September 30, 2004

Shorts, 9/30.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader The Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD won't be released until Tuesday (when, on the same day, Michael Moore also releases two new books, The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader and Will They Ever Trust Us Again?), but within some circles anyway, its rumbling approach can already be heard. First, Nikki Finke: "LA Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks' news programming. Executives at Sony Pictures, the distributor of the movie for the home-entertainment market, were stunned. And even more shocked when the three networks explained why."

The New York Times has two pieces today on two attempts at counter-programming. Frank Rich reviews one that sounds like it's destined to become a cult classic along the lines of Reefer Madness if Bush loses - but if he wins, who knows, they may be showing it in schools:

Far more startling is the inability of a president or his acolytes to acknowledge any boundary that might separate Mr. Bush's flawed actions battling "against the forces of evil" from the righteous dictates of God. What that level of hubris might bring in a second term is left to the imagination, and Faith in the White House gives the imagination room to run riot about what a 21st-century crusade might look like in the flesh. A documentary conceived as a rebuke to Fahrenheit 9/11 is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel.

John Tierney checks in with the makers behind the other one, Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die, "a documentary made in six weeks that is billed as 'The Truth Behind the Lies of Fahrenheit 9/11!'"

Also in the NYT: Janet Maslin reviews Open Wide: How Box Office Became a National Obsession by Variety editors Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing, who "accomplish the unusual feat of collecting enough arcane detail to cast new light on this process - and do it without cattiness, writing in a style almost unknown to film-business chronicles." And: The movie reviews in Chemical & Engineering News are just one example of what Randy Kennedy finds is "a growing number of Web sites that parse movies in ever more precise ways, from their Christian content to their physics to whether they have continuity problems."

Back to the LA Weekly:

  • Ella Taylor: "Undisciplined, teeming with big thoughts and overplotted unto exhaustion, Huckabees is a bitch to review, but tremendous fun to watch." Plus: Almost Peaceful: "The movie has no grand insights, and it always teeters on the border of sentimentality. But..."

  • Ernest Hardy on Dig!, "as much a chronicle of the ways in which the music industry hamstrings careers and collapses upon itself as it is about the dazzling rise of one band and the spectacular implosion of another."

  • Doug Harvey: "Russ Meyer was a genius. In spite of the fact that for a few years in the 80s it was considered hip to put forth this opinion, it never quite sank in."

    The Third Man

  • Brendan Bernhard: "It may have been Christopher Isherwood who said, 'I am a camera,' but it was [Graham] Greene's fiction that the camera really loved. He supported himself as a film critic during the 1930s, and he was one of the first serious novelists to incorporate a deep knowledge of film language in his work."

Via Movie City News:

Samantha Ellis asks Mark Lewis about his "Two Impossible Films," an adaptation of Marx's Das Kapital fused with a love story Sam Goldwyn asked Freud to write - he never did. Also in the Guardian: Aida Edemariam on the UK premiere of Imelda.

In the Independent, Charlotte Cripps profiles rising star Daniel Craig.

Girish, who grew up in Calcutta, reviews Satyajit Ray's Mahanagar, his "first movie set in modern-day Calcutta" and rich in "carefully observed daily detail."

San Francisco's 8th Arab Film Festival opens on Saturday at the Castro and runs through October 24. Even if you can't make it, you'll want to read Robert Avila's preview of the doc About Baghdad for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Also: Johnny Ray Huston on Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y: "The archival mania here possesses a reach and breadth similar to the movies of OCD's Craig Baldwin."

Filmbrain previews the New York Film Festival opener, Agnès Jaoui's Look at Me (Comme Une Image), "a wonderfully entertaining film that, while nothing revolutionary, is destined to be a crowd-pleaser at this year's festival."

Ottawa Animation Festival Filmjourney.org is all over the recently wrapped Ottawa International Animation Festival.

"Top five non-blonde actors who have dipped their toe in the pool of blondeness with apocalyptic results," courtesy of drew.

"Early Visual Media" has altered its URL slightly; click the name for the new one.

Possible last minute plans for the weekend: Make a movie. Interested? Check out the National Film Challenge.

Online giggle. Horse head pillow.

Online listening tip, available tomorrow: John Sayles is the guest on Your Call.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Spaced, the TV show Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright worked on before making Shaun of the Dead. Via - where else? - Twitch, where Todd reviews Night Watch.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:26 PM

September 29, 2004

Eccentrics, anarchists and shorts.

The New York Observer's Jake Brooks knows how to pack a lede:

Thurman on Buddhism

"You all know Columbia professor Robert Thurman as a Tibetan scholar and activist, friend of Richard Gere, father to Uma. But did you know that he was also a mentor of director David O Russell (Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster) and was the primary inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's character in the audacious and philosophically dense I ♥ Huckabees, which will be released Oct. 1? And now, the two men are collaborating on a new screenplay of their own.

And he's off. Meanwhile, low culture's Matt jots a note for bloggers who plan to mention the film and, over in the Village Voice, Dennis Lim talks to Russell about "his boldest" film yet, and about Soldier's Pay, the 35-minute documentary follow-up to Three Kings that's had such a troubled history; but then, it's back to Huckabees. Russell: "I think that's the most daring thing about this movie - its optimism and its joy."

Maybe that's why Armond White likes it? Reviewing Huckabees in the New York Press (as well as, briefly, John Waters's A Dirty Shame and Li Han-Hsiang's The Love Eterne), White places David O Russell within the context of his generation: If you start with the American filmmakers of the 70s, next come the indies, and now, Russell and "Wes and PT Anderson, Spike Jonze, Alexander Payne, Sofia Coppola and others" are the Eccentrics.

Not in Rex Reed's book, though. He's got another name for them: "The egomaniacal young director-producer-writer David O Russell is a member of the new group of anarchists that includes Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, freaky Todd Solondz and the dismally overrated non-writer Charlie Kaufman, who wins critical praise for writing incoherent movies about why he can't write coherent movies."

Well, anyway. According to White, what sets Russell apart from the rest of his set of Eccentrics is his "philosophical rigor." I dunno: "Of all the American Eccentrics, Russell seems to be the only one to realize the shift in moral positions that has occurred with [Ayn] Rand's popularity among recent collegiates." No, Rand has always been popular among recent collegiates. That can't be a determining factor of our contemporary "despair" because it's a constant: Tolkien in high school, Rand in college.

Besides, it's hard to imagine a dour Randian saying to Jake Brooks, as Robert Thurman does, "If you become less deranged and more integrated in your heart and mind and you live more from the heart and more lovingly, then you'll be happy and you'll have a good time. I think that's the message."

Going Upriver The Voice's J Hoberman sounds pretty upbeat as far as the prospects for a good time at the upcoming New York Film Festival (October 1 through 17) are concerned. With a few contributions from Michael Atkinson and Dennis Lim, he blurbs the highlights, from Apichatpong Weerasethakul to Jia Zhangke. Plus: Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry: "His 1971 testimony... is one of the most potent and plainspoken political speeches of the era. We could use something like it now."

Joe Leydon, who also sees that speech as a pivotal one, finds Going Upriver "an unabashedly admiring yet undeniably engrossing account of the presidential candidate's formative years." He talks with director George Butler; and so, too, does Matt Kelemen for Alternet.

By the way, it's a bit early in this batch of shorts for an online viewing tip, but this is truly nifty: Click here and scroll down until you see Joe Leydon's white-bearded visage and watch the four clips, nicely illustrated reminiscences of what moviegoing used to be.

It's certainly not like that now. Exhibit A: Filmmaker Jamie Stuart's filing a diary from the NYFF, one five-minute short a day. Via Movie City News.

Back to in the Village Voice:

Tom Hall writes an open letter to Jonathan Caouette. Earlier, a well-considered first impression of Godard's Notre Musique: "It will be difficult to find a more powerful indictment of the abuse of power anywhere, and Wellspring is to be given credit for distributing a great and difficult film this November."

More on 2046 in Time Asia: Richard Corliss pulls together and reshapes a slightly different set of components than Jaime Wolf did for his NYT Magazine piece to put together a somewhat different whole. Just as one small example, we find out what in the world Wong Kar-wai is thinking, planning a film with Nicole Kidman: "The only thing I want to say is I always conceive of Nicole Kidman as the woman in a Hitchcock film. I think the woman in Hitchcock is always very dangerous, or in danger. And Nicole is both."

2046 But the real draw of the package, and the source of much of Corliss's story, is Bryan Walsh's interview with Wong: "A lot of people think that 2046 is like a sequel of In the Mood, but I don't think so. For me it's more like Mood is a chapter in 2046. It's like 2046 is a big symphony, and Mood is one of its movements." Later, he talks about how Days of Being Wild fits in as well.

Mack at Twitch notes that China Daily reports on 2046's opening over there, where all is going well except for Zhang Ziyi's appearance at a promo appearance for the film.

By the way, there are simply too many link-worthy stories posted at Twitch to pick just one more. Go. Browse.

Tim Carvell's "History's Notable Films, Reconsidered," at McSweeney's. Via Vince Keenan, who's still urging you to see Spartan.

For Offscreen, Colin Burnett interviews Jonathan Hourigan, who worked with Robert Bresson on L'Argent.

In Kamera, Ben McCann reviews The Pocket Essential: Martin Scorsese by Paul Duncan, another volume that proves "one of the assets" of the series: "they can be at once partisan and profound; a fan writing for fellow fans." Also: Hannah Patterson looks back on this year's Edinburgh Film Festival.

Sharon Waxman in the New York Times: "The layoffs of 55 employees at Miramax last week on the heels of similar layoffs last month leave the studio diminished just when it most needs muscle: on the eve of a frenzied Oscar season, with stars like Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio already lining up for support." Also: Dave Kehr on a few selected new releases on DVD.

Brigitte Bardot turned 70 yesterday and, as Charles Taylor notes in long appreciation in Salon ("She is my ultimate"), she's long since turned alarmingly right-wing: "Do I find this an ugly legacy? Yes. Does it affect my pleasure watching her? No." For what it's worth, Sophia Loren turned 70 last week; I mean, if you want to talk "ultimates"...

Fascinating case: Nicolas Philibert's To Be and To Have apparently made around two million euros when all was said and done. The teacher who, after all, was only one of its subjects (so, too, were the kids), sued for a piece of the profits, claiming Philibert capitalized on his intellectual property, namely, his teaching methods. Well, as Amelia Gentleman reports in the Guardian, he's lost his case but will appeal: "Had [Georges] Lopez won, French film unions warned, the case would 'spell the death of the documentary, undermining the crucial principle that subjects should not be paid to participate.'"

In the Independent:

  • Fiona Sturges profiles that "emerald-eyed, tousled-haired demi-god," Hrithik Roshan.
  • Another looker: "All flowing red hair, hazel green eyes and creamy skin, she might have stepped from a Titian painting." Bob Flynn flies to Galway to meet Maureen O'Hara who, 84 now, has a new book out: "[John] Ford haunts the pages of O'Hara's memoirs, an unpredictable ogre stalking her professional and private life."
  • And David Thomson: "Maybe Russ Meyer deserved a medal. His biography is announced for next year - Big Bosoms and Square Jaws. It could be the subtitle to a history of America."

Amy Taubin's latest "Art & Industry" column focuses on Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn!, which features "one of Brando's most complicated performances."

"It takes a lot of skill to bring off something so deceptively simple." Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian on The Motorcycle Diaries: "At heart, this multinationally financed, Robert Redford-produced enterprise is about the radicalization of individual thought. Which it enthusiastically supports. It's not quite Che: The Movie of the T-Shirt. Instead, it provides some valid reasons to wear that iconic red and black." Also: Johnny Ray Huston meets The Yes Men and Max Goldberg catches Tying the Knot, which "packs a wallop in its informed and impassioned defense of same-sex marriage."

Mark Rabinowitz: "I am ready to proclaim William Shatner's upcoming CD Has Been the magnum opus of a long misunderstood genius."

Paper's Top 20 The Movie Marketing Blog spots a case gone awry: Francis Xavier's posters offering a fake reward for a fake murderer have most definitely not been well-received. Also via Cinema Minima: Cyndi Greening's top screenplay sites.

The cinetrix was rattled to read that Werner Herzog would be directing Ben Affleck and David Schwimmer in his next film, but someone's gone and helpfully posted the full story as a comment, and you know, it just might work.

Online mouse-twiddling tip. Paper's "Top 20." Cover outtakes, snapshots and interviewlettes.

Here's an online viewing tip to watch out for; it'll presumably be available at http://www.t-online.de/3minutes starting tomorrow: "[T]he Schirn asked ten international artists, Doug Aitken, Jonas Åkerlund, Hubbard/Birchler, Isaac Julien, Sarah Morris, Philippe Parreno, RothStauffenberg, Anri Sala, Markus Schinwald and Yang Fudong, to produce three-minute shorts that focus on condensed information and condensed narration as their issues."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:20 AM | Comments (3)

September 27, 2004

Shorts, 9/27.

Last Year at Marienbad Alain Robbe-Grillet was feted at the 20th Alexandria Film Festival a couple of weeks ago, and an unbylined writer for Al Ahram Weekly was there to hear the fascinating Q&A. "'I'm not at all of your opinion,' he responds to an audience member who insists that the film and the novel belong to the same creative universe, 'but I don't have a monopoly on the truth.'" Even so, for Robbe-Grillet, this is not a trivial matter: The distinction lies at the heart of Freud's fundamental mistake, the belief that "the psyche could only express itself through words." Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Greg Allen has done some digging and sorting and presents "a timeline of how... David O Russell's grand Iraq strategy went terribly, horribly astray."

Doug Cummings catches and reviews two films screened at the LA Korean International Film Festival: Kim Ki-duk's Samaritan Girl and Hong Sang-soo's Woman is the Future of Man. Filmbrain, a major Hong fan, writes of the second that he's "fallen under the spell of this wonderful enigmatic little film."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a refugee from Somalia now living in Amsterdam, a member of the Dutch Parliament and a filmmaker whose ten-minute short, "Submission," has been "at the center of a national uproar, which is exactly what the author wanted," writes Marlise Simons in the New York Times. "She turned to the power of images, she said, to focus attention on abuse, incest, forced marriages and the suicides of young immigrant women."

Also: A brief preview of the New York Film Festival (October 1 through 17) from Manohla Dargis and AO Scott. And for New York, Logan Hill picks a top five.

Festival previews at indieWIRE: Eugene Hernandez looks ahead to the Chicago International Film Festival (October 7 - 21), Brian Brooks to the Raindance Film Festival in London (September 30 - October 10).

The Guardian's Emma Brockes meets Mel Brooks:

"You could be my daughter - you never know - I've been around. Did your mother ever go to a bar in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow?"

No. So, Blazing Saddles -

"OK. Then you're probably not my daughter. You married?"

No.

"I have a son!" He pauses. "Blazing Saddles is definitely not PC. You couldn't say the word 'nigger' now. You just couldn't say it."

Also: Stuart Jeffries scopes out opinions on the prospects for Kevin Spacey's first season as artistic director at the Old Vic.

John Seabrook in the New Yorker: "Father Paul Robichaud, the former rector of the Church of St. Susanna, in Rome, said that he thinks it is 'slightly disingenuous' of the Vatican to maintain that the recent interest in [Catherine] Emmerich's writings, fuelled by [Mel] Gibson, wasn't a factor in her beatification."

"The conspiracist, the paranoiac, actually their antenna's often tuned to something that's a little closer to the real world."Wiley Wiggins points to John DeFore's brief but sweet interview with Richard Linklater in the San Antonio Current. Meanwhile, Matt Dentler is delighted to discover huge lines for an in-store appearance by Linklater in Austin: "You know, while most of the world makes a big fuss out of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD, my mind is on Slacker. With its thread of election commentary taken from the first Bush's rise to office, there's a great timeliness in the apathetic yet motivated pursuits of the film's characters." Sort of related, in a very roundabout way: Eugene Hernandez comments on Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising Tour."

Suge sends word to Cinemocracy from the screening of Alexandra Kerry's short, "The Last Full Measure," at LACMA a few nights ago: "The overall impression that I got from the short was that the similarities to Kerry’s real life were just too close to be coincidences. My opinion is that Kerry used the film to show her mixed emotions that come with having a war hero father in politics."

Jean Cocteau Over at Milk Plus, Lady Wakasa immerses herself in the world of Jean Cocteau.

Twitch presents its collective bottom line on 39 films screened at Toronto: Tight capsule reviews, ratings from one to ten. Also: Stills from Shinya Tsukamoto's Bullet Ballet and a pointer to the trailer for Unleashed, which Todd believes will be "by far, the best western produced film Jet Li has ever been involved in. That's not saying so much, really, but I'll go one better and say that based on the footage I've seen so far it looks to be a very, very good film."

Matt Langdon offers an anatomy of a blurb.

Via Cinema Minima by way of a handful of other blogs, an AFP story whose headline got tweaked somewhere along the way; now it's perfect: "SMS Novel to be Made Into MMS Movie."

Online viewing tip. Documentation and a sample from Thomson & Craighead's "Short Films about Flying." Even if you don't have the time or the bandwidth to catch those at the moment, you've just got to read about the set-up. "The result is a coherent yet evocative combination of elements that produce an endlessly mutating edition of low-tech mini-movies that we call Template Cinema." I am such a sucker for this sort of thing. Currently on view at the Chelsea Art Museum. Via Net Art News.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM

September 26, 2004

Sunday shorts.

Neil Jordan: Shade Mark Schwartz reviews Neil Jordan's novel Shade in the new issue of Bookforum: "In the opening pages, silent-film star Nina Hardy - or rather her ghost, her familiar, her shade - describes her murder at the hands of the nine-fingered man-child George. She then recounts the sequence of events, starting with her own birth, that led to this violent end."

Jaime Wolf certainly doesn't need to "sell" a long and long overdue piece in the New York Times Magazine on Wong Kar-wai, but if he did, here's the pitch:

The kind of person who might once have proclaimed Jules and Jim or Wings of Desire his or her favorite movie now rates Wong Kar-wai at the top of the list. Flirting with the conventions of genre (melodrama in Days of Being Wild; Chinese swordsman adventures in Ashes of Time; Hong Kong action movies in Chungking Express and Fallen Angels), his meditative, pop-savvy films home in on emotional tipping points in the lives of young city-dwellers - the moments that forever mark them and from which they cannot escape. Their witty invention, color-drenched visuals and romantic longing offer the kind of bittersweet satisfaction found in the fiction of Haruki Murakami or the photographs of William Gedney, about whose subjects John Cage once said, ''They seem to be doing happy things sadly, or maybe they're doing sad things happily.''

2046

... Even if you have never seen a Wong Kar-wai film, you would recognize his style. For attentive fans, going to the movies has become a game of "spot the Wong Kar-wai tribute" (or rip-off), with a diverse list of directors explicitly recreating shots, scenes or musical cues from his work, including Spike Jonze in Adaptation, Cameron Crowe in Vanilla Sky and Jean-Pierre Jeunet in Amelie. Scorsese himself modeled the battle scenes in Gangs of New York after those in Wong's hallucinatory Ashes of Time, and even Sam Raimi in Spider-Man 2 sends Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for a quick stroll through a Chinatown that manages to look more like Wong Kar-wai's Hong Kong than New York.

And in the paper, two pieces on reality TV. There was a slew of stories on Tanner on Tanner when Robert Altman and company were filming at the Democrats' convention in Boston, but now that the series is set to premiere on October 5 on the Sundance Channel, it's a fine time for Jill Abramson to file a backgrounder on the original HBO series, Tanner '88, and ask each of the major players what's motivated the sequel. It's telling that it seems to many asked that satirizing the political system as they did 16 years ago seems almost impossible now, but one subject does present itself as prime material: Documentary filmmaking.

"All I know is that I'm going to be famous," eight-year-old Frankie Evangelista tells Julie Salamon. Frankie, his mom, dad and sister star in HBO's new reality series, Family Bonds and Salamon asks around: Kids as reality TV: Good idea?

As Bono prepares to address Britain's Labour Party conference this week, Sean O'Hagan struggles to convince cynical Observer readers that the pop star's commitment to relieve Africa of AIDS and debt is for real: "Bono, and his group U2, were initially greeted by a degree of suspicion by the critical cognoscenti, who prefer their icons to be tarnished or, better still, dead.... In the past few years, Bono has met and won over two American Presidents, as well as the Pope, President Putin, multi-millionaire George Soros and UN Secretary Kofi Annan."

Also in the Observer:

  • Where does this mythical, amusement park version of England that we see in Working Title pictures like Wimbledon come from, wonders Tim Adams. There are reasons for such surreality, he discovers, but fortunately, he can also point to relief: "[T]he recent British films that have apparently come closest to catching a flavour of home are those that have focused on the most recent arrivals here. Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things was one. The Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowski's Last Resort, an anarchic social realist film about Russian asylum seekers, was another."

My Summer of Love

    And now, Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love.

  • A horror film by the Chapman brothers? Now that's a scary proposition. Mark Kermode discovers they're not kidding and asks them about the films they'll be looking to for inspiration.

  • In his remembrance of Russ Meyer, Philip French makes an inadvertent reference to Sean O'Hagan's profile of "the greatest novelist writing in English today" (Linda Grant) on a neighboring page: "The great pity is that he didn't direct the film he was born to make, a version of Philip Roth's Kafkaesque fable, The Breast, in which a man who came of age in the 1950s wakes up one day to discover he's a six-foot mammary gland." Related: Anthony Barnes reports in the Independent on "tantalising rumours [Meyer] has a secret heir to his fortune."

Bob Dylan: Chronicles This is just barely film-related, but there's no way it should go unmentioned: Newsweek is running an excerpt from the first volume of Bob Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles.

Via Movie City News:

Online viewing tip. The "Balloon Man" movie, "meant to pique your interest in the Balloon Man CD, an impending SharpeWorld release."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:58 AM

September 25, 2004

San Sebastian. Awards.

Juan Manuel Freire files a last entry from San Sebastian.

Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly has won the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Turtles Can Fly

Goran Paskaljevic's Sam Zimske Noci came in close, receiving the Special Jury Prize. And Chinese director Xu Jinglei scored, rather unfairly, the Silver Shell for Best Director. Here's the full list of awards.

Thankfully, Adolfo Aristarain's Roma didn't win a thing, but sadly, the more adventurous selections in the official section have gone out either empty-handed, as in the case of Spider Forest, or with rather anecdotical awards - look at the Jury Award for Best Photography for Nine Songs, for example. The best news is that the Mercedes-Benz Youth Award has gone to Brad McGann's In My Father's Den, possibly the best film I saw at this festival. Now that's good taste, my young viewers!

Posted by dwhudson at 9:04 AM

Weekend shorts.

"Cassavetes didn't invent American independent filmmaking, but he did give it sex appeal, visibility and a plausible (if risky) model of how to live and work in the enveloping shadow of Hollywood," writes Manohla Dargis in a sort of primer on the director occasioned by that honking Criterion package released last week: "The hostility Cassavetes inspired has always puzzled me. Like Orson Welles, he didn't always play well with others and he didn't make all that much money for the movie industry. The other reason for the discomfort, I think, is that he called himself an artist."

Also in the New York Times:

Tarnation

  • Julie Salamon profiles another by-any-means-necessary filmmaker, Jonathan Caouette. (Good heavens: Tarnation won't make it to Germany until February!)
  • Terrence Rafferty previews the Shaw Brothers retrospective at the New York Film Festival. Related: The Shaw Brothers blog, via the filmtagebuch.
  • Every film festival has its own history, of course, but nearly all of them, each in their own way, have had to deal with the dilemma Geoff Pingree describes in his report from San Sebastian, that is, the need "to balance tradition and innovation to survive financially while remaining a showcase for imaginative and challenging work."
  • Bernard Weinraub asks, "Can HBO keep soaring?"
  • Eric Pace: "Françoise Sagan, the rebellious French writer who achieved fame as a teenager with her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, a precocious tale of sexual disillusionment, but whose international reputation dimmed as literary tastes changed, died yesterday in Honfleur, in northern France. She was 69." Around two dozen films have been based on her work, and in 1977, she directed one herself, Les fougères bleues.
  • Pete Hamill remembers a friend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams: "The Pentagon image-mongers had learned from Vietnam that all great war photography is essentially antiwar photography."

"The cinetrix had nearly forgotten how delightful a cultural critic Barthes was."

Girish Shambu has introduced a thread at filmjourney.org on Charlie Chaplin that's flourishing splendidly.

The Globe and Mail's Alexandra Gill meets Velcrow Ripper, whose documentary ScaredSacred won a special jury prize in Toronto:

What kind of person spends five years travelling to the ground zeros of the planet - the minefields of Cambodia, war-torn Afghanistan, the toxic wasteland of Bhopal, as well as Bosnia, Hiroshima, Israel, Palestine and many more that didn't even make the final cut - sifting through the darkest moments of human history?

ScaredSacred

To quote Cornell West, the Princeton philosopher and renowned champion of racial justice, Ripper says he's a "prisoner of hope."

Also via Movie City News: With the Academy planning a centennial tribute to George Stevens on October 1, Emanuel Levy assesses a mixed career.

For LA CityBeat, Donna Perlmutter reviews the Los Angeles Opera production of Ariadne auf Naxos, staged by William Friedkin, whose "most brilliant conception comes in portraying the Major-Domo (Georg-Martin Bode) as a Hollywood-producer type - tall, casually self-important, white-haired, wearing shades, of course, and Armani while carrying a white miniature fluff of a dog under his arm." Also: Andy Klein on the fake doc September Tapes.

Flickhead Ray Young reviews Peter Bogdanovich's Who the Hell's In It.

Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week, Uli Edel's Last Exit to Brooklyn. Also in the Guardian: "With six movies awaiting release in the US this autumn, Jude Law seems determined to make himself over." The problem to be fixed, writes John Patterson in the Guardian, is that "Law still registers with American audiences as an actor rather than a star." In the London Times, Matt Wolf considers Law's prospects as well, but within the framework of Hollywood's ongoing love affair with British actors: "Perhaps the British, inadvertently or not, show up the limitations of that prevailing school of American acting that finds performer after performer essentially playing versions of themselves."

San Franciscans hoping to save the 4Star theater need to know about a Land Use Committee meeting on Monday, 3 pm.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:02 AM

September 24, 2004

Midnight Eye. Special issue: Anime.

Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii Mamoru Oshii is at the center of Midnight Eye's special issue devoted to anime, beginning with Nicholas Rucka's brief but dense interview with the director in which we learn, among other things, that while Oshii was once an admirer of Tarkovsky, his isn't so much anymore.

As far as I can tell, someone forgot the byline for the review of Brian Ruh's Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, "a welcome study of a director whose works openly invite closer analysis." Shame about the byline, though, since you'd like to know who's claiming Oshii is "one of the most significant individual figures working in Japanese cinema today."

Just have to slip in here not only mention of our own interview Oshii, but also that, in PopMatters, where Sharon Mizota reviews Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ruh, who also edits AnimeResearch.com, conducts his own interview with Oshii within the framework of his assessment of Innocence; and it may come as a surprise to some that, when he decided to become a director, Oshii was thinking long and hard about Godard.

In the first part of a lively and opinionated overview of the 8th Puchan International Fantastic Film Festival, which took place in July (and for more, see the excellent history and report at Koreanfilm.org), Jaspar Sharp eventually zooms in on the work of three early pioneers of Japanese animation.

For this issue's round-up, Sharp and Tom Mes highlight four diverse anime features.

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 9:12 AM

Shorts, 9/24.

FLM Magazine The new issue of FLM Magazine is out, and I'd do one of those obsessive-compulsive annotated table of contents things if Matt Langdon hadn't already done an excellent job of it himself. His previous entry, too, is a nice round handful of pointers.

The cinetrix meets Barbara Hammer, whose doc Resisting Paradise sounds phenomenal: "[R]esolutely experimental, yet completely accessible, just like its creator."

For indieWIRE, Erica Abeel interviews Walter Salles, which is great and all, but Peter Brunette is way underwhelmed by The Motorcycle Diaries, sparking a couple of angry comments at the bottom of the page.

On a related note, in Slate, Paul Berman, author of A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968 and, more recently, Terror and Liberalism, warns moviegoers not to romanticize Ernesto Che Guevara: "Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster."

For PopMatters, Todd R Ramlow interviews John Waters and files his review of A Dirty Shame alongside Cynthia Fuchs's. More Shame: Stephanie Zacharek in Salon notes that Selma Blair's overblown assets are "an unintentional but fitting tribute to the recently deceased Russ Meyer," and MCN's Gary Dretzka meets the ever-busy, ever-polite Waters.

Quite a guest list at David Geffen's anti-Bush dinner party the other night. LA.comfidential reports; via Cinemocracy.

Film Threat's Eric Campos has a brief chat with Monster Road director Brett Ingram.

Doug Cummings posts reviews of four films he caught in Toronto.

At Twitch, Todd points to Michael Gingold's item in Fangoria on stop-motion animator Henry Selick's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

Vince Keenan issues a plea to filmmakers to give Michael Keaton a career-reviving role.

There must have been as many journalists as "regular" attendees at the right-wing American Film Renaissance fest in Dallas two weeks ago. Tales of survival keep making their way to publication; James Meek's makes the cover of the Guardian's Friday Review.

Also:

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

  • Roger Lewis, author of The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which he himself claims "owes more to ETA Hoffmann than to Sheridan Morley," approves of the film starring Geoffrey Rush: "What I love about this biopic they have now made is that structurally much of this Shandyism is retained. Most movies don't use the language of film; this does."
  • Steve Rose meets Paddy Considine.
  • Censorship is bad enough as it is, writes John Patterson, but it's about to get worse.

In the Independent:

  • Roger Clarke structures his profile of Zhang Ziyi like a quest; first, he discovers that neither he nor Christopher Doyle can find the words to describe her, then he finds Zhang Yimou full of words about her, and finally, he gets her on the phone - to discover she doesn't have a whole lot to say herself.
  • Sam Ingleby asks Paul Bettany why he takes on such a wide variety of roles.
  • Matthew Sweet discovers (or pretends to discover) that there used to be a lot more to Merchant-Ivory than "Sunday-supplement cinema for middle-class people who don't really like cinema very much but can't quite be bothered to read books."

Summer is well and truly over: David Poland has begun his Oscar countdown. And via Movie City News, a BBC report on a poll that finds The Shawshank Redemption an audience favorite among films that didn't win a single Oscar in a major category.

Online viewing tip. Original interview footage for Robert Greenwald's Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism is viewable at the Internet Archive. Via Cinema Minima.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:10 AM

September 23, 2004

San Sebastian Dispatch. 5.

The latest word from Juan Manuel Freire in San Sebastian.

Sumas y restas Colombian director Victor Gaviria, of La vendedora de rosas (The Rose Seller) fame, is competing in San Sebastian with Sumas y restas (Additions and Subtractions), a naturalistic thriller set in Medellin in 1984, the days of greatest narco-trafficking activity in the city. It's been six years since the last film from Gaviria, but the wait has been worth it - thanks to an abstract sense of action, sharp social commentary and flesh-and-blood characters. Like an extended episode of Miami Vice shot through with the oblique realism of La ciénaga, this is surely one of the more original features in festival's competition section.

Today's second surprise appeared in the Zabaltegi section in the form of a South American comedy full of silent gags. The film's called Whisky and it's not a comic take on She's so Lovely as some might suppose, but rather, both a sad and funny Green Card-type of story. As the movie develops at an almost morose pace and with a subtle sense of humor, the name Aki Kaurismäki soon springs to mind. Nonetheless, directors Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll reveal a style of their own soon enough, one of tenderness, absurdity, compassion and, let me say, genius. We should keep an eye on them. Closely.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:56 AM

Yes Men and shorts.

Two fresh and fine feature stories make today the day of The Yes Men. In Salon, Shana Ting Lipton tells their story, with particular emphasis on their origins as online activists.

The Yes Men

Then there's Doug Harvey lively piece in the LA Weekly:

Inspiring, outrageously funny, suspenseful and surprisingly hopeful, The Yes Men movie is the latest installment in what has emerged as America’s newest version of the town meeting - theatrically released political documentaries. And while this West Coast jaunt is ostensibly a promotional tour for the film, the Yes Men, as usual, have another agenda hidden in plain view.

Rather than embark on a traditional promo tour for the film, [Mike] Bonanno and [Andy] Bichlbaum decided to stage the "Yes, Bush Can!" campaign - a grassroots initiative to "explain Bush's policies more clearly and honestly than the official campaign ever could."

The Yes Men and... Drew Barrymore? She, too, has a new political doc, and it's currently airing on MTV: The Best Place to Start. Click that title, by the way, to see a clip in which Michael Moore names a hypothetical running mate - to whom we then cut. It's enough to make Nikki Finke ask out loud:

Drew Barrymore

So why am I writing about this?... [W]hat makes Barrymore's small film less than nauseating, and even revealing, is that she doesn't make herself the center of attention, but rather uses her political awakening to drive a larger narrative about voting in America. It's also aided by a distinctly nonpartisan message. But, best of all, it's not often that an actress wants to go on the record describing what a dumb-ass she was.

A fun chat follows, in which we learn that Drew's "political awakening" wasn't easy, nor entirely painless.

Also in the LA Weekly:

  • Ella Taylor meets John Waters, and not for the first time: "You could parse A Dirty Shame as nostalgia for a libertine past that Waters acknowledges will not come again during his lifetime, and about which even he has mixed feelings now." Those mixed feelings evidently extend to Catherine Breillat, too, by the way.

  • Scott Foundas finds in Jia Zhang-ke's The World a fine way into an overview: "Jia's curiosity about worlds once exotic and all-too-familiar was reflected in several of the most compelling new films unveiled during this year's Toronto International Film Festival, films that chose to see the world not as ever-smaller slices of a pie but rather as one surprisingly close-knit human community."

  • Robert Abele argues that HBO's The Wire is the best show on television right now. And he urges you to watch it.

Back to Salon for a moment: Lesley Chow profiles Andy Lau, "perhaps Hong Kong's most bankable, respected star who hasn't yet crossed over into American films," and zooms in on his "unique take on masculinity."

Daniel Handler, more famous as Lemony Snicket, author of the bestselling Series of Unfortunate Events, has one foot in the world of low budget indies and the other in Hollywood. What's that like, wonders Julie Salamon in the New York Times:

Rick

"I would have coffee in a diner and plot this tiny little effort with Curtiss Clayton and Ruth Charny," he said of the director of Rick and one of its producers. "We would say things like, if it snows that day there will definitely be snow in the motion picture and if it doesn't snow there won't be snow. Then I'd head back uptown and meet with people who would say, 'We're meeting with Industrial Light and Magic to talk about creating leeches.'"

Now that Britain has essentially two major conservative parties, the Liberal Democrats, currently convening in Bournemouth, are increasingly able to present themselves as the only viable alternative. Many, like Jackie Ashley, commenting in the Guardian, are understandably hesitant to buy in, but still. In the meantime, Vanessa Redgrave arrived at the conference yesterday to praise party leader Charles Kennedy for keeping alive the issue of British detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay by the American military. Matthew Tempest reports.

On a related note, by now you'll have heard about the Department of Homeland Security's latest pratfall, the diversion of the plane carrying Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. Tania Branigan has the story and Margaret Cho has the soundtrack: "I'm being followed by an air marshal, air marshal, air marshal."

Guardian news bits:

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov talks to Michael Almereyda about This So-Called Disaster, Spencer Parsons meets the Shaun of the Dead gang and selections from the Cinematexas 9 fest are highlighted.

Online viewing tip. "Bush vs Kerry" a la Spy vs Spy. Yes, it's a cheap appropriation of an ad. It's silly and short, that's all.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:54 AM

September 22, 2004

Shorts, 9/22.

New York Film Festival Autumn's here, and, "Yes, we're atoning for our dog-day sins," writes Jake Brooks, "and we're doing it at the altar of the New York Film Festival [October 1 through 17].... Its boutique size, elitist philosophy and penchant for auteurism make it an anachronism. And we are all better off for it." Brooks checks in not only with the organizers but with the filmmakers as well, including Todd Solondz, Jonathan Caouette, Lodge Kerrigan, Alexander Payne and David Gordon Green.

Also in the New York Observer:

    Peter Bogdanovich: Who the Hell's In It
  • Scott Eyman: "Peter Bogdanovich's Who the Hell's In It is an early Christmas present for movie lovers, a double Dutch chocolate cornucopia of delight, best ingested in small doses to prolong the pleasure." While we're on the subject of Bogdanovich, Ben Slater has again - finally, dammit! - picked up the exceedingly entertaining story of the making of Saint Jack.

  • In Toronto, Rex Reed found Ladies in Lavender to be "the perfect antidote to all the pretentious drivel that preceded it."

  • Andrew Sarris recalls the days he "began to regard [James] Toback as the curse of the auteur theory."

  • DVDs: Mark Lotto on Star Wars: "[W]atching the trilogy again for the umpteenth time, I found that I just didn't care anymore about any of it. There were no human beings up on screen, just the full complement of my old Halloween costumes. Have I become everything Peter Pan warned Wendy about?" Also: Jake Brooks on Coffee and Cigarettes ("ups and downs are at the mercy of the pairings") and Jessica Joffe on Mean Girls: "The joys of the DVD are in the endless reels of deleted scenes, bloopers and quietly amusing commentary by [Tina] Fey, director Mark Waters and Saturday Night Live godfather/Dr. Evil Lorne Michaels, who becomes tangibly excited every time the girls really throw down."

"The cinetrix has a bittersweet Russ Meyer memory." And she'll share it with you after you read the wonderful appreciation by Roger Ebert she points to first.

Still rounding up Toronto:

  • Darren Hughes is not only filing considered responses to the films he's seen, he's also broken down his experience of the fest by the numbers.
  • And via Darren, Girish.
  • Jason Morehead at Opus.
  • Jessica Winter looks back in the City Pages, where Dylan Hicks looks ahead to the second annual Arab Film Festival at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.
  • Anthony Kaufman in indieWIRE: "While it's nearly impossible to make any definitive proclamations based on the mere 27 1/2 films I saw out of the available 328, allow me a few observations unique to the 29th Toronto film bonanza."

Also at iW, Wendy Mitchell conducts one interview each with Zak Penn and Werner Herzog. The subject at hand, of course, is Incident at Loch Ness, and all questions and answers are skewed so as to swerve wide and clear from possible spoilers.

There is, of course, room in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's sex issue for film and TV-related angles, including Johnny Ray Huston's talk with the creators of the up-n-coming gay porn soap, Wet Palms, and Lorraine Sanders's investigation of reality porn.

Also:

2046 Billed as an interview with Wong Kar-wai, Howard Feinstein's piece in the Guardian is actually more of an outline of the stories told in 2046 and a backgrounder on its making. Todd at Twitch points to the new trailer and passes along news (rumors?) from Monkey Peaches that the Wong Kar-wai project with Nicole Kidman and Takeshi Kitano is shaping up after all.

Also in the Guardian, Amelia Gentleman follows up on Claude Lelouch's attempt to revive prospects for Les Parisiens after an all-round critical bashing by offering free screenings; it's not working.

Hype is killing Bollywood, argues Rakesh Budhu at Planet Bollywood.

Charles Taylor: "What may be most interesting about the Paltrow haters is this: Ask any one of them why they hate her and it's almost a sure bet that the quality of her acting will barely figure into it." Also at Salon: Dan Kois lists the top ten heirs to the legacy of Lenny Bruce.

In the Independent, David Thomson traces the roots of Disney's problems: "Walt Disney and nine guys changed the world of entertainment, more or less. And then they grew larger, more prosperous and bored."

Screening the City Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice have already edited a book that came out of the "Cinema and the City" conference held in 1999; Why is a second, Screening the City, necessary? Writing for Film-Philosophy, Michele Braun explains: "Unlike its predecessor, this second volume tends toward film studies rather than sociology, more frequently reading the narrative of the film text in conjunction with the conditions of its production than the previous volume, making it a more tightly focused volume in many ways."

In the New York Times:

J Hoberman begins his look back at Toronto with a brief review of A Dirty Shame ("more rousing than arousing... Seen as Waters's contribution to the 2004 election, however, it's his most radical film in 25 years") and other libidos on parade, then moves on to I ♥ Huckabees ("too heavy to soar but too light to ever fall flat") and quick takes on My Summer of Love, Harvest Time and Cinévardaphoto.

Also in the Village Voice:

Attention musical-loving New Yorkers - and wouldn't that be all New Yorkers? - The New York Musical Theatre Festival's Movie Musical Screening Series runs September 27 - 30 and features -besides movies, of course - panels and Q&A's with the likes of John Cameron Mitchell and many more.

In the New York Press:

Goodbye Dragon Inn

Jeff Fleischer interviews David Robb, author of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies.

Piracy's "dramatically" eating into DVD sales? Jason Kottke, who's just redesigned his "Movies" page, has a few words - and more importantly, a few numbers - for George Lucas.

Offline viewing tips. "Punk Film - Jammin' in the City" on Trio, tonight and tomorrow. And via Doug Cummings: "The films of Carl Dreyer are currently airing this month on TCM, and it's always fun to make new converts."

Online viewing tip. The preview for The Best of 16 Color on DVD. Via Wiley Wiggins, who's on a roll: HAL 9000 at eBay; and Richard Linklater lays out his position on Universal's botched release of Dazed and Confused on DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:10 PM | Comments (3)

Russ Meyer, 1922 - 2004.

Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!
Adult film-maker Russ Meyer, one of the pioneers of the porn movie industry, has died in Los Angeles aged 82.

Meyer - nicknamed King Leer - produced, directed, wrote, edited and shot over 20 films, including the 1965 cult hit Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

The BBC.

"I love big-breasted women with wasp waists," he told the London Times in 1999, two decades after making his final film. "I love them with big cleavages." ...

But with age came grace - and admiration - as Meyer's work was honored at film festivals around the world including at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood and the National Film Theater in London. His movies were discussed in classes at Yale and Harvard, and purchased by such respectable institutions as the New York Museum of Modern Art.

[...]

When the Russ Meyer Film Festival opened at Los Angeles' Vagabond Theater in 1992, Times film writer Kevin Thomas wrote: "No one projects heterosexual male sex fantasies with greater gusto and resolute dedication than Meyer, who at heart is a puritan and who has always been a bigger tease than any burlesque queen."

Myrna Oliver in the Los Angeles Times.

A cornerstone of both camp and punk cultures - no mean feat - Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! (1966) shows the thrillingly lethal consequences when aggravated go-go dancers get bored. Russ Meyer's black-and-white desert Gothic melodrama - for some viewers the crown jewel in a flashy career - opens with crazed half-naked women dancing in shadow and thrusting their tits into the camera, while a pompous male voice in overdub details the horrors of the "predatory female" for its nervous target audience - the sexually paranoid hetero male sitting alone in Pussycat theatres across the country.

Gary Morris in Bright Lights Film Journal.

See also the Daze Reader's page devoted to Russ Meyer.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:46 AM | Comments (2)

San Sebastian Dispatch. 4.

Spider Forest Once again, Juan Manuel Friere:

This morning, San Sebastian's film festival offered the opportunity to delve deep into the mysterious, head-spinning, mind-numbing Spider Forest, a curiosity from South Korea's Song Il-gon. Like Japanese master Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Il-gon spices up the thriller genre with bits of sci-fi, psychological drama and dirty realism, developing a challenging proposal which unnerves and fascinates. Deciphering the plot is almost impossible, but it's not exactly necessary when you're wrapped up in such powerful visuals. The film has a lyrical and violent style evoking emotive fascination and gruesome impact.

If I had to choose a directing award just now, I'd have no doubt.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:26 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2004

San Sebastian Dispatch. 3.

Journalist and editor Juan Manuel Freire files another dispatch from San Sebastian.

The latest surprise from Zabaltegi section has come in the form of an adult tale starring almost exclusively young girls. Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence is not a perfect movie - it's even more pretentious than Mike Figgis's latest outings, and it's overlong, and derivative. But Hadzihalilovic's unusual film - apparently, she and agent provocateur Gaspar Noé are an item - arouses a sense of risk, even danger sadly missing in the vast majority of selections at the festival, and that's something to appreciate.

Innocence.jpg

Innocence is a place. The film centers on life in a school for girls which serves as a handy metaphor for, yes, innocence. The always painful passage from infancy to adolescence is presented in the form of a quasi-Victorian tale with hints of the supernatural - young girls learning the facts of life through a series of symbolic accidents, meetings and various objects at play. The idea is simple, of course, and it falls flat in the middle of the race - when it begins to feel like a short film obliged to be a long one. But the filmmaking is, nonetheless, utterly fascinating, mixing Lynchian claustrophobia with the floating magic of fairy tales for an intense cinematic experience.

A lot of people walked out of this screening. Hopefully, they had something much better to do. And hopefully, they weren't the same people who cheered the sloppy, pedantic Roma, currently ringing in as a favorite of the official section. More notes to come from San Sebastian.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:09 AM

September 20, 2004

Film Comment. September/October 04.

Film Comment: September/October 2004 Well, thanks to David O Russell, we've all had to learn how to make little hearts. Since editor Gavin Smith has chosen to write the cover story about Russell's new film, I ♥ Huckabees, Film Comment is no exception. You'll see little hearts sprinkled all over the page, leading up to Smith's pronouncement, "I ♥ Huckabees is a rarity - a tremendously optimistic film for a truly dark time."

But that simply serves as an intro to Smith's interview with Russell. Great bit on Three Kings: "When I was doing marketing, I said the gold is the McGuffin. And the guy who had just come from McDonald's to run marketing didn't know what a McGuffin is. And I looked at him, and I said, 'You don't know what a McGuffin is, do you? But you know what a McMuffin is.' I couldn't resist."

Chuck Stephens files a must-read:

The astonishing legacy of Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers studios - razzle-dazzle musicals, death-steeped melodramas, huangmei diao Chinese opera adaptations, super-noir swordplay sagas, gristle-ribboned urban thrillers, and some of the greatest martial-arts movies ever made - is risen. And a stool-brown monkey shall lead us; behold, the celestial view.

Or rather, the Celestial Pictures view - the company currently engaged in the biggest cine-archeological dig of all time. From a library of more than a thousand titles, and at a cost somewhere in the range of $75 million, Celestial is now in the midst of a five-year project to restore and reissue some 760 Shaw Brothers films from the studio's mid-Fifties-to-mid-Eighties golden age.

To top it off, the sidebar: "Five Immortals from the Shaw Brothers Crypt."

Then, an update from Li Cheuk-to: "[I]t was 2003, not 1997, that marked the end of an era - both for Hong Kong and its cinema... Much of HK cinema now walks a tightrope between the desire to appeal to Mainland audiences (with the compromises that implies) and the need to express contemporary Hong Kong consciousness."

Peter Kubelka: Poetry and Truth Alexander Horwath catches the first film by Peter Kubelka in 26 years: "Apart from being great fun, Poetry and Truth adds another layer to the portrait of the artist as archeologist - as a hunter-gatherer of artifacts that, 100 or 500 years hence, may reveal the answers to questions that cannot even be conceived of today."

Anticipating an interview with Mike Leigh which will soon appear, most likely as an "Art & Industry" column, Amy Taubin offers an admiring take on Vera Drake.

Phillip Lopate: "Intelligently framed, well-lit, mobile, crisply edited, and entirely adequate for its purposes, Saraband began as TV film shot on digital video. Bergman is reportedly dissatisfied with the look of the tape-to-film transfer, and his perverse perfectionism has kept him from allowing it to be shown theatrically. What a shame - many of those who have seen it already hail it as a masterpiece."

Finally, at least as for what's available online is concerned, Nathan Lee reviews Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell: "[L]aughable in a movie theater, but it might work up some tawdry Dada vibes as a DVD loop hung between Ingres's Grand Odalisque and the notorious Courbet. Beyond that, her intentions beat me - over the head with the collected works of Foucault?"

Posted by dwhudson at 8:56 AM

Shorts, 9/20.

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller Arthur Miller's new play Finishing the Picture premieres in Chicago on Tuesday with a helluva cast that includes Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach and Matthew Modine. As she meets the playwright, Deborah Solomon has a few questions in mind:

Why, you wonder, would Miller feel moved to exhume the ghost of Monroe after all these years? The making of The Misfits has already been well chronicled in a documentary film and a book of Magnum photographs. You might say that the goings-on surrounding the film have acquired their own stirring narrative, one that actually surpasses the movie in both dramatic interest and cultural importance. Yet that story was never quite complete, at least not in Miller's imagination. With his new play, he tries to "finish the picture."

Also in the New York Times:

  • "Perhaps no director, from Italy or anywhere else, has dramatized revolution - the most violent and concentrated form of historical change - with as much vigor and intelligence as Gillo Pontecorvo, now 84, who is currently experiencing an unexpected and gratifying revival." AO Scott on Burn!, which "feels less like a prophecy of insurrections to come than an elegy for revolutionary hopes and illusions." Also: One last look at Toronto.
  • Dave Kehr talks to the filmmakers behind Shaun of the Dead, "one of the most successful blends of terror and humor since John Landis's 1981 movie, American Werewolf in London."
  • Lynn Hirschberg has a few questions for Walter Salles.
  • Bernard Weinraub: "It was HBO night at the Emmys." For excellent commentary, you'll want to click over to Aaron at Out of Focus.
  • Ken Belson on the battle over the next generation of DVDs: "The rivalry between the competing coalitions - Blu-ray, led by Sony and relying heavily on Sony technology, and the HD-DVD format group using technology from its leaders, Toshiba and NEC - is turning into a fight over whether the television or the computer will dominate the living room."

Arguing that theatrical distribution is now more a means to an end won't raise eyebrows anymore, but Daragh Sankey asserts that there's more at stake than most realize. In short, cinema-as-we-know-it. One could argue that cogs in the wheel such as the star system or the critical-industrial complex could (and should) adapt to the rapidly evolving new reality, but still, his is a provocative piece, and Parts Two and Three are definitely worth looking forward to.

In contrast, Doug Cummings's experience in Toronto "deepens my conviction that film criticism is a social act, and certainly cinephilia and festival going are as well."

Wrapping up Toronto at Twitch are Opus, with reviews of The Ninth Day, The World and Kontroll, and Todd on Steamboy, "a marvel on all levels."

Eugene Hernandez rounds up the awards winners at Toronto and Brian Brooks serves up more pix.

Mark Danner assesses the indelible imagery of Abu Ghraib in the New York Review of Books. Indelible everywhere around the world except, of course, on the American campaign trail.

The cinetrix goes surfing on waves of library music.

Jean S. In Le Nouvel Observateur (and in French), Catherine David praises Alain Absire's telling of Jean Seberg's story. Via Perlentaucher's Magazinrundschau.

For Film-Philosophy, Paul Fox reviews Cinema and Desire: Feminist Marxism and Cultural Politics in the Work of Dai Jinhua, "a collection of essays, covering several decades, by one of China's leading and most prolific film and cultural theorists."

The WELL is hosting a conversation with one of its hosts, Craig Seligman. The subject is his book, Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, and so far, it's led to a split into two conversations, one on Kael and movies with Andy Klein and one on Sontag and politics with Wagner James Au.

"[Th]e one thing I know is that adults simply aren't affected in a malign manner by material which is merely shocking. Personally, I think that Irreversible was actually highly moral, if a little sentimental. But if common sense tells us anything, it's that it's only a movie." Robin Duval, Britain's top censor, now retiring, surprises Mark Kermode. Also in the Observer: Gaby Wood interviews Ashley Judd and Frances Tillson on Modesty Blaise.

Shooting porn without "barrier equipment" has led to fines for two production companies in California. Dan Glaister reports in the Guardian.

"What may surprise many" about Team America: World Police, writes Sean Smith in Newsweek, is that Trey Parker and Matt Stone "pummel the left more than the right." Nope. No surprise here.

Wiley Wiggins: "Maybe one day in the distant future when (and if) Lucas' copyright on the work expires, different disparate fragments of the film can be sampled and mutated, becoming their own new films. The footage and ideas could be used just as THX-1138's hive society intended to use him, as spare parts." More Lucas stuff via Rashomon: Something Awful offers screen caps of the changes made to the Star Wars trilogy.

Via Movie City News, Leah McLaren asks Wim Wenders in the Globe and Mail why he thinks no distributor has yet picked up Land of Plenty for the North American market: "Apparently the Christian message and the liberal message are considered incompatible."

Plus: Chris Marlowe's Reuters piece on how Fine Line Features is sprinkling the Net with a blog and bits of online viewing from John Waters's A Dirty Shame. You can find one at Salon, for example, or go straight to Movie-List for the trailer and nine featurettes.

Online viewing tip, once again via greg.org: Daniel Libeskind: A True Believer.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:29 AM

Sight & Sound. October 04.

Sight & Sound: October 2004 "You can't see the city at night on motion-picture film the way you can on digital video." That's Michael Mann, talking to Mark Olsen, primarily about Collateral, of course, but also about the future of the medium. Olsen's convinced he's onto something: "If Kubrick [in Eyes Wide Shut] could prefigure the colours and framing of the still-emerging digital aesthetic, Mann is perhaps the perfect film-maker to take the technology forward."

Also in the October issue of Sight & Sound:

  • In a reconsideration of the early work of Jacques Rivette, David Thomson starts off in a few different directions all at once, but overall, he's not going Olsen's way: "The tyranny of the visual has set in with a vengeance: come to think of it, it's a pretty good overall description of what bursts on to the big screen these days."
  • Mark Kermode reviews Switchblade Romance, "a riotous slasher throwback which writer-director Alexandre Aja describes as an attempt to return to 'the roots of the genre, to give the audience a real "battle for survival".'"
  • Tony Rayns on Father and Son: "[D]espite everything, the film has a cumulative power."
  • Leslie Felperin on Super Size Me: "High-powered lobbyists, laissez-faire governments and lazy, carb-guzzling citizens are all proved complicit in worldwide nutritional suicide."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:32 AM

September 19, 2004

San Sebastian Dispatch. 2.

Journalist and editor Juan Manuel Freire picks more favorites from the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Two unique gems were on offer on the restless second day of screenings in San Sebastian. The competition section presented an unlikely pretender in the form of the one-of-a-kind pop-porn film Nine Songs from the maverick British director Michael Winterbottom. It's been widely regarded as a shocking film in which a couple has sex, goes to some gig, then has sex, goes to some gig and so on. Such a plot summary, though not entirely unattractive, doesn’t do justice to a true cinematic challenge, a pure and perceptive depiction of these two people's lives. We are permitted see everything - the little, dumb words, the ridiculous dances, the dialogue of the eyes, and also, yes, the sex, in all its spiritual and carnal strength, all its life. We’re permitted to see everything invisible and visible. Everything. And when the end comes, the pain is almost unbearable.

fathers-den.jpg

San Sebastian's Zabaltegi section is reserved for discoveries from other festivals, and one of the highlights is a co-production from New Zealand and Great Britain, In My Father's Den. Writer-director Brad McGann's film was recently hailed at Toronto and it's easy to see why. It’s sweeping, liquid cinema, navigating back and forth in time with the fluidity of Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, showing a great care for framing and creating a trance-like sense of hypnosis. And the story is not just an excuse for aesthetic exploration, but a dense, hot-blooded account of a group lives held as prisoners to the past - and eventually victims of it. Imagine Mystic River set in Twin Peaks and you're almost there. I didn't want the movie to come to an end. Emotional bliss.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:24 AM

September 18, 2004

San Sebastian Dispatch. 1.

San Sebastian Journalist and editor Juan Manuel Freire sends word from the San Sebastian Film Festival. Click the movie title to watch a clip, but don't shut it off after the first cut to black or you'll miss Will Ferrell's Woody Allen impression.

Two years ago, Lucas Belvaux surprised us with his notable Trilogy - three films involving the same characters and touching on the same basic storyline and approached from the framework of three different genres, the comedy, the thriller and the drama. Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda - its world premiere also opened the San Sebastian Film Festival yesterday - plays a rather similar game. It tells the same story from two one points of view, one tragic, the other comic, and goes even further by juxtaposing the drastically contrasting results instead of reserving an individual film for every mood. The challenge results in a perfect and enchanting jam of two types of films Allen has made before - intimate, sad, Bergman-inspired drama and neurotic romantic comedy. It’s the best Woody Allen in ages and it deserves universal acclaim. Word of mouth.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:52 PM

Weekend shorts.

Dave Kehr has an interesting piece in the New York Times on what's become of the notion of studios as brands. Of particular note is the informally floated idea that the once-scrappy Miramax, by forging and sticking to its now well-known formula - slick middlebrow literary adaptations, a stable of actors on a career track aimed straight at Oscar, etc. - has become the contemporary equivalent of the MGM of the 30s, whose product now "looks cold, constrained and excessively standardized." This segues into speculation as to what Sony may now do with its many brand names, nearly as many, Kehr notes, as General Mills.

Also in the NYT:

I [Heart] Huckabees

  • What at first looks like another polite Sunday profile of some respectable Hollywood figure turns out to be something entirely else: Sharon Waxman has been checking in on the progress of David O Russell's I ♥ Huckabees since at least April 2003. Turns out that if you're looking for juicy, funny material for a book called Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Studio System, the book due next year, as announced at the end of the piece, you'd be hard pressed to select a better shoot. Note, too, that Waxman shot the photos that accompany the piece.

  • Ginger Thompson heads to Mexico City for this week's polite Sunday profile: Gael García Bernal.

  • Dennis McDougal: "By Tuesday morning Hollywood screenwriters, working without a contract for the last half year, will have decided whether they are ripe for revolution."

    Wolfgang Saxon: "Harvey Wheeler, a political scientist and author, whose novel about nuclear war by accident, Fail-Safe, caused a national shudder in 1962, died on Sept. 6 at his home in Carpinteria, Calif. He was 85."

Simon Hattenstone talks to Spike Lee, who quite reasonably refuses to believe that David Kelly committed suicide but has a more questionable theory about the death of Jean Seberg.

Also in the Guardian:

Grace Kelly

The Nation's Stuart Klawans: "El Viaje, by the extraordinary Argentine director Fernando Solanas, has gone undistributed in the United States since its completion in 1992. All we get is The Motorcycle Diaries." Also: When Will I Be Loved and Vanity Fair.

In the Independent:

"Troubled, downtrodden youth is nothing new to Korean cinema, yet Im [Sang-soo's Tears] is really quite unlike anything else Filmbrain has seen."

In Salon:

Reconstruction

Tasha Robinson interviews Mamoru Oshii for the Onion AV Club. Via Wiley Wiggins.

Via Movie City News:

Online viewing tip. Ads for MoveOn PAC by Richard Linklater, Allison Anders, John Sayles and more. Via Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

Toronto round-up.

Mysterious Skin "Three distinctive new films, from three important established American independent filmmakers, have shared a moment here at the Toronto International Film Festival and emerged as true standouts, confounding film buyers, dividing critics, and provoking audiences." IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez on Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, Lodge Kerrigan's Keane and Todd Solondz's Palindromes. Also: More photos from Brian Brooks and Peter Brunette reviews Eros, finding little to get excited about in either Steven Soderbergh or Michelangelo Antonioni's contributions, while Wong Kar-wai's "in no way represents an aesthetic advance for Wong, but rather a summary re-statement in a moving, minimalist key."

B Ruby Rich in the Guardian: "What has made Toronto unique among an elite cohort of international festivals is the central role of the audience. Ordinary Torontonians go to the movies, react, and shape the out-of-town professionals' idea of what might be possible in the future of cinema."

Over at Movie City News, David Poland and Leonard Klady have been all over Toronto.

Holy Girl J Robert Parks in Toronto: 10e Chambre, instants d'audiences and Buffalo Boy; Day Six: Palindromes, The Holy Girl, Café Lumière, Old Boy and Kontroll.

Tom Hall's "Top 6 Moments of Insanity at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival."

At Twitch: Mack on Low Life, Café Lumière and Vital; plus Millions, Eros and Zebraman; and The Sea Inside and Kontroll; Nick on The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things and Calvaire; and Todd's take on Vital; and Eros and Zebraman; also Palindromes, Sideways, Café Lumière, The Sea Inside and Kontroll; plus a nifty souvenir.

Briefs from Doug Cummings on Childstar, Earth and Ashes, Midwinter Night's Dream, Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow, Un Pays sans bon sens!, It's Not My Memory of It: Three Collected Documents and Anaconda Targets.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:43 PM

Der Untergang, pro and contra.

Hitler: Nemesis Few films in recent years have been the subject of so much and such radically split critical attention in Germany as Der Untergang (The Downfall). If you read German, the best way to follow the debate is probably to head over to the Perlentaucher and choose just about any day's round-up of the feuilletons over the past few weeks and dive in. In today's alone, for example, the Tauchers point to around half a dozen pieces on the film in the Saturday editions of the German papers. Not just reviews, mind you; most of those have already run their course. No, these are essays about possible reverberations, the accomplishments or failures of the filmmakers and so on.

There hasn't been nearly as much debate in English, of course. But now two pieces have appeared which pretty well represent the pro and the con takes. In the Guardian, Ian Kershaw, author of the widely admired two-volume biography of Hitler, presents the case for making the film in the first place, a primary point of contention:

I found it hard to imagine that anyone (other than the usual neo-Nazi fringe) could possibly find Hitler a sympathetic figure during his bizarre last days. And to presume that it might be somehow dangerous to see him as a human being - well, what does that thought imply about the self-confidence of a stable, liberal democracy? Hitler was, after all, a human being, even if an especially obnoxious, detestable specimen.

Kershaw's bottom line: "As a production, it is a triumph - a marvellous historical drama." And: "Above all, Bruno Ganz is superb as Hitler."

On the other side of the fence, we find the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Thomas Schmid. Which is interesting in itself, since the paper's editor, Frank Schirrmacher, has been an outspoken advocate of the project. For Schmid, though, the problem is not the danger of arousing sympathy for a monster, but rather, that the stated aim of producer and screenwriter Bernd Eichinger - "to achieve the highest accuracy of an authentic account" - is a joke. The film, argues Schmid, achieves precisely the opposite:

This movie has no other choice but to feed on the dark myth of Hitler.... Eichinger's film is an epic, nothing more and nothing less. It neither emancipates nor leads down the slippery slope of original sin. It is trivial.

And another thing: "Actor Bruno Ganz does not overcome Charlie Chaplin's caricature, he only creates a new one."

Back and forth it goes.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:56 AM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2004

Toronto Dispatch. 3.

Writer and producer Shannon Gee perseveres as the Toronto Film Festival pushes towards its closing day.

ray-foxx.jpg There are definitely many challenges when attending a film festival, albeit they are mostly joyous ones. When you are watching so many films back to back the mechanics of filmmaking - the performances, the script, the cinematography, the narrative, the sound design, the score, the set design, the costuming - really start to stand out. You try to find the things that make each film stand on its own rather than dissolve into a giant mix of movie mush.

When faced with big studio releases (or films with ambitions to be a big studio release) like Head in the Clouds, Ray, and Being Julia, you become hyper-aware of the high production value and the shortcomings that gloss covers up. Indeed, Charlize TheronRay, Taylor Hackford's Ray Charles biopic. Jamie Foxx does a good job in the intimidating role, but it's too bad the film's run time is a reel and a half too long and the supporting actors, namely the ones in the flashback scenes of Ray Charles's childhood in rural Florida, are directed to shoot fire from their eyes and shout their lines.

The main thing Ray has got going for it is its music (it opens with "What I Say" and the sequence in which the song is written and performed is gangbusters) and a couple of other films have some notable scores. Oliver Assayas's Clean does take place in a world where the musician Tricky is the last resort to help the main character get her son back, a feat which verges on the impossible, but it's got performances by Tricky and Metric and songs written by Mazzy Star and performed by Maggie Cheung (one colleague describes her voice as Marianne Faithfull-like.) The John Kerry documentary Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry closes with R.E.M.'s new song, "Around the Sun." Sally Potter, also an accomplished musician and lyricist as well as a film director, did some of the original music for her film Yes with long-time collaborator Fred Frith.

potter-yes-2.jpg

Yes, Potter's response to the 9/11 attacks by way of a love story between an Irish-American scientist and an exiled Lebanese surgeon, is also one of those films at the Toronto fest to challenge audiences with its structure. The dialogue is entirely in iambic pentameter. Other films less standard in structure have included the 24-meets-Belly gangster thriller Haven (the film, shot like a music video, jumps back and forth in time between a triad of character stories) and the claustrophobically shot, perhaps Le Fils inspired Keane

Todd Solondz's Palindromes, which is probably the most daring film structurally out of all that I've seen at the festival (and the most troubling). The story, which circles around the unsolvable umbrella issues of teen pregnancy, pro-life, pro-choice and religion, has its main protagonist Aviva played by six different actresses in any given scene. It's not an uninteresting device but, for me, it made it even harder to connect to the plight of Aviva. I've gotten in many an argument with fellow critics about Solondz's bleak worldview in his films, from Welcome to the Dollhouse to Storytelling, but I think Palindromes did me in. This one is pretty harsh.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:27 PM

Kinoeye. 4.4.

Kinoeye Russia, with a rewarding jaunt over to Lithuania, is the focus of the new issue of Kinoeye. Beginning with that swerve to the west, George Clark, having sampled the "Baltic Focus" at the 2003 edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, finds that "it was Lithuania who, to my mind, produced the most cinematic and formally assured films." Which leads to an overview not only of those particular films but also to a brief history of the whole of Lithuanian cinema.

On to Russia:

  • Lars Kristensen takes deep and long look at Reka (The River), a film that "has the ability to revert the general perception in the Western media of [Aleksei] Balabanov [more] as a mere chauvinistic nationalist."
Idi i smotri
  • Among western audiences, Idi i smotri (Come and See) is one of the most widely known and respected films of the late Soviet era. Josephine Woll surveys the career of its director, Elem Klimov, who, it may surprise some, began directing comedy and eventually landed behind a desk.
  • The work of Aleksei German is not as familiar to westerners, but Russian critics once voted his Moi drug Ivan Lapshin (My Friend Ivan Lapshin) one of the "Ten Best Soviet Films of All Time." Ronald Holloway introduces and interviews a fascinating director, "a walking encyclopedia of facts and theories" and "a guardian of history as it was lived and handed on to generations to follow."
Then, Kinoeye editor Andrew James Horton:

Olga Stolpovskaia and Dmitry Troitsky's Ia liubliu tebia (You I Love, 2004) is worthy of some attention if only because it has the intriguing distinction of being hailed as 'the first gay-positive movie from [Russia].' Sexuality in general stayed firmly in the closet in Soviet film-making between 1917 and glasnost (a Russian film showing a sex scene wasn't made until 1988, and homosexuality was even more of a taboo.

So with its novel claim to fame, brisk and cheerful editing style and hip pop tunes, Ia liubliu tebia is a feel-good romantic comedy that should do much to blow away the cobwebs from the closet Russian film has been stuck in for so long. But while it should, will it?

Posted by dwhudson at 6:51 AM

September 16, 2004

Shorts, 9/16.

Slate' Chris Suellentrop has seen Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry and sorts through its arguments, measuring them against those of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Going Upriver

And Bryan Curtis checked out the American Film Renaissance fest, "Sundance for Republicans," in Dallas this past weekend: "Conservative filmmakers are a wee bit obsessed with [Michael] Moore."

Michell Goldberg was in Dallas, too, and her piece for Salon not only covers more ground, it dives far deeper as well:

Many people on the coasts... tend to make movies and write articles and produce albums as if their fellow citizens inhabited the same reality that they do. But there is another world in America, a through-the-looking-glass universe in which conservative Christians, despite dominating all the branches of government, feel persecuted by the state, in which gun control is seen as the natural precursor to genocide and Bill Clinton is suspected of covering up Iraqi responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombings. Residents of this febrile realm believe they're the majority and that sinister, cringing liberals are denying them their cultural due. Convinced that the film industry is conspiring against them, they want to create a cornfed Hollywood of their very own, from the grassroots up.

This is also the America that prefers Leno over Letterman, but Nikke Finke has discovered that Middle America's favorite late night talk show host just might be a closet liberal: "He believes 'the wool was pulled over our eyes' with the Iraq war. He thinks the White House began using terrorism 'as a crutch' after 9/11. He feels that during the campaign Kerry should 'make Bush look as stupid as possible.'" Not exactly flaming, but there you go. Cinemocracy takes a closer look at Leno's politics.

Also in the LA Weekly:

    Lenny Bruce
  • Dave White tries to figure out the staying power of Gloomy Sunday in LA (third item).
  • Ella Taylor on Head in the Clouds and Zelary, "[t]wo new World War II dramas from Sony Pictures Classics, each in its way a love story, [pointing] to the chasm between European- and Hollywood-generated images of what it means to live and act under fire."
  • Christine McKenna on a new six-CD set, Lenny Bruce: Let the Buyer Beware, which "will come as a revelation to anyone who knows Bruce primarily through Bob Fosse's 1975 film, Lenny."

Back to Salon: If you think there's something fishy about What the Bleep Do We Know!?, John Gorenfeld thinks you're right. The doc could "easily be interpreted as a full-blown infomercial for Ramtha," a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit supposedly being channeled by one of the doc's talking heads, Judy "JZ" Knight. And Stephanie Zacharek reviews Goodbye, Dragon Inn, "a paean to the togetherness of isolation among moviegoers."

Ben Child scans the line-up for the London Film Festival (October 20 - November 4). Also in the Guardian, Stuart Jeffries meets Marina de Van: "If you ask her 'Are you all right?' she will reply 'I know why you're asking that. Yes, there's nothing wrong with me. You're thinking about the character in the film, not me. Esther eats herself, not me.'"

Toronto round-up:

  • Another page in AO Scott's notebook: "As it winds on, the festival, which began last Thursday and ends on Saturday, feels both utterly chaotic and at the same time governed by some strange, complex principle of symmetry... Someone a lot smarter than I am (and maybe a little less sane) might be able to compose a chart mapping out the more esoteric relations among the festival selections, but let me at least contribute some provisional data."

  • Leonard Klady on the diminishing prospects for acquisitions: "Neither the films nor the public have changed radically, it's the marketplace that's gotten smaller and less adventurous." And once again, that Movie City News Toronto page.

  • At indieWIRE: Eugene Hernandez parties down; Peter Brunette reviews Kinsey, "very solid entertainment indeed."

  • Tom Hall: "I have literally seen over 22 films since the week began, many of them excellent, but no film has moved me as powerfully as Rois et Reine."

  • J Robert Parks on House of Flying Daggers, Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron, A Hole in My Heart, Earth and Ashes and: "Like the 2003 Toronto fest, my Holy-Grail experience came during the fifth screening of a five-screening day. Last year, it was Shara. This year it was two non-narrative films in the Wavelength series: Peter Hutton's Skagafjördur and Anthony McCall's Line Describing a Cone." Then, Day 4: Darwin's Nightmare, Schizo, Cinévardaphoto and On the Outs.

Raging Bull The Unofficial Milk Plus Canon: 1980 - 1984.

For Alternet, Nora Lawrence offers an overview of RESFEST, which "fuses film festival and high-tech trade show."

In the Philadelphia City Paper, Juliet Fletcher wonders what could be done to attract more filmmaking to her city.

Shawn Badgley previews Cinematexas 9 for the Austin Chronicle.

If you're in LA this weekend, or more specifically, on Saturday at around 6 pm, you'll want to drop by CineFile where Zak Penn and Werner Herzog will be on hand to talk about Incident at Loch Ness.

Via the e-flux newsletter comes word of the "WAR! Protest in America, 1965 - 2004" film series at the Whitney.

Two most amusing entries at low culture: Matt: "Designing movie posters isn't easy." And jp on "this fall's round of catchy advertising taglines."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 AM

Johnny Ramone, 1948 - 2004.

ramones.jpg
Johnny Ramone, guitarist and co-founder of the seminal punk band the Ramones, has died at the age of 55.

The AP.

The most vivid figure in Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields's End of the Century was the least articulate and most archetypal of the Ramones: Johnny, the right-wing prole whose hard-ass sense of style the others nutballed and softened and accelerated and above all imitated. We felt we knew Joey the singer, Dee Dee the hophead, Tommy the conceptualizer. Taciturn Johnny was far less distinct, whether beating out his chords or glowering at assholes.

Robert Christgau.

Casualties meant nothing to him (except insofar as they impinged on the honor of the ideal); being liked meant shit.

Ray Davis.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 AM

September 15, 2004

Shorts, 9/15.

Bereavement of the Fledgling In Le Monde diplomatique, Pascal Ménoret introduces Tash Ma Tash, a Saudi comedy series clerics hate but audiences love. Also:

Saudi Arabia's first cinema director is a woman. Thanks to her family's support, she can work independently. She fell in love with cinema while studying in Cairo. Of course all filmmakers are voyeurs, but in Saudi Arabia, that cliché's full meaning becomes clear. Her work, like the society, is underground, and her merit all the greater for it.

Her name is Hayfa al-Mansour; click to see her site, read about her in the foreign press and even see two shorts and clips from a longer work.

Brief but beefy: Andrea Meyer's interview with John Sayles for IFC News.

"The DVD boom hasn't peaked, and yet, even for the 'discerning cinephile,' it's getting hard to keep up with the flow of great discs." At Masters of Cinema, Nick Wrigley introduces a highly bookmarkable page, a collection of write-ups on relatively recent ("the last few years") releases on DVD, all regions, from an impressive roster of critics, curators, editors and even a couple of restorers.

Of course, there are still rich territories where even the echoes of the DVD boom have yet to be heard. Just as one of many examples, Adam Hartzell pleads the case for Sopyonje at Koreanfilm.org.

Toronto round-up:

Sideways

George Thomas verifies "the floating hypothesis that Mahesh Manjrekar's 'original' flick Rakht" is essentially a remake of Sam Raimi's The Gift.

Cinema Minima's Mumbai correspondent, Wilfred Lobo, has been posting more frequently recently; lots and lots of news from Bollywood. And via Cinema Minima, by way of Hollywood Liberation Army, John Virata for Digital Video Editing: "Now accelerate the whole notion of digital moviemaking; scriptwriting and revising, shooting, editing, production and post production, effects, and do it all in 24 hours.... You have entered the zone of the 24 hour film festival."

Greg Allen's entry on Claude Lelouch's Rendezvous is a rush.

Johnny Ray Huston meets Pen-ek Ratanaruang to talk about Last Life in the Universe, Asano Tadanobu - and reading.

Also in this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Monumental

  • Susan Gerhard on Monumental: David Brower's Fight for Wild America, currently touring the continent, "a movie that is both elegiac and feral, a tribute to Brower the environmental activist working the system like it's an extreme sport."
  • Cheryl Eddy segues away from Bush's Brain: "Political-doc burnout is a legitimate complaint right about now, which is why writer-director John Sayles's latest jigsaw puzzle of a movie, Silver City, is so well-timed." Also, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: "[T]he most gorgeous scenery in the world can't make up for a less-than-inspiring story."
  • Patrick Macias on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which evidently "feels about as state-of-the-art as an old issue of Heavy Metal gathering dust in the back of the comic shop."
  • In the Pacific Film Archive's "Neo-Eiga: New Japanese Cinema" series, Kimberly Chun discovers "dis-ease" in "the lives of young Japanese women struggling for defined identities amid fluctuating gender roles, designer fashion, and the protracted recession of the past decade."

"So, seatbelts, people: The almighty Year of Radical Movie Chic rolls thunderously onward." Michael Atkinson introduces the Village Voice's preview of the collision of the electoral and fall movie seasons: Noteworthy titles, listed and blurbed in order of their upcoming release.

Also in the Voice:

Moon Over Harlem

In the New York Press:

Morgan Falconer's piece in the Independent on Kenneth Anger isn't nearly as long or rewarding as Sanjiv Bhattacharya's in the Observer last month, but if you're in a hurry, there you go. Also in the Independent: Sholto Byrnes talks politics with Danny Glover.

The Candy Men Steve Rosen reviews Nile Southern's The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy.

Der Untergang is a "straightforward, rather conventional drama," writes Mark Landler: "That Hitler has become acceptable grist for a piece of mainstream entertainment, rather than a sober documentary or a biting satire - as it has been the more customary treatment of the Führer in postwar Germany - attests to how far the Germans have come in laying to rest their ghosts."

Also in the New York Times:

Vince Keenan on THX 1138: "Lucas's movie is so thoroughly depersonalized that if you beseeched its gods, you'd soon find yourself trapped in their voicemail. And I mean that as a high compliment."

"A new John Waters movie is signs for eager anticipation but a whole blog?" wonders the Cinecultist.

Online viewing tip. Slowtron's "How to BBQ a Man."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:42 AM

September 14, 2004

Online viewing tip.

The trailer for Sin City. Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, it's looking a bit like Tarantino's forced Lichtenstein into a back alley and stripped him of everything but black, white and, for mercy's sake, one color of his choice.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:40 PM | Comments (6)

Toronto Dispatch. 2.

Undertow Writer and producer Shannon Gee traces a topical thread running through the Toronto Film Festival.

You see enough movies at a massive film festival like Toronto, certain patterns or themes begin to emerge. One colleague is beginning to see a vomiting motif, while I declare my theme to be "Children in Peril."

It begins with David Gordon Green's Southern noir Undertow. Something of a departure from his usual narratives but certainly no different in its cinematography (he partners up again with Tim Orr), Undertow is the story of two boys on the run from their psychotic uncle (Josh Lucas, channeling Matthew McConaughey and Robert Mitchum at once) through the backwoods of the Carolinas.

Next up is Clean, the latest from Oliver Assayas. The part of Emily Wong, the drug-addicted former rock and roller protagonist/anti-hero was written especially for ex-wife and occasional muse Maggie Cheung. Emily finds herself suddenly widowed when her musician husband OD's after they quarrel. Nick Nolte plays the husband's father, who has been raising Emily's son for nearly all of his young life. After spending six months in jail, Emily decides to go "clean," to restart her life and to get her son back - but she may go to any length to do so. Assayas is in full Late August, Early September mode here, presenting internal heartfelt drama and one of the most fully realized woman characters at the fest. And you can be sure that, since this is Assayas, there is at least one scene on a scooter.

I've already mentioned the Kore-eda Hirokazu film Nobody Knows, in which four children are abandoned by their mother in a Tokyo apartment, and Childstar, Don McKellar's satire about bratty, spoiled child actors and runaway production. Ousmane Sembene's Moolaadé heads off in the opposite direction. Here, Senegalese villagers parent too much (rather than none at all) and too archaically by upholding the tradition of female circumcision. One woman in this small African village grants a moolaadé (protection) to four girls who escape the ceremony. She herself refused to let her now-teenaged daughter be mutilated and the tension begins to mount within her household and the village. Hardly graphic but entirely affecting and inspirational, Moolaade is well worth seeking out, and has one of the best endings of any film I've seen all year.

Keane, on the other hand, has an ending that comes way too late. Lodge Kerrigan's latest is about a near-schizoid man (Band of Brothers' excellent Damian Lewis) whose daughter was abducted from Port Authority six months prior to where the film picks up. He then meets a single mom and her little girl (who happens to be the same age as his missing daughter) with whom he imagines he could start anew. Reminiscent of the Belgian film Le Fils in subject matter and shooting style (a missing child, a handheld camera claustrophobically following the protagonist's head), Kerrigan gets us into Keane's mind by sticking with him too long and almost too painfully. That's not to say that all players involved, especially Lewis, don't do a terrific job of immersing themselves in this world. It's just that there might be one too many scenes of Keane spiraling down his own doomed drain.

Millions

Lastly, Danny Boyle's Millions played to a packed press and industry screening, and while the children here are technically in peril, the film is more about the meaning of money and charity through the eyes of a very special little boy. Damian (an utterly charming Alex Etel) and his family have just moved to a new housing development. Damian's a tad weird - the heroes of his classmates might be Manchester UK footballers, but he prefers religious saints. He's out playing in a field near the train tracks when a bag containing 300,000 pounds falls seemingly out of the sky. He decides to give the money away to poor people, and so, begins his odyssey, donating money, arguing with his finance savvy brother (he thinks they should buy property) and encountering the menacing bank robber who is the real source of the cash. Boyle has always been a vibrant and energized visualist and his style is extremely well-suited for a story about children. Watch out, Tim Burton.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:27 AM

September 13, 2004

Shorts, 9/13.

AO Scott offers an overview of the Toronto International Film Festival (through September 18), emphasizing that taking it all in is simply impossible, but: "What I have seen, most unforgettably, is not Toronto but Baghdad, as presented by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein in their powerful documentary Gunner Palace," which he hopes "makes its way quickly from this festival to American theaters, because it is not a movie anyone should miss."

Gunner Palace

Prospects aren't bad: Variety's Sharon Stwart reports that Palm Pictures has picked up the rights. If you're just now catching up with this one, a modest reminder: Our interview with Michael Tucker.

News and reviews are coming fast from Toronto and the best window looking out over it all is the one set up by Movie City News.

Then, even more from Toronto:

By the way, Brandon Chalk is still posting reviews of films screened at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.

New York picks five films to catch at Lincoln Center's LatinBeat 2004 (September 17 - 29).

Sean Spillane finds some dynamite flip books.

Sandipan Deb in Outlook India:

Mrinal Sen

It is impossible to write about [Mrinal ] Sen without bringing in [Satyajit] Ray, for the two of them - of similar age, starting their film careers in the same year, both steadfastly refusing to ever leave their beloved Calcutta - represented quality Indian cinema to the world for decades. Yet they are chalk and cheese. Ray's unit of social analysis was the individual, not class, while almost all of Sen's films are explorations of class.

Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau," Lorenzo Sorio tells the story behind the making of Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice in L'espresso (and in Italian).

Back to and via MCN:

Morgan Spurlock tours the Weta Workshop and, yes, meets Peter Jackson.

Back to the New York Times:

  • Laura M Holson and Geraldine Fabrikant report on Michael Eisner's announcement that he'll be handing down the keys to the kingdom in 2006. Floyd Norris offers the Wall Street angle and Sharon Waxman considers future prospects: "His successor will face the daunting challenge of redefining that corporate and managerial philosophy for an era of far-flung conglomerates, more dramatic entertainment and rapidly expanding choices, without losing the Disney magic." So, too, does Holson on Monday: "[W]ill Harvey Weinstein and Steven P Jobs stay as partners?"

Decasia

  • Allan Kozinn on Michael Gordon's score for Decasia: "The DVD presents the essentials... but it scarcely hints at the experience of hearing the work live."

  • Eric Pfanner: "While most European filmmakers struggle in vain against the American movie juggernaut, Working Title Films, their London-based production house, is a commercially minded exception."

  • Virginia Heffernan on Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson: "[Ken] Burns started bringing his trusty documentaries to Telluride 20 years ago; one staff member calls him the "spiritual glue" of the rarefied festival." Heffernan also wonders if Six Feet Under is turning around.

  • Alessandra Stanley: "[A]s television choices multiply, viewers seem all the more hungry for a shared experience. For the last five years, each season has produced at least one show that became a so-called 'water cooler' phenomenon: not just a hit, but an It show."

Jon Henley follows up on his first (and quite popular) report on that cinema found under the streets of Paris. The people behind it are "La Mexicaine de la Perforation, a clandestine cell of 'urban explorers' which claims its mission is to 'reclaim and transform disused city spaces for the creation of zones of expression for free and independent art'."

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

  • Daniel Libeskind - yes, that Daniel Libeskind: "North by Northwest perfectly communicates the vastness of the American canvas and the drama of its images - everything that is beautiful, dramatic and exciting. The integration of Mount Rushmore into the final climax symbolises the idea that in the US gods actually come down to earth, human beings become part of the landscape and the landscape becomes heroic."

  • You'll remember that the Pet Shop Boys were to perform a new soundtrack to Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin live on Trafalgar Square. So how did it go? Bit of a let-down, writes Maddy Costa.

  • Alejandro Amenábar's Mar adentro (Out to Sea) is sparking a debate over euthanasia in Spain, reports Giles Tremlett.

  • Like a line-up of journalists before him these past few months, Neil Strauss discovers that Tom Cruise has changed tactics: "'Bring it. I'm a Scientologist, man. What do you want to know?'" But seriously: "'Some people, well, if they don't like Scientology, well, then, fuck you.' He rises from the table. 'Really.' He points an angry finger at the imaginary enemy. 'Fuck you.' His face reddens. It is a beautiful exhibition, and I don't believe that he's acting."

Lauren Bacall: What Becomes a Legend Most?

  • The whole Bacall brouhaha last week was ridiculous (she was right, journalists were stupid, and in fact, I refused to link to any of that reportage, a brave act of moral fortitude I'm sure did not go unnoticed... er, anyway). But it has raised a few questions for Philip French: "But what is a legend? And how is a legend different from an icon or someone blessed with charisma? All three terms have been borrowed from the religious sphere and used freely to describe figures in the firmament of our new religions - show business and celebrity."

  • The Observer's fall preview.

  • Robert De Niro has defended his portrayal of Italian American characters in Venice, reports Owen Bowcott.

  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Mel Stuart's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

  • John Patterson admires Tim Robbins.

Remember Robert Altman's terrifically fun A Wedding with Filmbrain.

For the Independent, Charlotte O'Sullivan interviews Emily Watson, "in search of white-hot excitement that doesn't isolate her from her husband. And contentment that doesn't reduce her to a neutered frump." Also:

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Project Rebirth. Via greg.org.

Online listening tip. Ken Loach at the Tate. You will likely miss this, but it will be archived.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:46 AM

Toronto Dispatch. 1.

Kd producer Shannon Gee sends word from Toronto.

Being Julia Hockey's World Cup aside (the final game between Finland and temporary home team Canada happens Tuesday), it’s steady as she goes at this altogether pleasant and enjoyable festival. Many would say that this year’s opening film, Being Julia, starring Annette Bening as a beloved stage actress who copes with aging and her unchallenging stage roles by having an affair with a much younger man, is just that; pleasant and enjoyable, but no matter - opening night films are for all and Annette and Warren looked their Hollywood royalty best walking down the red carpet at the kick off gala screening.

There are plenty of big Hollywood-type releases here, but as anyone who has gone to this festival knows, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The hot tickets for press so far are as varied as one could imagine. Right off the bat, the first screening of Paul Cox’s Human Touch filled up quickly, prompting the first of the add-on screenings. There was a "mob scene" to get into Lukas Moodysson's (Show Me Love, Lilya 4-ever) latest, A Hole in My Heart... and then a "mob scene" to get out. Seems that not everyone could stomach this tough take on how far a group of holed up amoral amateur pornographers will go. That didn't keep others from wanting to see it, and another screening was added.

Two theaters were jammed packed Friday night for the highly anticipated hit out of Cannes, House of Flying Daggers. Indeed, the soap opera/martial arts genre never looked or sounded better between Zhang Yimou's picture composition and saturated color palettes, actors Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro's bone structures, and the Dolby Digital sounds of drums, bamboo spikes, and flying daggers (call Zhang's screen direction of extras and weapons  "arsenal orchestrations") thumping and thwacking about. And yes, they had to add another screening of this one too.

Added screenings aren't the only measure of hot films. The applause that may or may not happen at the end of a press and industry screening is also a meter on how buzz-worthy a film is coming out of this fest. Canadian favorite Don McKellar's Childstar, David O Russell's  I ♥ Huckabees, and the aforementioned Being Julia all got a smattering of applause as the credits rolled, but sometimes silence can also be a good indicator of a hit or miss.

Nobody Knows

On the hit side, Kore-eda Hirokazu's Nobody Knows, the story of four young brothers and sisters who are abandoned in a Tokyo apartment by their flighty mother, left the crowd stunned and devastated with its heartbreaking story, measured pace and pitch perfect performances by the four child actors. 

It wasn't all silence at the end of Mark Wexler's biographical/autobiographical documentary Tell Them Who You Are, his film about his father, cinematographer Haskell Wexler and their complicated relationship. Instead, by the end of the last reel, all that could be heard was the semi-stifled sound of sniffling. Not only is it a compelling portrait of one of the great cinematographers of our time, but it is also a terrific look at how children struggle to live in the shadows of their famous fathers.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 AM

September 11, 2004

Lions of Venice.

Venice Mike Leigh's Vera Drake has won the Golden Lion and its star, Imelda Staunton, has picked up the "Coppa Volpi for Best Actress" at the Venice Film Festival. Alejandro Amenábar's Mar adentro (Out to Sea) has come in a solid second, winning the Silver Lion and the Best Actor award for Javier Bardem. And Kim Ki-duk has been honored with a Special Award for Best Direction for his latest, Bin Jip.

Here's the full list of award-winners; Reuters's Shasta Darlington breaks it down, but adds that the results are "likely to spark controversy in Italy for the second year in a row after top newspapers announced Le chiavi di casa (The House Keys), the new feature film by native son Gianni Amelio, was the de facto winner as early as Friday. The daily La Repubblica said Saturday that festival heads Davide Croff and Marco Muller could be swept from their jobs 'by vindictive powers' if the Italian film missed out."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:25 PM

Online viewing tip.

Silver City Chris Cooper and Richard Dreyfuss fans in particular will want to watch the first eight minutes of John Sayles's Silver City at Salon.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:46 AM

NYT fall preview.

Ocean's Twelve The New York Times fall preview is introduced by a rather lackluster audio slide show, but also, and far better, a meandering chat between AO Scott and Manohla Dargis on, among other things, how the evolution of the new Hollywood system is shaping up. In short, says Dargis, "when it works, the big studio/little subsidiary seems to be a good model." The one stand-out complaint, and a legitimate one, too: Where are the women directors?

Ok, what else:

And of course, there'll be more to fall than movies. Not every event highlighted in the arts section of "The New Season" will be for New Yorkers only, so wherever you are, it's worth a browse.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:22 AM

September 10, 2004

Shorts, 9/10.

Wiley Wiggins Wiley Wiggins is furious, and rightfully so. In its pathetic "Ultimate Party Collection," Universal is reissuing Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High together as some sort of stoner double feature. Not only does this make about as much sense as, say, marketing The Birds to National Geographic subscribers, Wiley points out that their pitch is also factually wrong: "Rick Linklater is refusing to do audio commentary, so they should probably stop touting it as a feature, much less a 'hilarious' one." Plus, they've evidently missed at least a couple of golden opportunities Wiley has definitely sparked my own interest in seeing some day.

Meanwhile, the cinetrix passes along news that Linklater will be directing the remake of The Bad News Bears: "Yes, School of Rock made money and had Linklater directing misfit kids, but Dazed and Confused just got the seventies."

Heather Havrilesky at Alternet on the walking puzzle that is Vincent Gallo: "Where do you start with such a tangled mess of a human being?" Opportunity enough to point to our own recent entry at the main site, filmmaker Caveh Zahedi's interview with Gallo.

For the Nation, John Sayles reviews the Republican National Convention, paying particular attention to the musical numbers, the role of the extras (delegates) and casting in general: "Jesus, or His relative absence, was notable in the performances. His name gets a workout in fundamentalist speech, in gospel and contemporary Christian music, but though God the Father was often invoked (this political season has been a bonanza for imams at the podium), the Son was scarce."

Plasticians are discussing John H Brown's "Is the US High Noon Over? Reflections on the Declining Global Influence of American Popular Culture" at Cultural Commons. The piece is short, but the discussion is long. Via Cinema Minima.

Edward Wyatt reports in the New York Times that the New York Times has denied Michael Moore permission to reprint an article by the New York Times about the New York Times. Seriously, though, it does seem like an odd decision. "From the Editors: The Times and Iraq," which ran back in May, was an all too rare and in many ways admirable move by a major paper, an admission, more or less, that it had been unwittingly used by the Bush administration to justify the unjustifiable. The piece would have made a fine contribution to The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader, though it's also somewhat understandable that the editors are wary of lending the NYT name to propaganda again. The difference, of course, is that Moore's intentions are an open book.

Also in the NYT:

  • Virginia Heffernan on IFC's new reality show: "If there's a filmmaker in your life, one with maxed-out credit cards and a standing need for you to hold booms for him, this is not the series for you. You've already seen enough of the off-camera hysteria and mind-boggling logistics. For everyone else, there's Film School." More from Brandon Judell at indieWIRE.
  • Richard Sandomir reports on a dispute between Major League Baseball and ESPN over the latter's docudrama, Hustle, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Speaking of whom, Ben Slater has a brief follow-up to his (hopefully) ongoing story of the making of Saint Jack.
  • Michiko Kakutani reviews Nora Johnson's Coast to Coast: A Family Romance, a memoir of "her screenwriter father's world in Hollywood and her mother's bohemian world in New York."
  • And it's Friday, of course, so there's a fresh round of reviews.

Roger Avary sends word from the L'Etrange Festival in Paris.

For indieWIRE, Wendy Mitchell looks back at Montreal's World Film Festival.

In the Guardian:

Spike Lee's never been on a film festival jury before, but there he is, in Venice, where the awards are to be announced tomorrow. He writes about the experience for the Independent and seems somewhat charmingly naive about what all the job would entail. Also, two interviews: Leslie Felperin with Tom Hanks and Lee Marshall with Mira Nair.

Via Movie City News:

  • The first deluge of reviews from Toronto.
  • Ian Mohr reviews the summer for indies in the Hollywood Reporter. Performances by "indie labels" are broken down in nine sidebars, too.
  • To read the Globe and Mail's Johanna Schneller describe it, I ♥ Huckabees sounds like it's going to be something else. She meets David O Russell.

The Wrong Man Doug Cummings on Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, "a film that richly deserves its place among the filmmaker's greatest works."

Nice take on The Five Obstructions from Jeff Economy in Chronogram: "It's reminiscent of the story about Allen Ginsberg giving Thelonious Monk some psilocybin mushrooms.  When Ginsberg returned a few days later to check on him, fully expecting the musician's mind to be well and truly blown, Monk peered out through a crack in the door and simply said, 'Got anything stronger?'" Jonathan Rosenbaum's on the film as a whole: "In short, it's amusing only if you agree not to think very much about it."

The Cinecultist: "Mmmm, yummy. Gael García Bernal is on the cover of this week's Time Out New York." She pulls a tasty quote from the story.

Look back at John and Mary with Filmbrain.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:02 PM | Comments (4)

Revving up at Toronto.

A Hole in My Heart Very first screening, Tom Hall catches Lukas Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart, "one of the most disturbing, yet profoundly humanist films I have ever seen."

Doug Cummings:

I'm hoping to try something new for Filmjourney's coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Last year, my friend J. Robert Parks, film critic for Paste magazine and Chicago's Hyde Park Herald, sent in ongoing updates. This year, not only am I attending myself, but several more friends will be there as well. Thus, I hope to blog summaries linked to various write-ups.

In the meantime, J. Robert Parks's thorough preview of the fest as he's going to be seeing it is there; and he'll soon be blogging regularly from the fest at the Flickerings site.

At Twitch, Opus on Attila Janisch's After the Day Before and Todd on Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)

September 9, 2004

Shorts, 9/9.

Henri Langlois Scott Foundas finds it "most fitting" that "Jacques Richard's Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque is receiving its US premiere this week (with four additional screenings to follow) at Los Angeles' own American Cinematheque, whose eclectic-bordering-on-schizophrenic programming (Jean Vigo one night, the latest in Korean cult cinema the next) is firmly in the Langlois mold." Truly, the doc does sound like an absolute must for any cinephile; note that it'll be screened at the Chicago International Film Festival in October and in Toronto tonight and Saturday night.

But wait, there's more! Filmforum will be presenting a two-night David Lebrun retro (September 12 and 26) and Foundas surveys the offerings, beginning with Proteus, "[p]robably the most dazzling film I saw at Sundance this year."

Also in this week's LA Weekly: Ella Taylor on Bright Young Things ("all the livelier for its gay embellishment" but "slipping in an altogether gratuitous redemption at the end") and Chuck Wilson on Red Lights, which poses the question, "Why does a man choose, on a given day, to let his life go to hell?" And then, Robert Abele: "Columbo is the only TV show I can think of that actually freshened up the mystery genre."

It's been pretty rough-n-tumble, but it's almost a wrap. For the New York Times, Alan Riding takes stock of this year's Venice International Film Festival.

Eugene Hernandez launches indieWIRE's Toronto coverage.

Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher posts an annotated list of shorts to be screened at the New York Film Festival (October 1 - 17).

Hollywood Buddha. There's the site. Click the title and you'll be greeted with the poster that's offended a country. Thailand has lodged an official complaint against the filmmaker, Philippe Caland (Offensive? Surely not the guy who wrote Boxing Helena!), reports John Aglionby.

Also in the Guardian:

Katja Nicodemus interviews Tim Robbins for Die Zeit. It's in German, so briefly, two points that stand out: "The success of political documentaries like The Fog of War, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super Size Me is less a film than a media phenomenon. At least in America. People are streaming into documentaries because they feel they aren't being informed, or only selectively informed, by the American media." And about the GlobalBeach project, "The young people have taken a beach, they're camping there, playing the 70s a little bit. They're talking and conducting globalization workshops. I like it. To me, it's like a little university. You can call such activities naive or even simplistic. But these young people are engaged, they're not just playing with their Gameboys all day."

Land of Plenty

Shasta Darlington previews Wim Wenders's Land of Plenty for Reuters. Always the least cynical of German filmmakers of his generation, Wenders says, "The film is based on the hope that truth is not an altogether lost notion in today's political and social realities. Even in America, even in 2004."

David Poland on Sideways: "[T]his is the Paul Giamatti character's film and [Alexander] Payne has managed to create a new genre, mixing the buddy comedy with an absolutely personal drama... and comedy to boot."

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov celebrates Criterion's Slacker package.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:41 AM

September 8, 2004

Shorts, 9/8.

Film School In the City Pages, Matthew Wilder cringes amusingly through IFC's Film School: "Has any pop-cultural product so brutally put the lie to our collective American delusion that Manhattan is filled to bursting with pint-sized Susan Sontags and Woody Allens?" Also Uncovered and Outfoxed.

The New York Observer plants two solid little pieces on a single page: Lizzy Ratner and Jake Brooks preview Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, "a documentary that manages to articulate far better than Mr. Kerry has what he really did all those years ago in Vietnam and why he decided to protest against it... [I]t could prove to be one of the more revelatory pieces of campaign 'literature' this season"; and Jessica Joffe chats with Stephen Fry: "'I was in fact speaking to Mike Nichols about what cinema can and can't do just the other night...'"

Also in the NYO: Andrew Sarris lists his favorite Hitchcocks, in order, and reviews Vanity Fair and Tae Guk Gi while Rex Reed also takes in Vanity Fair, plus Criminal and Wicker Park.

NP Thompson's sneak preview: "Sayles's film is the most open cinematic attack yet on the Bush Administration in particular and the disastrous effects of Republican malfeasance on American culture in general. Alas, Silver City manages to be an important movie without ever truly being a good one."

The Dead Zone Via the cinetrix, Ralph R Donald's "Fictional Presidents as Antagonists in American Motion Pictures: The New Antihero for the Post-Watergate Era."

For Salon, Corrie Pikul: "Do you ever get sick of talking about Y Tu Mamá and the infamous ménage à trois with Bernal and Ana López Mercado?" Diego Luna: "No. I will never feel sick about talking about that movie. I feel proud of what we did in that movie."

Ah, Filmbrain has sampled the cinematic delights of my hometown, Berlin.

Jon Henley reports that a fully equipped cinema has been found in the catacombs under the streets of Paris. When police came to check it out, they found a note: "Do not try to find us."

Also in the Guardian:

Toronto "With Venice's film festival nearly complete, all eyes turn to Canada, where Toronto's smorgasbord of over 300 films from around the globe kicks off tomorrow (Sept. 9) with István Szabó's Being Julia." At indieWIRE, where, by the way, Lisa Bear talks to Cedric Kahn about Red Lights, Anthony Kaufman peers ahead with Toronto International Film Festival co-director Noah Cowan. On their way: SXSW producer Matt Dentler, Nantucket programmer Tom Hall, iW editor Eugene Hernandez and writer Robert Davis. Already there: Twitch's Todd, who interviews Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes.

Movie City News has already set up its special Toronto section with news, reviews and links. In other news via the MCN front page:

  • Reuters's Mimi Turner reports that indie producer extraordinaire Christine Vachon is furious that the MPAA has slapped an NC-17 rating on John Waters's A Dirty Shame: "I think the pressure has to do with the current administration, and (there is) this encroaching feeling constantly of the notion of family values."
  • Michael Idato in the Sydney Morning Herald: "Academics say the powerful resonance of the Star Wars brand comes from its reassurance of the strength of traditional institutions, a contrast to the real world where they are rapidly diminishing." Also: Possible Episode III: Revenge of the Sith spoilers. Also: Mike Snider in USA Today on John Lowry's restoration.
  • Peter Jackson, looking pretty darn good, actually, welcomes visitors to Kong is King.net.
  • Jeff Dowd (who actually signs off with "The Dude abides!") puts in a heart-felt recommendation for Going Upriver.
The Merchant of Venice

Cheryl Eddy previews the MadCat Women's International Film Festival (September 14 through October 3) in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Online viewing tip. Take it away, Greg Allen: "Strange Attractors is a showcase of short films by 12 Victoria (Australia) animation artists sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. It looks very promising, in that 'utter absence of commercial pressure = trippier than normal animation' kind of way." Agreed. One in particular's caught Greg's attention.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:59 PM

September 7, 2004

Shorts, 9/7.

Over at the New Republic site, Elbert Ventura has had enough of the nearly universal praise lavished on Hero since its long-delayed release in the US: "After a career spent delicately sparring with censors, the critically-beloved Zhang has now made a most lavish apologia for authoritarianism."

Hero

What's more, he argues, at least now that Miramax has trimmed it, Hero doesn't work cinematically, either: "What we get is a succession of highlights with no air in between, a film that's a commercial for itself. It's an exquisite corpse, but a corpse nonetheless." In TNR itself: Stanley Kauffmann on We Don't Live Here Anymore ("its gist is in its transit, not its finish") and, by way of a brief history of acting on screen, Collateral: "The director, Michael Mann, remembers the best of film noir pretty well, but it doesn't protect his film against its ultimate Movieland silliness."

Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher has spotted a juicy one in Variety: Vincent Gallo's to play two roles in Abel Ferrara's next film, Mary, one of them being a director of a controversial film about Jesus. Steve quickly follows with a very impressive announcement from the Global Film Initiative and adds info and links for nine of the films they'll be distributing in the US next year.

Once Bubba of The Movie Blog, he's now twitch at... Twitch. And has he got news for you. Much of it's about upcoming DVD releases, news that'll threaten to do severe damage to your bank account, but there's also this, for free: "The Toronto Star's Geoff Pevere and Peter Howell - the two best film reviewers in town, in my opinion - have written up a massive pre-Toronto Film Festival survey of what, in there opinion, are the festival's hot films."

Brief glimpses of how the films are playing in Venice from Empire. Peek through a slightly wider window at Yahoo!.

Peter Dinklage will be playing Richard III at the Public Theater from September 21 through October 24. Charles McNulty turns in a terrific preview, talking to Dinklage, of course, but also to director Peter DuBois, who "hastens to add that 'though Peter's height was the first and most obvious appeal,' he considers him to be 'one of the greatest actors of his generation.' Comparing him to Philip Seymour Hoffman for 'his surprising, dynamic choices onstage,' DuBois says he'd have no hesitation about casting him as Hamlet."

murnau-sunrise.jpg

Also in the Village Voice:

The New York Press has introduced a new section for DVD reviews. Well, they had one before, but now, on the site, they're individually linkable, which means I get to be irritatingly auteurist and all and reshuffle them into the film reviews and line up the whole bunch all over again:

Strangers on a Train

  • For Armond White, Bruce Weber's fashion photography is "cunning yet trivial," and yet again, undeniably influential; A Letter to True seems to leave him almost baffled - prolifically baffled. Also: That new Hitchcock Collection ("Half of these titles suggest that the 50s may have been Hitchcock's most consistently masterful period") and Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg (compare White's revisitation with Jonathan Rosenbaum's).
  • Matt Zoller Seitz makes his case for James Toback and his "remarkable filmography that combines social and political satire, low humor, improvised drama, unfashionably 70s, male-centered notions of sexual 'liberation' and a strong (though artfully disguised) element of autobiography" - as a way of explaining what a disappointment When Will I Be Loved is.
  • Saul Austerlitz allows a German theorist the last word on The Cow: "Walter Benjamin once defined the storyteller as he who possesses knowledge of death and is capable of imparting it. [Director Dariush] Mehrjui is such an artist."
  • Jim Knipfel on Alan Clarke: "I wasn't sure what to expect from this five-disc set, but Clarke was a real whack on the back of the skull."

"The cinetrix realizes the grim historical background doesn't make [Rabbit-Proof] Fence sound any less virtuous or less likely to molder on top of your TV for months. But this movie kicks ass."

In the Independent:

  • David Thomson is pissed off. He tries to launch his column playfully, nominating movie characters who've served in Vietnam as presidential candidates, but then... "The next thing, you'll be supposing that a President who ducked any real service, took a privileged pass into the 'National Guard' and still didn't turn up for some of his service, has been able to turn the dawn's early light of suspicion on a man who volunteered to serve in Vietnam, who was plainly wounded in action as well as cited for valour in saving others, and who returned home with enough wit to be critical of the military. Pull the other one!"
  • "Kirsten Dunst looks over and casually flicks us the bird." Sam Ingleby learns what everyone must some day: By the second day at least, being an extra is just plain no fun.
  • Matthew Sweet has a long chat with Peter Biskind.

Vera Drake John Ezard in the Guardian: "The agency that invests lottery money in British cinema claimed yesterday that the policy was vindicated by the record number of UK films picked for star billing at three autumn international film festivals." One of them is Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, "about an abortionist who finds that her beliefs and practices clash with the mores of England in the 1950s." In Venice for the Telegraph, Matt Born listened in as Leigh talked about his own stance: "I never choose to make the kind of film, and this is no exception, which absolutely declares in an unequivocal way one single position."

Also in the Guardian: John Patterson meets the always amusing Roger Corman, whose "eye for promising talent is possibly his greatest legacy to Hollywood." And Matthew Bell finds the press chattering about rockumentaries.

Online viewing tip. Ok, this one's gold. Yes. An outtake presented by Wiley Wiggins.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:52 PM

Wrapping Telluride.

Palindromes IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez has listened to the buzz at the Telluride Film Festival and he comes up with a list of eleven of the most talked about films, with Todd Solondz's Palindromes scoring highest by far on the buzz-o-meter. So the mid-section of his piece is on Scott Foundas's Q&A session with Solondz and Ellen Barkin, who plays the lead's mom. And what follows are snapshots from the Michel Gondry retro and a brief assessment of the fest at 31. Literal snapshots pop up on his blog.

Matt Langdon's own list varies here and there; seven films, in order of preferences and annotated smartly.

Yes Roger Ebert's famous thumbs are up for three films at Telluride, all of them on Eugene Hernandez's list as well: First, Palindromes, "brilliant and bold, especially in the way Solondz uses many different actresses to play his heroine"; Sally Potter's Yes, which sounds fascinating as Ebert tells it, what with the dialogue in rhyming verse ("it deepens rather than distracts"), Potter's camera evidently in love with Joan Allen, and throughout, a "quasi-Marxist" counterpoint; and Bill Condon's Kinsey, "likely to be the best-received biopic since A Beautiful Mind - in other words, mileage may vary. Via Movie City News.

More alignment with that buzz list: Chris Gardner, via Reuters, Ty Burr in the Boston Globe and Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:25 AM

Winning strategy?

Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD Michael Moore:

I have decided not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar. If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar. I have already won a Best Documentary statue. Having a second one would be nice, but not as nice as getting this country back in the hands of the majority.

What he'd like to do is get the film shown even just once on TV before the election (though his hopes aren't very high on that point). If that were to happen, it'd disqualify F9/11 in that category - but not in any other, including Best Picture. Various news stories are suggesting that that's his primary goal but, while he'd surely be delighted, that really doesn't seem to be on the front burner. What we will be able to look forward to, though, as of October 5, are the extras on the DVD, 100 minutes worth, "powerful footage obtained after we made the movie, and some things that are going to drive Karl Rove into a permanent tailspin."

It makes you wonder if the currency of backstage politics, slipped hand to hand in parking garages, one imagines, currency which used to come in the form of documents, check stubs, photocopies and so on, is now footage.

At any rate, Moore wraps one of his better dispatches in a while with recommendations for more than half a dozen other docs.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:19 AM

September 6, 2004

Shorts, 9/6.

Maria de Medeiros Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, a preview in the Globe and Mail by Matthew Hays of Maria de Medeiros's doc, Je t'aime... moi non plus,"an insightful and often hysterically funny examination of the complex relationship between filmmakers and film critics. Shot at Cannes, the film has a broad range of directors discussing their most memorable reviews." Among the interviewees: Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Ken Loach and Wim Wenders, who shot a doc himself at Cannes once, Room 666. More - in French - on Medeiros's film from Manon Dumais in Voir.ca and Marc-André Lussier in Cyberpresse.

Though it screened at the World Film Festival in Montreal, it didn't score an award; scanning the list of winners, one sees that the big standout is Eran Riklis's The Syrian Bride.

Kung Fu Cinema's Mark Pollard: "Before Harvey Weinstein starts drawing comparisons between the sizable effort talented filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige put forth with his own 'experiment' to bring their films to a wide commercial audience, he would do well to ponder why Columbia Tristar picked up the latest films from Zhang Yimou and Stephen Chow instead of Miramax."

In L'espresso, and yes, in Italian, Umberto Eco addresses what happens to a novel when it becomes a film.

Also via Perlentaucher's Magazinrundschau: Two reactions in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly to Fahrenheit 9/11. Hani Mustafa: "Using such a cyclical mechanism and other methods, the film demonstrates the principle that cinema should not be classified into documentaries and feature films but rather into short and full-length features." And Amira Howeidy: "Very few in the Arab world, least of all Egyptians, feel any great sympathy or admiration for the Saudi petro-dollar culture.... But Moore's claim that the Saudi's exercise an extraordinary and disproportionate influence over the world's sole super power can only seem highly exaggerated, if not slightly racist."

Heavens. There's the headline site and the daily column; now David Poland's got a blog, too.

Almodóvar in NYT Magazine Accompanied by two slide shows, New York Times Magazine editor at large Lynn Hirschberg offers a robust cover story on Pedro Almodóvar: "'I really do believe that when I was making these [last three] films, I was tempting failure,' Almodóvar went on to say. 'And that is, of course, the only way to work.'"

Stories in the paper, annotated:

  • Laura M Holson talks to the filmmakers - producer Brian Grazer and the writing and directing team of Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey - about their HBO doc, Inside Deep Throat. Holson's got another short piece in Monday's edition about the Miramax-Disney situation; write your own punchlines.
  • Joel Topcik introduces a slide show illustrating the composition of a single shot in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. More on the film from Joel Stein in Time.
  • Dave Kehr, briefly, on THX 1138. The film's cinematographer, David Myers, has died at the age of 90, reports the AP. Meanwhile, Time's Richard Corliss rounds up all the arguments and counter-arguments swirling around the upcoming release of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD.
  • Andrew Ross Sorkin profiles Haim Saban, "perhaps the most politically connected mogul in Hollywood, throwing his weight and money around Washington and, increasingly, the world, trying to influence all things Israeli."
  • DVRs (like TiVo) have been around for years, but now they're truly taking off, reports Ken Belson. But it's Newsweek's Brad Stone who has a genuine scoop: Netflix and TiVo are to unveil a partnership later on this month.
  • The WB Network is experimenting with the idea of previewing its shows online, reports Ken Belson.
  • Evelyn Nussenbaum talks to the people aiming to make product placement on TV a lot more sophisticated - and ubiquitous.

The Independent's Roger Clarke reports on the anti-Hollywoodization protests in Venice; Tim Robbins and Naomi Klein are behind an alternative fest, the Global Beach, with the probable backing of Spike Lee and Gregg Araki.

In the Observer:

And in the Guardian:

  • Gil Rossellini, Roberto's adopted son, is supposed to be talking to Geoffrey Macnab about The Princess of Mount Ledang, "the first Malaysian film ever to screen at an international festival... Somehow, though, our conversation keeps twisting back to his family."
  • David Ward on a remarkable photo studio.
  • The site's special section on Venice.

Woody Allen at San Sebastian Via the indieWIRE Insider, news of two lifetime achievement awards - Woody Allen at the San Sebastian International Film Festival (September 17 - 25; the Reuters report) and Oliver Stone at the Stockholm International Film Festival (November 18 - 28; the AP report) - and political comments from Jonathan Demme in Venice, as passed along by Peter Kiefer and Charles Masters in the Hollywood Reporter.

Sneak peeks from Eugene Hernandez at Telluride: "Of the 8 or so movies I've watched during the past three days here at the Telluride Film Festival two stand out, Lodge Kerrigan's Keane and Todd Solondz's Palindromes.

Steve Rosenbaum describes a day shooting a doc on the RNC in NYC.

At Tagline, Stephen Reid points to Joal Ryan's E! Online story on the winners at the box office this summer, but Reid's entry is actually better, what with those on-the-money 25-word reviews.

Via Movie City News: The New York Post's Sara Stewart previews this week's Bollywood Film Festival in New York.

In the New Yorker, David Denby previews the FW Murnau retrospective unreeling at the Film Forum, September 10 - 20.

Online listening tip. NPR's Renee Montagne has a long chat with Mira Nair about Vanity Fair and the ways in which she identifies with Becky Sharp.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:51 PM

September 4, 2004

Long weekend shorts.

Hable con Ella A long weekend read from Rosemary Bechler in openDemocracy:

Pedro Almodóvar's acclaimed film, Hable con Ella (Talk to Her) has as its central subject the rape of a young woman in a coma. So also do two of European literature's finest works: Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady, was published serially in 1747–8, and was the first romantic novel - it gripped the reading public on both sides of the Atlantic; Heinrich von Kleist's novella, Marquise von O... (1808) is one of the best short stories ever written and was stunningly adapted by Eric Rohmer in 1975 into a film that won the special jury prize at Cannes....

How does Almodóvar measure up against his two distant predecessors? What does he take from them, and what, from the new millennium, might he bring?

For lighter weekend fare, you might browse the interviews Guy Flatley has conducted over the years, many of them for the New York Times back in the 70s, some of them in just the past few years for magazines such as Interview. The range is wide, from a stoned Jack Nicholson to Jean Arthur purring over vodka and water to Truffaut and Godard, Viva and Von Trier and more.

Hollywood's overwhelming presence at the Venice Film Festival is drawing complaints from European filmmakers and even anti-globalization protesters, reports Duncan Campbell. "At issue is the large number of American films - 21 in total - some of which have already opened in the US to middling reviews.... Many festivalgoers wonder why they needed the extra exposure at a time when it is harder and harder for independent films to be distributed properly."

Oddly enough, of the six films at Venice Xan Brooks and Sean Clarke choose to highlight, only two have no immediately obvious Hollywood connection: Mike Leigh's Vera Drake and Alejandro Amenábar's Mar Adentro, which even he desribes as his "most Spielbergesque" film yet. Also in the Guardian: Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Carl Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress.

In the Independent, Nathaniel Kahn, director of My Architect, chooses "The Ten Best Scene-Stealing Structures."

The Los Angeles Times's Elaine Dutka reports that the clash between David O Russell and Warner Brothers is getting nasty. At issue is the 35-minute anti-war doc that was to be featured as a bonus on a re-release of Three Kings on DVD. First WB dropped the doc; now they're claiming the re-release can't happen before the election. Russell is accusing the studio censorship.

That's via Movie City News, where Ray Pride conducts a long interview with Vincent Gallo and Leonard Klady compares and contrasts the festivals in Montreal and Toronto, spicing things up with insider-ish histories of both. Plus: The Telluride schedule.

And it's from there that indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez is delivering on his promise to blog. What pix, too!

Posted by dwhudson at 9:07 AM

September 3, 2004

Shorts, 9/3.

Dear Pillow John Pierson, author of Spike Mike Reloaded, in the Austin Chronicle:

Austin, 1990. More than a hundred disparate but related characters search for the meaning of life and a good cup of coffee. It is called Slacker.

Austin, 2004. Three disparate but related characters search for the meaning of sex and a clear phone connection. It's called Dear Pillow and, to get this out of the way, it's the best first feature out of Austin in a decade.

Along the way towards backing this up, Pierson points out a few landmarks of that ten-year slice of history, and then, interviews Bryan Pyser, writer and director of Dear Pillow, and Jacob Vaughn, its producer.

Also in the Chronicle:

In Stop Smiling, Ross McElwee tells Nicholas Rapold why being a documentary filmmaker is so much more rewarding now and, among many other things, how his new one, Bright Leaves, has been received outside the US: "Sartre wrote that without smoking life wouldn’t be worth living. So the French were appreciative that the film acknowledged not only the problem of an industry based on tobacco (particularly American industry), but also the essential humanness of smoking and how we are a species that is a little inclined toward self-destruction and addiction, and that’s part of what we are."

Maggot-infested babies? No problem. Politics? No way... Substantiating the argument made in The Corporation that these entities are pathologically perverse, Warner Brothers, the company that just a few weeks ago happily rushed Exorcist: The Beginning to however many screens coast to coast, is now dropping David O Russell's new doc because, in the stunning words of spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti, "This came out to be a documentary that condemns, basically, war." Sharon Waxman reports.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Focusing on the Los Angeles Opera, Irene Lacher traces a trend with long and deep roots: film directors staging operas.
  • Zhang Yimou tells Craig S Smith he's pleasantly surprised by Hero's excellent opening weekend in the US.
  • Stephen Holden on the "counterprogramming" of summer: serious films.

Scott Foundas is fairly pleased with the way Summer 2004 turned out as well: "[J]ust when it seemed as though those who run Hollywood's studios were in need of a recall election, here was a season in which one could queue up for many of the most heavily publicized films, not only without fear of disappointment, but with reasonable expectation of being dazzled."

Also in LA Weekly:

Kinsey

  • Ron Stringer on Vanity Fair, "Mira Nair’s turgid, melodramatic travesty of Thackeray's gimlet-eyed satire." (Heavens, I'm still hoping to like it.)
  • Nikke Finke has some fun channelling Griffin Mill as he informs his agency that they'll be throwing their weight behind Bush's reelection bid: "This may appear like rats deserting a sinking ship, but try to think of it as market-savvy positioning."
  • Anyone looking forward to Kinsey will want to read David L Ulin's interview with TC Boyle. Just saying.

For Nerve, Noy Thrupkaew profiles Darrell Hamamoto, a professor of Asian-American studies and an activist of sorts. Concerned about misconceptions of Asian-American sexuality, he's making the sort of porn he hopes will clear them up.

IndieWIRE recently ran a piece by Rania Richardson, "Getting a Buzz On: Word-of-Mouth For Indies," and Anthony Kaufman "immediately took exception to Rania's pigeonholing films into either successful crowd-pleasers or critically heralded bombs." A debate via email ensued and it's a fine supplement to the article.

More iW bloggers:

Matt Langdon's there, too, and selects ten of the films he deems most noteworthy. Also: Tributes for Theo Angelopoulos, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and Laura Linney and retros for Spanish surrealist Fernando Arrabal and Czech filmmaker Gustav Machaty.

The Venice International Film Festival is off and running (through September 11) and, while everyone's quoting Spielberg, Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher has found what's probably the most interesting story so far: Jon Jost has announced that his next film "will deal with the kidnapping of his daughter, Clara Jost, on November 2, 2000, by Portuguese film director Teresa Villaverde from their home in Rome."

Back to indieWIRE: Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production (with links!) and Adam Burnett turns in a piece on DocuClub: "[M]odeled after the European cineclubs of the 1920 and '30s, [it] nurtures works-in-progress through feedback-based screenings, helps filmmakers find financial backing, and provides a normally isolated collection of filmmakers with a much needed sense of community."

In the Guardian:

3: Monster From Hong Kong, "Marshy" sends a spoilerific review of 3: Monster into AICN. You'll remember that that's the collection of three horror shorts by Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan and Park Chan-Wook.

In the Independent:

Doug Cummings discovers that test screenings in LA are an ordeal simply not worth the trouble. Especially if the film in question is Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement, he adds.

P.S. Blogging about movies just hours after an estimated 100 children have been slaughtered in southern Russia is tearing me up. Let me point to just one succinct piece in The Economist on how it could possibly come to this.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM | Comments (3)

September 2, 2004

Artforum. September 04.

Artforum An intriguing aspect of J Hoberman piece that's primarily a review of Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique but is also porous enough for notes on other war and war-marked films shown at Cannes this year to breeze through: Hoberman opens with Spielberg, ends with Spielberg, and in fact, Spielberg is never totally absent throughout. Even though Hoberman and Godard are probably pretty much on the same page as far as Spielberg goes, you can't help but sense that there may be something vaguely cruel going on here, though no one's to blame, really, except maybe Godard himself. Since In Praise of Love at the latest, is it not going to be possible to discuss Godard without any mention of the Other?

For the time being, Godard warrants a Spielberg-less mention or two in Bennet Simpson's piece on the Bernadette Corporation's film, Get Rid of Yourself, a reminder of how reinvigorated the left had been just before 9/11 cut short a global movement. Just as an example of Godard's looming presence, their magazine, Made in USA, is supposed to have been named after his "worst film"; a talk at a symposium held last year wraps with a quote from Godard collaborator Jean Pierre Gorin, and so on.

Also in this issue:

  • Arthur C Danto: "Plato once described the despot as performing the actions that the rest of us merely dream of, and what the Abu Ghraib images testify to is the democratization of despotic fantasy."
  • "Electoral Collage: A Portfolio."
  • Eric Banks on the "classy" paintings of Frank Sinatra: "It's a paradox: Sinatra's work - at least in its heyday - is lowbrow, his leisure weirdly highbrow."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:40 AM

September 1, 2004

Republicans and shorts.

Michael Moore at the RNC "[T]he Democrats may know how to make a movie in Hollywood, but the Republicans have long since perfected the art of making a movie in 'life.'" J Hoberman buckles up as the week rolls on:

Is master terrorist Osama at large? Is Afghanistan ungovernable and Iraq a free-fire zone? Do the North Koreans still have their nukes and are the Iranians busy building theirs? Does that anthrax guy roam free? And what about the dirty bomb? Who cares - one way or another, New York City has been pacified! Republicans rule! Smoke and mirrors, or tear-gas canisters and TV cameras? Either way, the mission is accomplished.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore has turned in his first and second USA Today column covering the show. Salon's Amy Reiter explains how he landed the gig. In brief, the paper's assigned a conservative, Jonah Goldberg, to cover the Democrats' convention last month, so now it's a liberal's turn. And via Alternet, the Nation's John Nichols considers the "McCain vs Moore" moment Moore himself addresses in that second column and notes that it isn't often that "a film achieves the level of public awareness that leads a prominent politician to attack its maker in a primetime convention speech. And it is certainly not common for the filmmaker to be in a position to respond in real time."

This also brings up another Fahrenheit 9/11 pointer, by the way. (Let's face it; this is a film people are going to be talking about and referring to for some time.) Marco Roth, in n+1, offers a clear-the-tables assessment of the set of dilemmas the film presents to the left field.

No surprises in Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech last night - for a consideration of the role he's playing at the convention, see Cinemocracy - but as Bruce Weber reports in the New York Times the mere presence of Ron Silver at the convention is a surprise to many. Also: Mark Landler on German producer Thomas Schühly's years-long effort to get Alexander made and two reviews: Stephen Holden on Vanity Fair and Anita Gates on Everybody Says I'm Fine!

Back to the Village Voice:

Red Lights

One more from the NYP: Saul Austerlitz previews the "Political Campaigns on Film" series at the American Museum of the Moving Image.

It's an unusual move, but it works well in the case of a film like The Brown Bunny, a divider, not a uniter. The San Francisco Bay Guardian offers six shortish takes from six different critics. Also: Dennis Harvey on Vanity Fair and Andrew Repasky McElhinney: "Like the longer 'restored' Touch of Evil (1998) and The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (2000), Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut has much more in it, but the result is far less satisfying." But Susan Gerhard is more patient; while she doesn't find the new cut "adds or subtracts much," it nonetheless provides an opportunity to consider why the film hasn't gone the way of most initial box office disappointments.

Speaking of Donnie Darko, Ben Slater's posted a terrific entry on Hi-Res, the design team behind donniedarko.com and a slew of other intriguing and seductive sites for films (see their showreel at the site): "It would be unfortunate if this kind of unclassifiable hybrid art/design/interactive/multimedia/narrative/game/cinema is always in the service of corporate or promotional interests - even if a company like Hi-Res can continue to successfully steer their vision past marketing teams with nary a scratch. Because it has rich potential, and it feels like the future."

George Fasel: "If you're going to take an extended urban vacation and want films to be a part of your entertainment, it's harder to do better than Paris." Then again, there's New York. See, for example, Tom Hall's day at the movies.

Todd Haynes interviewing Brian Eno? It's enough to think about getting over to NYC some way, somehow on October 7. Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher sends out the alert: Three evenings on music and the moving image, beginning September 23 at MoMA. The other two: Wallace Shawn talking with Laurie Anderson and Ed Halter interviewing Michel Gondry.

Innocence

Charles C Mann in Wired:

In coming months, anime's three most prominent directors will release major films in the US. [Mamoru] Oshii's Innocence will hit theaters in September. Soon afterward, Katsuhiro Otomo will debut Steamboy, an Indiana Jones-style adventure that takes place in an alternative Victorian age where turbo unicycles and pressure-powered jetpacks battle for supremacy. Then Hayao Miyazaki will deliver Howl's Moving Castle, about a teenage girl who flees a curse by hiding in a gigantic mechanical castle that prowls about on insect-like legs. In addition, Disney will issue three older Miyazaki films on DVD early next year, two of which have never before been released in the US.

The confluence of these films could finally put anime at center stage in a venue where success so far has been elusive: the box office.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, the popular anime series is being adapted as a live action feature. The Movie Blog's Bubba points to the site, where you can see a teaser. In fact, Bubba's loaded with trailers - Café Lumiere and Survive Style 5, for example - and info on, among other films, Tsui Hark's The Seven Swords and the Narnia movies.

"I must turn to theory, even though it may sound somewhat strange when one deals with a motion picture so blatantly anti-theoretical." Natalia Skradol in Film-Philosophy: "Adaptation, 'Adaptation' and Adaptation: Zizek and the Commonplace." In 1998, F-P ran Andrew Murphie's essay on a collection Zizek edited, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock, which I bring up as a segue to the cinetrix's latest find, Jim Emerson's "Plumbing the Depths: How the movies use plumbing as a pipeline to the subconscious," in which we learn that a toilet had never been seen on screen before Hitchcock's Psycho.

The Edinburgh fest has wrapped and the awards have been announced. The Guardian New Directors Award has gone to Morgan Spurlock, and Andrew Pulver explains how the paper whittled down its list. Also in the Guardian: Michael Mann tells Dan Glaister why Collateral begins with the third act: "Dr Strangelove's the same, in that it begins with the ending. Sterling Hayden launches, that's it, they're gone. Two acts probably built up to that."

Jonathan Romney, too, looks back on Edinburgh and recalls the films that made the greatest impressions. Also in the Independent: David Thomson's been thinking about 1954, about Blackboard Jungle, James Dean, Elvis.

The Far Side of the Moon Doug Cummings on Robert Lepage's Possible Worlds and The Far Side of the Moon, "beautifully constructed meditations on the modern world and humanity's place in it."

Back to USA Today: Mike Snider updates readers on a few of Quentin Tarantino's plans, especially with regard to future versions of Kill Bill. Via Movie City News, where Ray Pride writes up a slew of films you're likely to be interested in.

In German: For Spiegel Online, Ulf Lippitz interviews Oday Rasheed, who's directed Underexposure, the first film shot in post-Saddam Iraq.

Online viewing tip. Via Cyndi Greening, the trailer for Der Ostwind.

And finally, a bit of self-reflexive fun. Jim Biancolo has sent along word that folks at his site, Listology, are working hard to identify all the films that are represented in the GreenCine Daily header graphic up at the top there. Now's an excellent time to point out that it was designed by GC's graphics wiz Kenny Aber, who's impressed by the number they've nailed so far...

Posted by dwhudson at 12:20 PM | Comments (4)