June 30, 2004

Midnight Eye.

Nobody Knows A new issue, an interview, a round-up, a bit of history and three reviews. Kuriko Sato interviews Hirokazu Kore-eda, sticking for the most part to the specifics of production even though the director seems in the mood to paint in broader strokes:

Nobody Knows is a summation of the kind of film I've been doing until now. So for the moment I don't believe I can make a better film of this kind than Nobody Knows. It's better to make a very different type of film and broaden my abilities as a filmmaker. I wanted to create a big lie, meaning the opposite of the documentary-style, naturalist, contemporary films I've been doing. The obvious choice was a jidai geki.

Tom Mes reviews the catalog accompanying the Viennale 2003 retrospective of films produced, distributed and exhibited by the Art Theatre Guild. Mes's review is going to be your best introduction if you're in a hurry; otherwise, definitely go for the generous slice of the catalog, a translation of curator Roland Domenig's essay.

"Jishu Eiga is the name for Japan's ever-increasing phenomenon of self-made films. Made mostly on DV by students and film fans, these no-budgets films range from five-minute exercises to entire features." Mes and Jaspar Sharp present this issue's Round-Up.

Reviews:

  • Don Brown on Casshern, the film whose trailer had so many blogs buzzing a few months ago.
  • Jaspar Sharp on Yoshino's Barber Shop, a "fresh and naturalistic coming-of-age movie with a sting in its tail." Sharp also notes that this is Naoko Ogigami's debut feature and that the number of Japanese women directors is growing at a healthy, steady pace.
  • Tom Mes notes the recent wave of omnibus films in Asia, then focuses on one, Jam Films, with its roster of high-profile Japanese directors, before reviewing the new one at hand, Jam Films 2, featuring four relatively new filmmakers.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:00 PM

Crowds and shorts.

No way around it. There's still one movie louder than the rest of the noise out there, and with an expansion to 1710 screens by the end of the week and, you know, respectable box office numbers so far, it may be this way a tad longer than many expected. Rather than try to siphon off all mentions of Fahrenheit 9/11 into a separate entry, the mix that follows seems to more accurately reflect the beat we're dancing to at the moment.

Crowds

Drew's been doing a little detective work and has found a possible source for "Investigative Correspondent" Michael Isikoff's erroneous accusation #2 in that Newsweek article a while back. Seems a transcript floating around conservative quarters does a little tweaking. A little serious tweaking. Drew explains and provides video evidence proving Isikoff & Co wrong. And earlier: "Moorewatch, a website which likes Michael Moore just about as much as I adore the Fanta jingle , has come up with a plan that makes no sense whatsoever. Let me break it down for you."

Hands down, the rant of the week in a week rowdy with rants is Matt Taibbi's in the New York Press. Hitchens is the occasion but not the point: "Michael Moore may be an ass, and impossible to like as a public figure, and a little loose with the facts, and greedy, and a shameless panderer. But he wouldn't be necessary if even one percent of the rest of us [journalists] had any balls at all. If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press conference last year and shouted, 'Bullshit!' it might have made a difference."

Elsewhere in the NYP:

The Village Voice also runs a piece on Fahrenheit 9/11 and journalism. Richard Goldstein: "[W]ho would have thought Fox News would keep its attack dogs relatively muzzled while ABC and NBC launched remarkably unbalanced attacks... I hope Fahrenheit 9/11 affirms my conviction that the press distorts but we decide."

Also in the Voice:

Crowds

Aaron posts a long, thoughtful review: "But the most terrifying part of this film is virtually the same thing I found so scary in Errol Morris's stunning and brilliant Academy Award-winning documentary from last year, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara: the eerie similarities between the build-up to and ongoing war in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s and everything going on in Iraq."

The indieWIRE bloggers continue to chime in on F9/11:

  • Tom Hall: "I understand that his on-screen persona is up for discussion, and that his tactics personalized the politics of the war. I don't debate that. What I do want to know is when it became ok to call someone a fat prick in a film review."
  • Steve Rosenbaum: "We've legislated out point of view. And told audiences that's what they want."
  • Wendy Mitchell: "To get people debating about the current political climate - for better or worse, pro-Bush or anti-Bush, is great for our country."

Bill Werde reports in the New York Times on two events on opposite sides of the fence. MoveOn PAC threw parties in all 50 states featuring a conference call with Michael Moore while Move America Forward screened Louis Schwartzberg's America's Heart and Soul, a Disney documentary that's increasingly being cast by many as the anti-Fahrenheit 9/11. MAF's been playing up its association with Disney, sparking discomfort in Disney quarters - Werde quotes a spokesperson: "We've screened this movie close to 100 times. Where were the media calls when we showed it to the Sierra Club or the AARP?" - and a bit of grandstanding on the part of Michael Moore: "Disney joining forces with the right wing kooks who have come together to attempt to censor Fahrenheit 9/11 must mean that Dumbo is now in charge of the company's strategic decisions." But he does have one valid point: "This latest development only further disproves what Michael Eisner had claimed about 'politics' not being behind Disney's decision not to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11."

Meanwhile, the NYT also handpicks a sampling of its readers' views.

The USA Today's Gary Strauss meets Lila Lipscomb: "Michael was fantastic. I hope everyone will see the film. I hope it will open people's eyes and make them begin to ask questions and start speaking up for themselves." Also via Movie City News: Mark Glaser in the Online Journalism Review on how MichaelMoore.com and the films complement each other.

Doug Cummings tried to see F9/11, but found, "both to my dismay and pleasure, every single screening was sold out." So he caught Control Room instead. The bottom line: "It's required viewing."

City Pages puts two reviewers on the case, Matthew Wilder and Terri Sutton. And then Rob Nelson also can't help juxtaposing F9/11 and America's Heart, but he's got a good idea: Take Mark Wojahn, director of What America Needs: From Sea to Shining Sea to a premiere of the latter film. His thoughts? "I feel like we just walked out of a 90-minute commercial."

William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg, Slate's chief political correspondent and editor, respectively, discuss "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed," the new ad from the Bush campaign. Saletan: "The Bush campaign's claim that the amateur Hitler ads represent 'John Kerry's Democratic Party' is laughable. Kerry didn't control MoveOn.org, and MoveOn.org didn't make the ads." Weisberg: "But the vileness... must not be allowed to obscure its essential hilarity. What moron came up with this idea?"

Also in Slate: David Edelstein reviews the "gravely splendid" Spider-Man 2 and Dana Stevens launches "Surfergirl," "not so much a TV column as one watcher's online diary." In other words, it's a lot like what Heather Havrilesky has been up to in Salon.

With four - four! - movies in the works about Boadicea, Stuart Jeffries remarks, "What Hollywood will make of the life and times of the flame-haired, 1,950-year-old rebuffer of Romans is anyone's guess," but he stakes out the possibilities. By the way, right at the end there, he mentions that Antonia Fraser tells him Sophia Coppola has optioned her book on Maria Antoinette. Also in the Guardian: Robert Hughes writes about cramming a quarter of a century's worth of art history into a 55-minute television program and the paper runs a story on how Marlon Brando is doing these days: Not well.

In the Independent, Danielle Demetriou reports on Kate Winslet pulling out of Woody Allen's next film, his first to be shot in London. With just three weeks to go before shooting begins, costumes had been fitted, the works. The spokesperson quote: "Kate is very sad that she won't be able to fit Woody's film in. She needs to be around her family."

Crowds

Dennis Harvey: "If Fahrenheit 9/11 is the screaming headine of this media moment, an angry op-ed in a pop format, then Ken Jacobs's Star Spangled to Death might be labeled its perfect graduate-dissertation complement. Jacobs's massive project is a deconstructive read of America as concept, ideology, betrayal, and ongoing hypocrisy." Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Filmbrain's starting a weekly quiz! ID that screen capture! Also: Kubrick's 1951 short Day of the Fight.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:34 AM

June 28, 2004

Shorts, 6/28.

The Power of Kangwon Province Filmbrain writes the sort of entry on The Power of Kangwon Province that makes you want to rush out and find the film.

George Fasel examines the career of Jean Gabin, focusing on the years 1936 through 1939: "The way he looked, carried himself, and especially the way he spoke established an amazing connection with France's classes laborieuses, themselves coming to an enhanced political consciousness and even briefly tasting power before plunging into despair and disillusionment at the decade's end."

John Stackpole reports from Frameline28 for Audience and Movie City News runs the release announcing the winners: Brother to Brother is named best feature, Drag Kings on Tour best doc and Mind If I Call You Sir? best short. Levi's First Feature Award: Eating Out; and Stu & Dave's Excellent Documentary Award: Tying the Knot.

Via metaphilm, James Bowman in the New Atlantis on "Memory and the Movies." Intriguing stuff, but it should also be noted that Bowman gets rather spoilerific here and there, especially, for example, when it comes to The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Robert Davis appends more notes to his "All-Time Top Twenty (Or So)" than there are films on the list itself. And yes, that's a good thing.

Roger Avary: "I hold Richard Linklater in the highest regard - for the last few years he's churned out my favorite films of each year: Waking Life; School of Rock; and now Before Sunset." On a related note, Matt Dentler: "About the ending, without spoiling anything, all I have to say is... do not go to the concession stand or restroom when you see this movie. Be prepared to witness every split second, you'll thank me for that advice." Amen.

The New Yorker And the New Yorker's David Denby finds the film "both more spontaneous than Rohmers work and more daring in its technique."

Fahrenheit 9/11 round-up:

  • The box office beat is actually a nice one to have this week. Leonard Klady for Movie City News: "Fahrenheit 9/11 is the 15th non-fiction feature to gross more than $1 million in 2004 and its weekend boosts overall revenues for docs to roughly $75 million." Brandon Gray has more fun with more stats at Box Office Mojo. And for the New York Times, Sharon Waxman gets to quote Michael Moore - "The biggest news to me this morning is this is a red-state movie" - and Harvey Weinstein: "It's beyond anybody's expectations. I'd have to say the sky's the limit on this movie. Who knows what territory we're in."

  • What makes the "manipulative filmmaking" of F9/11 any different from that of The Passion of the Christ? Responding to Amanda Doss, Tom Hall pinpoints what he sees as the telltale difference. On his own blog, Hall issues a challenge: "To discredit Michael Moore is a waste of time. Instead, I encourage critics to attempt to discredit Mrs. Lipscomb and the voices of the disillusioned American troops in Iraq. If their feelings and ideas are not legitimate and true, nothing is."

  • The Progress Report makes a point-by-point case for the accuracy of the film. Via Alternet.

  • Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect: "Fahrenhaughty 9/11."

  • Big, long, raucous discussions: Tacitus, Daily Kos, kottke.org.

Via Cinema Minima, news from A Fly on the Wall that DreamWorks is developing a thriller "about a Washingtonienne-like character who becomes ensnared in a coverup and CIA-sanctioned assassination of a critical congressman."

Back to Noy Thrupkaew and the American Prospect again, where she writes open letters to Margaret Cho and Tom Hanks. It's there, too, that you'll find Tara McKelvey's interview with Harry Thomason, director of The Hunting of the President. Speaking of Margaret Cho, though, she's recently interviewed the team behind www.wm3.org about the West Memphis Three.

Sean Spillane points to "the best English-language introduction and overview to the perverse thrills of Italian giallo films," Bengt Wallman's 2002 essay for The Uppers Organization.

Flaherty Seminar Hugo Perez reports in indieWIRE on the "mythic" Flaherty Film Seminar, which ran from June 12 through 19. This was the seminar's 50th year, and Perez not only provides a run-down of some of films shown but also dips a bit into the history and mystique.

Mark Rabinowitz on why the "R-card" is a good idea: "My parents trusted me to see movies I wanted to see (knew I had a fake ID if needed, too) and I have never hit anyone in anger, ever.... I don't kick puppies, I don't litter and I give up my seat on the subway for the elderly, disbaled and pregnant."

Judy Garland David Thomson in the Independent on Judy Garland: "She was the kind of actress who left you wondering why all dialogue isn't sung."

In the New York Times:

John Tyrangiel profiles Keira Knightley in Time. Also, a big thumbs-up from Richard Schickel for Spider-Man 2.

You think of Indian cinema, you think Bollywood, naturally, and the second thought that comes to mind is probably Satyajit Ray. Very few think of animation. But as Ishita Moitra reports in Outlook India, it's starting to take off.

Online viewing tip. Courtesy of Andy Baio, "the best TV pilot you've never seen: Ben Stiller's Heat Vision and Jack from 1999." With Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Via Drew, who's got two drafts of the screenplay as well.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:23 AM

June 27, 2004

Boom.

It's big.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:34 PM | Comments (4)

Sunday shorts.

RES Jim White (more), who serves as Andrew Douglas's guide to a disappearing American South in the doc Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (and the trailer alone is just stunning), asks in the summer issue of RES , "Why did it take an English TV commercial director to call attention to it?" The site's also featuring Jesse Ashlock's not-quite-film-related but still noteworthy interview with architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

In the New York Times, Dave Kehr traces the story arc of the six classic Tarzan movies recently released on DVD: "The back-to-nature proto-hippies of the first two films become the model American homeowners who would populate the booming suburbs of the postwar years."

On the occasion of the UK release of Tupac: Resurrection, Akin Ojumu explores the enduring mythology in the Observer.

Movie City News passes along the list of Los Angeles Film Festival award-winners.

Johnnie L Roberts profiles the man responsible for 52 percent of Hollywood's revenue in 2003: Warren Lieberfarb, who, "more than any other person, merits credit for making the DVD a reality.... Lieberfarb's story is itself worthy of a Hollywood script, save for a thorny problem - the main character is both protagonist and antagonist. " Also in Newsweek, Jennifer Ordoñez meets Julie Delpy and gets in a good line in response to Richard Linklater's comment that Before Sunset would never have worked without her "strength, and her almost intimidating intelligence": "Golly, just what Hollywood looks for in a leading lady - that and Delpy's experience working with Jean-Luc Godard."

Marquee Fahrenheit 9/11 round-up:

  • "It is six in the morning and the emails are still pouring in. From every town and every state the story is the same. Massive lines, sold out shows, standing ovations." Well, of course, that's what you'd expect Michael Moore (or site editor David Schankula) to write, but still, it's fun reading samples of at least some of the reaction from all across the US and Canada. Plus: Photos.

  • Stephanie Simon reports in the Los Angeles Times that the film is indeed reaching a crossover audience.

  • Bruce Weber, filing from the heart of flyover country, finds a similar trend, at least on opening weekend. Also in the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg updates the ongoing debate on whether ads for the film amount to ads for John Kerry.

  • The Observer's Mark Kermode is no fan of Michael Moore.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Emelia. "Just your average five-year-old goth girl..." Via AnimWatch.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:07 AM

June 26, 2004

Recollections and shorts.

Granta: Film The new issue of Granta is number 86 and bears the simple title, "Film." The Guardian has already run one of the pieces in its Review, Thomas Keneally's on how Schindler's list wound up in his hands. Today, the paper runs another, an abridged version of Ian Jack's moving piece on... well, many, many things, but its built on a recollection of his brother's favorite film.

Granta offers three more online:

  • Gaby Wood's, on Lana Turner, begins with a murder and moves on fast, as if racing through a noir museum.
  • Adam Mars-Jones: "The omnipresence of music in films is part of a general cultural pattern of obliterating silence, in lifts, airports, shopping centres, lobbies and restaurants." And yes, that is a bad thing.
  • Atom Egoyan's contribution is short, but of course, compact and damn clever.

Back to the Guardian. If you, too, have been wondering lately whether David Thomson's voice has been wandering astray, today, he reminds us that when he's good, he's very good:

[T]he great lesson in the coming season of Cagney pictures at the National Film Theatre is the chance to feel again the excitement of the movies when they were a new form, when an actor might be unashamed of energy, when emotion could be directly translated into motion. Nor has Cagney dated. See him today and you feel that no one has ever been as radiant a hoodlum as Cagney - because he knew in his bones that violence was a variant on being a dancer. Near the end of his career, it was no surprise that Cagney was inspired as the great horror-movie actor, Lon Chaney, in Man of a Thousand Faces. Just like Chaney, or Fred Astaire, or Mickey Mouse, Cagney was a motile form, electrified by the possibility of being seen.

Also in the Guardian:

Wayne of A Better Tomorrow fame has dropped by to point to Yu Sen-lun's delightful piece in the Taipei Times on Tsai Ming-Liang's next film, Wayward Wind, "a singing and dancing extravaganza that even features some transvestites... 'This is going to be a lively and bustling movie and I think it will be a breakthrough for myself in terms of a film style,' Tsai said."

Josh Levin's noticed that a helluva lot of trailers have been ending with a smack in the face or a knock on head lately. He investigates for Slate.

Atlantic Monthly: Tour of Duty Jodi Wilgoren views bits of a film that used to be called "Tour of Duty" (but now, as it's being completed, still needs a name), made by a long-time friend of John Kerry, George Butler, and notes its place in "the newly crowded nexus of film and politics, where instead of trying to compete with summer movies, politicians seem to be starring in them."Wilgoren then files from LA where Hollywood celebs attended a fund-raising event that chalked up $5 million for the Kerry campaign: "Throughout the night... the performers strained to say that they were not just anti-Bush, but pro-Kerry. Ben Affleck, who grew up in Massachusetts, Mr. Kerry's home state, declared, 'I know the man.' Leonardo DiCaprio called him 'a lifelong champion of the environment,' and [Billy] Crystal, speaking about the Vietnam War, said, 'John Kerry was an actual action hero.'"

Also in the NYT:

  • Kelefa Sanneh considers the career of Keenan Ivory Wayans and his "unlikely comedy dynasty." And of course, White Chicks: "It could be a joke straight out of Hollywood Shuffle: How do you turn black actors into mainstream stars? Dress them up as white women."
  • AO Scott previews the Cine México series at the Film Forum: "[T]o recommend it on pedagogical grounds would be unfair to the movies themselves, which include rambunctious comedies, politically tinged quasi-westerns, costume epics, abstract art films and plenty of sighing, swooning, black-and-white tear jerkers."
  • Robert Levine profiles Avi Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios: "Yes, Mr. Arad sometimes speaks of the 'Marvel brand" or refers to the company's characters as 'intellectual property.' More often, though, he talks about the comics as 'literature' with the universal resonance of Greek myth."
  • Micheline Maynard reports on the "'R-card,' a parent permission slip" that allows under-17s to see an R-rated movie unaccompanied.

Jim McKay's Everyday People is playing on HBO. Eugene Hernandez interviews the director for indieWIRE and so does Craig Phillips for us.

Online browsing tip. Eurobad '74. Via b3ta.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:32 PM

Fahrenheit Weekend

David Edelstein in Slate: "In 20 years of writing about film, no movie has ever tied me up in knots the way Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (Lion's Gate) has. It delighted me; it disgusted me. I celebrate it; I lament it. I'm sure of only one thing: that I don't trust anyone - pro or con - who doesn't feel a twinge of doubt about his or her responses."

Jon Lebkowsky does a very smart thing. Instead of raking through the entirety of Christopher Hitchens's rant in Slate, he responds relatively calmly to just a handful of the most glaring instances of Hitchens's invective clouding his ability to reason. More in a similar vein from Steve Smith.

Fahrenheit 9/11

David Brooks, the latest conservative added to the roster of columnists at the New York Times, pulls a Michael Moore on Michael Moore. Just as Moore has clipped some of the goofier things Bush has said when speaking to a friendly crowd ("Some call you the elite; I call you my base"), Brooks rounds up some of the goofier things Moore has said when he gets rolling. On another page, Frank Rich stacks up John Ashcroft's slanted evidence against Moore's.

Ray Pride for Movie City News: "Let a thousand footnotes bloom, I say, but don't let the facts be drowned out in critiques of Moore's personality.... Moore doesn't hate America, or soldiers, or life itself, which seems to be the line of a range of journalists who aren't otherwise occupied reviewing Bill Clinton's memoir before reading it."

For Atlantic Unbound, Jack Beatty argues that the My Pet Goat scene is "Bush's Monica Moment."

Newsweek places two related online-only columns front and center at its site. Eleanor Clift's is the one that's highlighted, but there's little there that'll be news to you. But T Trent Gegax's draws attention to another doc that - like Gunner Palace - may be able to reach beyond the choir and touch both sides of the aisle: "[W]here conspiracy theory distracts Moore's tour de farce, Dick Mahoney's [Strong at the] Broken Places largely ignores the 'why' of the Iraq war in favor of the 'whom.' It's the story of the warriors, made with the hope that it will force better future thinking out [of] Washington's warmakers."

The Guardian rounds up snippets of US critical reaction.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 PM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2004

Shorts, 6/25.

Speer und er Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung editor Frank Schirrmacher explains why he sees two current film projects as "the most important historical projects in years."

Until now, Germans haven't played Hitler. German movies always showed him - if he was portrayed by an actor at all - only for fractions of a second, from behind or from a distance, and almost always without text.... This much is clear already: Both movies break with the traditional German preoccupation with the Third Reich. Bruno Ganz as Hitler (in [Bernd] Eichinger's production [Der Untergang (Downfall), directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel; more in German here]) and Tobias Moretti as Hitler in [Heinrich ] Breloer's The Devil's Architect [Speer und er] will not just be figures for film critics. They will be brought onto the silver screen at the historical moment when the very last witnesses have died, and thus mark the ultimate transition from the contemporary to posterity.

Of course, when he writes that Germans haven't played Hitler on screen, he means in the popular cinema. Heinz Schubert played a toga-clad Hitler quoting Wagner in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler: A Film From Germany, for example. Anyway, also in the FAZ Weekly: Michael Althen considers the closing of the Royal Palast in Berlin, once the largest non-Imax screen in Europe, and what it signals for cinemas and cities.

Excellent news for the New York Times and even better news for the vast majority of us who balk at paying nearly $60 a year for access to the entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times: We'll finally be able to read Manohla Dargis again. Nikke Finke is reporting that, as part of an ongoing raid on the LAT, Dargis will be making the switch, writing for the NYT, though she'll stay in LA.

"The campaign to tar Pauline Kael as a homophobe began over her review of Rich and Famous, a 1981 drama with a footnote value as the last film by George Cukor..." Salon runs an excerpt from Craig Seligmann's Sontag & Kael.

Leonard Klady meets Ferenc Toth, whose first feature, Unknown Soldier, is showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Red Lights

Doug Cummings: "The last two features I've screened at the LAFF are exemplary thrillers, both immersed in existentialist dread, both diverging in tone: Cédric Kahn's brooding and suggestive mood piece, Red Lights (Feux rouges, 2004), and Raoul Ruiz's comedic and flamboyant neo-noir, A Taste of Murder."

"After almost two years of tentative and cancelled announcements (by numerous companies) it looks as if 2005 will definitely be the year of Robert Bresson on DVD." has initial details at Masters of Cinema.

JD Aschraft posts thoughts and pix he gathered from Silverdocs.

Oh, my. Here comes the Outkast "full-blown singing and dancing musical." Steve Gallagher passes the word along at Filmmaker.

Guy Maddin tells Jennifer Rodger why a particular scene in Josef von Sternberg's Dishonored works and why another in Roman Polanski's The Pianist doesn't. Also in the Independent: Nick Hasted on skateboard movies in general and Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator specifically; and Sheila Johnston meets family man Michael Douglas.

In the Guardian, Gavin Lambert explains why he felt compelled to write a book about Natalie Wood and Alex Cox criticizes the absence of foreign language films on British TV.

Online viewing tip. "Naked As We Came." Via videos.antville.org.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

Fahrenheit 9/11: Opening Day.

"Are you outraged, heartbroken, vengeful, morose, gloating, thoughtful, electrified? Moore has elicited all of these emotions and then had the nerve - the filmmaker's nerve - to leave you to sort them out." Stuart Klawans in The Nation:

I think there are two bundles of messages in Fahrenheit 9/11, one political and one emotional - and while the first is about as ambiguous as a call to take up pitchforks and torches and storm the castle, the second is too complex to unsettle those in power. It works to unsettle you. It's what makes Fahrenheit 9/11 a real movie.

Fahrenheit 9/11

The Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum had only an hour between his screening and his deadline, but he manages to restate the case well that documentaries not only cannot but should not be objective, and what's more - and really, this can't be emphasized enough, evidently - "Sure, it's manipulative and slanted - but transparently so, unlike Fox News or CNBC." (Anthony Kaufman drives this point home, too.) Rosenbaum also recalls a contemporary review of Chaplin's The Great Dictator and hammers home a point Klawans underscores as well: Moore is just as critical of Democrats as Republicans.

The Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams recommends Fahrenheit 9/11 but not without reservation. Regarding the My Pet Goat sequence, for example, he writes, "Moore's weakness for kicking up clouds of rhetoric is close to a fatal flaw, allowable in a free-form essay like Bowling for Columbine but unacceptable, even counterproductive, here." (Adams also has an interesting angle on Visconti, by the way.)

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez, who rounds up a "Guess the Grosses" poll on his blog, was among a small group of journalists who nabbed a lunchtime interview with Michael Moore in Cannes back in May, somewhere between Fahrenheit 9/11's world premiere and its winning the Palme d'Or. "'I've wanted this non-fiction movement to take hold,' Moore said, signaling out such films as Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty & Pierce Rafferty's Atomic Café and Ross McElwee's Sherman's March. 'I've never understood why non-fiction has been the bastard child of the form.'"

Greg Pak is amused by the user ratings at Box Office Mojo and the IMDb. Meantime, the movie is selling tickets.

Elizabeth Carmody had a marvelous time at a 1 am screening in NYC; it was "like a party." The Cinecultist is a bit more skeptical. Filmbrain - who's seeing some very fine and well-considered comments these days - finds Moore's tactics ultimately justified.

Can't say Matt Langdon isn't fair and balanced. After posting samples of the hate mail theaters have been receiving for showing F9/11, he follows up with selected bits of "'love' mail."

Via Movie City News: Paul Bond in the Hollywood Reporter on an anti-Michael Moore fest: "Scheduled Sept. 9-11 in Dallas, the American Film Renaissance, as the festival will be known, has just been announced by co-founder Jim Hubbard, who said it is bankrolled primarily by some 'big-time conservative donors.'"

Felicia R Lee reports in the New York Times that Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, is complaining to the Federal Election Commission about TV ads for the film, claiming they violate the campaign finance law; there's much more on this via MCN from Alexander Bolton in The Hill

Online listening tip. Your Call: "What Makes an Effective Political Film?" With Control Room director Jehane Noujaim, one the directors of The Corporation, Mark Achbar and the San Francisco Chronicle's Jonathan Curiel.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:08 AM

June 24, 2004

Shorts, 6/24.

Phoebe 2002 "The idea of it alone is almost enough. A 600-page mock-epic poem, written tag-team by three poets, about nothing more than that catty old Bette Davis movie, All About Eve." Tom Nissley reviews Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse by Jeffrey Conway, Lynn Crosbie and David Trinidad; and God Save My Queen: A Tribute, by Daniel Nester. "[W]here they sprawl, he refines; where they reveal, he veils."

Also in the Stranger:

For the Guardian, Sarah Left interviews Gunner Palace filmmaker Michael Tucker. Don't miss our talk with him, either.

Reviewing Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael, John Powers wonders what might have happened if they'd come of age "not in the 1960s, when the culture pulsed with a feeling of liberation, but in our anti-feminist backlash days":

When a male reviewer like me points out that Starsky & Hutch displays a disgustingly puerile attitude toward women (wasn't Ben Stiller once thought to be smart?), this proves I’m a sensitive guy, a hero. When a woman makes the identical observation, she's considered a strident bitch.

Also in the LA Weekly:

  • Ella Taylor on Fahrenheit 9/11. It roars, but it's "also a bid to recapture patriotism from the conservatives and enshrine it as a left virtue, largely by paying its respects to the dispossessed Americans who are staffing a war they don’t understand and, increasingly, don’t want to wage."
  • Walter Chaw reviews Jean-Jacques Annaud's Two Brothers and Aleksandr Sokurov's Father and Son.
  • An excerpt from Larry Sultan's The Valley, the catalog for the exhibition currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • Nikke Finke recalls Buck Henry's wonderful cameo in The Player: "Okay, here it is: The Graduate, Part II!" But here's the thing: This movie is evidently on, though screenwriter and director Ted Griffin denies it, sort of: "It's not a sequel. It's the story of people who inspired the characters in the movie but not about the characters in the movie.”

Oliver Wang's "Tale of Two Marquees."

John Files reports in the New York Times on the premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Washington and New York. Also: Sharon Waxman takes measure of just how much weight Mel Gibson has to throw around in Hollywood these days. Related: Rob Kutner's "Thou-Shalt-See TV."

Marc Savlov is impressed by the work coming out of Austin's Motion Media Arts Center - work being done by teens. So he talks with eight of them. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Kimberley Jones introduces the East Austin Stories documentary project; and brief reviews of not-so-brief DVDs:

Online viewing tip. Music videos at the Submarine Channel. Via the Broken Saints newsletter.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:59 AM

June 23, 2004

Shorts, 6/23.

Michael Grigsby Matthew Sweet in the Independent on documentary filmmaker Michael Grigsby:

With its languorous shots of the American landscape, I Was a Soldier (1970), his portrait of three American boys returned from the darkness of Vietnam, is like a Terrence Malick picture in miniature. A Life Apart (1973), an unpatronising document of working-class life, gave voice to the hopes and fears of a group of Lancashire trawler men. Living on the Edge (1987) told the stories of three British families and the slow disappearance of their livelihoods and self-respect, and is the most lyrical and unemphatic denunciation of Thatcherism that you're likely to see. Lockerbie - A Night Remembered (1998) allows members of that decimated community to give their own accounts of the events of 21 December 1988, and in doing so, makes amends for all the hit-and-run TV journalism they suffered in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. A crying shame, then, that Grigsby now finds it almost impossible to find work in the medium to which he has contributed so much.

A few weeks ago, Wendy Ide interviewed Grigsby for the London Times; and there's a bit more to explore at the BFI's screenonline.

IndieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell turns in a lengthy report on CineVegas. Great stuff on the films and the stars, but you've got to love this sentence: "When a hooker is only a phone call away, endless buffet food is beckoning, and casinos are enticing you with free drinks and the lure of winning big at craps, it can be hard to concentrate on films."

After the Apocalypse In other fest news, a reminder that Movie City News has a page devoted to the Los Angeles Film Festival, where the most recent feature-length entries are Gary Dretzka's review of The Hunting of the President and Leonard Klady's interview with Yasuaki Nakajima, whose feature debut is After the Apocalypse.

Doug Cummings reviews four films he's caught at LAFF.

Anthony Kaufman notes that the makers of The Corporation are trying to get their trailer added to Apple's collection. Send a kind request to trailers@mac.com.

In the Guardian, Christopher Reed remembers horror producer Max Rosenberg, who was also an early distributor of foreign film to US art houses.

Collected in Stay Free: Silly things people have done imitating things they've seen on TV and in the movies. The magazine's readers have also sent in their own confessions and anecdotes.

In the Village Voice:

The Leopard "Is it possible that The Leopard is the greatest movie ever made?" asks Matthew Wilder in the City Pages. "The Criterion Collection's invaluable new DVD - a dream from which you never want to wake - makes a persuasive case."

Billy Elliot: The Musical. In London's West End in March, reports the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins.

At Alternet, Silja JA Talvi talks to documentary filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman about their new one, Thirst. It's like a primer on the "water rush," a struggle you don't hear much about yet, but as Talvi writes, the struggle over control of global water supplies promises to become "one of the most volatile and potentially galvanizing issues of the 21st century."

For the New York Observer, George Gurley meets the rambunctious Bai Ling: "I have eight little girls in me. They are wearing miniskirts, they’re very cute, always dressed up. I am just a house for them to live."

Chuck Stephens in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "At once a self-mocking documentary about the filmmaking process generally, a portrait of the very different attitudes and aptitudes beneath [Lars] von Trier's and [Jørgen] Leth's working methods in particular, and a feature-length experimental narrative that takes much pleasure in withholding as much information as it manages to kaleidoscope together, The Five Obstructions merges high-concept comedy with potentially ego-bruising psychodrama, resulting in a film that seems somehow both cryptic and enlightening." Also: Cheryl Eddy on The Notebook.

Mysterium Occupation, a trilogy set in Belarus during WWII which was shown earlier this year in Rotterdam, has been invited to the Moscow International Film Festival. Which has led to its being banned at home. Anna Malpas reports in the Moscow Times.

"Until I was 16, I wanted to be Holden Caulfield; from 16 to 23, I wanted to be Neal Cassady. I wasn’t cool enough. I guess after 23, I tried to be me." Ethan Hawke is on the cover of New York. Vanessa Grigoriadis does the honors.

Morgan Spurlock is off to Europe again, and he's packing his wit: "Right now I am working on my next film: eating nothing but airplane food for 30 days straight. It's a horror film."

From Tagline, Stephen Reid points to a "mammoth" interview in Comics Continuum with Sam Raimi.

Filmbrain reviews one of two shorts Stanley Kubrick made in 1951; "the far superior Day of the Flight" is up next.

Online listening tip. Greg Allen notes that WNYC's Sara Fishko has been talking movies lately.

Major online viewing tip. Chuck Olsen has posted two more clips from Blogumentary.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:13 PM

F9/11 in NYC.

It's probably only natural that on the day the year's first or second most controversial movie - looks like it's still a dead heat between the evisceration of Jesus and the evisceration of Bush - opens in New York and two days before it opens in over 860 theaters, there'd be a lot to point to; hence, yet another entry given over entirely to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Best to begin with Eugene Hernandez's wrap-up of the latest news at indieWIRE, focusing on the MPAA's ruling against the appeal to switch the film's rating from R to PG-13.

Both Movie City News and the New York Times have now set up special sections for coverage of Michael Moore's doc.

And it's via MCN that we find Chris Parry over at Hollywood Bitchslap taking on the task of foraging through Christopher Hitchens's "rambling" piece. It's a quick job, to be sure, but there you go. For more rapid-fire response - and there's plenty - browse Slate's Fray.

Matt Langdon, by the way, has a photo of Hitchens and Moore's first "onstage debate" at Telluride. Both look like they're having just a fabulous time. Writes Matt: "Hitchens smoked incessantly and talked in a low, rough voice while Moore played the crowd like a violin." But here's the stuff to savor: Hate mail sent to theaters showing the movie. If words were deeds...

A few reviews:

  • Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "It is propaganda, no doubt about it, but propaganda is most effective when it has elements of truth, and too much here is taken from the record not to have a devastating effect on viewers."
  • AO Scott in the NYT: "If Fahrenheit 9/11 consisted solely of talking heads and unflattering glimpses of public figures, it would be, depending on your politics, either a rousing call to arms or an irresponsible provocation, but it might not persuade you to re-examine your assumptions. But the movie is much more than Dude, Where's My Country carried out by other means. It is worth seeing, debating and thinking about, regardless of your political allegiances." Also in the NYT, Felicia R Lee on how the PR campaign's going.
  • Both New York Observer film critics chime in. Andrew Sarris calls the film "a mixed bag, and you take the bad with the good. In fact, you have to take the bad for the sake of the good.... I urge all my readers to see the film and judge it for yourselves." Rex Reed: "I think it should be required viewing for every American, but as usual, I fear the people who could learn the most from the issues it raises will avoid it like a fund-raiser for free abortions."
  • Peter Rainer in New York: "[S]ince Moore’s stated intention with this movie is to drive Bush out in November, perhaps he is right in pushing agitprop over art. So allow me to rescind all my objections and state unequivocally that everybody should see Fahrenheit 9/11 because it is the greatest movie ever made. Whatever helps."

John Gorenfeld in Salon: "Just as the energetic conservative elves succeeded in making Bill Clinton ever more popular with the American public, so do they seem to be driving up public interest in Moore's film." Also, Andrew O'Hehir: "Everybody who meets Michael Moore gets a story out of it; here's mine." And Stephanie Zacharek: "[E]ven though I'm part of the choir Moore is preaching to, I can't help blanching at his approach."

David Poland refutes Michael Moore's version of how those final days leading up to distribution deal actually went.

Michael Moore (or site editor David Shankula) shoots down Michael Isikoff's criticisms of the film in Newsweek, point by point.

Good thing Eisner wouldn't have anything to do with the film. We'd hate to think one of the world's largest media conglomerates harbors a bias of any sort, one way or the other. Which makes it doubly refreshing to read in WorldNetDaily that Disney will be giving away free Bible study guides to promote America's Heart & Soul.

Four pieces in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

  • Moore's style rubs Johnny Ray Huston the wrong way. He would have preferred the approach Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway took in Feed, still a "penetrating, even prophetic historical work" 12 years on. Fine. In the long run, Feed may be regarded as the superior work; but even this raucous year, it wouldn't have played in multiplexes in Kansas.
  • B Ruby Rich reshuffles the argument she made in Sight & Sound: "I thank Moore for dispensing Geritol to a tired left. But I want more: I want the smoking gun I somehow believed Fahrenheit 9/11 would produce."
  • Susan Gerhard places the film in the context of Moore's other work and not only breaks ranks by actually wishing there were more of him in F9/11, but also eloquently notes that "it's still Moore's Michigan that is reliably, oddly, front and center."
  • Camille T Taiara covers the Move America Forward angle.

Steve Rosenbaum: "So I left angry. But not angry with George Bush. Or Donald Rumsfeld. Or Ashcroft. Or Condi Rice. I was angry at myself. This isn't anyone else’s country. It's mine. And this Government doesn't act in a vacuum."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM

June 22, 2004

The Moore wars begin in earnest.

Christopher Hitchens Christopher Hitchens's "Unfairenheit 9/11" in Slate isn't your run-of-the-mill hatchet job. Not only is it messy as hell, it's also a pretty damn vicious piece of work that gets weirdly personal: "And as for the scary lawyers - get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride [where Hitchens and Moore engaged in an 'onstage debate']. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of."

To be fair, Fahrenheit 9/11 is itself an argument, so counter-arguments are to be expected. But next time Hitchens sits down at his keyboard to attempt one, he really ought to observe his own rules. If you click over to read his tirade, bring an umbrella. The vitriol and spit fly pretty fast and very indiscriminately.

Will it lead to a libel suit? Hitchens certainly seems to be fishing for one. Jack Shafer, Slate's editor at large, comes right out and pretty much admits the whole exercise is a cheap stunt: "Moore isn't likely to find a more severe appraisal of his film and his work than this Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens. Read it, Mr. Moore. We invite your suit."

Kind of makes you miss Michael Kinsley, doesn't it.

Meanwhile, J Hoberman, whose political convictions don't change with the wind, reviews F9/11: "Self-promotion aside, his most formidable talent has turned out to be editing found footage.... If Moore is formidable, it's not because he is a great filmmaker (far from it), but because he infuses his sense of ridicule with the fury of moral indignation."

More F9/11 coverage in the Voice:

  • Hoberman recalls other films that have been aimed at influencing US elections. Excellent piece.
  • Anthony Kaufman assesses the role F9/11 has had in the deteriorating relationship between Disney and Miramax. By the way, for Reuters, Bob Tourtellotte reports on the financial squeeze Miramax is in at the moment.
  • And the unrivaled Michael Musto attended the New York premiere.

NYP: Michael Moore Back to the other side of the fence. It isn't a surprise, though it is disheartening, to read the often insightful Armond White bash Quentin Tarantino - even to the point of implying that we have QT to thank for George W Bush! - before tearing into F/911. The crux: "Moore's insensitivity - certain to the point of hostility that he alone is right - amounts to liberalism with a fascist face."

Well. Some newsy bits:

Gary Strauss's profile of Michael Moore in USA Today adds a few more details about his background you might not have run across before. Via the SXSW News Reel.

"Two movie studios quietly made an inauspicious sort of history by doing something no studio had ever done in the history of Hollywood: They each moved the release date of a feature film to avoid getting trampled at the box office by a documentary." Simon Houpt reports in the Globe and Mail - on other docs as well.

David Poland proves just how hard it is to look at any doc these days and not measure it one way or the other against F9/11. Personally, I have a hunch I might like both F9/11 and America's Heart & Soul. We'll see.

The MPAA is refusing to allow former New York Governor Mario Cuomo head up the appeal for a PG-13 rating instead of the R that stands at the moment. Ian Mohr has the story in the Hollywood Reporter. Via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:55 AM | Comments (10)

June 21, 2004

Sights, sounds and shorts.

Sight & Sound Look who's on the cover of Sight & Sound. There's much to admire in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, writes B Ruby Rich: "Moore has developed a new tone for this opus: aggrieved dismay. This time around he lets the audience supply the rage." But on the other hand, there's a flaw she comes this close to saying is a fatal one if Moore's true aim is to dethrone Bush. "There's a very simple statement that has to be made: the only way to defeat George W Bush is to elect John Kerry. But F*9/11 doesn't make it... I'm afraid that, unless his godfather Harvey Weinstein has a plan up his sleeve that's equal to his infamous Oscar coups, we could well be in trouble, come November."

But isn't that putting a bit much weight on a documentary that, let's face it, will probably be seen primarily by those who already agree with Moore in the first place? Let doc rev up the base and let's hope the Democrats know how to channel that anger and energy wisely. If Moore accomplishes nothing else, he'll already have achieved more than Kerry has so far.

Anyway. Elsewhere in the July issue, David Forgacs has a piece you'll definitely want to read if you're planning - and evidently, you should be - to devote six hours some time this year to The Best of Youth, the story of an Italian family told pretty much through the second half of the 20th century. And then there are the reviews: Liese Spencer on One for the Road, John Wrathall on A Silence Between Two Thoughts and Richard Kelly on Troy.

Writing for Alternet, Neem Mohaiemen, director of Muslims or Heretics?, takes stock of the wave of political docs on offer this summer and finds it well and good, but: "It's critical that these films are made available to heartland and swing state audiences as well." That's one thing. The other is the weird absence of fictional counterparts:

In a similar moment in the 1970s, Vietnam, Kent State, Attica, and the Watergate scandal inspired a dark anti-establishment and anti-war mood at movie theaters. This found expression in films as diverse as All the President's Men (Watergate), The Conversation (Phone-tapping), Network (corrupt media), Deer Hunter (suicidal Vietnam vets), Serpico (corrupt cops), Three Days Of The Condor (corrupt CIA), Apocalypse Now (trigger-happy lunatics in Vietnam), and Coming Home (crippled vet). By contrast, the only major Hollywood release this year that has a "political premise" is the Jonathan Demme remake of Manchurian Candidate (with Denzel Washington replacing Frank Sinatra, read into that what you will!).

Michael Agger has a piece on the New York Asian Film Festival most probably unlike any other you'll find, not only recounting the short history of the fest but also practically delighting in its vivid portrait of one of the founders, Grady Hendrix: "If you wanted to see, say, a naked man suspended from hooks so that his skin stretches, while someone pours boiling oil all over him and sticks needles through his cheeks, well, he knows just the movie for you."

The New Yorker Also in the New Yorker:

  • David Denby admits that, with Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore has come a long way as a filmmaker, but he still finds Moore the polemicist, the "joker," immensely frustrating. Since that's hardly news, what's more interesting about his review is the apparent contrast between Moore's faith in the American public and his own. Read it through, see if you catch the same dichotomy.
  • In an online-only interview, Amy Davidson asks Connie Buck about her print-only feature on the governor of California, and sure enough, "the Presidency is, indeed, Schwarzenegger's long-term goal."
  • Fox is claiming the "revolution" will be televised. Nancy Franklin is amused.

Via Perlentaucher:

  • Mohamed El-Assyouti interviews Osama Fawzi, director of Bahib Al-Sima (I Love Cinema), for Al-Ahram Weekly: "The film is set in the 1960s because, Fawzi explains, 'there are many nuances to the story that [he] would have not been permitted to include in a film directly representing contemporary Egypt and because the historic distance allows for a contemplation of the root causes of the problems we face now.'"

  • Smruti Koppikar in Outlook India: "By looking at the way majority communalism has crept into our constitutional institutions, corrupting them with ideological hardliners and rendering them incapable of rising to their calling, Dev makes a hard-hitting statement about the India we encounter. It’s about ‘us’ versus ‘them’, Hindus and Muslims, mainstream and isolated, ‘natural’ citizens and second-class citizens." Subash K Jha interviews the film's star, Amitabh Bachchan.

Adrian Martin in Film-Philosophy: "Because it is so good at what it does, and so astute within the limits it sets for itself, [John Gibbs's] Mise-en-scène: Film Style and Interpretation is a book worth arguing with."

Online viewing tip. Music videos from the house of Colonel Blimp.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:28 AM | Comments (5)

June 20, 2004

Newsweek knows its readers.

Two editions of Newsweek, two cover packages on two movies.

Newsweek x 2

No points for guessing which edition aims to lure the eyes of American shoppers and which is meant to ring up sales at corner kiosks abroad.

Sean Smith heads up the US edition's Spider-Man 2 cover package with a little conjecture on why the first movie clicked, a little background on the tension between Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi, a little gossip on Kirstin Dunst's "awkward" situation and a final thumbs-up plug. Jeff Giles takes it from there: "Sam Raimi has made a terrific film... a better movie [than the original] by almost every standard."

Though he's got no news for anyone who's been following this blog or thousands of others, David Jefferson's overview of the Fahrenheit 9/11 story is pretty amusing - and appears in the US edition as well. So does Michael Isikoff's brief exercise in fact-checking. But Newsweek's international edition is the one with Christopher Dickey's piece on why Michael Moore is so dearly beloved in Europe. He's got a nice representative set of quotes, too:

  • Gilles Delafon: "The problem for the French is that they don't want to appear anti-American, even if they are. So they like Michael Moore because they can say, 'Look, he's an American who's anti-Bush!"
  • Rob Blackhurst of London's Foreign Policy Centre: "Moore represents an honest - or at least demagogical - voice which perhaps we [British] lack."
  • And: "As Wieland Freund wrote in the Berlin daily Die Welt, Moore has made Germans feel like 'point men for the good cause - finally, for once.'"

No wonder Morgan Spurlock had such a good time here in the German capital, too. Even so: "In Germany, two of the biggest TV stations in the country - SAT 1 and PRO 7 - wanted to do interviews with me. The journalists were ready to go when their bosses pulled the plug. The reason: McD is one of their biggest advertisers and they didn't want to jeopardize losing their money. Scary. Just like America, countries around the world also have free speech... so long as it's okay with the sponsor."

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

More Sunday reading: Chuck Klosterman in the New York Times Magazine on Some Kind of Monster,

the most in-depth, long-form psychological profile of any rock band that has ever existed. It's also the closest anyone has ever come to making a real-life This Is Spinal Tap. You could even argue that Some Kind of Monster is a rock 'n' roll film that really has nothing to do with music, and that it's actually a 2-hour-20-minute meditation on therapy, celebrity and the possibility that just about everyone is a little damaged. That's because the men who made Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the directors) and its on-screen therapist (a sweater-clad 65-year-old named Phil Towle) seemed to need therapy as much as Metallica.

Also in the paper and magazine:

  • Leslie Camhi previews the exhibition "Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972-1985," opening at the Whitney on July 1. She was, writes Camhi, "the most prolific artist-filmmaker of her generation."
  • Rob Walker knows why you really want that thin plasma screen: It ain't for the picture quality.
  • Kevin Kline's closet is a tad fuller after De-Lovely, reports Ken Gross.
  • Charles McGrath defends dodgeball. The game, not the movie.

Sean Spillane points to an "Extraordinary Metafilter uber-post on Nicholas Ray with 42 (yes, 42!) Ray-related links." Also: Sergio Leone on John Ford.

Sean O'Hagan profiles Richard Jobson, the former Skids lead singer who interviewed Luc Besson in 2000 and has now completed two feature films, 16 Years of Alcohol and The Purifiers.

The Purifiers

Also in the Observer: Gaby Wood reviews Gavin Lambert's biography of Natalie Wood, Vanessa Thorpe reviews Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's My Nine Lives: Chapters of a Possible Past and Stephanie Theobald reviews the gap between what the porn industry pumps out and what women want.

Via Movie City News, Tom Ryan's piece in The Age on Hollywood endings. Particularly good here are Douglas Sirk's 1973 remarks:

That the happy ending counts as something typically American is completely understandable. Especially when one considers that the American spectator, above all others, must not know that he can be a failure, in his profession, in love, in his struggle with himself. So when he is in the dark womb of the auditorium, constantly flanked on both sides by those doors above which shines, in blood-red, ‘EXIT', then he hopes that there is such an emergency exit for the characters with whom he identifies in the film.

Christopher Goodwin profiles Antonio Banderas for the London Times.

Read French? Via filmfilter, une discussion avec l'artiste Abbas Kiarostami, conducted by Shahin Parhami for Hors Champ.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:57 AM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Michael Moore "[Michael] Moore's real test will come on the issue of accuracy," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. The New York Times senses that as well, and has sent Philip Shenon to look into it:

[I]f Fahrenheit 9/11 attracts the audience Mr. Moore and his distributors are predicting, Mr. Moore may face an onslaught of fact-checking unlike anything he - or any other documentary filmmaker - has ever experienced.... After a year spent covering the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, I was recently allowed to attend a Hollywood screening. Based on that single viewing, and after separating out what is clearly presented as Mr. Moore's opinion from what is stated as fact, it seems safe to say that central assertions of fact in Fahrenheit 9/11 are supported by the public record (indeed, many of them will be familiar to those who have closely followed Mr. Bush's political career).

Shenon then goes on to detail just how Moore and his team are preparing for that onslaught: a "war room" is prepared to hit back with "instant response to any assault on the film's credibility"; a team of fact-checkers is going through the film's final edit with a fine-toothed comb; and Moore's got lawyers at the ready: "We want the word out... Any attempts to libel me will be met by force."

Also in the paper: Todd S Purdum compares and contrasts the two Cole Porter biopics, Night and Day and De-Lovely, and David Edelstein considers the career of Ben Stiller: "Few actors - few comedians, even - have made such box-office hay out of their pathologies."

What'll you be reading this summer? Douglas Coupland recommends Dennis Hensley's Screening Party. Also in the Guardian:

  • Steven Poole reviews Koji Suzuki's Ring, the novel on which the films are based.
  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week is Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life.
  • Sean Clarke covers the legal wrangle over Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs.
  • Decca Aitkenhead profiles Jennifer Saunders. It's longish, so you might want to scroll past the breaking-the-ice Shrek stuff and start about halfway in where we get background on her teaming with Dawn French and other tidbits on Brit TV in the 80s.
  • Steve Rose chronicles Kevin Smith's horrid European adventure and then asks him about his future plans: "[H]e's got a small ($250,000) project starting in October. No clues as to the story though, 'let's just say I won't need Affleck for this'. Could he afford Affleck for this? He cracks into a smirk. 'Oh I think Ben could be pretty cheap right now.'"
  • Joel Coen has also spent his time in Europe defending the recent direction he and his brother have taken; in case he forgets his audience isn't buying it, John Patterson reminds him.

Sibel Kekilli

Fatih Akin's Head On, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in February, swept the German Film Awards last night, picking up five: Best film, director and cinematography, best actor for Birol Ünel and, the highlight of the evening, best actress for Sibel Kekilli. You may remember the smear campaign launched against her by Germany's most notorious tabloid just days after the Berlinale triumph (Reuters will remind you as well). German audiences and critics ignored it and made the film a hit and Kekilli the darling of last night's ceremony. At any rate, all the winners are listed here.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:48 AM

June 18, 2004

Shorts, 6/18.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore Let's, just this once, start off with a different Moore, shall we. Via filmfilter, Adrian Brown's review of Dez Vylenz's The Mindscape of Alan Moore, "mapped more clearly than ever by this film." FF then helpfully points to Frank Beaton's interview with Moore and the Ninth Art's Alan Moore List.

There. Now back to our regularly scheduled controversy. At Alternet, Bill Berkowitz has good background on the Republicans trying to ensure that as few people as possible see Fahrenheit 9/11 and warns: "The all-out assault... is just getting started."

Tina Brown in the Washington Post: "It speaks to how desperate New York Democrats feel that a New York premiere audience filled not just with credulous movie stars but top-of-the-line editors, First Amendment lawyers and sober-suited Wall Street donors was so forgiving of Moore's raucous cartoon history." But the she adds, following a description of the scene of Bush in the elementary school on the morning of 9/11, "The usual arguments against Moore - that he's intellectually dishonest, that he's a master of the cheap shot, that he's a loudmouthed neo-Marxist boor - are beside the point against the power of such moments." Even so, Brown's convinced The Hunting of the President is the doc that'll last longest as history marches on. But then, that's a story set in her own heyday, too.

Via the SXSW News Reel, the AP's Madison J Gray on Bill Clinton's comments following the New York premiere of Hunting: "When the Berlin wall fell, the perpetual right in America, which always needs an enemy, didn't have an enemy any more, so I had to serve as the next best thing."

Three great days in a row at Bitter Cinema: Did you know that James Joyce opened and ran Ireland's first cinema? Sean Spillane's also found a list of films sorted by their philosophical bent; and Agostino Ambrosio's argument that, while 2001: A Space Odyssey looks "absolutely convincing," the Aries-1B spacecraft is actually all wrong.

"The movie moguls could learn from the mistakes, and the recent successes, of the music guys," argues Paul Boutin. "An iTunes for movies - a well-designed, super user-friendly video store with fast, reliable downloads... would lure consumers into paying. Not by making piracy feel criminal, but by making it feel inconvenient." Also in Slate: Daniel Kimmage: "Although al-Qaida adherents are commonly described as having a medieval worldview, their rhetoric and self-image owe as much to blockbuster movies and Mortal Kombat as to epic tales of seventh-century Islam." And David Edelstein on The Terminal.

Richard Matheson's short story "Duel" appears only in the printed edition of Zoetrope: All-Story, but Steven Spielberg's brief introduction to it is online.

Almost as if in reply to Julia Stiles's reply to Cherry Potter, Katha Pollitt writes in the Nation, "Domestic goddesshood is definitely back, and, if only as a fantasy, a lot of women are buying it: It wasn't men who made Martha Stewart a multimillionaire." Adds Lakshmi Chaudhry at Alternet: "Far beyond the nip-and-tuck culture of present-day femininity, [The Stepford Wives] reveals how the F-word, feminism, has over the course of 30 years become the great unmentionable -- so much so that the remake of a movie structured wholly around the battle of the sexes must work so hard to elide it entirely."

Also at Alternet, Justin Peters: "How is it that the same economy that gives us bland fodder like Vin Diesel, Evanescence, and According To Jim can sometimes suddenly produce the sort of wonderful, bizarre material that we see on Adult Swim?"

An amazing story, wonderfully told: Thomas Keneally recounts how he "stumbled upon.... one of the essential stories of an awful century," Schindler's List. Also in the Guardian:

True

Joel Coen tells the Independent's James Mottram that the brothers will be back on track soon enough. They're contributing to Paris, je t'aime, a series of shorts by the likes of Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard. Tom Tykwer's contribution, "True," featuring Natalie Portman and Melchior Beslon, has already been making the rounds at festivals. At any rate, back to the Coens - they've got another Clooney comedy in the works, plus a Cold War story and they're "writing something... I don't know where it's going yet."

Movie City News has set up a page for coverage of the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Matt Dentler explains why celebs and run-o-the-mill film folk alike enjoy going back to Austin to make movies,

Online viewing tip. Negativland's The Mashin' of the Christ, via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:59 AM

June 17, 2004

Fests and shorts.

LA CityBEAT Another day, another festival. Today the Los Angeles Film Festival - or, rather unfortunately, LAFF - opens and is set to run through June 26. The ever-sharp Andy Klein introduces the LA CityBEAT's LAFF recommendations. Dennis Romero's cover story, by the way, is a profile of Stacy Peralta: "I was stuck in television for six years, trying desperately to get out, and Dogtown and Z-Boys enabled me to get out. I felt that way about Riding Giants, too."

In a single paragraph introducing his LA Weekly interview with programmer Rachel Rosen, Scott Foundas tells you all you need to know about the fest's rocky history and its recent "concentrated effort to transform the identity of what many considered a stagnant, second-tier Sundance into the most important film festival in a city where the air runs as thick with movies as it does with smog."

The LA Weekly critics offer their reviews and recommendations and Greg Burk spotlights three rock docs.

Also this week, Nikki Finke finds Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter all but hoping that he's important enough to be a target of a Republican smear campaign, Peter Fletcher meets the superheroes of Hollywood Boulevard, and then, Ella Taylor: "Absurd as it is, Viktor’s situation couldn’t be more topical, or more pointed about the arbitrariness of US policy toward foreign nationals. The pacing of The Terminal may be as breezy as Spielberg’s fetchingly cheeky caper Catch Me If You Can (though it’s never as stylish or as light on its feet), but its central dilemma comes closer to the bleak existential predicament of his Philip Dick–inspired Minority Report."

For Movie City News, Leonard Klady maps LAFF's modest spot on the whole of the festival circuit and then pulls back even further to assess the shot any filmmaker has of truly making a career out of remaining independent. In short, it's a long one.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle. NP Thompson has no fewer than six volumes of "SIFF Short Takes" plus one "Post-Mortem," all of them very well worth looking into and perhaps even arguing with here and there, but you know, constructively.

Hearts and Minds

"It's a short trip between Saigon and Baghdad," director Peter Davis said on Monday night after a screening of a restored print of his Oscar-winning documentary, Hearts and Minds. As Sarah Boxer writes in the New York Times, "Today the film has not lost any of its punch. Now the punch is packed with new meaning."

Charles Taylor in Salon on Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Braveheart Will Take the Bride):

DDLJ is one of the most successful films in the history of the world's largest film industry.... This is a picture that should be part of our shared experience of movies. It offers the large, unsubtle, overwhelming satisfaction of the best popular entertainment. It's a flawed, contradictory movie - aggressive and tender, stiff and graceful, clichéd and fresh, sophisticated and naive, traditional and modern. It's also, I think, a classic.

Julia Stiles defends her work in Mona Lisa Smile against accusations Cherry Potter made on Monday on the same commentary pages in the Guardian: "After Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, women of my generation have not employed self-censorship, but rather we challenge the notion that being a feminist is in opposition to being feminine." Also: Aida Edemariam profiles Lee Evans and Kate Stables offers another seven online viewing tips.

Via MCN, Caryn Rousseau's report for the AP on the premiere in Little Rock of The Hunting of the President.

Online viewing tip. That conversation at the Tate Modern pointed to a while back, the one between Todd Haynes and Richard Dyer on Edward Hopper and film, has now been archived.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:05 AM

June 16, 2004

Shorts, 6/16.

The 28th annual San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, or Frameline for short, opens tomorrow and runs through June 27. In the Bay Guardian (now happily sporting its long overdue site redesign), Dennis Harvey recounts the sudden rise and just as rapid dissipation of the New Queer Cinema of the 90s and adds, hopefully, "2004's program suggests there really is something happening out there again, this time a little more globally than before, with better budgets involving fewer maxed-out personal credit cards."

Frameline 28

Lynn Rapoport recalls the heyday of "teen coming-out flicks" and notes that this year's fest "seems to send the message that we should grow up and get over it." SFBG critics also pick the "hits and misses" of Frameline 28.

Also: Johnny Ray Huston reviews Twentynine Palms, "a work that has made critical responses to the similarly barren-faring Brown Bunny seem tame," and David Fear neither pans nor praises The Terminal: "[T]he cinematic Cerberus just wants to give his populist puppy head free reign."

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Carla Meyer writes up the several marriage-themed movies showing at Frameline this year; the story then segues into the paper's own list of highlights.

The Filmmaker blog, always one of the best, is busting out bountifully all of sudden in the past few days:

A Scanner Darkly

Time once again for the Fahrenheit 9/11 roundup:

  • Filmbrain, Eugene Hernandez and Peter Bowen (who also notes McDonald's attacks on Super Size Me in Australia) all sum up what Move America Forward is up to in its efforts to actually stop the release of the film. As Filmbrain points out, though the blatant hypocrisy of their intentions evidently completely escapes them, this group is not to be sneezed at; they are, after all, headed up by "Howard Kaloogian, the man behind the Recall Gray Davis committee and the Defend Reagan Committee, which was successful in intimidating CBS from airing the miniseries The Reagans." But it is not a grassroots campaign by any means, as Brian Clark explains, pointing to a ProgressiveTrail.org piece by Kurt Nimmo who credits What Really Happened with tracing the site to Russo Marsh & Rogers, a Republican consulting firm. And round and round it goes.

  • Tom Hall, the programmer at the Nantucket Film Festival who also happens to hail from Flint, Michigan, shares a bit of hate mail (and his reaction) sent in response to his piece, "In Defense of Michael Moore."
  • IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks reports that Mario Cuomo will "spearhead" the appeal to the MPAA seeking a PG-13 rating rather than the R that stands at the moment.

"Mr. Moore was preaching to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of liberalism, right there at the Ziegfeld Theater," so the New York Observer got no fewer than three reporters on the story. Names are dropped, sounds are bitten. Also in this week's issue, Ron Rosenbaum proposes an adaption of Philip Roth's yet-to-be-published The Plot Against America because "in some subrealm of the collective unconscious, people [want] a response of some kind from Steven Spielberg to The Passion." Well, it looks like he might be making Tintin first.

For Ray Pride, writing in Movie City News, Michael Moore is "a polemicist and all the high dudgeon about nomenclature and taxonomy is a bore. But for now the discussion's simpler, as the highest-grossing-per-screen and best documentary of the summer so far is widening its run June 18 and 25, and there's no question when you watch it: Control Room (****) is a documentary that elevates all the estimable conventions of cinema verite and Jehane Noujaim is a genuinely gifted filmmaker."

Via filmfilter, Mridu Chandra's interview with Noujaim in the Brooklyn Rail, where we find once again that it's very tough talking about docs these days without mentioning the elephant in the room: "I definitely wasn’t for the war, but to make a film about the politics of war versus no war, like something Michael Moore would do, it’s something you make if you really feel sure about all those questions. I would say it was a way to find out what was going on for myself, and I wanted to be around people who are very motivated to think about it."

Also:

Lillian Gish Masters of Cinema runs a unique piece by Daryl Chin, who tells a remarkable story about Lillian Gish.

Call for entries: Paris/Berlin International Meetings, deadline: June 30.

Matt Dentler is pleasantly surprised to see long lines in Austin for Saved!, "one of the most objective and hard-to-define films in theaters right now.... Regardless, I think the film will likely be a cult/mainstream crossover in the vein of Election, a film who's tone Saved! certainly echoes." And don't miss our own interview with director Brian Dannelly.

Seattle Maggie returns to Cinecultist with more reviews gleaned from viewings at SIFF.

At filmjourney.org, John Torvi discovers Haibane Renmei - and raves.

The cinetrix posts excellent entries on two stories that have somehow escaped mention around here: Right-wing activists in India have been attacking cinemas showing Girlfriend, which centers on a affair between two women; and smoking on takes another hit.

Stars on drugs: In Alternet, Ellen Komp, who runs the VeryImportantPotheads.com site, quotes a few who've "come out."

Online viewing tip. Crash tests.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2004

"What's the Difference?"

If, as noted here again and again, documentaries enjoyed an all but unprecedented popularity last year, it already looks as if that popularity will be topped this year. We can probably point to a whole cluster of reasons. Technology certainly has a lot to do with it, specifically, the ongoing development of ever more affordable and lightweight digital cameras and the ability to edit without renting out a studio by the hour. There's a parallel to the advent of accessible analog video equipment in the 80s, but fortunately, this time around, we're not hearing a lot of the utopian rhetoric about the democratization of media we heard then; we're hearing some, but it's far more subdued and realistic.

Beuys via Schum But technology would only explain why more docs are being made - not why they're being watched. Part of it has to do, I think, with a universally shared awareness that Big and Important things are going on in the world, coupled with another growing awareness: The better media become at delivering more news faster, the worse media become at helping us comprehend it. What the current crop of documentary filmmakers you see linked and blurbed here day after day all share is that, first, they've chosen absolutely contemporary subjects for their films (even more so than last year; it's not birds and spelling bees this time around), and second - and this is, I believe, what's attracting audiences - to varying degrees, they're offering points of view, whether it be in the form of a narrative, an essay or a raging argument.

And if all this goes on, we may well find ourselves going back to some of essential questions about film as both a medium and an art (and of course, as a business, but that always goes without saying), which is what I find interesting about Jörg Heiser and Jan Verwoert's talk with artists Yael Bartana, Annika Eriksson, Anri Sala and Gitte Villesen about the differences between and the similarities shared by their work and documentary filmmaking. Someone picked a good title: "What's the Difference?"

As it happens, two recent issues of art magazines, Frieze and springerin, each feature pieces about film and video work that grapple with the essentials at a time of technological and social flux. There's Mark Webber, for example, reviewing the "X-Screen: Film Installation and Actions of the '60s and '70s" exhibition that only recently closed in Vienna. If that sparks your interest, Senses of Cinema ran a longer piece on a similar subject by Genevieve Yue last year.

Both issues happen to include pieces on Gerry Schum, a video art pioneer of sorts, but not exactly. He created art exclusively for the television screen, fully intending that it be publicly broadcast, and invited other artists to take part as well. Catrin Lorch's overview in Frieze is probably the one you want, since it's in English, while Christiane Fricke's is one of the few texts in springerin that have gone untranslated.

But among the many that have been:

  • Georg Schöllhammer describes Hamlet Hovsepian's Washing Hair, Biting Nails, Yawning, which is a fine thing for most of us since we're hardly likely to see it anytime soon. It's a short made in a small village in the Caucasus at the height of the Breshnev era, and "[t]his one film alone places the filmmaker Hovsepian in a genealogy in which the films of the New York underground are also inscribed."

  • Petra Löffler explains Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Peleshian's theory of "distance montage."

  • Krystian Woznicki examines what Sean Snyder's been doing with the image of North Korea.

Online viewing tip. The television collection at Media Art Net.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:26 PM

Shorts, 6/15.

Might as well start with a Fahrenheit 9/11 roundup.

Fahrenheit 9/11

  • Via Movie City News, a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Ruthe Stein that doesn't exactly shed flattering light on Michael Moore. Did he hold incriminating footage that might have helped prevent further abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the hopes that his film would pack a bigger punch?
  • More urgently, MCN posts: "Deep Distributor (Who Defintely Leans Towards Moore In This Case) Tells MCN That At Least Two Exhibitors In The Major Cities In Rural States Have Recieved Death Threats Regarding Plans To Show Fahrenheit 9/11 And There Is Word Of Other Exhibitors Are Getting Similar Calls Since The Launch Of The MoveAmericaForward Site." This is followed by a link to Daily Kos.
  • Here's a surprise, coming across this at Fox News, of all places; specifically, Roger Friedman: F9/11 "turns out to be a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail."
  • IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on Lion's Gate and IFC's efforts to fight the "R" rating the MPAA's slapped the film with.
  • A reminder: JOlmsted is running blog dedicated to the film.

Back to indieWIRE: Howard Feinstein's review Facing Windows, one of the big winners at SIFF and, evidently, "a joy to watch." Speaking of winners, Brian Brooks lists the bunch coming out of Newport, with Maria Full of Grace in the lead.

The New Republic occasionally runs highlights from its archive and there's a delightful one up at the moment: John Peale Bishop, writing on "Sex Appeal in the Movies" in 1927: "They move in silence, and to the accompaniment of a music that is hardly ever distinctly heard. In consequence, it is possible for the spectator of the movies to identify himself with the actor to an extent unknown in the theater."

More currently:

For DVD Talk, Geoffrey Kleinman files a full and highly informative report on the current state of the DVD format wars. Good solid stuff, especially if, like me, you haven't been following this all that closely.

In the Telegraph, John Whitley listens to Peter Greenaway explain why Alain Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad is "the most successful film of all time."

New York Press: Spielberg Once again, if it's Tuesday, this must be New York. The New York Press gets first mention this time because they're running a movie-related cover story. Of the weekly's two regular reviewers, it's actually Armond White who's most known for his consistent defense of and admiration for Steven Spielberg, so it's a bit of a surprise that Matt Zoller Seitz is taking up the cause just when the buzz on the director's latest, The Terminal, has been so negative. But here we go: "Spielberg is not merely one of the greatest American entertainers, but the kind of committed popular artist the auteur theory was invented to describe."

Armond White, meantime, is sticking to the regular beat: "Napoleon Dynamite offers an eccentric form of humanism that derives more from pop music culture than from film." Cameos in the closing paragraphs: The Chronicles of Riddick and Stepford.

This week, J Hoberman also reviews The Terminal ("While one can only imagine what Jacques Tati would have done with this arena, Spielberg uses it mainly for product placement") and The Stepford Wives ("It has two speeds - obvious and more so") - but also Father and Son ("amazingly staged, inventively edited, and rich in audio layering, with camera placements that sometimes verge on the Brakhagian").

Also in the Voice:

Christopher Hitchens sounds the alarm in Slate: More and worse images from Abu Ghraib are "not likely to remain secret for very long." Hitchens can be infuriating at times, but this is a very important point: "Almost the whole of public opinion is complicit in this, as is shown by the fury over the administration's failure to pre-empt the Sept. 11 assault: a pre-emption that would almost certainly have involved some corner-cutting in the interrogation room."

Kyle Cooper Online viewing tip. Kyle Cooper's showreel.

Online browsing tip. We Work For Them. Both via the site for OFFF04, the festival of experimental audio, unusual video, in Valencia, July 1 though 4. By way of Net Art News.

What, more Kyle Cooper? But of course: Imaginary Forces, his resume at DirectorsNet, a 1997 write-up in Filmmaker, another by Barnaby Marshall for Shift and the latest, by Jon M Gibson in the current issue of Wired.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:22 PM

June 14, 2004

Fests.

Facing Windows The Seattle International Film Festival has announced the award winners of the 30th annual bash and, appropriately enough for a festival that has come to the end of a 25-day run, there are a lot of them. A few of the highlights from an admittedly skewed perspective:

In other festival news, indieWIRE's "Weekly" lists no fewer than eight that are either still ongoing or are about to open. Brian Brooks has snapped shots at Lake Placid (Scorsese's looking good!), Adam Burnett previews the Nantucket lineup and Sandra Ogle covers the toughest beat at all, at least virtually: Maui (those last two, both June 16 - 20).

Logan Hill picks New York magazine's top five films to catch at the NY Asian Film Festival (June 18 - 27).

Posted by dwhudson at 1:09 PM

Shorts, 6/14.

Hiroshima mon amour Acquarello has been filing detailed and incisive notes on the films he's caught at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at his outstanding site, Strictly Film School. Reading these reviews, you can't help but hope that the DVD, the possibilities eventually offered by video-on-demand and, in short, whatever means of distribution necessary will keep forging rivulets between films like these and wider audiences. Keep scrolling down to find Acquarello's review of a not-at-all unrelated book, James Monaco's Alain Resnais.

Upbeat reports on thriving Asian cinemas: Via the freshened up Alternet, Andrew Lam writes that Hollywood is finally facing some serious competition in Thailand from homegrown movies. That story comes from the Pacific News Service, which in turn, happens to be sporting a link to Aruna Lee's NCM Report on Korean Cinema. There's little news there, but it's a succinct primer if you need it, backing up its opening assertion: "Seoul is fast emerging as a center of filmmaking in East Asia." And there's a link in there to the Korean Times, where Kim Tae-jong writes up a nice little intro to the Seoul Studio Complex in Namyanju, Kyonggi Province.

For Outlook India, Namrata Joshi meets Farhan Akhtar, who's made what he calls "an atypical war movie," Lakshya.

Why would anyone rather direct plays than movies? Neil Labute's got ten solid reasons.

Also in the Guardian, Cherry Potter ponders The Stepford Wives, "a confused attempt to seduce and to satirise at the same time." Daphne Merkin's piece in the New York Times Magazine is more to the point: "When is 'retro' just another word for a phenomenon that never really went away so much as it took a long lunch break? Are men any more comfortable with female firebrands than they were before, say, Betty Friedan? Even more to the point: are women?" The piece reverberates oddly with another in the magazine, Guy Trebay's, placing Andrea Fraser's "Untitled" in the historical context of other "shock art."

Then Rob Walker reminds us that the phenom the Baffler editors have called commodification of dissent stretches back to Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment and is alive and well in what he calls the "alienation market" in which films like The Corporation, Super Size Me, The Yes Men, and of course, Fahrenheit 9/11 either already have or are destined to make bundles (relatively speaking, of course). That's not hampering them from carrying on, of course, as Steven Rosen outlines very well in indieWIRE, where, as it happens, Adam Hart has recently interviewed Corporation filmmakers Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot and companion book author Joel Bakan.

One last glimpse at the NYT Magazine. Sandra Fish remembers lessons learned when it came time to sell some of the private correspondence between her father and his teenage sweetheart, Grace Kelly.

Ok, in the paper:

  • John Rockwell speculates on what Lars von Trier might have had in mind as a staging concept for Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen before he pulled out of the project.
  • Vicki Goldberg on photographer DoDo Jin Ming.
  • Sam Roberts previews Ivy Meeropol's doc on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg airing on HBO, Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter's Story.
  • Choire Sicha: "As with so many reality shows, part of the fun of watching The Simple Life 2 is wondering what lapse in judgment, what moment of weakness, what incriminating negatives the producers exploited to get thinking people to agree to 10 episodes of prime-time infamy."
  • "The world wants television on demand but it doesn't want to pay transaction fees," Starz CEO John J Sie tells Saul Hansell. Sie's cable channel and RealNetworks are joining forces to launch a new VOD service.

Doug Cummings's found a copy of Jonas Mekas's Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959 - 1971 and posts an entry from 1961: "A Rendezvous With the FBI." Chilling.

Silence Between Two Thoughts

In the Observer, Gill Pringle claims Hollywood needs Lindsay Lohan. But seriously, folks: Philip French reviews Babak Payami's Silence Between Two Thoughts, banned in Iran but revived in a sort of "makeshift version" that makes for a "slow" work of "considerable moral power."

In the Independent:

  • When John Waters read Philip Hoare's book Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant several years ago, he got in touch. Smart move. Because a writer and friend like Hoare can turn in quite a rich and pleasurable profile.
  • Louise Jury reports on the efforts of the Curatori Lucis Group to save Britain's film and television archives.
  • David Thomson: "Whatever you think of The Cooler, I adore [William H] Macy."

Wendy Mitchell seems to be having a dangerously good time at CineVegas. Meanwhile, Morgan Spurlock's in the Alps, where he's met the CEO of McDonald's Switzerland. Looks like he didn't have time to catch the John Waters exhibit in Zug, though. And Eugene Hernandez? He's in Atlanta.

"The new chapter, which will hit theaters in June 2005, is called 'Batman Begins' - presumably because 'Batman Sucked the Last Time So We're Starting Over' was too clunky." Devin Gordon visits the set for Newsweek.

Via the blog dedicated to Fahrenheit 9/11, news that Michael Moore was just joking when he said his next film would take on Tony Blair. Meanwhile, Geraldine Sealey in Salon: "A group called Citizens United announced an ad campaign smearing Michael Moore - and George Soros - as 'America haters.' 'These liberal America-haters cannot undo President Bush's track record of success in the War on Terror,' said the group's president, David Bossie. Bossie may want to check out the recent news that terrorism has gone up under Bush, not down."

Online viewing tip. Commercials made on spec by filmmakers hoping to nab a paying gig: The Spec Spot. Via Cinema Minima by way of Lost Remote.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:07 AM

June 12, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Julie Salamon's story in the New York Times about the NYPD interrogating artist Arthur Robins and pretty much barking up the wrong tree is more amusing than scary, but it does provide an opportunity to mention a case that is most definitely not amusing at all and pretty damn scary: Steve Kurtz (whom I had the pleasure of interviewing several years ago) teaches art at the State University of NYU in Buffalo and is also a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, a group that has been exploring the politics of biotechnology for some time now.

GenTerra

When he woke up on May 11, Steve Kurtz discovered that his wife Hope had suffered a cardiac arrest and died in her sleep. He called 911. Long story short, the police suspected that the material and equipment they found in his apartment was being used for some sort of bioterrorist plot. Kurtz was held briefly, then allowed to return home, but the investigation is still in full force - in fact, instead of being called off once the obvious misunderstanding came to light, it has expanded to include other CAE members. So: Get to the site for the CAE Defense Fund; read the overview and/or the FAQ; and sign the letter of support.

Back to the NYT:

  • Stuart Klawans has a wonderful backgrounder on Maurice Pagnol's "epoch-making" Fanny trilogy.

  • David L Ulin reviews Geoff Nicholson's The Hollywood Dodo (excerpt), and begins with, "It's no accident that virtually every Hollywood novel worth reading - The Loved One, The Player, The Day of the Locust - is a satire, a bitterly amusing passion play."

  • Two pieces in the run-up to Friday's release of The Terminal: Ben Ratliff interviews Benny Golson, the sax player who plays himself in the film; and Andy Newman conducts an experiment: "As soon as I heard about the movie, I packed a notebook and a toothbrush and set out to spend some quantity time at the International Arrivals Terminal, a building that looks like a cross between a very beautiful airplane hangar and a giant wing."

  • With the 6th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival in full swing through the weekend, AO Scott's piece jutting viewings of Baadasssss! and Soul Plane against each other is particularly relevant: "The range of black pop-culture archetypes has expanded enormously in recent years, but the uncomfortable, double-edged legacy of minstrelsy nonetheless persists."

  • Terrence Rafferty profiles Mike Hodges: "There's a weird dignity in his obscurity."

  • Sarah Lyall on Steve Coogan, who's about to be all over the place all of a sudden.

Fahrenheit 9/11 David Poland has seen Fahrenheit 9/11 and isn't joining the pile-on of praise:

What is scariest about Fahrenheit 9/11 - for those of us who are waiting impatiently for our Democratic Party to deliver an affirmative argument for a change of leadership instead of just waiting for Bush to nail his own coffin shut on the evening news - is that [Michael] Moore, The Liberal Most Likely to make the argument with wit and insight and facts that may border on falsehood but which compel nonetheless, has come up with little more than a recruiting film for people who are still bitter about the election of 2000.

Movie City News points to Bob Tourtellotte's Reuters piece on Michael Moore's next target: "I personally hold Blair more responsible for this war in Iraq than I do George W. Bush, and the reason is Blair knows better. Blair is not an idiot. What is he doing hanging around this guy?"

Via Pop Life, the Onion's guide to the least erotic moments on film.

Via the SXSW News Reel, Dann Halem in Premiere on why "Christendom's aspiring movie moguls [are] feeling bullish."

In Salon: Heather Havrilesky's appreciation of Six Feet Under and Charles Taylor's of Ray Charles.

Sean Spillane on the odd case of Willie Wilder, Billy's older brother.

With Johnny Got His Gun coming out on DVD in the UK, John Patterson looks back at the life of its blacklisted director, Dalton Trumbo, who "extended a hand of friendship from Old Left to New, and accordingly was well loved by both."

Also in the Guardian:

  • When a studio spends $200 million or more to make a movie, where does all that money go? Archie Thomas breaks it down.
  • James Inverne's strange collection of movie trivia.
  • Simon Busch: "Talking during films - and chewing, texting, tapping - has made cinema-going such a tense experience for me that I now mainly avoid it."
  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall.
  • Patterson again: "[N]ever count [Bruce] Willis out: his career may have the soul of an ad campaign, but it also has the hide of a rhino."

"[T]here is a pitfall in American film whereby the brilliant kids can fade without quite growing up. There are those who would argue that this condition affected Orson Welles and Nicholas Ray, just as much as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma." And now, it's happening to Joel and Ethan Coen, fears David Thomson. Also in the Independent: Matthew Sweet interviews David Duchovny.

A broadcatching roundup via Marc Canter by way of Cinema Minima. More in a similar vein: Jeff Jarvis on why "TV is about to explode."

"Why does this shot pan, dolly, or tilt? How does it do what it does, how does it show what it shows, and why, why, why, why, why?" And 'because it's cool' is not an answer." Matthew Clayfield on, among other things, why there is such a thing as film school.

Doug Cummings: "The disaster genre is not generally known for its insights into characters or its clever screenplays, but The Day the Earth Caught Fire is an admirable exception."

Meryl Streep

Defamer attended the AFI bash for Meryl Streep: "By the end of the night, we kind of wanted to do her. But you know, Bob Gummer's got dibs."

Elizabeth Carmody offers "20 tips for screenplay readings."

Greg Pak's plug may be "shameless" but it's a good-to-know one as well: AsianAmericanFilm.com has been revamped.

Filmbrain approaches My Sassy Girl "with some trepidation" but is eventually won over.

A remake of Bullitt? Why, groans Aaron.

Matt Langdon boils down the oeuvres of more than two dozen directors to a thematic bottom line. Example: Yosujiro Ozu: "ubtle family clashes erupt between the younger generation and the older generation - but housework must continue to get done."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:52 AM

June 10, 2004

Shorts, 6/10.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf: Once Upon a Time, Cinema Dan le Luce in the Guardian:

Until recently, the state-regulated film industry in Iran had remained the one aspect of cultural life that had somehow circumvented the regime's suffocating influence. But since the recent appointment of conservative apparatchiks who vet films, the atmosphere has deteriorated.... With the breathing space for cinema shrinking, film-makers may soon have to choose between sacrificing artistic freedom or working in exile and sacrificing ties to their homeland.

Also in today's paper: Jimmy McGovern speaks in defense of Sunday on behalf of those who produced it; they evidently feel slighted by remarks Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass made in a recent interview. But there's more to McGovern's piece than just that: He also lays out some pretty admirable rules for making docudramas.

The Stranger selects its final round of SIFF picks. Brendan Kiley on Paul Willis's adaptation of Hedda Gabler and David Smader on Saved!.

Robert Gabriel talks to Charlie Ahearn about his 1982 landmark doc, Wild Style. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Marc Savlov chats briefly with Craig Baldwin, "one of the pillars of American cinematic subterfuge."

For those who read French, Antoine de Baecque interviews Jonathan Rosenbaum for Libération. Also via filmtagebuch, two interviews in German with David Cronenberg: Fritz Göttler in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Rüdiger Suchsland in Telepolis, where Krystian Woznicki reviews Spider.

Jump Cut's filmfilter is also written in German, but the excellent team has found much in English to point to as well:

Blue Velvet

John Powers: "Nothing captured the psychological underpinnings of the Reagan years more acutely than the ironic happy ending of David Lynch's Blue Velvet." Nikke Finke writes that Reagan will be remembered in Hollywood most for "how he misused his power as head of the Screen Actors Guild."

Also in the LA Weekly:

Docs are doing very well on the indieWIRE BOT, reports Brian Brooks.

In Kung Fu Cinema, Danny Shamon interviews Grayce Wey and Mark Pollard previews Im Kwon-taek's Raging Years.

Ray Charles

"Now if thousands wanted to stand in line to walk by his wood box, I may understand." Aaron points to the AP's obituary for Ray Charles, 1930 - 2004.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:30 PM

June 9, 2004

SIFF and CineVegas.

Jonathan Marlow flies out of one festival to catch another...

SIFF SIFF

The grand Seattle International Film Festival, in its 30th edition, finally comes to a close this weekend. It isn’t every festival that can claim its former Executive Director as a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (which the Republic of France awarded Darryl Macdonald, now head of the Palm Springs fest, "in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of French films" last week). First time SIFF-helmer Helen Loveridge promised a spectacular finish and, if the closing screenings are any indication, her claims are not far from the mark - the US premier of the great Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell sequel (Innocence); a tribute to French auteur Patrice Leconte (including a screening of his latest, Intimate Strangers); the early recognition and appropriate feting of Pen-ek Ratanaruang as an Emerging Master (with only four features to his credit, SIFF is screening two - the fantastic, soon-to-be-released Last Life in the Universe and an earlier rarity, 6ixtynin9; Pen-ek won an award at SIFF two years ago for his charming, impossible-to-classify Mon-Rak Transistor). With fond memories of previous closing nights in Seattle (generally for reasons that have little to do with cinema), I am somewhat conflicted to miss the event for the first time in fifteen years.

The Debut It was opening weekend (nearly three weeks ago!) that produced two quintessential for-the-ages SIFF moments. The most important - catching a lone screening of Nachalo (The Debut), a little-known Russian film from 1970 by Gleb Panfilov. Maryna Ajaja, one of the brightest lights of the programming team, introduced the film with a mention that she’d seen The Debut three times before, this being the first opportunity with subtitles. Regardless, no words could accurately describe this wonderful masterwork. Inna Churikova gives one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever seen as a humble actress performing in her first feature, cutting between her challenging portrayal of Joan of Arc and her curious romance with a married man. Panfilov’s work is clearly long overdue for an American revival. Honestly, it was a wonder that we made it to the screening at all. The previous evening’s debauchery was legendary and led to a curious happenstance. Departing one drunken gathering, past midnight, Hannah Eaves and myself happened to drive past a few friends at the entrance of the Egyptian Theatre. Naturally, someone suggested that we all venture to get a drink at a bar around the corner (literally, down the alley). It was there that the director and cast of Saved! convened for essentially the same purpose and, by extension, it was there that we danced the night away with Jena Malone, Mandy Moore and a bevy of shirtless boys. Loveridge (since she’s absolutely an active participant in these festivities) mentioned that Jena is now her favorite festival guest. True to form, Ms. Malone was exceptionally friendly and unassuming. She even returned a week later for the screening of the extended Donnie Darko (reflecting the occasion when Jena and I initially met - the premiere of Darko in Park City three years ago). Ah, memories. Without them we’d have nothing.

CineVegas

CineVegas Point being, I won’t be in Seattle this time around. This year I’m spending the second weekend in June with the new kid - CineVegas. I can already imagine what you’re thinking. A weekend in Sin City with temperatures over 100 degrees? However, this is no novelty festival. Since partnering (in a sense) with Sundance (Senior Program Director Trevor Groth is Director of Programming at the Las Vegas fest), they’ve gained more than merely street cred. Honorees this year include Dean Stockwell and Blue Velvet-pal David Lynch (co-star Dennis Hopper is lending some assistance to the fest this year, coincidentally), author James Ellroy and a handful of other personalities you might be familiar with - Jack Nicholson, Sean & Robin Wright Penn, Holly Hunter. Even taking a page from Rotterdam, they’re showcasing a dozen shorts by artist Bruce Conner. Bruce Conner! That takes some serious albondigas. The fest opens this Friday with the school-girls-that-kick-ass D.E.B.S., which is sure to be a crowd-pleaser without being too commercial. Leaves me longing for another Sukeban Deka movie, though. In the slightly-more-than-a-week that follows, CineVegas has seven world premieres, including Michael Gibson’s second feature Numb. The writer/director recently premiered his third film, 24 Hours on Craigslist, at SXSW, creating quite a remarkable year for this devoted GreenCiner. In a rare break in the midst of a re-edit of Craigslist, Gibson noted over lunch Tuesday afternoon that having a film in a festival alongside works by Lynch and Connor was like a realization of his "darkest dream." He added, "I am so excited for CineVegas. It’s like Sundance but with hot weather and legal hookers!"

White City Heat Actually, you could stake a claim that it’s headed to be better than Sundance in years to come. Where would you rather be? The mountains of Utah in winter or the middle of the Nevada desert as summer begins? Neither situation is entirely ideal, admittedly. Still, any festival that can put Hollywood dreck like Nick "hard to believe he’s related" Cassavetes’s The Notebook in the same program as James Fotopoulos’s oddity The Nest cannot fail to provoke some heated discussion. How about the Cole Porter bio-pic De-Lovely versus the troubling Takashi Miike (who will attend) film Gozu (featuring, back-to-back, two of the most disturbing sex scenes ever committed to celluloid) or Stephen Fry’s Waugh-daptation Bright Young Things against Bob (Shakes the Clown) Goldthwait’s long-overdue return behind the camera, Windy City Heat? Mix in a few Sundance stand-outs (DIG!, Riding Giants, Primer, Napoleon Dynamite) and you’ve got yourself a little something for everyone. How they’ll keep it all straight at the Palms multiplex will have to be seen but this, their sixth annual, should easily be their best.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:25 AM | Comments (3)

Shorts, 6/9.

The Killers Charles Taylor in Salon on Ronald Reagan's last movie: "The Killers radiates cynicism and contempt and cruddiness.... Forty years later, it also works as a prophetic shadow history of Ronald Reagan's political career and the America that career brought forth. The Killers' window on Reagan's dark side may be the best antidote to the Reagan hagiography."

Steve Gallagher posts an excellent entry at Filmmaker, quoting liberally and sharply from Michael Rogin's book, Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology and Douglas Kellner's essay, "Presidential Politics: The Movie."

Furthermore: "The cinetrix is of an advanced enough age that she remembers full well the actual President Ronald Reagan, as opposed to the water-walking figure even NPR flaks are busily lionizing this week.... This is a cinema blog, not a political one, so I'd just like to tell you about what I saw, because you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of 20th-century Hollywood craftsmanship anywhere."

Meanwhile, a Philippine court has denied Imelda Marcos from attending Reagan's funeral. (That was a segue; here goes...) For indieWIRE, Clairborne Smith asks Ramona Diaz about her documentary, Imelda. Diaz and her team hovered around former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos for a month, asking questions again and again until - not always, but often - she got the answer she was after. Stephen Holden is intrigued by the subject, though he remarks that the doc "offers no new revelations," and in Nancy Ramsey's brief profile of Diaz, also in the New York Times, the director says, "I can understand how people allowed her to get away with things." J Hoberman notes in the Village Voice that Diaz "seems captivated, literally."

Also in the Voice:

Blissfully Yours

Adrian Searle praises the "sophisticated" film and video installations of Anri Sala. Also in the Guardian: Madonna will star in and co-produce Hey Sucker! with Martin Scorsese.

Deryck Swan reviews Edward Buscombe's study of Unforgiven, part of the BFI's Modern Classics series. Also in kamera.co.uk: Chas Turner blurbs 16 films he caught at Cannes.

This week's issue of the New York Press features a thick summer guide, most of which you can take advantage of whether or not you're in New York. That, of course, doesn't hold true for Saul Austerlitz's preview of the season retrospectives, series and so forth, but it certainly does for Armond White's summertime DVD picks: The Leopard, Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Big Wednesday. In a sort of companion piece, White rages strong and well against the f/x of summer. For relief, maybe, he's caught Morrissey at the Apollo.

Today's review of Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me is definitely the oddest so far. David Thomson seems to be writing very, very fast these days and, while it does keep things lively, it also seems to keep him from thinking twice before opening his review by submitting these two women to his own not-so-private hot-or-not contest.

At any rate, while you're paging through the Atlantic:

Sean Spillane offers a brief primer on Boca do Lixo films, which might be seen collectively as "the moist and grimier flipside to Brazil's Cinema Novo."

Flaming Creature As the O'Hana Gallery in London prepares an exhibition and series of screenings of at least some of the films of Jack Smith, Morgan Falconer gives Independent readers a crash course: "Fellini was said to have been an admirer, and Warhol was certainly indebted.... But today, reviewing Smith's love of trashy excess, of Hollywood flamboyance and eroticism, one thinks first of John Waters, and indeed, Waters says that he 'genuflects' before Smith."

Via Alternet, Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect on The Corporation.

There's a piece crying out to be done by someone somewhere on why many, probably most docs currently seeing at least some degree of distribution have a leftish political bent, and for some time now, I've been thinking: The right is not going to sit around and take this much longer. We're going to start seeing conservatives pick up their digital cameras, too, soon enough. Well, via Movie City News, the none-too-subtle Michael Moore Hates America. You can sense that the blog wars are coming soon to a theater near you.

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston writes that "even the Rotterdam International Film Festival - a nexus of 'cutting-edge' and digital video work that showcased [Andrew Repasky McElhinney's second film, A Chronicle of] Corpses - passed on Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye, a decision the director took as discouraging proof that his use of Brecht's alienation effect can be all too effective.... Nonetheless, San Francisco - more specifically, Joel Shepard of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Jacques Boyreau of the Werepad - has provided a home for McElhinney's dissent." Also: Camille T Taiara on Control Room, Dennis Harvey on Hickey and Boggs and Huston on Strayed.

Filmbrain introduces a series: "Great Moments from Mediocre Films."

Help defend Britain's National Film and Television Archive. Via Doug Cummings.

Online viewing tip. Photos of New York in the 70s and 80s by Tetsuo Kogawa. Via filmtagebuch .

Posted by dwhudson at 7:30 AM | Comments (1)

June 7, 2004

Online viewing tip: Gunner Palace.

What a dizzying weekend of remembrance and Americana that one was. As the papers and newscasts whiplashed between the 40s and the 80s, it was suddenly all flags and lofty rhetoric like some runaway Bruce Conner clip, but of course, without the irony.

The Reagans

The Reagans in Normandy in 1984

Some - not all, but some - of the confusion and overlap could be directly traceable to one particular moment highlighted unwittingly by David Greenberg in Slate the day before Ronald Reagan died:

It was Reagan who kicked off the D-Day mania when, in 1984, equipped with a backdrop chosen by Michael Deaver and a speech penned by Peggy Noonan, he lauded a band of aging US Army Rangers in front of the very 130-foot rock face they had scaled with fire department grappling hooks and ladders 40 years before...
... Reagan spoke for a constituency that wanted to reclaim America's pride in its military strength. His farewell address in 1988 called for the revival of a feel-good history that would teach schoolchildren "who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those thirty seconds over Tokyo meant." If this rhetoric sounded fuzzy and nostalgic, it shouldn't have been surprising, since Reagan's vision of war came from Hollywood, where he had discharged his own service obligations as part of the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps. (At times Reagan even confused the real war with memories of films he acted in or watched, as when he "remembered" having liberated the Nazi camps.)

He wasn't entirely alone in his confusion and still isn't. No one could possibly hold Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg's urge to be a part of this weekend's remembrance ceremony in Normandy against them, for example, but at the same time, no one could possibly overlook their presence as a rather obvious symptom of our persistent melding of myth and memory. And to a large extent, that tendency became chronic with the Reagan presidency, the one many at the time called the first postmodern presidency (a term that's been applied to successive presidents in varying senses ever since).

As Richard Corliss reminds us in Time, Reagan was an "also-ran star" in Hollywood, but after two decades plugging away at it, he'd trained himself for the medium that would fit him like a well-worn leather riding glove: Television. His team created a series of set pieces so effective they're still stalwarts of the presidential repertoire 20 years on. Besides the dramatic outdoor backdrop, the classic would probably have to be the walk across the White House lawn to and from the rattling helicopter. Jacket flapping gently in the wind, First Lady at his side, and what's that? A question from the press? A cock of the head, a hand to the ear... Sorry, can't quite catch that, check you later, this man is on the move.

George W Bush signed as hard as he could this weekend that his true mentor has not been his own father, but rather, Ronald Reagan. Problem is, his team is nowhere nearly as skilled. As has been said here and elsewhere over and again, they've got no sense of subtlety - or shame. Dressing up like you've just come back from the war you're declaring over - "Mission Accomplished" - at least a year too soon simply isn't going to fool that many people. Thankfully, in Normandy this weekend, Bush refrained from trying to make the linkage he's attempted in the past between Saddam Hussein and Hitler, this current war and WWII. The Reaganesque pomo pastiche of historic iconography and contemporary politics can only be taken so far.

Besides the many differences in approach (and sheer talent) between Michael Deaver and Karl Rove, though, there's another vital difference between 1984 and 2004. In the mid-80s, with even analog video still a rarity in most homes, never mind the various forms of DIY media on the Net, it was pretty tough going for activists or anyone seeking to get an alternative take on just about anything out to an audience beyond a very immediate circle. Xeroxed zines were a blast, but that blast was very limited indeed. Now, though, we're soaking in alternative, argumentative opinion and conjecture, swamped from the left and right and points beyond, online and - here's the rub for anyone hoping to determine and freeze the imagery of contemporary history - on screens large and small. The apparent ease with which the photos taken at Abu Ghraib slipped away from the control of the authorities and the threat that more - including video - might again is the only example needed here.

Gunner Palace

On this particular weekend, being tipped off to a site for a work-in-progress, Gunner Palace, had particular resonance. In part because the film has no overt political agenda, but mostly because, as we remember the heroic sacrifice American soldiers have made in the past - and rightfully so - it's important to remember the soldiers facing a daily and persistent threat their lives now. We can argue about the responsibility and the reasoning behind their situation, but in the meantime, there they are. Read the piece. Watch the clips.

Consider one soldier's words: "For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 PM

Shorts, 6/7.

"Susan Shin" is an animated portrait by Jeff Scher. If you've got a spare $25,000, you can go to the Maya Stendhal Gallery and arrange to have one done of yourself or someone else you love just as much or more. It may be the running fad for portraiture for some time, reports Dana Goodyear.

Summer With Monika Also in the New Yorker: Anthony Lane on Film Forum's Ingmar Bergman retrospective. Two quotes, first: "We are left in no doubt, as man after man reveals himself to be a fool or a flounderer, that the world is electrified by the fervor of female intelligence." And then:

Like Wagner and Proust, Bergman suffers woefully from his admirers.... Is it possible to see so much in a film that you end up not seeing the film? Bergman is not a metaphysician, or an analyst; he chose celluloid, not paper, on which to inscribe his obsessions, and what is most neurotic in him is not the quality of his worrying, or even the throbbing of his node, but the intensity of his wish to register the world, plus a small throng of its inhabitants, through the force of physical impact.

Why have the epic poems Cypria and the Little Iliad gone missing? Probably because they failed in the same (and actually pretty interesting) way that Wolfgang Petersen's Troy does, argues Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Review of Books:

The notion of a deconstructed, anti-war Trojan War story, a grittily realistic story about men with cousins rather than codes of honor, a fable about the emptiness of heroic illusion, is of course one that the ancients themselves entertained - not, however, in epics, but in tragedies, such as The Trojan Women. The Greeks knew enough to realize that if you're making an epic, the potency and grandeur of the epic action, the magnificence and scope of the genre itself, would undercut any attempts to subvert it from within.

Gladiator: Film and History Nick Lowe has also seen Troy and, like Mendelsohn, finds the root of the film's problems in its screenplay. Lowe's is the lighter (and frankly, more fun, less pompous) read, so it's a little surprising to find it, as Perlentaucher has, in the Times Literary Supplement. And the fun really begins when he turns his attention to Gladiator: Film and History, an "invaluable collection of essays" edited by Martin M Winkler.

Sharon Waxman and Laura M Holson team up to amplify public speculation that Disney CEO Michael Eisner might agree to sell off Miramax after all. For Movie City News, Gary Dretzka looks at the bigger picture yet manages to recap the finer details of Disney's recent troubles as well. But back to the New York Times:

  • Terrence Rafferty on The Leopard, "the film in which [Visconti's] ecstatic pictorial sense and his tragic historical consciousness finally made peace with one another."
  • "While the prognosis may be uncertain, history suggests that The Stepford Wives isn't necessarily a lost cause."Nancy Griffin (Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood) outlines a few ways the movie might be saved. More on the contemporary context of the remake from Jessica Johnson in the Globe and Mail, via MCN.
  • Stephen Holden reviews Bukowski: Born Into This while Dwight Garner focuses more on the writer himself.
  • Troy again: "It is still too soon for a war film to achieve anything even remotely comparable with Iraq, but in its peculiar way, the current spear-and-sandal epic Troy certainly tries." Edward Rothstein then considers what Homer might have thought of the war.
  • Bill Werde on Wizard People, Dear Reader.

The Guardian's John Patterson profiles Toni Collette; Peter Bradshaw reviews Japanese Story. And Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week? Robert Benton's Billy Bathgate.

In a piece on Control Room for the Village Voice about a month ago, Kareem Fahim wrote: "[Lieutenant Josh] Rushing "seems a breed apart from his fellow military press officers, a man increasingly at odds with his government's version of the world." Sure enough, as Scott Lamb reports in Salon, the Marines have forbidden Rushing to give any interviews related to the doc. And as a result, he plans to leave the military. As CR director Jehane Noujaim tells Lamb, it's the military's loss.

Also in Salon: Alessandro Camon on Abu Ghraib and The Passion of the Christ: "The two spectacles reveal disturbing truths about American politics, sexuality and spirituality."

Ray Pride's rich and varied offerings at MCN: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a "lush and scary treat"; Strayed, "a short-lived vision of worlds being created, of an idyll both erotic and familial, and ultimately, of hopes being quietly dashed"; Love Me If You Dare, "a perverse joy"; Carandiru, "raucous, brutal, comic"; Coffee and Cigarettes, "live[s] up to [Jarmusch's] reputation as one of our shaggiest shaggy-dog storytellers"; Alila, "an Altmanesque slab of sociology"; and The Day After Tomorrow, "in and of itself a disaster." That said, Renato Rendentor Constantino reminds us that climate change itself is no joke: "Is reality more frightening than Hollywood? With nature there are no special effects, only consequences."

More via MCN:

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring has won best picture at the Daejong Film Festival in South Korea, reports the Daily Chosun. Park Chan-wook's Old Boy picked up five awards. On a related note, Doug Cummings considers Take Care of My Cat, and more generally, the state of Korean cinema.

Shanghai Daily: "Some 1,000 film stars, directors and critics gathered in Shanghai Saturday night to kick off the Seventh Shanghai International Film Festival, a fiesta that was put off a year due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003."

Sean Spillane points to a database of sample sources; turns out more tunes feature snippets of Blade Runner than of any other movie.

With a sudden fit of immodesty and appreciation, a pointer to Filmbrain guide to film-related blogs.

Via the Jump Cut Newsblog, word that Lars von Trier has decided that trying to realize his vision of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen in Bayreuth in 2006 "would clearly exceed his powers." So he's pulled out of the festival.

Dana Stevens previews Flops 101, a doc and a month-long series on the movies, TV shows and even products that, yes, flopped, running on Trio, "the channel for the thinking pop culture nut." Also in Slate:

  • Daniel Gross: "[Mel] Karmazin parachutes away [from Viacom] with a severance agreement worth $30 million and an intact reputation as the ultimate antimogul."
  • Bryan Curtis misses the old David Letterman.
  • And David Edelstein, who suggested back in 2001 that Alfonso Cuarón direct the Harry Potter movies: "And look how much better [Azkaban] is than the first two installments! What a call! Should I ask for a finder's fee?"

LOTR: Return of the King, Uma Thurman and Johnny Depp lead the list of winners at the MTV Movie Awards.

Mae West is back, announces David Thomson, who also reviews De-Lovely for the Independent.

Online viewing tip #1. The Super-8 shorts of Shannon Plumb. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker, where there's a new feature up: Robert Hawk's talk with Rick McKay, whose doc Broadway: The Golden Age opens June 11.

Ryan

Online viewing tip #2. A clip from Ryan, via Wiley Wiggins, who writes, "I've been saying for a long time that it's a real shame that no one is using all this high-end CG for something abstract and wild, well... this looks like what I've been waiting for."

Online viewing tip #3. The trailer for Combover: The Movie.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:23 AM

June 4, 2004

Online viewing tip.

Fahrenheit 9/11: The trailer.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:17 PM

Shorts, 6/4.

As this entry goes up, yesterday's online viewing tip, a discussion between Todd Haynes and Richard Dyer on Edward Hopper's influence on cinema is a couple of hours away - if you miss it, it'll be available for viewing again in about a week.

Far From Heaven

Only bring this up again because Robert Davis is actually there in London, has visited the exhibition at the Tate and posts an insightful and marvelously illustrated entry:

Although I can't draw any direct lines of influence between Hopper and current Taiwanese filmmakers like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, I couldn't help thinking of them as I walked through the exhibit, Hou with his pools of light as thick and graspable as his characters, his frames within frames, and Tsai with his use of space, even a nearly empty movie theater in which his characters roam and try unsuccessfully to connect. Both filmmakers hold their cameras very still which makes their work easier to compare to paintings than the more kinetic films of some of their peers.

Onto the shorts. "Due to overwhelming demand, the Fahrenheit 9/11 trailer will be down temporarily. Please check back later." Rats. On the other hand, good. Definitely a sign that there's a huge and eager audience out there.

Meantime, Eugene Hernandez has heard Michael Eisner defend his decision to stay away from the film. One wonders how much sympathy he's won by coming right out and saying that the decision was all about Disney's shareholders. Also in indieWIRE:

  • Wendy Mitchell's biz bits - and there are a lot of them.
  • Brian Brooks adds another: IFC's acquired the rights to Dana Brown's next doc, Dust to Glory.
  • Eugene Hernandez: "Magnolia Pictures has nabbed Prachya Pinkaew's Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior."
  • Via the indieWIRE Insider: The slate's set for Outfest (July 8 - 19).
  • "You'd be forgiven for thinking that a documentary about a camel in the Gobi Desert who rejects her colt would be better suited to a 3 am time slot on the Discovery Channel than a nomination for Best Foreign Language Oscar. But Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa, two students at Munich's film school, decided, long before they shot a single frame, not to make 'the normal, standard reportage on the idyllic nomadic life.'" Claiborne Smith asks them about The Story of the Weeping Camel.

For DVD File, Peter M Bracke asks Disney animator Dave Bossert about restoring and releasing the studio's wartime propaganda: "The reason I think I was able to get this project done was because I focused on making sure all of this material was presented in the context of which it was made. If you just swept these cartoons on a DVD with no introductions, it would have been a disaster."

Der heilige Berg Doug Cummings: "The official website for the Masters of Cinema Series from Eureka Video in the UK is now online, featuring our first release, Arnold Fanck's The Holy Mountain (1926)."

Fiona Morrow does not connect at all with Woody Allen, but then, she doesn't particularly want to. Nonetheless, she does get him to reveal just how much he's feeling his years these days:

"The films we used to get excited about were a new Truffaut film, or a Bergman, or an Antonioni, or De Sica. But kids now - even intelligent kids - they don't know Renoir, they don't know Kurosawa: they're illiterate." He pauses before adding crossly: "It's like being young itself is the only thing they have going for them."

Oh, dear. Well, also in the Independent: Asia Argento is pretty pissed about the reception of her film, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Geoffrey Macnab hears her out. And Rankin (more) picks ten top sex scenes.

"You never know what Bill Murray might do." Jim Jarmusch tells Wendy Mitchell about making Coffee and Cigarettes; but it's a little too early for him to say anything about his next two projects other than that they're in color. And of course, we know that at least one of them will feature Bill Murray.

Bill Clinton is on the cover of the Guardian's Friday Review. Watching a movie. Julian Borger wanders from a few observations on the possible impact movies might have on this year's election (more on this from Gary Strauss in USA Today, via Movie City News) to the relationship between the movies and the American presidency to the theater in the White House, where he scans the logs of which president watched which films. Also:

The Marx Brothers as 20th Century Icons

  • "[T]he Marx Brothers might well be the most influential screen comedians of all time," claims Stephen Merchant, a co-writer for The Office. No argument here.
  • Ian Traynor: "Home to the world's first nationalised film industry and first journal of film, Hungary is now setting its sights on becoming the Hollywood of the new Europe." (Reminder: The current issue of Kinoeye is devoted to Hungarian film.)
  • It took a while for Hari Kunzru (more) to catch up with popular Indian cinema, but recently, he's done so with gusto. The novelist even offers a pleasantly readable history.
  • You want fun, skip the movies, advises Molly Haskell. You'll have a far better time watching TV.
  • Hilary Mackendrick presents sketches and designs her husband, Alexander Mackendrick, drew up for a film about Mary Queen of Scots he didn't live to realize.
  • Matthew Cunningham remembers seven great cameos.
  • Shekhar Kapur and Cate Blanchett will be teaming up on a sequel to Elizabeth. Reports have it that the film will focus on the middle years of the queen's reign (and drew says this one may finally nab Cate an Oscar).
  • These quizzes must be popular. Today's: "Young Hollywood." Match the names and faces.

Stuart Klawans previews Human Rights Watch International Film Festival for the Nation and focuses in particular on Persons of Interest; as for The Day After Tomorrow, it's "a Connecticut investment banker's apocalypse." No, it's worse than that, writes Jonathan Rosenbaum; it's "an exceptionally stupid movie."

Neil Gaiman offers five tips on collaborating with another writer.

Sergio Castellito is one of the best things going in Italian cinema these days, writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

Online viewing tip for a Friday (i.e., it's silly). "Hansel and Gretel." Via Cinema Minima.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:27 AM | Comments (3)

June 3, 2004

Docs and shorts.

Control Room Not only has Jehane Noujaim's Control Room made the cover of LA Weekly this week, the alternative press in general is top-heavy to the tipping point with docs these days. What's more, most of them are overtly political, and what's even more, they seem almost furiously propelled by a need to provide an alternative history of our violent post-9/11 period - an alternative, that is, to the narrative dictated by the Bush administration and broadcast far and wide with the sort of passive complicity only an atmosphere those twin impulses - fear and patriotism - could conjure.

Over the past few years, there's been a general mourning of the American independent film movement. Peter Biskind claims Miramax and Sundance killed it; almost exactly two years ago, Anthony Kaufman made the case in the Village Voice for a more complex, multi-faceted culprit, though it essentially boiled down to the eagerness of young companies and young filmmakers to cash in far too early. But whether we interpret the major shifts in the scene over the past 20 years or so as the passing of a movement as we once knew it or a natural transformation reflecting all the growing pains you'd expect, now might be a good time to cut the mourning schtick.

Look at it this way: A documentary about an Arab news network ought to be a very, very hard sell. How about one on a Haitian radio journalist? An indictment of that late capitalist institution, the corporation? Dead or alive, the movement that stretched from, oh, say, Stranger Than Paradise to The Blair Witch Project did forge a few paths and open up perspectives for producers and distributors, exhibitors and audiences. How else could a polemic railing against a popular (albeit weakening) president open on a thousand screens?

But back to Brendan Bernard's LA Weekly cover story; it is about more than Control Room, actually; it's also about doc's subject, Al-Jazeera and, like the doc, "about contrasting views of one war." Which means it's also about the struggle for control over the imagery emanating from that war, so allow me one more brief tangent: Susan Sontag's recent cover piece for the New York Times Magazine has expectedly sparked a lively exchange of reactions and counter-reactions all over, and the Nettime mailing list is no exception (scroll down a tad). And it's by way of that list, and specifically, John Armitage, that word of this evocative and provocative piece in the current issue of the New Left Review comes: "Afflicted Powers: The State, the Spectacle and September 11," by the Bay Area Situationist collective, "Retort."

But back to this week's LA Weekly:

  • Ella Taylor: "The best of the Harry Potter films so far, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is also hands down the scariest, and the deepest." And she chats briefly with Alfonso Cuarón.

  • Scott Foundas on The Five Obstructions: "[F]rom its very first frames it exerts a powerful fascination." And Brendan Bernard meets Jorgen Leth.

  • Gendy Alimurung checks out an exhibition providing "a chance for the [Film Roman] employees - the animators, directors, producers, character designers - to show off their non-Simpsons, non-King of the Hill drawing or painting or sculpting skills."

  • Nikke Finke on the Viacom shake-up.

  • John Powers recasts Troy with the characters currently haunting the campaign trail.

    The BBC has taken some tough punches earlier this year, leading to the resignation of director general Greg Dyke in January, but he stands to leave a vital and unique legacy: The BBC Creative Archive. The Union for the Public Domain is issuing a call for support, having "joined forces with a cadre of groups and individuals in the UK to organise 'Friends of the Creative Domain,'" to ensure that the Archive lives up to its full potential.

    Along that line, you may want to follow the Wizards of OS 3: The Future of the Digital Commons conference taking place in Berlin, June 10 -12.

    "'The history of modern cinema is written first in festivals.' That's Gilles Jacob, quoted straight out of the festival's program book." B Ruby Rich almost didn't make it to Cannes - her sudden departure for France on a whim and the near-slapstick comedy of her return are chronicled in a diary on a neighboring page - but she did make it and offers her takes on La niña santa, 2046, Clean and more, all laced with rewarding tangents.

    Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

    The Corporation

    • Dennis Harvey: "The genius of new Canadian documentary The Corporation is that it puts a sort of identifiable human-esque face on the infinitely tentacled green, white, and cyber-paper trail beast we ought really to be voting, legislating, protesting, and counter-investing to its knees. It does that by putting said monster on a figurative analyst's couch, then developing a case history-cum-psychological profile that would make anyone order instant lockdown."

    • Oliver Wang: "Though the astounding success of Sweetback's established Peebles as an architect of a new black cinema, his contributions to modern black music are far less recognized, despite being just as seminal." Sidebar: "Sssssongs to live by."

    • Johnny Ray Huston: "Stan Shaff's only-in-San-Francisco creation Audium might be described as the greatest soundtrack or score for the film in your mind."

    • Victor Krummenacher introduces his "Picks from the golden age of soundtracks" with a concise history of the film score.

    • Cheryl Eddy on Azkaban.

    The Stranger's SIFF picks: Tati's Playtime, Zhang Yimou's Hero and t.o.L.'s Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space. Also: Sean Nelson on the director's cut of Donnie Darko ("the best kind of mess"); Jennifer Maerz on the very indie Benny, Marty & Jerkbeast; and Bradley Steinbacher on Azkaban.

    Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black celebrates Jonathan Demme's The Agronomist (more) and remembers art director and production designer Robert A Burns. Also: Russell Cobb relays student filmmaker John Fiege's Cannes adventure.

    "Crucially, brain scans, unlike focus groups, can't lie." Which is why, as Samantha Ellis reports, studios are snapping up techniques developed at CalTech to determine what you really think about their movies. Also in the Guardian:

    An honest-to-goodness accident is one thing. Trying to cover up the death of an assistant producer is another. Jonathan Brown reports in the Independent on yet another Bollywood scandal.

    For the New York Times, Caryn James sorts through 691 lots of stuff from Katharine Hepburn's estate to be auctioned by Sotheby's. Check the slide show for two stunning self-portraits.

    Online viewing tip. Tomorrow, Friday, June 4, 10:30 am PST, 1:30 pm EST, 5:30 pm CET, Todd Haynes with Richard Dyer, live at the Tate.

    Posted by dwhudson at 8:43 AM
  • June 2, 2004

    Shorts, 6/2.

    Fahrenheit 9/11: June 25 Lion's Gate heads up an "incredible coalition of the willing" (Michael Moore) to bring Fahrenheit 9/11 to 1000 screens on June 25.

    Eugene Hernandez lays out the details in indieWIRE. Meanwhile, Anthony Kaufman wonders what's up with this whole "Fellowship Adventure Group" metaphor.

    But Kaufman turns a more serious eye to the state of Italian cinema. It went "bland" in the 90s, but there's hope: "This week, Italian film festivals on both coasts - the Film Society of Lincoln Center's 'Open Roads: New Italian Cinema' (through June 10) and the American Cinematheque's 'Cinema Italian Style' (June 3-13) - unveil a harsher, self-critical reflection of Italian society, both past and present."

    Burnt Orange Productions. It's an intriguing, potentially very exciting yet already legally sticky venture dreamed up by film prof Thomas Schatz: The University of Texas in Austin plans to make at least eight movies, the first co-produced by Terrence Malick. The idea, reports Randy Kennedy in the New York Times, is to teach the thousand students in the film program how to make movies by getting them to actually make movies. Slacker

    On the advisory board: Richard Linklater, Matthew McConaughey and Mike Simpson, an executive VP at the William Morris Agency. Among the questions raised: If the kids make a hit, do they get paid? No. All rights are held by UT. What about sequels? Can they take their own ideas on to new projects? "We're still working on that issue," Ellen Wartell, dean of the College of Communications tells Kennedy. It's going to be messy and not everyone's going to be happy all the time and the very idea of a state school barging so blatantly into such a commercial venture will raise several questions, but as Schatz says, "It's been going on with technology for a long time. But we just don't think about the arts and humanities that way."

    Speaking of Linklater, Criterion has announced that Spine #247 will read Slacker.

    Abigail Solomon-Godeau in Artforum:

    [D]iscretion is the rule in news journalism, even in the tabloids. This is because the serving up of the (visually) horrific - blood, gore, mutilation, and so forth - is the task of the entertainment industry, not the news media.... There is, however, no "dialing back" of images, any more than one can unsee an image once seen.... Approximately one year after Bush's triumphant strut under the banner "Mission Accomplished!" the pictures of torture are released into our now, our present. Conforming to what Roland Barthes described as the specificity of photographic imagery, its evidence of the event or object "having-been-there," it would seem that there are instances when photography, like a lightning bolt, illumines past and present, makes vivid and unforgettable what might otherwise be managed or domesticated. Had there been no pictures, it is unlikely that the torture of Iraqis would have had such profound repercussions.

    Barthes comes up again in John Kelsey's wonderful review of John Waters's "little movies": "Alone with only images, directing without company, conversation, or compromise, Waters comes closer to the perfect movie, the potential one he vaguely remembers or hallucinates in its fragments." And topping Lucy McKenzie's Top Ten: Bertrand Tavernier's Deathwatch.

    Now that the first wave of immediate reactions to the deluge of films in Cannes has rolled on by, we'll start seeing calmer reflections in the weeks and months to come. Like AO Scott before him, J Hoberman pours his thoughts into two main pools: Film from Asia and Latin America. And it's in that first piece that he also maps other ways the jury might have gone: "Coulda: 2046. Woulda: Old Boy. Shoulda: Innocence, a/k/a Ghost in the Shell 2, the gloriously impenetrable and extravagantly graphic anime by Mamoru Oshii." For a follow-up, he presents an amusing little chat with Oshii.

    As for the Latin American offerings, Hoberman deems Lucrecia Martel's La Niña Santa (The Holy Girl) the "best-directed feature in the competition" and he's glad the jury ignored The Motorcycle Diaries.

    Also in the Village Voice... a lot:

    But it's Armond White in the New York Press who offers more to chew with regard to that comedy: "Capitalizing on rancorous hiphop rebellion and its confused glorification of ghetto fabulousness (what black academics call 'essentialism'), contemporary black entrepreneurship charms audiences away from the old social objectives. The fetishization of money and pleasure has encouraged a pre-civil-rights-era atavism." Related (both Land and White open their reviews by referring to Bill Cosby's recent comments): Margaret Cho: "What Would Fat Albert Say?"

    Wendy Mitchell posts "2004's Top 10 Films (So Far)."

    Dinner with Roger Avary, Victor Ward and Bret Easton Ellis. The Algonquin Round Table it ain't, but the Jalapeño Yellowtail does sound good.

    DW Young reviews Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me. Also in the New York Observer:

    • Andrew Sarris: "The eminent film critic and historian David Thomson described Cary Grant as 'the best and most important actor in the history of cinema...' I’m tempted to endorse Mr. Thomson’s appraisal, if only because Grant was so ridiculously underrated by his peers and other pundits when he was alive. I would, however, prefer to place him in a triptych of equal acting greatness with James Stewart (1908-1997) and James Cagney (1899-1986)."
    • Rex Reed: "Some Harry Potter cottage-industry acolytes are calling The Prisoner of Azkaban, the new installment, Harry's best adventure yet. I found it the silliest, as well as the most contrived - and confusing - of them all."
    • Jake Brooks on Flirting With Disaster, Cary Grant, Trainspotting and Aileen and Monster.

    Steve Rosenbaum remembers the subject of his documentary, Facing Arthur.

    The auteurism debate bleeds into the world of design via Michael Bierut's post at Design Observer. Via Greg Allen.

    Bruce LaBruce

    Another filmmaker joins the ranks of the bloggers: Bruce LaBruce (The Raspberry Reich). Via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

    Online browsing and viewing tip. Oblivion, via Matt Clayfield.

    Posted by dwhudson at 12:29 PM | Comments (1)

    June 1, 2004

    Bollywood, Wenders and shorts.

    Outlook India: Bollywood Sandipan Deb introduces a whopping Outlook India cover package on Bollywood:

    The Hindi film industry is experiencing a new heady surge of adrenaline... As ideas and techniques and styles and formats clash and coalesce, a new Bollywood is birthing. Let's call it Convergent Cinema. A cinema where, in the grand and gentle tradition of India, heritage and modernity, the East and the West, the seer and the upstart converge and collude.

    From there, it's onto articles on the new stars, directors and screenwriters; Bollywood style and grace, finance and tech, music and sizzle, and then, two seemingly opposing views: Screenwriter and director Anurag Kashyap isn't buying all this hype but throws out a thin line of hope right at the end of his piece nonetheless; whereas Santosh Desai offers a bit more: "Above all, let us not forget that Bollywood is a key ingredient in realising India's ambitions to be an economic superpower. Take away Hollywood, and the supremacy of American brands worldwide crumbles."

    Via Perlentaucher, Cesare Balbo's piece in L'espresso (and so, in Italian, naturally) looking ahead to Wim Wenders's The Land of Plenty, a film highly critical of the US. It's all the rage these days, you know. But I hadn't known about this one, so I went Googling and found Susan Vahabzadeh's May 4 interview with the director in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Here's what he has to say about it:

    Wim Wenders

    I wrote the story in three days. And - working with Michael Meredith - I did indeed complete the screenplay version in three weeks. And we also shot the film in three weeks. It's a story about a political climate in America - about two people who undergo an exemplary experience of this America, an America where fear and paranoia are dealt with on a daily basis, a country where great poverty reigns. A city like Los Angeles - where I live - has, among other titles, "The Hunger Capital of America." I wanted to know what that meant, how excess and need fit together. I don't think I've ever made a film that's dared to approach political topics so explicitly. But I felt a burning need to articulate this uneasiness in America.

    You certainly don't have to be anti-American to lean to the left (and of course, Wenders is probably the least anti-American German filmmaker, making his next project all the more intriguing), and if you do, Michael Atkinson's got a list for you. Fifty films, in chronological order, from Zero de Conduite to The Fog of War, "the best left movies ever made [to] keep the flags of discontent flying."

    Wong Kar-wai watch: It looks like the story of Bruce Lee and his master, set in the 50s, is next, reports China View. Here's the funny thing: Tony Leung Chiu-wai "looked visibly relieved" at Cannes, Manohla Dargis reported recently, when Wong announced that 2046 had probably wrapped; and yet, word is, he's signed on to play the master. Meanwhile, the world awaits Eros, with segments by Wong, Antonioni and Soderbergh.

    DA Pennebaker: "The jump from what you can show in your studio as a complete film to what you hand over to a distributor who'll run it all over the world is huge. And that's the point that nobody is really able to do alone." But the actual focus of Tony Phillips's talk in indieWIRE with the legendary docmaker and his just-as-legendary partner, Chris Hegedus, is their HBO project, Elaine Stritch at Liberty. As for the hottest doc of the year, Eugene Hernandez summarizes what's known publicly about the deal that'll get Fahrenheit 9/11 in theaters almost exactly one month from now.

    Filmbrain: "At nearly the mid-year mark, the film at the top of Filmbrain's 2004 list is Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe."

    In his column for the Independent, David Thomson offers background for a retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London: "Victor Sjöström (1879 - 1960), only four years younger than Griffith, a poet compared with the American barnstormer, and a man whose own life would make a great movie. So adopt a new principle, if you will: the father of cinema... Victor Sjöström."

    Thanks to Mark Landler, the New York Times finally catches up with the Stanley Kubrick exhibition in Frankfurt. Also in the NYT: Eric A Taub on the battle to set the industry standard for digital projection. Seems to be Sony vs Texas Instruments at the moment, with Sony well ahead.

    Online viewing tip. The trailer for The Ister.

    Posted by dwhudson at 7:56 AM