tilda [Swinton], then you could say that more than half [of the jury] came from the coalition of the willing." Wrapping up his piece, Scott reminds us that other prizes were awarded as well, ranging "far and wide over the competitive slate, recognizing both audience-friendly commercial movies, and challenging art-house films, and acknowledging the strong Asian presence at the festival this year."

Once again, these winners are listed at Cannes's official site; and that list is also annotated by Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher and Filmbrain.

For all the afore-mentioned surprise and jubilation, it's easy to forget that films were still being screened this one more last day and that reviews are still trickling in. As of Friday, The Edukators was still at the top of George the cyclist's list. His friend respectfully disagrees; it's got to be Tropical Malady.

Maggie Cheung may have won the Best Actress Award for her performance in Oliver Assayas's Clean, but indieWIRE's Peter Brunette finds the film itself "even more disappointing [than demonlover because he has clearly tried to film a more mainstream, linear-plotted story but has failed miserably."

Back to the New York Times:

The Five Obstructions

Andrew Anthony celebrates Moore's win with one of the harshest reviews of the man himself you're likely to find in a paper you might assume would be sympathetic to Moore's politics. After lobbing a series of decidedly unfriendly questions (which is, after all, what a journalist should do), Anthony concludes, "Though a talented film-maker and a clever showman, a populist who knows how to play the maverick, he is too often both big-headed and small-minded.... At Cannes, Moore may have been the star but he was not, it seems, the man of the people."

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

In the classroom

Time's Richard Corliss: "Left-wing documentaries are nothing new. In fact, with the exception of Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi-rally film Triumph of the Will, it's hard to think of a right-wing documentary." Oh, but there were hundreds of them a few decades ago. They were called educational films, bore titles like Our Friend the Atom and unreeled in classrooms from coast to coast and were fortunately so bad the 60s might never have happened without them.

Also in Time: Jack Klugman remembers Tony Randall.

Several dozen University of Nevada students convince Gary Dretzka that Vegas Vacation may well be the quintessential Las Vegas movie. Also at Movie City News: Andrea Gronvall asks Yann Samuell about his first feature, Love Me If You Dare.

What, according to Matthew Sweet, do the "three greatest drop-your-popcorn scenes in the past year" have in common? "[N]obody pitched them at a meeting; nobody loved the script; nobody's people called anybody else's people; nobody took it again, from the top." In other words, the best movies going on at the moment are docs. Sweet profiles a handful of their makers. Also in the Independent: David Thomson ponders the absent gods of Troy.

Roger Avary raves: Shaun of the Dead is "the best zombie film in close to 20 years."

Matt Dentler catches John Waters's appearance in Austin.

Super Size Me? Third highest per screen average in the country.

Newsweek's Sean Smith on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: "[T]he real reason this third film in the series outshines the others is that it's about something far more frightening than failing your Potions final or facing Lord Voldemort. It's about being 13."

Erik Davis, via Boing Boing, via Wiley Wiggins:

This spring, I had the opportunity to read and consult on Richard Linklater's screenplay for Philip K Dick's A Scanner Darkly, which is set to start filming this July. As I love many of Linklater's films, this was a great honor, although much less funny than the New Yorker's description of me as a "Dick expert." Expert or no, I can tell you that I have every reason to believe that Linklater's film will be what Dickheads everywhere have been waiting for: the first "real" "authentic" PKD movie.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:41 PM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2004

Cannes: It's Fahrenheit 9/11.

Moore and Tarantino "'What have you done? I'm completely overwhelmed by this,' said an emotional Moore, who was momentarily lost for words as the crowd roared its approval," report Joelle Diderich and Paul Majendie for Reuters. And who wouldn't be overwhelmed, emotional or at a loss for words. Just two years after a special prize was awarded to Bowling for Columbine at Cannes, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has won the Palme d'Or (see the complete list of winners here).

Last year, when Gus Van Sant's Elephant took the top prize, I wondered if we might hear a deluge of France-bashing from the usual quarters, despite the truly international jury, but the rhetorical floodgates had already been clogged with "freedom fries." This year, it's hard to know what to expect. The tide is turning, and while Disney certainly had its avid supporters when it decided once and for all to prohibit Miramax from distributing F-9/11 in the US, the numbers of those eager to see this film may be far greater than those eager to wish it away sight unseen. As Frank Rich puts it in an engaging piece on the film in today's New York Times:

Disney hasn't succeeded in censoring Mr. Moore so much as in enhancing his stature as a master provocateur and self-promoter. And the White House, which likewise hasn't a prayer of stopping this film, may yet fan the PR flames. "It's so outrageously false, it's not even worth comment," was last week's blustery opening salvo by Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. New York's Daily News reported that Republican officials might even try to use the Federal Election Commission to shut the film down. That would be the best thing to happen to Michael Moore since Charlton Heston granted him an interview.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:22 PM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2004

Shorts, 5/21.

Azumi Tom Mes has a longish, relaxed chat with Ryuhei Kitamura about his hugely successful independent project Versus and his plans to move to Hollywood once he wraps up the Godzilla series for Toho. And Don Brown reviews Kitamura's latest feature, Azumi.

Also in the new issue of Midnight Eye:

  • Mes salutes the late Tomio Aoki, whose career stretched from 1929 through this year; and he reviews Katsuhito Ishii's The Taste of Tea ("touching, funny, imaginative and pleasantly low-key").
  • Jaspar Sharp on Tetsuya Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls, "with two hot young J-Pop talents Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya elevating kitsch to hitherto undreamt of levels"; and on Joanne Bernardi's Writing in Light, a "highly informative look at the infancy of Japanese cinema."
  • Capsule reviews of half a dozen films.

Geoffrey Macnab places Fernando Eimbcke's Tempora de Patos at the top of the "Ten Best Films at Cannes 2004 he's drawn up for the Independent. The paper's latest profiles and interviews: Peter Bogdanovich, Gael Garcia Bernal and Deborah Unger.

FAZ Weekly's Elizabeth Book is happy to report on the reception The Edukators has received in Cannes.

The Nation won't let Stuart Klawans's reviews slip online, but Alternet will. This time around, he shrugs off Coffee and Cigarettes yet finds Troy more of a "real movie" than he expected.

Environmental Defense joins the network of activists hoping to turn the release of The Day After Tomorrow into an opportunity to get word out on the myths versus the facts related to global warming.

"Two striking documentaries about journalists in Iraq suggest how rarely the harshest images - and sometimes the unwelcome news - have penetrated American newscasts until now." Caryn James in the New York Times on Control Room (also reviewed by AO Scott) and War Feels Like War.

Tarnation

Skye Sherwin has a good long talk with Jonathan Caouette about revealing his most intimate self in Tarnation - and of course, about it's famous ultra-low budget.

Also in the Guardian:

  • BBC DJ Steve Lamacq explains why he's seen only 13 movies in all his life. Oh, and he lists them, too.
  • David Mamet carries on. This week, it's "development," that "Dadaist vision of movie-making, the fur-lined piss-pot, the oxymoron."
  • China is imposing a seven-week moratorium on Hollywood product next month.

Dana Stevens: "Outside the black-and-white absolutism of the "is he or isn't he?" question, Tony Randall broke new ground by choosing roles that existed precisely in the liminal zone between straight and gay."

Also in Slate:

  • Elizabeth Eaves profiles Najla Atef, "a film actress in Yemen, a country with no movie industry to speak of." But along came director Bader Ben Hirsi and his project, A New Day in Old Saana, "the first ever feature film to be shot entirely in Yemen by a Yemeni."
  • Ben Williams's zeitgeist round-up, "Summary Judgement," is particularly stimulating at the moment; the reviews gathered and blurbed revolve around Fahrenheit 9/11, readings of the Abu Ghraib photos, the recent spate of revenge flicks, Shrek 2 and more.
  • To come full circle, David Edelstein catches up with the original Godzilla.

And finally for today, Michael Moore posts a few pix from Cannes.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:38 PM | Comments (2)

May 20, 2004

SIFF and shorts.

The Stranger: SIFF Notes As the big honking Seattle International Film Festival opens, the Stranger steps forward with big honking help: "It is best to consider a festival as you would gambling, though with more reasonable odds; you can expect to lose some wagers, but if you spend enough time at the festival table, you will surely come out ahead in the end. SIFF Notes are intended to help make your cinematic gambling as painless and responsible as possible." As with most of these blurb collections, even if you're not attending the fest at hand, the browsing's lovely.

Meanwhile, France. Where Michael Winterbottom's explicit Nine Songs did not stir up a media frenzy. No, leave that to the Brits. Charlotte Higgins tsk-tsks "Her Majesty's press" and then conducts what's evidently the first interview with Margo Stilley, a native of North Carolina and the female half of this love (and sex) story. Sidebar: Derek Malcolm on why we won't be seeing too many movies like Nine Songs.

Also in the Guardian:

Along with other Cannes tidbits, Eugene Hernandez reports that screenings of Wong Kar Wai's 2046 seem to have been screened after all. Update: Not only has it turned up after all, AO Scott has seen it and reviews it along with notes on a few other Asian movies squeezed into late paragraphs, but the real "Cannes moment" here is 2046: "It is a series of moods, nuances and gorgeous moments - seductions, couplings, tearful partings - with the usual connective tissue left out, or implied in title cards and voice-overs. After the two screenings early in the evening, quite a few viewers rushed back to see it again later Thursday night, to experience its intoxicating beauty one more time, and also to figure out what on earth it was about."

Via indieWIRE Insider, word from the Hollywood Reporter's Charles Masters that Bill Murray will be starring in Jim Jarmusch's next one.

Jon Strickland previews Global Lens: New Cinema From the Developing World, a series at REDCAT in LA (May 25 to June 2). Also in the LA Weekly:

  • Paul Cullum listens to Alan Smith, "a social visionary in a profession not known for its humanitarian outreach," which is to say, he's an agent in Hollywood.
  • Ella Taylor reviews Shrek 2, "one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years."
  • And Nikki Finke digs the dirt on Steve Erlanger's "ouster" as cultural news editor at the New York Times. It's a mess.

As for the NYT itself, AO Scott surveys the Latin American offerings in Cannes, takes FX Feeney's "15-year rule of movie history" into light-hearted consideration (a nation's cinema flourishes roughly 15 years after some sort of social upheaval), listens to Walter Salles offer his explanation for the creative surge on the continent, and then observes: "Latin America, like Asia and Europe, may have distinct national styles of filmmaking: the oblique melancholy of Argentina, the violence and exuberance of Brazil, the fierce formal bravado of Mexico. But the new Latin American cinema, a phrase that evokes the Brazilian Cinema Novo of the mid-1960's, mixes styles and crosses national boundaries."

Also, Peter Wayner: "Independent filmmakers, specialty magazine publishers, artists, educators - all those with a video to sell, no matter how narrow the niche - are turning out DVD's and distributing them through the mail. It's a trend that began in the era of videotape but has accelerated with DVD's because they are inexpensive to duplicate and ship."

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov talks to Terry Jones: "We're very grateful to Mel - putting out Life of Brian right now is really just a shameless bit of commercial opportunism on our part, you know. We just thought, what a lovely opportunity to cash in on Mel's film." Also: A preview of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:08 PM | Comments (2)

SIFF Profile: Helen Loveridge

Tablet Magazine Jonathan Marlow recently spoke with the Executive Director of the Seattle International Film Festival. For more background, see Gillian G Gaar's profile in Tablet Magazine.

What I did before: A degree in history left me ill-qualified for much at all, but after some mooching around, I decided I liked film better than anything - no longer true: I am much more interested in music now but do not want to  spoil that pleasure by seeking employment in that field - so I wrote to the British Film Institute and asked, "What have you got that I can do?" This led to a six-year gig as assistant to the Programme Director of the National Film Theatre / London Film Festival (and Hospitality Officer on top of that for the last three years). 

I saw thousands of films. You could not keep me out of the cinema, and I met hundreds of filmmakers. I was then offered a job with a sales agency in London, Jane Balfour Films. They had traditionally handled docs and current affairs, which I was not so interested in, but had also just picked up a handful of features by the likes of Juzo Itami and Hou Hsiao-hsien that I  recklessly thought would be fun to work with. So I took a 16-year diversion through international sales - including being co-founder of Fortissimo Film Sales in Amsterdam where I worked with the likes of Wong Kar-wai and Tian Zhuangzhuang - before quitting because I could not stand the way the business had been taken over by hype and pre-selling rather than allowing a good film to make its own way, which used to happen rather more often. 

Funnily enough, the last film I sold - Monsoon Wedding - was the most successful, and it was amusing that when I moved to Seattle you could not park in my neighborhood for all the people going to see it at the movie theater. I never intended to specialize in Asian cinema, by the way; it just worked out like that.

Why I do what I do: It allows me to do two of the things I like the most: To travel and see movies - and then also a little contentment when the audiences go for the films I have sometimes fought so hard to bring here.

Five favorite movies (in no particular order):

Posted by dwhudson at 4:33 AM

May 19, 2004

Cannes, 5/19.

Cannes By all accounts, Cannes is having a very strong year. The assessments coming in from, say, the Village Voice's J Hoberman are nearly as breathtaking as many of the films must be. Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education seems in this context [of high expectations] to be the Spanish director's strongest film in two decades"; Emir Kusturica's Life Is a Miracle "appeared to be his most powerful movie in the 10 years since Underground"; Ousmane Sembène's Moolaadé (Protection ) has been "rapturously received"; Abbas Kiarostami's Five is "remarkably austere"; Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique is "another (and scarcely the least) of the filmmaker's elegies" (one hopes for a closer reading later); and the "must-see" movie? Not only is Fahrentheit 9/11 "the least grandstanding and most purposeful of Moore's career, it "could even be an intervention into Bush's campaign to finally get himself elected."

How "must-see" is it? For B Ruby Rich, the prospect of seeing it "as an American among the French was enough to send me halfway across the world on an unplanned trip into the maelstrom." And? "For nearly two hours, the audience was rapt." What followed, as you may have heard, was the longest standing ovation fest director Thierry Frémaux had ever seen, according to AO Scott in the New York Times. And as for Scott's take, the film is Moore's "most disciplined and powerful movie to date [and] suggests that he is also, arguably, a great filmmaker.... Is it partisan? Of course. But there are not many important films that haven't been."

House of Flying Daggers.jpg Eugene Hernandez delivers what certainly seem to be well-founded raves for Tarnation, F-9/11 and Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers (more news on this one from the cinetrix). Don't miss Brian Flemming's thoughts sparked indieWIRE's coverage of two of these. And meanwhile, Peter Brunette's found one he well and truly likes, Brian Brooks keeps snapping away and the news keeps on streaming in: Where is Wong Kar Wai and his 2046?

George the cyclist is proving himself to be a true trooper. 12 films in two days!

Mike D'Angelo is the stand-out critic amidst all the glee. He's so "disillusioned" by all he's seen, he stopped blurbing the films on Saturday; now, they just get numerical grades, from 1 to 100, and most are rated at around 50 or below.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:27 PM | Comments (1)

Shorts, 5/19.

A flurry of documentaries. First, In the Fray's Laura Nathan interviews Shola Lynch, whose debut doc, Chisolm '72: Unbought and Unbossed, tells the story of Shirley Chisholm's run for the presidency.

Chisolm '72

Oddly, perhaps, the first black woman to be elected to Congress wasn't all that enthusiastic about the making of this film. But Lynch got her to come around: "Basically, I appealed to the schoolteacher in her."

Felicia R Lee profiles Peter Gilbert, director of With All Deliberate Speed. His doc "on the varied meanings of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case is one of several current documentaries on the topic, [but] it is the only one playing in theaters nationwide." On his blog, producer Steve Rosenbaum poses the question: "Why are movies the new hotbed of political discourse?" And speaking of blogs, doc filmmaker scott westphal-solary's got one going now, too.

Gilbert was the cinematographer on Hoop Dreams and, in the City Pages, Laura Sinegra reviews Valley of Tears, directed by Hart Perry, who shot Barbara Kopple's American Dream.

From Beijing, Jonathan Watts reports that human rights groups are concerned that the Tibetans captured on film in What Remains of Us may be in serious danger if they're recognized. It's a dilemma for filmmakers: You want to get the conditions they're living across, but at the same time, you don't want to heighten the risk of getting them locked up and/or tortured. Also in the Guardian: Andrew Pulver talks to Xan Cassavetes.

Wendy Mitchell recommends Bravo's Showbiz Moms & Dads.

Andre Salas highlights "Gay Must-See TV" headed to DVD at Filmmaker.

A preview of a forthcoming DVD, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped, from Doug Cummings that's much more than a DVD preview.

Kent Jones introduces a special section on Maurice Pialat in the new issue of Film Comment; Jean-Pierre Gorin offers an impressionistic take.

Star Spangled to Death

Edward Crouse talks to Ken Jacobs about Star Spangled to Death, a "six-hour assemblage of found audio-visual material," as J Hoberman describes it, but as off-putting as that may sound, "its theatrical run is most likely the movie event of the year." Also in the Village Voice: Hoberman on Control Room, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Springtime in a Small Town; Michael Atkinson on Bergman's Fanny and Alexander and Shrek 2 (more on that one from Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press, where, too, Armond White reviews Strayed).

So which is it? Better to light a candle or curse the darkness? It's a conversation Ron Rosenbaum has been having with fellow pessimist Errol Morris for some time now. Also in the New York Observer:

Out of Focus is back.

"On May 28, New York City will be obliterated onscreen for the first time since September 11." Logan Hill in New York. What follows is a "time line of cultural responses to terror in the post-9/11 era."

In Slate Seth Stevenson tackles the question, "Why does one actor capture the fancy of all the [ad] agencies, all at once?"

Robert Davis poses a few questions that may well linger longer:

Are movies really so particular that we can't appreciate details from another culture? Or that no one can appreciate details from our own? Can we not learn about the other's days and struggles, fortunes and politics, while finding ways to relate them to our own lives, if not literally then merely by valuing the greater understanding we have of people we will undoubtedly interact with in the future, somewhere, someday, on this shrinking globe?

Posted by dwhudson at 4:24 PM

May 18, 2004

Tony Randall, 1920 - 2004.

Tony Randall
Broadway will mourn the loss of theatrical star Tony Randall May 18 by dimming the lights on all marquees at 8 PM.
Playbill.
Mr. Randall felt at home in Shakespeare and Shaw as well as in expounding the virtues of Verdi and other operatic composers... He had so many frothy parts in the movies and on television that John Leonard wrote in The New York Times in 1976 that Mr. Randall "slips into sitcoms ... as if into a warm bath, to play with the rubber ducks the writers have provided. Dignity is his washrag. He is so talented that one wouldn't blame him for a hint of disdain, even of contempt, for many of the lines he has had to speak, the predicaments to be endured. There has never been any such hint. He somehow civilizes the material." Suave, urbane, his rich baritone voice the vehicle for the clipped diction of the demanding elocution professor that Mr. Randall easily could have been, Mr. Randall said he had been pleased to play Felix Unger, whose roommate and temperamental opposite was Oscar Madison, the slovenly, unkempt, cigar-smoking sportswriter played by Jack Klugman. These two New Yorkers were thrown together by the vicissitudes of life (mostly their wives) and made the worst of it, to the delight of television viewers.

Richard Severo, New York Times.
One of his best roles was as the working-class husband in 1957's No Down Payment. (A great unsung film about couples living in a California housing development.) It's fitting that his last role was in 2003's Down With Love, an homage to the Rock Hudson-Doris Day films that he appeared in.
Filmbrain.
I just idolize him... When I asked him for advice, he told me, "People talk about the chemistry between Rock and Doris. The real chemistry was between Rock and myself. We were the comic engine."
Peyton Reed, director of Down With Love, as quoted by Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:19 PM

SIFF: Preview.

Hannah Eaves looks ahead to the marathon of festivals: May 20 through June 13:

In the seemingly never-ending festival season, the Seattle International Film Festival (now celebrating its 30th anniversary despite the slight detail that they skipped a year) boasts the dubious distinction of showing the largest quantity of films over the longest period of time. Their press releases are full of statistics: they're screening 225 features and 80 shorts with 10 world premieres, 15 North American premieres and six US premieres. A few might even be worth seeing.

SIFF

While it suffers from the same timing problems as San Francisco (namely, falling in roughly the same spot on the calendar as Cannes, hence a program of many "year-old" films), the hope this year for more daring programming is heightened by several executive changes in the Cinema Seattle office. Long time Festival Director (and co-founder) Darryl Mcdonald is now helming the Palm Springs International Film Festival and was subsequently replaced at SIFF with the (by all accounts) skilled Helen Loveridge.

The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story This, combined with the return of Carl Spence to the Programming seat, means that festival-goers will have the chance to see, for instance, the first two installments of The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Peter Greenaway's in-progress (in perpetuity) magnum opus, which might not have otherwise made the cut. Another innovative solution to the "year-old" problem can be seen in the Emerging Masters series, where younger filmmakers whose most recent films have just made the circuit rounds (such as Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe) are being honored with complimentary screenings of earlier work (in Pen-ek's case, 6ixtynin9).

This seems to be a particularly good year for guests at the festival. Patrice Leconte is to be honored with a special tribute evening and screenings of several of his films throughout the festival, including the latest, Intimate Strangers, in its North American premiere (to screen on Closing Night). Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the writing duo behind Election, Citizen Ruth and About Schmidt (each directed by Payne) will impart their wisdom in a Screenwriters Salon. At SIFF's annual "Evening With..." event, I'm sure that Stephen Fry will be wonderful in-person following a screening of his directorial debut, Evelyn Waugh adaptation Bright Young Things.

Hero Last, but in my mind quite the opposite of least, is the much anticipated appearance of camera maestro Christopher Doyle. Doyle, whose cult status was cemented by his groundbreaking, gorgeous cinematography for Wong Kar-wai, will be in Seattle with an exhibition of his art work (photographic and otherwise) and will also give an overview of his career thus far in the deceptively titled "Cinematography Master Class." Doyle, an incredibly prolific shooter (he also filmed the back-to-back Phillip Noyce pictures Rabbit Proof Fence and The Quiet American) has two films in the festival - Zhang Yimou's Hero, for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and the aforementioned Last Life in the Universe. It is still unclear if he will be in attendance at those screenings.

If you happen to actually be in Seattle and would like to see what the locals are up to, look no further than Slamdance audience award winner Big City Dick: Richard Peterson's First Movie. This documentary, the combined effort of three Seattelites, has received some glowing reviews (including a brief appearance entry here in the Daily) and is undoubtedly driven by the Rainy City. Richard Peterson, an eccentric street musician who has been covered by the Stone Temple Pilots and performed with the Young Fresh Fellows, is a local institution. For more information on what's playing check out the (hundreds of) listings on the colorful SIFF site.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:04 PM | Comments (4)

May 17, 2004

Shorts (and Cannes), 5/17.

Sight and Sound: Pedro Almodóvar Pedro Almodóvar's Cannes opener, Bad Education, gets a review from Ryan Gilbey in the new issue of Sight & Sound, one of the reasons Almodóvar's on the cover. The other reviews online: Edward Lawrenson on Shattered Glass and David Jays on Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring.

But three cheers to the S&S editors for their selection of the two features to make available to the mouse-centric among us. We have B Ruby Rich on Kill Bill, Volume 2, the piece she mentioned she was working when Jennie Rose conducted our recent interview. As for Tarantino's lexicon of references in KB2, BRR freely admits she'd have been at a loss without the press kit.

What I can offer up, instead, is a meditation on what KB2 means to me and what it might mean to viewers, too, if positioned in a radically different cinematic universe - one characterised less by ultraviolence and genre quotations than by a remapping of family, a fusion of the horror movie and the revenge narrative through the central figure of the avenging woman, and an emphasis on the corporeal that makes for a surprisingly old-fashioned view of the body and its mortality.

Deal? Deal. For a second helping, we get the launch of a new series in which S&S asks writers "to respond to actors, not only as icons of their age, but also in terms of their expertise, their physical presence and their importance to the films of their day. We begin with David Robinson on the ultimate star, Rudolph Valentino."

Today is definitely Michael Moore Day in Cannes. As Charlotte Higgins writes in the Guardian, Fahrenheit 9/11 "is without doubt the most flaming-hot ticket at the Cannes film festival." So it's with a sort of now-it-can-be-told flare that Jim Rutenberg reveals: "A reporter for The New York Times was invited to a screening of the film last week." Even so, the paper seems to be taking a cautious approach since it was perceived by some to have done a bit of Moore's rabble-rousing for him by breaking news of his run-in with Disney on the front page almost two weeks ago now and then taking his side in the dispute in an editorial. So rather than cheer him on outright, Rutenberg settles for predicting that the film "is likely to have a galvanizing effect among both conservatives and liberals should the film be widely distributed this summer." In other words, it must pack quite a punch.

Fahrenheit 9/11

For indieWIRE, Peter Brunette presents his initial take after the first official screening for the press in Cannes. In short, Fahrenheit 9/11 is "a powerful, timely, and convincing assault on the family and friends who brought us the current mess in Iraq." The "zaniness" of Bowling for Columbine is gone "in favor of an elegiac approach that is less funny but ultimately, maybe, more politically effective." For example: "The absolutely most chilling part of the film, for this viewer at least, comes in Moore's brilliant juxtaposition of brutal troop activities in Iraq with scenes of Marine recruiters in full formal dress actually prowling Wal-mart parking lots looking for likely prospects."

Eugene Hernandez follows up with a report from a panel where Moore reiterated: "I have a lot of say about Disney and a lot that hasn't been reported, it's very dangerous to give someone like me a peek behind the curtain, and I will tell all as soon as all these negotiations have been concluded."

Back to the New York Times:

  • A red letter day for AO Scott's Cannes notebook: Glimpses of a demonstration, the Shrek 2 screening and the arrival of Michael Moore (more and more from the BBC) rapidly give way to first impressions of the new films by Ousmane Sembène and Jean-Luc Godard. Of the first: "I am not alone in thinking that Moolaadé is the finest film shown in Cannes so far." Indeed, thumbs up from Roger Ebert as well. So why isn't it being shown in competition? No one seems to know, but: "Africa, whose filmmakers work under severe financial and political constraints, is the only continent not represented in competition this year." As for Notre Musique, Scott has it both ways. It's "both maddening and bracing." And "some of the ideas are gratingly facile while others are both moving and true." And so on.

  • Laura M Holson and Sharon Waxman take stock of DreamWorks, albeit not literally since the only part of the company that may go public, DreamWorks Animation, probably won't until after the October opening of Shark Tale.

  • Bernard Weinraub talks to James Caan about his comeback on TV: "I tell you, there's nothing like the power of the boob tube. Nothing. It's mind boggling. But sometimes it's 16 hours a day. I've never worked so hard. I'm not complaining. Look, if the show goes five years, we go into syndication. You can wheel me to my plane."

George the cyclist's Saturday at Cannes was ho-hum, but his Sunday sounds like the sort of day anyone would want to have at a film festival. High marks for Moolaadé, Tarnation and Eléonor Faucher's Brodeuses; a barely passing grade, though, for Chan-wook Park's Old Boy.

It's difficult to discuss The Day After Tomorrow without cracking a joke or two. Especially for Tad Friend, who talks to Roland Emmerich for the New Yorker: "'I finally felt that setting the film in another city would be an even bigger problem, because then the terrorists would have influenced where the catastrophe of weather strikes.' (In other words, the terrorists will have won if they keep us from destroying New York onscreen.)"

In the Guardian:

  • Geoffrey Macnab: "A foghorn sounds off the Cannes coast. 'That must be Harvey Weinstein waking up,' Jonathan Nossiter sighs as he sips his double espresso." Conversation then turns, of course, to Mondovino.
  • Peter Bradshaw turns in capsule reviews of Shrek 2, Old Boy, Lucrecia Martel's La Niña Santa, Paolo Sorrentino's The Consequences of Love and Abbas Kiarostami's Five, "a stunningly experimental movie-art-installation piece."
  • Charlotte Higgins has caught a screening of Michael Winterbottom's sexually explicit Nine Songs. She nabs quotes from the director, composer Michael Nyman, who has a cameo, and Guardian film critic Derek Malcolm, who says, "Nine Songs looks like a porn movie, but it feels like a love story. The sex is used as a metaphor for the rest of the couple's relationship. And it is shot with Winterbottom's customary sensitivity."
  • Dan De Luce reports from Tehran that The Lizard, Kamal Tabrizi's comedy poking light fun at the clergy, a film which has sparked several stories in the western media on a presumed loosening of the government's tight reins on free expression in Iran... has been banned.
  • Despite an injured leg, Eddie Izzard bucks up and does the interview with Emma Brockes to promote The Cat's Meow, just now seeing release in the UK.
  • Gary Younge on the financial ruin of Don Johnson.

The Independent's Louise Jury reports that Irvine Welsh has written The Meat Trade, based on the true story of 19th century grave robbers. Antonia Bird will direct and Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle will star. It'll be set in modern-day Edinburgh, a fine segue to her next story: "A Scottish writer and director has achieved a long-held ambition to make a film about the tragic and short life of the bohemian Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani."

As a sort of followup to his piece in the Village Voice on the wave of leftish docs heading towards wider distribution throughout the campaign season, Anthony Kaufman makes note of two fiction features in the same vein: Spike Lee's She Hate Me and John Sayles's Silver City.

Mr Smith au Sénat And finally, David Kipen poses an intriguing question in the Atlantic Monthly: "If France makes movies for the French, and America makes movies for the world, who's left to make movies for America?" It's not an off-the-cuff concern. A stat that pops up early in the piece: Domestic theatrical admissions were down four percent in 2003, but global box office was up five percent. "The movie business is booming abroad precisely because Hollywood is making pictures for the world market - at the expense of customers in America, where, not surprisingly, business is tanking. It's that hoariest of economic clichés, a zero-sum game." What's more, "In less than thirty years, roughly since the premiere of Star Wars, domestic grosses - once the industry's bread and butter - have become a virtual loss leader."

Sprinkled around all this is an amusing pan of Andrew Horton's book, Screenwriting for a Global Market, an alternative reading to the popular take on American films of the 70s ("not the decade of the director but a golden age of screenwriting"), and observations as to why we'll be seeing more movies like the Matrix trilogy and a lot fewer like Mr Smith Goes to Washington. It's a fun, freewheeling ride, but at least two considerations are left out: First, it's the DVD that's putting the whammy on domestic box office far more directly than Hollywood's "Offshoring the Audience," as the clever title to Kipen's piece reads. Americans have adopted the format earlier and in greater numbers, though Europeans, of course, are catching up fast. (And when they do, by the way, Germany's already bloated theatrical arm of the industry is in serious trouble indeed; it won't matter where the films come from, people will be watching them at home.)

Second, Kipen ignores all the indie filmmakers stepping in to make the sort of films Hollywood has abandoned. Politics is box office poison? Then how do we explain the trend Anthony Kaufman's following in the Voice? For that matter, how do we explain Michael Moore's tremendous popularity in Europe? Europeans aren't just flocking to his films in theaterss and catching his earlier ones on state-funded TV. They're buying his books as well. In part, it's a recognition that "problems of the American scene" (a description of a long-gone WGA award Kipen laments) are problems of the global scene as well. Automatically, like it or not.

But as for what seems to be Kipen's main complaint - that Americans are no longer treated to the cadences of American speech or stories that tackle problems of the contemporary American scene - sure they are. On countless channels of nichified cable and satellite TV. It ain't Capra, but it's real.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:42 AM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2004

Screening the Past 16.

Thinking About Movies Although the new issue of Screening the Past features the sort of longish essays you'd expect to find in such a journal, albeit here not so much academic in language and tone as in concern - Philip Butterss, for example, contributes "A 'careful little housewife': C. J. Dennis and masculinity in The sentimental blokes" - two pieces by Sam Rohdie stand out for their meandering pace and richness of allusion. "Citations" and "Film and landscape" weave informed references to Griffith and Godard, Homer and Hawks through a personal and quiet series of reflections that are all the more welcome as Cannes and the summer movie season kick up an incessant (yet necessary) whirlwind of buzz.

For cinephiles who also happen to love reading books, the real motherlode here is the collection of nearly 40 reviews on the most disparate of film-related titles, reviews written by names you've seen pop up in other journals such as Senses of Cinema and maybe even on your own bookshelf.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:24 AM

The "war of images."

A year ago, we had no idea that the phrase "war of images" would become literal. When we tossed the phrase around, it was usually in reference to embedded journalists or Al Jazeera, that is, we were talking about the way war and its aftermath would be portrayed in living rooms around the world, and of course, we were talking about control of that portrayal. Columnists wrote tongue-in-cheek pieces casting members of the Bush administration as directors, producers and publicists, and watching CNN often turned into yet another round of "Name That Movie!" in which we all got to guess what Karl Rove's DVD collection looks like.

Abu Ghraib

Abu Ghraib, obviously, suddenly and alarmingly rewrote all the rules. It wasn't just that the administration was no longer in control of the global feed. The role of images themselves radically shifted. If the toppling of Saddam's statue, for example, was the desired spin on the act of invading Iraq, the photos from Abu Ghraib were themselves an act. Not an interpretation of an event, but an event. Let's rephrase that, because the administration doesn't seem to get it: Images are no longer adjectives, they're verbs. It can't be emphasized enough that the hooded thugs who decapitated Nicholas Berg claimed to have done so as an answer to what they perceived as the overt affront of the Abu Ghraib photos.

"I rape you." "No, I rape you."

Of equal importance to them as the beheading itself was the filming and broadcasting of that beheading. We're only just beginning to come to grips with this new phase of the ongoing war. The administration seems to think the old game of spin and counterspin is still on and they've just had a nasty turn; another lunch or two with the troops in Baghdad, and it'll all be forgotten.

Hardly. We don't yet have, say, a Susan Sontag of Abu Ghraib, but we do have a few initial readings. Neal Gabler, author of Life: The Movie, attempts in Salon to understand the reception of these images and the drive to seek them out. He seems to have decided this drive has nothing to do with any sense of morality and everything to do with our need, as individuals, to attain power by maintaining a level of "knowingness" (defined in terms of information, by the bulkload, rather than knowledge).

In the Guardian, Joanna Bourke has tackled an element that's got to be among the most puzzling in this whole affair for the folks back home: "The abuse is performed for the camera. It is public, theatrical, and elaborately staged. These obscene images have a counterpart in the worst, non-consensual sadomasochistic pornography. The infliction of pain is eroticised."

And then there's Frank Rich. His column at times seems like a running commentary track on the global feed. Some might argue that he's a little too eager to review all he sees and hears as he would any other play or movie, but one only gets that sense because its his central metaphor - and it's been a reliable and potent one for years now. This week he looks at the "too perfect" juxtaposition of Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England; last week, in one of his best columns yet, Rich laid out in broader and more openly emotional terms the many ways in which the administration - once masters of image-making whose unabashed exploitation of cultural iconography and the eagerness of most mainstream media to avoid getting tagged "unpatriotic" was unprecedented - is now losing their own game: "Eventually there comes a point when the old Marx Brothers gag comes into play: 'Who are you going to believe - me or your own eyes?'"

Posted by dwhudson at 10:21 AM

Cannes, 5/16.

Servat: Cannes "Our premiere yesterday was attended by French people," blogs Stephen Winter, producer of one of the most talked about movies of the year, Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation: "[N]ot cinephiles, not industry folks but French citizens who bought a ticket, stood in line and sat their asses down. We have been told that the French are not exceptionally effusive people, especially about American films. They only give it up when they want to give it up and they only go nuts when they really feel like going nuts. After Tarnation, they went nuts." No wonder the entry ends with, "I love Cannes!"

Jason Solomons finds "a reinvigorated Cannes, already making up for last year's feeble effort when cinema failed to respond to the world's shifting landscape." What follows in his piece for the Observer is a quick dismissal of Tarantino's insistence that politics won't play a role this year, and then, capsule reviews of the films screened in competition so far. Also: A bit of trash and Vic Groskop chooses six names to watch.

Via Movie City News, Whit Stillman briefly reviews Henry-Jean Servat's In the Spirit of Cannes for the New York Post.

The Independent's Jonathan Romney catches Shrek 2, and it's fine, he says, but the real news here was unveiled at the press conference where DreamWorks "announced that in future it would be deploying two computer animations a year. It is a serious threat to Disney..."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:19 AM

Shorts, 5/16.

Robert McCrum attempts to explain the ageless appeal of Homer:

A violent immediacy is the key to Homer. His heroes live and die in the present moment. Although tragic figures, they suffer no existential crises. Similarly, Homer's gods argue, feud and express their emotions - happiness and sorrow, laughter and tears - with the vivid, unruly spontaneity of children.

Which Side are You On? Ken Loach and his Films Also in the Observer:

  • Obsessed with celebrities? Perfectly healthy, Liz Hoggard discovers (with a dash of skeptical amusement).
  • Peter Conrad: "Ever since New York became a global capital we have been dreaming up disasters with which to assail it."
  • Philip French reviews Anthony Hayward's Which Side are You On? Ken Loach and his Films: "His conversion, if not exactly Damascene in its suddenness, was complete and enduring... he forged a new kind of social realist style."

On the occasion of a retrospective at the National Film Theatre, David Thomson remembers Diana Dors, who "represented that period between the end of the war and the coming of Lady Chatterley in paperback, a time when sexuality was naughty, repressed and fit to burst." Somewhat related, Matthew Sweet asks, "What ever happened to the great British sex comedy?"

In the New York Times:

Allison Samuels in Newsweek: "Though Mario [Van Peebles] hesitates to admit it, Baadasssss! is a valentine to Dad - a son's attempt to make sure his old man gets his props." Also Jennifer Barrett interviews Jim Jarmusch (more from Damien Smith in the Boston Globe) and Devin Gordan argues that Jena Malone is not your average teenage starlet.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:16 AM

May 15, 2004

Cannes and shorts, 5/15.

If it's the films at Cannes you're truly interested in, here's a handy way of following their critical reception: The Movie Review Query Engine, marvelously useful in the first place, has set up a special page listing in and out of competion as well as those screening in the various other programs. As the reviews appear in any of the publications indexed by the MRQE, they get linked. Nifty. At the moment, there's a lot of overlap with the IMDb, but the collection will soon begin to grow on its own soon enough.

Fahrenheit 9/11 The must-read review of the day, though, is actually a preview: Eugene Hernandez passes along anonymous word from... well, who knows, maybe a potential buyer in New York who's seen Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: "I was so moved and emboldened by the experience of watching it, that I wanted to write all of you and share my excitement...."

As the title of his piece suggests - "Now Playing: Eisner and Me" - AO Scott argues that Moore's confrontation with Disney over the fate of this film pretty much follows the storyline laid out in his first groundbreaking doc, Roger & Me. Beyond that, though, and taking Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me into consideration as well, Scott's bottom line is a defense of both their stance and methods:

Mr. Spurlock and Mr. Moore present themselves not only as opponents of corporate power but also, by their fumbling, idiosyncratic individuality, as the opposite of corporations. We sometimes find them simplistic, inconsistent or annoying, but that is surely part of the point, which is to make sure that, when we contemplate the complexities of modern capitalism, we don't forget to take it personally.

Also in the New York Times:

Cannes Meanwhile, there's more from George the cyclist: Day 3 and Day 4 at Cannes. Brian Brooks agrees with him on Mondovino: Too long. And George isn't exactly wildly enthusiastic about Emir Kusturica's Life is a Miracle, either. For more on that one, the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins tells a few stories about its director. She's also gathered some nice tidbits on Tilda Swinton, betting among critics and rumors of an option: You've read the blog, now see the movie?

Also in the Guardian:

The Football Factory The Independent's Cannes correspondent, Louise Jury, has decided that the presence of all those Hollywood stars makes the screening of Shark Tale the story of the day. Back home in England, Terry Kirby picks up a story that's gotten a lot of British press lately, the worries over the effects of a film called The Football Factory. Is it "simply a depiction of a type of criminality that has been successfully marginalised"? Or is it "likely to re-ignite the flames of hooliganism dormant in the national game among a new generation?" And then Deborah Ross files a very British profile of Sean Bean.

Roger Ebert: "Still staggering with jet lag, the North American press corps had to contend with the first two official entries, which were slow-paced and quiet. Both kept me wide awake; oddly, the first day after an all-night flight to France, I find that it's the loud action films that put me to sleep."

Via Movie City News: A Day Without a Mexican; and Elvis Mitchell will carry on teaching at Harvard, reports Simon W Vozick-Levinson in the Crimson.

In the cinetrix's world, it's Mean Girls one day and Chantal Akerman the next. Just try to keep up.

Word from Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker: First Run Features and Human Rights Watch are collaborating on a series of films aimed at raising awareness of human rights issues. The first release: S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine.

Helen Meanwhile, back in the multiplexes and around the world, it's all about Troy this weekend. Besides David Edelstein's review, Slate's running a pretty interesting slide show annotated by Julia Turner on visions of Helen, from Homer to this very moment.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:07 PM | Comments (1)

May 14, 2004

Cannes, 5/14.

Cannes Matt Langdon not only offers a front door to other front doors opening onto Cannes coverage, he's also posting dispatches from an acquaintance he refers to simply as as George the cyclist. What's great about George is that he's clearly one dedicated cinema-lover, taking in all he can, when and wherever he can, whether that means wandering into a screening of an Icelandic film without event knowing how long it might be to gazing at Hair from the sidewalk. Day Two.

Verse Guru's photos.

AO Scott seems to be having a lot more fun in Cannes than Peter Brunette. Whether that's a matter of personal disposition, critical taste or the difference between expense accounts for a New York Times critic and an indieWIRE critic, who's to say. But not only is Scott clearly enjoying the atmo, from the happy end to the labor dispute through the party for Pedro Almodóvar, he's enjoying the films more, too. Bad Education, he writes, is "gorgeous, erotic and quietly pessimistic," and takes Almodóvar into the realm of film noir. There's also reserved praise for Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows, "a harrowing story," albeit one that "moves slowly and lasts nearly two and a half hours, but somehow your attention never slackens, and at the end you feel both heartbroken and oddly exhilarated." An "audio slide show" accompanies the piece, but there's no news there other than, for me, hearing for the first time that he actually, verbally signs off with "A, O, Scott."

All that said, it should be noted that iW editor Eugene Hernandez thinks Bad Education is "terrific... one of Almodóvar's best." Brian Brooks caught the film as well, but it wasn't easy, as he explains. Fortunately, he's having no trouble posting pix. Meanwhile, Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino has been added to the competition; that and more buzz at iW.

The Independent's Charlotte O'Sullivan selects the top ten winners from Cannes history and Leslie Felperin and Ryan Gilbey assess the current race for the Palme d'Or.

Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators)

There's a fine interview with fest director Thierry Frémaux in yesterday's Tagesspiegel, but of course, it's in German. Nevertheless, I'll translate a bit. Jan Schulz-Ojala poses the questions:

Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators) is the first German film in competition for eleven years. A breakthrough?

[laughs] When I was getting started, [former festival director] Gilles Jacob asked me to do two things: Go to Germany and pay more attention to American cinema. The main thing I was after was to counter the mood among German producers that they'd been shut out of the festival. Then we had two more years without a German film in competition, but simply to select one for the sake of consolation was out of the question. I'm very pleased with [Hans] Weingartner's film; he represents a German Nouvelle Vague.

Cross your heart: Was it also a tactical maneuver, raising the flag for German cinema - as part of the competition with the Berlinale?

I'd rather call it a productive rivalry than a competition between the festivals. I think it's a good thing if German films that are completed in January are shown at the Berlinale. It's just that Weingartner's film was ready in time for Cannes. Even [Berlinale director] Dieter Kosslick is glad to see German films here. We work for cinema, after all, not for nations.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:19 AM

Shorts, 5/14.

Essential Cinema Ray Pride covers a "veritable buffet" of topics in his new column at Movie City News, but one in particular leaps out: Jonathan Rosenbaum's new book, Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons, complete with that promised list of his top 1000, is out. Pride: "The virtue is having the best of his immersive recent work in one place; the disadvantage is in recalling how descriptive writing sometimes needs a prescriptive balance, particularly in Rosenbaum's persistent bugbears: the studio system, publicists, and the profit-driven movie distribution system."

Fair enough, but as a member of the choir Rosenbaum preaches to, I don't really mind. And see, I would have known the book was out if I'd been following Errata: Commentary Track (and from now on, I will), where Robert Davis offered his thoughts in anticipation of getting his hands on a copy weeks ago: "Filters are important. I like Rosenbaum as a filter. I like my favorite blogs as filters. But understanding how the most popular filters work, and what they're filtering out, is critical." And Davis first heard of the release from James Tata, who in turn, points to the page for the book at Johns Hopkins University Press. Some good blurbage there.

Rosenbaum's latest review, by the way, happens to be of The Saddest Music in the World (you'll notice that the top still on the cover of the book is taken from Guy Maddin's Archangel), a four-star review that opens with a quote from Umberto Eco and closes with the crackle of sniper fire aimed at Anthony Lane.

Charles Taylor ponders the connections between Abu Ghraib and the revenge fantasies of Man on Fire in Salon and suggests that we have taken our former "self-hatred as the road to self-celebration, an embrace of our worst impulses in the name of strength and unity."

The Guardian's John Patterson doesn't ponder half as much, but he strikes several times closer to the heart of the matter in a superb rant on the same topic.

Also in the Guardian:

From Greenpeace, thedayaftertomorrow.org.

Once again, here's to Robert Altman. David Usburne meets him and gets this on tape:

Nobody has had a more successful career than I have. You cannot name a filmmaker who ever lived - I have done 40 films and many, many miles of television - who was more successful. Because you will never see, "Altman's great film of the Seventies, the Director's Cut." Because you have never seen a film of mine that wasn't a director's cut. I have never permitted it.

Related: Dan Hobart in metaphilm on The Player. Also in the Independent: Leslie Felperin meets Eric Bana and Louise Jury hears Brad Pitt and Saffron Burrows draw comparisons between ancient warmongers Agamemnon and Menelaus and contemporary warmongers Tony Blair and George Bush. Also: Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto.

What can other studios learn from Disney's announcement that its profits are up, way up? According to Matt Dentler, the message goes something like this: "You can make the weakest films of the year, lose tons of cash, plus alienate filmmakers all you want. Just make sure you have wild rollercoasters and lunchboxes to compensate." Also: Star-studded Austin.

Via the indieWIRE Insider, Ian Mohr's Hollywood Reporter story updating the race for distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11; and news that HarperCollins will publish Harvey Weinstein's memoirs in 2006.

Greg Pak's made a great find: CinemaTour, whose mission is "to thoroughly research and document the locations and histories of cinemas throughout the world."

In the New York Times, David Carr and Sharon Waxman follow up on a story the LA Weekly's Nikki Finke has been all over: Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has allegedly been personally cashing in on his Hollywood ties, especially in the case of Imagine Entertainment, the company run by producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard. Example: Merely suggesting that the book A Beautiful Mind be made into a movie scored him $100K, a "nice round figure," Cynthia Gorney, associate dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, notes in the NYT piece. In return, it seems, VF has lavished "attentive coverage" on Imagine's projects. Related: The Dinner Party Syndrome, at Gawker, which has been tracking all this with glee, and via MCN.

With Elvis Mitchell gone, does this mean AO Scott and Stephen Holden will have to review half as many more movies than they used to? Probably not, but it does look that way on this particular Friday. Scott takes on Troy, Coffee and Cigarettes and A Slipping-Down Life; Holden: Carandiru, Strayed and Breakin' All the Rules.

John Rockwell has a few ideas on what makes special effects these days so very unspecial. Sounds like he's going to have a long dry summer.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 AM | Comments (1)

May 13, 2004

Cannes, 5/13.

Not Like Us "Tarantino's pot shot at the British film industry," as Louise Jury calls it right there in the headline for her story in the Independent, has predictably ruffled feathers in the UK, where nearly every paper covers his off-the-cuff remarks. They're also having a good laugh over QT's championing of the Carry On series of films as an example of British cinema's heyday; in fact, at the bottom of Jury's piece, you'll find a fun little scenario by John Walsh rubbing salt in the wound.

Well, QT was clearly pumped to the point of delirium about not only being in Cannes but also heading up its jury: "If there's a level above heaven, that is where I am at." And then:

There are only three countries in the world with sustainable film industries - America, India and Hong Kong. They have a star system, actors that citizens of the country want to pay and see. When a country doesn't have [that], you cease to have an effective film industry. Where Hollywood can be considered a bad guy is when people became stars in Britain or Hong Kong, they get the hell out of there and go to Hollywood.

Louise Jury then describes fellow jury member Tilda Swinton "springing to the defence of the British film industry. In Britain, multiplexes offering imported blockbusters outnumbered art houses by 10 to one, she said. 'It's very difficult for the audiences to have confidence in looking for another kind of cinema. It's very difficult for cinema makers... to think of making another kind of cinema.'"

Swinton could also have added that the dominance of Hollywood in all of Europe is most certainly due in considerable part to the US government, in tandem with the then-powerful studios, strong-arming the various national governments and industries on the continent in the immediate wake of WWII - to various degrees, depending on the variously ravaged states of each nation and its devastated infrastructure. For a readable run-down on how Hollywood and the US government have maintained that dominance in the decades that followed, see Richard Pells's Not Like Us: How Europeans have loved, hated and transformed American culture since World War II.

Anyway. There are, of course, films screening at Cannes, too. The Independent's James Brown on one of them, albeit one screening only for "industry insiders": Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, an evidently very explicit story of a love affair. Says Winterbottom: "In general you are asking actors to be quite intimate, anyway. From everyday acting to having sex isn't as big a leap as it might be for someone else."

But the film first shown to insiders and outsiders alike, of course, is Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, which, at least according to indieWIRE's Peter Brunette, "comes nowhere near the heights of recent triumphs like All About My Mother and Talk to Her." Also: Eugene Hernandez sends along his most recent dispatch, chock full o' news, and then it's back to Burnette: "The first two films to be shown in competition at Cannes 2004 were each promising in their own way, but neither lit any fires within the hearts of the thousands of professional film critics here to pass judgment." First looks at Kore-eda Hirokazu's Nobody Knows and Paolo Sorrentino's The Consequences of Love.

In the Guardian, Derek Malcolm recalls Brazil's 60s-era cinema novo movement and how Cannes helped draw global attention to it then and now.

Leonard Klady in Movie City News: "Cannes will swing into high gear this weekend and I would be very surprised if this year's coverage doesn't go something like this: a series of critical disappointments for highly anticipated titles, a couple of surprises, poor sales and a very few titles bought or sold, followed by an upturn in quality in the days leading up to the jury announcements." He also argues that festivals "are generally lousy places to acquire movies."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

Shorts, 5/13.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf The Guardian sums up a story Masters of Cinema has been flagging since last week and, blast it, it's taken a while to catch up with around here: Mohsen Makhmalbaf has been working for years on the screenplay for Amnesia and finally finished it in the hospital recently. But Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has refused to grant a permit for the film to be made - which means it won't be. In an angry message at his own site, Makhmalbaf writes that Amnesia tells the story of "two decades of pain and sufferings of the Iranian people and artists." It's a story we may never see, but we can read it. You can download the screenplay from that same page.

If you're following Disney these days, there are two stories to keep track of: The big picture and the immediate picture. Laura M Holson tackles both in today's New York Times, reporting not just a whole lot of news in the immediate picture. Disney will allow Bob and Harvey Weinstein to buy the rights to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 but will not allow them to distribute it under the Miramax name. Moore, in the meantime, writes on his site, "I worry that Fahrenheit 9/11 is already driving otherwise sane people to lunacy."

As for the big picture, Holson reports that Disney "surprised investors on Wednesday with a better-than-expected second-quarter profit. The earnings were welcome news for Michael D Eisner, the chief executive, who has been under pressure to improve performance or risk losing his job."

Also in the New York Times:

Via Movie City News, where David Poland has just launched his in-depth coverage of the summer movie season: A brief piece in The Age announcing that Marilyn Manson may play Jesus Christ in Diamond Dead, the next film to be directed by George Romero. At the film's site, Andrew Gaty emphasizes that "all this is just for fun."

In the Austin Chronicle: Marc Savlov chats with John Waters; Marjorie Baumgarten says she had a ho-hum time at Tribeca; Peter Debruge reminds us not to miss Super Size Me; and Courtney Fitzgerald is startled by the 1976 TV miniseries, Helter Skelter.

The subtitle to Dan Savage's excellent piece in the Stranger is the best intro to it: "The Bush Administration Is Waging a War on Porn While Soldiers Waging War in Iraq Make Porn." Also: Bradley Steinbacher on Troy and more brief reviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:43 PM

How the day went for The Day After Tomorrow.

The Guardian devotes a lead editorial to The Day After Tomorrow. It doesn't say much and there isn't much to say about it, but there it is. Better is the accompanying story in which Paul Brown, Tim Radford and John Vidal report: "Among the film's unexpected fans after a sneak preview are the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, and Geoff Jenkins, head of the Hadley Centre for Climate Change, who both regard the film's stunning special effects as good fun and welcome the blockbuster as raising public awareness and debate about a vital issue." The fun bits are at the end, in the "Could it really happen?" section. Example: "The British royal family freezes to death in Balmoral: Unlikely, but the castle is notoriously underheated."

The Day After Tomorrow

Though Roland Emmerich went Hollywood years ago, the Germans still feel some sort of emotional connection to him, a strange mix of pride and guilt, depending on which German you're talking to. So the buzz The Day After Tomorrow has already generated is, of course, being covered over here, too, and perhaps a bit more than it might be in other European countries, no matter how ticked off they still might be at the Bush administration for unilaterally pulling out of Kyoto. At any rate, it's in Markus Becker's piece for Spiegel Online that I see Emmerich talking about Future Forests, a company that allows you, via contributions, to "neutralize" all the CO2 you'll produce in your lifetime.

Meantime, Moveon.org continues its campaign: "So here's the plan: On Memorial Day weekend, grab a few friends and go see The Day After Tomorrow - the movie the White House doesn't want you to see. At the theater, meet up with other MoveOn members to give out flyers that explain, in everyday language, what causes global warming, how Bush's environmental policies could lead us into a real-life climate crisis, and what we can do together to meet this challenge."

That Guardian editorial does mention that the irony in all this is that the film "comes from Fox, part of Rupert Murdoch's empire, solid supporters of the Bush doctrine of unilateralism." Maybe. But there's another, too. If he's given it any thought at all, it's probably something along the lines of, "Irony schmirony, I've just sold loads of tickets to a bunch of activists - and they're bringing friends along, too!"

Posted by dwhudson at 2:40 PM

Homage.

Pssst.... Sofia....

"The coolest scene's when he whispers into her ear and you make us guess what he's saying...."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:52 AM | Comments (7)

May 12, 2004

Cannes and shorts.

liberation-cannes.jpg Cannes opens today and the Guardian's Andrew Pulver has a theory: It's all about Quentin Tarantino. It's not just that he's president of the jury, Pulver argues. Even the selection for the competition seems tailored to his tastes.

In a companion piece, Steve Rose offers an annotated list of 16 people to keep an eye on throughout the fest. Then there's the Cannes quiz (my worst score yet! 5 out of 10) and the front door to all the paper's Cannes coverage. Also in the Guardian, Marianne Faithful on William S Burroughs (ok, maybe only tangentially film-related, but still), and Kate Stables presents this month's seven online viewing tips.

In Libération, Michel Henry reports that demonstrators and festival organizers have reached an agreement to respect each other's concerns (for a brief backgrounder on all this, see Jon Henley's piece in the Guardian and this update). In exchange for a platform from which to voice their demands, the protestors have agreed not to gum up the works. Google does a splendid job translating Henry's story:

A few hundreds of tradesmen are in the street, with the call of the municipality. Streamers: "Cannes Lives", "Lives the festival". The best: "work Lives". The brass band opens walk. A musician: "Where it is Popaul? Go, one sends a piece!" The deputy and mayor Bernard Brochand (UMP) is in the forefront. A man clamp: "All middle-class men together! We are rich, we want to remain to it!" Une busy: "the money Lives!" Jean-Paul Antonioli, professional of the water sport: "the intermittent ones, one is not against them. That they are useful of the festival like platform, very well. That they break it, not. It is not May 68, nevertheless!"

Onward. The cinetrix's take.

Eugene Hernandez has posted his first shot from Cannes and first report for indieWIRE. But the iW piece people are buzzing about at the moment is actually an update. Once again, that invaluable roundup, "The Buying Game: indieWIRE's Guide to Acquisitions."

For lack of a better idea when there isn't actually any news yet coming from the fest, John Walsh does one of those A to Z things on Cannes. Also in the Independent, David Thomson on Performance and another Val Kilmer profile, this time from Charlotte O'Sullivan.

Whether or not The Day After Tomorrow, opening on May 28, truly whips up a "political firestorm," as Sharon Waxman claims it's already doing in the New York Times, is probably a matter of perspective. With Iraq blowing up in our faces and the once fractious Arab world rapidly uniting against the US, most Americans have more immediate concerns than the long-term effects of global warming, even when viewed through Roland Emmerich's warping of geological time into two whiplash hours. Which is too bad, because there are very few scientists left the Bush administration can rely on to deny the reality of the man-made phenomenon.

The most accessible and entertaining way to brush up on all this is surely at Viridian HQ, where sci-fi writer and frequent Wired contributor Bruce Sterling keeps tabs on the impending disaster. But more straightforward, and what's more, specifically related to the movie is a new site created by the Energy Future Coalition: "The Day After Tomorrow Facts."

By the way, Gregg Easterbrook, also concerned about global warning and also worried that Tomorrow trivializes the issue, frowned on Al Gore the other day for preparing to "affiliate his reputation with a cheapo third-rate disaster movie that makes Fantastic Voyage seem like a peer-reviewed technical paper." But according to Waxman, that's simply not the case: "'There are two sets of fiction to deal with,' Mr. Gore said. 'One is the movie, the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global warming.'"

Via Movie City News, J Paul Peszko in VFXWorld: "There are lessons to be learned from the making of Hoodwinked: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, an independently produced 3D animated feature that refashions the familiar fairy tale as Rashomon." And: David Poland breaks down studios' performances over the past few summers; and Gary Dretzka on Michael Connelly's novel, The Narrows, in which characters comment on how they were depicted in Clint Eastwood's adaptation of Blood Work. And then, this:

Fahrenheit 911 Distribution Deal Locked, Involving Multiple Partners For Theatrical/ Home Ent... To Be Announced At Cannes In Next Few Days

Hm. The Guardian is actually passing along word from an unnamed source quoted in the New York Daily News that Harvey and Bob Weinstein might buy the film themselves and then sell the rights to a third-party distributor, "as they did previously with controversial films Kids and Dogma."

AICN's Moriarty interviews Jim Jarmusch, who's full of praise for Gary Farmer and Bill Murray.

In a short but terrific piece for the City Pages, Dylan Hicks previews the Flaming Film Festival, the Twin Cities' area GLBT fest opening today and running through the 16th. Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World sounds downright harrowing. Anyway, more on the fest from Michael Davis in Lavender.

Rabid

With Rabid coming out on DVD on June 1, G Noel Gross, a major fan of The Fly, has the perfect opportunity to sit down and talk with David Cronenberg for DVD Talk. And ask him why there's no proper DVD version of The Fly yet. Attention, Fox: Let the man oversee the transfer.

Meanwhile, I had no idea Cronenberg was attached to an adaptation of my favorite Martin Amis novel, London Fields!

Jessica Murphy interviews Dennis Lehane for Atlantic Unbound: "I don't understand why people don't grasp - I've never had trouble grasping this - that a book is a book and a movie is a movie. One's an apple and one's a giraffe." Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Forum, they're discussing the Moore-Disney brouhaha. James Israel tracks the "slugfest" in the Reactions section following indieWIRE's May 5 story.

For Planet Bollywood, Shruti Bhasin lists ten stars on the right career path.

Jehane Noujaim's Control Room, her doc on Al Jazeera, is the subject of features in both the Village Voice and the New York Press this week. Kareem Fahim talks to Noujaim, but some of the most interesting perspective comes from Lieutenant Josh Rushing, "perhaps the film's most compelling figure." Alexander Zaitchik initially takes a more critical approach to the film, but by the end, he writes:

The Defense Department claims such images are either false or "lack context," but unless these Iraqis are highly skilled actors on the Al Jazeera payroll, it's hard to see what context is missing from an old woman in front of a bombed house, screaming, "If this is Bush's democracy, then we don't want it!" or a boy's intestines spilling onto a grimy hospital sheet. These are the images of the war America is actually fighting, and Noujaim is to be applauded for bringing them to American screens, where they should have been all along.

New York Press Also in the NYP: Armond White, excelling once again at what he does best, namely, giving a music video the analysis the format deserves. Why music videos are so widely ignored, despite the fact that they can have as much cultural impact as many a summer blockbuster or the fact that they're the most obvious meeting ground for the avant and the commercial, is another matter; for now, White's focus is on Mark Romanek and Jay-Z's 99 Problems, which, along with P Diddy's Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, "are forcing a reassessment of what hiphop culture means."

White also reviews Troy, Matt Zoller Seitz takes on Godzilla (more from Luke Y Thompson in the SF Weekly) and Mark Ames catches the preview for The Day After Tomorrow and wonders, "Do Average Joes really harbor fantasies about the violent destruction of America?"

In the Voice:

There are reviews of Mean Girls and there are reviews of Mean Girls. And then, there's Andrew Sarris's:

I can be credited (or maybe blamed) for introducing the word auteur into the English language and allegedly enshrining the director as the supreme, indeed the sole creator of meaning and style in the cinema. I say "allegedly" because I never wrote any such thing; instead, I maintained that a disciplined and selective auteurism was the first step rather than the last stop in evaluating movies. Since 1962, I've written more than 2,000 pieces seeking to refine my arguments, but I'm still no closer to finding the magic formula for deciding which movies are good and which movies are bad.

Also in the New York Observer: The Good, the Bad and the Dolce Vita

  • Jake Brooks seems to be introducing a new column, "DVD's, Videos, TiVo, Downloadables."
  • Scott Eyman reviews Mickey Knox's The Good, the Bad and the Dolce Vita: "You know you're in safe hands from the opening sentence: 'I was born a "love child," as they sweetly used to describe a bastard.' For the next 350 pages, Mr. Knox lays it out like a grumpy but loving grandfather giving you the deep skinny about the movie stars, the girls, the way things really were."
  • Noelle Hancock covers the local premiere Troy; Rex Reed reviews.
  • Sheelah Kolhatkar talks to the filmmakers trying to complete Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65.

Tasha Robinson has a good, meaty interview with Tim Robbins for the Onion AV Club.

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Cheryl Eddy previews the SF Documentary Film Festival, Dennis Harvey reviews Troy (but mostly Brad Pitt) and David Kim advises us to "Forget Bill."

Matt Dentler: "So we've created a summertime online festival at South by Southwest, and we're calling it 'South by South Web.'"

Steve Gallagher's on a roll at Filmmaker; here's one of his recent finds: "vyZ Music has launched a Web site to promote its new movie, NOVUS (short for Novus Ordo Seclorum - New Order of the Ages), an experimental documentary celebrating the achievements of one of the world's greatest inventors, Nikola Tesla." But he's also looking forward to Ken Russell's Charged: The Story of Nikola Tesla.

Chuck Olsen catches Whole.

When it comes to Brian Flemming, I'm with Matt Clayfield: "I'm telling you, this guy blows my mind."

Via Matt Langdon, Jonathan Rosenbaum on Super Size Me, but also on McLibel; and news of a six-disc Martin Scorsese collection due in August from Warner Bros.

Al Reid on John Fante's Ask the Dust, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Robert Towne.

YMDb is back; Doug Cummings on the lists.

Tanner '04!

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Jimmy Prescott's short film, "Loveholstery." It might take a while to load, but do wait. The short, by the way, which was voted an audience favorite back in February at an Open Screen Night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, is making the festival rounds.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:45 AM | Comments (4)

May 10, 2004

Fests and shorts.

The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face China View is naturally quite happy to pass along news of last night's awards at Tribeca. After all, the Chinese film The Green Hat took the prize for best narrative feature and its director, Liu Fen Dou, who wrote Zhang Yang's Shower, was named best new narrative filmmaker.

Haaretz trumpets Arna's Children, the Israeli film which shares the best doc award with another from Australia and South Africa, The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face. Brazilian Paulo Sacramento was named best new doc filmmaker for The Prisoner of the Iron Bars: Self-Portraits.

In indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez has more details. Meanwhile, Brian Brooks has been snapping away at the fest and posts his photos of Feux Rouges (Red Lights) director Cédric Kahn and star Carole Bouquet, "with current beau, actor Gérard Depardieu," as well as Jim Jarmusch, Amos Poe and others. Wendy Mitchell rounds up the festival buzz.

In news of other fests, Wendy Mitchell, back from the Nashville Film Festival (April 26 - May 2), where she also took some pix, surveys the lineup for the Los Angeles Film Festival (June 17 - 26). And Sarah Keenlyside reports from the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 23 - May 2).

On the iW blogs, Matt Dentler argues that if Fahrenheit 9/11 is released internationally before it hits American screens, whoever picks up US distribution and Michael Moore as well stand to lose loads to piracy. Michael Eisner, in the meantime, sends a few words but no news to the New York Times while Michael Moore has posted a new message at his site. Yes, it's laced with Moore's trademark rhetoric, but the argumentation is solid and his version of events rings true. He signed a contract. Eisner dressed down Moore's agent, said Disney wouldn't distribute F-9/11 and mentioned those Floridian tax breaks.

But Michael Eisner did not call Miramax and tell them to stop my film. Not only that, for the next year, SIX MILLION dollars of DISNEY money continued to flow into the production of making my movie. Miramax assured me that there were no distribution problems with my film.

But then, a few weeks ago when Fahrenheit 9/11 was selected to be in the Cannes Film Festival, Disney sent a low-level production executive to New York to watch the film (to this day, Michael Eisner has not seen the film). This exec was enthusiastic throughout the viewing. He laughed, he cried and at the end he thanked us.... Miramax did their best to convince Disney to go ahead as planned with our film.... Earlier this week we got the final, official call: Disney will not put out Fahrenheit 9/11. When the story broke in the New York Times, Disney, instead of telling the truth, turned into Pinocchio.

Moore then quotes and debunks the accusations Disney has made against him in the press in the week since. But isn't Moore at least a little giddy with all the publicity? Well, he claims it won't sell tickets, but more convincingly, he points out: " I want people discussing the issues raised in my film, not some inside Hollywood fracas surrounding who is going to ship the prints to the theaters."

Ok, here's another possible way the whole Moore-Disney thing could go. Eisner allows Harvey Weinstein to buy his company back and Miramax distributes the doc after all, albeit long after the rest of the world has already seen it. Whatever. At any rate, maybe the most interesting quote Tim Arango's story in the New York Post, found via Movie City News is this one: "'The whole world would be lined up to back Harvey and Bob,' Weinstein's brother and business partner, said one source." Go up against Eisner and that whole Down and Dirty Pictures flap is so January all of a sudden.

At MCN itself, Guy Maddin tells Leonard Klady the story behind The Saddest Music in the World.

Eugene Hernandez outlines the many ways McDonald's is botching its campaign against Super Size Me. iW's Andrea Meyer conducts the formal interview, and on his own blog, Morgan Spurlock tells us what it's like to be a guest on Letterman.

Gawker passes along students' notes from Elvis Mitchell's last Film Criticism course at Harvard; he brought Bill Murray along. As for Elvis's replacement, Gawker's also helping out culture editor Steve Erlanger by screening applications. The cinetrix, meantime, is already suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Simon Hattenstone talks to Pedro Almodóvar about the autobiographical elements of La Mala Educación (Bad Education), the film that opens Cannes this week (provided those labor disputes don't get out of hand). By way of introduction: "For me, he has become Europe's greatest working auteur. And it's been an unlikely progress from director of kitsch, Day-Glo, gratuitously offensive, defiantly anarchic movies (Dark Habits, Law of Desire, Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) to a film-maker of depth and humanity. The amazing thing is he's managed to do it without betraying his roots." More in French in Le Nouvel Observateur.

But in the Guardian and Observer: Neil Jordan: Shade

  • Peter Bradshaw's top ten must-sees at Cannes.
  • Geraldine Bedell: "Even though [Neil] Jordan is an Oscar-winning screenwriter and the director of many admired movies... procuring the money to make films remains as hard as ever and this wonderfully elegaic novel owes its existence partly to his failure to finance a projected film about the Borgias. Jordan describes Shade as 'a gothic novel of a kind'; it echoes his preoccupation elsewhere with the irrational, the numinousness of things." Emma Brockes meets Peter Greenaway.
  • Alex Duval Smith reports that Robert Biver is trying to bus as many of the homeless who appear in his film SDF go Home (Homeless Go Home) into Cannes, where it'll be screened alongside a handful of Hollywood blockbusters: "I am not an activist. What interests me is giving excluded people a voice. I am not bothered about getting a distribution deal out of Cannes. I want people to see the film for free."
  • Andrew Pulver on Claude Chabrol's La Cérémonie.
  • John Patterson on Ed Harris: "[W]hen he leads a movie, it's his forever."
  • "In three decades of making films about police, prisons and criminals, I always steered clear of sex offenders, thinking them a breed apart with motivations I could never understand." And yet Roger Graef did eventually make The Protectors - A Second Chance.
  • Gaby Wood interviews Isabella Rossellini.
  • We've heard this before, but it bears repeating: "Something's gotta give. There are too many really expensive movies this summer." Anne Thompson does the math.
  • Rachel Cooke on Val Kilmer's latest career move.
  • After Paul Greengrass made the award-winning Bloody Sunday, he was approached by the Omagh Support Group, asking him to consider making a film about the Real IRA's bomb that killed 29 in 1998. Peter Stanford reports.
  • Shawn Levy listens to the Coens and Tom Hanks talk up The Ladykillers.
  • David Mamet: "Just as the personal ad is written not to attract anyone specifically, but only to avoid rejection, the screenplay strives to appeal to all - or to those who think it might appeal to all." Fine, but that's pretty much the whole column right there. The rest is filler.
  • Tobias Steed's Hollywood cocktails.

Brian Flemming: "I put a lot of working into planting those Easter eggs in the [Nothing So Strange] DVD. The least you could do is take several hours out of your life to try to find them." Brian likes Final Cut Pro HD, by the way; Wiley Wiggins has jazzed up his keyboard for Final Cut Pro and Chuck Olsen is very pleased with Magic Bullet, an After Effects plug-in.

Via Perlentaucher, Ishita Moitra in Outlook India:

Welcome to the age of Gujaratification.... Punjabis have always dominated the film industry right from the Prithviraj Kapoor years through the heyday of Yash Chopra to current kitsch-king Karan Johar. So it's only natural that their ethos translated itself onto celluloid: a Karva Chauth sequence in every second family drama, and the liberal usage of Punjabi in songs. But things are now going Kathiawadi with a vengeance.

In the Independent:

  • Joseph Fiennes vs evangelical Christians, reported by Steve Bloomfield.
  • Nikki Reed, who actually sounds pretty together for a 16-year-old, tells Geoffrey Macnab that life after Thirteen hasn't been so great: "It was really horrible writing a film about not being able to fit in and hoping this would help and then going back and having the problem start all over again."
  • What movie made Charlie Kaufman cry? Charlotte O'Sullivan never finds out. But she does get him to say a few things about George Clooney that, taken out of context, might not play too well in LA.

Matt Langdon: "We are only in May but already I have a top ten list of films."

In the New York Times:

  • Anne Thompson on how HBO is adapting to the new market for docs it's helped create.
  • Sharon Waxman on this summer's violent good-vs-evil Hollywood fare as "thinly veiled wish-fulfillment fantasies in a complicated world, or even as a coping mechanism after a societywide trauma."
  • Where in New York do productions find that gritty noir atmo these days now that downtown's all cleaned up? In Lower Manhattan, reports Susan Saulny: "Manhattan's movie muggings, foot chases and murders have become so commonplace in a few alleyways in TriBeCa and Chinatown that the alleys themselves have become celebrities in their own darkly intriguing way, as time-forgotten stand-ins for what more of the city used to be."
  • Stephanie Zacharek: "The big draw of both 13 Going on 30 and Mean Girls is that instead of giving us innocent, blameless heroines, they show us what happens when good girls temporarily turn nasty."
  • Ben Brantley: "[A]s a general rule, Mr. LaBute specializes in two-legged wolves and pigs who wear the camouflage of business suits and golf sweaters. The Distance From Here, an MCC Theater production directed by Michael Greif and featuring Anna Paquin... focuses on a social underclass of born losers, hard-up people of primal appetites who wallow in apathy and anger."
  • The popularity of a TV show can be judged by the number of spoilers floating around online, reports Emily Nussbaum. Dance Me to the End of Love
  • There'll be no Spider-Man 2 ads on the bases during Major League Baseball games after all, reports Richard Sandomir.
  • Bruce Weber: Alan King, 1927 - 2004.
  • Ben Sisario: Fred Karlin, 1936 - 2004.

Online viewing tip. "Dance Me to the End of Love," a short by Aaron Goffman with Quentin Tarantino. Found via Roger Avary, who assures us: "Any fan who visits this site will want to download a copy to ensure the survival of this legendary and historic relic."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:37 AM | Comments (3)

May 9, 2004

Cassavetes: Boxes and Shadows

Criterion's announcement, right there on its front page, that it will be releasing in the fall a box set of five films by John Cassavetes - Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night - ought to be cause for pure celebration. Add to the good news that all versions will be new high-definition transfers and that the set will include exclusive interviews with Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel, Lelia Goldoni and others who worked with Cassavetes as well as A Constant Forge, the 200-minute documentary by Charles Kiselyak, and the celebration ought to be downright ecstatic.

Opening Night

Gazzara, Rowlands and Cassavetes: Opening Night

Filmbrain's happy; Nick Wrigley's May 6 entry at Masters of Cinema is generally upbeat, but it's here that one catches a first glimpse of an ugly shadow hanging over all this, a debate that pits Rowlands and her supporters against Ray Carney and his. It's a debate that caught Criterion in the middle and can be followed in gruesome detail (but, you know, gruesome in a sort of irresistible way) in online discussion groups such as a_film_by and the Criterion Forum.

To back up, briefly: Shadows, officially released in 1959, was Cassavetes's first film. But like many, Carney was aware of an earlier version, made two years before, that Cassavetes had decided was all wrong - only about a third of that original film survives in the 1959 version. Unlike many, Carney pursued the lost original with a dedication some would regard as admirable (others as so extreme as to border on the creepy) and, after a 17-year quest, thanks to equal parts perseverance and luck, Carney actually found it. It's a fascinating tale as he told it in the Guardian in February. Which is also about when it was screened at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam - a screening Tom Charity caught and wrote up in Sight and Sound, and a screening for which the festival now apologizes.

To whom and why? To Gena Rowlands and her company, Faces Distribution Corporation, which owns all rights to all Cassavetes films because he signed those rights over to her in his last will and testament and she feels (though some have argued otherwise) that Cassavetes never, ever wanted that original version of Shadows to resurface at all, much less be seen by anyone.

In a Postscript to Carney's retelling of the tale of his discovery on his own site, he paints a portrait of an angry and stubborn Rowlands refusing to acknowledge not only his writing on Cassavetes but also even the existence of any alternate versions of any of the director's films. But she's also demanded he hand over that print he found; his lawyers tell him he doesn't have to, and what's more, may go on showing a copy of in his classes at Boston University.

At the same time, the language that Carney uses in his own defense hints at what Rowlands might find at least irritating in his work and about Ray Carney in general. There is, for example, that eerie insistence on speaking on behalf of Cassavetes himself. "I'm convinced John is looking down on all of this and cackling away with that inimitable giggle of his." And of course, he calls the book he wrote Cassavetes on Cassavetes rather than Carney on Cassavetes.

Carney spent eight months preparing an essay and audio commentary for Criterion's box set, but Rowlands put Criterion on the spot, as the company president, Peter Becker's made clear in a letter Carney's posted on his site. Rowlands evidently delivered an ultimatum: "[S]he will not participate in or approve the release with you as a part of it. Cassavetes entrusted his legacy to Gena, so for us, her word is final. I wish it hadn't come to this." So the commentary and essay are out.

As it happens, the Seattle International Film Festival (May 20 - June 13) has just unveiled its lineup and the opening film will be The Notebook, directed by Nick Cassavetes and with Gena Rowlands in a starring role. Maybe she'll make an appearance in Seattle? And perhaps take the opportunity to clarify her side of the story?

No one doesn't adore Gena Rowlands. We want to believe there are good, solid reasons she's keeping us from seeing the 1957 version of Shadows.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:53 PM | Comments (4)

May 8, 2004

Summer 04.

La Meglio gioventù The big New York Times Summer Movies special is here, complete with an audio intro by AO Scott who certainly doesn't sound too thrilled about it all. Which is perfectly understandable. Scan the special's front page, scroll up, scroll down... there's not a whole lot to make a cinephile's heart leap.

In fact, the featured preview, Charles McGrath's piece on Troy (you get the idea, right - former editor of the Book Review on the movie based on The Iliad), seems to have been written in sighs. "The toga movie, once the tiredest-seeming of all the Hollywood genres, is suddenly back in fashion." Troy is merely the "newest" but it also "feels like the longest." I don't doubt it. The trailer looks positively ridiculous, but the worst sign I've seen so far is that my daughter, a very serious Lord of the Rings fan, snickered at Orlando Bloom's worried delivery of some line about troops or ramparts or something. Warner Bros might have to write off that niche.

The new month-by-month graphic calendar of summer releases is nifty and all, but with the text version, you get blurbs. Lots and lots of blurbs. That's where the good stuff is going to be tucked away, though Scott does mention at the end of his talk that he expects La Meglio gioventù (The Best of Youth), the Italian award-winning made-for-TV six-hour family saga to wind up on his best-of-04 list at the end of the year.

What else:

And all in all, DVDs may be a welcome refuge this summer, what with the theaters clogged with monster-killers, tidal waves, togas and Peter Parker. At least there's Cannes. Or is there? Rattled by the number of Hollywood entries in the competition, Tom Charity wonders in the Independent if the French aren't bending over backwards to the breaking point to make up with the Americans: "Never mind the quality, feel the width. If this is not quite wholesale capitulation, it's certainly a brave stab at entente cordiale."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:55 AM

May 7, 2004

Moore or less?

Michael Moore on CNN Via Alternet, what seems at first to be the most level-headed assessment of the Moore-Disney ruckus comes from Andrew Gumbel in the Independent. In short, he spells out the two sides to this story, two "competing interpretations": "One, that Mr Moore is indeed a victim of an attempted corporate muzzling, and the other that he is deliberately creating a controversy where little or none exists to generate publicity for the film and trigger a bidding war for the US distribution rights, which have yet to be settled."

Just as Disney would stand to suffer a prolonged wave of negative publicity if Moore's version turns out to be the way things really happened (or, if not prolonged, periodically revived: first Cannes, then the theatrical release, then the DVD release), Michael Moore stands to lose the trust of his audience if they - we - come to believe he's duped us. So which is it? Frankly, the score's looking not so good for Michael Moore at the moment; that said, it's only been two days since the story broke and there's still a considerable amount of sorting out to do.

Via Movie City News, we find Gumbel again and you've got to wonder what happened to that level-headedness: "Less than 24 hours after accusing the Walt Disney Company of pulling the plug on his latest documentary in a blatant attempt at political censorship, the rabble-rousing film-maker Michael Moore has admitted he knew a year ago that Disney had no intention of distributing it."

This is the Independent, mind you, not the London Times or the Telegraph, where you'd expect to read a spin on all this along those lines. The actual quote from Moore in that story, delivered on CNN, is not exactly a confession: "Almost a year ago, after we'd started making the film, the chairman of Disney, Michael Eisner, told my agent he was upset Miramax had made the film and he will not distribute it." That doesn't exactly preclude his or Harvey Weinstein's holding out hope that Eisner might be persuaded to distribute Fahrenheit 911 after all. In fact, if you look at the transcript of the interview, you'll find that Gumbel took the quote for his story, "Moore admits Disney 'ban' was a stunt," completely out of context. What about this, for example: "On Monday of this week we got final word from Disney that they will not distribute the film."

In other words, Moore has held off criticising Disney and its decision until he knew it was final. And of course, until he knew such criticism would have a maximum effect, i.e., a week or so before anyone would see his film for the first time. At the risk of nibbling away at this issue to the point of silliness, it seems at the moment that it all boils down to the nature of the conversation on Monday between someone at Disney and Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel. Who called whom? And did the conversation go something like, "Mr Emanuel, I'm calling to let you know that we've just had a meeting on this and have decided not to distribute the film," or something like, "Ms Disney Rep, I'm just calling to confirm that the decision you made a year ago still stands"?

A roundup of what's at stake: Michael Moore's long-term reputation vs about a year's worth of ill will towards Disney; the $6 million invested in F-9/11, because if Disney's version turns out to be true, who'll care what Moore has to say in the film; the wrath of the New York Times, which Moore has repeatedly (and justifiably) chastised for not reviewing his book Stupid White Men, even as it stormed the paper's own bestsellers list, but which has given him front page coverage and a supportive editorial.

More as it happens.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:38 AM | Comments (1)

May 6, 2004

Shorts, 5/6.

House of Bush, House of Saud Craig Unger in Salon:

But exactly what is in the movie that could so alienate the first family? I have some idea because Moore interviewed me for the movie for several hours.... Moore had been among the first to assert in the press that a large-scale evacuation of prominent Saudis from the United States began shortly after 9/11 - for which he was derided by critics as a conspiratorialist.

As it happens, my research for House of Bush, House of Saud backed up his charges.

The New York Times runs an editorial on the Disney-Moore brouhaha: "It is hard to say which rationale for blocking distribution is more depressing. But it is clear that Disney loves its bottom line more than the freedom of political discourse."

Then, with Laura M Holson, Jim Rutenberg follows up on the story by reporting on the clash between the two parties, mostly on television, and on the prospects of Fahrenheit 9/11 finding another distributor - which are pretty good, evidently. And hopefully. Meanwhile, discussion in the NYT readers' forums is, as you'd expect, lively.

More in the NYT:

  • Eric A Taub has an intriguing little story - really, there's a juicy magazine piece here - on the short film created by Threshold Digital Research Labs as a Las Vegas attraction: a 3D adventure, in focus throughout the depth of field, which happens to be all around you instead of just in front of you; "it's surround sound for the eyes."
  • Sharon Waxman reports that negotiations between screenwriters and the studios aren't going well. Her other story today: Saved!, a comedy set in an evangelical Christian high school, poses a unique challenge. Says MGM marketeer Peter Adee: "I love this movie, but it is so hard to figure out who the audience is."
  • Greg Allen's been watching this one: Roberta Smith considers video artist Jon Routson's work, "the latest to find itself in the murky zone between copyright infringement and artistic license, between cultural property rights and cultural commentary."
  • Thomas Crampton talks to Jim de Sève, director of Tying the Knot: "The frame around the debate on [gay] marriage rights has not changed. This is the new civil rights movement."
  • Alessandra Stanley: "NBC's send-off [for Friends] has been the most overwrought and prolonged farewell since Violetta's death scene in La Traviata." But Salon staffers said goodbye ages go.
  • Geraldine Fabrikant and Andrew Ross Sorkin report that there may - or may not - be a deal by the end of June resulting from the slow dance between Sony and MGM.
  • There may be no crying in baseball, but there will be Spider-Man on the bases. Frank Litsky on how the fans are taking it.

"Ever since he put Emily Watson through the emotional mincer in his first big international success, Breaking the Waves, [Lars] Von Trier has nurtured his reputation for gleeful directorial cruelty." Matthew Sweet gathers all the stories and quotes to prove it, too. Also in the Independent, David Thomson: "[I]f it is men doing the damage to other men, the result is tragic; but if the damage comes from nature, bad luck, unruly weather or faulty mechanics, then it's a disaster movie. In which case, we are allowed to have a good time." And Ryan Gilbey on "a breed of film that Britain does frighteningly well but American film-makers wouldn't touch with someone else's bargepole. You might call it the gay gangster movie, only that doesn't quite cover it."

Tribeca diaries: Wendy Mitchell and Matt Dentler.

Fiachra Gibbons meets Nuri Bilge Ceylan in his apartment in Istanbul to talk about Mehmet Emin Toprak, who won best actor in Cannes for his performance in Uzak and who died in a car crash just four months later. Also in the Guardian:

  • Dan Milmo interviews Estelle Morris, films minister at the British Department for Culture, Media and Sport: "Ms Morris has a three-point plan to reinvigorate a sector which attracted £1.1bn of investment last year but produced few home-grown hits: build a better relationship between the government and the film industry, improve training and begin an industry-wide 'conversation' which will result in a new funding framework for UK film-makers."
  • Andrew Pulver on Closely Watched Trains.
  • "Take our quiz to see if you're doc or mock." (7 out of 10. Oh, well.)

In the Austin Chronicle:

Television permeates this week's LA Weekly:

LA Weekly: Andy Kaufman

  • "Before [Andy] Kaufman died (or 'died') on May 16, 1984, he told several friends that he was planning to fake his death, disappear and return in 20 years, precisely. So, on May 16, 2004, Comic Relief, the charity organization [Bob] Zmuda founded in 1985, will present... something. Something secretive, something at House of Blues on Sunset Strip. Title: Andy Kaufman — Dead or Alive?" Hence, Dave Shulman's article. But what an article. Complete with an interview with Tony Clifton, the works.
  • Falling James: "In 1977, for reasons that still remain unclear, the suits at NBC suffered a temporary bout of good instincts and handed the reins and a big budget to comedian Richard Pryor. He dutifully delivered one of the most brilliant, controversial - and quickly canceled - series in television history."
  • Nikke Finke on the long, drawn out battle between Fox and the voices behind The Simpsons: "Add this to the litany of horrible negotiations in Hollywood’s rich and sullied history of horrible negotiations."
  • But films get reviewed as well: John Powers on The Saddest Music in the World; Ella Taylor on Super Size Me; and Scott Foundas reports from the Buenos Aires Film Festival

Posted by dwhudson at 7:25 AM | Comments (5)

May 5, 2004

More on Fahrenheit 9/11.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Little wonder that Disney's prohibiting Miramax from distributing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is the most talked about film-related story of the moment. A round-up of just some of the commentary:

Eugene Hernandez's story in indieWIRE is followed by a string of clashing views from readers.

Brian Clark: "Far be it from me to criticize a filmmaker for making the promotional best of controversy, but I fear that Michael has forgotten what it means to be independent (or how easy it is now to avoid being in a position where Disney can influence what you can and can't do with your film.) But Michael lost that option when he took $6M from Miramax."

David Poland: "Adding to the pathetic nature of this scam, please be aware that Moore probably has $6 million himself and could have self-financed or sold select foreign markets to get enough money to get well within range of his production budget. What was his salary on this $6 million doc?"

Mike Monello: "This only reinforces my belief that we as filmmakers must figure out new ways to distribute films and find our audiences."

Matt Langdon: "What's just as ridiculous is that Disney knew exactly the kind of film Michael Moore would make."

"Here's Filmbrain's take on it - as a corporation, Disney has the right to protect their interests.... The only thing to do is to hurt Disney where it counts - a full boycott of their products, theme parks and whatever else they have their fingers in.... Filmbrain is curious to see how Harvey handles this one."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:47 PM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 5/5.

The Mystery of Olga Chekhova Antony Beevor, author of bestselling histories such as Berlin: The Downfall 1945 and Stalingrad, has another one coming out next week in the UK, The Mystery of Olga Chekhova. In the Guardian, he offers a fascinating preview, though he doesn't much address the question tucked under the title on the book cover, "Was Hitler's favourite actress a Russian spy?" For more on that, we'll have to buy the book, but there's still plenty here. The bulk of the piece addresses her illustrious family background and the misery of her marriage; things take off when she flees a revolution-ravaged Moscow for Berlin and bumps into producer Erich Pommer and director FW Murnau. If your interest is piqued and you want to look her up for more, you'll find more results for "Olga Tschechowa"; here's her IMDb entry.

Also in the Guardian: Judith Mackrell asks eight British ballet professionals how well they think Robert Altman captured their world in The Company; the score is not good, unfortunately.

Anthony Kaufman argues that for Tribeca, "the films are merely a means to an end." That's his blog; in a story for indieWIRE, Kaufman wonders if Cannes will grant one or more filmmakers a higher profile this year.

Also in iW, Eugene Hernandez rounds up a dozen or so views of "film community insiders" on the question of ethnic diversity in the industry. Meanwhile, on his blog (keeping up with these prolific iW people is going to be tricky!), he says he "couldn't be more excited" about the launch of Defamer, which is to LA what Gawker is to NYC. It's got a great tagline: "LA is the world's cultural capital. Defamer is the gossip rag it serves." Today: A FAQ on the strike that might be the unhappy Hollywood ending to the current negotiations between the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Stephen Holden catches Blind Flight at the festival and is naturally reminded of the images of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by US soldiers. The gist of his notebook entry, though, is that the features in competition lend Tribeca a seriousness he assumes it's seeking. Holden also reviews Superstar in a Housedress and Randy Kennedy tells the story behind So This is New York. Also in the New York Times and still Tribeca-related, Kenneth Chang reports on the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's efforts to help realize a film based on the life of Hedy Lamarr. That's one biopic that's long, long overdue.

Bryan Walsh pans Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn and praises Ann Hui's Goddess of Mercy in Time Asia.

skin-too-few.jpg Good heavens. J Hoberman: "As crass as it is visionary, Godzilla belongs with - and might well trump - the art films Hiroshima Mon Amour and Dr. Strangelove as a daring attempt to fashion a terrible poetry from the mind-melting horror of atomic warfare." (More from Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.) Hoberman then dumps on Envy but calls Craig Highberger's Superstar in a Housedress "a fabulously fond and entertaining tribute to the quick-witted Lower East Side kid," Jackie Curtis.

Also in the Voice, Dennis Lim on A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake and Super Size Me; David Ng on The Mudge Boy; Michael Atkinson on Oasis; Ed Halter's brief chat with Ray Harryhausen; and Elliot Stein's got a terrific piece previewing "Stranger on the Prowl: The Films of Joseph Losey," May 7 through 31 at the Walter Reade or just maybe on a DVD player near you.

As for Armond White, he's disappointed that neither Godsend nor Guy Maddin's career live up to their initial promise. Fellow New York Press critic Matt Zoller Seitz finds Coffee and Cigarettes "thin... Jarmusch fans won't care, though." True. Meanwhile, Alejandro Agresti's Valentin is "no less wonderful for being familiar."

Today's Morgan Spurlock interview is conducted by Scott Lamb for Salon. Sidebar: Weighing the nutritional value of lunchtime favorites.

"This article in Reuter's today, about all the chain retailers thrilled to be asked to spend thousands of dollars to replicate their stores for a mock up of JFK airport built in southern California on the chance that they'll get some face time in the movie, gave Cinecultist a fright."

Steve Gallagher points to Fortissimo's official description of Wong Kar-Wai's 2046.

Reading Doug Cummings's excellent entry on The Bride of Frankenstein, it strikes me that the problem with the Alien "Quadrilogy" is that the Creature becomes a Monster. The evolution began with Aliens and might have been pulled off in another sequel or two, but instead, it all went horribly awry. At any rate, Doug also points to one helluvan online viewing tip: The trailers and movie clips at Turner Classic Movies.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 PM

Zapata.

Zapata Some comments just call out for flagging from up front. You may have noticed that Jonathan Marlow's "Five-Point Plan" for the San Francisco International Film Festival has generated substantive discussion. Now, there's another you'll want to catch, on Cinco de Mayo no less, a preview of Alfonso Arau's Zapata from Sara Bachelder Hinz, who with her husband, Jorge Valdes Garcia, runs Puerto Vallarta-based Casting Valdes, the company in charge of local casting and the extras casting for the production.

One of our favorite sets and scenes, as brief as it was, was the bedroom wedding night scene between Zapata ([Alejandro] Fernandez) and Josefa (Patricia Velasquez) when he finds her waiting on the bed (don't want to include many spoilers, so I'll leave out the details, though I'll say you may be pleasantly reminded of a Diego Rivera painting.) Artistically, beautifully and interestingly done.... Mexican critics are quite tough when it comes to some Mexican films, filmmakers and/or actors/actresses of Mexican nationality that work in the US.... That said, we don't usually put much stock in what the critics and gossip shows here typically say.

And, just because, a link to a backgrounder on Emiliano Zapata.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:40 AM

Disney's Goofy Miscalculation.

Disney's Floridian tax breaks must be mighty lucrative. You've got to figure Disney's done the math: The negative publicity the company receives for prohibiting Miramax from distributing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 will not be translated into financial losses greater than whatever amount it is Florida grants the media conglomerate for attracting countless planeloads of tourists to Orlando.

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I wouldn't be so sure. Within hours of the publication of Jim Rutenberg's front-page story in the New York Times, not only has Michael Moore responded - that, like his succinct, plain-spoken, slightly polemic yet ultimately winning commentary, is to be expected - but the blogs are already humming.

"Setty" writes a brief open letter:

Dear Mr. Eisner, congratulations on an effective publicity strategy. As you saw from Mr. Moore's previous book troubles, nothing succeeds like censorship. Many happy returns!

Ezra Klein: "We can't be fighting for liberties abroad and engaging in this much censorship at home, it's just not becoming."

Jo Fish: "So, not only has the Rat eaten Orlando, it's having the First Amendment for [dessert]?"

Lukas Karlsson: "I guess the best way to keep an unpopular president in office is to block all media that might portray him in a negative light. That sure seems like the plan."

Democrats.net loves the story, of course.

Adam Lipscomb says things we really can't quote on a family-friendly blog.

What's more, this story is not going to simply buzz around for a few days and go away. Fahrenheit 9/11 will be screening in competion at Cannes, where a zillion journalists and critics from around the world will open each and every one of their F-9/11-related reports and reviews with mention of Disney's ban.

So now that what will surely be one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in US history is already in full swing and Disney has made it quite clear who it's endorsing, a few questions are in order. Will left-of-center stars and directors walk away from current and future Disney projects? Will it be possible for critics and audiences to view any film Disney's deemed acceptable for distribution without looking for telltale signs of the company's political agenda? Or, since we all know the company's management is currently in turmoil, could this all be just one big bad mistake, a miscommunication, a goof the company could set right again, preferably sooner rather than later?

Posted by dwhudson at 1:23 AM | Comments (10)

May 4, 2004

Bright Lights 44.

Bright Lights 44 From the depths of a bomb shelter somewhere probably not too far from Death Valley, editor Gary Morris introduces the new issue of Bright Lights Film Journal. And he suggests you build one, too. A bomb shelter, that is; though another film journal is always welcome: "Your neighbors can help, and then, when the world gets so mad at us they decide to do to us what we do to them, you can have the pleasure of shutting the door on those screaming, SUV-driving, McDonald's-scarfing, gun-toting, got-it-all-but-want-more miscreants who called you 'silly.'"

Gary writes quite a bit in this issue, which means this is a very good issue. He argues, for example, that "Gregory La Cava is probably the greatest classic Hollywood director still in need of rediscovery"; reviews three docs on outsider music, "even less quantifiable" than outsider art: You Really Think You Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story (Morris also points to the Gary Wilson site); Jandek on Cornwood and Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story; admires Craig Baldwin's Spectres of the Spectrum, "a scathing attack on America's postwar bomb culture that remains very much in force today, perhaps even more apocalyptically than in the 1950s"; manages to stomach Takashi Miike's Full Metal Yakuza; and then, always the fun part at the end, offers his roundup of brief reviews.

Peter Tonguette, staff critic at The Film Journal (more at his own site), talks with Curtis Harrington about Orson Welles's unfinished film, The Other Side of the Wind in which John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich play film directors: "So, in the curious way that Orson had been shooting in those days [ca. 1970], he'd shoot one side of a scene and he played the John Huston part off-screen while he was shooting me."

Andrew Grossman: "We need a precise definition of camp.... So let us lengthily contend with one of unintentional camp's shiniest epiphanies, H. G. Lewis' Blood Feast, and then weigh it against Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, its self-parodic, intentionally campy sequel belated by forty long, campily historicizing years."

Daniel McNeil: "My analysis is certainly informed by my desire to ask Black Americans to think about the commodification of bodies that aren't African or African American. I'd also like people of colour in Europe and places such as Canada and Australia, to look toward each other and their historical predecessors as much as their contemporary national governments, companies flogging 'urban chic' and African Americans."

The Women Men Yearn For, with Marlene Dietrich, desperately needs a distributor, pleads Robert Keser.

Robert Castle considers a slew of "Disturbing Movies" whose effect depends on our level of identification with the protagonist.

Cleo Cacoulidis on the Michael Snow retrospective at the 44th Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Reviews and considerations of movies not yet on DVD:

Reviews and considerations of films on DVD:

Sort of like Bright Lights.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:09 AM

May 3, 2004

Shorts, 5/3.

Bobbing Arnold Brian Flemming has a new e-book out; he tells the story behind it in an open letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger's lawyer, Martin Singer, and in this link-laced entry.

Andrea Meyer had a terrific and meaty conversation with Guy Maddin and Isabella Rossellini at Sundance. Today, it appears in indieWIRE. Rossellini:

One of the things that fascinated me is that cinema still is looked at as a technology. It was presented 100 years ago in magic shows, like a trick, and they're still waiting for the new technologies. It's still promoted that way, the new cinemascope or the new special effect or the digital camera. It's always the new technology and what artists can do with the new technology, and all the technologies impose a certain storytelling that is forgotten as the technologies progressed. In Guy, you go back and look at all that.

In addition to grading the films he caught at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Jason Overbeck offers an annotated list of his top five right here.

The cinetrix caught a few good movies over the weekend at the Independent Film Festival of Boston.

The Film Festival of India in Atlanta sparks comments on Kannathil Muthamittal from George Thomas and commentary on selected films from director Mani Ratnam from Ramanand.

Via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker: Media That Matters Fest #4 launches May 19; GLAAD's "'I Do' Contest." Submission deadline: June 1.

Gary Indiana in Artforum on Los Angeles Plays Itself: "[Thom] Andersen is far more obsessed with movies that "get it wrong" than with ones that get it right, and he's willing to split infinitesimal hairs to show how films ignore, misrepresent, banalize, and stigmatize the city he loves." The first half of that sentence, by the way, is an intriguing list of films Indiana clearly thinks get it right.

In the Guardian and Observer:

Performance

  • Suzie Mackenzie interviews Robert Altman. The occasion is the opening of The Company in the UK, but she begins with a great story about the filming of Gosford Park. As it happens, in this week's Review, Catherine Bennett reviews Snobs, the new novel by Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes: "For the novice climber, Fellowes's guide to the basics of social mountaineering should prove a godsend." Performance is being re-released in the UK on Friday and Michael Holden looks back almost in awe: "As remarkable as the film remains, the story of how it came into being and who was involved is more extraordinary still."
  • After a swift refresher course on the history of Cyprus, Fiachra Gibbons describes the "remarkable partnership" of Turkish-Cypriot director Dervish Zaim and Greek-Cypriot producer Panicos Chrysanthou.
  • Mark Kermode loathes Cannes; Jason Solomons loves it; and Solomons and Akin Ojumu sort through the lineup.
  • Reviewing Catherine Deneuve's collection of notebooks, A l'ombre de moi-même, Liz Hoggard wonders if the book is really worth getting all worked up about, at least to the extent the French intelligensia did last week.
  • John Patterson briefly profiles Val Kilmer, "a marvelous actor"; then again, "Maybe he's certifiably nuts."

Via Movie City News, Johanna Schneller in the Globe and Mail, talking with Julianne Moore, "a serious actress with a full set of eccentricities who is, charmingly, fully aware of them." And: Carl Swanson in New York on Elvis Mitchell's departure from the New York Times.

In the NYT itself:

  • Another interview with Morgan Spurlock. This time with Susan Dominus. Fortunately, he's a fun interviewee (he gets her to try a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese) and he knows what he's after: "I want people to walk out of this movie and be infuriated. I want them to walk out of this movie and say, 'What are my kids eating at school?'"
  • Nobel Prize-winner Harold Varmus: "The precedent for Adam No. 2, then, is not really Dolly, the most famous of clones, but Frankenstein's monster, the most famous of horrors. The monster of Godsend (which can be read as God's End as well as God Send) is a more modern amalgam, an assembly of genes rather than body parts, and its desirable outward appearance belies internal horrors, whereas in Mary Shelley's invention external horror concealed beneficence."
  • AO Scott: "Revenge has been a staple of American films for most of their history, but lately it has begun to seem like the only thing our movies (or perhaps our movie audiences) can understand." Also, a brief profile of Maya Sansa.
  • Terrence Rafferty on the restored Godzilla, "a surprisingly compelling pop-culture artifact: a picture of the strange forms nuclear anxiety took in an era that now feels nearly as remote as the Jurassic."
  • By cutting costs and getting its various entertainment divisions to let each other know what they're up to, Sony may be faring better, reports Laura M Holson; meanwhile, Andrew Ross Sorkin wonders if Kirk Kerkorian will ever let MGM go.

In Bad Subjects, Tamara Watkins explains the appeal of The Osbournes, particularly Ozzy: "He's just like all of our dads... except he's on MTV."

In the Independent:

Peter Sellers

Time plugs Time Warner's Troy by dramatizing the stakes: "[T]he odds of a movie of Troy's scope making money have never been longer," writes Josh Tyrangiel in his featurette-in-print, complete with a Brad Pitt sidebar; Richard Corliss previews the film in language that's somehow both boisterous and coy: "This is The Iliad as a WWE SmackDown: violent fights, snappy insults and a connoisseur's idolatry of beautiful brawn. (Who knew Greece had so many blonds?)"

For the Washington Post, Martha Sherrill reviews Maureen Orth's The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex.

Among the many questions Jennifer Barrett asks of Margaret Cho is the one about being invited to the White House: "No, I don't even RSVP. If there was a box that said 'As If,' I would check that." Also in Newsweek: Sean Smith: "Van Helsing is facing a foe far more nefarious than any on-screen villain: Bad Buzz."

Via RES:

Online viewing tips via Cinema Minima: Ze Frank's "Small World" and Video Link Japan.

And another one from Michael at SignalStation: "Amazing animation in this short film, even if the idea of programming bots to carry automatic weapons awakens every Frankenstein fear I've got, especially with as little as I trust the political decisions of our military industrial complex."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:19 AM