October 31, 2004

Spooky shorts.

Besides reviewing three Halloweenish flicks, David Edelstein writes of the revitalization of left-leaning pop culture, "Thank you, Mr. President, for giving us back our energy, our passion, our creativity, and our sense of humor - which we've needed to keep from going insane at what you've done to this country and the world. Your political legacy, alas, will live long - but so will the vital counterculture you have spawned. May we never, never forget you."


Also in Slate: Meghan O'Rourke on Eminem's "Mosh": "The video is a brilliant piece of agitprop. Of course, it's also slyly designed to needle the very liberals who love it so much."

Prog Girl 68 is keeping a diary at Daily Kos, following news and coverage of The World According to Bush: "Hopefully this film will become standard viewing for anyone studying the Bush Administration down through history."

Tom Hall: "You know that something is wrong in America when Hollywood studios begin self-censoring bonus footage on a re-released DVD." Related online viewing tip, via the cinetrix: Clips from David O Russell's Soldiers Pay at IFC.

In the New York Times:

  • The horror genre's been derailed, argues Terrence Rafferty by "an awful lot of expensive, heavily promoted action pictures that use horror elements but don't have the decency to honor the genre's sworn mission: to scare the wits out of us."
  • Andréa R Vaucher's found a terrific subject for a profile: Screenwriter Naomi Foner, who's not only staging a comeback 16 years after her career peak, Running on Empty, but has also taken a new name: Naomi Gyllenhaal.
  • AO Scott on Michael Apted's unique Up series, "a partial portrait of British society during the last four decades, a kind of longitudinal study of mores, attitudes and life chances conducted with a small, sometimes reluctant population sample."
  • Recently discovered short works by Tennessee Williams - sketches, really - should be made available to readers, yes, but should they be cobbled together and performed? Jesse Green rounds up conflicting opinions.

Michael Tully lists half a dozen films to "Watch for Inspiration/Guidance."

"While Sideways is my pick for this month's film for the ages, Birth is still the most compelling: an unforgettably ambitious folly." For Movie City News, Ray Pride reviews that pair, talks to Alexander Payne and Virginia Madsen, reviews some more movies and more than a few DVDs as well.

The Viennale "invited two young critics to attend the event and to be engaged in a writing program tutored by experienced critics (members of the FIPRESCI jury)." The result is the Talent Press Project, capturing a wide range of moments from the fest. Via filmfilter.

In the Observer:

In the Guardian:

Jane and Louise Wilson For Film-Philosophy, Maria Walsh reviews Jane and Louise Wilson, "a useful mini-guide to the Wilsons' film and video installation work, with interesting contrasts between the accompanying essays that make one consider the stakes involved in art criticism."

Fresh at Koreanfilm.org: Boris Trbic: "Park Chan-wook's World of Personal Introspection: The Subtext of Cinematic Space in Old Boy." Also, two heads-ups ("heads-ups"?): Wallflower Press has just released a new addition to their 24 Frames series, The Cinema of Japan and Korea; and at the Walter Reade in NYC, November 12 through December 7: The Newest Tiger: 60 Years of South Korean Cinema."

If you're in New York on Friday, you might want to catch the premiere of Hikiomori: Tokyo Plastic at the Imaginasian.

New interviews in the Independent:

Offline viewing tip. When Francine Taylor interviewed Kirby Dick for us recently, they talked quite a bit about his other work, but it was thought all around that it would be best to keep the focus on Derrida and its subject (and by the way, Judith Butler has quite an appreciation in the current issue of the London Review of Books). But if Cinemax happens to be part of your televisual menu, do keep an eye out for Kirby's latest, The End.

Online viewing tip. There's Something About W. Watch all 40 minutes or bits and pieces. Via Steve Rhodes, who points at The Regular to audio interviews with former Marines press officer Captain Josh Rushing, a featured interviewee in Control Room.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:17 AM

October 30, 2004

Cinema Scope. 20.

Cinema Scope Doug Cummings points out that the Canadian magazine, Cinema Scope has a new site. Which looks smart and sharp as they come and will no doubt introduce a whole new readership to the five-year-old magazine. Introducing the new issue, editor Mark Peranson notes a running thread throughout that echoes a bit that current Matthew Clayfield piece in Senses of Cinema mentioned earlier:

Most of these artists (and most of the good ones today, it's not an accident) seemed fixated in extolling the uniqueness of a place, or looking about what each of their own places can say about the people who live there. Or defending a place. In all of these ways, more than just standing for a regional cinema, they are clearly globally minded, even if they might not seem so on the surface.

Cinema Scope 20 On that note, the two articles in the "Spotlight" section available online are all about LA, but also, in their way, about countless elsewheres. If the name Thom Andersen rings a bell, it's probably because you've heard of, maybe even seen his video essay Los Angeles Plays Itself. Critical reaction to it provides him an opportunity to contemplate the city further, focusing primarily on two films, Mulholland Drive and Collateral. Heinz Emigholz sets out to write about a film "that seems to get nothing right.... But this is precisely why it deserves to be admired." It takes him a while to actually begin discussing The Fountainhead, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable warm-up.

At the opposite end of the local-global scale would seem to be Jonathan Rosenbaum's column digging up treasures buried on obscure DVDs from various spots around the planet - but of course, all these universal pleasures are far more rooted in their local origins than standard Hollywood fare. The other column is Andréa Picard's, on Agnes Varda's Cinévardaphoto.

Features: James Quandt on Bergman's Saraband; one of the more telling observations is parenthetical: "(As with late Godard, there is a sense of revenance in this return, and a predication of cultural memory.)" And Christopher Huber on Eugène Green's Les pont des arts, "the major event of the festival [at Locarno], firmly heralding a unique and commanding new voice in current cinema."

Interviews: Peranson with Don McKellar and B Kite with Jennifer Reeves.

Reviews: Richard Porton on Vera Drake and Jay Kuehner on Nobody Knows.

All in all, Cinema Scope goes on that list over there on the right immediately.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:09 AM

Online viewing tips. Via Res.

Slam Bush The latest Res newsletter features a section devoted to the "Bushwhacked!" program of shorts, part of the traveling Resfest.

Among those linked to, the freshest and most immediately relevant is the Slam Bush video for the Hip Hop Battle/Poetry Slam to Defeat George W Bush.

For old time's sake, you might want to revisit Michael Moore's video for System of a Down's "Boom!," a reminder of those long-gone halcyon days of early 2003 when it seemed the world really might stand a chance of persuading the Bush administration not to invade Iraq.

Jesse Ashlock's Res piece from last month is a brief but excellent survey of the current state of culture jamming via film and video - with links to more examples.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:53 AM

October 29, 2004

Shorts, 10/29.

Halloween and politics meld in a few current alternative weeklies. For larger versions of the paintings by Richard Serra and Elizabeth Peyton on the two covers of this week's LA Weekly, head to Artforum and, for the sheer fun of it, see the Stranger's "Scariest Halloween Costumes."

4 alt.weeklies

Beyond the LA Weekly's covers:

  • Nikki Finke on Michael Ovitz: "Okay, I'll just say it: He's nuts. Just nuts. And endlessly amusing as a result."
  • Ella Taylor on Enduring Love, "a horror movie covering for a worried meditation on the fragility of the modern couple."
  • Kim Morgan on Ray, which "flips through its cinematic pages with a breathless and-then-this-happened urgency, offering up little in the way of personality (or truth) beyond Jamie Foxx's strong performance in the title role and the brilliant music that spikes the celluloid."

Michael Chabon is writing a kung fu version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for Disney with Yuen Wo Ping set to direct, reports Borys Kit in the Hollywood Reporter. Via Todd at Twitch, who asks, "How strange is this?" Also via Twitch: The trailer for Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle and news of Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Timothy Garton Ash:

Contrast the drama of democracy in Washington and Brussels. On the right-hand side of your split screen you have the world's biggest western... This is a big-budget Hollywood production... It features the most powerful man in the world, as well as war, sex, God and lies. It's a drama that affects us all. "I'm feeling quite nervous about Tuesday," a Pakistani student told me, "even though it's not my country." What film director could ask for more?

On the left-hand side of your split screen, you have the postmodern Euro-drama, taken from the Franco-German arts channel Arte, with subtitles.

Also in the Guardian:

The Women

Jonathan Rosenbaum on 10 on Ten: "[T]here's something suspect about Kiarostami's cookbook-style lucidity - he may be sincere, but he seems to be overestimating the role rationality plays in his decisions."

Oh, my. A spirited exchange between Roger Ebert and Conrad Black. Also via Movie City News: The Washington Post's William Booth meets Paul Giamatti and, for Film Stew, Richard Horgan looks back over the long and sordid history of fake celebrity blogs - to wind up wondering how real ones might be employed in the future.

In the Austin Chronicle:

Brace yourself for a wave of post-election escapist studio fare, warns Neal Koch in the New York Times. The headline for Sharon Waxman's piece speaks for itself: "Where, Oh Where, Are the Oscar Contenders?"

What are Academy members supposed to do with screeners they don't want to keep? As Roger Avary points out, it's a stickier question than it might seem at first.

Wendy Mitchell does love that Viennale; her report for indieWIRE.

At Engadget, JD Lassica asks TiVo CEO Mike Ramsay about the future of Internet television. Via Cinema Minima.

Cinemocracy and I respectfully exchange differing points of view.

"Two Vonnegut-based films that have for many years resided on Filmbrain's want-to-see-somehow-someday list are the 1972 TV film Between Time and Timbuktu and 1971's Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Filmbrain recently tracked down the latter, and it was even better than he had expected."

At low culture, jp breaks the first two rules of Fight Club: The Game.

Drew's back; is there hope for Bitter Cinema after all?

The Official B-Movie Hall of Fame. Via, in a roundabout sort of way, Vince Keenan.

Anthony Kaufman and Alternet's Davina Baum assess Eminem's "Mosh."

At Filmmaker, Steve Gallagher will point you to a sneak peek at John Cameron Mitchell's video for the Sister Scissors.

Greg Allen marvels at the Bush-Cheney campaign's choice of editors.

Trekkies for Kerry.

Online fiddling around tip. Make your own news at the Control Room site.

And finally, a silly little online viewing tip to bring us back to the Halloween-Election Mosh: "Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:16 AM

October 28, 2004

Senses of Cinema. 33.

Co-editor Jake Wilson captures the moment:

Here in Australia, this month has seen Prime Minister John Howard and his conservative government re-elected with an increased majority, despite widely expressed dismay over our involvement with the disaster of Iraq. With the US election just around the corner as I write, it's not the easiest moment to stay focused on cinema.

Amen. But the Senses of Cinema team has forged ahead and put together another remarkable issue anyway, and it's an abundant one, too. So much so that, even though any one of the essays, book reviews, festival reports and so on would make for a more vital read than much of what I otherwise point to around here, the usual mirror of the table of contents would, well, clog the blog.

That said, there's no way Matthew Clayfield's first contribution to SoC can go unmentioned. We've followed his productions, course work, even computer crashes at Esoteric Rabbit Films and valued his contributions to discussions and comments to entries at this and other blogs, so, hell, it feels like we know the guy. And if his first SoC article is anything to go by, we'll likely see many more in years to come, there and elsewhere.

Matt addresses the state of Australian cinema, which is certainly significant enough, but one thing I notice reading the piece is that you could substitute the names of several countries for "Australia" ("Germany," for example), and many of his points would still slam the nail on the head. Briefly, Australia keeps looking to this or that breakthrough film that'll put its cinema back on the map - and it keeps getting disappointed. Matt, too. Why can't the Australian system, he wonders, produce a film that means as much to him as - and these are his top two - Jafar Panahi's Crimson Gold and Kim Ki-duk's Samaritan Girl? Both, after all, are deeply rooted in their local cultures - Iran and South Korea - and yet both resonate universally. The problem, as I would paraphrase Matt's point, is that the Australians are trying too hard, that is, they're so concentrated on their project - make Australian film Australian - that those efforts derail the real project at hand which, to put it bluntly, is to make a good film.

The Ister

Matt does hold out hope, though, namely in the form of The Ister, which is also the subject/inspiration/dialogue partner of Carloss James Chamberlin's daunting essay which kicks off the issue. ("Daunting," by the way, is shorthand for: "I'm going to catch up with this one on the weekend.")

Besides the baker's dozen of features, there are special sections in this issue on comedy, narrative and "The State of Denmark," so: If you're not too busy working the phones or otherwise getting out the vote this weekend, or if you are too busy tracking polls or tracking poll trackers (and may I recommend Slate's "Election Scorecard"?) and need distraction, or perhaps best of all, if you're bookmarking for a future "moment to stay focused on cinema," here.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:23 PM

October 27, 2004

Shorts, 10/27.

Real People Bush has galvanized the indie film community like never before, reports Jake Brooks in the New York Observer. In the final phase of the campaign, though, fundraisers and feature-length political docs are giving way to get-out-the-vote field trips and TV ads. Also: Bruce Feirstein's amusing preview of election night reporting.

But the for all the urgency permeating Brooks's piece, the one item of probably greatest interest to anyone surfing a film blog is the fate of those remarkable ads that Errol Morris has made: "Real People" who voted for Bush in 2000 explain why they're voting for Kerry this year. In an interview Ben Chappel conducts for the Gothamist (which several bloggers in the constellation you'll know pretty well by now are pointing to, but see in particular Greg Allen), Morris explains why he's "modified" a few of them: "To make them stronger." Not only is he still adding to the collection, you'll also find downloadable posters for getting word out.

Frederick Wasser picks up the "Passion vs Fahrenheit" version of the map of contemporary America and takes it interesting places. One reading: if consensus politics is dead, so, too, is the blockbuster. Also at Flow: Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era: "A half-century ago, the postwar emergence of commercial television left the Hollywood studio system in ruins and decimated its audience; now a resurgent movie industry and a revolutionary home-video technology threaten to exact their revenge."

On Friday, David Poland asked out loud, "What would I do if some studio handed me the keys to their wanna-be-old-Miramax tomorrow?" On Monday, he outlined the four foundational corners of his answer.

The critics just don't get it, argues Michael Atkinson. "The question is as old as Voltaire's wig powder: How close can you get to what you're satirizing before the line between target and vilifier all but disappears? ... Because [Team America: World Police] doesn't trust the average American citizen, it's a sharper election year prod than The Manchurian Candidate. Parker and Stone aren't the first satirists to underestimate their own aggression or be accused of selling what they're telling us not to buy." So... the movie is brilliant; its makers may not (or may) be. Maybe.

Also in the Village Voice:

Yes Nurse! No Nurse!

Jason Wood bills his interview with Pawel Pawlikowski a "brief chat," but not many papers would give it the breathing room Kamera does. Also:

Pocket Essentials: Hitchcock

David O Russell's "Soldier's Pay" is part of IFC's pre-election line-up, reports Shilpa Mankikar at indieWIRE, while, as Eugene Hernandez writes, Bush's Brain heads up the Sundance Channel's pre-election programming.

Also: Eugene presents a full account of the Hamptons International Film Festival and Brian Brooks parses this week's indieWIRE:BOT results.

In the New York Press:

Tanner on Tanner

"[W]orld-renowned filmmakers, highly conceptual sketches, and mixed results": Doug Cummings on Ten Minutes Older, the first batch, The Trumpet.

Wiley Wiggins has bad news for those who were looking forward to the live action adaptation of Akira.

Todd at Twitch has hopeful news of Takashi Miike's Big Spook War, "described by some as a Japanese to the Harry Potter phenomenon."

"In weird fusions of fiction and documentary like his Buddhist-surrealist meditation on storytelling, Mysterious Object at Noon, and the rash-infected erotic idyll Blissfully Yours, as well as in an ongoing series of gallery-bound videotapes such as a ruralized rethink of snooty urban soap operas, Haunted Houses, Apichatpong [Weerasethakul] is almost single-handedly inventing modern Thai independent and experimental cinema, even if he's better known in France than among multiplex audiences in Bangkok, who've only just begun to understand and embrace their controversial native son." And Chuck Stephens interviews him for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The occasion: the YCBA Artist-in-Residence series, November 5 through 7.

Also in the SFBG:

  • Johnny Ray Huston on Sideways ("[Virginia] Madsen transforms an excellent film into, at least briefly, a truly great one") and Undertow (as [it] gets curiouser and curiouser, it winds up a mere curiosity").
  • Cheryl Eddy on The Manson Family: "[O]ne starts to get the feeling that, yep, these are the kind of folks who'd be capable of tasting a pregnant woman's blood, or carving the word war in a dead man's stomach."
  • Dennis Harvey on Saw: "It's not just soulless; it keeps shoving you around and grinning like an idiot, assuming you're delighted, too."

Stuart Jeffries meets Eric Rohmer:

Triple Agent Triple Agent

"What I remember, more than anything else, was the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 that seemed to reflect the political climate of the time. Each nation had a pavilion on the opposite side of the Seine to the Eiffel Tower." Very slowly, Rohmer pulls himself to his feet, comes round his desk and hobbles, hunchbacked, towards the film poster on the opposite wall so he can point out a detail. He is wearing worn Reeboks and jeans, with only the sartorial touch of a cravat to suggest a dignified Frenchman. "On the poster you can see on the left the German pavilion. On the right there is the Soviet one - two bombastic totalitarian powers facing each other."

Also in the Guardian:

  • An Ovitz vs Eisner update from David Teather.
  • Another consideration of the films and photography of Robert Frank, this time from Adrian Searle.
  • Lucy Atkins: "[Angelina] Jolie, of course, is not the first Hollywood megastar to join the Insta-mum Club, and despite all the sneering, she may well prove to be a great mother to Maddox and Gleb."
  • Musicians and DJs remember John Peel. A special report.

In the Independent:

In the New York Times:

  • A film version of A Confederacy of Dunces is probably "shelved until either somebody dies or everybody gets paid off," David Gordon Green tells Dave Kehr, but in the meantime, the director is "sinking roots in New Orleans."
  • Lola Ogunnaike previews what frankly sounds like a pretty grotesque exercise, AMC's reality series, Film Fakers, which "dupes out-of-work actors into believing they have landed plum movie roles, only to reveal later that the entire production, from the crazed director to the flimsy script, is a colossal hoax."
  • Caryn James: "Extreme weight loss and gain is today's most popular form of stunt acting, with movie stars ballooning up and down as if they've never heard of padding or special effects or just wearing black." Christian Bale's voluntary emaciation for The Machinist is half the reason for the piece; in Salon, Cintra Wilson explains at great length why she's convinced he's "a friggin' genius."
  • Kehr on a select set of new DVD releases.

Lots going on at Filmmaker:

"Sitting down with the three disc anniversary edition of Clerks this weekend, Cinecultist got to thinking about our long and tumultuous love affair with the films of Mr. Smith and generally the last ten years of indie films."

Filmbrain gets his desk in order: notes on the many films he's caught in the last several weeks.

Eminem: Mosh

Online viewing tip. Eminem's "Mosh." Director Ian Inaba: "This video was made possible by a team of artists who came together inspired by a song and video that might be able to effect the next four years of all of our lives."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:43 AM

Film-Philosophy, Vol. 8.

Following William C Wees's review referred to a few days ago, three more essays in a volume of Film-Philosophy devoted to the avant-garde:

Hollis Frampton Matt Teichman on the writings of Hollis Frampton:

[N]ot only do his texts fail to mention a single film of his, but the scope of their concerns is singularly broad; he writes not about 'how to make good movies' or 'what he was trying to do', but about time and its quantization; about the history of the fact; about shock, eros, and artmaking; generally, about the role of cinema in that collective venture known as consciousness. What his essays bring into focus, rather than any sense that they were to be taken as an intermediate step towards the eventual realization of his films, is the sense in which for him writing and filmmaking are but two means of pursuing the very same end. This end I am inclined to refer to as philosophical inquiry.

Daniel Barnett on Nathaniel Dorsky's Devotional Cinema:

In this monograph Dorsky treats the word with the same care as he treats the image in his films. The result is a text far more comprehensive, subtle, and deep than its physical size would suggest. It's also an extremely simple and compelling read. Carefully felt rather than closely reasoned, its exposition of a distinct and illuminating ontology lies closer to the revelations of art and religion than philosophy.

Devotional Cinema Another take from Glen W Norton:

Dorsky begins with a description of what he calls the "post-film experience." When we leave the darkened theatre, familiar things are de-familiarized. The experience can be odd, strange, even disturbing. Yet it can also be incredibly uplifting, bringing us into contact with others in new ways. This is the power of cinema to affect us. For Dorsky, the nature of cinema can produce either health or ill-health in its viewer, and there seems little room inbetween. This power to affect us somatically is not a metaphor for Dorsky, it is an actuality. He is talking about metabolic stuff here - he goes so far as to claim that cinema can actually "mirror and realign our metabolism."

Note for those anywhere near London on Halloween: Nathaniel Dorsky will read from Devotional Cinema at 4 pm at the National Film Theatre. Then, on November 9, three of Dorsky's films will be screened at the Tate Modern. Both events are scheduled in conjunction with the London Film Festival, currently throwing metabolisms out of whack through November 4.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:12 AM

October 26, 2004

John Peel, 1939 - 2004.

The Peel Sessions: The Fall
John Peel was, at first sight, the antithesis of many of the bands he loved. Balding, bearded, softly - if hilariously - spoken, he was more like a favourite uncle than a rock fan.... "Everything changed when I heard Elvis," he later reflected. "Where there had been nothing there was suddenly something." ... Bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash paved the way for new Peel discoveries like Joy Division and the Undertones, whose Teenage Kicks was his all-time favourite single.

The BBC.

And it seems to me to be almost the perfect life, really. I mean, I would like to be taller and have more hair [laughs] and things, but apart from those physical things I can't really imagine how my life could be improved. I hope that doesn't sound smug, but it is a pretty good life.

From a 2002 B92 interview.

Sites: BBC Radio 1: John Peel; the Peel Sessions; the Wikipedia entry.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM

October 25, 2004

Shorts, 10/25.

Youssef Chahine Reviewing Iskenderiya-New York (Alexandria-New York), the latest film from Youssef Chahine, now in his mid-70s, leads Mohamed El-Assyouti to broader observations in Al-Ahram Weekly:

Artists invest their last works with elements from their best ones, self-referentially trying to rescue them from the abyss of mediocrity; and Chahine seems to be no exception. Precedents in cinema include the last works of Jean Cocteau, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, who reiterate well-worn themes, centralising either themselves or their alter-egos - surrogates for their real-life personas. While these last works are never on a par with the directors' best works, they can be seen as a kind of appendix to their oeuvre - a tribute to, if never a continuation of, their former excellence.

Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau": Alain Riou's interview with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Pascal Mérigeau's initial assessment of Jeunet's new film, A Very Long Engagement. Both in Le Nouvel Observateur, both in French.

But back to Mohamed El-Assyouti's piece for a moment. Compare and contrast with this, from Ben Slater's thoughtful and personal overview of the films of Wong Kar-wai:

2046 is a symphony that majestically replays images, sequences, lines and ideas from almost every single previous Wong Kar Wai film, but miraculously, it never slides into self-parody (WKW got that out of his system by producing the mercilessly funny Chinese Odyssey 2002).... But there is an almost erotic ecstasy in the lack, absences and flaws of 2046. It would be wrong again if it was pristine and perfect. It has the baggy density and detail of a great novel which demands to be reread. For Wong, I hope it's the close of a chapter in his life and art and he can come back to meet us in the present.

In the New Yorker, Anthony Lane reviews "the jokeless gloomarama that is Enduring Love" and:

On the one hand, the proud imbalance of Hearts and Minds, which gives no clue that atrocities were committed by the other side, and which allows [Peter] Davis to cut from a rampaging football game, back home, to the Tet offensive, will be a lesson to anybody who thinks that Michael Moore invented the notion of documentary as blunderbuss. On the other hand, Clark Clifford's admission that his opinion of the war was changed, for the worse, by a long and dispiriting session with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1968 - this while he was Secretary of Defense - has, in its civilized humility, no equivalent today.

Lane's tone is clear but rings a lighter note than the magazine's editors do in their chillingly sober assessment of Bush's presidency.

New York has revamped its movies section.

Spiegel Online, one of your humble blogger's old haunts, has launched a daily, English-language international edition, featuring news, summaries of what's in the German papers, selected articles from the magazine and so on. Today, Jody K Biehl examines the latest of many Hitler waves to engulf the country:

Sixty years of guilt and democracy have clearly fostered an evolved level of Holocaust discourse. Now, it seems, Germans are embarking on a much harder task. Rather than studying the Holocaust from the point of view of the victims, they seem intent on taking a serious look at themselves as perpetrators. Hence all the docu-dramas.

For Litrix.de, Oliver Jahn reviews Alexander Kluge's collection of stories, The Gap Left by the Devil: In the Context of the New Century.

Michael Tully would like to introduce you to "an ocean of film criticism so warm, so exhilarating, so inviting, that I cannot help but surf its soothing waves every single day": The Outlaw Vern.

For indieWIRE, Wendy Mitchell interviews David Gordon Green.

"It's pretty unusual to wake up in the morning and read entertainment industry news detailing benefits specifically targeted towards independent filmmakers." But Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker has found in news of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 which, among other things, offers tax breaks to those who invest in American indies.

What's so great about Alexander? Salon's Amy Reiter asks Greek history prof Paul Cartledge.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:11 AM

October 24, 2004

Sunday shorts.

You Can't Take it With You "[O]ur glasses, our tweed jackets, our glum mugs." Woody Allen's appreciation of George S Kaufman fronts the New York Times Book Review. In the paper:

  • Why might The Polar Express "change the way movies are made and seen," as Dave Kehr proposes? It may come down to money. As with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, "there are no expensive sets to be built, no elaborate lighting to be rigged, no bulky camera to be painstakingly hauled into place. In fact, there is no film." But that's the long view. Polar Express itself was not cheap and, as Claudia Eller reports in the Los Angeles Times (via Movie City News), the film "will have to amass more than $500 million in worldwide revenue from box-office, DVD and TV sales and other sources to leave Warner and [producer Steve] Bing any presents under the tree." Let's just hope there's a solid story. Frankly, the trailer suggests that the characters come off cold and wooden, the opposite impression one gets watching, say, the trailer for The Incredibles.

  • David Edelstein interviews Rhys Ifans, who defends Jed, the character he plays in Enduring Love and suggests a game you might play once the DVD comes out.

    Jesse Green interviews screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, who's just written a memoir, Blue Days, Black Nights: "By my 10th hour in Hollywood, I'd imbibed cocaine, Quaaludes, marijuana, bourbon, Scott Thorson, Liberace - and insulted Bette Midler. And it was really fun."

    Adena Halpern tracks moments in cinema history "that caused moviegoers to turn to one another and ask, 'Did they really do that?'"

  • Is Jon Stewart still a comedian? Damien Cave asks around. Much more on this from Aaron at Out of Focus.

Greg Allen passes along David O Russell's ♥-felt ad for his movie.

David Ritz, co-author with Ray Charles of Brother Ray, lists all the opportunities missed in Ray. Also: David Edelstein: "[T]he phrase, 'The second best movie of the year' on Slate's content page has elicited quite a few e-mails asking, 'Dude, what's the best?' Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, of course."

"By now you must be sick of seeing the countless television ads, billboards, Today Show appearances and Happy Meal tie-ins promoting Primer." Matt Dentler passes along a fun letter from Shane Carruth.

The British Board of Film Classification has decided you must be 18 to see Tracey Emin's debut film, Top Spot, whereas Michael Winterbottom, Emin's producer, has seen his 9 Songs deemed... well, at least not porn. Mark Lawson argues, "These coincidental rulings seem contradictory: Emin meeting the censors at their most draconian, Winterbottom benefiting from liberalism. But on examination, the two decisions suggest a coherent view of what should be viewed at what age." In other words: Explicit sex is less of a problem than teenage suicide when it comes to what the under-18s ought to be allowed to see. Agree with the lesser problem idea, but have trouble with the prohibitive approach. As the cinetrix notes (via Emin's distributor), "in 2000 the American film The Virgin Suicides, about five teenaged sisters who kill themselves, was released in Britain with only a 15 rating."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Even director Rob Marshall's "expert on geisha" admits he understands the apprehension with which the Japanese are eyeing the production of Memoirs of a Geisha: "Anyone who knows something about Japanese culture might actually be appalled by the whole thing." Justin McCurry reports from Kyoto.

Seconds of Pleasure

In the Observer:

One year on, how's that Schwarzenegger revolution going, ask Robert Salladay and Peter Nicholas in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Let Todd at Twitch point you towards some making-of footage from the set for the live action version of Initial D.


Online viewing tip. "Op for Pop" at artafterscience: "Although cut down for the web, because of the random element, it goes on forever without repeating itself, and if you refresh the page, something different will appear each time." See that list of demo and clip pages towards the bottom there? Explore.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:40 AM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2004

Raiding the Contemporary archives.

Jeff Wall, in an email conversation with Mike Figgis:

I don't want to make a polarity between the two kinds of films because I think Godard did create really interesting structures, exemplary modes and forms. I notice, though, that many of his films are not aging well. Maybe it's because of the ironic treatment of the people he's depicting, the insistent detachment from them, the way they're treated as signs, as emblems of ideas. Ideas, particularly the kind of arch-political ideas Godard has, come and go, and what remains is the feeling created by the depiction of the beings and objects present in front of the camera at the time. The more formally conventional cinema is maybe more conventional because those conventional forms have accepted a different (I won't say better) notion of the things and creatures being depicted.

Guy Maddin, interviewed by Craig Burnett:

Contemporary: Isabella Rossellini

[T]he omnipotent prehistories we all inaccurately construct for ourselves: those are intriguing. And of all the prehistories, I've stuck myself barnacle-like onto the roaring, surrealistic, intemperate 20s! Sue me.... We both like silent film, and especially Lon Chaney Sr. His great tortured tales of amputation, disfigurement and revenge! His unmatchable agonies of unrequited love, jealous brooding and masochistic longing - all of it etched on that strikingly ugly-but-heartbreaking granite mug of his! What transports of joy Isabella and I shared over the face of Lon Chaney.

Rene Daalder: "Hollywood shows little patience with true artistry, let alone a reclusive computer genius like [Richard] Baily who is an intense, well-preserved graduate of the psychedelic revolution, who sports long dark hair and is seldom seen without his trademark high-heeled women's shoes."

Kaleem Aftab and Ian Stewart: "Attitudes to portrayals of sexual violence have changed markedly since the seventies and not in the way you might expect: its depiction has now become less acceptable.... [I]t is no longer the content of the image that shocks, it's the context."

Don Bonetti: "[N]o one ever suggested that American television was superior to contemporary film, not to mention the equal of the nineteenth-century novel. Today, serious cultural critics are making just such assertions."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:26 PM

October 22, 2004

Shorts, 10/22.

Film-Philosophy launches a series of upcoming essays on avant-garde film with the appropriately titled "Introducing Avant-Garde Film," William C Wees's review of Michael O'Pray's Avant-Garde Film: Forms, Themes and Passions, in which "coverage of eighty-odd years of avant-garde filmmaking is highly selective and, given its brevity, notable for the comparatively large number of British filmmakers it includes."

F.LM As it happens, the new issue of F.LM - Texte zum Film is devoted to "Filmphilosophie," a term editor Stefan Hölten explains was chosen to reflect on two aspects it suggests, "Philosophie des Films" and "Film der Philosophie." Hölten also writes (in German, so I'm translating):

Jacques Derrida is dead. When this issue of F.LM was being planned, even as the cover was being designed, he was still alive. As coincidence would have it, then, the theme of this issue becomes a sort of "eulogy" to perhaps the most important philosopher of our time.

If you read the comments here (and I hope you do, since clearing out the spam is pretty tedious), you'll have seen - besides David Lowery's interview with Jonathan Caouette; in English! - that Thomas Groh has pointed to a translation into German of an interview with Derrida that appeared in Cahiers du Cinema in 2001, "Jacques Derrida et les fantomes du cinema."

Before getting back to English, one more in German. In Die Zeit, Wim Wenders writes a lengthy and furious condemnation of Der Untergang (The Downfall), the film event of the year in Germany.

Ok, English. English English, too: In his cover story for the British Prospect, Mark Cousins hails the worldwide rediscovery of films from Asia; he runs down brief histories of various national cinemas, considers some of the best among the most recent films, and then:

Just as deep ideas about individual freedom have led to the bracingly driven aspirational cinema of Hollywood, so Buddhism and Taoism explain the distinctiveness of Asian cinema at its best. In Venice in 1951 and Cannes in 2004, audiences left the cinemas with heads full of dazzling images. But the greatness of Rashomon, Ugetsu, 2046 or House of Flying Daggers is, in the end, not to do with imagery at all. Yes, they are pictorially distinctive, but it is their different sense of what a person is, and what space and action are, which makes them new to western eyes.

Mike Hertenstein wraps his coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival at Flickerings with a five-out-five baseball feature review of Dariush Mehrjui's The Cow, part of the fest's "Flashback" series. After his insightful consideration of the film itself, Hertenstein notes that Mehrjui was unable to attend the screening because he couldn't get a visa:

The greater loss would seem to be that of America, which has now managed to deny entry and/or manhandle three major Iranian directors.... Superstition and xenophobia are truly universal, whether the Other is named "the Great Satan," "the Axis of Evil," or the Bolouris. The Cow's story of communal darkness and light, with its reminder of the good and bad that tragedy might inspire, was never more relevant.

Check out the 49 hopefuls for the Foreign Language Oscar at Movie City News.

The cinetrix: "Have you been reading Jonathan Kiefer's Maisonneuve column, 'Film Flâneur'? You should." Heavens, she's right. Again. Read that whole post of hers, too. And the comments.



Among the many, many vital links and newsbits at Twitch, there's Todd's discovery of subtitled trailers for Hiroki Yamaguchi's Gusher No Binds Me (plus a review by Mike Atherton) and for Shinya Tsukamoto's Vital.

A sneak peek at Birth from NP Thompson, who's surprised to find that it "turns out not only to be very good, but one of the finest, most indispensable movie-going experiences of the year."

Listening to Todd Solondz talk at the New York Film Festival has actually worsened Filmbrain's already negative reaction to Palindromes.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay discovers William Gibson's blog, which he'd abandoned for a while but has since picked up again. Film news: Peter Weir is set to direct an adaptation of Pattern Recognition; politics news: as Scott puts it, Gibson "feels an imaginary collective mental barrier may be working against John Kerry."

"Kukla, Fran and Oligarchy": The Advocate's Alonso Duralde finds that "what [Team America] occasionally lacks in laughs, it unfortunately makes up for with hypocritical politics."

Citizens United, the conservative group behind the anti-Fahrenheit 9/11 tract Celsius 41.11, has slapped a bit of the soundtrack for Powaqqatsi on two its trailers. Philip Glass is suing. Kate Zernike reports. As for the film, Manohla Dargis writes that the filmmakers want to make you "afraid - very, very afraid" and "apply their thesis with a trowel."

Salon's Eric Boehlert examines the records of David Smith, chairman and CEO of Sinclair, and Carlton Sherwood, producer of Stolen Honor.

"I have always thought of my writing On the Waterfront not as a conventional movie assignment, but as a mission." Budd Schulberg tells the story of the film's making, from the original newspaper articles, through a hand-off from one director to the next, to the Oscars and a commission "to impose some sense of law on what had become a lawless frontier."

Also in the Guardian:

  • In an even-handed move, the paper asks Ruth Lea, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, to take a look at The Corporation: "This film is a missed opportunity. Companies are not all squeaky clean but, rather than target genuine corporate misdemeanours, it splatters bullets all over the wall and misses the miscreants."
  • Arts Council chairman Christopher Frayling, briefly, on the linkage between painting, most of it "from northern Europe in the 19th century," and horror movie posters.
  • David Mamet, not at all briefly.

Leslie Felperin gets Jim Jarmusch on a nostalgic roll: "New York in the late 70s.... Anything seemed possible.... the beginning of punk rock, the beginning of hip hop, the beginning of a new generation of underground film-makers and artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat... It was also disco, and excess, and that whole scene. Yeah, it was a lot of wow, a lot of weird things compared to today."

Also in the Independent:

Shooting Shakespeare

Matt Dentler spends a weekend with The Flaming Lips and SpongeBob Squarepants.

The Reel Roundtable's Elizabeth Carmody offers her thoughts on running a film series.

IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks listens to Bill Condon talk about Kinsey in the Hamptons.

Seattle Maggie has left the office - and celebrates with the best "anti-office, up-with-the-people" movies.

Vince Keenan believes there's still hope for Sandra Bullock.

Online browsing and viewing tip #1. Variety is offering free access to "Variety Vision," sort of a sketch of what Variety might look like on TV.

Online browsing and viewing tip #2. P2P Politics. Glen Otis Brown explains at Creative Commons: "The site enables anyone to select from a menu of video clips the ones that best express their view of the U.S. presidential elections, and then email links to those clips, along with a personalized message, to friends, family, and colleagues." Via Cinema Minima.

More? Wiley Wiggins has two more.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:40 AM

October 21, 2004

Shorts, 10/21.

The Stranger: Genius Awards "We try not to take too much too seriously here at The Stranger - but our Genius Awards are different," writes Christopher Frizzelle. "For the second year in a row, we're awarding $5,000 each to a filmmaker, a theater artist, a writer, a visual artist, and an arts organization that we think are doing terrific and original work." And the filmmaker this year is David Russo. Bradley Steinbacher:

Russo creates short films that are fits of live action and animation, rapid in their editing, and beautifully designed. In Pan with Us (2003), he brings a Robert Frost poem to life with a large metal bird and a giant ream of paper, telling the story of the ancient Greek woodland god Pan, whose name has given us the word "panic." Populi (2002) [click to watch], which is on permanent display at the newly monikered Qwest Field, is an ambush set to Holst's "Mars: Bringer of War," involving a carved wooden human shape, a steel sphere, and travels not just around the globe but possibly into other dimensions.

Short profiles of four more "Ones to Watch" follow.

Also in the Stranger:

Raoul Hernandez traces the search for an iconic image to grace the flyer for the Austin Film Society series, "Talk of the Town: The Films of Jean Arthur."

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

Joe Leydon: Movies You Must See

Hats off at indieWIRE today for two women who've done oodles for independent film. "Marcie Bloom's more than twenty-five years working in New York's film community will be celebrated during an intimate dinner party in The Hamptons this evening," writes Eugene Hernandez, who talks with her by phone. And SXSW 2005 will present a retrospective of producer Christine Vachon's films, and yes, she'll be there, reports Brian Brooks.

At long last, I get a good solid reason to link to the wonderful Margaret Wertheim. Her LA Weekly column this week previews the "Soft Science" program at the LA Filmforum on Sunday evening. "[Programmer Rachel] Mayeri is right to suggest that beneath the veneer of Reason, scientific labs have (unconciously) become the sites for a vast array of highly innovative aesthetic experiments."

Also in the LA Weekly:

The "distortions" of events portrayed in Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal "are intended to hurt Mr. Kerry at the polls," writes Alessandra Stanley. "Instead, they mainly distract viewers from the real subject of the film: the veterans' unheeded feelings of betrayal and neglect." Meanwhile, Sinclair's stock seems to be recovering, reports Bill Carter.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Stanley also reviews The Office Special, "as wickedly, painfully funny as the first two seasons and, in tiny, fleeting doses, as delicately tender."
  • Sharon Waxman examines what's at stake in HBO's "huge gamble," Rome.
  • Janet Maslin reviews two memoirs, one of which happens to be written by Tatum O'Neal and "devoted to celebrity, shock value and adroitly pious spite." The other, by Tara Bray Smith, not a film star, does sound like the better read.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir on David O Russell's Soldier's Pay, "a profoundly revealing document. Not so much because it offers a low-key indictment of the confused, chaotic and mismanaged Iraq conflict... Rather, this film feels like a confession of sorts, an insistence that when the chips are down content trumps form and the medium is not - at least not entirely - the message."

"Stolen Honor is the kind of show you might come across at 2am as a paid infomercial on a local-access channel and leave on for a few minutes out of sheer fascinated disgust," writes Dana Stevens at Slate, where Drew Clark addresses the question, "Can a broadcaster air a partisan film in the final weeks of an election campaign without granting equal time to the other side?"

Also: David Edelstein's appreciation of Annette Bening.

In PopMatters, Michael Abernethy runs through the history of the relationship between Hollywood and Washington and argues that it'll keep on keeping on - as it should.

Blogumentary The first post-9/11 episode of South Park was also the worst, argues Spencer Ackerman in the New Republic: "That could be forgiven - after all, Parker and Stone were no different than millions of Americans in their confusion about what to make of September 11. But three years later, Team America shows they're still bewildered."

London's specialty theater, the Other Cinema is in serious trouble, reports Paul Arendt in the Guardian. Also: Sony's bringing restored Harold Lloyd silents to theaters and, topping today's newsbits: Jake Gyllenhaal joins Sam Mendes's Jarhead.

And the last item for today, but most certainly not the least, major congrats to Chuck Olsen whose Blogumentary premieres at the 4th annual City Pages GET REAL Documentary Film Festival on November 4 in Minneapolis. Writes Chuck: "Blogs, and the entire mediascape, have changed quite a bit since I started making this film two years ago. Blogumentary takes you on a tour through the history of blogs and media, all the way up to blogs’ role in the downfall of Trent Lott, the rise of Howard Dean, and Dan Rather’s forged memo debacle." Online viewing tip: Selected scenes posted at Chuck's blog. Scroll down a bit and look - where else? - left.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:04 AM | Comments (1)

October 20, 2004

Shorts, 10/20.

Mughal-e-Azam "Sixty-four years after Mughal-e-Azam went on the floors and 44 years after it first exploded on screen, Mughal-e-Azam is ready for a grand revival." Roshmila Bhattacharya tells the unlikely story of its making, its initial reception, its gradual acceptance and its restoration - a risky endeavor - for the Indian Express.

Matt Clayfield: "Idiot Box and Mullet - these two profoundly interesting and infuriating pictures - ultimately represent what I consider to be some of the best filmmaking that [Australia] at present (or not-so-distant past, at least) has to offer, and David Caesar - this profoundly interesting and infuriating director - is in my eyes one of this country's most unique, angry and distinctly enigmatic voices."

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Garry Maddox traces what happens when Australian stories are told by foreigners. Via IFCine & Heard.

Doug Cummings compares and contrasts Visconti's White Nights and Bresson's Four Nights of a Dreamer, both adaptations of a story by Dostoevsky.

Robert Davis picks up on one of Girish Shambu's post and notes: "The universe of movies is staggering." Comments ensue.

At Twitch:

As the presidential campaign races towards its close, so does another sideshow: What will Sinclair broadcast and to whom?

  • Kate Zernike reports on Monday's developments for the New York Times: A vet is suing the producer of Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, "saying it libels him by deceptively editing his statements." Zernike and Jim Rutenberg: "The film is rife with out-of-context and incomplete quotations from Mr. Kerry and other antiwar veterans."
  • Sinclair's Washington bureau chief has been fired for opening his mouth. The AP's Kasey Jones has more.
  • On Tuesday morning, David Lieberman and James Cox reported in USA Today that shares in Sinclair had fallen 12 percent since the company's plans to air the anti-Kerry doc were made known.
  • By Tuesday evening, Sinclair announced it'd only be showing parts of the film and on fewer of its stations. Burger King's pulled all its ads anyway. In this morning's NYT, Bill Carter reports that Sinclair "has had its stock price fall by almost 17 percent and its market capitalization drop by $140 million in the last week and a half."
  • Those are the fleeting details. For excellent all-round analysis, including an interview with Jon Leiberman, that fired bureau chief, see Paul Schmelzer's piece at Alternet.
  • One more: "As you may have gleaned, this sort of transparent politicking makes the cinetrix cranky." And when she's cranky, she's doubly good, which, of course, is very, very good indeed.

On a related note, "David Van Taylor, director of two of the films cited by the National Review last week as evidence of the Sundance Channel's liberal bent, takes issue with this characterization." Cinemocracy runs his response.

Back to the NYT:

  • Edgier times call for edgier family fare. Or so Disney hopes. Neal Koch reports.
  • But former economic advisor to Bush 41, Todd G Buchholz argues on the Op-Ed page, forget edge: the way to secure jobs in Hollywood is to make cleaner movies.
  • And The Incredibles? John M Broder: "The buzz out of early screenings is that [the film] carries a considerably more middle-American sensibility than the usual fare from Hollywood, where liberal shibboleths often become the stuff of mainstream movies."
  • Alessandra Stanley on why Jon Stewart's "surprise attack on the hosts of CNN's Crossfire was so satisfying last Friday." Rex has his reservations about that but also loads o' links at Fimoculous.
  • America, 1962. A black man is shot because his son didn't say "sir" to a white man. The son, Carl Ray, now 60, is the subject of a documentary, A Killing in Choctaw: The Power of Forgiveness. Carol Pogash tells the story.
  • Polly Shulman meets Primer director Shane Carruth.
  • Dave Kehr on this week's new DVDs. More from Ray Pride at MCN.

Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, the "most sexually explicit film in UK cinema history," according to the Guardian, "has been passed uncut and granted an 18 certificate by the British board of film classification." Comments Jeremy Harrison at his blog, Artistic Delusions: "Personally, I think this film is going to be awesome. Come on, sex to the sounds of the Dandy Warhols and Franz Ferdinand! Can you go wrong?" Well...

Back to the Guardian:

  • Try making a film that clocks in at 15 seconds. And can be played on a mobile phone. Pascal Wyse and his partner, Jo Berger, did. See the results and more: Nokia Shorts 2004.

Apocalypse Now

Reenactments of historical events are nothing new. But "computer wizardry" is making it possible to present such sequences as archival footage. James Rampton examines the implications. Also in the Independent: There's talk that Finding Neverland is Johnny Depp's clear shot at an Oscar; David Thomson doubts it'll happen. And Jonathan Romney lists his London Film Festival picks.

Via Movie City News:

"'Your ass is your ass,' she says. This is [Catherine] Breillat's expression of a view that, as it happens, I have long held about explicit sex scenes, though I have never stated it so succinctly." A fine pair of reviews in the New Republic from Stanley Kauffmann: Sex is Comedy and I ♥ Huckabees: David O Russell "seems so busy bragging about his nerve that it smothers the comedy."

No stand-out motif in the Village Voice this week; just lots o' reviews and a few extras:

  • J Hoberman on Team America, "the perfect date flick for a drunken frat boy trying to impress right-wing skank Ann Coulter," Sideways ("much of the comedy here is beyond poignant - it's painful"; but, you know, in a good way) and Undertow: "However cloying, the movie creates a powerful vortex."
Hearts and Minds

In the Moment: My Life as an Actor Scott Eyman reviews Ben Gazzara's In the Moment: My Life as an Actor for the New York Observer: "John Cassavetes - with whom he made Husbands, Opening Night and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie - is rendered with much of the precision, and all the immediacy and affection, of first love."

"Welles told Bogdanovich that while an expertly directed film 'certainly ranked among the fine arts... the average director, even some of the most successful, with long distinguished careers, did not make the difference that really good performances do.'" Matt Zoller Seitz's review of the latter's Who the Hell's In It picks up there and then samples the book's darker observations about what Arthur Miller called "the 'culture of contempt' that drives Hollywood" to draw out the tragedy at the heart of many of Bogdanovich's portraits.

Also in the New York Press:

  • A perhaps unintentionally related cover story. For $250, Scott Powers Studios, Inc., will give actors a brief shot at auditioning for a casting director and the chance to listen to a half-hour panel discussion. Is it a scam? Gregory Gilderman and Andrew Lorin investigate.
  • Seitz on Team America, "possibly the only halfway significant slapstick movie of recent times that was not directed by the Farrelly brothers," and The Machinist: "[Christian] Bale... has learned a lesson that eludes most of his rivals: The actor who listens and thinks is more interesting than the actor who won't stop talking." (Did he say "rivals"?)
  • Armond White on Undertow, "so misguided, so uninspired, it feels embarrassingly derivative," and: "I scoff at those reviewers who dismiss Around the Bend as cliché-ridden because they don't appreciate that the three lead actors... are so visually and emotionally spellbinding." It really is about the actors this week in the NYP.
  • JR Taylor listens to a few movies.

Lars von Trier is editing Manderlay but says, according this wire story, that the third installment of his USA Trilogy is years away, "because in the meantime, I need to earn some money." He plans to raise it with a horror film aimed at a wider audience. Producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen: "It is kind of an Antichrist with international distribution, based on the theory that it was not God but Satan who created the world." Related: Vince Keenan on The Five Obstructions.

"Why science-fiction and fantasy? Because the lines are blurrier than you might think. Many think of Star Wars as sci-fi, but its complete lack of hard science also lands it in fantasy camp." And at the top of filmcritic.com's "Top 50 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films" list. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle's Dan Fost reports on George Lucas's new magazine, Edutopia.

Chazz Palminteri's Noel opens in up to ten cities on November 12 - and on the same day, you can buy the DVD at Amazon for $4.99. The catch? You have 48 hours to watch the DVD before it self-destructs. Reuters reports on an experimental distribution model.

Wrapping up the New York Film Festival:


The Chicago International Film Festival officially closes tomorrow, but it's not too early for Anthony Kaufman to look back at the best of the fest. Also at iW: Eugene Hernandez on the so far limited yet potentially wider release of The World According to Bush by the Silver Lake Film Festival.

Peter Kubelka, Ernie Gehr and Nina Fonoroff figure prominently in Acquarello's notes on last weekend's "Views from the Avant-Garde" series.

Matt Dentler hangs with the screenwriters at the Austin Film Festival.

The Viennale is Wendy Mitchell's favorite festival. And she attends a lot of festivals.

Max Goldberg previews the retrospective of cinematographer James Wong Howe's work at the Castro in San Francisco, October 22 - 28: "Despite the consistent distinction of Howe's work, what one marvels at most is his adaptability - that is, the myriad ways in which the cinematographer varies his aesthetic in the service of a story." Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey: "Testosterone misses the mark by so far, it almost - alas, only almost - lands in so-bad-it's-good territory."

Looking ahead to November:

"A short film is like..." Greg Allen Googles it.

Online browsing tip #1. The Political Dr. Seuss.

Online browsing tip #2. Hitchcock mosaics at the Leytonstone tube station. Wow. Via Metaphilm.

Online viewing tip. Nicola Dulion's "Stupid Worm." Via Roger Avary.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:08 PM

October 19, 2004

MVFF at 27.

Mill Valley Film Festival Jonathan Marlow looks back on the Mill Valley Film Festival, which wrapped on Sunday.

The younger, smarter sibling of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Mill Valley was a distinguished affair in its latest installment. Excellent films and high-profile guests have continued to raise the respect of the annual event. Even unexpected acts of nature (which forced the exchange of the out-of-commission CinéArts Sequoia for the middle-of-nowhere Century Regency) failed to produce a noticeable set-back for the fest and its able staff.

Admittedly, regular evening trips to Mill Valley are less than ideal,l but with a program that included the latest from Kiarostami, Kore-eda, Godard and Sembene, along with tributes to Gena Rowlands, Albert Maysles and Mike Leigh, skipping the festival wasn't really an option. That stated, let's presume for a moment that you didn't attend MVFF. Given that the Daily's readership is worldwide, this is a distinct possibility. Which films should you see or skip when they find their way to your neighborhood?

Tarnation - With a meteoric rise since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year and presented at MVFF mere days before a theatrical release from Wellspring, what is to be made of this oddity? Overrated. If turning your family story into a disjointed series of music videos is a display of genius, US cinema is in a much more sorry state than I suspected. Director Jonathan Caouette and I share a similar background: born a few years apart; an entirely absent father; a younger brother; a theatrical youth; teenage years spent in the "club scene." For Caouette, these details, combined with his mother's troubled time in and out of mental institutions, is enough to base a feature film. Unfortunately, it's thirty minutes of material stretched into an 88-minute movie. It does, however, include some remarkable moments (such as role-playing footage of the director as a battered young woman or the initial photo montage of his mother and her brief modeling career). The film might also single-handedly usher in a whole new genre - the narcissistic pseudo-doc.

Our Music - Unlike most Americans, I look forward to new Jean-Luc Godard films. In fact, his last theatrically released feature, In Praise of Love, marked the end of a rather productive decade of wonderful work: Germany Year 90 Nine-Zero, Hélas pour moi, JLG/JLG and the ambitious Histoire(s) du cinéma. Our Music will not likely win over any new fans. In fact, even existing enthusiasts will find little to react favourably to. Much like his earlier Keep Your Right Up!, the film fares best when Godard appears on screen as a hapless version of himself. These moments are clever and compelling, unlike the inconsequential details that surround them. Ultimately, the film could nearly be created using a template of his last few features. Add original footage and audio and, at the press of a button, out come jump cuts, overlapping dialogue, abruptly truncated music and documentary footage inserted at odd intersections.


Mondovino  -  Outside of the nauseating, shaky camera work, Jonathan Nossiter's fascinating (if overly long) documentary about contemporary wine culture is a must-see. Much like the territory covered in the book The Accidental Connoisseur by Lawrence Osborne (in which Nossiter is referenced), Mondovino deals with the revolutionary changes that have occurred in the wine business thanks to three primary players - the "success through superior taste conformity" of Robert Mondavi, the unnatural influence of critic Robert Parker and the "consulting" (where "micro-oxygenate" is the ready solution) of Michel Rolland to make all wines worldwide taste the same (and appeal to his friend Parker). As if that weren't bad enough, we have new critics (like the aptly names James Suckling, prepared to proclaim Italy as "the new France" among tastemakers) and new producers, the Napa-based Staglin family among them, who prove that money does not necessarily favor the brightest among us. One individual in the film notes that Parker's reviews favor American wine producers, not in the sense of a conspiracy but in a typically American "support your own" fashion. Nossiter takes another yet just as typically American tact - elevate all things outside of our borders (particularly European) at the expense of anything domestic. The implication by omission is that there are no unique wines in this country. I disagree (although the French still make the best wine in the world). I would argue that there are a handful of American wines that display a sense of terroir. Even comparing small production wines from Stags Leap and Rutherford, two districts geographically quite close to each other, would indicate a distinction to even the casual palate. Supposedly, Nossiter is now cutting together a ten-part series from his 500 hours of footage, potentially making my argument moot.

Moolaadé - Ousmane Sembene's latest miraculously finds humorous situations to lighten the serious tone of a film largely about the difficulty of changing traditions. Even when those traditions are wrong, change comes with a price. In this case, "wrong" is female circumcision and efforts to resist the practice lead to death, spousal beatings and burned radios. If you've ever seen a Sembene film before, you know what to expect - an enlightening and entertaining evening at the cinema. If you've never seen one of his films, what are you waiting for?

A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters - In a festival light on genre pictures (none of the usual fascination with Takashi Miike, for instance), the inclusion of this Korean horror film might seem, on the surface, an odd choice. Regardless, the programmers picked a real winner. I've spoken highly of Two Sisters since I caught it in Canada last year. Have you ever seen the Robert Mulligan film, The Other? A Tale of Two Sisters is like that, only much creepier. The film deserves to be seen in a theatre, surrounded by a full house, if only to hear an entire audience scream in unison. Repeatedly. Plus, on a completely irrelevant note, it features my favorite South Korean actress, Jung-ah Yum.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:00 AM

October 18, 2004

Shorts, 10/18.

Bed and Board "The good stuff appears to have taken wing from the page, migrated and landed on the big screen." James Norton doesn't mean that in any small way. Introducing Flak Magazine's roundtable, "Fiction vs Film," he traces his own transition from bookworm to cinephile. Joshua Adams picks up "Round 2" and, rather than argue a single case, lists a series of intriguing observations. Louis Cooke concentrates more on what TV can do for book sales; Stephen Himes lashes out at the "snobbery" of the "literati": "By attacking reductionist adaptations and/or standard multiplex fare, however justly, the critic is - whether he realizes it or not - merely attacking a certain impassive audience, not film itself."

The French have rarely needed to be persuaded to lift their brows as high for film as they do for literature. On October 21, François Truffaut will have been gone for 20 years. The 400 Blows is to be re-released in France, and also just out are a new book of photos, Truffaut au travail and Le Dictionnaire Truffaut. In L'Express, Jean-Pierre Dufreigne pays slightly whimsical but affectionate tribute.

Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau": Two pieces in Outlook India sparked by the release of Bride and Prejudice, which, according to Namrata Joshi, only illustrates "how it isn't all that easy to make the simple, all-singing, all-dancing Indian musical." In a longer piece, Joshi and Lata Khubchandani pose the question, "How Hot is Ash, Really?" Judging by "initial reaction" to the film, "there may not be a euphoric end (or should we say beginning) to [Aishwarya Rai's] crossover saga."

"But the longer, dirtier cut was the grail." Nick Paumgarten tells the story of the recent rediscovery and imminent re-release - by Fleshbot, no less - of two versions of Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love!, the last film Ed Wood ever made.

Also in the New Yorker:

New York: Jude Law Today's Jude Law profile: Ariel Levy's for New York.

For Alternet, Jennifer Nix assesses the Films to See Before You Vote Tour.

In the New York Times:

Trivia Night The Guardian's Mark Lawson finds the best of British TV in the coming week; I mention it only because, if you scroll down, you'll find a description of the sitcom My Life in Film. Looks fun. Also, for the Observer, Polly Vernon interviews Radha Mitchell.

For those in the Bay Area: The pre-Halloween edition of GreenCine's Film Trivia Night haunts the Make-Out Room tomorrow evening at 7:30.

Online viewing tip. Real Voices.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:34 AM

October 17, 2004

More shorts, more fests.

Dali and Destino There isn't usually much shouting around here, but: "Destino" (click for clips) is coming to DVD! Probably. At least a doc about its making is, and one assumes six minutes will be found on the disc for the short itself. Whether it's brilliant or not (I've never seen it), as a cultural curiosity, the 1946 collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali is hard to beat. The AP's story comes via logboy at Twitch: "[T]he two had great respect for each other, with Dali describing Disney as one of the three great American surrealists."

"Why is the silence so disconcerting?" Quick but great piece in Slate by Timothy Noah on Harry Shearer's exhibition "Face Time" at the Conner Contemporary Art gallery in Washington DC. You will definitely want to catch the slide show (links at the top and bottom of the page).

Also: When The Battle of Algiers was re-released theatrically, there was a slew of articles about the film's current relevancy, about the similarities and dissimilarities between the French in Algeria and the US in Iraq. Now that the DVD's out, complete with an interview with two high-profile counterterrorism experts, Fred Kaplan, always a thought-provoking writer, nabs the opportunity to take the proposed comparisons a few steps further. It's hardly a surprise that Kaplan concludes that there are fundamental mistakes being made, but he does offer a thin ray of hope and a few concrete suggestions about what can and should be done.

Meanwhile, David Edelstein responds to the hate mail he received in the wake of his review of Team America.

For Manohla Dargis, Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell is "more than a lapse; it is a brutal self-parody of a filmmaker who, having stripped down to the nitty-gritty once too often, may finally have nothing left to show."

Also in the New York Times:

Selling Democracy

  • Former Berlin bureau chief, and author of the excellent Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo, Roger Cohen considers the "Selling Democracy: Films of the Marshall Plan 1948 - 53" series shown at the NYFF: "By turns blunt and beguiling, menacing and mawkish, the films beg an overriding question: Why, with this experience behind it, has the United States failed so conspicuously since Sept. 11 to bolster its image in another region it seeks to transform, the Middle East?"
  • Frank Rich: "Like the Nixon administration before it, the Bush administration arrived at the White House already obsessed with news management and secrecy."
  • Sharon Waxman: "The last thing anybody in Hollywood wants is a rerun of last year's fiasco over Oscar DVD's.... But it looks as if a sequel may be just around the bend."
  • David Carr and Michael Joseph Gross report that NBC will let audiences decide to save or kill a running character on Law & Order, "a television first."
  • In an extraordinarily sweeping piece for the Book Review, Paul Theroux assesses what Norman Sherry has achieved in his three-volume biography of Graham Greene.
  • AO Scott considers the futures of Jared Hess, Jonathan Caouette and Shane Carruth and finds the career path of David Gordon Green "both exemplary and cautionary."
  • Sean Elder scans ScriptSales.com and parses 90 script deals closed in the last six weeks and spots a few trends.
  • And via Wiley Wiggins, Kirk Johnson's piece on "the nation's only film school dedicated to science and natural history.

More NYFF reviews:

  • Stephen Holden on Bergman's Saraband: "There has been no mellowing with age."
  • Scott on the "anguished epic of Palestinian history," The Gate of the Sun, on Café Lumière ("a faint, diminished echo" in relation to Tokyo Story; see also Filmbrain's take) and on Palindromes: "The real problem, it seems to me, is not that Mr. Solondz goes too far, but that he seems to have no particular direction in mind, no artistic interest beyond the limitless ugliness of humanity."On a related note, the New York Observer's Jake Brooks points out that, whatever you think of Palindromes, Wellspring, which has picked up the North American rights, is on a roll, and that's very good news for true indies.
  • Reviewing Sideways, which wraps the NYFF on Sunday, Manohla Dargis doesn't come right out and say it, but she'd clearly like to see Paul Giamatti score an Oscar nomination, maybe even a win. What's more, "the emergence of [Alexander] Payne into the front ranks of American filmmakers isn't just cause for celebration; it's a reason for hope." Although I've yet to see either film, from what I've read so far, I'm beginning to suspect that everyone who thinks they want to see I ♥ Huckabees actually wants to see Sideways.
  • Sort of a related piece, by the way: Hilary De Vries interviews Payne's wife, the extra-busy actress Sandra Oh.

More NYFF? Acquarello at Strictly Film School and Phyrephox at Milk Plus keep on filing.

Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Are festivals unconsciously duplicating the self-censorship of network and cable TV, which has made [muckraking] documentaries so necessary?"

Two festival previews at indieWIRE: Wendy Mitchell on the Viennale, through October 27 (plus a full day of reruns on the 28th) and Brian Brooks on the Deep Ellum Film Festival in Dallas, through October 21.

Amit Tyagi has wrapped his coverage of Africa Cine Week for Cinema Minima.

Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher notes that the International Film Festival Rotterdam (January 26 - February 6) has been "revamped."

Peaches Christ's "Midnight Mass: Season of Horror" has begun in San Francisco.

Resfest has launched a blog.

Friday Review: Jude Law Fay Weldon writes a very fine cover story for the Guardian's Friday Review, tracing the changes men and women have gone through in the nearly 40 years between Alfie (Michael Caine) and Alfie (Jude Law). Distillation hardly does the piece justice, but in short: "Bad for art but good for people." Weldon and Mark Lawson can agree that "Caine's Alfie... still astonishes for its nastiness and amorality."

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

Because he used Final Cut Pro to cut Napoleon Dynamite, Bija Gutoff profiles Jeremy Coon for Apple.

Interviews in the Independent: Tiffany Rose with Susan Sarandon and Tim Cooper with Anne Hathaway.

The Telegraph's SF Said meets Pawel Pawlikowski; the man does have his opinions: "He talks with passion of Polish auteurs such as Munk, Wajda, Polanski, Kieslowski; but dismisses most of Ken Loach's work ('So didactic so often, and so bland; he always wants to teach you something!') and Mike Leigh's ('Cinematically, it's not interesting')." Also: Peaches Geldof's review of My Summer of Love ("it's just not risqué enough").

Online viewing tip #1. "Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America." Jon Stewart on Crossfire, a clip at Media Matters via... well, everywhere, but I happened to see it first at Mark Rabinowitz's blog, who found it via Ray Pride and so on.

Online viewing tip #2. Revolution: USA, a Coldcut and Nomlg. project. Lots to watch; but you can also download audio loops and video clips and roll your own.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:03 AM

Politics and Oscars.

When the end-of-the-year floodgates are opened and the assessments and lists start pouring in, we will hear again and again that, in a year which has seen Americans more sharply, more aggressively divided since at least 1968, two films, both made outside the Hollywood system, came to be emblematic of either side. For the right, still galvanized by 9/11, a gruesome, blood-drenched restaging of the persecution of Jesus was a near-perfect metaphor: the greater our suffering, the more we can be sure we have been divinely appointed to rise again. "Near-perfect," because, in place of radical Islamists as villains, Mel Gibson presented corrupt Jews. Even conservatives squirmed. Even so, the potency of The Passion of the Christ lies in the simplicity of its narrative - for many, after all, it is The Greatest Story Ever Told. Retooling that narrative hasn't been merely politically expedient for the Bush administration; it's been extraordinarily effective because, as Ron Suskind explains in his harrowing piece in the New York Times Magazine, the president himself sincerely believes he sitteth at the Right Hand.

Gibson, Bush, Kerry and Moore

For the left, of course, an exceedingly secular, back-down-to-earth, fact- and issue-crowded polemic was the movie of the year. The strength of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that it picked up where Howard Dean left off, tapping into the anger out there that other Democratic frontrunners and the two eventual nominees seemed almost fearful to officially recognize for far too long. The frustrating weakness of both Michael Moore's film and John Kerry's campaign is that both men have been blessed - no, cursed - with too many solid arguments for voting Bush out of office on November 2. You can walk out of a screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 emotionally stirred, but try telling a friend what it's about, or more importantly, what happens.

The two films have been set next to each other before, but in the current issue of Newsweek, Sean Smith picks up another angle: What are the Oscar prospects for each? That's a very different contest than the box office and DVD sales have been. Because, as we all know, Hollywood ain't Kansas. Two telling quotes from Smith's piece:

"I'll tell you why The Passion won't be nominated," snaps one industry executive. "Happily, there are too many people in the Academy who believe the Holocaust actually happened."


"If John Kerry wins, Fahrenheit gets nominated," says one exec. "Then it becomes 'the movie that changed the course of American history,' and the perception will be that Moore contributed to Bush's loss." Or not. "Its chances are zero if Kerry wins, because then the protest is over and everybody feels better," says another source. And, says one Academy member, "If Kerry loses, it gets nominated as a big 'f-- you' to Bush."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:35 AM

October 16, 2004

S&S, the Times and the LFF.

Sight & Sound The London Film Festival opens next week, co-sponsored by the British Film Institute, which publishes Sight & Sound, and the London Times. So it's only natural that you'll find plenty of previewish coverage in both the magazine and the paper. There aren't a whole lot of films being screened in London from October 20 through November 4 you won't already have read about, maybe even seen, but there are some; besides, fresh angles on familiar titles can't ever hurt.

Edward Lawrenson introduces S&S's package of recommendations for what to see at LFF (or later, when you get the chance in your own hometown) by noting that the programmers have had a bit of luck this year: A healthy batch of British films have just come out, plus late October turns out to be a good time to stage a festival outside the US, i.e., the LFF is staging the European premiers of the US studios' Oscar contenders. There are 14 recommendations in all, but only four of these articlettes are online:

Also in the November issue, though not LFF-related, is Roger Clarke's report on his conversation with Jonathan Glazer, whose "fairytale," Birth, Clarke admires, and of course, reviews:


The Times has set up a special section on the fest with trailers, a quiz and so on. Among the highlights:


In today's edition, yet another special section that hasn't wandered to the LFF section celebrates the top Brits in film with yet more profiles. Martin Palmer opens the special with a piece on Kate Winslet, "The Leading Lady." The other mini-profiles are unbylined and brisk:

Other papers: The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw selects his top ten to watch out for; the Telegraph's SF Said picks a few more.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:55 AM

October 15, 2004

Filmmaker. Fall 04.

Filmmaker Matthew Ross has some very observant things to say about Alexander Payne's work in his long introduction to his conversation with the director. Which, too, touches on thematic content; but since this is Filmmaker, we also get to listen in on discussion of essential practical matters. For example: "But the key is - and I always tell this to other filmmakers - always write on spec. And keep control of your material as long as humanly possible."

Peter Bowen talks to Mike Leigh: "I think that postwar Britain was at once a very familiar world and a very alien one." And of course, he talks about his unique method of creating the world of a film with his actors.

Stephen Garrett's interview is with David Gordon Green, whose first words about Undertow are, "It's the shittiest, dirtiest movie." He's talking, naturally, about the deep southern grit of the film and only in the most literal sense.

And then there's a terrific reprint from Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print, a piece by Terry Southern on Stanley Kubrick and the making of Dr Strangelove which Esquire rejected because it wasn't gonzo or gossipy enough. Nile Southern, Terry's son, has a spot-on introduction and quotes Terry Southern's reply to the editors: "I have obviously failed to persuade you as to the phenomenal nature of the film itself - i.e., that it is categorically different from any film yet made, and that it will probably have a stronger impact in America than any single film, play, or book in our memory."

Columns and reports:

  • Once again, Mary Glucksman checks in on half a dozen genuine independent projects going on at various spots in the country.
  • Graham Leggat on games and the movies: "The two industries are converging and there's no turning back." Special focus: Advent Rising.
  • Anne Thompson: "Landmark is the country's largest art-house theater circuit, with 204 screens in 57 theaters in 21 markets. But its vital role as the only national circuit that supports independents is under duress."
  • A single long string of festival reports: Toronto, Telluride, Karlovy Vary and CineVegas.
Sarah Morris: Los Angeles (Detail)

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM

October 14, 2004

Fests and shorts.

Pusan 2004 Festival overviews, whether they're looking just ahead or back, can fall into two general categories. You scan what's on the menu at, say, Cannes or Toronto, and you know that, chances are, most of those plates are going to make the rounds. More than likely, you'll get your chance to savor the best dishes in one form or another, even if the order of the courses gets jumbled. But then there are the festivals serving up either local fare or the work of hopefuls with a long way to go and they've got items you suspect you may never even get to sample. Secondhand word just might be the closest you'll ever get. For the time being.

Koreanfilm.org has just posted two reports: Lee Eunhye writes up a wonderfully subjective take on last month's Gwangju International Film Festival and Darcy Paquet and Kyu Hyun Kim maintain the tone in their recollections of the Pusan International Film Festival, which wraps tomorrow.

The Austin Film Festival opens today and runs through October 21. Critics at the Austin Chronicle round up the shorts and present briefs on 14 features, beginning with Wells Dunbar's interview with Angela Shelton. I'd say scroll down and click through the rest, but some of these links I'll just toss in here for free are pretty click-worthy:

Also in this issue, Marjorie Baumgarten visits Trey Parker and Matt Stone and meets Barry Tubb, who's just completed the "kids adventure movie," Grand Champion. Plus: Marc Savlov has the latest on Richard Linklater's past and future: That Dazed and Confused lawsuit might be going nowhere fast; but: Casting call for The Bad News Bears!

A note in passing: The Orange County Latino Film Festival runs from October 21 through 24.

At indieWIRE, another angle on the Vancouver International Film Festival from Sarah Keenlyside: "[A] lot of the filmmakers attending VIFF are making their first trips to a film festival outside of their home countries.... But what has remained most relevant year after year is the festival's commitment to fostering the filmmaking community, both in Vancouver and abroad." And Eugene Hernandez tells a unique story: "After playing for 43 weeks in a Grand Rapids, MI theater, Robert Shallcross's Uncle Nino has secured a deal to bring it to movie theaters around the country."

The Cedar Bar Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher notes that Pull My Daisy will be screening at the Allan Stone Gallery along with Alfred Leslie's first feature, The Cedar Bar, as part of the exhibition "Alfred Leslie 1951 - 1962: Expressing the Zeitgeist."

Doug Cummings on Star Spangled to Death: "Compulsively watchable even at its extraordinary length (with three built-in intermissions), Jacobs' film is a strident protest against corporate media and its popular illusions, with a special focus on racist stereotypes and religious mediocrity."

At Twitch, Canfield interviews Brad Anderson: "Obviously guilt plays a heavy part in that for characters in both Session 9 and The Machinist.... Let’s face it stories about guilty people are fascinating, what’s more profound than people wrestling with their conscience?"

Capturing the Friedmans is still an ongoing, open-ended story. Via Movie City News comes Alexandra Gill's story in the Globe and Mail on Jesse's Last Night, "a one-hour version of the 110-minute videotape shot by his older brother David the night before Jesse, then 19, was carted off to jail."

Patrick Rapa introduces the Philadelphia City Paper's special issue on music, video and music video: "We've been watching. Taking notes. Occasionally crashing and rebooting."

Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger: "Seattle is a city that watches movies - many, many movies.... We are not, however, a city that's known for making movies." But now that the Northwest Film Forum is moving into a big new space and generally revamping itself, that may slowly begin to change. Also: David O Russell has a grand old time with Sean Nelson but doesn't give him just a whole lot to write down. Nelson doesn't seem to mind, though. As for I ♥ Huckabees, Nelson finds it "a seemingly random blizzard of ideas blowing across the screen. Somewhere within that randomness lies a deep Zen belly laugh of a movie, but the laugh isn't free."

LA Weekly: Jonathan Caouette Well, look who's on the cover of another alt.weekly. But Scott Foundas finds a good way into his deep and wide profile of Jonathan Caouette: A recollection of a conversation with Abbas Kiarostami. There you go. Then: "Tarnation isn't merely the latest in do-it-yourself filmmaking, it's something of an apotheosis."

Also in the LA Weekly: Ella Taylor on Stage Beauty ("blows a fresh wind of disrespect, high drama and lush romanticism through that stolidly middlebrow subgenre, the period drama") and Shall We Dance? ("an unwieldy mess"); and Nikki Finke: "[T]he Republicans' nasty prosecution of the presidential campaign has now taken to stealing [Christopher] Reeve's legacy before the quadriplegic's body is even cold. They are turning his dream of bettering the lives of the 2 million Americans living with paralysis into a political football."

In the Guardian:

  • Emma Brockes meets Julie Andrews: "I've never been able to figure out what makes a gay icon, because there are many different kinds. I don't think I have the image that say, Judy Garland has, or Bette Davis.... I honest to God don't know. It's very flattering, in a way."
  • Fiachra Gibbons: "Inside I'm Dancing may be the first truly commercial movie to tackle disabled rights head on, but not everyone is happy."
  • Wasn't it inevitable? Miami Vice: The Movie.

The film making waves in Germany at the moment is Oskar Roehler's Agnes und seine Brüder (Agnes and His Brothers). For those who want to dip into a few German reviews:

tip: Oskar Roehler

  • Hans Schifferle in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
  • Katja Nicodemus in Die Zeit (which is also featuring eight recollections of Derrida, a piece on Elfriede Jelinek [another slam; on Tuesday, Ina Hartwig wrote up an excellent retort to the grumblers in the Frankfurter Rundschau; the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung collects international opinions] and an interview with Bruce Nauman).
  • tip is calling Roehler "The New Fassbinder"; he must have torn his hair out when he saw that cover. What's meant is that Roehler is an "actors' director," and what's more, one that tends to push his players to the edge of sanity to get great performances. In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Daniel Kothenschulte explains why there's no getting around the association, and in die taz, Bert Rebhandl even blames Roehler himself for the connection. No, that's hardly fair, especially in the case of a director as exhilarating and original as Roehler.

The Sinclair brouhaha:

  • Molly Ivins at Alternet: "This is SO simple – how would you conservatives feel if NBC, CBS or ABC decided to pre-empt primetime programming a week before the election to air Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11? And then announced, 'But we've offered President Bush a chance to reply'?"
  • Cinemocracy takes issue with the National Review.
  • Eric Deggans in the St Petersburg Times: "[T]he overall message here - that you can flout the rules of election-time TV broadcasts as long as you own a news outlet - is serious business."

What do you say we follow that with some good news for a change: Chris Rock will host the Oscars in February. Yes.

Online listening tip. Greg Allen selects some interviews with directors for you.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 PM

October 13, 2004

MVFF Mid-Way Report

MVFF Writer and filmmaker Hannah Eaves sends word from Mill Valley.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge represents a psychological challenge for many San Franciscans, likely because they don't want to be reminded of how sunny it always is over there. For those who are usually unwilling to venture into the hills of Marin on a weeknight, the Mill Valley Film Festival should act as an admirable motivator. For those already on that side of the Bay, there is absolutely no excuse to miss out on seeing at least one film in the beautiful Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. The theater benefits from being in the residential radius of several cinematic giants, including aficionados Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. High level industry support bleeds into the sponsorship of the festival which, in turn, feeds an impressive cinematic program at this and other MVFF venues.

Coming up this week are four of this year's most intriguing Cannes entries: Jean-Luc Godard's Our MusicHirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows, Abbas Kiarostami's Five and Ousame Sembene's Moolaadé. Our Music looks at war, cinema and the intimate relationship between the two. Coming at a time when the role of war is particularly under examination, this is certain to be a moving and well-crafted film; it is also rumored to be, by Godardian standards, quite accessible. The audience's patience might be tested more by Five, which is subtitled "Five Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro Ozu" and is just that - 74 minutes divided into five long takes set on the Caspian Sea. Ozu has been used as inspiration on several occasions this year, including The Magnetic Fields' latest album and Hou Hsiao-hsien's latest, Café Lumière; I'm guessing that Five will be as much visual meditation as film viewing.

Moolaade Managing genuinely comedic moments in a film about female castration is a unique achievement. Many consider director Ousame Sembene to be one of the world’s greatest living directors and, like Sembene's other films, Moolaadé invites us very convincingly into a world in which we would not usually participate - the day-to-day life of a small African village. The naturalism and infectious good nature of this film make it both moving and engrossing, and the strong woman at its center offers an inspiring example of how to remain morally firm under extreme duress. Similarly based on actual events, Nobody Knows follows the abandonment of four children by their mother in Japan. Writer/director Kore-eda, best known in this country for his remarkable films Maborosi and After Life, once again takes simple circumstances and fills them with inspired possibilities.

Born Into Brothels In a year ridiculously full of accomplished documentaries, the acclaimed Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids arrives at MVFF this weekend, following award- winning appearances at other festivals. Also heartily recommended, Robina Marchesi's Gumby Dharma looks at the exceptional life of claymation genius Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath. The doc includes interviews with directors Henry Selick and Ray Harryhausen and promises to offer inspiration on a lighter note.

Some people may have followed the comedic world of Stella Street, the British cult TV favorite that screened in 1997-8. They will be happy to note that a feature film now exists to bring the world of brilliant celebrity impersonation to the big screen and, thankfully, to the rest of us. Writer-actors Phil Cornwell and John Sessions draw us into the fictional lives of the rich and famous, including Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, David Bowie and several notable Rolling Stones.

This mid-way brief barely scratches the surface of what's going on this weekend in and around San Rafael. For more info on the festival that runs through the 17th, do check the site.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:32 PM

Shorts, 10/13.

4 by Breillat "It's ironic that white feminists who write about film can never bring themselves to consider movies about black women," writes Armond White in a piece that argues that Ousmane Sembene's Moolaade ought to be much bigger news than it is. "In the movies that do spark American feminist interests (crap like In the Cut, Fat Girl, Secretary and Far from Heaven), the concerns are relatively petty and petulant compared to the daily life-or-death struggle that Sembene dramatizes." That ought to rile them. Along his way towards a stab at back-handed praise for Sideways ("Porky's for adults"), he lets Catherine Breillat have it all over again.

"By her enemies ye shall know her," pronounces J Hoberman in his review of Breillat's Anatomy of Hell, a "most radical exercise in erotic body horror - and, pace David Cronenberg, it may be the mode's ultimate example." Hoberman stages a sort of mini-retrospective in this week's Village Voice, addressing Sex is Comedy, "a simultaneous critique, explication, and demystification of the lengthy, near-single-take defloration that is Fat Girl's centerpiece," and the "gemlike comedy of manners," Brief Crossing as well. No apples-and-oranges tests of relevancy or importance here.

But back to the NYP we must:

  • Jim Knipfel reviews William Tsutsui's book, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters, "a very personal look at these films," and talks to Rick Prelinger about his new feature Panorama Ephemera, a collage of archival material that turns out to be "'about' the buried parts of the American psyche." And you can download it at the Internet Archive.
  • Even panning the film, Matt Zoller Seitz cuts The Final Cut more slack than it deserves; as for Stage Beauty, it's "a straightforward and intelligent piece of work."
  • White previews the series, "Selling Democracy: Films of the Marshall Plan," playing tomorrow and Friday at the Walter Reade. Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker passes along a message from the curator of the series, Sandra Schulberg, and points to the Selling Democracy site.

Two more items of note via Steve Gallagher: "On Set With French Cinema," a series of master classes conducted by French directors at American universities, and the Impakt Film Festival (October 27 through 31 in Utrecht) and its Impakt Online project.

Back to the Voice:

"[I]f you thought the Swift boat stuff was awful, brace yourself: This is worse." Robert Sam Anson sends up a warning flare in the New York Observer: Here comes Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, an anti-Kerry doc slated for airing on 62 TV stations coast to coast. "Its stars: Former, very bitter, very vocal residents of the Hanoi Hilton. Its tone: Think Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, made by the 16th assistant director." More at Alternet from the Center for American Progress. If all this pisses you off, Brian Flemming offers a few pointers on what you can do about it.

Vince Keenan: "It turns out John Kerry wrote a letter to the post office endorsing a Trek stamp. Why hasn't this come up in the debates?"

"Political Matters: Jack Valenti Looks Back." Cinemocracy was there.

SFBG: Jonathan Caouette Johnny Ray Huston meets Jonathan Caouette, talks, listens, drives him across the Bay Bridge and realizes and that there are at least two ironies inherent in the filmmaker's still-evolving autobiographical work: "[A]ll the splintered stories in Tarnation threaten to be eclipsed by the story behind it.... Irony number two: Caouette's everything-is-free approach to copyright contributes to Tarnation's singularity." Susan Gerhard, also writing in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, hammers home that singularity observation: "[I]f indeed iMovie Nation is truly at work on its own millions of films, it's most likely that they're nothing like this one."

Robert Davis still harbors reservations regarding Tarnation (though, on a completely unrelated note, he was pleasantly surprised by Going Upriver). But back to the SFBG:

Jason Guerrrasio checks in on five indies in production. Also at indieWIRE: Wendy Mitchell finally turns in that report from Hawaii - the Cinema Paradise Independent Film Festival unreeled in mid-September. But you know, she's been doing some heavy duty reading lately. Anyway: Wellspring has picked up the North American rights to Todd Solondz's Palindromes. Brian Brooks reports.

"I had a strange dream last night. Sammy Shepard and a childhood friend and I were driving a U-haul across a desert. We arrived at a movie set. They were making Jaws but it was set in the desert." Nick Nolte has launched an online diary. Via Greg Allen, who's posted two updates to his La Mexicaine de Perforation interview.

Filmbrain's "NYFF Halftime Report" sports a brief overview and pointers to a few other bloggers pushing on through the screenings.

Recent NYFF reviews in the New York Times:

  • Manohla Dargis on Jia Zhang-ke's The World, "a quietly despairing vision of contemporary China with an almost ethnographic attention to detail and a somewhat cavalier attitude to narrative momentum," and Lodge Kerrigan's Keane, "a film easier to admire than to love." Michael Tully, by the way, thinks it "might just be the greatest American film of the past fifteen years."
  • Stephen Holden on Pablo Trapero's Rolling Family: "[I]f your idea of fun is a just-folks documentarylike realism reminiscent of the HBO series Family Bonds, only far more pungent, you will find much to treasure."
  • AO Scott on Moolaade, "embracing, affirming, world-changing potential of humanist cinema at its finest."

Also in the NYT:

  • Charles McGrath finds Friday Night Lights "remarkably and ingeniously faithful to [HG] Bissinger's book - which will come as an enormous relief to that book's many and passionate fans."
  • "Jeff Grosso v. Miramax Film Corporation" may force "studios and networks to spell out terms or seek legal waivers before they read or listen to a word" from writers, reports Anne Thompson.
  • Dave Kehr on a few new DVDs.

Kimmerle: Derrida Dozens of professors, at least one architect, a novelist and others have signed an open letter to the editors of the NYT, accusing Jonathan Kandell of "celebrating the demise" of both Jacques Derrida and deconstructionism in his obituary. In the Guardian, Amy Ziering Kofman, co-director of Derrida, is one of several professional thinkers Stephen Moss asks about the philosopher's philosophy: "Derrida has been mischaracterised - he's not nihilistic or relativistic. He doesn't say, 'Everything is equal and you can do what you want.' Because there is no God or higher power, you have to take responsibility yourself. There is no absolute truth, so you have to agree a course of action. His thinking is based on a strict code of ethics."

Also in the Guardian:

Remembering Christopher Reeve:

The Guardian: Christopher Reeve

  • A lead editorial in the Guardian. Also: Oliver Burkeman: "Reeve frequently spoke of his dismay that politics had got in the way of scientific progress, but that in itself was an unavoidably political position, and he was unusually scathing in propounding it."
  • Douglas Martin in the New York Times.
  • Esquire has posted Cal Fussman's January 2004 interview with Reeve at its usually spare site.
  • Slate's David Edelstein inaugurates a bloggish column, "reel time": "Reeve's Clark Kent wasn't just a klutz act to fool Lois. It was a heightened interpretation of how Clark/Superman really saw himself in a world in which there was no one-to-one correspondence between an action and its supposedly equal and opposite reaction." And Michael Young rounds up a few voices from European papers.

Even as Salon's Heather Havrilesky interviews them, Trey Parker and Matt Stone distill - for what seems like the first time - the true message of Team America to two sentences. The letters are already pouring in.

Wellstone! premieres today at the Central Standard Film Festival in Minneapolis. In the City Pages, Caroline Palmer tells the grassroots story of its making and Laura Sinagra turns in a review that is, probably inevitably but also advantageously, personal. The doc, she writes, spans "the arc of a decade when so many forces combined in a concerted effort to make even the agile, self-aware progressivism of Wellstone a thing of the past."

In the Independent:

  • David Thomson: "The unique insinuation of the shower scene was that something in us wanted the knife to fall on her fine flesh."
  • Jonathan Romney: "Despite its soundtrack's precise period markers - Bowie, Kraftwerk, Wreckless Eric - Radio On now suggests a report from the Dark Ages, from a mediaeval, fog-swathed England."
  • Greg Walloch offers an appreciation of Inside I'm Dancing that actually gets pretty funny once he gets rolling.

The Cinema of Italy For Kamera, Edward Lamberti reviews The Cinema of Italy, a collection of essays on 24 films edited by Giorgio Bertellini.

Two films have the cinetrix considering New York and Los Angeles from afar.

Aaron at Out of Focus is ecstatic over the prospects of indulging in a month's worth of "Essential Noir" at the Film Forum. And little wonder, too.

Girish Shambu is hooked on Irma Vep.

Online viewing tip. As well as news of what Johnnie To will be up to for the next long while, Todd at Twitch has found more 2046 clips and trailers.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 PM

October 11, 2004

Shorts, 10/11.

Blind Shaft Greg Allen's latest coup: An interview with Lazar Kunstmann, filmmaker and spokesperson for La Mexicaine de Perforation, "a group of self-labeled urban explorers who, for the last five or so years, have used the invisible and forgotten infrastructure of Paris as their own curatorial venue, putting on exhibitions, concerts, and, beginning last year, film screenings." So what did they watch down there? Kunstmann:

For example, LMDP showed the inversion of personality going into the underground can provoke. In the Korean film, Joint Security Zone, two border guards - North and South - face each other with guns in the day, but meet as friends at night. Then in Blind Shaft, a Chinese film, it's the opposite: people act like family above ground, but when they go into a mine, they kill each other.

Ian Whitney launches this year's symposium at Dual Lens. Last year, it was Alien. Throughout October 04, there'll be four takes on Fight Club, including Ian's, which actually addresses three already as it is, "the movie meant, the movie made and the movie seen." In short, a completely different film has "knocked out" the version David Fincher originally had in mind.

Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education has been the "centerpiece" of the New York Film Festival, writes Eugene Hernandez in indieWIRE:

"The work represents, in its best form, freedom," explained Richard Peña, introducing Thursday's program, "Not only the right of freedom, but the responsibility of being free." Continuing, Peña touted Almodóvar as creating one of the "great bodies of art over the past 25 years, in any medium."

Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau" translates into German a snippet from Enrico Arosio's interview with Almodóvar which L'espresso has translated from Spanish to Italian. The quote, in English:

The Spanish church today is more political than ever. They're losing power: in schools, in faith, in society. They see Spain transforming more and more into a secular country and it scares them. They're extremely suspicious when it comes to delicate topics that might do them damage. The church leaders have launched an out-and-out campaign against the new government.

Also via Perlentaucher: Naive painter Nikifor is to be the subject of a new Polish film, Mój Nikifor.


"The ancient world is on a Hollywood roll," notes Victor Davis Hanson as he sets out to review four books on Alexander in the Times Literary Supplement and braces himself for Oliver Stone's epic:

The Greeks, in fits of nationalist pride after their football triumph and successful Olympics, are already griping that their national icon - in timely fashion rehabilitated during the recent Macedonian crisis - is to be gratuitously sullied, while the public awaits eagerly something like a mix between a sweeping Ben Hur and fleshy Caligula... In fact, both the sensationalism and bewilderment over Alexander the Great are not new, but simply reflect some 2,300 years of ongoing dispute over what the warrior-king actually did and who he really was.

Back to indieWIRE: ST VanAirsdale looks ahead to the Israel Film Festival (October 14 - 28 in New York before it heads on to Chicago and Miami), Brian Brooks to the AFI Fest (November 4 - 14), and Anthony Kaufman interviews Mike Leigh.

Acquarello's NYFF are beginning to take on critical mass.

Besides reviewing P.S. and Tarnation for the New Yorker, Anthony Lane presents a consideration of that most cinematic of presidencies, Ronald Reagan's:

[W]e should not be content simply to find foreshadowings, or coincidences, within the landscape of his films. What matters is that, in forging a political style, the person from whom he learned most was his earlier self. Where a Method actor delves into private experience and drags up, into the light of the drama, whatever shards might prove valuable there, Reagan initiated the art of the Method President.... There was no concealed Reagan hunkered down below, biding his time or biting his lip. He meant what he said.

In New York, Logan Hill profiles architect David Rockwell, who designed the sets for Team America: World Police: "Throughout, we tried to create a world that had its own bizarre logic - a reductive American view of the world." Also: Daniel Gross on the prospects of the Netflix-TiVo hook-up.

Decent home theaters are getting more affordable, reports Jim Rendon. Also in the New York Times, Saul Hansell outlines Microsoft's plans to edge in on the TV market. Among the other things the latest version of Windows XP Media Center will do start to act like a TiVo.

Matt Langdon: "In memory of both Jacques Derrida and Janet Leigh I will attempt to deconstruct the shower sequence in Psycho."

George Fasel remembers one of Christopher Reeve's exceptional performances.

At Twitch, Opus passes along news that a live action version of Saikano is in the works.

Wiley Wiggins: "It's unthinkable that directors that could create such unforgettable and bizarre movies as Repo Man and Pink Flamingos could devolve into such utterly uninspired self-parody."

Online viewing tip for those with time and bandwidth, via demandmedia: "New Global Vision has received and published Big Noise Films' masterpiece [The Fourth World War] in its full length as high quality DIVX." Via Cinema Minima.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:49 PM

Reverse Shot. Autumn 04.

Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert begin their introduction by addressing the "Michael Moore problem," and then:

Open Range

For this issue, we asked our writers to pick a film that spoke to them about where America is right now, and where it might be heading in effort to erect our own platform, however shaky, on the foundations of cinema. The results prove that European and Asian filmmakers can reveal as much about American influence on the world as those born on US soil - Michael Joshua Rowin’s examination of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1979 Nabokov adaptation Despair shines as much light on the current sociopolitical climate as Stacy Meichtry’s Bush-era interpretation of Kevin Costner’s panoramic western Open Range.

There are 15 essays in all, addressing films from directors ranging from Peter Watkins (Saul Austerlitz calls him "probably the greatest filmmaker that you've never heard of") to Jia Zhang-ke (Elbert Ventura: "America is an insistent, inescapable presence in Jia's China") to Danny Leiner (Marianna Martin quotes a college student waiting in line for Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: "Dude, how often do we get to see guys like us as the main guys in anything?").

This issue also features Matthew Plouffe's conversation with Primer director Shane Carruth as well as his review of the film, which opens with five very convincing reasons for remembering that name: Shane Carruth.

13 recent theatrical releases are reviewed, and one DVD, Early Summer, Andrew Tracy's personal favorite of all of Ozu's films.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:11 AM

Christopher Reeve, 1952 - 2004.

Christopher Reeve
Christopher Reeve, the star of the Superman movies whose near-fatal riding accident nine years ago turned him into a worldwide advocate for spinal cord research, died Sunday of heart failure, his publicist said. He was 52.


Though he owed his fame to it, Reeve made a concerted effort to, as he often put it, "escape the cape." He played an embittered, crippled Vietnam veteran in the 1980 Broadway play Fifth of July, a lovestruck time-traveler in the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time, and an aspiring playwright in the 1982 suspense thriller Deathtrap.

The AP.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:17 AM

October 10, 2004

Sunday shorts.

Enduring Love "Bashing the British film industry has long been a national pastime, along with moaning about the weather and worrying about the sex lives of politicians," writes Mark Kermode, introducing a big splashy feature in the Observer. "Yet unlikely as it may seem, there is currently an unfashionably buoyant air about contemporary British film-making - if not within the industry, then at least as far as audiences are concerned." Then it's on to mini-profiles of 25 prominent figures in British film - actors, directors, producers - and a brief round-up of some of the best British movies now showing or coming soon.

Also in the Observer:

Next door at the Guardian, John Robinson on the Holy Grail of rock movies, screening in London in early December:

Cocksucker Blues

In the 32 years since it was made, Cocksucker Blues has come to occupy a unique cultural place. In Don DeLillo's Underworld, a character speaks of loving "the washed blue light of the film ... corruptive and ruinous, a beautiful tunnel blue". In rock legend, it occupies a place as a record of the kind of bacchanalian excess - nodding out backstage, oral sex on private jets - that one has come to imagine the rock star demands as his right. In troublesome fact, it has continued to be an object of contention between Robert Frank and its subjects, the Rolling Stones. Even today, with a huge show of Frank's photography and a programme of his film work about to open at Tate Modern, the film is subject to stringent (and private) exhibition restrictions.

Perhaps to balance the blow John Patterson's column arguing that Martin Scorsese's movies in the last few years have been "pretty good, but pretty good is a lot less than I expect from Scorsese," the Guardian also runs an extract from Scorsese on Scorsese: "People in America were confused by The King of Comedy and saw Bob as some kind of mannequin. But I felt it was De Niro's best performance ever. The King of Comedy was right on the edge for us; we couldn't go any further at that time."

Wiley Wiggins points to the AP's account of "the sad sacks back in Huntsville who are trying to cash in eleven years later over vaguely having something to do with a movie." Dazed and Confused, they claim, is still making their lives miserable. The saddest line is probably this one: "The suit was filed in New Mexico because it has a longer statute of limitations than other states for claims of defamation and false light, attorneys said."

Record producer James Barber offers his take on Dig!, "probably the best portrait we'll get of the post-Nirvana epoch, when record companies championed exactly the kind of underground bands they had so studiously avoided in the 70s and 80s." Also in Slate: David Edelstein on "Leigh's newest marathon of misery," Vera Drake.

George Fasel: "The Rehabilitation, Flourishing and Decline of Henri-Georges Clouzot (1947 - 77)."

"'I've said in negotiations: "How much will you pay me not to have to promote? I only want to charge you for my acting. And you know what, it won't be that expensive!" And they say, "Zero"' - which, presumably, is why [Billy] Crudup agreed to this profile." Jesse Green sympathizes, as anyone who's ever had the misfortune to have any part of a press junket would, but goes on writing. Who wouldn't?

Also in the New York Times:

And recent NYFF reviews in the NYT:

Bad Education

  • Stephen Holden on Bad Education ("a voluptuous experience that invites you to gorge on its beauty and vitality, although it has perhaps the darkest ending of any of the films by the Spanish writer and director"), Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue (documents "a jam that one musician remembers as a 'microhistory of jazz'"), Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson ("pointedly resonates with the present") and The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial ("might leave more of an impact if the same sort of thing weren't a glut on the American television market").
  • AO Scott on House of Flying Daggers ("a gorgeous entertainment, a feast of blood, passion and silk brocade"; Dave Kehr, by the way, explains how the daggers fly) and The Holy Girl ("defies categorization, but I'm tempted to call it a miracle").
  • Manohla Dargis on the Infernal Affairs trilogy ("an embarrassment of action-movie riches").

All well and good, but the cinetrix still misses Elvis Mitchell; but is grief giving way to hallucination? Just kidding, cine.

Phyrephox carries on posting NYFF reviews at Milk Plus.

For the Age, Tom Ryan gives a mixed review of Ingo Petzke's Phillip Noyce: Backroads to Hollywood. Via Movie City News, where Ray Pride has just turned in another round-up: Huckabees, Los Angeles Plays Itself, Going Upriver, Tying the Knot, Rick, The Yes Men, Gozu and Zelary.

But the main story at MCN today is, once again, the New York Times. A project has fallen apart: American Gangster was to have been directed by Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington was to have starred. Sharon Waxman wrote the story for the NYT, and since it's not at the site, David Poland has posted it as a PDF file and offers his critique: "[I]n many ways, a really solid piece of reporting... Except for one glaring breach of the 'report news, don't create news' rule.... I am speaking of the notion that this decision was somehow a reflection of General Electric's corporate influence over Universal since the merger."

J-Horror news from Todd at Twitch, where Canfield files a first report from the Chicago International Film Festival.

Tiffany Rose interviews Milla Jovovich for the Independent; Craig McLean profiles Romola Garai, an "avowedly over-earnest young woman whose says her ideal film role would be to portray proto-feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft."

Nicki Gostin interviews Annette Bening for Newsweek.

While the FBI tries to shut down Indymedia, the movie studios ask the Supreme Court to let them sue the pants off P2P networks. Stories from Slashdot, Indymedia and Reuters.

Flow Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher points to a new journal: Flow: A Critical Forum on Television and Media Culture.

"Myths require a shared experience of the world and, often, overrated movies are those that generate a similar collective nervous energy, a sense that one must participate or miss the cultural conversation." For Katrina Onstad, writing in the National Post, Exhibit A would have to be Pulp Fiction. Via the Movie Blog.

Online viewing tip. Justin Hall's excellent report from the Tokyo Game Show 2004. And for dessert, "Robin in Wonderland."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:34 AM

October 9, 2004

Jacques Derrida, 1930 - 2004.

Derrida. Adieu.
World renowned thinker Jacques Derrida, a founder of the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died, the office of French President Jacques Chirac said Saturday. Derrida was 74.

The AP's Elaine Ganley.

Jacques Derrida could claim to be one of the few philosophers of the late 20th Century who people other than students of the subject had actually heard of, says Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield. That did not mean that they understood what Derrida was on about though...

The BBC.

When people talk about crazy French intellectuals and esoteric superstars, when they stumble across the word deconstructionism in Entertainment Weekly and wonder what it could possibly mean, when college kids around the world are forced to figure out what it means, as they have been for the last 20 years - it all goes back to Jacques Derrida. One of the reigning figures of intellectual life of the last quarter-century, Derrida is the father of Deconstructionism, a controversial system of analysis designed to dismantle language and reveal the biases and false assumptions embedded within it. Rooted in the belief that language is freighted with things we're either unable or unwilling to bring to full consciousness, Deconstructionism is a flexible methodology applicable to any and all texts - and indeed, the impact it's had on literary criticism is equal to, if not greater than, the mark it's left on philosophical discourse.

Kristine McKenna, introducing her 2002 interview with Derrida in the LA Weekly. The occasion was the release of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's documentary, Derrida.

I'm in love with a Jacques Derrida
Read a page and know what I need to
Take apart my baby's heart
I'm in love


Closer examination is needed to determine if and how deconstruction is at work in Scritti Politti's music. However, this is not the right place. Not the right framework.

Marcel Cobussen, Deconstruction in Music.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

October 8, 2004

Shorts, 10/8.

Lumiere Brothers In response to the entry on Elfriede Jelinek winning the Nobel for Literature, Matt Clayfield pointed to a discussion on the a_film_by list and it's there that Kevin Lee refers to a game he dreamed up not all that long ago: Suppose there were a Nobel Prize in Cinema? Manna for list-mongers - and aren't we all?

By the way, the feuilletons of every Austrian, Swiss and German paper of note naturally lead with reactions to the news of Jelinek's award. For those who read German, today's Perlentaucher is a motherlode of Jelinek-related essays, reviews and interviews.

If you're going to talk Jesus with David O Russell, as Christianity Today's Jeffrey Overstreet has, chance are, you'll end up with Mark Wahlberg on the phone. Via Metaphilm.

Chicago International Film Festival

Jonathan Rosenbaum introduces the Chicago Reader's thorough coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival (October 7 through 21) :

Fortunately, the desire in this country to understand others is intense. One of the easiest ways to learn about foreign cultures is to watch their movies, and over the next two weeks the Chicago International Film Festival - one of the oldest festivals in North America, now celebrating its 40th anniversary - is offering films from more than 40 countries. With 119 programs, including 14 revivals, this is a rare opportunity to learn more about how the world works.

For Flickerings, Mike Hertenstein is also covering the fest and doing a bang-up job of it, too. That's via Doug Cummings, who has high praise for Criterion's edition of The Battle of Algiers.

"Gavin Smith, Richard Pena, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center are helping to make this one of the best autumns of my adult life." The New York Film Festival is definitely doing it for Michael Tully. Meanwhile, indieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez has been snapping photos. Also at iW: Wendy Mitchell interviews Primer director Shane Carruth - so, too, does Scott Macaulay for Filmmaker - and Brian Brooks looks ahead to the Austin Film Festival.

More from NYFF at Milk Plus.

One of the most talked about (and bid on) films in Toronto was My Summer of Love, fresh off a win in Edinburgh. Andrew Pulver interviews the director, Pawel Pawlikowski: "I dread to be compared to all these directors who have a lot of spontaneous emoting and swearing in their films - that is death, it's a cul-de-sac, it doesn't lift the material at all. It's just a cliched reproduction of what we think is normal behaviour."

Also in the Guardian:

    Mike Leigh
  • Emma Brockes asks Imelda Staunton about, among other things, working with Mike Leigh: "We start at 8am, we finish at 8 o'clock at night. I mean, you don't want to dither around him."
  • "To be a feminist film critic in the 1970s was to be a divided soul." Molly Haskell recalls "personal, violent, profane, difficult, and subversive movies" with next to nothing in them for women.
  • "Forget Hector's House and Paddington Bear, the Wombles and Postman Pat. At its peak, around eight million viewers - children and adults - were glued to the Magic Roundabout, shown originally in the five-minute slot before the early evening news on BBC1." And now, reports, Kim Willsher it's going to be a feature film.

"One thing you have to hand the 2004 campaign: it's made for some really good TV." The latest thrill for Slate's Dana Stevens blogger of the small screen is the TCM series, "Party Politics and the Movies," launched last night by John Edwards's introduction to one of his favorite films, Dr. Strangelove. As Stevens reminds us, it's basically "the story of a few deluded powermongers who destroy the world because they can't admit they're wrong."

Also in Slate:

  • Brendon I Koerner asks if Michael Moore is breaking the law by exchanging underwear for promises to vote.
  • William Saletan and Jacob Weisburg discuss Kerry's new round of ads. Saletan thinks Kerry's finally honed in on an effective line of attack. Weisburg's not so sure.
  • David Edelstein: "Probably after the 5,000th arty home-movie montage purporting to tell the story of someone's lousy childhood, I'll rue the day I called Tarnation a masterpiece. But a masterpiece it is, of a mind-bending modern sort." Robert Davis, though - and not in Slate - takes a more cautious stance.

Bollywood Dreams Boldtype laces a review of Jonathan Torgovnik's Bollywood Dreams with half a dozen links.

Pilot Chicago: Experimental Media for Feminist Trespass.

Jennifer Rodger asks John Appel to select an example of a good scene in a doc and a bad one. The good one comes from Grey Gardens; the bad, from Bowling for Columbine.

Also in the Independent:

New websites for new films from top-notch Asian directors? Keep an eye on Twitch. The latest finds: Kim Ki-duk's 3 Iron and Johnnie To's Yesterday Once More.

Online viewing tip #1. Andy Serkis gives a tour of the galley of the ship in King Kong. Via Movie City News.

Online viewing tip #2. "How Do You Run a Convention on a Record of Failure?" Via Greg Allen.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:58 PM | Comments (1)


Word from Juan Manuel Freire in Barcelona:

Docupolis The international documentary festival Docupolis is currently running through October 10 at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. The event, directed by Hugo Salinas, has its economic troubles, but it's still alive and kicking, offering a kaleidoscopic vision of our reality through a vast array of documentary films from almost everywhere. More than 600 docs from 50 countries compete for seven awards, with José Luis López Linares's Un instant en la vida aliena (A Moment in Somebody Else's Life) as a clear fave for Best Documentary. The festival is rounded off by a group of parallel activities: a retrospective of the work of Santiago Alvarez, a leading figure of Cuban documentary filmmaking; a rediscovery of the films of Armenian Artavazd Pelechian; a discussion with Yves Jeanneau, directing member of Arte and program director for Siete Arte, the French institution for the promotion of documentaries; a complete overview of Catalan documentaries, and other features of singular interest. Vote for Docupolis.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM

October 7, 2004

Nobel for Elfriede Jelinek.

Die Klavierspielerin The Swedish Academy has announced that his year's Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek, "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."

Jelinek's reaction, currently the top story of the hour at many German-language news sites, will come as a surprise to many, but perhaps not to those who've seen The Piano Teacher, Michael Hanecke's adaptation of what's widely regarded as her semi-autobiographical novel. As Stephen Brown reports for Reuters, "Jelinek said at her Viennese home she felt 'more desperation than happiness' at the news."

Whether or not one can relate to that desperation in general or to her social phobia in particular, her anger at those like the Austrian president who have immediately claimed the prize as a triumph for "Austrian literature as a whole" is more than understandable: "I do not hope that it has a significance for the country. I am completely distanced from this government."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:41 PM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 10/7.

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs Max Goldberg previews "Fiercely Primitive: The Films of Guy Maddin," a series at the Pacific Film Archive (October 8 through 31): "Maddin isn't the first filmmaker obsessed with film history, but where others deify past achievements from afar, he actually inhabits the abandoned film languages of yesteryear."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Canfield has seen The Incredibles and offers his first impressions at Twitch: "The movie that will rock the holiday box office."

Stuart Klawans's piece on "iCinema" is inaccessible at the Nation's site, but you can read his interpretation of the mixed messages about the future of filmmaking sent by Tarnation and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow at Alternet. For more on the making of Tarnation, see Andy Bailey's freshly posted piece at Filmmaker, where Steve Gallagher rounds up news of and reactions to the animated feature Muhammad: The Last Prophet.

"[David Lynch] wrote this amazing screenplay called 'Ronnie Rocket' that's been shelved for about 20 years now, and it's kind of a sequel to Eraserhead. It's about this detective who goes into a place called "the inner city" to figure out why the electricity has gone in reverse. I'd love to do it, but I know he'll do it someday." Peter L'Official interviews Jonathan Caouette. Also in Salon: Stephanie Zacharek on House of Flying Daggers ("an epic of the heart"; Filmbrain's verdict: Not great but still "a highly enjoyable, entertaining, richly cinematic two hours") and Charles Taylor on Vera Drake: "It's as if Leigh the dramatist is replaced in the movie's second half by a Marxist theorist who is more interested in demonstrating a thesis about class, even if it destroys all the virtues of the movie he's been making."

Vince Keenan is getting a kick out of Henry Kissinger's chats with celebs.

CNET's Alorie Gilbert reports on Overstock.com's unusual promotion for the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD, pitting it directly against Fahrenhype 9/11.

Different networks made different directorial choices on the night of the first debate between John Kerry and George W Bush. In a New York Times op-ed, David Thomson accepts the power of the close-up and the split screen but, in the case of these debates, prefers the two-shot or group shot:

Bazin (and others) believed that the cinema (and why not television?) had (or has?) a natural affinity for showing people together and people in places so that we understand both better. The close-up (vital as it may be to storytelling) tends to emphasize the glamour, drama (or melodrama?) of lone people; it has the seed of dictatorship in it. The cinema was based for decades on the notion that all people are equal, alike but different, and it found glory in the group shot that allowed us to look from one person to another, and feel the kinship and the difference.

More first debate analysis on the eve of the second one: Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd.

Also: Nick Madigan on how friends and family are seeking to correct the tabloid image of Marlon Brando's last years; he was not, they say, reclusive and impoverished. And NYFF reviews:

  • Manohla Dargis on Kings and Queen: "[Arnaud] Desplechin has no interest in polishing narrative like a gemstone; he would rather take a chisel to it." And Or: "Well-meaning but irritatingly naïve."
  • AO Scott on Macunaíma ("a gloriously demented artifact of its time") and Tarnation ("suggests that the confessional, autobiographical impulse that emerged in American poetry in the late 1950's and that has more recently produced a flood of prose memoirs has now found an outlet on screen").
  • Eric Asimov on Sideways: "The movie's novelty is a measure of the awkward and singular relationship that Americans have with wine."

Anthony Kaufman weighs the prospects for the ten or so films showing at NYFF that have yet to sew up a North American distribution deal. Also at indieWIRE: Jonathan Caouette tells Brandon Judell he's asking "really good questions."

"A good blog can be a powerful cult accelerator." Adam Baer compares but mostly contrasts Zach Braff's blog and Gawker Media's for A Dirty Shame.

Robert Faires talks to Gabe Kaplan (yes, that one) about his one-man show, Groucho: A Life in Review. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Anne S Lewis asks filmmakers Louis Alvarez and Andy Kolker about their latest doc, Small Ball: A Little League Story.

Land of Plenty Wim Wenders's Land of Plenty opens in Germany today, so briefly, a few pointers to interviews with the director in German:

In the City Pages, Matthew Wilder ponders Bergman's place in the here and now.

"He was such a mischievous imp." The Guardian excerpts Janet Leigh's forward to Ken Mogg's The Alfred Hitchcock Story.


  • Adrian Searle: "Tate Modern's exhibition Time Zones is long overdue, the first survey of time in recent film and video that the Tate has ever mounted."
  • Possible Jane Austen adaptations from Xan Brooks.
  • Richard Dreyfuss confines his career to the stage: "I'm not seeking to do any more movies, and they're not seeking me. I'm quite happy with that situation."

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People Miramax is investing big-time in an adaptation of Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, reports Ben Dowell in the Sunday Times. The Cinecultist is baffled by the choice of Jake Gyllenhaal to play "the bald, portly 40-year-old writer."

James Rampton interviews Kevin Kline for the Independent.

Recent entries from Cinema Minima's far-flung correspondents: Amit Tyagi in Nairobi, Wilfred Lobo in Mumbai and Mike Atherton in London.

Team America finally has its R rating, giggles Nicole Sperling in the Hollywood Reporter: "The production team submitted the scene [to the MPAA] with various alterations to the board 10 times before it agreed."

Online viewing tip. A few whimsical stop motion shorts. Via Wiley Wiggins.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:49 AM

October 6, 2004

Rodney Dangerfield, 1921 - 2004.

Rodney Dangerfield
As a comic, Dangerfield - clad in a black suit, red tie and white shirt with collar that seemed too tight - convulsed audiences with lines such as: "When I was born, I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother"; "When I started in show business, I played one club that was so far out my act was reviewed in Field and Stream"; and "Every time I get in an elevator, the operator says the same thing to me: 'Basement?"'

The AP.

See the joke archive and clips at Rodney.com.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:21 AM

October 5, 2004

Shorts, 10/5.

Video Watchdog: Franco Issue Dinner and a movie with Roger Avary:

Believe it or not, it was every bit as good as El or Viridiana or even Exterminating Angel... Jess Franco is an auteur, and something of a master - I can't deny it. Afterward we went to a dinner with Jess, Lina, the Cinematheque crowd, and the biographer/filmmaker dude. I sat there and watched Christophe, who is without question a greater authority on cinema than Quentin Tarantino, spoon the marrow from bones and eat it with rock salt while he discussed the most obscure and long dead Italian composers who, of course, Jess knew personally.... At one point [Christophe] leaned over to me and with a jab of the elbow said that the first porn film he ever saw, at 9, starred the old lady sitting at the other end of the table - Lina. He then scooped some more marrow into his mouth and laughed.

Also hanging in Paris these days is George Fasel, who's been adding astute and personal new entries to his Film Journal about every other day for a few weeks now.

Meanwhile, Greg Allen is still digging up more info on what's still the most exciting discovery in the City of Lights so far this year.

Doug Cummings views the first three films by Nuri Bilge Ceylon, "clearly part of the Bazin-Tarkovsky-Kiarostami aesthetic tradition, emphasizing everyday observation of people and nature in ways that challenge the viewer to ask immersive philosophical questions about the human condition. He's definitely a filmmaker to watch."

Alan Schroeder, author of Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV, has contributed another article to Cinemocracy, a "Viewers' Guide to the Presidential Debate Mini-Series":

At the end of the 2004 debates' first act the established story line is Bush on the ropes. Act Two ends either with a Bush comeback (something the media would love) or Bush in a tailspin (not as good a story, but still workable). Of course, there's always the possibility that the second debate might result in a draw. But that would be bad for the ratings.

Oldenburg Fest Marcelle Parks looks back on the Oldenburg Festival (September 8 - 12). It's got a cute little trailer, "fiercely independent films from around the world" and an Andrzej Zulawski retrospective. Also in Kamera: Edward Lamberti reviews The Pocket Essential: Steven Spielberg by James Clarke, which "falls short on two fronts: it bafflingly puts the movies into unhelpful groups, and it fails to give Spielberg's achievements an honest once-over."

Night Watch, the surprise hit of the year in Russia, is based on a novel by Sergei Lukyanenko and Glubina, due in 2006, will be as well. Todd at Twitch has been following this one - after all, it'll feature Bruce Campbell, Rutger Hauer and Christopher Lee - even to the point of reading that novel, Labirint Otrazhenij.

Danielle Henbest talks to first-time director Jamie Johnson about the doc his friends and relatives didn't want him to make, Born Rich. Also in DVD Talk: das Monkey's huge and lavishly illustrated report from Dragon Con, last month's sci-fi and fantasy gathering in Atlanta.

Wendy Mitchell talks to Ondi Timoner; it took her seven years to make Dig!, but things'll be moving along a lot more quickly now, with three projects on the front burner and two more at the back. Also at indieWIRE: Brian Brooks looks ahead to the Mill Valley Film Festival (October 7 through 17).

Actually, those in the Bay Area will have a difficult choice on Thursday. Mill Valley or the first evening of a series at the Pacific Film Archive featuring the work of Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, who will be present to introduce the screenings toward the end of the month. PFA's Juliet Clark writes of his docs that they "advocate for change with sincerity and conviction, but not without wry humor and an eye for the absurd."

Two films get the review + interview treatment in this week's issue of the Village Voice (wherein Glenn Kenny also writes about "The Vanishing New York of Taxi Driver"). J Hoberman reviews Vera Drake (along with Moolaadé, and yes, he explains why) and Jessica Winter meets both Imelda Staunton and Mike Leigh; and Hoberman also reviews Tarnation ("the artist clutches his camera as though it were a life raft") while Ed Halter interviews Jonathan Caouette.

Also in the Voice: Dennis Lim on Primer (yet another reference to 2001!). The rest are "Tracking Shots":

Silent Waters

For Matt Zoller Seitz, Vera Drake is "a fundamentally dishonest movie" and is clearly not alone in finding "Kubrickian air-whooshes and David Lynchian machine noises" in Primer. Meanwhile, fellow New York Press critic Armond White goes all mean and nasty on Jonathan Caouette and JR Taylor catches The Card Player: "Don't believe any hype that Argento's back on his game, but at least he's back to providing coherent storylines and cool visuals."

"We were not there for their freedom, we were not there for WMD. We had no idea what we were fighting for anymore." The Guardian runs an extract from Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the Warzone to Michael Moore.

Also in the paper:

For the Independent, Jonathan Romney interviews Shane Meadows, director of four features, a mini-feature and around 70 shorts: "Now Meadows has gone back to basics for Dead Man's Shoes, a gritty, even grubby, vendetta thriller made for under £1m, and off-the-cuff from the start." And David Thomson advises: Enjoy the re-release of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and once you've "relished" it, do seek out the early films of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Plus: The real Calamity Jane.

Online viewing tip #1. Via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker, Michel and Olivier Gondry's video for Lacquer's "Behind."

What Barry Says Online viewing tip #2. Why the Project for the New American Century hasn't received more attention in the mainstream press is beyond me (here, by the way, is a site dedicated to analyzing it), but Chuck Olsen points to a remarkable animated short, "What Barry Says," that ought to make any viewer curious to learn more. After a bit of poking around, I see that it won the "Best Animation" award at the Brooklyn International Film Festival this year and that the short was made by Simon Robson of knife party (where you can see his showreel). Though narrator Barry McNamara pushes a button or two too many in making his otherwise spot-on case, the concept, design and execution of "What Barry Says" are just extraordinary.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:55 PM

October 4, 2004

Shorts, 10/4.

New York: Miramax The message Bob and Harvey Weinstein are sending out via the media is clear: We are profitable and we are available. We've been royally screwed by Disney for years now, and we've had enough. Harvey's changed his diet and gone from being a grizzly to a teddy bear. Let's talk. Seth Mnookin's cover story for New York is one of the juicier versions of this message, but a key passage slips in towards the end:

"If Harvey left Disney tomorrow and he wanted to raise a billion dollars in equity, me and every other banker on Wall Street would jump to do it," says a Goldman executive. "If you look at all of the historical returns of all of the major studios over the past seven years, Miramax is in the top two."

In an issue of the New York Times Magazine ostensibly devoted to "The Next Cultural Establishment," AO Scott pauses to consider the passing of the old, imagining American film without Miramax to kick around anymore: "Indie cinema, or whatever you want to call it, will continue to live and die, but there won't be a real New Yorker, or at least a Hollywood fantasy version of one, around to claim credit or invite blame."

And finally on this, if you're just not all that into the speculation over Miramax's future but feel knowing the basics couldn't hurt, Sean Smith has a handy little wrap-up for you in Newsweek.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

"This has emerged as the Year of the Ghost - and a second look suggests that the themes and ideas that this seminal anime introduced are more relevant than ever." With a sequel out, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, a series heading to DVD and cable, Stand Alone Complex and tie-in video games and graphic novels on their way, Jeff Yang, in the San Francisco Chronicle, offers a primer on the original, its makers, Masamune Shirow and Mamoru Oshii, and the themes of this "intimate exploration of one individual's quest for existential meaning in an eerily borderless world."

Also via Movie City News: For the Globe and Mail, Sandra Martin takes stock of the current literary adaptations on offer and then lists ten great ones from the past.

Throughout the 1990s, only two films from Europe were shown in Egyptian movie theaters. Two. That's what made Misr International's two-week European Film Panorama in Cairo such a vital event, reports Hani Mustafa in Al-Ahram Weekly, where Yasmine El-Rashidi profiles the extraordinarily dedicated programmer of the series, Marianne Khoury. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Tanner on Tanner The New Yorker's Nancy Franklin enjoys Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau's follow-up on Tanner '88, Tanner on Tanner, "a documentary about documentaries, a sendup of our current mania for watching ourselves watch ourselves," but doesn't find Alexandra Pelosi's follow-up to Journeys With George, Diary of a Political Tourist the least bit enjoyable.

Raves for Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry: Mark Rabinowitz, Matt Dentler and Matt Langdon.

David Lowery has a good long talk with Shane Carruth about the making of his Sundance-winner, Primer. Carruth, we learn, is not in a hurry to race off to Hollywood: "I've got four stories that I really like a lot. And I think that, you know, if I get to make films for a living, I think I'll do best working on my own material."

One of the reasons John Patterson's piece on Radio On topped this weekend's shorts - besides its own merits, of course - is that it stirred memories. Not so much of the film (it has been a while, after all) but of the time it nailed so very well. But my own memories wither and blow away next to Ben Slater's. Because he and two friends were executive producers of Chris Petit's follow-up, Radio On (remix). And he's got stories to tell.

ScareFlix executive producer Larry Fessenden is "quickly becoming a downtown version of Roger Corman," writes Jeremiah Kipp in his introduction to his interview for Filmmaker. Also: Guy Cimbalo looks back on this summer's New York Video Festival and Jim Pitt Harris recalls the Stony Brook Film Festival.

Filmbrain's latest reviews from the New York Film Festival: Undertow (David Gordon Green "has a great film in him, and it might not be that many years off") and Notre Musique ("ultimately a very optimistic film").

In the NYT:

  • The God of Hell is a play Sam Shepard is throwing together with a tight little cast, Randy Quaid, J Smith Cameron and Tim Roth. "I kind of wanted to get it done in New York before the election," he tells Jesse McKinley. "I'm not sure it matters, but I figured I'd get it out there."
  • "Cheat and Charmer by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Elizabeth Frank, comes gift-wrapped in extravagant blurbs." But Michiko Kakutani won't be fooled: "It's an old-fashioned Hollywood sudser."
  • Stephen Greenblatt: "Have we learned something about listening to political oratory that Shakespeare's 'friends, Romans, countrymen' did not know?"

Get Carter Owen Gibson talks to Matt Groening about the future of The Simpsons. There's the movie on the way, and in general, Groening's feeling better about the show than he has in a while. It'll run on, perhaps through to the end of the decade, but of course, it can't run forever. Also in the Guardian, Emma Brockes meets the volatile Michael Winner. The occasion is his new book, Winner Takes All. And Jackie Dent reports that the magazine Total Film has polled 25 critics to draw up a top ten British films list: Get Carter has come out on top.

Of all the stories in Anne Thompson's collection of movie tidbits, the most interesting is the mini-profile of Collateral screenwriter Stuart Beattie: "Writing from nine to five in the Hollywood home he shares with his wife and two small boys, Beattie is now busily adapting the fantasy bestseller Artemis Fowl for Miramax, Tom Clancy's Without Remorse for Paramount, and the Steve Niles vampire comic 30 Days of Night for Spider-Man director Sam Raimi."

Also in the Observer:

  • What's "Wild Bollywood"? Juliette Jowit reports that "India is leading a steadily growing wildlife film industry in developing countries."
  • Amelia Gentleman follows up on her recent stories about Georges Lopez, the teacher at the center of "France's most successful documentary," Nicolas Philibert's To Be and To Have. Lopez sued for a share of the profits, claiming the film made use of his intellectual property (his teaching methods), but lost. Now he's explaining himself: He, his pupils and their families feel misled and exploited. Philibert's lawyer counters, "The Mona Lisa did not paint the Mona Lisa."
  • Euan Ferguson profiles Sean Connery: "His agent refuses to confirm or deny reports that he is finally retiring: but all other sources indicate he has, to put it in his own vernacular, simply had it up to here with bloody movies."
  • Geraldine Bedell meets Eddie Izzard.
  • "Tom Stoppard once described [Sheila] Hancock as a 'tired chrysanthemum who could put on a cruel blue look that could freeze a hummingbird to an oven door'. Decode that if you can." Kate Kellaway asks Hancock about her memoirs of her life with her husband, John Thaw.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:04 AM | Comments (1)

Janet Leigh, 1927 - 2004.

Janet Leigh
Janet Leigh, the wholesome beauty who co-starred with James Stewart, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra in films of the 1940s to 1960s and achieved her most lasting fame as the victim of a shower slashing in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, died Sunday at her Beverly Hills, Calif., home, the New York Daily News reported on its Web site Monday. She was 77.

The AP.

While Psycho eventually overshadowed everything else on her resume, by the time she made it, Leigh had already created a long and respected body of work, including her turn two years earlier opposite Charlton Heston in the brilliant Orson Welles noir Touch of Evil. She was also part of one of the most noted '50s Hollywood celebrity couples when in 1951 she married Tony Curtis, and by the end of the decade the couple had given birth to future actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee.... She was a great one, and movies were definitely better for her being around.

Aaron at Out of Focus.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:28 AM

October 3, 2004

The Film Journal. 10.

The Film Journal Issue 10, with its special focus on genre cinema and, appropriately enough for an October issue, horror in particular, also heralds a smart new design. Film Journal editor Rick Curnette sets the tone with an interview with George A Romero, and first off, this whole idea of faster zombies we've been seeing lately? Neither Curnette nor Romero approve. Then, Romero talks a bit about why Day of the Dead is his favorite of the series, and of course, the one he's working on now.

Alice in Wonderland, the brilliant 1951 Disney version, might be haphazardly filed in any number of genres - kids movie, animation, stoner's zoner - but it's also a road movie, argues Victoria Oxberry.

Deathdream "In the 1970s, horror films were at their peak because America itself was a horror show." That, and an effective mix of realism and formalism, explains Bradley P Guillory.

Alan Jacobson talks to Rusty Nails about his new film, Acne, "a raucous, economical, intelligent, independent horror film dealing heavily in ideas and symbolism as all great genre work does."

"Sports films are probably the most unintentionally neglected" of all genres, writes Adam Hartzell, and the most neglected of these would be Australia's "Footy" films.

Along with considerable background info on its making, Helen Donlon presents a close reading of Gaspar Noé's Irréversible.

That scene in Reservoir Dogs - you know, the ear - "plays out over some of the most effective three minutes of screen time that I've ever experienced in a movie theater," writes Dan Jardine. "It distills down for us the essence of what Tarantino is as a filmmaker." But has his public persona diluted the effect of his work?

Harvey F Chartrand profiles and then interviews Ted Rusoff, a multilingual world traveler who's overseen the dubbing of more than 500 films and has voice-acted in over 1200.

Tim Applegate on The Wages of Fear and Sorcerer: "The flaws in both pictures are impossible to ignore, and yet each succeeds at the most elemental level of cinema: they ratchet up the tension to the snapping point."


Hitchcock Style

Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 PM

October 2, 2004

Weekend shorts.

"In British cinema history, Chris Petit's gloomily beautiful road movie Radio On stands alone. There is no other movie like it in the national canon." In a sense, John Patterson's excellent piece in the Guardian looks down a road not taken, a potential pathway already mapped out by Wim Wenders and the New German Cinema of the late 70s and early 80s but also one the Brits chose to ignore. In the same issue of this week's Review, by the way, Petit himself reviews Empire of the Wolves, a novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé which "starts in the vein of Hitchcock's disciple Brian de Palma, with the combination of a woman in jeopardy and scientific mystery, executed in the literary equivalent of De Palma's sinuous Steadicam style."

Also in the Guardian:

Artforum: Pop After Pop

  • In the 20th century, there was "a dramatic struggle between the beauty of provocation and the beauty of consumption," argues Umberto Eco, but the gap between the two has narrowed to the point that now, should an alien visitor drop in on us, he would "have to surrender before the orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and absolute and unstoppable polytheism of beauty." And the catalyst the brought about the change? Eco is certainly not alone in unequivocally pinpointing Pop. Eco's piece skims far and wide, but for drilling into that specific vortex, see Artforum's robust special issue, "Pop After Pop." Guest editor Jack Bankowsky: "'Is there life after Warhol, and if so, what does it look like?' we asked the roundtable. Jeff Wall answers in the affirmative, but suggests that he doesn't necessarily like what he sees; we need not live our lives or make our art at the mercy of every 'flicker of meaning emitted by Hollywood.'"

  • Joe Queenan gets to "thinking about motion pictures that depicted certain cities and countries in such an electrifyingly repugnant fashion that I made a decision to scratch them off my list of desirable destinations forever."

  • John Robinson has a bit of proving point by point that Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is actually a remake of Spinal Tap.

  • John Ezard reports that John Fraser's autobiography, Close Up: An Actor Telling Tales, "though intelligently generous about his contemporaries, is also exceptionally open in portraying some of the celebrities he worked with."

  • The paper runs an excerpt from Joel Bakan's book, The Corporation. For an exceptionally fine review of the film, by the way, see Godfrey Cheshire's in the Independent Weekly.

  • Andrew Pulver's adapation of the week: The Company of Wolves, "part of a mid-1980s resurgence of British art cinema," which bring us full circle Guardian-wise.

Matt Clayfield conducts a "tumultuous" interview with Phillip Noyce. Among the highlights: A great story about finally meeting Christopher Doyle and Noyce's assessment of the current state of Australian cinema. It's "sick" at the moment, he says, but there is reason for hope.

"Violence should be portrayed as painful, not as beautiful." The Telegraph's SF Said interviews Chan-wook Park. Via Twitch.

Girish Shambu finds a note of warning Jonas Mekas sent to "a rotten, no-good, stinking, cowardly, snickering, stupid, squirming, yellow bastard" of a projectionist by way of the Village Voice in 1969.

In the New York Times:

  • Kinsey promises to amplify the controversy already surrounding its subject, writes Caleb Crain.

  • John Canemaker looks ahead to The Incredibles: "If to err is human, to animate humans is to err almost every time.... But now Pixar is gambling for the first time on a film anchored by humans."

  • How many movies are too many? Can (and should) the NYT really review over 500 a year? AO Scott raises a few questions... and there they hang.

  • Paul Berman reviews Philip Roth's The Plot Against America: "The novel is sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible." Also: Roth himself on the novel, the first chapter and the NYT's special section on the author.


If you're in Minneapolis, Chuck Olsen'll point you to a few highlights of the ongoing Sound Unseen festival (through October 10).

Analysis of the first Bush-Kerry debate continues to erupt unheeded, unchecked and often unwanted from every nook and cranny, but Cinemocracy has found two items of particular interest to cinephiles. For Mother Jones, Tom Engelhardt introduces a piece by Ira Chernus. Engelhardt on Bush: "The flamboyant enemies he's preferred - Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and now Abu Musad al-Zarqawi - have themselves been fascinated by our image-making skills and have been into making their own images and fictions in imitation of the Hollywood that turned out Predator, Alien, and any number of catastrophe films." Chernus to Kerry: "Never underestimate the power of a grand story."

The second item: NPR's Robert Siegel discusses the ultimate effect of the format and style of the debates with Alan Schroeder, author of Televised Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV.

Vince Keenan: "James Toback files a Dispatches column for Hollywood Elsewhere that's as brazen as you might expect. Who else would call Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum 'a sexually dessicated fool'?"


Online viewing tip. A short trailer's been posted at the official site for Mirrormask. Via Neil Gaiman, who writes, "The music's not actually music from the film, and the trailer's just moving images really, with no sense of the story (or even that there is a story), but it's the first moving anything that's been seen on the web so far... Still, it's Dave McKean's images, and they move."

Online listening tip. KPCC's Film Week, complete with archives and transcripts. Via Cinema Minima.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:03 PM

Richard Avedon, 1923 - 2004.

Avedon: Chaplin
Richard Avedon, whose fashion and portrait photographs helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century, died yesterday in a hospital in San Antonio. He was 81 and lived in Manhattan.


"I've photographed just about everyone in the world," Mr. Avedon said. "But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again."

Andy Grundberg in the New York Times.

His best-known photographs, from the Parisienne leaping over a puddle in high heels to his dying father's desperate face, all share a belief in the heroism of self-assertion, a belief that every leap is a leap of faith. His definitive portraits of the powerful and the powerless - encompassing, in a manner almost without equal in the history of portraiture, the artistic and political hierarchies of the past half century of American life - were almost Roman in their severe authority.

Adam Gopnik for the New Yorker.

I've worked out of a series of no's. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no's force me to the "yes." I have a white background. I have the person I'm interested in and the thing that happens between us.

Richard Avedon.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 AM

October 1, 2004

Passeurs, canons and shorts.

3 by Rosenbaum Robert Koehler's map in Film-Philosophy of the project Jonathan Rosenbaum's been working on in his last three books is an absolute must-read. Before stating the case for the reclamation of canon-building by "progressive-minded and Left critics," he writes:

[T]he central argument in Movie Wars - that the delivery, communication, and pedagogical gatekeepers who pre-select the movies shown to audiences are extremely limited in their grasp of cinema as it exists in its broadest global setting - is inextricably linked with the central concern of Movie Mutations: the emergence of a new cinema and a new criticism that crosses borders, nationalist limits, and languages, as well as creating a new model of a cooperating community of film critics in conversation with one another, rather than in contentious opposition. Nor can Movie Wars now be separated from Essential Cinema, which in many ways rounds the circle begun in 2000: the despair expressed in the earlier book about film studies' collective rejection of the building of canons (and the dangers this has created) is now accompanied by an even more potent response, in the form of Rosenbaum's own, endlessly fascinating canon of his 1000 favorite films, listed in chronological order from 1895 to 2003.

The title of Koehler's essay, "Passeurs," is taken from Adrian Martin's description of the ideal model of critic as conceived by "the late, great critic Serge Daney," whom Koehler identifies as the "founding father" of the overall project. So why does this matter? Because "passeur cinephilia thrives" at festivals far and wide while mainstream criticism is, as Martin writes, "relentlessly local and home-bound: what matters to [reviewers] is what film opens next week in their home city. That's the entirety of the cinema to them at any given moment, which is fatally limiting."

So festivals are beacons of hope, yes, for a border-crossing, globe-encompassing appreciation of film, but I would add that the advent of the DVD has also had an impact which is still so recent and ongoing we haven't been able to take full measure of it yet. To an extent, reviewers for most papers are programmatically just as limited in their reviews of DVDs as they are of what's showing at the multiplex (or even the downtown repertory theater): Editors want to read about new releases, and of course, the companies that supply review copies want to see their product line written up.

But two factors combine to loosen up those limitations a bit: By making the films available on DVD that they do, companies such as Criterion, Kino or Milestone are practicing a very concrete sort of "passeur cinephilia." At the same time, venues that allow critics a little more breathing room - most importantly, because they're so readily accessible, the "alternative" weeklies - will often build mini-crash courses in the genre, national cinema or work of the director at hand into their reviews (which is one of the reasons so many alternative weeklies get the attention they do around here). Add to those two factors the commentaries and other extras packed into these DVDs, and you're looking at a population enrolled in some sort of ongoing supplementary film school. Not the first time that's been noted, naturally, but still. That there are so many eager to enroll themselves is a testament to the potential of audiences both Koehler and Rosenbaum believe is out there, potential they also both argue is being squelched by what Koehler calls the "corporatized film-industrial complex."

On to the shorter shorts.

And why not make the first stop the Chicago Reader, where Jonathan Rosenbaum has turned in another review. He begins with a quote from Oliver Assayas, and most of it goes like this:

I think there's this weird thing at work now with the way people relate to, specifically, mainstream cinema. When they watch those movies they like to be on the receiving end.... But then, a few months later, the same film is on DVD, and they can watch it and they own it. And the relationship is inverted.

Then, Rosenbaum:

The shift in the way people watch movies described above is profoundly altering film history and criticism. It's also changing filmmaking. Thom Andersen's mesmerizing 169-minute essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself... is a case in point: it was inspired by his desire to reclaim and master his own experience of watching certain movies.

Biskind on Miramax One of the great punching bags in Movie Wars is Miramax. Slamming the company from a different angle recently has been, of course, Peter Biskind, who writes the cover story for this week's Friday Review in the Guardian, a brief history of Miramax's oddball marriage to Disney and how it all went wrong, just as everyone said it would some day.


New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley reads the imagery of last night's debate as well as Bush and Kerry's body language. Also: A special section on the New York Film Festival, opening today and running through October 17, launches with AO Scott's review of Agnès Jaoui's Look at Me, "a witty and acute examination of friendship, ambition and betrayal in the Parisian literary world."

Woman Thou Art Loosed In indieWIRE, Brandon Judell has a good long talk with NYFF director Richard Peña about this year's line-up. Also: Wendy Mitchell talks to Jim de Sève about his doc, Tying the Knot and Eugene Hernandez asks Eamonn Bowles about Magnolia's acquistion of Woman Thou Art Loosed.

Interviews in the Independent: Sandra Sharpe with Gwyneth Paltrow, Tiffany Rose with Denzel Washington and Liese Spencer with Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

Via Wiley Wiggins, a not-new but new-to-me and maybe new-to-you piece, Andrew Hultkrans's history of the future on the silver screen.

And finally, note about a few tweaks around here. If you're accessing GreenCine Daily via a RSS news reader, you may be among the many happy to hear that feed now features full entries - note the slight change to the URL, though: http://daily.greencine.com/index.xml. I want to extend bounteous and sincere thanks to Donovan Watts for his tremendous help on this.

Also new, and not just for the sake of nostalgia, either: email notification. If you're interested in receiving an email message - not more than one every couple of days, I'd imagine - letting you know about an entry I'd consider a little more noteworthy than others, look over the right, scroll down, add your email address, and that'll be that until, oh, next week some time when I send out the first notification.

Have a good weekend.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:31 PM | Comments (1)