August 30, 2004

Shorts, 8/30.

Alexander Hammid In Logos, Jonas Mekas remembers avant-garde and doc pioneer Alexander Hammid (more), who inadvertently introduced him to Maya Deren several years before they actually met. The journal is also running two pieces written by Hammid in the 30s, "Film and Music" and "The First Screening of Avant-Garde Films in Prague at the Kotva Cinema."

Then, though you may be sick of Fahrenheit 9/11 by now, Kurt Jacobsen's piece is a keeper.

Michael Moore actually pops up in Benjamin Noys's review in Film-Philosophy of Guy Debord: Complete Cinematic Works, translated and edited by Ken Knabb. Noys opens with an excellent and concise description of what Debord was after in his films, and actually, the example of Moore - and for that matter, of Godard, too - serves as a defining contrast. For more on - and of - the book, including Knabb's introduction, see the Bureau of Public Secrets.

Via Perlentaucher:

  • In French: François Ozon tells Fabrice Pliskin about his new film, 5 x 2 in Le Nouvel Observateur.
  • In Italian: Monica Maggi on erotic comedies, "an Italian specialty in the postwar era," as Perlentaucher puts it. Also in L'espresso, Eleonora Attolico on the Kals'art festival, through September 22 in Palermo.
  • In German: Just before he packs up and heads to Guyana to shoot a film, Werner Herzog tells Literaturen what he's taking with him to read. The Second Punic War (he often reads Livius when he's shooting), a Compendium of Nahuatl Grammar, the Codex Florentinus (really, if you don't speak German, you're going to want to run this through Google; the explanations are solid and rich) and Karl Sabbagh's The Riemann Hypothesis. In the same issue: Manuela Reichart on Visconti's Death in Venice.
  • Now then. More in German. Get this: Der Spiegel interviews André Heller, who'll be running the cultural program for the World Cup (soccer, you know) in 2006. He wants to work with Brian Eno, Sir Simon Rattle, etc., etc., on the program. And he says - right here - that Jean-Luc Godard wants to direct the live broadcast of a few of the games. Evidently, the idea is that on your usual channels, you'd see the games as you're used to seeing them, but you could also opt to switch to Arte and watch them through Godard's lens.
  • And in English: Sanghamitra Chakraborty in Outlook India on that "one-man brand industry," Amitabh Bachchan, and Hal Foster in the London Review of Books on Ed Ruscha and the "Hollywood Sublime."

The Brown Bunny Besides the newsy angle on Roger Ebert's piece in the Sun Times about finally meeting Vincent Gallo in person and rehashing who said what when at Cannes, what comes across is Gallo's sincerity, his sheer likeableness even, and surprisingly to many, no doubt, his straightforward confidence in what he's about:

The Brown Bunny was my idea of what a good movie would be. I'm not a marginal person. I don't pretend to be a cult figure. I'm just making a movie and I think the film is beautiful and I think, wow, everybody's gonna see how beautiful it is, and when they don't agree with me, then in a sense I failed. I didn't fail myself because I made what I think is beautiful and I stand behind thinking that it's beautiful. I've only failed in this commercial way because I haven't entertained the crowd. If people don't like my movie, then I'm sorry they didn't like my movie. But I wasn't apologizing for it [at Cannes].

That's via Movie City News and so is another pointer to Anne Thompson's talk with Mira Nair in the Washington Post. As it happens, Vanity Fair makes the editorial page of the New York Times today. What Verlyn Klinkenborg seems to be saying here is that a cinematic adaptation isn't the heresy some English majors might take it for, since, after all, Thackeray drew pictures, too. There may be more to the piece than that; I hope so. At any rate, the New Yorker's Anthony Lane sniffles, "The novel will be with us forever, but the movie is a one-night stand."

Walter Salles, in a long, leisurely talk with Geoff Andrew: "I come from a country and also a continent whose identity is in the making. We're a very young culture, and I think that things are not yet crystallised. So the films that are made in our latitudes, I think, carry that sense of urgency." The Observer's Philip French reviews The Motorcycle Diaries.

Also in the Guardian: "It takes a lot to shock Courtney Love," observes Amy Raphael. What's done the trick isn't so much the doc Festival Express as the life of one of its stars, Janis Joplin. Oh, Piece of My Heart with Renée Zellweger is still on, evidently. And Helen Mirren will play the Queen in Stephen Frears's next film, reports Matt Wells.

Fimoculous is back. Among the many things on Rex's mind: "[H]ow much of a nano-celebrity [could you] be and have a fake blog made in your honor"?

Morgan Spurlock is seriously looking for copies of the letters McDonald's is sending to employees around the world filling them in on what to say when someone asks about "That Movie."

Online viewing tip. We don't raise the green flag around here all that often, but as the Republicans gather in New York, we are indeed pleased to be able to provide a bit of counter-programming in the form of the VOD premiere of Jon Marc Sandifer's 1600 MLK: The State of the Union.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:47 AM

August 29, 2004

Sunday shorts.

The White Hotel There's development hell, and then, there's development hell. DM Thomas has spent two decades in one of its deeper circles, watching screenwriters, directors and actors come and go, attach themselves to and fall away from an elusive film adaptation of his bestselling novel, The White Hotel. At the very least, this journey to nowhere has given him stories to tell, and they tumble one after another, dropping names left and right. One of my favorites involves the incarnation of the screenplay in around 1990:

A day of Biblical rain in New York... a winey dinner... On parting, [Dennis] Potter's face streamed with tears as his crippled, arthritic hands grasped [David] Lynch's lapels. If they didn't screw it up, he said, if they saw it through to the end, this would be the work they would both be remembered by. "This movie will be the Madame Bovary of our time."

They screwed it up. Or actually, Lynch did. And on the story rolls.

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

To read Walead Beshty's "The City Without Qualities: Cinema and the Post-Apocalyptic Ruin," spanning Desolation Row from from The Omega Man through Baudrillard's America, click the title at the top of the table of contents for the 7-8.2004 issue of Site.

In the New York Post, Lou Lumenick looks ahead to several tempting releases of classic films on DVD this fall. Via Movie City News.

Hugh Hart takes on the movies section of the San Francisco Chronicle's fall preview. To-the-point blurbs and lots of trailers.

Richard Schickel kicks off Time's thinner yet more lavishly designed fall arts preview. Don't stop clicking once Schickel wraps; he's only handling the biopics. Joel Stein looks ahead to the season's sequels and Richard Corliss introduces "four films that are trespassing on virgin soil."

Looking back instead, Slate's David Edelstein offers "a roundup of the summer's more exotic indie and foreign films."

In the New York Times, Richard Eder reviews Maureen Howard's novel, The Silver Screen (first chapter), "a searching series of variations on one of Howard's large themes: celebrity in American life, the allure it holds, the falsification it works." Speaking of which, Randy Kennedy reports that the Democrats are all but wearing out their celebrity supporters while, in Slate, Rob Long, a writer, producer and Republican, has a few amusing thoughts on the paucity of stars on his side of the fence.

Back to the NYT:

Reese Witherspoon

  • The sets and costumes are all 19th century, but the perspective is straight-up 21st: Caryn James looks ahead to Mira Nair's Vanity Fair. Deborah Solomon interviews Nair, and over at Film Monthly, by the way, Paul Fischer interviews Reese Witherspoon. Most interesting of the batch, though: Doug Cummings attended Nair's presentation of Satyajit Ray's Aparajito; among the great anecdotes, news that "she is currently preparing to shoot a screen version of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul as well as an adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, a novel she recently read that she claimed 'completely moved me to my bones.'"
  • Marcelle Clements: "[N]o writer has provided as many scenarios for suspense films - a genre that arguably provides the purest expression of excruciating paranoia - than the great master of unease, Georges Simenon."
  • Richard Rushfield: Maggie Rowe "and her band of comedians, actors, special-effects artists and sound engineers - including [Sarah] Silverman, the comedian David Cross, the actor Richard Belzer, the television host Bill Maher and the former pornography actress Traci Lords - are taking over the Steve Allen Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and converting it, and the two-story office building around it, into a 'Hell House.' Or a parody of one."
  • Mark Graff, the mover and shaker behind Playgirl TV, and film director Kelly Holland have been asking women what they want to see in their porn. Susan Dominus reports on what they've come up with so far.
  • Susan Campos: LA's poshest home screening rooms.
  • Virginia Heffernan talks with Ellen DeGeneres as she prepares for the second season of her daytime talk show.

Drew to Kevin Smith: "Why, Kevin, why?" Also: Those duelling Capotes.

"Next month, indieWIRE will launch a new interview series featuring questions posed by our readers. Our first interview will be with acclaimed indie filmmaker, John Sayles." Also from the Insider: Early news of an earlier Tribeca next year.

Roger Avary's hoping you'll make it to the L'Étrange Festival in Paris (September 1 through 14): "This festival is sure to be a weirdo's delight!"

Online viewing tip. From The Forbidden Zone: "Planet of the Apes 're-imagined' as an episode of The Twilight Zone. Why? Both were written by Rod Serling!" So popular, it's been mirrored. Via The Movie Blog.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:19 AM

August 27, 2004

Shorts, 8/27.

Jonathan Rosenbaum: Dead Man The National Film Theatre in London will be running a Jim Jarmusch retrospective throughout September, and the Guardian has made a smart move, asking Jonathan Rosenbaum for a few hundred relevant words. He begins with an assessment of what happened to the notion of independence in the 90s, thanks in no small part to Quentin Tarantino, a time when "the Mecca of 'independent' film-making became a film festival launched by a movie star and kept vital by Hollywood agents" and "flourishing as an 'independent' meant being distributed by Disney." Jarmusch, in the meantime, has stuck to his guns, retaining all his own negatives (with the single exception of Year of the Horse), while his work, intentionally or not, has shown "an increasing drift towards content" rather than style, and a more political sort of content to boot.

Also in the Guardian:

Werner Herzog's been busy. Wendy Mitchell's got a quote: "I just finished a film in Guyana, in South America, in the jungle. And just two days ago I returned from Alaska doing pre-production for a film in Alaska, which will begin early in September. There's another film that I have started editing. I struggle with how to cope with all the projects I'm amassing behind me, pushing me." There's a book on the horizon as well. Also at indieWIRE: Lisa Bear interviews Zhang Yimou.

David Poland looks ahead to Toronto and the fall season and makes his predictions. And via Movie City News, Cameron Crowe's preview of Elizabethtown. It's full of stars!

"Robert Redford was golden, in look and bankable substance, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) until at least Out of Africa (1985)." Not anymore, sighs David Thomson. "Apart from confronting the ordinary truths of ageing in the mirror... he must recognise the facts about his recent movies. It's not just my opinion that they're duds." Also in the Independent: Ryan Gilby meets Claire Danes.

Cinema Minima correspondent Wilfred Lobo passes along word that India's most expensive film yet, Anil Sharma's Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyou is due for release in November.

Matt Haber: "[W]e actually managed to scoop a copy of [Tina Fey's] Curly Oxide and Vic Thrill's first-act outline from the main fax machine before Hector, one of the senior mailroom guys, busted us."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:30 AM

August 26, 2004

Shorts, 8/26.

"Life," the Guardian's science supplement, is devoting an issue to sci-fi because, as Alok Jha and Adam Rutherford explain, "at its core is the desire to understand humanity's place in the universe." So they've asked some - well, several... lots - of scientists to name their top sci-fi authors and films (rather than books and filmmakers). Top of the tops: Isaac Asimov and Blade Runner, "the runaway favourite in our poll."

Blade Runner in Bratislava

Steven Pinker explains why he's voted for 2001; Rutherford plays a fun sort of parlor game, assembling a "dream team from the annals of science fiction" to save the planet should it ever come down to the wire; and film critic Peter Bradshaw whips up an insane pitch that, you know, just might work: "Then there is a knock at the door and a crazed, wild-haired scientist (Jeff Bridges) enters carrying what he claims is a fragment of Monica Lewinsky's sperm-stained dress. Why not use it to clone Bill Clinton?"

Also in the Guardian: Leo Benedictus passes along rumors that Miramax might split in half; meanwhile, Pinewood Shepperton's going great guns; a remake, a prequel and more news bits; and a heroes-in-real-life quiz.

Matt Clayfield considers how "the inverted genre films of Jean-Luc Godard are able to both transcend and surpass their generic and 'pulp' origins."

Nói Albinói

Greg Allen points to Edward Weinman's interview with Dagur Kári (Nói the Albino) in the Iceland Review.

Metaphilm finds one with Wim Wenders at the U2 fan site, Sharon Swadis poses the questions.

Beautiful: "Director Wes Anderson seems to have a thing, bordering on obsession, for Futura. The credits are set in Futura Bold - nothing strange about that. But it doesn't stop there." Mark Simonson, via the cinetrix.

Sam Adams argues in the Philadelphia City Paper that Kino's Krzysztof Kieslowski Collection "single-handedly remedies the neglect of his early career."

Stephen Holden on This Ain't No Heartland: "In the filmmaker's nightmarish view, the heartland is a decaying citadel of ignorance, boorishness and xenophobia, smugly rotting away in the twilight of the American empire."

The Austin Chronicle previews the 17th annual Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Also: Marc Savlov emails Takeshi Kitano and Kimberley Jones chats with Richard Kelly.

A Hollywood lawyer is suing his firm. Nikke Finke follows the money and comes back with "a primer in Hollywood law." Also in the LA Weekly: Ella Taylor on The Brown Bunny ("I can forgive Gallo his histrionics, which are entertaining enough when they're not downright vicious. What I can't forgive is his boring me silly") and Scott Foundas on Suspect Zero ("more depressing than the ordinary bad movie, because you can actually sense Merhige's own distress with the lifeless material and his frustration at trying to make something worthwhile out of it").

You've seen the Toronto line-up. Now check it again with links to the films' sites, courtesy of Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Americans have had their chance to see The Terminal, and evidently, fewer took it up than might have been expected. But now, after opening the Venice Film Festival, the film will start fanning out across the European continent - occasion enough for Katja Nicodemus to interview Steven Spielberg for Die Zeit. In German, but surprisingly long and more substantial than many interviews with Spielberg in recent years.

Christina Klein in the International Herald Tribune:

The market for foreign films has shrunk in the United States over the past 30 years with the rise of American independent film, the decline in independent theaters and the vertical integration of the US film industry. In such an environment, the gatekeeping role played by US distributors of foreign films becomes ever more crucial. Hero is a case in point.

Also via the SXSW News Reel: The AP's history of the PG-13 rating.

By now, you've probably seen who's on the cover of Rolling Stone. An author from Iraq, now living in London, Khalid Kishtainy, wonders out loud in openDemocracy "whether the American occupiers of Iraq will allow [Fahrenheit 9/11] to be screened. Otherwise the poor Iraqis will miss a really good lesson in democracy and direct criticism of the government."

"With the phenomenal success of Fahrenheit 9/11 and other movies, 2004 has been the biggest year in history for political films, so it's no surprise that film programmers and directors think that convention week is an ideal time to bring political films to screens in the Big Apple." IndieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell rounds up the highlights. She points to a few more events on her blog, too.

The Motorcycle Diaries

But before next week comes the weekend. A few notable events:

Online viewing tip. The trailers at Blue Underground. Via Matt at Rashomon, a fine online browsing tip itself these days.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 PM

In Germany.

Der Spiegel: Bruno Ganz as Hitler When it comes to movies, the talk in Germany these days is, for the most part, about Der Untergang. It's enough of an event to warrant a cover story in Der Spiegel and even a bit of press in the UK (see, for example, the BBC and Kate Connolly's piece in the Telegraph), even though it won't open in cinemas until September 16. In part, because this is another Bernd Eichinger production, in part, because it's directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, but mostly, of course, because the center of gravity in this story of the final days of the Third Reich is Hitler himself, portrayed no less by Bruno Ganz who rarely fails to drag a ton of pathos with him to whatever role he takes on. Pathos plus Hitler equals... a very touchy equation, to put it mildly.

I've seen comments pointing out that Hitler has been portrayed in movies before, naturally, and even in a few German films, but they're missing the point. In these films, Hitler is usually raging far outside the constellation of the main characters, a destiny-forging force rather than a presence. Even if you don't speak German, the trailer alone ought to alert you that this is something entirely different, and for me, far more frightening: a reminder that Adolf Hitler was actually a human being.

I remember attending a symposium at which Slavoj Zizek, whom I still very much enjoy reading and listening to, was going on about a doc he'd seen about neo-Nazis, and he was disgusted at the filmmaker's trying to dredge up his subjects' human qualities. He didn't want to see neo-Nazis as humans, didn't want to relate to them in any way, shape or form. These comments were met with enthusiastic cheers, as many of Zizek's often are. As for not wanting to relate, fine, but as for the refusal to recognize the humanity in anyone, well, I find that both wrong and dangerous.

I can't help but see a relation to the way politicians and pundits, with increasing frequency since Reagan, casually toss around the word "evil," sling it at anyone from those merely in the way to those who truly have done some very hideous, almost unthinkable things. But dehumanization is the easy way out, sliding what we don't want to contemplate into the category of the supernatural, as if places and times like Stalin's Gulag or Hitler's Auschwitz were an anomaly, a tear in the space-time continuum through which the devil himself arose and roamed freely until we put him back down, never to arise again.

Of course, he always does. Because it ain't him. It's us. Human nature is the constant in our world and we've seen many, many scouts throughout the centuries exploring its edges, discovering new things it's capable of, sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, sometimes utterly amazing. (For what it's worth, I have the same problem with the whole idea of "genius"; as if Einstein or Leonardo were mutant offspring of a completely different species.)

To get back to the point, it's understandable in the years, even decades after WWII and the end of one of the most horrendous chapters in human history that filmmakers, especially German filmmakers, didn't want to look Hitler in the face. Or, the few of those that did knew their audiences wouldn't want to. But it's high time we got over our reluctance now that what some have called the second Belle Epoque (1989 - 2001) is well over and the new century has been blasted wide open to reveal itself as potentially every bit as gruesome as the last. We'll need to recognize certain faces.

Speaking of which. Another film being talked about around here is Das Goebbels-Experiment (or Inventing Dr. Goebbels, which must have been the working title in English), a documentary by Lutz Hachmeister. Yesterday, Perlentaucher pointed to a piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Nils Minkmar and plucked a quote from it I think warrants translation:

Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to produce a film comprised exclusively of quotes from Goebbels and without showing the famous images of the piles of corpses at Bergen-Belsen and the liberation of Auschwitz. Today these images are deeply anchored in the collective consciousness and the film can make use of that. One sees Goebbels in February 1933 standing in a sports stadium, his arms akimbo, wagging a finger, smiling and saying, "Some day our patience will come to an end, and then the brash lying mouths of the Jews will be stuffed shut." The horror with which one sees this smile can hardly be conjured by any other image.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:38 AM

August 25, 2004

Shorts, 8/25.

Hitchcock-Truffaut Sean Spillane of Bitter Cinema has made a wonderful discovery. Radio France is running the series of interviews conducted in 1962 between François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock which eventually became the basis of Hitchcock-Truffaut, now of course, a standard text in many a film school.

Sean Spillane: "The series is beautifully bilingual, as Truffaut did not speak English, nor Hitchcock French; but both are ably assisted by the seamless translation skills of Helen Scott, who worked for the French Film Office in New York at the time. The entire series is archived here." Again: If you don't speak French, don't be put off by the first minute or so. The English comes swiftly and smoothly enough. Great stuff.

"A guide to the upcoming season's movie, music, art, theater, and dance highlights can't help but become a kind of cultural X ray." Johnny Ray Huston introduces the San Francisco Bay Guardian's fall arts preview with its nice-sized section on what we have to look forward to film-wise in the coming weeks: Huston and Cheryl Eddy pick a top ten that goes to eleven, then annotate a selection of 20 more. Then Eddy sorts out eight biopics - just men this year? - and Huston notes the hours and the times of the many, many upcoming local festivals.

Whether or not you'll be in or near Washington DC from September 16 through October 31, you'll want to click this: Korean Film Festival DC 2004. If you can make it, there's the schedule. If you can't, you'll still find at the site "A Short History of Korean Cinema," by Tom Vick, one of the programmers who also happens to maintain his very fine Asian Cinema Blog, and "Korean Cinema's Resurgence," by co-programmer Hyunjun Min.

Ah, new international film festival regulations. Charles Masters sifts through them: "The key changes, outlined in a summary given to The Hollywood Reporter, include scrapping the ban on films competing in more than one international festival, a revision of [the International Federation of Film Producers Associations'] festival classification to better reflect the status of each event and a more specific and tougher stance on piracy."

Speaking of which, digital technology makes it easier, but it doesn't necessarily make it new. Mike Sizemore has found a copy of Private Screenings, the "Film Pirate Issue," from the summer of 1975. Back when the pirates were copying films on film. Sizemore contextualizes the issue superbly and offers a six-page PDF file. Via Cinema Minima, where Brandon Chalk is still blogging away from the Copenhagen International Film Festival.

As festival freaks will know by now, the complete line-up for the Toronto International Film Festival (September 9 through 18) has been unveiled. But if you're planning to follow North America's premiere fest, either virtually or live, you'll also want to be following the torontoBLOG at indieWIRE, where you'll find more than just the line-up. The "Festival's Hot 400," for example. And for more news, iW's got its special section already set up as well.

IW's also looking ahead to the Venice International Film Festival, which, after all, happens earlier: September 1 through 11. Anthony Kaufman: "This year's line-up portends good things to come for [new director Marco] Mueller's tenure." Also: Nick Poppy asks Ross McElwee about his new one, Bright Leaves and the state of the doc in general.

Who is Nikke Finke? In case, like me, you've ever wondered, RJ Smith's got your profile in Los Angeles Magazine. Via Movie City News (which we'd bet Finke checks regularly). Good bit on the Graydon Carter affair: "Talk about a postmodern echo chamber. Just consider: Here was a journalist reporting on journalists who were reporting on a journalist whose journalism was being called into question." But as for Finke herself, she's "a kind of journalist rapidly going extinct in a wave of corporate buy-ups and human resources department memos. The obnoxious kind. Not to mention the fanatic, operatic, and unwieldy kind. With a stick."

Roger Avary, who would know: "It's Bogus. A lot of people have been emailing me about this alleged Quentin Tarantino Blog, which is obvious bullshit.... Still, it's kind of a fun read."

Downtown 81

Oliver Assayas has programmed a series for BAM, "I Can Hear the Guitar." Now, even if your chances of catching it are nil, his loose and nostalgic chat about it, his attempt "to describe my own idiosyncratic relationship to rock music and how it connects with my idiosyncratic relationship to cinema," is a pleasant read, translated by David Ng for the Village Voice. On a tangentially related note, Tom Hall has just seen End of the Century: "Was the city that grim? Having lived here since 1997, I can only speculate as to what that New York was like." Tom, if you haven't seen it, either track down a copy of Downtown 81 or catch it on September 16 when it screens as part of Assayas's program at BAM.

Back to the Voice:

J Hoberman reviews The Brown Bunny. I'm tempted to pluck just this - "genuinely elemental, embarrassingly sincere" - and move on, but this is too good:

As Gallo's superbly eccentric first feature, Buffalo '66, rewrote and deflated Taxi Driver's portrait of loner alienation, so his second punctures the self-aggrandizing narcissism and self-conscious social psychodrama of Easy Rider right down to the lyrical light-struck footage and perverse literalization of the Peter Fonda character's petulant punchline: "We blew it!"

On with the bullet points:

The Fourth World War

The Passion of the Christ is going to be a big seller on DVD when it's released next week, but Fox is hitting up churches for bulk orders to ensure it'll be even bigger. Laura M Holson reports in the New York Times. Also:

There is a lot more than blurbs to Armond White's review of Hero, but if Miramax happens to be looking for any, they're here, too: "The most astonishing flow of visual imagery on the screen in years.... the year's richest movie." Also in the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz claims The Brown Bunny and Bright Leaves are "technical, esthetic and spiritual kin" and David Freeland remembers Fay Wray.

In the Guardian:

  • Stephen Frears is not only a reality TV fan, he's following up his own TV production (The Deal, about Tony Blair and money-minister/PM-wannabe Gordon Brown) with another about the royal family, set during the week between the death and funeral of Princess Di. John Plunkett basically asks him, What's all this, then?
  • David Teather on Outfoxed: "[T]he tub-thumping documentary is succeeding at a time when the nation's most well-respected newspapers and some of the best-known TV anchors are admitting that they failed to ask the tough questions in the run-up to war in Iraq."
  • Jonathan Jones: "It has been a summer of disenchantment. Not one but two epic films set out to retell great European myths - without the myth."
  • Xan Brooks on the inaugural British Home Movie Day, "part peepshow, part archaeological dig."
  • Brian Baxter remembers Donald Petrie, 1920 - 2004, who "worked with distinction in cinema and television for more than 50 years."

"Random notes from the Austin film scene..." From Matt Dentler.

NP Thompson previews the One Reel festival happening this coming Labor Day weekend in conjunction with Bumbershoot, the arts fest in Seattle.

Wired: Schwarzenegger The Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System, writes Steve Silberman in Wired , "is the product of an unprecedented level of cooperation among the Pentagon, film and gaming companies, and Silicon Valley - a synergy that Stanford history professor Tim Lenoir calls the military-entertainment complex." Or, as Cinemocracy puts it, it's "a frighteningly realistic war simulator."

"You won't find his credits on IMDb, but he was clearly a maverick and genuinely key figure in a hardly documented chapter of cinema history." Ben Slater on Albert Odell.

Three entries so far... Welsh director Marc Evans, who's taking his latest, Trauma to Toronto, is keeping an online diary for the BBC. That's via the Movie Blog, and so is this: a first peek at Danny Boyle's Millions.

Screenwriters: The cinetrix serves you one on a silver platter.

Two CNET stories: Ed Frauenheim on a new disc format that combies CD and DVD technology; and John Borland on the MPAA's latest moves to keep people from cracking DVDs open and copying them.

Anyone backing an indie film takes a chance, and that includes insurers. At Alternet, Scott Thill profiles one of the bravest, Dennis Rieff. Also: Denise Caruso on Deborah Koons Garcia's doc, The Future of Food, "an engaging and lucid presentation of not only the science of genetic engineering, but of the people and the politics behind what looks to be a pitched battle to control the global food supply," and Armond White, via, on Browen Hughes's Stander with Thomas Jane.

The budget for Kevin Smith's next movie might be around, oh, $250K. Not because that's how far things have come post-Jersey Girl, but because that's what he wants to do. Geoffrey Kleinman asks him about it for DVD Talk.

Online viewing tip. Lukas Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart opens in Sweden on September 17 and will also be screened at the Toronto festival. Via Movie City News, the trailer.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:35 PM

August 24, 2004

Outlook India. Satyajit Ray.

Pather Panchali Satyajit Ray's first film, Pather Panchali, turns 50 on August 26, prompting Outlook India to devote a special issue in tribute. Sandipan Deb:

In the sparest and the most refined of cinematic idioms, he gave us a world. Other than Abhijan, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Sadgati, his body of work is an exquisitely crafted narrative of a century in the life of a society. If Joyce captured a man in full through the relentless description and analysis of a day in Dublin, Ray’s films are delicate vignettes sculpted in time recording an entire culture.

Chidananda Dasgupta, author of The Cinema of Satyajit Ray: "[A]s in Tagore, myth is an inseparable part of the Ray consciousness. The contemplative space with which he surrounds his characters, differentiating his narrative mode from that of the West, comes from a profoundly Indian spiritual base."

David Robinson was one of the first Europeans to see Ray's first film: "There was no way that we could ignore the quality of Pather Panchali. It was and remains one of the truly great films, of powerful poetic quality, the work of an artist of exceptional creative personality."

Namrata Joshi explains what she means when she thinks of PP as "pure cinema."

Ashish Rajadhyaksha, respectfully: "Put one way, the impact of 30 years of experimenting with realism has been enormously generative: that impact is still being discussed. Put in another, Ray has been a millstone round the neck of Indian cinema."

Outlook India: Satyajit Ray Eight Indian directors describe Ray's impact on cinema - and themselves. Then, clips and quotes from the rest of the world.

And of course, a complete filmography, but more intriguingly, "12 Ray Films You Cannot Miss."

Further exploration:

Posted by dwhudson at 2:53 AM | Comments (3)

August 23, 2004

Shorts, 8/23.

Leni Riefenstahl New York shines a spotlight on The Imaginary, All-True Leni Riefenstahl Show: "In this extremely ambitious, multimedia bio-drama - as vintage stills and captioned asides cover the backdrop - Jen Ryan and cohort Rik Sansone reenact real moments from the infamous filmmaker's life and take creative license by staging surreal scenes of pop culture superstardom with Leni Riefenstahl on The Match Game and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In."

Heavens. That's even wilder than Marleni, in which playwright and novelist Thea Dorn imagines a meeting between Riefenstahl and Marlene Dietrich in Dietrich's room in Paris on the night of her death. Do check the trailer.

Kenneth Anger is now 75, and we haven't heard much from him in the last several years. But he's currently working on three films and an exhibition of stills from his 1969 film Invocation of My Demon Brother will open in September at the London gallery Modern Art. For the Observer, Sanjiv Bhattacharya takes Anger to lunch and a stroll through the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, listening all the while to a few rattling stories that may or may not make it into Hollywood Babylon III and, in a few touching paragraphs at the end, worrying about him.

For more on Anger as a filmmaker, see Maximilian Le Cain's profile in Senses of Cinema: "Cinema, he claims, is an evil force. Its point is to exert control over people and events and his filmmaking is carried out with precisely that intention."

Back in November 2001, David del Valle told an eerie story in Films in Review about Anger, Keith Richards and 9/11.

Back to the Observer:

  • Tim Adams interviews Peter Biskind: "I know I will run into Harvey eventually... I don't suppose he is going to drag me out in the street and break my legs. That would not be seen as a very cool thing to do. So, in a way, I'd rather get it over with."
  • "During rehearsals, director Antonia Bird, [co-writer] Alice [Perman] and I encouraged the actors to try to imagine the world from the viewpoint of the characters they were playing." Screenwriter Ronan Bennett describes what the filmmakers behind Hamburg Cell were after.
  • Mark Kermode: "Like most who reviewed The Shawshank Redemption when it was first released in 1994, I was impressed, but I had no idea just how important the film would become to some audiences."
  • Peter Conrad savages For Ever Godard, the book documenting the symposium held three years ago at the Tate Modern: "[U]tterly unreadable."
  • Bat Boy: The Musical, written by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, is on at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. Phil Logan: "I have been handpicked by The Observer as the man with the least dignity to lose from guesting with the chorus on the soundtrack."
  • Philip French on Elmer Bernstein: "He looked back to the 1950s as 'the halcyon days of film scoring' and it is therefore rather wonderful that his last major score, featuring a plangent piano and soaring strings (which brought him his fourteenth Oscar nomination) should have been for Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven, an affectionate pastiche of films from that decade directed by a young film-maker of whom he thought highly."

Genesis P-Orridge tells the Guardian's Tim Cumming how he salvaged the films William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Anthony Balch made in the 50s and 60s.

"It's my whole past memory that makes me choose the moments that I film." Logos runs film stills and a brief but powerful text by Jonas Mekas.

Newsweek's Sean Smith previews a highlight of the fall season: "Directed by Mike Nichols and adapted from the acclaimed play by Patrick Marber, Closer stars [Natalie] Portman, [Julia] Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen as strangers who fall in love and then proceed to destroy one another with cruelty, infidelity and narcissism."

George Fasel: "Italian films of the postwar years were an uncommonly faithful mirror held up not only to Italian, but to western European society in general from the end of the war into the early 1960s, in part, I think, because the severe social crisis demanded attention, and in part because many more filmmakers viewed the medium as a legitimate vehicle for social criticism and not merely entertainment."

The Boston Globe's Janice Page surveys the career of Zhang Yimou and calls up Miramax to ask why it's taken so long to get Hero in theaters. Via Movie City News, which also points to G Allen Johnson's piece on Zhang Ziyi in the San Francisco Chronicle. See also our new interviews.

Bubba reviews Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy at the Movie Blog: "Though each of the three crime films - Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines - has its own distinct voice they all revolve around issues of racism, of people pushed to the absolute outer fringes of society due largely to their mixed, or outright foreign, ethnicity. This fixation on people on the fringes of society has marked Miike’s entire career but nowhere is the emphasis stronger than here."

Also: News that Terry Gilliam's Brothers Grimm has been delayed, a nifty trailer (for Yoji Yamada's Kakushiken and a disturbing poster (for Shinya Tsukamoto's Vital).

Fox Searchlight has bought the rights to Russia's "first homegrown blockbuster," Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) and the sequel due next year, Day Watch. Michael Mainville reports for the Independent.

Triple Agent Variety's David Rooney scans the line-up for the New York Film Festival (October 1 through 17). Highlights: A tribute to Pedro Almodóvar, Ingmar Bergman's Saraband, Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, Ousmane Sembene's Moolade, Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumiere, Eric Rohmer's Triple Agent, Todd Solondz's Palindromes, David Gordon Green's Undertow, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady, Jia Zhangke's The World and on and on...

That's via Movie City News, where Gary Dretzka responds to Nicole Laporte's piece in Variety on a souring of relations between critics and studios.

In the New York Times:

  • The video game industry "has taken the playbook of the movie industry," reports Evelyn Nussenbaum.
  • Deborah Solomon asks Vincent Gallo why he's a Republican.
  • Warren St John talks to a few celebrity business managers, "the men and women with the thankless task of keeping stars from spending themselves blind."

Brandon Chalk will be blogging from the Copenhagen International Film Festival for Cinema Minima.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for The Guatemalan Handshake, via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:01 AM

August 21, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Exorcist: The Beginning Early estimates are showing Exorcist: The Beginning to be the winner at the box office this weekend. The film was not previewed for the press and Manohla Dargis, who's whipped up an immediate pan for the New York Times - it "may soon be known as Exorcist: The End" - knows why. The film "exists solely to rake in cash during its opening weekend and settle into a long shelf-life in the DVD hereafter."

But that doesn't mean the routine necessarily has to play out as dully as usual. By way of Movie City News comes a little surprise from Jason Pritchett, former Director of Development for Intertainment, who, back in November 2000, read and evaluated a screenplay by William Wisher for what was then being called "Exorcist: Dominion." Infuriated by Renny Harlin's version, he's sent his highly favorable coverage of Wisher's script to MCN where we can all have a look, wonder what might have been and if Paul Schrader and Caleb Carr's version will resemble it in any way.

Back to the NYT. Looking back on the summer, AO Scott finds several films, more this year than in many others, that, even if they aren't scary, "take fear as their subject." After wandering and sorting and remarking for a while, he comes to an odd conclusion: that The Terminal is "a necessary reminder that the true antidote to fear - most likely the only thing capable of counteracting both its immediate causes and its long-term effects - is decency."

Coincidentally, Craig S Smith has a piece on the man - the real one, the offscreen one - in Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle Airport. He's still there: "But Mr. Nasseri's story is hardly the heartwarming tale of a stateless refugee who finds love in an airport terminal, as Mr. Hanks's character does in the movie. Nor is it the rags-to-riches story of a hapless homeless man who sells his story to Hollywood, as many news reports suggest. It is far more dismal and can be summed up in a few harsh words: mental illness, isolation, abandonment."

Also in the NYT, Sharon Waxman listens to Trey Parker and Matt Stone complain about how tough it was making Team America: World Police. Then:

It's hard not to wonder: are these guys just out to provoke? Or do they actually have something to say? Underneath all the kidding around, it seems possible they're angry. But if so, at whom? "We don't know," Mr. Parker said, hanging his head as if embarrassed. "People who go will be really confused about whose side we're on. That's because we're really confused."

Yep. Meanwhile, far, far away, in another land and another time, Evelyn Waugh. He, too, had a "snarling anarchic spirit," writes Charles McGrath, but at least he knew why and, equipped with "a withering satiric exactness that doesn't turn up again in English fiction until Martin Amis," what to do with it. But does Stephen Fry know what to do with Vile Bodies? McGrath appreciates Fry's adaption and notes that the few additions "are dead on and very funny," but overall, Bright Young Things is all a little too Masterpiece Theater. The more "daring" move would have been "to set the story, say, in 2010, when King Charles has already been dethroned (and perhaps beheaded, like his namesake, but in a tragic surfboard incident) and when Harry now rules with his consort Jenna (Bush or Jameson, take your pick). Sir Mick and Sir Elton could be models for the dotty peer, and the big party scene could take place at Windsor Castle, now of course a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton."

Bright Leaves is the latest film by Ross McElwee and as it begins, writes James Ryerson, he "clings to the idea that in Bright Leaf, the Gary Cooper picture, he has found a 'cinematic heirloom,' a home movie about his great-grandfather 'reenacted by Hollywood stars.'"

"Introducing Plato in a futurist kung-fu film is an amusing idea, but once you add Schopenhauer, Descartes, Buddha, Jesus, the Gnostics, and theoreticians of artificial intelligence, the atmosphere quickly becomes stifling." Left the NYT now. We're circling Film-Philosophy, where Duncan Chesney is reviewing Matrix, machine philosophique, a book with half a dozen editors.

Therefore, if the film is to be seriously studied, its interest must lie elsewhere. Should the film be seriously studied? Two things are certain: first, that the film was extremely successful, but in a somewhat unusual way - both a blockbuster and a cult classic, The Matrix is a generation-defining film like Star Wars, and one that has elicited youthful speculation (judging from chat rooms and web sites) of a much more proto-philosophical nature than the adventures of Luke Skywalker ever did. Second, and equally undeniable, is that the film is very useful for teaching philosophy.

To the Guardian. Richard Eyre notes that while many audiences "love films but hate the theatre," many filmmakers are drawn to the theater as a setting because it's an enclosed world. There's more of that before he turns his attention to Stage Beauty, set in the late 17th century and starring Billy Crudup. And Rupert Everett, interviewed in today's Independent by Liz Hoggard. It's "the story of the first female actor to appear legally in England and the last male actor to make his career by playing women."

Also in the Guardian:

Kohraa Ghost World: "An irregular English-language blog-column on Bollywood noir films, past and present."

Via Movie City News:

  • I was wondering if there was a story in English about this. Deutsche Welle reports on the Filmclub Berlin-Baghdad, which aims "to establish a film library and educational center in Baghdad, which will serve as inspiration for Iraqi film enthusiasts." To draw a crowd that would contribute DVDs, the founders hosted a conversation about prospects for cinema in Iraq between Tom Tykwer and Oday Rahseed, who's made the first film to be shot in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
  • Subhash K Jha has a long piece in the Times of India on all that's wrong with the Mumbai film industry these days: "Follywood the farcical filmdom."
  • Johanna Schneller in the Globe and Mail on "geek chic" in Hollywood, a case of "the Pradas wooing the Pocket Protectors."
At MCN itself, Ray Pride turns in another full-to-bursting column with sharp takes on four movies and a good long chat with Richard Kelly - about Donnie Darko, of course, but also the state of the industry in general. Kelly is not bullish.

Cinemocracy: "We’re semi-suspicious that Dr. Strangelove is fast becoming the official film of Kerry-Edwards ’04."

Regular readers will note a recent, probably belated, but welcome trend around here: The Movie Blog is pretty damn great, an essential daily checkpoint:

  • Phenomenal DVD packaging for Old Boy and other Korean releases.
  • Joon Soh of the Korea Times reviews Three, Monster: "Park Chan-wook of South Korea, Takashi Miike of Japan and Fruit Chan of Hong Kong figure out ways to not as much terrify the audience as attempt to disturb them on a psychological level."
  • Kevin Smith: "For a small fee (what - you thought it'd be free? It's View Askew, sir - we're money-grubbing whores), wanna-be filmmakers (and has-been's too; I'll be submitting Jersey Girl myself) will be able to submit their short films of thirty minutes or less to our distinguished panel of judges and a chance to secure one of five monthly spots at"
  • The Last Shot.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:03 PM | Comments (1)

MovieMaker. 55.

MovieMaker 55 Really late on this one, evidently. After all, the summer issue of MovieMaker seems to have been out for a month. Or so. Well:

  • David Geffner: "Conventional wisdom would dictate that making a film half the planet wants to see must come down to a fantasy-driven spectacle wrapped inside a shining, if slightly garish, technological package. Or does it?"
  • Bob Fisher: Laszlo Kovacs "found a niche shooting low-budget biker films that targeted the drive-in movie theater crowd... Dennis Hopper took notice and, in 1968, approached Kovacs about shooting an offbeat little movie for him called Easy Rider. The rest is cinematic history."
  • Jennifer Soong: "Some critics have compared your sensibilities to David Lynch. Which movie-makers have influenced your work?" Richard Kelly: "Well, the two that I give most credit to would be Terry Gilliam and Peter Weir."
  • Jennifer M Wood: "[T]he 25 best midnight movies - past, present and future."
  • John Waters: "Having sex with any member of your cast is a bad idea - crew is better."

And then there are the online features, the talks with the makers. Jennifer M Wood handles four of these: Director Bronwen Hughes (great Spielberg story), writer-director Tod Williams (about adapting John Irving's A Widow for One Year, or rather, part of it for A Door in the Floor), "[p]art documentarians, part extreme sport enthusiasts, David McMahon and Lise Meloche," and Ryan Harper and Josh Jaggars talk about going digital with their film, 30 Miles.

Jennifer Strauss queries Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter and Brian Malik talks to a guy with a title-and-a-half: David Tames, Program Director of Digital Filmmaking at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:07 PM

August 20, 2004

Shorts, 8/20.

Memoirs of a Geisha Coming Soon! passes along word from Columbia that its adaptation of Arthur Golden's novel Memoirs of a Geisha, to be directed by Rob Marshall, has its principle roles cast. And how: Ken Watanabe will play "The Chairman"; Zhang Ziyi, Sayuri; Michelle Yeoh, Mameha; Gong Li, Hatsumomo; Koji Yakusho, Nobu; and Youki Kudoh, Pumpkin.

The waning of the Hong Kong film scene has been long and sad and, after a retelling of the denoument at Alternet, Andrew Lam looks into what might be taking its place: Hollywood, of course, but also opera.

That said, Jackie Chan has made a new action thriller in Hong Kong and, via the Movie Blog, here's the site: New Police Story.

The Movie Blog's "Bubba" gets 15 minutes with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to talk about Shaun of the Dead.

In a comment, Ted points to an item many are refusing to take at face value, and for a whole ream of commonsensical reasons: "QT's Diary." Hm-hm.

"Hints of the Citizens United film project first emerged in early July, when [David] Bossie warned what he and his organization would do if the Federal Election Commission dismissed their Fahrenheit 9/11 complaint. 'Citizens United becomes a documentary factory,' he told the New York Post. 'We'll make documentaries and we'll show ads for them. I'm in the production business ... I can put together a documentary very, very quickly.'" And so they he has, reports Joe Conason in Salon. The Big Picture (no site yet, far as I can tell) stars George W Bush and evidently aims to be a sort of anti-Fahrenheit 9/11.

Caryn James's wide-ranging survey of politically topical films and plays (from Michael Moore and Robert Greenwald to Sally Potter, from AR Gurney to Aristophanes) singles out two works destined to resonate beyond November 2: Chris Cooper's "performance and Mr. Sayles's exhilarating script and direction make Silver City (opening next month) something rare among the dozens of politically themed works on screen and on stage: a Bush-bashing work that is more than Bush-bashing."

Silver City & Tanner '88

And: "The timidity of television at such a volatile political moment would be amazing, too, if it weren't so predictable. The once-and-future exception is Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau's mini-series, Tanner '88, the brilliant mock documentary that put a fictional presidential candidate, Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy), in the midst of the real 1988 Democratic primaries. Tanner holds up remarkably well today, for the same reason Silver City is likely to hold up tomorrow. It goes beyond a political moment to capture what's behind it." Note: Criterion releases Tanner '88 on DVD in October.

I won't make a habit of this, but what the hell: Reviews in today's New York Times:

Also: Richard Severo remembers Elmer Bernstein; and John Rockwell: "A repressive, judgmental streak in Western culture, from Plato to the Inquisition to the Puritans to hard-core Marxists to the political correctness of today, remains stubbornly suspicious of beauty. Moralists fear that beautiful church music can distract from the worship of God, that beautiful painting can hide cruel social realities, that beautiful films can sugarcoat contemporary cruelty." But he loved Girl With a Pearl Earring anyway.

"We all know how the tragic story of Hamburg Cell will end, but the question that Channel 4's new film tries to answer is: how did the 9/11 plot first take shape?" Coming from the author of Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen's take is especially interesting, though he watches the film more as a fact-checker than as a critic.

Also in the Guardian:

Stephanie Bunbury profiles Jim Jarmusch for the Age.

For the Independent, Tiffany Rose interviews Sigourney Weaver: "There's an Alien vs Predator movie out now, which is something I'm quite happy not to be in, and it's the reason I wanted my character to die in the first place. I really don't know much about the Predator except that it looks like a hedgehog."

William Gibson once wrote a screenplay for Alien 3? You probably already knew that; I didn't. UGO's Justin Clark reviews the script along with two others that went unproduced, one by David Twohy and the other by Walter Hill and David Giler Via CS Daily.


Patrick Mullin in the Globe and Mail:

For most people, a night at the movies has come to mean the suburban megaplex, where everything but the screen itself is supersized. For those in the know, however, the drive-ins still lighting up the night across Canada, from the Prairie Dog Drive-In in Saskatchewan to the Mustang Drive-in in Ontario, are the only way to go, and are an ideal way to savour the last weeks of summer.

By the way.

At Movie City News, David Poland does the final math on the summer of 2004.

Jeffrey Wells has moved his ongoing "Hollywood Elsewhere" column to its own site and in his current piece, he lists twenty films that ought to be on DVD but aren't yet. "It's a good one," writes Vince Keenan, "although considering that The Battle of Algiers will be out later this year, I'd pull that in favor of The Friends of Eddie Coyle."

FAZ Weekly: "Another face has been added to Germany's directors' elite. Ayse Polat was awarded the Silver Leopard at the International Film Festival in Locarno, Italy [more from Mark Salisbury in Premiere and Eugene Hernandez in indieWIRE], for her second movie En garde, which will run in Germany from Oct. 28."

The Cinecultist caught the Blackout Festival in NYC last Friday.

Online viewing tip. Trailers for just a few of the gadzillion movies Nigerians have been churning out, the ones you've read so much about. Via Bitter Cinema (and welcome back).

Posted by dwhudson at 12:51 PM

Sight & Sound. The Film Music Special.

Sight & Sound: September 04 Just yesterday, I noted the passing within just a few weeks of three great film composers: Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin and Elmer Bernstein. George Thomas adds, and he's probably right, that these losses reverberate in some way with the recent deaths of Ray Charles and Rick James as well. Regardless, the obits and appreciations have cinephiles considering the role of music in film all over again and, as it happens, the September issue of Sight & Sound features a special section on film music.

A total of four questions are posed, three each to directors and a slightly tweaked trio to musicians, and here's the really smart move: the editors haven't limited to the roster of musicians to film composers in the strictly classical sense. They have, for example, also queried Coldcut, who happen to mention in one answer a project they're working on, NOW!, which is introduced at the site with a quote from Francis Ford Coppola: "The kind of motion picture I am interested in will be like creating the modern LP record. It will be mixed into ways of thinking rather than cut linearly."

I wonder when and where that quote comes from... Anyone? I'm guessing late 70s or early 80s, around the time that he gave a lengthy interview to Rolling Stone that made quite an impression on my young mind at the time (there was quite a bit about video messages replacing the letters we write to each other, for example, the sort of thing people snickered at then, but here we are).

At any rate, Coppola is one of the four dozen or so directors interviewed, the sort of round-up you'd expect S&S to be able to muster, and many more musicians are contacted (the range somehow seems wider, too). I'd start plucking quotes, but then, I'd never stop.

Also in this issue:

Posted by dwhudson at 8:11 AM

August 19, 2004

Shorts, 8/19.

Dead or Alive "A deeper look into the films of Takashi Miike reveals a plethora of unique themes hitching a ride in the vehicle of genre cinema." Matt Schley provides that deeper look and provides it well in his take on the Dead or Alive trilogy at his site, moskun.ninjarobot.

Meanwhile, the blogger behind Frank Booth maps Gozu: "The first third of the film could actually be considered Buñuelian, with its whimsical commentary of yakuza hierarchy.... The second act is closest to being considered Lynchian.... The last third can only be described as pure Miike."

She Hate Me has been slammed by critics and some lesbians, but Rebecca Walker, who's been highly critical of Spike Lee's movies in the past - to his face, mind you - finds the film "fascinating and entertaining." What's more, she writes in her excellent intro to her interview with Lee in Salon, "Lee has pushed some of the hottest buttons in the culture and asked some critical questions about what it means to be a man in America today. What happens to the men who can't stomach corporate America because their own integrity won't allow it? ... And perhaps most pressing, on what basis can men cultivate intimacy when the external configurations, like traditional marriage and implicit heterosexuality, seem to be in a state of open-ended flux?"

When news first broke that John Cameron Mitchell was planning to make a film about sex in which the sex depicted would be real, not simulated, it was, well, a bit newsier. Since then, besides the flurry stirred up by The Brown Bunny, Michael Winterbottom, keeping his regular rapid fire pace, dreamed up and shot Nine Songs. But Mitchell has been quietly rehearsing with his cast, as Dinitia Smith reports in the New York Times, and is now ready to round up financing for Shortbus: "He needs only $2 million." But finding it hasn't been easy.

Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect on If You Were Me: "Composed of six shorts by leading Korean directors, the movie chooses... to dwell on a supposition that is powerful and perhaps outrageous, especially in these postmodern days: that through film, viewers can see into lives that have been rattled by societal discrimination, lives that may be light years from their own experiences."

Yasmin premieres at the Edinburgh International Film Festival today. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) tells the Guardian's Audrey Gillan he suspects its controversial nature has kept it from being picked up by a distributor as yet. Director Kenneth Glenaan: "I wanted to make a film about the British Muslim community to dispel the myths and rampant Islamophobia that have grown out of the September 11 tragedy."

Also: Kevin Spacey is taking his Bobby Darin show on the road; and Mary O'Hara asks if disabled characters ought to be played by disabled actors.

John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing:

It's a movie that speaks of obstinate faraway desires in a period of disillusion. A movie that tells jokes whilst the band plays the Apocalypse. A movie in which millions of Americans recognise themselves and the precise ways in which they are being cheated. A movie about surprises, mostly bad but some good, being discussed together. Fahrenheit 9/11 reminds the spectator that when courage is shared one can fight against the odds.... It’s a film that deeply wants America to survive.

Also at openDemocracy: Todd Gitlin on Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate: "It turns out to be less nostalgic and more prophetic than anyone could have anticipated.... Today, the commander-in-chief of the present failed war - himself an artful dodger of military service in an earlier cause that he supported, if from a safe distance - finds it convenient to let his supporters carry out their own private war against Kerry, arguing something of a Manchurian thesis against the actual war hero."

Slate's William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg discuss the political ad wars. Saletan: "The negative phase of the general election started early this year, so the traditional late-summer moral descent is taking us one step deeper, to the personally nasty." Weisberg: "Let's get some things straight here. There is a right-wing slime machine. It has kicked into gear with this phony attack on Kerry's military record. Bush benefits from the ad and condones it. And if Kerry doesn't hit back harder, it could cost him the election."

You might remember bits of Australian filmmaker George Gittoes's Soundtrack to War popping up in Fahrenheit 9/11. For the Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Moran asks him why he's sold it to VH1 and gets a fairly reasonable answer: "A minimum estimated audience of 85 million people will see it." Via Movie City News. More on the film itself from Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Globe.

Zach Braff: "Some of you have been asking me about some of my DVD recommendations. Like all of you, I have tons. But I'll start with a couple of favorites that first come to mind..." Annie Hall and Manhattan are the first two to come to mind.

Braff has just won the Crystal Vision award for a debut filmmaker for Garden State at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, reports Adam Burnett at indieWIRE.


Among the other winners: Q Allen Brocka's Eating Out and Simon Denis's Iota.

Also in indieWIRE, Brian Brooks passes along word that has just handed out five grants of $10K each to five documentary projects and Erica Abeel has a leisurely and highly readable chat with Stephen Fry: "The fact is, there will only ever be one Vile Bodies, and that's the book by Waugh. And my take on it is called Bright Young Things. I wish more adapters would find a different title. Because it's actually a service to the book. We're just doing little vamps on it, little riffs on the original."

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains screens tonight through Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse (click it, there's a trailer) in Austin, and it "more than stands the test of time," writes Kate X Messer. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Marc Savlov briefly tells the story behind Storie Productions and previews the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (August 26 - September 6).

Bart Sterling, 87, is one of more than 120,000 extras in Hollywood and he's appeared in about 200 films and TV shows. Khristian Leslie meets him. Also in the LA Weekly: Ella Taylor on Last Life in the Universe ("an endearing, tonally complex tale of love, sibling rivalry and the clumsy ways in which people try to rise above grievous loss - with, it goes without saying, some brutal yakuza business wedged in between") and Tim Appelo on Hero (Zhang Yimou "can wring as much drama from a falling bolt of dyed cloth as Milton did from Satan’s fall").

Shahid Khan at Planet Bollywood: "This month there are two Bollywood love stories releasing to big hype: Samir Karnik's Kyun! Ho Gaya Na... and Ken Ghosh's Fida. As part of the pre-release promotion, both of the movies are focusing on the fact that two celebrity couples, Vivek Oberoi-Aishwarya Rai (KHGN) and Shahid Kapoor-Kareena Kapoor (Fida) will be seen onscreen together for the first time."

What is going on with film criticism in the country's major papers, magazines and even the alternative press? If there's one simple answer to that question, MCN's Leonard Klady doesn't have it, but he does raise several notable issues looking for it.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 PM | Comments (3)

Elmer Bernstein, 1922 - 2004.

This summer has not been kind to film composers. On July 21, Jerry Goldsmith died at the age of 75. (NPR has a fine appreciation laced with more its stories on film music.)

And just the other night, I was watching a doc on German television about David Raksin, who died on August 9. He'd made it all the way to 92. (The Telegraph runs one of the better obits.) The doc's very well done, particularly the section that walks you through his score for Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil, and of course, features interviews with other composers, Henry Mancini, John Williams and so on. The more I watched, the more I started looking forward to the personable and perceptive comments from one interviewee in particular, Elmer Bernstein. On Wednesday, he died, aged 82.

Elmer Bernstein The AP's Bob Thomas:

Film composer Elmer Bernstein, who created a brawny, big-sky theme for The Magnificent Seven, nerve-jangling jazz for The Man With The Golden Arm and heart-rending grace notes for To Kill a Mockingbird, has died....

"It's one thing to write music that reinforces a film, underscores it - the traditional sense of stressing, underlining - or gives it added dramatic muscle," director Martin Scorsese once said. "It's entirely another to write music that graces a film. That's what Elmer Bernstein does, and that, for me, is his greatest gift."

Even during the difficult times when Bernstein suffered the fate of many of the great talents during the 1950s when his career with the film studios was almost halted by the McCarthy era. He was very sympathetic to certain left-wing causes and was tarred with same brush that was destroying many a career during the time. Bernstein found himself "gray-listed" in Hollywood and he was forced to work on several low-budget science fiction films. Bernstein turned things to his favour on the two films that have become cult favourites. The scores for Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon saw the composer experiment and allowed him to experiment with electronic music. In several films later in his career he introduced the Ondes Martinet, an electronic keyboard instrument with a distinct sound that can be heard on Ghostbusters and My Left Foot.

There is, of course, much more at his official site.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:38 AM

August 18, 2004

Shorts, 8/18.

Saint Jack Ben Slater: "When I was leaving UK to head off to live in Singapore, I intended to keep busy researching and hopefully producing a documentary about the making of a little-known American film called Saint Jack, which had been shot in Singapore over a few months in 1978." Why? "[I]t seemed that almost every single aspect of its production history had some incredible rip-roaring story behind it." You'll definitely want to read the first part of Ben's retelling, and when you do, you'll be well-prepped for the trailer, narrated by Peter Bogdanovich.

Praise be, the cinetrix is back: "I subject you to my argument for Three Kings as the first hip-hop war movie. [Apparently, it made (J) Hoberman laugh out loud. Just like there's no crying in baseball, there are few laffs in academia....]" Made me laugh, too, but in a very good, very grateful way.

Even if you haven't seen The Brown Bunny, you'll want to follow the sharp yet civil disagreement on the film between Filmbrain and Aaron Dobbs. It's been brewing for some time, but heats up in the comments following Filmbrain's review there. Marliegh Riggins chimes in as well, which will remind you to check her hyperkinetic, always a good move, since, besides the need-to-know music bits, you'll find gems like Jessica Lee Jernigan's 1999 interview with Bill Murray.

Robert Davis sees Michelangelo Antonioni's latest, Michelangelo Eye-to-Eye (Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo), "a 17-minute meditation on that other Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses." (More in Italian.)

McCay: Little Nemo

Doug Cummings appreciates the work of pioneer Winsor McCay, whose "animation is both charmingly whimsical and slightly subversive."

James, who blogs at Lossless, points in a comment to his collection of links to 2046-related video as well as word that the Japanese site has now officially launched. It's also at Lossless that you'll find a pointer to photos snapped by Christopher Doyle at Howard House.

Kang Je-Kyu's Taegukgi, the most expensive and highest-grossing film in South Korea's history, will be opening in eight cities on September 3. You'll find a trailer at the site and one at the bottom of Darcy Paquet's review for

Charlie Kaufman's "Depressed Roomies" is one of nine unproduced pilots and teleplays posted at Written By's site. It'll come as little surprise that the film scripts are better, but still. In the summer issue, Rob Feld asks Kaufman about his TV writing career.

Also: Richard Stayton talks to the writing team of Al Jean and Mike Reiss (Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, The Simpsons, co-creators of The Critic) about Shut Up and Kiss Me. That pilot is also posted at the site because it was never produced. Reiss calls it "our big, smart idea where we would have had a sitcom on the air that came right from our hearts, and we could write to our strengths on it. Reading it eight years later, I thought there might be three lines that had to be adjusted."

Screenwriter John August is blogging, by the way, a discovery made by way of Defamer.

Wade Hudson (no relation) rounds up a few suggestions for "Home-based Film Festivals," that is, for leaning politically anyway but Bush's.

The Sundance Channel "has emerged as a surprisingly potent voice of the opposition," writes Aaron Barnhart at TV Barn. One of the recent docs it's broadcast is The President versus David Hicks, the story of an Australian father who wants his son, locked up at Guantanamo, to be "accorded the same rights as another wayward Westerner, John Walker Lindh."

While Super Size Me is scheduled to hit DVD in late September, Morgan Spurlock is working on a "Family Friendly" version to show in schools nationwide.

"Dickie" Pilager in '04? It's another one of those... sites. This time for John Sayles's Silver City (trailer).

"Let's face it, the number of times a movie has altered public opinion on any issue can be counted on the fingers of no hands." Of course, you can't say that, as Jon Margolis has in the New York Times, and not leave yourself a back door: "That's not to say popular culture has no impact on people's attitudes." Ah.

Also: Glenn Collins: "State lawmakers have approved the first tax credit to benefit film and television productions in New York, and many in the industry say the incentive will help lure more film productions to the city and the state and counter the flight of film jobs to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal."

Tom Hall considers "Empathy and the Politics of the Image."

Charlotte Cripps looks ahead to Frightfest, "the UK's leading horror, sci-fi and fantasy film festival," August 27 - 30. Also on the Independent, Sankha Guha wonders of Bollywood is being hijacked. He asks, among others, producer Mahesh Bhatt. Kyun Ho Gaya Na

"You're making movies for the diaspora outside, which wants to have the comforts of the developed world. They want to stay in London and yet have their dhal and pickles and their spices imported from India. They want their incense, their gods and their movies from India. So the geography called India has moved beyond India." Bhatt is clearly irritated that such distant audiences have their bhaji and want to eat it. Don't blame us for the formulaic plot lines, the blatant escapism or the refusal to engage with the realities of India, say the people who actually make the films.

On a lighter note, George Thomas listens to Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy's soundtrack for Kyun Ho Gaya Na.

What's happening to the tradition of arranged marriage in South Asia? Priya Lal argues that a quick survey of recent tunes, novels and films reveals divergent and intriguing ways it's evolving.

Also in PopMatters:

  • Rob Horning: "Ads try to convince people that freedom from need only sets the stage for the freedom to want.... Advertising saturates goods with meanings, often multilayered and contradictory, so no one would ever mistake them for something that's simply useful."
  • Mark Reynolds on Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed: "[T]he most instructive aspect of Chisholm's story is how closely it foreshadows the political climate for African Americans today."
  • Lary Wallace reviews Robert S Birchard's Cecil B Demille's Hollywood in the hopes that he'll "[save] you forty bucks."

Rania Richardson looks at the various ways distributors of indies orchestrate word-of-mouth campaigns. Also in indieWIRE:

  • Sandra Ogle reviews the week-long online discussion of poltical docs at The D-Word (whose founder and co-host, Doug Block, adds a comment at the end): "[D]iscussion centered on the definition of a political doc, but often the discussion turned into intriguing tangents concerning the dearth of right-wing political docs, whether the currency of political documentaries will eventually go bankrupt, and how to measure the success of a film when its political intentions are hard to articulate."
  • Peter Brunette on Hero and Nicotina.
  • Eugene Hernandez surveys the line-ups for Toronto's Discovery, Visions and Wavelength sections. The site for the fest (September 9 - 18) is experimenting with that newfangled Internet thing, the blog: Filmmaker Rob Stefaniuk files.

Lost Film Fest 9.0 is on in Philadelphia through Sunday.

Hm, a press release: The First International Palm d'Or Film Festival "is a festival and a film in the making, simultaneously shot and screened directly at the premises of Art Forum Berlin throughout the duration of the fair." September 18 - 22.

French cinema isn't garnering anywhere near the attention it used to, observes Armond White, but Criterion's release of Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach, French Can Can and Elena and Her Men is a reminder that his "influence on French movies is incalculable." Meanwhile, Patrice Leconte's Intimate Strangers is "part of a great tradition without actually being great."

Also in the New York Press:

Ian Carey at McSweeney's: "Favorite Gerund Movie Titles, Un-gerunded."

"Do you want to be part of the ongoing film cult phenomenon that is Loma Lynda?"

The Guardian's Xan Brooks meets Bryce Dallas Howard. Also: The paper's site has set up a special section on the Edinburgh International Film Festival, opening today and running through the 29th.

For Salon, Heather Havrilesky talks to producer Jon Kroll (Amish in the City) about the future of reality TV.

House of Flying Daggers

Movie City News has been rounding up news related to Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and lots of trailers:

Tagline's Stephen Reid has been perusing the Apple's Japanese trailer site as well and finds, appropriately enough, the trailer for Appleseed.

Artists in New York are bracing for the Republican National Convention, reports Charles McNulty: "'Actors act, filmmakers make films, photographers photograph, and Bruce Springsteen (bless him) sings,' says actor Kathleen Chalfant. 'We're all offering whatever gifts we have to the gods. No one knows whether it will have any effect. But it's what we can do.'" And Ed Halter talks to a few indie filmmakers who plan to "catch the real stories outside on the streets."

Nicotina Also in the Voice:

Kamera talks: Ben McCann transcribes one with M Night Shyamalan and Hannah Patterson checks in with Andrew Jarecki.

In Mindjack: Jesse Walker on Outfoxed and JD Lassica on Dan Gillmor's We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People.

Kim Masters, author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else, at Slate: "If there can be an opera called Nixon in China, then surely there should be one called Ovitz at Disney. The saga certainly has all the hubris and betrayal and dashed ambitions one could wish for."

We Don't Live Here Anymore We Don't Live Here Anymore completes "an unofficial trilogy" of Mark Ruffalo "man-boy" characters, proposes Dennis Harvey: "You know the guy, especially if you've dated him: slippery, sexy, appealingly inarticulate most of the time, charming in a guileless way (or so it seems)."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

In Seattle? NP Thompson has a tip for you: "My Sister Maria runs at the Landmark Varsity for one week only, August 20 - 26. You are advised to see it on the big screen while you may."

Via the indieWIRE Insider, Borys Kit's news bit in the Hollywood Reporter: Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton and Chloë Sevigny are joining Bill Murray in the cast for Jim Jarmusch's next one.

In trashy press news, celeb mags are doing surprisingly well, according to a Reuters report: "A thirst for general-interest celebrity news appeared unquenched, countering a belief that these days, the US publishing industry can no longer support splashy mass-market launches as readers turn to TV and the Internet for gossip." And Paul Colford reports in the New York Daily News that People's Mel Gibson cover, promising an inside look at The Passion of the Christ, sold like proverbial hotcakes, while Orlando Bloom was very good for GQ.

Via CS Daily, UGO's "Top 11 80s Vampire Flicks."

Online viewing tip via Wiley Wiggins: Taruto Fuyama's animated version of a story taken from Jim Woodring's Frank.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:19 PM

August 17, 2004

Summer Reading 04. 5.

Exit #3
But the cinema has always depended on photography, and photography - especially photographers - have always seen the cinema as a extension of their own work. Commercial or experimental cinema and video are for many photographers a later stage of continuity in their career. Some very well recognised photographers in the world of art, such as Larry Clark or Robert Frank have become film directors, each one of them in very different styles. In other cases, such as Chantal Akerman, her work in films and photography run in parallel. In many other cases the cinema has been an almost hidden, parallel activity, closely approaching the biographical work of many artists, as is the case of Ed van der Elsken. Finally, many current film directors began as fashion photographers, publicists, or photographers for news magazines, from Agnés Varda to Stanley Kubrick to Russ Meyer. Others, however, after a life full of vicissitudes, passed from film making over to photography, sometimes documentary, such as Leni Riefenstahl. Carlos Saura became interested in photography before films, while Pedro Almodóvar does photography during filming... Some of the most interesting film directors began as photographers, others have reached photography as an inevitable complement to their work in the cinema. At the end of the day it is all a question of working behind a camera.

Rosa Olivares introducing Exit #3: Off Screen.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:30 AM

August 16, 2004

Shorts, 8/16.

Three Kings Back in May, B Ruby Rich gave voice to a question that was on many minds at the time: "Given that The Battle of Algiers could be re-released... why isn't anyone releasing Three Kings?" Now, from Sharon Waxman at the New York Times, comes news that both a theatrical and DVD re-release are indeed planned for this fall, along with a new quick-n-cheap documentary David O Russell is putting together which will "look at both sides" of the current war in Iraq.

While we wait, Russell has given us other things to do. There is, for example, one of those faux sites so common now in promotional campaigns to explore, this one for I ♥ Huckabees, which pretends to be the official site for the Huckabees Corporation. Click on "Advertisements" to discover that there's "more to Spring that Spring cleaning!" And way down at the bottom, the fine print: "Disclaimer" takes to you the actual current official site, Fox Searchlight's. Meantime, via the Movie Blog, the trailer.

In the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch tells the story behind Errol Morris's Real People ads for MoveOn PAC featuring Republicans who are switching their votes this year to Kerry:

Morris was summoned back to the Interrotron. He pointed rapidly at more photographs, ticking off professions: "Ex-marine, fund manager, medical transcriptionist, a professor at a business school who teaches M.B.A.s and talked about how ashamed he is by what an M.B.A. has produced in the White House." Morris stood back from the portrait board. "My Mt. Rushmore," he said.


Not only will Wong Kar Wai not have 2046 finished in time to close the Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 18 - 29) as originally planned, reports Charlotte Higgins, but the film may also not be ready for its general release in Hong Kong, scheduled for this fall. Also in the Guardian: Gary Younge on the hardly-surprising objections from some lesbians to Spike Lee's She Hate Me.

That 2046 link goes to MonkeyPeaches because, until an official site goes up that's a bit more interesting that the Japanese or French sites, MP has the most thorough and up-to-date coverage of the film. It is, overall, an excellent resource for anyone interested in films from Asia. But from the front page, scroll down to the August 14 entry to read how "MiramAxe" shut it down for a day.

Via Movie City News:

MCN's Ray Pride is surprised by his own reaction to The Village: "[W]here I found a cautionary parable against isolationism, other writers found The Village to be endorsing what Metro Weekly's Annalee Newitz called 'pure, uncut Bushiana.'"

The Copenhagen International Film Festival will feature a tribute to Abbas Kiarostami but it's primary focus will be on European films, reports indieWIRE's Brian Brooks.

Read German? A few American cultural wavelets are just now splashing over into Germany, and you may have already had enough of them... or not. And if not, Der Spiegel runs a long interview with Jim Jarmusch in which Alexander Osang asks him all about Coffee and Cigarettes and Rüdiger Sturm talks to Peter Biskind. But in my Buch, the real story of the day is that Hanna Schygulla will star in Fatih Akin's comedy Soul Kitchen (and that's the link since there's no byline on this item), which begins shooting in Hamburg early next year. In the meantime, Akin is at work on a documentary in Istanbul.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Layer Cake.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM | Comments (4)

August 15, 2004

Sunday shorts.

A Confederacy of Dunces "After 23 years of off-again/off-again production turmoil, script rewrites and ownership lawsuits, the making of A Confederacy of Dunces, so close to fruition this past year is... off again." Chris Rose breaks the news to his fellow New Orleanians in the Times-Picayune.

For Audience, Robert Fontenot recaps the lore surrounding the film lingering in development hell, drawing up a shortlist of possible directors and writers and contemplating a dream cast.

Also in Audience, Richard Armstrong reviews J Hoberman's The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Myth of the Sixties.

Meanwhile, in other casting-the-adaptation news, drew's wife, Jen nominates six names for The Da Vinci Code.

IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks previews "The Next Generation of Film" (September 10 - 12): "The topic in the annual screening-and-discussion program is politics and will feature director Michael Moore as its guest as well as other issue-oriented features and conversations."

Quentin Tarantino is still hoping to make that Bond film with Pierce Brosnan, reports Hugh Davies in the Telegraph.

A philosophical journey along the Danube may not sound like a pitch that would pack them in, but The Ister is doing just that at several festivals. In the Australian, Lawrie Zion talks to the filmmakers.

The Big Animal Doug Cummings briefly recounts Todd Browning's life and then focuses on Freaks, "a film that has lost little of its impact and relevance in the 75 years since it was made." Also: Jerzy Stuhr's The Big Animal, based on the screenplay by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Two tips via Tagline: Lumino magazine interviews eleven members of the cast of Office Space; and John Martz has launched Cinema Toast, "part blog, part movie journal."

Robert Mackey introduces an impressive slide show of stills from Zhang Yimou's Hero, narrated, in a sense, by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Also in the New York Times:

Vincent Gallo

  • Randy Kennedy talks with Vincent Gallo for four hours: "Despite flashes of anger from Mr. Gallo during the rambling, frenetic and often very entertaining interview, it became clear that he was almost happy that things had turned out this way - casting him once again in his familiar role as the outsider, the misunderstood auteur pursuing an intensely personal vision, spurning not only Hollywood but also the independent movie community he is supposedly a part of."
  • Caryn James catches Peter Krause in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's After the Fall and then it clicks - she realizes why We Don't Live Here Anymore doesn't work for her.
  • Fritz Lang's Liliom is "a crucial addition to any cinephile's library," while Douglas Sirk's La Habañera "intriguingly anticipates his high Hollywood period with its balance of dramatic excess and aesthetic distance, expressed through a dense weave of shadows and mirrored surfaces," writes Dave Kehr.

Under the banner "White Guys Need Not Apply," the Chicago Reader's Michael Miner looks into the Chicago Tribune's search for a new movie critic. Via Movie City News. Also, Cliff Doerksen: "The Talking Heads' take on Al Green's 'Take Me to the River' is not, and wasn't meant to be, better than the original, but that still leaves plenty of room for it to be interesting and even excellent on its own terms. Jonathan Demme's remake of John Frankenheimer's 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate strikes me as a very artful cover -- about the cleverest imaginable transliteration of the story from its historical moment to ours."

The rumbling rumors came true on Friday: Miramax laid off 65 people, i.e., 13 percent of its 485-member staff. Here's a Reuters story.

So Paul Westerberg is contributing songs to, and might even score, an animated feature about a grizzly bear and a mule deer? Actually, he's been getting a lot of film work recently, as Barry A Jeckell reports for Billboard. Via hyperkinetic.

Gordon Thomas, author of The Assassination of Robert Maxwell: Israel's Super Spy, is writing the screenplay for Citizen Maxwell, reports Jonathan Brown in the Independent.

Politics, Los Angeles, loss, Europe, Utah, Sundance, and of course, the movies. Suzie Mackenzie covers a lot of ground in her talk with Robert Redford.

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

Jane Birkin

  • "'I must go,' she says, as Lou Reed waits in the wings." Jason Solomons profiles Jane Birkin who, among many other things, such as capturing Serge Gainsbourg's heart and inspiring a Hermes handbag, has acted in over 70 films over the past 30 years.
  • Solomons has another piece, too, a rant of sorts: "I know it's the blockbuster season, a traditional wasteland, but has there ever been a less creative, less inspiring, less varied set of films available than those currently on display at British cinemas?"
  • John Harris meets the authors of The Guerrilla Film Makers Hollywood Handbook.
  • Mark Kermode talks to Shane Meadows about his new film: "'I'm not violent and I've never enjoyed violence,' he explains. 'But at the end of the day, the characters who get killed in Dead Man's Shoes are based on people I want to kill. It's true and I'm not going to lie about it.'"
  • Sean O'Hagan reviews Wil Haygood's In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Last month, Guardian religious affairs correspondent Stephen Bates reviewed Mark Pinsky's The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust. This weekend, Pinsky introduces his argument.
  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: István Szabó's Mephisto.
  • John Patterson's career assessment of the week: Joaquin Phoenix.

James Israel spots a fun ad for Napoleon Dynamite.

Online viewing tip. Florida Congressman Porter Goss, George W Bush's nominee for the top job at the CIA, basically saying he couldn't land any job at the CIA.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:04 AM

August 14, 2004

Jump Cut. Archives.

Jump Cut 14 Editor Julia Lesage:

We are putting all the back issues of Jump Cut online as fast as we can. We hope new readers will discover these classic essays... It is also our contribution to left, feminist, and gay/lesbian cultural criticism for lovers of cinema throughout the world. We began Jump Cut in 1974 and hope to bring all thirty years of film criticism to you online in about a year.

Right now we have numbers 1-15 online, comprising over 260 essays. It is too much to read all at once but we hope you will dip into this archive over and over to read about favorite films and TV shows and also to see how the field of film criticism has developed over the last quarter century.

And the dipping is good. Very good. You'll definitely recognize a few names among the contributors. Peter Biskind's leaps out right away, for example. Ho Chi Minh's. The years of these issues are the mid-70s and the doubly valuable benefit of looking back via Jump Cut is the journal's penchant for running two or more takes on any given subject, such as Antonioni's The Passenger (Marty Gliserman and Martin Walsh) or the disaster films which were so prevalent at the time (David N Rosen, disagreeing with Fred Kaplan a few issues previous, and Ernest Larsen).

Lesage tells the story of the journal's origins, rich in historical and political atmo, in otrocampo. After (or before!) your dip into those archives, this is a tale to savor from its beginning to the personal note at the end.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:47 PM

August 13, 2004

Shorts, 8/13.

Potter on Potter "Memory mansion and enchanted forest, in which fragments of culture, history, politics, and imagined lives crossbreed, it is unlike anything else. (That includes the lavish 1982 M-G-M version, which, despite being among the best American movies of the time, was inevitably a reduction of something irreducible.)" More than a review of the six-part BBC series Pennies From Heaven, Devin McKinney's wonderful piece in the American Prospect follows the songlines back into Dennis Potter's own life and times.

"Before we shot the film I had to agree with the action director Siu-Tung Ching on the style and direction and feeling.... Most of the time the action director led groups to shoot the action sequences while I led another group to shoot leaves or water drops or a river flowing, something Siu-Tung Ching wouldn't understand." Zhang Yimou talks to Salon's Charles Taylor about Hero.

Malcolm McDowell has put together a one-man show, Lindsay Anderson: A Personal Remembrance. Sarah Jones has a long chat with him about it in the Independent. Also: Tiffany Rose interviews Kate Hudson.

"And then I looked at the anniversary date, and it was Saturday, and so I thought we should just throw a party and try to get a bunch of people to make movies." Tom Keefe tells Melena Z Ryzik the story behind the Blackout Film Festival. Also in the New York Times: Dave Kehr on "the ultimate LA noir," Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly.

Rosenstrasse In the Nation, Stuart Klawans describes how Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate has stuck with him and reviews Rosenstrasse, the latest film from Margarethe von Trotta, "and therefore by definition newsworthy."

Guillermo del Toro: "At the ripe age of 30-something, I found myself dreaming of becoming Hellboy when I grew up." The Guardian runs a brief extract from Hellboy: The Art of the Movie.

Also in the Guardian:

  • John Patterson: "Applying his techniques to big-wave surfing, [Stacy] Peralta has reinterpreted, as he did with Dogtown, the quintessentially Californian narrative, mildly tweaked for surfing: Paradise Lost, Childhood's End, the Last Frontier, the gradual fencing-in of a once wide-open US."
  • Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's media mogul-in-chief, wants to grant Robert De Niro an honorary Italian citizenship. As Sophie Arie reports, the Order of the Sons of Italy in America objects: "He has done nothing to promote Italian culture in the United States. Instead, the Osia and its members hold him and his movies responsible for considerably damaging the collective reputations of both Italians and Italian-Americans."
  • Molly Haskell: "Movies are struggling to find a consensus on sexual 'role models.'"

Online viewing tip. Geweldenaren Van Ver. "Do not miss this," says Jim Coudal.

More online viewing tips via Newstoday. Videos documenting the goosebump-inducing ACCESS Project, the teaser for the all-girl snowboarding film Dropstitch and something about New York. Also: Just three more days to enter the Sky Captain Design-a-Theme Sweepstakes.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:50 AM

August 12, 2004

Shorts, 8/12.

LA Weekly: Paul Schrader Scott Foundas delves into "a web of movie making, unmaking and remaking so infernally tangled as to give new meaning to the phrase 'development hell.'" Yes, with Exorcist: The Beginning opening August 20, it's time once again to tell the backstory. But this retelling is different. Foundas has actually seen Paul Schrader's original film, the one deemed not gory enough by Morgan Creek execs before they dumped him and hired Renny Harlin. Which is why this bit is worth quoting at length:

Rather than worshipfully recalling the claustrophobic, kitchen-sink realism of the 1973 film, Schrader and [screenwriter Caleb] Carr seemed actively engaged in subverting, as best they could, its iconography. Shot by no less a visual poet than Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, One From the Heart and virtually everything by Bertolucci), the film is visually wide-open, with a dramatic sense of landscape and a marvelous attention to the subtlest tricks of light. Moreover, this Beginning views demonic possession less as a singular occurrence - the terrors visited upon an innocent young victim - than as a contagion born in the hearts of men, able to cross oceans of time and space, infecting entire communities in its wake. It is, by Schrader and Carr’s own admission, an internalized piece of psychological (as opposed to visceral) horror. It’s also, not incidentally, an epistemological study of faith, set against a world that gives even the righteous many reasons to question their beliefs. In short, just the sort of brooding, introspective piece you might expect from Schrader (who was raised as a strict Calvinist and who has explored similar themes in films from Hardcore to Affliction) and Carr (who, though best known for his novels, has also written extensively about military history, global terrorism and other Zeitgeist matters), but which Morgan Creek would later claim was exactly what it hadn’t asked for.

But though he clearly favors this version - as does William Peter Blatty, evidently - Foundas is fair, talking to all the major players, including Morgan Creek co-founder James Robinson. While Schrader's attitude regarding the fate of his version - a possible release on DVD at best - is almost Zen-like, Carr seems furious at everybody: "I have seen most of the horrible shit that people can do to each other at very close range. Yet I am still stunned by Hollywood people's capacity to be dishonest. It’s just amazing."

Also in the LA Weekly:

  • Nikki Finke: "The New York Times is mulling yet more hires to expand its global infotainment coverage in that increasingly ridiculous mano a mano battle for show-biz dominance with the Los Angeles Times." Why? "Newspapers like the NYT and LAT are desperate for young eyeballs, and entertainment crap attracts them like sharks to chum."
  • David Chute: "The designation 'yakuza horror theater,' which Miike has himself applied to his new film, Gozu, seems designed to cover a multitude of whims. Which is good, because he has a lot of them."
  • FX Feeney: "As Gross told a recent audience at the LA Film Festival, We Don't Live Here Anymore was originally written in the 1970s. That figures, in the best sense: It is worthy of comparison to the lifelike, character-rich films we cherish from that era, and is certainly one of the finest films to come out this year."

Time to catch up with Flak:

  • Stephen Himes: "Jonathan Demme's remake of the John Frankenheimer classic The Manchurian Candidate, opening on the heels of the Kerry convention, seems like an allegory for the candidate himself. It's also areminder that to many liberals, [Kerry's] not quite one of us."
  • Martin Scribbs: "This election year, cinema has been overrun by insincere communities headed by dissemblers-in-chief - not just Fahrenheit 9/11 but The Terminal, Saved! and M Night Shyamalan's new thriller, The Village.
  • And both have ideas about Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Himes: The film "embraces the liberties wacky gross-out comedies afford, creating some really damn funny and effective absurdist portraits of an America in which racism is still a driving force." Scribbs: It also "clears the way for a long-overdue national discussion on burger ethnicity."
  • But how could we have missed this a while back: Stephen Himes probes deep, deep, deeper into what really ticks Christopher Hitchens off about Michael Moore. Anyone who still doubts that Hitchens is unravelling at the seams is heartily encouraged to read this one, but at the same time: "[T]he left must break ranks with pseudo-pacifists such as Moore."

THX-1138 Wiley Wiggins has a few bones to pick with an article at the Star Wars promoting the upcoming vamped-up DVD release of THX-1138. The gist: "If Lucas is so convinced that his Space Opera has attracted new fans to 'hard' SF, then why not let them see THX without all the self-conscious candy-coating? Who knows, they might like it. I did."

Wiley also points to an entry at things magazine on S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the video game: "Does it have anything to do with Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker? (more posters). Most definitely." Things explains.

Ok, how about a Fight Club video game? Might work. Not the one Vivendi Universal's come up with, though, scoffs drew.

"With bloody images of Muslims and Westerners battling in Iraq and elsewhere on the nightly news, it may seem like odd timing to unveil a big-budget Hollywood epic depicting the ferocious fight between Christians and Muslims over Jerusalem in the Crusade of the 12th century." Eh-yep. Sharon Waxman reports that the New York Times has handed the screenplay for Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven to five "religious scholars and interfaith activists," some of whom are worried or offended while at least one of the quoted isn't. There isn't complete agreement on the film's historical accuracy, either. Waxman wraps with a quote from Christy Lohr of the Multifaith Ministries Education Consortium: "I think its going to cause a firestorm of criticism and free publicity in the op-ed pages... I imagine that's part of the appeal for Hollywood... It is cynical, but I think they enjoy stirring up a hornets' nest."

Also in the NYT:

Eros The Movie Blog points to a pair of omnibus film-related bits: For the Korea Times, Kim Tae-jong talks to Park Chan-wook about his 30-minute contribution to Three, Monster (the other two contributors are Fruit Chan and Takashi Miike); and Eros, three films, one each by Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai, now has a new site with pix (scroll down, pick a title and go).

While Charles Taylor contemplates "rootlessness," his fellow Salon reviewer, Stephanie Zacharek considers another trend: "The past few months alone have given us three movies riffing on the Cinderella theme, stories about girls striving to channel their inner princess." And they would be The Prince and Me, A Cinderella Story and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The problem with all three, she writes, "is not that they encourage unrealistically high romantic expectations in girls, but that they're barely romantic at all. Instead, even beneath their frothy, seemingly fun surfaces, there's something numbingly instructive about them."

Brian Flemming: "It's not only the obligation of independent filmmakers to tell forbidden stories, I believe, but it's also to their great advantage."

Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "What makes 'Five Films' so consistently fascinating is the sense that Christo's fantastic creations are only part of the story."

Matt Clayfield writes an open letter to Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Jennifer Maerz wraps Seattle's Fucking Fabulous Film Festival. Also in the Stranger, Brad Steinbacher is underwhelmed by Collateral.

Marie-Antoinette Sofia Coppola is writing and will direct Marie-Antoinette, reports Liza Foreman for Reuters. Kirsten Dunst will say, "Let them eat cake" (or maybe she won't), and Jason Schwartzman will play Louis XVI.

An "eclectic" range of movies from Thailand is about to hit US theaters. Anthony Kaufman asks around and discovers that the wavelet is pretty much accidental: "'I don't think there's any concerted business effort from the Thai film industry behind this sudden flurry of Thai films on US screens,' explains Chuck Stephens, a Bangkok-based film critic who has recently provided English-language subtitles for a variety of new Thai films. 'Frankly, I doubt there's a single Thai film company who'd have a clue as to where to begin to engineer such a feat. What it is, I think, is a mixture of coincidental timing.'

Also at indieWIRE, lots of festival news:Wendy Mitchell looks ahead to the Montreal World Film Festival (August 26 - September 6) and Sandra Ogle surveys the winners at NYC's Urbanworld Film Festival, which wrapped on Sunday, and the line-up for the Sarajevo Film Festival (August 20 - 28).

Beginning September 10, Matt Dentler will be hosting SXSW Presents on Austin's PBS affiliate KLRU.

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei interview editor and novelist Sean Desmond for the Gothamist. And the relevance here? Aaron explains: "Remember that guy Stephen Gaghan who seemed to come out of nowhere (although he had been writing for TV) to win an Oscar for his Traffic screenplay? Well that Oscar earned him the right to direct something, and he took Sean's book, switched some minor things around (like changing the protagonist from a guy to Katie Holmes) and called it Abandon."

Online viewing tip. Bienvenido Cruz's video for Circlesquare's "Non-Revival Alarm." Via

Posted by dwhudson at 2:20 PM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2004

Scope. August 04.

Scope The book reviews are probably my favorite section of any new issue of Scope, the online journal from the Institute of Film Studies at the University of Nottingham. Oddly, all of them - a dozen this time - are strung together on a single page. I doubt they're ever read that way but, however you dip into them, they're like little crash courses in fields you may never get around to reading a full book on, despite your interest, and yet other book reviews never get around them, either.

This issue also features eleven film reviews and four conference reports, but of course, the centerpiece here is the quartet of articles:

  • Rebecca Feasey: "[A]lthough Sharon Stone made a conscious effort to take on challenging roles that would re-define her body as a site of performance rather than a site of erotic spectacle, a wide range of review publications that span media forms of quality and distinction continued to subjugate the performer to the controlling male gaze and devalue the accoutrements of femininity accordingly."

  • Kevin Howley offers "a thematic and analytical evaluation of temporal sequencing and cinematic time in Pulp Fiction."

Young Frankenstein

  • Caroline Joan Picart aims "to diffuse beyond the traditional cinematic depiction of the evolving Frankenstein narrative with an eye to clarifying the relationships binding comedy to horror that are made manifest in comedic versions, such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; science fiction versions, such as Alien, and iterations in which horror and comedy hang in a tight, oscillating balance, such as Terminator and Terminator 2."

  • Jamie Sexton presents a brief but important history of how the advent of sound rattled critical circles in Britain before getting to his point about halfway in: "The most radical use of sound in the documentary film movement can arguably be found in Song of Ceylon, which surely deserves to be considered one of the most complex and radical sound films produced in Britain during the inter-war period."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:27 AM

Shorts, 8/11.

Cowards Bend the Knee Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee, shot between Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary and The Saddest Music in the World, opens today at the Film Forum in New York, and hopefully, this will be the beginning of a far-reaching tour. In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes that Cowards "carries traces of its self-consciously racy peep show past, but the overall vibe is more naughty than nasty.... For all the flashes of occasional nudity and intimations of polymorphous pleasure, nothing in this film is as remotely perverse as love."

J Hoberman's take: "Although the layered, metaphoric combination of masochistic fantasy and blatant wish fulfillment that constitutes the movie's narrative is irresistible, Maddin's mise-en-scène is no less remarkable than his evocation of forbidden desire and monstrous repression.... But what's truly extraordinary about this movie - which strikes me on two viewings as Maddin's masterpiece - is that it not only plays like a dream but feels like one." As for the masterpiece notion, the New York Press's Matt Zoller Seitz would concur with an equivocal "might be his masterwork."

But back to the Voice:

"Last weekend I took the bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpar, about a five hour trip. The bus was not exactly a luxury coach, but it did have a couple of Panasonic TVs, and once we were over the border in Malaysia our driver-cum-film scheduler unveiled his collection of freshly bought pirate VCDs." Another splendid entry from Ben Slater.

Looking for something else, I found an article dating all the way back to June, practically the Dark Ages here in the blogdom. But Stefan Hammond's piece in the Asia Times on what sort of films Beijing doesn't want - no ghosts, please, or talking animals, for example - and how and why Hong Kong's filmmakers may accommodate the Chinese government is still very much an intriguing read.

Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen In the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann reviews Ken Wlaschin's Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen: A Guide to More Than 100 Years of Opera Films, Videos and DVDs:

Open this book anywhere and something arrests the eye - if only an instance of the fact that encyclopedias, like politics, make strange bedfellows. On one page stands the titanic Feodor Chaliapin, whose Don in Pabst's Don Quixote is a treasure; on the facing page is Charlie Chan at the Opera. Oh, well. For anyone who cares about opera and film, this book is a seduction.

Also: Chris Orr dislikes Kill Bill: Volume 2 every bit as much as Volume 1, but for entirely different reasons.

Farhad Manjoo in Salon: "Hollywood's nightmare scenario is that high-def TV will become 'Napsterized,' with shows available online to anyone, anytime, for free - which may sound, to some TV fans, less like a nightmare than a heavenly dream. And, indeed, despite Hollywood's efforts, it's a dream that in many ways is coming true."

Gus Van Sant has just completed shooting Last Days, an imagining of Kurt Cobain's slouch towards death, and MTV's Jennifer Vineyard asks him about it: "Now we've done it, and it's too late to be scared." Via Movie City News.

Vanity Fair: Reese Witherspoon Marcus Baram knows why Reese Witherspoon is on the cover of Vanity Fair. On that same page in the New York Observer, Jake Brooks looks into the IFC's reality series, Film School.

Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The nightmarish thought of a city without a Four Star - where owner Frank Lee programs new releases and krazy kung fu klassics with equal relish – makes supporting the theater's eighth annual Asian Film Festival of paramount importance." Johnny Ray Huston picks a few festival highlights.

Also in the SFBG: Dennis Harvey on Code 46 and Nickie Huang on My Mother Likes Women.

Kamera's Oliver Berry: "Looking back from the staid, cynical confines of the 21st century, it seems hard to believe that Britain was once at the rotten heart of the horror movie world."

In a single "uber-post," Matt Clayfield wraps up his sharp take on all he saw in Brisbane. Ryuichi Hiroki's Vibrator won the FIPRESCI Award, by the way, while Sabiha Sumar's Silent Waters was chosen unanimously for the 2004 Interfaith Award and Behrooz Afkhami's The River's End picked up the NETPAC Award for Asian Cinema.

NYP: Godzilla Jim Knipfel in the New York Press: "If you're an allegedly intelligent, well-educated adult and you mention Godzilla in mixed company, people look at you like you've just admitted that you have syphilis. They immediately assume that you're one of those pathetic creeps who lives in his mom's basement, spends hours every day arguing Lost in Space minutiae in chat rooms and goes to conventions in New Jersey dressed like a Wookie.... I may be a loser geek, but there are apparently enough people out there like me to justify all the hubbub." Also: Armond White reviews Stander but concentrates on Thomas Jane and both offer their opinions on the DVDs they've seen recently. Of particular interest: Knipfel on Anchor Bay's Werner Herzog collection since, after all, he wrote most of the liner notes.

In the Guardian:

DVDTalk's Francis Rizzo III discovers that director Richard Shepard is quite a fan of the medium.

Back in 1999, when the DVD was still news, the Jim Henson Company discovered that Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were selling consistently well despite next to no promotion. Naturally, they started thinking about producing more fantasy pictures and, for CBR News, Jonah Weiland reports on one in the works written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Dave McKean, MirrorMask. Via CS Daily.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days Online viewing tip. The trailer for Makoto Shinkai's The Place Promised in Our Early Days. Via the Movie Blog. And here's a translation into English, via the highly informative Makoto Shinkai Fan Web.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2004

Shorts, 8/10.

Online viewing tip, via Movie City News. 17 hellaciously good ads from Errol Morris for MoveOn PAC: 1, 2...

MoveOn PAC ad

...3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

A not uncommon exercise for film critics is the occasional survey of the contemporary cinemascape in search of an almost accidental collective statement: Here's who we are, now. Salon's Charles Taylor believes he's found a "feeling of rootlessness, of being in a world where the only sense of home is to be found in a state of constant flux" in films as varied as Lost in Translation and Before Sunset, What Time Is It There? and "the lovely and underrated" Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: "It's as if our anxieties about the headlong pace of technology, of living under the threat of terrorism, of an economy that leaves most of us unsettled long past the age when our parents and grandparents had achieved some semblance of security, about being overwhelmed with choices we're not sure we even want to avail ourselves of, had risen from us like a collective ether and permeated the screen."

Also in Salon: Andrew O'Hehir on Michael Henry Heim's new translation of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice.

"While war rewrites civil and criminal laws, Hollywood rewrites history." Tony Kashani in Dissident Voice. Also via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?: Scarlet Cheng in the Sun-Sentinel on how Takeshi Kitano and Yoji Yamada are revitalizing the samurai genre.

In Patricia Quinn Saved My Life, two women meet three Quinns, or rather, three Magentas at a Rocky Horror convention. The Guardian's Michael Coveney sorts out another meshing of fact and fiction, this time on stage in Edinburgh, where Patricia Quinn herself will be performing.

David Thomson in the Independent on The Manchurian Candidate: "Why or how is the first film funny? Well, let's count the ways."

Harvey Weinstein may be allowed to forge a new production company on his own while his brother Bob would remain at Disney, reports Laura M Holson in the New York Times.

Aaron Barnhart fears the worst for one of his favorite channels: "It would be a travesty if Trio didn't make it to November. Had more Americans been allowed to see it in the first place, they would've joined me in voting for it with their clickers."

In the Los Angeles Times, Claudia Luther remembers Fay Wray.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:18 AM

August 9, 2004

Fay Wray, 1907 - 2004.

Fay Wray
Over the years, Miss Wray said, she came to feel that Kong had "become a spiritual thing to many people, including me."

"Although he had tremendous strength and power to destroy, some kind of instinct made him appreciate what he saw as beautiful," she said in a 1993 interview. "Just before he dies, he reaches toward me, but can't quite reach. The movie affects males of all ages. Recently, a 6-year-old boy said to me, 'I've been waiting to meet you for half my life.' "

The New York Times.

Her fame as Ann Darrow in King Kong and as other screaming heroines in the thirties has eclipsed her romantic leading-lady status during the twenties, which culminated with her moving performance as Mitzi in Erich von Stroheim's monumental The Wedding March. In fact, she was at her best in sound films during long silent passages (especially in King Kong), when both subtle and exaggerated acting were called for: the gorgeous eyes of her imperiled heroines grow wide in terror yet look for escape, their breasts rise and fall, their lips fight to open, their hands rise to their faces, and finally they scream and scream.

Danny Peary in Cult Movie Stars, as quoted in The Fay Wray Pages.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:39 PM

Midnight Eye.

The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film August is a bit early to start dropping loaded hints in the company of friends and family about a first draft of your Christmas list, but you might want to note now that October sees the release of book put together by Midnight Eye editors Tom Mes and Jaspar Sharp bearing the straightforward title The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. Their recent newsletter promises, "In-depth chapters are devoted to such great names as Takeshi Kitano, Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto, Studio Ghibli, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and many, many more. Jasper and Tom also take a close look at more than 100 unmissable films by these and other great filmmakers." Which, of course, will lead to more and longer lists for years to come.

In the current issue, Katsuhito Ishii, whose new film, A Taste of Tea was screened at the Director's Fortnight in Cannes, tells Kuriko Sato about his influences and: "The animation sequence I did for Kill Bill was extremely violent and I put all my violent feelings and desires into it. So all of those feelings inside me were exorcised by Kill Bill and I think that's the reason why Taste of Tea became such a warmhearted film. I'm happy that things unfolded in this way."

Tom Mes:

Yusaku Matsuda is a phenomenon. His early death in 1989 at the age of forty has given him the kind of idolised immortality that the rest of the world bestows upon the likes of James Dean, Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee. The comparison with these giants is valid in more ways than one. Matsuda had a bit of all three: looks, acting range, cool machismo and a flair for action.

Yet, Matsuda remains a virtual unknown outside his home country.

Jaspar Sharp's "Round-Up" this issue is a sure-fire eyeball magnet: "Pink film (pinku eiga) is the name of the genre of independent softcore erotic program pictures that have been produced for the big screen in vast numbers in Japan since the early 60s."

Sharp also writes the book review, and his choice, consciously or not, resonates - particularly so soon after Hiroshima Day: Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Film Under the American Occupation, 1945 - 1952.


  • Tom Mes on Shinya Tsukamoto's Vital (screening in September in Toronto): "[H]is search is for our individual personality and where in our bodies we might find it."
  • Roland Domenig on Akio Jissoji's This Transient Life, "the most controversially discussed film at the FIPRESCI conference about 'Eroticism and Violence in Cinema' in Milan in October 1970. However, for some unfathomable reason the film soon fell into oblivion and is still waiting to be rediscovered as one of the masterpieces of Japanese cinema."
  • Mes again, this time Yasuharu Hasebe's Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, also from 1970: "Impeccably stylised and undeniably cool."

Don't forget to check the Calendar for upcoming events and DVD releases.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 PM

Shorts, 8/9.

The Beast The teaser trailer for Brian Flemming's The Beast is now online. If it seems a bit premature - the film, after all, won't premiere until 6-6-06 - the site, a pretty thorough one for what's clearly a very independent movie, offers a lot to do in the meantime, what with an elaborately structured community, a newsletter and so on. What you definitely don't want to do is overlook that "Click for more information" link on the "About" page.

You can already imagine the ruckus The Beast will stir up, starting in churches and then spreading throughout Mel Gibson's constituency. As it happens, Richard Corliss has a piece in this week's issue of Time on a few spots in the country where such run-ins are defused:

For decades, America has embraced a baffling contradiction. The majority of its people are churchgoing Christians, many of them evangelical. Yet its mainstream pop culture, especially film, is secular at best, often raw and irreligious. In many movies, piety is for wimps, and the clergy are depicted as oafs and predators. It's hard to see those two vibrant strains of society ever coexisting, learning from each other.

Yet the two are not only meeting; they're also sitting down and breaking bread together.

Sidebar: Carolina A Miranda points to Christian readings of the summer's hits. Unrelated: John Cloud profiles Peter Krause.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay passes along word of another new site from an indie filmmaker, Alison Murray. Her debut feature, Mouth to Mouth is executive produced by Atom Egoyan.

And via Steve Gallagher, the D-Word's Doug Block:

We're pleased to welcome two leading practitioners of the political documentary, Academy Award-winner Pamela Yates (Witness to War, Presumed Guilty) and Jehane Noujaim (, Control Room) for what's sure to be a provocative week-long discussion. Feel free to join in with your questions and observations on the art, the ethics and, yes, the business of political docs.

That online discussion starts today and runs through Friday.

Morgan Spurlock is still a very, very busy man. Recently, he's shown Super Size Me to oodles of the nation's lawmakers, travelled to Brazil and fought off unwanted advances from Subway.

Gena Rowlands For Another Magazine, Jefferson Hack asks Samantha Morton, "What is it about Gena Rowlands?" It's one of three brief interviews with actresses about actresses. In the other two, Hack talks to Tilda Swinton about Judy Holliday and to Liv Tyler about Jeanne Moreau.

The big news for the movies section at the New York Times is that Manohla Dargis has turned in her first review: Collateral, set, as it happens, in Los Angeles, the city she chose years ago over New York. In a sort of accompanying Sunday read, AO Scott profiles Michael Mann and traces a few themes running throughout his oeuvre.

Also in the NYT:

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei are the guest interviewers at the Gothamist this week. Their first interviewee: Producer Diana Williams.

"Mark Ruffalo is the thinking woman's sex symbol." Heather Havrilesky flirts with him for Salon.

Love in the Time of Cholera Back in 1988, Thomas Pynchon wrote: "Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love 'forever,' but actually to follow through on it - to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one's alloted stake of precious time where one's heart is? This is the extraordinary premise of Gabriel García Márquez's new novel Love in the Time of Cholera, one on which he delivers, and triumphantly." And now, despite resisting temptation all these years, García Márquez has sold the film rights to his novel. Jo Tuckman reports. Also in the Guardian and Observer:

  • "Benjamin Vanderford had a funny way of making a point about the media: he filmed his own fake beheading and distributed the video over the internet." Jamie Doward reports.
  • Alex Cox caught Man on Fire on a plane a few days ago and was profoundly disturbed. In short, he suspects the film is intended as propaganda, perhaps with the support of the US government, and its goal is to loosen us up to the idea that torture is an acceptable means of fighting the war on terror.
  • AL Kennedy: "[T]he prison scenes in US police dramas lack the tang of genuine penitentiaries - no one is hooded with urine-soaked bags, strapped naked to chairs for hours, sodomised, traded for favours or routinely doused with pepper spray and beaten in filthy cells."
  • Halfway into the seven-week shoot in London, Simon Garfield checks in with Woody Allen when the sun is out (Woody prefers to shoot under overcast skies) to chat about how his current project is going.
  • BrianCox, one of the stars of the film, "is 58, but his current schedule would exhaust three teenagers." Leo Benedictus gets 45 minutes.
  • Brian Logan rounds up questions submitted to Richard Pryor by up-n-coming comics in the run-up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where an award will be given "to the outstanding ethnic minority comedy act."
  • Luke Harding reports on a recently discovered 40-minute film in which Laurel and Hardy speak German.
  • Emma Brockes has a rather depressing encounter with Christian Slater.
  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: The Birds.
  • Halle Berry is an unlikely star, writes John Patterson, but she could make the most of it by turning to comedy.
  • David Aaronovitch offers a political reading of Spider-Man 2.
  • "Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are major players in the literary world." Liz Hoggard explains.
  • Peter Conrad and John Berger on Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Code 46 IndieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell makes the most of her ten minutes with Michael Winterbottom. As for his latest film, Code 46, Peter Brunette writes, it "has so many ideas jammed into it that most viewers will constantly feel, from the beginning to the end of the film, that they're missing something. It doesn't matter. The ideas that Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce do successfully convey are so imaginatively, sociopolitically, and - above all - cinematically rich that you leave the theater overwhelmed with new thoughts and heady sense of fresh visceral sensation."

Also at iW: Wendy Mitchell reports that ThinkFilm is picking up George Butler's Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry.

Tom Hall on Los Angeles Plays Itself: "[W]hile [Thom] Andersen's film is highly entertaining and a must-see for film fans as well as anyone interested in the history of urban space and development, in my mind, his intellectual approach to the question of representation really misses the boat."

Sam Ingleby asks Shane Danielson, director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 18 - 29) to chose a fest top ten. Also in the Independent:

Robert Davis on "a little piece of perfection," Last Life in the Universe: "Ratanaruang orchestrates his characters to attract or repel each other like magnets spinning on axes, adjusting the angles to arrive at an optimally clever conclusion. The movie feels something like Kenji's apartment, overly neat, and I kept hoping that someone would knock things over, but every time someone did, the pieces fell right into place."

Celebrity-in-Chief Alan Schroeder, author of Celebrity-in-Chief: How Show Business Took Over the White House, is drawing quite a rambunctious crowd in the comments trailing his article "Bush's Celebrity Problem" over at Cinemocracy.

Two angles on Jack Valenti's legacy figures heavily at Movie City News: David Poland asserts that Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, who lays out an argument against the MPAA's handling of the piracy problem in Filmmaker, "so misguided and so anxious to mislead others that he is dangerous... truly dangerous." And Gary Dretzka considers the MPAA ratings Valenti bequeathed to the industry over 35 years ago.

Also: Leonard Klady reviews Collateral and Michael Mann tells Ray Pride that shooting in a cab is an opportunity, not a limitation, and what's more, "Motion picture film could not see the world that these characters inhabit. It can't see into the night. The environments, where there's a red desert of depopulated refineries just at the moment when Max and Vincent become personal for the first time. Film can't see that stuff. [Digital technology is] a very painterly medium." And via MCN:

  • Manchurian Global, writes Frank Ahrens in the Washington Post, "is the latest of a long line of corporations, factual and fictional, that have served the cinema as capitalist villains, either as active agents of evil or omnipresent dehumanizers of the human soul."
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's Steven Winn runs down the list of political docs out and about at the moment and wonders where this trend might be going.
  • Mark Jurkowitz in the Boston Globe on the ongoing war between journalists and publicists.
  • Michael Ventre rounds up examples of "good guys gone bad" (e.g., Cruise in Collateral) for MSNBC.
  • The Toronto Star's Peter Howell offers a bit of advice and a few words of warning to Ron Howard as he prepares to adapt The Da Vinci Code.

Stuart Klawans's takes on I, Robot, Los Angeles Plays Itself and The Bourne Supremacy are now up at the Nation's site.

Echoing another one-on-one with another indie idol (Kevin Smith, when Jersey Girl was released), Newsweek's David Ansen presents the problems he has with She Hate Me to Spike Lee.

Online viewing tip. The Movie Blog, which points to producer Taka Ichise's new site, J-Horror Theater, is on a trailer kick. Scroll up, scroll down, they're all around.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM | Comments (4)

August 5, 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1908 - 2004.

Liberation: Henri Cartier-Bresson
He combined a Rabelaisian appetite for the world with a clarity of vision and intellectual rigor that linked him to French masters like Poussin. His wit, lyricism and ability to see the geometry of a fleeting image and capture it in the blink of an eye reshaped and created a new standard for the art of photography.

Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times.

He abhorred artificial lighting, including flash, never used a wide-angle lens, and never cropped his prints.... The "decisive moment," he said, was "the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression."

Jon Henley in the Guardian which has set up a special section on Cartier-Bresson.

His pictures showed the new-found mobility of the camera; he made you want to go out and take pictures.

Former Guardian picture editor Eamonn McCabe.

A portfolio at Magnum Photos.

"Tête à Tête," an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. More on the exhibition from the Washington Post.


At the Peter Fetterman Gallery.

And if you happen to be in Berlin, the retrospective at the Martin-Gropius-Bau runs through August 15.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:26 AM | Comments (1)

Shorts, 8/5.

Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper:

Tokyo Story

Like Robert Bresson, whose films have also been slow coming to DVD, Yasujiro Ozu needs, to a certain extent, to be rescued from his admirers. It's common to praise Ozu, like Bresson, for his austerity and minimalism, and he's frequently labeled "the most Japanese of Japanese filmmakers," as opposed to the supposedly more Westernized films of Akira Kurosawa. Such a claim ignores Kurosawa's communal storytelling, as well as the fact that the young Ozu preferred American films to Japanese ones, but it's a handy way of propping up cultural stereotypes while pretending to demolish them.

"His best-known picture, Detour, was shot in less than a week for under $20,000 and yet boasts production design and lighting as inventive as anything found in the huge budget German silent era classics, on which he served his apprenticeship."Geoffrey Macnab preps Guardian readers for the Edgar G Ulmer season at the National Film Theatre in London. Also: Kirsty Scott: "[M]athematicians have come up with a formula for the best kind of scary movie." Not a joke, evidently.

"At a certain point - maybe because I stopped expecting anything from [Tom] Cruise - he stopped seeming so annoying," writes Charles Taylor in Salon. "But lately, it's been harder to take Cruise in stride, perhaps because he's decided, understandably, that the days of youthful roles are coming to a close and the time has come to demonstrate his authority. And this is a problem."

In the forums at the main site, it's practically a running joke that any discussion of any movie stands a very good chance of evolving into a discussion of food. If you share a predilection for the film-food combo, Mick Vann's got a long and tasty Austin Chronicle cover story for you, a profile of two local caterers.

Assembly line cult: Siran Babayan witnesses MGM's attempt to turn Showgirls into a midnight movie event. Also in the LA Weekly: Scott Foundas on Code 46 and Ella Taylor on Collateral.

Andréa R Vaucher reports in the New York Times on the sticky politics of runaway production.

Cinemocracy introduces a new feature, "The Movers," a comic strip "in which two everyday guys discuss motion pictures off the back of their moving truck." First up: The Manchurian Candidate.

So you're a movie buff. You're youngish, say, between the ages of 18 and 22 or thereabouts. Isn't it about time you hosted a TV show? MTV is sending out a casting call, you know.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for The Yes Men.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:23 AM | Comments (1)

August 4, 2004

Shorts, 8/4.

"'Donald Rumsfeld,' wrote some cretin for a big newspaper a few weeks ago, 'told American forces in Baghdad that Abu Ghraib "doesn't represent America. It doesn't represent American values."'" Get real, snaps back George Smith.

The Silver Screen Also in the Village Voice:

Opening with recollections of television inflicting actual physical damage on its viewers, Susan Gerhard's review of Outfoxed might serve as a sort of sister essay to George Smith's, cited at the top. And then, the crux: "[W]hy do TV viewers like Fox News? Probably the scariest, most important question the film could have answered remained unasked."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Speaking of which, while we wait ever so patiently for The Beast, Brian Flemming has released the theme music for the teaser.

Cinemocracy: "One of the best broad-stroke summations on the relationship between Hollywood and Washington comes in this article by Eric Alterman in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly.... Hollywood money, he says, is to the Democratic Party what oil money is to the Republicans [and yet] 'Hollywood contributors are almost alone in not trying to buy themselves anything so concrete as a tax break or a watered-down regulation . . . . [M]ost of the contributions handed out by individual members of the entertainment industry are ideological money that buys them nothing.'"

Matt Haber's take on the piece is far less generous: "Wait, did I drop my copy of The Atlantic and pick up Vanity Fair (circa July 2002)?"

The Lady of Musashino Kenji Mizoguchi's The Lady of Musashino is now available as a Region 2 DVD and Tim Smedley reviews it in Kamera. Also: The title of Tim Applegate's piece, "Denys Arcand Retrospective," is a bit off considering that only two films are taken into account, but still: The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions are a complete "narrative circle," he argues. Plus: Tim Keane on Chen Kaige's Together and Graeme Cole's review of Jane Barnwell's book, Production Design: Architects of the Screen.

Two wonderful, related entries from Ben Slater in Singapore: First, on Tsai Ming-Liang's Bu San (Goodbye Dragon Inn):

Perhaps Bu San gets to me because I watched it in an old cinema with only a handful of people, with the decrepit staff audibly going about their business around us. Or because I used to work in a cinema with a leaky roof, constantly on the verge of closure, where the taciturn projectionists would disappear for hours on end, and the ticket girls were always in love. And it too was haunted.

This has him recalling his days at The Cube, "a small but beloved cinema that operates on the edge of Bristol's city centre (in England).... But suffice to say, running your own cinema in reality is not at all like you might imagine." Follow his links.

The original Manchurian Candidate was "more kitschy than profound," submits Armond White, but Jonathan Demme "answers the call to make popular art serious again... Demme has caught the temper of our day... With the exception of Altman and Spielberg, no other US filmmaker is as attentive to our diverse polity." Also in the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz, who quite liked both The Insider and Ali, is less impressed by Michael Mann's Collateral; Proteus, on the other hand, is "a more uncompromising (and certainly more meaningful) experience." And the DVDs.

Love Will Tear Us Apart "The movie, I found, nearly appears to be written almost as if the screenwriter had been given an assignment to create a movie based on a song, and that song is 'The Killing Moon' by Echo and the Bunnymen." The movie, of course, is Donnie Darko, and Sarah is very seriously into it and its soundtrack as well. That's via Marleigh's Hyperkinetic, where you'll also find news that Herschell Gordon Lewis is writing and directing a feature for the first time in over 30 years: Grim Fairy Tales: Win, Lose or Die.

The Guardian selects a few nver-before-seen photos Leni Riefenstahl shot at the 1936 Olympics from a broader retrospective at the Atlas Gallery. Also in the paper: Michael Thornton remembers Margo McLennan and Sean Clarke on the "wave of social paranoia playing as backdrop to the summer's cinema schedules."

Ben Stiller's brownface performance in Anchorman prompts Omayra Zaragoza Cruz to ask, "[I]s it necessary that Latinos represent Latinos? Or is it sufficient that Latinos be represented regardless of who plays them? How does one judge the quality of the representations on offer?" Also in PopMatters: Michael Abernethy on why TV entertainment "news" sucks.

As told by Anne Thompson in the New York Times, and with a dash of further interpretation, the story behind We Don't Live Here Anymore is, among other things, something of a snapshot, a graph of the history of American film since the 70s. When, back in 1979, Larry Gross wrote the screenplay, adapting three novellas by André Dubus about infidelity shot through with what Naomi Watts calls "the god-awful truth," he thought he was working on a "mainstream studio movie." Too late; no one would risk it until the indie movement had aged to the point that it was telling stories about people a tad older than convenience store clerks and such. At any rate, Peter Brunette gives the film a generally positive review in indieWIRE.

Then, via Movie City News, Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter: "From Miramax's co-production of Martin Scorsese's $100 million epic The Aviator at one extreme to Jonathan Caouette's $218 Tarnation at the other, the definitions of Hollywood and Indiewood have never been more unclear."

Back in the NYT: Neil MacFarquhar reports on Arab reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sharon Waxman asks Vincent Gallo about the billboard on Sunset Boulevard plugging The Brown Bunny. Just checked, and sure enough, a first guess, Defamer, has a photo. Eugene Hernandez passes along word that Gallo and Roger Ebert have met and "buried the hatchet."

"August is Korean Film Month in New York City," announces a gleeful Filmbrain, who's got the lowdown on the first of three series, this one running through the 13th. The New York Korean Film Festival follows: August 13 - 19 at the Imaginasian Theater and August 20 - 22 at BAM.

"I like John and Godard and not Paul and Truffaut," says Jay Anania. Ben Smith checks in with John Edwards's brother-in-law for the New York Observer.

Online viewing tip. A Japanese trailer for Wong Kar-Wai's 2046. Via The Movie Blog.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:33 AM | Comments (4)

August 3, 2004

Shorts, 8/3.

Stranger Than Paradise Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, who recently screened his Last Life in the Universe for Jim Jarmusch and friends, tells the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu what captivated him when he originally saw Stranger Than Paradise: "I couldn't believe cinema could be about something so small, so unimportant, so lazy and yet so funny and moving and so unpretentious. It was a very special feeling. I didn't want to go anywhere after the film finished. I just wanted to go sit somewhere and smoke cigarettes." Via Movie City News.

Whatever you think of its sequels, The Matrix remains one of the great and quintessential films of the 90s. Besides the Matrix itself, what most people came out of the theater talking about back in 1999, were the visual effects - but a highly significant factor in the punch they packed lay in the invisible effects, the sound design. In the August issue of Digizine, sound designer and editor Dane A Davis, who won an Oscar for his work on The Matrix, writes about what it is exactly that he does, how his work exerts the most subliminal pull in our experience of a film (and he's had a hand in more than a few, too).

One of the six indie productions Mary Glucksman checks up on in the current issue of Filmmaker is the unique collaborative effort, Deadroom. David Lowery is one of the four filmmakers working on the project and he's currently blogging about the experience - and others, such as working on the music video for The New Year's "Disease." Yen Tan, another Deadroom collaborator, is also blogging, and seems to have been quite moved by A Home at the End of the World.

In his monthly "Beyond the Multiplex" column, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir writes about enjoying Zatoichi, about not forgetting the final sequences of Gozu for quite a while, and about being impressed by Howard Zinn and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Just about across the board, reviews for Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me have been good. Writing in January Magazine, NP Thompson aims to put a stop to all that.

If You Were Me San Francisco's 8th Annual Asian Film Festival (August 12 - 23) not only has a pretty nifty site, it's got a terrific lineup as well, bookended by Takashi Shimizu's two versions of the same story: Ju-On, the original, opens the fest, while his remake, The Grudge, closes it. In between are nine US premieres:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM | Comments (8)

August 2, 2004

Kinoeye. 4.3.

Kinoeye With each issue, Kinoeye spotlights a region of Europe, usually one now located in what Donald Rumsfeld has dubbed "New Europe" (and interestingly, that dubbing has stuck). This summer, though, Kinoeye leans west. The special section, albeit comprised of only two articles: "Film and Identity in the Benelux."

La Vie nouvelle Gérard Kraus takes a close look at Andy Bausch's Le Club des chômeurs (The Unemployment Club), the 2002 film that "can and has to be interpreted as a representation of Luxembourg's cultural identity," and Matt Ross looks back at Paul Verhoeven's 1973 Dutch hit, Turks fruit (Turkish Delight).

"Since its premiere screenings in late 2002, Philippe Grandrieux's second feature La Vie nouvelle (The New Life) has been a cause célèbre." In the featured article, Kinoeye steps south to France, setting the theme for one of the highlights of each issue, the hand-picked guide to the archive on the right. At any rate, Adrian Martin counts himself among La Vie nouvelle's "many passionate defenders."

Ronald Holloway looks back on the Sofia International Film Festival (March 4 - 14).

Posted by dwhudson at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

Doc or not?

L'espresso: Moore "Michael Moore doesn't so much make documentaries as make movies with documents: if, that is, the term 'documentary' has any more descriptive precision than, say, 'nonfiction,'" writes Geoffrey O'Brien in the New York Review of Books in a piece that's best around its middle, where O'Brien discusses Moore as a collector and even as a casting director. "In his first film, Roger & Me (1989), Moore invented for himself - and more or less perfected - the genre in which he has continued to work: call it first-person polemic, or expressionist bulletin board, or theatricalized Op-Ed piece."

Not at all, counters Louis Menand in the New Yorker. Fahrenheit 9/11 is most certainly not "an outlaw from the documentary tradition," he argues, and retraces the history of the genre to drive his point home. Then: "What’s wrong with Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't the method. It's the thesis. Moore's big idea is that the war in Iraq wasn't about running the world; it was about money. This seems exactly backward."

Reviewing Robert Kane Pappas's new doc, Orwell Rolls in his Grave, Ian Williams writes, "The one unmitigated triumph of the Bush reign has been a liberal artistic efflorescence."

Also at or via Alternet: Michael Atkinson in In These Times on The Yes Men and Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect on Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and on S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine.

Eija Niskanen interviews the team behind The Corporation for Film International.

That cover of L'espresso, by the way, is current. The interview was conducted (in Italian, naturally) by Javier del Pino, most likely before news broke that Fahrenheit 9/11 would be banned in Kuwait, and was found via Perlentaucher's Magazinrundschau.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:03 AM

Shorts, 8/2.

Hud Ann Barrow in Images: "Ironically, the cowboys or gunmen who act as forerunners to industrialization contribute to their own obsolesce. Villains are fought, evil is dispelled, and the cowboy/gunman rides back into the landscape as an honorable and heroic figure. Not so with Martin Ritt's Hud and John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy."

Charles Leary interviews Johnnie To for Offscreen.

Here's a list to browse and savor: The Top Overlooked Films of the 1990s, as selected and annotated by the Online Film Critics Society.

Another one: "Films Flickhead would watch anytime, anyplace!"

So Laurence Olivier has been digitally resurrected to play the heavy in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In the New York Times, Stuart Klawans examines the implications of virtual actors growing smarter, even if "only" artificially, and more autonomous: "What if a virtual actor that looks and sounds like Olivier, and has a temperament to match, gets into a dispute with a rival Oliver simulation that is competing for the same roles? What if the interests of both these cyber-actors conflict with those of the rights holders to the original Olivier's image?"

Also in the NYT:

Yvonne Rainer

Sanjay Suri is underwhelmed by Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice. Also in Outlook India: Poornima Joshi reports that, despite a new liberal information and broadcasting minister, the Indian government is still censoring filmmakers for political content.

Heidi Martinuzzi interviews Takashi Shimizu for Film Threat.

"For an outsider, what is most striking about Los Angeles's pornographic hinterland is how normalised its abnormalities have become. Here, the ordinary (an actress reading her lines) is troubling, and the bizarre (people engaging in graphic acts of sex in front of others) simply mundane." Andrew Anthony meets the makers of American porn and takes measure of how the industry is coping with the recent HIV outbreak.

Also in the Observer and Guardian:

Via Movie City News, Peter Ross's thorough interview with Robbie Coltrane in the Sunday Herald and Ruth Stein's with Patrice Leconte in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Drudge is somehow convinced the White House doesn't want you to see Team America. Seems a little far-fetched, but Eugene Hernandez gathers the relevant links.

"A few small puffs for Harold and Kumar, one giant leap for Asian America." Neelanjana Banerjee for the Pacific News Service.

Is A Prairie Home Companion Robert Altman's next project? Via Darren Hughes.

Proteus Gary M Kramer asks John Greyson about his new one, Proteus: "Jack Lewis [co-writer/director] found the court transcript, thought the story of these two guys, their incarceration, their affair, and their execution would make an interesting feature. He asked, 'Do you want to make a tri-lingual, sodomitical, botanical, low-budget feature on location?'" Also in indieWIRE: Brian Brooks notes Brother to Brother's "Gay Fest Sweep" and Anthony Kaufman talks to DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter about Lift, out on DVD tomorrow.

The Chicago Underground Film Festival (August 18 - 24) has announced its lineup.

Matt Haber spots the cameos in Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate.

Online summer breeze. With Diary of a Star, Eduardo Navas resurrects entries from Andy Warhol's diaries, adds links and blogs right alongside in his own "meta archives." Via Net Art News.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:00 AM

August 1, 2004

Bright Lights. 45.

Bright Lights Because they're quarterlies on more or less the same schedule, right about the same time you're being deluged by a new issue of Senses of Cinema, along comes our favorite "popular-academic hybrid," Bright Lights Film Journal. This quarter, we can only be glad for the few weeks of summer left to catch up with it all, and what's more, editor Gary Morris promises this issue of BL is the "biggest, brightest issue yet, a veritable happy face of movie maunderings."

In the "articles antechamber," we find...


In the "features foyer"...

  • A Jay Adler finds two types of (pro) war films, plus "one minor hybrid of the two," and then looks at the structure and conventions of the anti-war film via five examples.
  • Alan Vanneman again, this time with the "first in an occasional series of articles on the life and work of Charlie Chaplin."
  • Anecdotes enliven Mark A Viera's catalog of 50s-era movie monsters.
  • The introduction to Dror Poleg's Tarantino piece is stuck somewhere in the middle.

Docs: Megan Ratner on The Corporation and Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and Omar Odeh on Super Size Me.

Queer Movie Poster Book Interviews: Tony Macklin with the very vivacious Stella Stevens and Gary Morris with PopcornQ founder Jenni Olson; the subject at hand her latest project, The Queer Movie Poster Book.

One of the liveliest features of each issue of BL is the roundup Gary Morris calls "Little Stabs of Happiness (and Horror)."

And then, "the vale of video":

Posted by dwhudson at 2:03 PM | Comments (2)

Senses of Cinema. 32.

Senses of Cinema To state the obvious right off, the new design does indeed, as Senses of Cinema co-editor Michelle Carey writes, make for easier navigation across the board, and of course, it just plain looks sleeker overall. But Carey has other things on her mind as well: "I fear that in these DVD-saturated times that the traditional sites of film culture are being neglected – those archives, museums and cinémathèques who collect, restore, conserve and curate cinema in its material form."

Melbourne Film Festival Then there's the issue itself, almost overwhelming, as always, but perhaps the biggest surprise for a journal like Senses is that the site is being updated almost daily at the moment with reports coming in from the 53rd Melbourne International Film Festival, running through August 8. And there are fest-related pieces as well:

Then there's sort of a Guy Maddin interlude, with entries from Darragh O'Donoghue and Adam Hart, before the issue opens out onto a dozen substantial "Features." I know it must seem like an utterly ridiculous exercise, this obsessive-compulsive drive to all but reproduce a table of contents, but hopefully, not an objectionable one. I just find it a handy way to sort through tempting offerings, like a child taking notes at a candy store before deciding what to sample first. At any rate, the features:

Willem Dafoe In the intriguing section "Beyond the Grave of Genre," Edith Hallberg explains why Willem Dafoe isn't just your average star "commuting... between stage and screen," James Rose digs up mythic elements in Richard Stanley's films, Charles Leary offers another theoretical take on The Matrix, Maximilian Le Cain is disappointed with the way Kill Bill winds down, Charles Spiteri traces the evolution of the phone in slasher films and Patricia MacCormack examines two shorts by Frazer Lee.

Festivals: Janice Tong in Hong Kong, Christoph Huber in Cannes, Brandon Wee in Udine, Brian Darr in San Francisco, Kyle Weise in St Kilda, Saul Symonds in Sydney and Ioannis Mookas in New York, where he took in the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

Eight book reviews follow, always a favorite section, and eight names have been added to the Great Directors database and the number of annotations and top tens keeps mounting.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:59 PM | Comments (3)