December 31, 2004

2004 top ten (and more).

While my own mind clouded with links and general online disorder this year, Craig Phillips, our other editor at GreenCine, kept his clear and focused on the prize: See movies. What's more, he even wrote one and we can all follow its progress on his other new project launched this year, Wandering Out Loud. From all of us at GC to all of you: Parts of 2004 soared, other parts hurt; let's have a better 2005.

Bad Education If nothing else, "best of" lists are a critic's way of organizing their own thoughts while sniffing out any trends that may have otherwise escaped undetected - for 2004, trends may have been "Men Are Pigs" (Sideways, Closer, heck, even Bad Education), "Juicy Leads for Women Remain MIA," "Mindfucks," "Zombies Are Here to Stay," and "Asian Cinema Makes Further Inroads" - and a way to compare one year’s output to another’s (I'd rate 2004 average overall, and yet below average in both Hollywood studio output and American indies). Here’s yet another hat in the ring, mine, in (mostly) alphabetical order because no one film stood out above the rest:

1. Bad Education: Like a lovechild of Hitchcock and Fellini, Pedro Almodóvar is one of the the only directors working today whose name over a film guarantees the viewer a cinematic experience both provocative and rewarding. Bad Education is a twisty, gleeful exercise in gay noir, given added weight with its darkly playful film within a film context and with a story in which the real mystery is not the plot but what darkness and twisted truths are within the hearts of the characters.

2. Before Sunset: I remember initially being disappointed in the first film, Before Sunrise, in one of those "everybody told me how wonderful this film is so my expectations are unreal" viewing experiences, but all that changed somewhere between revisiting it years later and then seeing Richard Linklater's wise, sweet, and even more deeply romantic follow-up. The reactions of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's characters are played with so much verity that you can't believe they're not actual people and are almost heartbroken to leave them at the (wonderful) end; now that's good writing.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Even more of a mindfuck than the Almodóvar film, this moebius strip of a script may be Charlie Kaufmann's most mature yet, complicated and impressive almost beyond belief but grounded with a romantic's heart. And Michael Gondry's direction adds even more layers to it. Top it off with Jim Carrey's most subdued performance yet, in which he lets Kate Winslet and the other actors take center stage, and a feeling rarely felt these days - "I want, I need, to see that again," as one needs to go on a funhouse ride again - and you have a bitterly cheery, or cheerily bitter, masterpiece.

4. The Five Obstructions: An amazing film because it works on several different levels, as a documentation of an unusual collaborative process, as an examination of the limitations artists knowingly or unknowingly put on themselves, and as a collection of five very engaging, reimagined shorts. In keeping with the Dogme 95 doctrine, Lars Von Trier and Jørgen Leth used self-imposed restrictions in film production as a way of, ironically, liberating themselves artistically.

5. House of Flying Daggers: On the one hand, like Zhang Yimou's earlier Hero, this offers up less in the way of depth than one would like; yet I found Daggers to be the much more impressive work. Jaw-dropping action set pieces (including a bamboo tree fight scene that ranks up there as one of the all-time best bamboo tree fight scenes) and plot twists surge towards a rather melodramatic ending, the reaction to which may be a matter of personal taste (I was moved despite myself), there's no denying the cinematic magic at work here.

6. The Incredibles: I have no qualms about putting a 'toon here, especially one with as perfectly realized a script and art design as found in this latest Pixar triumph. Compared to the rousing last two-thirds, the first act may seem a bit slow for some but I found it a treat from start to finish, with inspired voice casting in no small measure responsible: Holly Hunter, meow! NPR commentator Sarah Vowell as a mopey teen, perfect! Now then, how about more Fro-Zone/Samuel L Jackson in the sequel?

7. Maria Full of Grace: A simple story told with grace, detailed perfectly, and first-time director Joshua Marston shows an admirable feel for restraint. What sounded like something painful to watch (and it is undeniably harrowing, putting one's stomach in knots), the film has Catalina Sandino Moreno at the center of its odyssey from Columbia to New York, and she carries the weight of things remarkably well. She's a realistic heroine in a cinematic age tragically thin in that department, in what was the best American indie of the year.

8. Sideways: Just the way it so severely divided people I know almost instantly gives it a place on my list, but despite my fear of further overrating it, Sideways boasts such a sharp screenplay and deeply felt characterizations that I suspect anyone's discomfort with it was due to much it struck a nerve - we have met these characters and he/she is us - and not because of any actual flaw in the storytelling. Funny, literate, disturbing even, but never less than real, and - a rarity these days - not patronizing to the audience for a second. I love Paul Giamatti, even if his sad sack persona was put to even better effect in American Splendor, and Thomas Haden Church's cad actor is disgustingly spot-on that you almost love him even as you want to kill him, but it's a career-reviving Virginia Madsen who really deserves an Oscar. Meanwhile, the excellent use of real locations in my home county's Santa Ynez Valley (the lovely mixed with the warty) didn't hurt my opinion.

9. Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman: Despite, or maybe because of, a truly bizarre (and unforgettable) incongruously musical ending, here the Zatoichi character was given a revisionist take by Takeshi Kitano, whose super-sharp direction and wit lead somehow to an appreciable feeling of redemption by the end. Hilarious, and insightful in alternate measure.

10. (Tie) The Corporation and Fahrenheit 911: I actually preferred the former for having broader scope and a slightly more engaging style, with an ultimately hopeful outlook, but there's no denying the impact and bravado of Michael Moore's film. It's a masterwork of agitprop, muckraking cinema at its finest and, if it's one-sided, so what? It still carries mostly truths. Is it a great film? I'm not convinced. But I bless every day that it exists. Bless the existence of any film in which a young black man from Michigan says this: "I was watching TV one day, and they're showing, like, some of the buildings and areas that had been hit by bombs and things like that, and while I watching I got to thinking, 'There's parts of Flint that look like that, and we ain't been in a war.'"

Goodbye Dragon Inn Just missed the final cut (Honorable Mention):

  • Bourne Supremacy.
  • Brother to Brother.
  • Closer: Patrick Marber's play is brought to vivid, bitter life by Mike Nichols in his finest film in years; the whole ensemble's fine but it's Natalie Portman who really closes the deal. Like Dogville (see below) it often felt more like an exercise about (or a game of) human behavior than something real, but the writing remains as sharp as ever.
  • Control Room: Should be essential viewing for any American who only knows of Al-Jazeera TV what the U.S. government has told them. Important and fascinating.
  • Collateral.
  • Garden State: Really, better than expected, only harmed in my mind by a feeling it's all a little too calculated to push buttons and pull heartstrings and sell more indie rock singles, but ultimately, it's a surprisingly un-naff debut for Braff, and best of all, undeniably funny.
  • Goodbye Dragon Inn: Nearly uncategorizable except as a Tsai Ming-liang film, beautifully composed and nearly static, yet it moves, even infiltrates ones dreams as few other films in recent memory have been capable of doing. I also can't resist a good, slow tribute to cinema; perhaps a bit too languorous for my attention span but a treat nonetheless.
  • Doppelganger (saw it at the SFIFF).
  • Dogville: Impressively brave and possibly even groundbreaking, like a lot of Von Trier’s work, this one ultimately left me a bit cold, though less so than I would have expected. Memorable, creative, but also often unbearably pretentious, and would I see it again? Still, inarguably one of a kind.
  • The Dreamers.
  • Everyday People.
  • I'm Not Scared.
  • Kill Bill Vol. 2.
  • Los Angeles Plays Itself.
  • The Saddest Music in the World.
  • Shaun of the Dead: Hell, this almost made my top ten, for pure bloody good (in both meanings of the word), zombiefied fun, and a terrific ending. And while we're at it, the surprisingly scary and effective Dawn of the Dead remake should go here, too.
  • Spider-Man 2.
  • Super Size Me.
  • Good Bye, Lenin!
  • Vera Drake.

Guilty pleasures:

  • SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Not nearly as perfect as a SpongeBob short, but it did just fine.
  • Team America: World Police: There are times I seriously want to put the smack down on boys Parker and Stone, and this puppettoon sometimes leaned a little too mean-spirited down on the wrong people, but then again, I was too busy laughing my ass off to care. "MattDamon!"

Sorry I Missed These (Before Making This List):

Not Sorry I Missed This:

Great Directors Go Slumming:

Great director I thought was going slumming and then seriously changed my mind:

  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Could someday make my worst titles list but the film itself is creative as hell, whimsical without being cloying, moving in that way that only Wes Anderson can get away with, full of perfectly timed, subtle comedy (and the funniest pair of dolphins in film history), with visuals that only someone who seriously loves making films would attempt. Came very close to making my top 10 and a future "underrated/cult movies" list. And that jaguar shark is something to behold.

Change My Opinion Every Three Days:

Jonesing for Oscars:

Most Welcome Restorations/Revivals:

Posted by dwhudson at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

Rouge. 5.

Rouge "Rouge likes the written word in all its creative, descriptive and analytical forms. But for a change, at the end of the year, we decided to 'put language in check' and ask our contributors to express themselves primarily with an image."

Editors Helen Bandis, Adrian Martin and Grant McDonald introduce "The Image Issue," the fifth.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:07 AM

Shorts, 12/31.

"The politics saddens me - I hate ranking performances against one another - but I never tire of singing the praises of great actors." So David Edelstein chooses five male performances of the year and lets loose. In a note at the end, we get a sneak peek at this year's "Movie Club," which'll be in session Tuesday, January 4, through Friday the 7th: "Two of my favorite critics - Stephanie Zacharek and Charles Taylor - will appear in what I believe is an unprecedented Slate-Salon hands-across-the-Internet exchange. I have also invited Armond White from the New York Press. Yes, Armond White. If no critic infuriates me as much as Armond, none inspires me as much, either."

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind In the meantime, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tops his own "13 Best Movies of 2004," which is more than just a list; surveying the year at length, Edelstein suggests at least one reason he's far happier at Slate than he must have been at the Village Voice: He simply despises Dogville, which came in third in the alt.weekly's Take 6 poll.

Also in Slate: For years now and on countless fronts, Christopher Hitchens has been one of the most infuriating ranters out there, but no one can deny he's written a very fine appreciation of Susan Sontag. The Guardian's also running a collection of remembrances.

Million Dollar Baby heads up this years Seattle Film Critics Awards. I haven't seen the list anywhere, so I'll post the full press release as a comment below.

The Advocate has selected its top ten and Kinsey's the top top. Which is a fine reason to remind you of editor Bill Steele's excellent November interview with director Bill Condon.

Getting that whole Passion vs Fahrenheit thing out of his system first, Steve Erickson introduces his top ten, leading with Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder.

"With American authority at a low ebb, the movies were full of damaged men struggling to define themselves in a world that seemed to have no use for them. Whether you're an unpublished novelist or an out-of-work superhero, you're nobody 'til somebody loves you." The Philadelphia City Paper's Sam Adams looks back on the year and unveils his top ten. #1: Eternal Sunshine; surprise entry: The Brown Bunny at #2.

For the LA CityBEAT's Andy Klein, the SCTV disc sets were the DVD event of the year. And, as he reiterates, it was a very eventful year for the DVD.

Vince Keenan, still insisting that Spartan is the best movie of the year, considers several other noteworthies.

Scott Foundas: "[I]n a year that was widely hailed (as was 2003) as the Year of the Documentary, with nonfiction films playing in record numbers of theaters and to record attendance, the Academy's recently published list of the 12 semifinalists for 2004's best-documentary statuette suggests that all is still not well in the house of Oscar." Also in the LA Weekly: Steve Mikulan checks up on the Robert Blake trial and Peter Gilstrap visits the LAPD's archives on the occasion of the publication of Scene of the Crime (more from NPR).

Having recalled the "Movies You Should Have Seen But Didn't," David Poland introduces his list of the worst films of the year.

Speaking of worsts, Joe Leydon stomps on ten for Houston's Examiner group of papers.

The list at Democracy's Blooper Reel goes to 61.

Matt Dentler expands his original top ten to a top twenty,

Gun Crazy on DVD "In the year 2004 the DVD came of age," writes Dave Kehr in a big healthy wrap-up of the year's most notable releases.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Stephen Holden agrees with the SFBG's Cheryl Eddy: "2004 was the Year of the Man in movies. Rehabilitated if not sanctified, that quaint bogeyman, the Male Chauvinist Pig, crawled out from his cave to beat his chest, grab his crotch and preen discreetly in upscale art films."

  • Michael Wilson remembers Jerry Orbach, whose "death on Tuesday night felt to many in the New York City Police Department like a loss of one of their own."

  • Wendy Moonan on the Alexander the Great: Treasures From an Epic Era of Hellenism" exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center through April 16.

Don Quixote turns 400 in 2005, and Spain's throwing a fiesta, reports Ben Sills. Also in the Guardian: Xan Brooks previews a few top 2005 releases in the UK.

In the Independent:

"Now that's a pan!" The Metafilterers are collecting their favorite scathing reviews. Via the cinetrix.

"Japan's animators are full of gloom," writes Colin Joyce in the Telegraph: "They fear that the future is bleak and that the success enjoyed by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, which makes his films, is actually masking a sad decline."

Nearly 40 filmmakers and actors are threatening to boycott the Puchon International Film Festival if exec director Kim Hong-joon is ousted. Mack at Twitch has the details.

Meanwhile, at Koreanfilm.org: Kyu Hyun Kim on Song Il-gon's Spider Forest and Yu Sang-gon's Face and Adam Hartzell on Park Han-joon's Spy Girl.

For the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara asks Chuck Mitchell, president of Voices in the Arts, a dubbing company, about the challenges of creating effective foreign-language versions of Hollywood blockbusters.

Mike Chopra-Gant takes a critical look at Martha P Nochimson's Screen Couple Chemistry: The Power of 2 in Film-Philosophy; Nochimson replies, arguing that Chopra-Gant "he has overlooked a few of my major points, and this may account for his mistaken impression that I have wishfully impressed my ideas on an unwilling reality."

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have a unique opportunity to catch The Century of the Self, a series directed by Adam Curtis, who's most recently made the widely praised The Power of Nightmares, at the Roxie. Just a few days left. Via the SF IndieBlog.

Wiley Wiggins points to a BBC piece on the restored version of Battleship Potemkin screening as part of the Berlinale's Retrospective in mid-February. From the original press release: "This new reconstruction of the Russian premiere version includes, for the first time, the Russian intertitles with their original graphics as well as Leo Trotsky’s opening words. What is more, the changes and cuts carried out, for instance, on the famous staircase sequence as a result of the film’s reworking and censorship have been corrected."

Reel Identities, the New Orleans LGBT fest, has issued a call for entries.

Online listening tip. Max Avery Lichtenstein's original music for Tarnation. Via Eugene Hernandez.

Elizabeth R Online viewing tip #1. "A-Clip plays with the aesthetics of cinema commercials, which are reproduced, satirized or subverted. Each of them has a length of approximately 50 seconds and will be shown on 35mm film among the commercials at movie theatres, with the illicit co-operation of the projectionists and management of individual cinemas." Via Greg Allen, who's going to be presenting, as part of the Reel Roundtable's "Film and Blogs" series, an intriguing program of shorts, video art and clips: "I'm interested in seeing how a weblog functions over time as a programming/editorial/curatorial venue. The program re-imagines the weblog as a movie, or as movie-like, an event that you experience in a movie theater." January 10.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Colour Me Kubrick. Via Chuck Olsen.

Online browsing tip #1. Lev Manovich's Soft Cinema now has a new chapter, "Mission to Earth."

Online browsing tip #2. Vintage Masterpiece Theatre posters. Via Rashomon.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:05 AM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2004

SFBG. Year in Film.

The lists, the specials, the issues, they just keep on coming. The San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Year in Film":

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Year in Film
  • Dennis Harvey, whose top ten leads with Dig!, bears bad news: "Indeed, we may be facing a massive turn toward censorship just when mainstream entertainment is arguably the blandest it's been in 40 years. Where was all the screen sex in 2004? Mostly MIA."

  • The top six spots on Bangkok-based Chuck Stephens's top ten are all Asian films, at least a few of which most Americans have never had the chance to see. But to hear Stephens tell it, he lives in piracy heaven - and likes it that way. Note: If you're reading this, you're living there, too.

  • Because David Larsen is a lecturer in classics rather than a critic, he's excused from making a top ten. Instead, he reviews the role of verisimilitude in this year's sword-n-sandals epics.

  • For Susan Gerhard, torture was an excruciatingly omnipresence, on screen and off. She found relief in Tarnation, her #1; surprise entry: Troy, sharing slot #4 with Hero.

  • "What is this monster called the music documentary these days?" asks Kimberly Chun; her top ten is, as she calls it, "scattershot," but is a pretty good list nonetheless.

  • Someone had to do it: Political docs. That someone is Max Goldberg. His #1, though, isn't one, at least not directly: Tarnation.

  • Five contributors name "the best films that might not be coming soon to a theater near you - but they should be."

  • Great idea for a list of lists: Bay Area Sundance-bound filmmakers look back at 2004.

Also in the SFBG: Goldberg on Moolaadé, "a film that's experienced more than it's watched," and brief reviews of music DVDs.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:19 AM

IW. Top 10s.

indieWIRE Stacked on a single page, yet somehow clearly readable, indieWIRE editors and contributors lay out their top tens. There's a lot of Tarnation in there, but they seem to have agreed on a single representative image: Maria Full of Grace.

Anthony Kaufman collates the results of iW's poll of 31 critics, programmers and journalists who comprise the "foreign film 'academy'" this year; Moolaadé comes out on top in the "Best Film" category, but take note: there are ten categories in all and you'll see some recognition-worthy names there you're not likely to see on any other lists.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:16 AM

Talking best DVDs.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Special Extended, etc., etc... DVD Talk has chosen its "Top Twenty DVDs of 2004." Little surprise that the emphasis is on popular entertainment (just as a random measure, the highest-ranking Criterion release squeezes in at #13), but at the same time, there's more than a whiff of the future in this list - in terms of the shape of home viewing, which already tops cinema-going in numbers alone. Big, blocky completist boxes reign here. With each passing year, DVDs become more than vehicles for 90-minute works; they're multi-faceted experiences, little worlds to explore.

At any rate, there's more than that top 20 going on at DVD Talk; there are, in fact, fifteen more top tens, ranging from the overlooked to anime, docs to schlock.

Movie City News has a DVD round-up as well: Doug Pratt presents two lists, a "Multi Platter Top Ten" and the "Single Platters"; Gary Dretzka's list is an altogether different one (part of what makes these exercises so fun); and Ray Pride's got five singles and box sets.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:12 AM

City Pages. Artists of the Year.

City Pages The City Pages "Artists of the Year" round-up is pretty linear actually, with each entry lined up one after the other on a single page. The overall effect is refreshing, mixing novelists, painters, musicians, filmmakers and what-not, though for our purposes, of course, I'll highlight:

Quentin Tarantino

Posted by dwhudson at 9:09 AM

Shorts, 12/29.

Cinemarati The Cinemarati Member Critics have announced their nominations for their fifth annual awards, and again, half the fun's in the process: the critics "winnow down the nominees in a playoff-style elimination, until one winner in each category remains." Example. They'll discuss Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vs Hero until one "survives" to move on to the next round - and so on, until a "Best Film" winner emerges. And this goes on for all categories out in public view in the Roundtable.

Following the bare-bones release of the Village Voice's 6th annual film critics' poll, "Take 6" (see also last Thursday's entry), is the deluxe Special Edition with all the extras and a brand new cover, one of the most bizarre illustrations (by Tim Jessell) for a film you're likely to ever see. Well. J Hoberman, of course, opens the proceedings by comparing the two films that scored highest - Before Sunset and Eternal Sunshine: "Complementary tours de force - one a seemingly effortless exercise in fluid takes and real time, the other a mélange of jagged editing and fractured chronology - both these upscale Amerindies have French pedigrees." Of third-placer Dogville, he notes that those who did vote for it "voted more enthusiastically." You can tell this sort of thing by looking at the number of points critics assign to their choices.

Three Voice critics' top tens:

  • "Terrible for politics, 2004 was great for movies," writes Hoberman. Even so, looking over his list, the word "stringent" is the first to come to mind.

  • A few of those films reappear on Michael Atkinson's list, but he could disagree more with Hoberman's assessment of the year: "2004 seems from where I'm standing to be the worst movie year since 1981."

  • Is Dennis Lim the first critic anywhere to put I ♥ Huckabees at the very top of his list?

Ed Halter looks back on how the year went for what, "for a lack of a better term, might be called experimental media." Retro-ism seems to have prevailed.

And then the fun part: Stray comments from a zillion critics whose names you recognize from alt.weeklies coast to coast. One-liners, steam-letting, predictions, the works. Sidebar: Ten critics defend the films for which they were the only ones to vote.

Also in the Voice:

The New York Press's Matt Zoller Seitz has got a top ten as well. Hero's at the top and the surprise entry follows right after: The Passion of the Christ. Armond White takes a fresh approach, lining up "worthy dozen alongside the 12 worst.... (My 2004 best list will come later.)" So you get, for example, his full fury directed at Scorsese - "What profiteth a movie brat to win an Oscar and lose his legacy?" - propped up against a preference: The Dreamers, "which stays the course of enlightened cinephilia."

The Assassination of Richard Nixon David Greenberg, author of Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image, has a compelling piece in Slate on Mark Feeney's Nixon at the Movies and The Assassination of Richard Nixon: "[Sean] Penn's Bicke is nearly a Nixon doppelgänger, a struggling, friendless loser who can't get over his resentment of those who have it easier than he does.... [I]f Assassination's story is trite, it does successfully evoke the dead-end frustration that Nixon's presidency embodied in the early 1970s." In the NYP, Matt Zoller Seitz notes that the film "walks a very thin line between understanding its helpless, destructive hero and lionizing him, and it never steps across that line." The Voice's Michael Atkinson finds the film "moody, pretentious, but potent... the singe of helpless, clueless nobody-ness lingers, as it used to in the movies of the Nixon years."

Charles McGrath's appreciation of Susan Sontag accompanies Margalit Fox's lengthy obit and a special section in the New York Times on the writer that includes her famous 1996 essay, "The Decay of Cinema." More from George Fasel, Scott Macaulay and MS Smith.

The cinetrix, who's highlighting a few film-specific clips from Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" today, comments on the full list of the films added to the National Film Registry this year.

Jo Tuckman outlines the parameters of an unsolved mystery: "Where are the ashes of Luis Buñuel?" Also in the Guardian: Geoffrey Macnab interviews Mira Nair.

Via Metaphilm, Roger Ebert in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: "[I]t was in the virtual world of science fiction fandom that I started to learn to be a writer and a critic." Did you know he published his own fanzine? Stymie, it was called.

Noon Blue Apples director Jay Lee seems like someone Brian Flemming might want to meet. Or vice versa. Via the SF IndieBlog.

MovieMistakes.com lists the 15 biggest ones of the year. Via the Movie Blog.

Cory Doctorow on Clive Thompson's BitTorrent piece in Wired: "It's a weird kind of Big Lie strategy by the DRM people to talk about how DRM can prevent 'piracy' when there has never, ever been an example of this happening." Via Weblogsky.

Online viewing tip. If download times are any measure, Andy Baio is hosting some of the most sought-after footage in the world right now. Video clips of the tsunami shot by amateurs. Related: jp's spot-on entry at low culture.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM

December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag, 1933 - 2004.

Susan Sontag, the author, activist and self-defined "zealot of seriousness" whose voracious mind and provocative prose made her a leading intellectual of the past half century, died Tuesday. She was 71.

The AP.

The Nazi films are epics of achieved community, in which everyday reality is transcended through ecstatic self-control and submission; they are about the triumph of power.

Susan Sontag on Leni Riefenstahl (and more) in "Fascinating Fascism," 1975.

Susan Sontag: On Photography
The initial critical reception of Susan Sontag's On Photography (1977) is one of the most extraordinary events in the history of photography and cultural criticism.... No reader, apparently, was left unmoved or unprovoked by it.

Michael Starenko, "Sontag's Reception," Afterimage, 1998.

Writer Susan Sontag has produced many texts during her four-decade career, including historical novels and reflections on cancer, photography and the war in Bosnia. But it was a brief essay, less than 1,000 words long, in the Sept. 24 issue of the New Yorker that created the biggest uproar of her life.

David Talbot, introducing his October 2001 interview with Sontag for Salon.

A good deal of my life has been devoted to trying to demystify ways of thinking that polarize and oppose. Translated into politics, this means favoring what is pluralistic and secular. Like some Americans and many Europeans, I would far prefer to live in a multilateral world - a world not dominated by any one country (including my own).

Susan Sontag, accepting the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels, 2003.

Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions. Soldiers now pose, thumbs up, before the atrocities they commit, and send off the pictures to their buddies. Secrets of private life that, formerly, you would have given nearly anything to conceal, you now clamor to be invited on a television show to reveal. What is illustrated by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality.

Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Torture of Others," New York Times, May 23, 2004.

Her site.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:32 PM

Shorts, 12/28.

Tsunami It's a little difficult... no, it's very difficult to concentrate on movies in the wake of one of the most ferocious catastrophes in modern memory. As the reality of the looped TV news footage sinks in, questions like those Martin Kettle raises in the Guardian can't be simply dismissed. More immediately, one wonders what, concretely, can be learned, can be done. WorldChanging is recommended for tracking that collective process.

But here, we're about movies, and so, though the world wobbles, it'll right itself, and the film world just keeps on spinning 'round.

In one of his best Independent columns in a long while, David Thomson looks back on the year. I'd pull a quote, but really, there are too many to choose from. Suffice it to say, he has me hoping some smart company will get The Power of Nightmares out on DVD if, as he presumes, no American network will touch it.

Also in the paper: "The universal appeal of the Faust myth hardly begs for explanation, though its peculiar appeal in America may ask for a little additional scrutiny." Kevin Jackson considers the perpetual return of Howard Hughes.

Recalling Reverse Shot's summertime symposium on Richard Linklater, it is perhaps no surprise that Before Sunset tops the team's "Best of '04" list, just up at indieWIRE. But that doesn't mean there are no surprises. The biggest, in a list that's actually pleasantly full of surprises, has to be #6: M Night Shyamalan's The Village.

Considering that the New York Review of Books runs so few pieces on film, it seems kind of a waste at first that Daniel Mendelsohn would turn in one on Alexander, but ultimately, we do get another reminder of why it could have been a good, maybe even an important, film.

The London Review of Books fares a shade better with its match of writer and subject: Frank Kermode, after all, on The Merchant of Venice, reminding us why the best cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare are not in English. Meantime, Lisa Bear interviews director Michael Radford for indieWIRE. Also in the LRB: Peter Campbell on Faces in the Crowd: Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today.

In the New Republic, Jonathan Kiefer seems a little weirded out by Sean Penn's inhabitation of the failed killer at the heart of his new movie ("one wonders what sort of trouble Penn - whose own antisocial tendencies have fortified his cult of personality - might have gotten into had talent, fame, and privilege not been bestowed on him "), but then discovers: "[I]f The Assassination of Richard Nixon has a lesson for today's liberals, it's an inadvertent one: For heaven's sake, keep your shit together. There is depression, and there is going off the deep end."

In the run-up to the election, you'll remember, one political doc followed another. Nancy Ramsey asks several of those who made them, What now? Errol Morris sums up the replies pretty well: "Political documentaries are not going to come to an abrupt halt because of the re-election of George Bush. If people were motivated to make films because of their concern with the policies of the first administration, it's hard to argue that those concerns were allayed on Nov. 2."

Also in the New York Times: Sharon Waxman lists a series of movies in which Don Cheadle's performances have been quietly praised by critics, though never enough to propel him to A-list status (and to these films, I'd add his television work - for example, in ER - which has probably brought him more public recognition than would fit the widely accepted "underexposed" typification), but now, with Hotel Rwanda, "suddenly finds himself the focus of attention not just for his moving portrayal of a real-life hero, Mr. Rusesabagina, but also as an emissary for the issues raised by the film." Plus: Dave Kehr on new DVD releases.

Dhoom

Dhoom

Outlook India: The best of Bollywood, Hollywood, TV soaps and news in India.

"Wait, lady... wait! I'm not a real zombie! I'm only a promotional zombie!" New York contributor Mark Jacobson watches indie horror filmmaker Robert McCorkle hawk DVDs on 125th Street.

Speaking of zombies. Roy Frumkes, who runs his own zine, Films in Review, made a film back in 1989, Document of the Dead, tracing the career of George Romero and focusing in particular on Dawn of the Dead. Now, Romero is back on the set, making Land of the Dead, Frumkes is, too, shooting another doc. He turns in a behind-the-scenes peek at Cinema Eye.

At TV Barn, Aaron Barnhart picks out the best television had to offer this year. More - much more - from Aaron Dobbs.

Der Untergang, which depicts the last days of Hitler as he unravelled in the bunker and will eventually make it to the US as The Downfall, has now arrived in France as La Chute. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau," and in French, a package on the film in Le Nouvel Observateur, with entries by Claude Weill, Odile Quirot's transcription of Bruno Ganz's thoughts on playing the crazed dictator, Ruth Valentini's record of Günter Grass's qualms and Laurent Lemire's brief chat with Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw.

Filmbrain offers his first impressions of 2046.

Tears of the Black Tiger "Strangeberry. Akimbo. Orb. Lulu." Steve Rosenbaum notes four companies that'll "matter in the future of film."

"Want to invest in my movie?" asks Margaret Cho. See the top right-hand corner for more.

Online browsing and viewing tip. "Origins of American Animation, 1900 - 1921." Via Rashomon.

Online browsing and listening tip. Clips from scores and songs currently nominated for various awards at Movie City News.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Tears of the Black Tiger. Via Todd at - say it loud - Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:41 AM | Comments (1)

December 26, 2004

Cinema Scope. 21.

Cinema Scope A good third or so of the new issue of Cinema Scope is online, beginning with Ray Pride's interview with Ousmane Sembène. There is, understandably, since the film at hand is Moolaadé, a lengthy discussion up front of the ghastly yet still widespread practice of female mutilation, but then Sembène remarks, "The cinema can advocate political goals, but it should not be a political banner. That is my conception of cinema."

Tom Charity introduces his filmmaker interview: "Dedicated to Chris Marker and Humphrey Jennings, and namechecking Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project and Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed in the end credits, Jem Cohen's extraordinary feature Chain is a glimpse of the future, here and now."

zhangke-focus-2.jpg "What is China and where is it headed?" This question, probably the most important we'll be dealing with over at least the next two decades, is put forward in a piece by Shelly Kraicer to examine how the country's filmmakers are tackling it. Though other films are considered, the primary focus is Jia Zhangke's The World, "the key text of China's cinema of loss."

Travis MacKenzie Hoover addresses the complex politics at work in the films of Claire Denis: "One wants to commend Denis for standing up for the wretched of the earth who walk unmoored in a world without values; one also wonders if her apparent cure - the resurrection of older values - isn't worse than the disease."

Filmmaker Zev Asher opens a special section on the festivals of this past fall by retracing the wild ride that immediately followed the Toronto Film Festival's acceptance of his (remarkably inexpensive) doc, Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat. Also:

Jonathan Rosenbaum's column on DVD rarities begins with a plug for Super Happy Fun!, lists several tempting titles, tangles briefly with "the legality of all this" (via a quote from the site), and settles: "[S]peaking as someone who enthusiastically aspires to economic incorrectness whenever it's legal, I can only hope this cheerful enterprise can stay in business - especially if one considers that at least half of the titles I recently purchased from this source are extremely unlikely to ever come out on commercial labels."

Of the three reviews of current releases, Richard Porton's take on Kinsey is the clickable one, a sharp assessment of our current political and cultural climate.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:31 AM

Remembrances and shorts.

In the Observer, where Luke Harding reports that The Ring Thing, a parody of guess-what, has become an immediate surprise hit in Switzerland and Philip French reflects on the year in docs, Gaby Wood, remembers "an American institution - or an 'Un-American original' as he himself had put it":

Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray is often said to have been a pioneer, but there was really no one like him. His monologues charted new territory, somewhere between Jean-Paul Sartre and Jack Benny, and held people's attention with the aid of only a few deadpan props. Each director who filmed him - Jonathan Demme with Swimming to Cambodia, Nick Broomfield with Monster in a Box, Steven Soderbergh with Gray's Anatomy - was a well known auteur, and yet they shot Gray as he was on stage, adding little.

Among those remembered in the annual "The Lives They Lived" issue of the New York Times Magazine:

Perhaps it can't be repeated enough: Every film begins with a screenplay. In Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood's "got a terrific one," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader, while Martin Scorsese has to work with a "a witty but shallow script" for The Aviator.

Time's "2004 Best and Worst" package is up. Richard Corliss picks nine favorite films, led by Zhang Yimou's double-edged sword, and one he was intended to fall for but most certainly did not, Being Julia. The Aviator leads Richard Schickel's conservative list, which wraps by trashing the "pretentious piffle" of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I ♥ Huckabees.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali "Without doubt Sanjay [Leela Bhansali]’s three films so far have been true highpoints for Hindi cinema. It would be no exaggeration to say that post-Devdas he is considered the true inheritor of the legacy left behind by Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan, V Shantaram, K Asif and Bimal Roy." Sify's Subhash K Jha anticipates Black; via Movie City Indie.

Maisonneuve's Jonathan Kiefer on It's a Wonderful Life: "The movie could have remained an abstraction or a kitschy annoyance, like so many of our holiday festoons, but it has stayed alive, and still has real value to us. To see why, try sitting down and actually watching it this year. If you can get past the several mawkish moments, you might make a surprising discovery: it's a wonderful movie."

James Wolcott explains why the only Christmas movie he can "now abide" is White Christmas: "It's an adult film that moves a leisurely stroll, with no saucer-eyed children underfoot to wonder if Santa's forgotten them or to help their parents rediscover their faith in miracles; none of that crap. The film's secret weapon is the choreography of Robert Alton, which slashes and explodes and yet always maintains its wit."

Roger Avary votes for The Nightmare Before Christmas and "the Rankin-Bass masterpiece," The Year Without Santa Claus.

More holiday viewing tips from Aaron Dobbs; they're golden oldies, mostly, and Craig Phillips has a few ideas as to why contemporary Christmas movies just don't work.

Fourth in a series of rediscoveries for MS Smith: The Others. "[W]hile many viewers may find the film's carefully managed moments of surprise and terror, as well as its twist of an ending, to be its defining characteristics, its most salient aspect is its overwhelming sadness."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 AM | Comments (2)

December 25, 2004

Merry shorts.

Masters of Cinema: DVD of the Year Award The results of the second annual Masters of Cinema DVD of the Year Award are in, and Nick Wrigley and Co have once again done a marvelous job, going beyond merely tallying and collating to offer a selection of several voters' comments - lots of info, smartly designed. And of course, it's hardly a surprise that Criterion absolutely dominates the list.

MoC is also pointing to Robert A Harris's survey of the year in Region 1 DVD releases of classic films over at The Digital Bits. It's a "Report Card" ranking each studio's job "tapping into the fruits of their Asset Protection Programs."

Salon Salon's film reviewing duo (occasionally moonlighting as DVD previewers for the New York Times), Stephanie Zacharek and Charles Taylor, present their top tens. Zacharek goes for Before Sunset: "There have been bigger movies made about smaller things." Her surprise entry is Hellboy, "a superhero movie with soul."

Taylor (who places Before Sunset in the #3 slot) offers a list weighted towards Asia - Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and Hero share the top spot - and bearing at least one surprise: Bertolucci's The Dreamers: "As one friend of mine put it, if you don't love The Dreamers, you don't deserve movies."

Vera Drake The San Diego Film Critics vote for Vera Drake; Movie City News is still keeping score. Also: Emanuel Levy looks back on the year and lists his ten best and worst. Leonard Klady's list stretches longer than even he expected: "There in front of me were 14 titles.... And as I checked title by title, it crossed my mind that I couldn't recall a single instance since January 1st where I, or anyone else, had observed in conversation that it had been a better than average movie going year."

Twitch's Todd sorts through the international box office scoreboard and discovers, for one thing, "bad taste knows no bounds," and for another, "Germany had a very good year."

This whole Oscar business is really getting in the way of our view of Martin Scorsese's films. About the first quarter of Tiffany Rose's interview with him for the Independent is wasted on shoving the elephant out of the room. Then he adjusts those monstrously cool glasses (he and Edna Mode are going to have everyone wearing them) and assures Rose he still gets excited with each new project - the next being, of course, the remake of Infernal Affairs, set in Boston and starring Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone meets DiCaprio: "He says he's getting himself a fine education doing movies, and learning about the lives of great people. But I think he's got a bit more learning to do yet." Also: The pix quiz (my first, and probably last, perfect score).

Greg Allen selects his favorite video art of the year; seven works in all, no particular order, one surprise entry: "Scott Sforza et al, George W Bush Biopic."

Bill Viola: Tristan und Isolde Director Peter Sellars has incorporated video work by Bill Viola into his production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. It works for Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, as he writes in Artnet: "In fact, I came away thinking that Viola and Wagner, artists of different origins and centuries, are as compatibly suited to one another as the composer's most passionate couple."

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter: "This past year was not a good one for photography, inasmuch as eight of the great old masters of the art died - men whose work went a long way toward capturing in pictures the essence of the last 60 years of the 20th century."

"If you didn't know about the promotional DVD and the family Bible-study guide, you might not think The Polar Express had an evangelical message." David Sarno examines a most unusual marketing campaign. Unusual for now, that is. We may be seeing a whole lot more of this sort of thing. Meantime, also in Slate, poor David Edelstein endures (but just barely) The Phantom of the Opera, "the most excruciating two-and-a-half hours I've ever spent in a theater."

Filmbrain adds a title to the list of DVDs we need: John Huston's Night of the Iguana.

Reviewing new releases on DVD of five of his features, David Sanjek offers a serious appreciation of Jerry Lewis in PopMatters.

Koreanfilm.org's sporting a new feature, a page devoted to Untold Scandal director E J-yong. Among the highlights: Darcy Paquet's interview and Lee Eunhye's collection of translated excerpts from Korean reviews and articles. Also: Adam Hartzell reviews Song Il-gon's debut feature, Flower Island.

In the London Times, a short profile of Takeshi Kaneshiro by Ian Johns.

Offline acquisition tip. The new issue of The Believer, complete with DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:39 AM

NYT. Top 10 x 3. And more.

NYT: Best of 04 Here they are, the top tens from the big three at the New York Times: AO Scott, Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden.

Million Dollar Baby tops Scott and Dargis's list, and it's in the accompanying "audio slide show," in which each critic boils the lists down to their gists, that we hear that, for Scott anyway, Baby didn't just edge out the others, it was "by far" the best picture of the year. When Dargis speaks (the cinetrix likes to hop all over her case for not showing herself, but: she speaks!), she chooses to emphasize Richard Schickel's approximate restoration of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One, the #2 on both her and Scott's lists.

That makes Holden, once again, the odd man out. His #1 film of year, Bad Education, doesn't even appear on the other two lists. But in the audio show, Holden notes that, in his mind, with his last three films, Pedro Almodóvar has established himself as the greatest filmmaker currently working anywhere.

What else: Besides Baby, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the only film to make a showing on all three lists (Sideways doesn't make Scott's list, Dargis doesn't include Kinsey and Holden doesn't list The Big Red One); both Scott and Dargis include one anime feature, albeit different ones. Scott goes for Tokyo Godfathers, Dargis for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

In a sort of quieter, digested version of Slate's "Movie Club," an email free-for-all appearing each January and one of the highlights of each year when it comes to reading about movies, Dargis and Scott discuss what's made the most lasting impressions on their minds in the past 12 months, an exchange divided into four topics: actors, directors (primarily contrasting what's become of Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese), politics and the impact of digital technology. And of course, it should be noted that all this movie talk and listing are only part of the paper's overall package, "Culture: The Best of 2004."

Also in the NYT:

An unusual piece, and a brave move for Oliver Stone: "On a warm Saturday afternoon two weeks ago, just back from showing Alexander, much of which was filmed in Morocco, at the Marrakesh film festival, the director sat down at his office in Santa Monica to reflect, in the presence of a critic, on his film's fate and its future. His tone was sometimes wounded, sometimes defensive." The critic is Scott and the conversation's engaging: "I mean why didn't Shakespeare touch the guy, or Marlowe or Goethe? He was famous. Nobody touched him. Why? Because there's too much success. He's too much - too much for people."

When Did I See You Hungry? Nick Madigan profiles Gerard Thomas Straub, the sort of Christian one wishes were ascendant in America rather than the belligerent neocons running things now. Straub's mission is to "'put the power of film at the service of the poor' by photographing and filming what he sees as the suffocating, deeply unjust conditions of countless millions.... In 1999, when he ventured overseas to document what he called 'global poverty and the Christian response to it,' he was horrified. On his first night in Calcutta, staying in a church in the heart of a slum, he said he was so overwhelmed by the pervasive squalor - the thousands living in the streets, the filth, the wailing - that he could not close his eyes."

Meanwhile. Sharon Waxman reports on the drastic scaling down of operations at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley and the closure of Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Productions, both "consequence[s] of technological shifts and economic hardship in the California film industry." Zoetrope, which you'll see featured in any history of the "New Hollywood," that often-celebrated 70s-era shift away from the old studio system, is, of course, a multi-armed entity - it's good to see, for example, even one of its relatively smaller ventures, Zoetrope: All-Story still going strong, featuring most recently a cover design by Gus Van Sant and work by, among others, Ryu Murakami. But this particular arm is expected to reopen as ZAP Productions in LA. Even so, argues Waxman in a separate piece, Hollywood itself is being led by "a veritable flock of lame ducks."

If it's been a while since you've seen Mary Poppins and you think you remember it well, think again, writes Virginia Heffernan: "The movie is set in 1910, in part among chimney sweeps and the bankers in high, hard collars, but the 60s come through in just about every scene. If those who most exemplified that decade were the activists and the sybarites, this movie is clearly on the side of the sybarites - the hippies."

Richard Schickel's review of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams: Volume II, 1945 - 1957 is accompanied by one of the site's excellent "Featured Author" pages.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

December 24, 2004

Berlinale. The line-up so far.

Berlinale The Berlinale Competition now goes to eleven. The line-up usually runs to just under two dozen, so we're about halfway there. In addition to unveiling the new titles that'll be competing for Bears in 2005 - eight of which are world premieres - the fest has announced that it's made a rather surprising choice for president of the International Jury: Roland Emmerich. The line of thought: His first full-length feature, The Noah's Ark Principle, roused interest in the Hollywood-bound German director when it was screened at the Berlinale in 1984.

The Competition line-up so far:

Le promeneur du Champ de Mars

Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 AM

December 23, 2004

Village Voice. Take 6.

Writing Before Sunset The results of Take 6, the annual film critics poll - the sixth, of course - conducted by the Village Voice are in and, glory be, Before Sunset is the clear winner. Just as gratifying is Richard Linklater's placing first in the "Best Director" category, and a second-place for Sunset's screenplay is nothing to sneeze at in a year when Charlie Kaufman is a shoe-in.

We can, hopefully, look forward to commentary by J Hoberman and others over the next few days (or at least by Tuesday), but in the meantime, what we have are the lists, the numbers - total points assigned by participating critics and total mentions - and the ballots, all cross-referenced and linked for hours of fun-with-stats browsing.

We can see, for example, that if Imelda Staunton and Paul Giamatti were racing in the commendably unisex showdown over "Best Performance" (they weren't, of course; there's no strategizing in a poll like this), they wound up pretty much neck-n-neck, with Julie Delpy coming in quite respectably in the #3 slot and all others trailing. The "race" for "Best Supporting Performance," though, was even tighter.

Further categories: "First Feature" (I won't spoil them all), "Documentary" (and heavens, just scan that list; let's all say it plainly, simply, slowly, just one more time: 2004 was a strong year for docs), "Cinematography" (you can guess that one), and it turns out this batch of critics is in agreement with others when it comes to films as yet "Undistributed" in the US.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:38 PM

Yet more of 04.

Before Sunset Matt Clayfield is still working on 2004, but his work-in-progress is more thought-provoking than many lists drawn up by those who actually get paid to do this sort of thing: "To be honest, I actually toyed with publishing my list for 2003 instead of this one; at least that one's closer to being 'finished,' so to speak. These things can never really be 'finished.' But that's all part of the pain fun of writing them." Matt's "Best Film of 2004": Before Sunset. Runners-up, honorable mentions and a handful of original categories follow.

Slant's probably got the best designed "Best of 2004" list around; fortunately, the magazine's critics are astute as well. Ed Gonzalez places Bad Education at the top his list; Nick Schager goes for House of Flying Daggers.

The LA Weekly's List Issue 2004 is good for hours of fun, lazy browsing. The cinemy bits:

Notre Musique

  • Scott Foundas's #1 is a pair, actually: Star Spangled to Death and Notre Musique: "Separately or together... these were the most provocative, urgent, mind-blowing movie experiments of the year, both the product of filmmakers in their 70s and, in many ways, the capstones to two of the most remarkable careers in cinema."

  • Ella Taylor's top ten go unannotated, so the fun's in the longish paragraph on great performances.

  • Ron Stringer presents the "Film Editor's Choice."

  • The DVD Roundup builds up to Taylor's comments on Jean Renoir.

  • Robert Abele celebrates "11 Great Small Performances" on the big screen as well as the best the small screen had to offer this year.

  • Nikki Finke's contribution: "Hollywood Overheard," a collection of quotes that'll amuse anyone but the quoted.

  • John Powers counts down "The Meta-Media Madness Top 10."

Shobha Warrier counts off the "Best Tamil Films, 2004," at rediff.com. Topping the list: Kamal Haasan's Virumaandi. Also: Subhash K Jha interviews Aishwarya Rai.

"2004 was the year that satire sank its razor-sharp teeth into a mainstream audience." Salon's Heather Havrilesky relishes the sharpest moments of a very mean year.

Ken Tucker picks a top ten for New York; via the Cinecultist.

Is the Japanese film industry in trouble? Going by the surface of things, you wouldn't think so, but in the Daily Yomiuri, Aaron Gerow argues that "in the future, 2004 could be seen as one of the pivotal years in the history of Japanese cinema." Globalization and television are the primary factors at work here, he explains. Via Movie City Indie.

Norimitsu Onishi reports on the phenom known as Yon-sama: "A 32-year-old South Korean actor past his prime in his homeland, he has become, thanks to a syrupy television series, the most popular man in Japan, the object of desire of countless middle-aged women, the stimulus behind an estimated $2.3 billion rise in economic activities between Japan and South Korea." Also in the New York Times: Ian Austen on how the Canadian film industry is struggling to compete with "with lower-cost areas like Eastern Europe or American states like Louisiana and New York that have recently introduced attractive filmmaking subsidies."

Blue Sunshine The Austin Chronicle's Marc Savlov talks to Jeff Lieberman about "his sophomore effort, the unnerving Blue Sunshine [1978], that has truly entered the rarified status of cult movie," and then chats up Jean-Pierre Jeunet only to discover he's actually proud of Alien: Resurrection. Also: Joe O'Connell's got news on Every Word is True, one of two Truman Capote biopics in the works, as well as the latest on screenwriter Joe Conway and two wraps for Robert Rodriguez.

Rob Nelson gives Blogumentary a thumbs-up in Mother Jones.

The Guardian's Gary Younge notes that the US pharmaceutical industry is bracing itself for an inquisitive Michael Moore.

"What is a 'Roll-Up' and why does it matter to you?" Steve Rosenbaum offers a few words of free advice to filmmakers.

You'll remember that Quentin Tarantino moderated a talk with Bob and Harvey Weinstein a week ago at MoMA. Well, over at Ain't It Cool News, Sheldrake presents a complete transcription - in Christmas-colored fonts, no less.

Lisa Bear interviews Nicole Kassell, director of The Woodsman, for indieWIRE.

Greg Allen has found Brian Sholis's introduction to a generous clip from Peter Wollen's essay on Derek Jarman's Blue; glad he did.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:09 AM

December 22, 2004

More lists, awards and shorts.

Café Lumière Sideways topping another critics' poll isn't news; but Sideways topping Film Comment's 5th annual critics' poll is. Just check the names of the contributors. But don't skip over the list of the "30 Best Unreleased Films of 2004," just under the top 50 usual suspects. It's Café Lumière with a bullet; Jia Zhangke's The World is a distant second.

Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE: "After a promising spring and a beleaguered early summer (thanks to the domination of Fahrenheit 9/11), foreign language films have bounced back in the latter half of 2004, showing staying power, impressive box office figures and an indelible presence rivaling their English-language art-house counterparts."

For the New Republic, Elbert Ventura writes up eight of the "top unheralded films of the year."

Ironically, you can probably read Robert Wilonsky's year-end assessment of the state of the battle between Indiewood and truly independent films in many a New Times weekly; just do. Soldiers on both sides are quoted and Peter Biskind is given credit for Primer's Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Accompanying best-of list: the New Times reviewers' top ten.

And here's the first online viewing tip. AtomFilms has selected its top ten. Via The Crime in Your Coffee, which tips one that didn't make the list, the 11-minute "Black XXX-Mas" (site).

MSNBC's John Hartl, who's been wondering lately whatever happened to Robert De Niro, picks a top ten while Michael Ventre slams a bottom ten.

Never mind 2004. David Poland's already looking ahead to the summer of O-Five. Even so, as the awards keep popping, Movie City News will chart them. The latest from Aaron Barnhart at TV Barn: "Beyond a doubt, the most consequential action in the TV industry in 2004 was the federal government’s crackdown on broadcast content - and the networks' almost complete capitulation in the face of it."

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda prompts more than just another review from Salon's Charles Taylor:

In Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman points out that the left, steeped in the Rousseauist principles of enlightenment, has had trouble crediting the irrational, even when the irrational is embodied in the fascist movements the left has traditionally opposed. [Director Terry] George and [co-writer Keir] Pearson understand that no explanation can ever fully account for an outbreak of the irrational on as massive a level as the Rwandan genocide. In essence, they are saying that evil took over in Rwanda.

[...]

This is not a subtle or nuanced view. But to want something subtle or nuanced in a film made to show the shame of a genocide that could have been prevented is to say that aesthetics should trump moral urgency.

Joe Leydon: "I can't help but marvel at how many critics - and, for that matter, how many plain ol' movie buffs - are waxing nostalgic about Robert Aldrich's original Flight of the Phoenix while eviscerating John Moore's newly released update. Gee whiz, have any of these people actually looked at Aldrich's film lately? I think not."

Mark Schilling interviews Shinya Tsukamoto and reviews his latest, Vital for the Japan Times. That's via Todd at Twitch, who reviewed the film back in September, and gathers oodles more Japanese film-related news in one big spanking entry. Plus: a review of 2046 and a pointer to the trailer for Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda.

For Filmmaker, Peter Bowen reports on the making of In the Realms of the Unreal.

Black Dahlia Definitely a film to keep an eye on: Black Dahlia, starring, among many others, Kristen Kerr, David J, who's already won an award for his original score though the film has yet to be completed, Karen Black, Caveh Zahedi and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

There were protests out in front of the Castro Theatre in San Francisco this weekend. For background, see Johnny Ray Huston's cover story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian last month, and for an update on the situation, including an introduction to the new programmer, see Cheryl Eddy's current "Script Doctor" column. Steve Rhodes sends word of a few shots snapped at the weekend's goings on; in the meantime, a discussion of what actually needs to be done is underway at SF IndieBlog.

Meanwhile, in this week's SFBG:

Festen "For decades we have been told that tragedy, however valid in the past, is a dead duck today." But Michael Billington discovers its "rebirth" in the theatrical adaptation of Festen at the Lyric in London. Also in the Guardian: Kate Stables offers seven online viewing tips for the holidays.

Simon Doonan gets everything just right for a photo shoot with Colin Farrell; and then it all goes terribly, amusingly wrong.

Also in the New York Observer:

  • Rex Reed's ten best and worst of the year; you'll find the surprises among the worsts.

  • Andrew Sarris on Hotel Rwanda, The Assassination of Richard Nixon and Donkey Skin.

  • Bruce Feirstein, out in LA, listens around: "Beyond the Oscars and audience values, there's an additional component to the Hollywood political connection that people have been discussing lately - in this case, concerning the waning power and demystification of celebrities."

Escape Velocity In the mid-90s, if you wanted to understand your contemporary moment, there was no getting around Escape Velocity. And as we barreled toward the year 2000, we were bombarded with countless tomes seeking to analyze our collective panic, but I never found a better one than The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium. The author of both is Mark Dery, who has just pried open the maws of Shovelware, wherein his most welcome first post is an entertaining riff on why:

Some of my favorite blogs reclaim the radical promise inherent in the notion of an online journal, letting casual passersby eavesdrop on a stranger's innermost thoughts, see the world through another mind's eye. Call it the Being John Malkovich effect. The cultural critic Julian Dibbell had it just about right when he theorized the weblog as postmodern wunderkammer - an idiosyncratic jumble of found objects (in this case, ideas and images, facts and fictions scavenged from the global mediastream) that "reflects our own attempts to assimilate the glut of immaterial data loosed upon us by the 'discovery' of the networked world."

Speaking of which. 'Tis an honor to have scored a spot on Rex's "Blogs of the Year" list at Fimoculous. Seriously.

Berlinale Régis Wargnier's Man to Man has been selected to open the 55th Berlinale on February 10; the fest runs through February 20. In the meantime, much of the schedule for transmediale05 (February 4 through 8) is now in place.

Some poor unbylined Frieze writer on the video work of Nina Könnemann, currently on view in London: "Her videos gently unhinge your sense of time and space. No special effects are used, and all the actions shown are real events, none of them what you might call spectacular."

Ryan Griffis for Net Art News: "Art Mobs, a new project named after Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs uses the capabilities of portable, decentralized broadcasting devices to create peer-to-peer gallery tours."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:30 PM

December 21, 2004

Shorts, 12/21.

Eyes Without a Face Glenn Erickson, known far and wide as the DVD Savant, has not only chosen his "Most Impressive DVDs of 2004," he's grouped them, in a way, into relevant batches: "I don't judge by best extras or even best transfers, or by the artistic merit of the film alone... this list of titles are almost all films that I'll be watching again and again and be recommending to my friends (politely, of course)."

Kudos to Wendy Mitchell for plugging Head On (Gegen die Wand), screening tomorrow evening at MoMA: "I went to last night's screening to see this film for the second time, to make sure I wasn't crazy when I thought it was the best film I'd seen all year. I'm not crazy. It's amazing - funny, sexy, sad, brutal." I don't see nearly as many new releases as most GC Daily readers, but of those I have seen, I'd have to say Gegen die Wand shares the top spot on my own nonexistent list of the bests of 2004 with a film that is its opposite in countless ways, Before Sunset. It's such an apples-n-oranges thing with those two, they can comfortably share that spot, each allowing plenty of room for the other. Look for GC's real year-end list from our own Craig Phillips (who's just posted some sharp snippets from Renny Waldron's interview with Stanley Crouch in the Independent Film and Video Monthly) more towards the actual end of the year.

The Phoenix Film Critics go for The Aviator as Best Picture of the year and Scorsese as Best Director. Movie City News tracks the score so far.

Now that's what I call music video: For Res, Sandy Hunter selects "10 Great Music Videos from 2004." In the magazine: Jesse Ashlock meets Gael García Bernal.

If you're getting tired of reading about, or for that matter, just hearing mention of the same batch of holiday movies over and again, NP Thompson offers respite in the form of an appreciation of The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which he finds "succeeds both as a comedy and a tragedy." As for the comedy, he reports that though press screenings "are notoriously reserved ones," one scene in particular had the jaded journos rolling in "gales of laughter." Darren Hughes chimes a related note.

Darren's got a top ten, by the way, supplemented by a list of ten more older films he caught for the first time this year. That said: "I'm paralyzed by the process of ranking films, but Café Lumière was an easy choice for favorite of the year. A transcendent film about transcendence, Hou's homage to Ozu is a beautifully human piece, full of silence and grace and, most of all, curiosity."

At Film Threat, Phil Hall clears up "The 10 Best Urban Legends in Film History." Via IFCine and Heard.

Not on that list: "Spike Jonze is heir to the Spiegel fortune." Greg Allen has long known that's just plain not true, but recently, he's received a tip from a member of the Spiegel family clearing up the matter even further.

"Have you watched The Ref yet this Christmas season?" asks the cinetrix. "If not, why not?"

From 'Realms' (detail)

Ed Park marvels at all the choices Jessica Yu has made in In the Realms of the Unreal, her "spry, creative response to [Henry Darger's] oceanic talent and claustrophobic life," that ought not to work - the limited running time, the animated sequences, the long pans - but do. (More in the New York Press from Jeff Koyen; semi-related note: Mark Crosby). Park is also riveted, but in an entirely different way, by another doc, North Korea: The Parade (semi-related note: Darcy Paquet's review of Kim Dong-won's Repatriation at Koreanfilm.org) and a tad more neutral regarding Neil LaBute's Fat Pig at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

Also in the Village Voice:

  • Michael Atkinson calls for a Jacques Demy retrospective: "While we wait, the re-release of Donkey Skin (Peau d'Âne), his buttery 1970 romp through Charles Perrault, hits Film Forum as a holiday nosh." Atkinson finds Hotel Rwanda "a gut-twisting story handled, largely and predictably, with asbestos mitts." Jeff Reichert, heading up the Reverse Shot team's trio of reviews in indieWIRE, pretty much agrees. Atkinson's review of Lemony Snicket is missing, but just so you know, NP Thompson finds it the "most pleasant surprise of the holiday season."

  • Mark Holcomb is greatly underwhelmed by John Moore's remake of The Flight of the Phoenix.

  • Leslie Camhi willingly embraces The Keys to the House.

  • In The Woodsman, Kevin Bacon "composes an achingly subtle physical biography of a badly damaged man, a balled fist of shame, resentment, and desperate reflexes who flinches away from most human contact but can find little solace inside his mutinous mind," writes Jessica Winter. More praise in the NYP from Matt Zoller Seitz: "The film's effectiveness rests almost entirely on Bacon's contained but exquisitely detailed lead performance, the supporting players' interaction with that performance, and [director Nicole] Kassell's willingness to let her actors carry the weight of the film's meanings while avoiding dummy-proof exposition and speeches whenever possible.

  • Jorge Morales on Phantom of the Opera: "Minnie Driver, whose Callas eyebrows and outlandish gowns single her out as the only performer on the same camp wavelength as Schumacher, feasts on the elaborate sets as the house diva. She almost stops the show. I wish she had."

  • Dennis Lim is kinda let down by Meet the Fockers, but even so, "the stars attack their one-note roles with contagious gusto." The NYP's Armond White notes that the "caricatures (they're not exactly characters) satirize the infernal American mix."

DVD reviews in the New York Press: Jim Knipfel on Mark of the Devil ("pretty good, as far as witch-hunt movies are concerned") and Android ("Being a Klaus Kinski completist has its downside"), White on Hi, Mom! ("looks smarter and funnier than any current movie that passes for social comedy") and Saul Austerlitz on a collection of three films by Radley Metzger, "time capsules from some long-lost fantasy of the 60s high life, all champagne wishes and caviar dreams."

"The T-shirt worn by the character Boo in Monsters, Inc. marked Pixar's first successful venture into cloth simulation," notes Sarah Lidgus in Salon. "Nemo's success allowed for the realization of the cast of The Incredibles and the first large-scale use of CG clothing."

Via Perlentaucher's Magazinrundschau: Le Nouvel Observateur's Pascal Mérigeau asks Arnaud Desplechin about his latest, Rois et reine.

Online browsing tip. 18 shots from Vanity Fair's "sumptuous new coffee-table book" (you don't get the stars to show up at your parties by being modest), Oscar Night: 75 Years of Hollywood Parties.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Sin City looks much better that the unpolished material we took a look at a few months ago. Saw it via Matt Dentler first, but heavens, I see that you'll have heard about it by now.

Online viewing tip #2. A single trailer for Disney's upcoming release of three of Hayao Miyazaki's films - Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns - on two discs; via logboy at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #3. HelloZiyi.us is, as you would probably guess, devoted to Zhang Ziyi, featuring her first interview in English (it's really coming along [says the former English-as-a-second-language teacher]) and, most recently (i.e., up at the top of the page), clips of scenes cut from the US release of House of Flying Daggers.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:58 PM

December 20, 2004

Shorts, 12/20.

Oussama Fawzi's I Love Cinema Variety's Robert Koehler introduces every single one of the 50 films submitted to the Academy as Best Foreign Language Film hopefuls. Via Movie City Indie, where you'll find pointers to the likes of David Fear's interview for Filter with Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou with Wes Anderson, and just a whole lot more.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Film Critics are going for, yes, Sideways in a big way and Movie City News has launched its 2004 Top Tens chart.

The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu reviews the year in film in the UK, where Lost in Translation and School of Rock weren't seen until early this year, and so, qualify for the top spots on his list: "I want to end, though, with a film that ends unforgettably itself: Before Sunset. I've seen it a dozen times now. Each time I blush, melt, cry. Also directed by man of the year [Richard] Linklater, and reuniting Julie Delpy with Ethan Hawke, it is one of the truest and most romantic films ever made." Also: Asia had a spectacular year, notes Tim Robey.

Critics are wrong to bash Lemony Snicket, explains Matt Clayfield, and they're definitely wrong praising Million Dollar Baby to the skies, argues Filmbrain.

Well, Roger Ebert likes it. It's at the top of his top ten.

Rolling Stone picks its 20 best videos of the year (and they probably aren't anyone else's) while Peter Travers selects the top 25 DVDs; via Fimoculous, where, once again, Rex is maintaining the list of year-end lists.

Laura Linney in Kinsey For Bomb, Romulus Linney interviews Laura Linney:

This dialogue between a daughter and a father, an actress and a playwright, was fun for us both. We tried to do it well, with proper concern for the work we both love, but lightly too, aware, as Laura always is, of the frailty of human beings, ourselves included. That awareness, I think even more than her beauty and skill, makes her the woman who so commands her father's admiration and respect.

"We opened our serial-killer, lesbian-prostitute film on Christmas Eve in Manhattan... And it worked." That's Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, quoted in a profile for the New York Times Magazine by Lynn Hirschberg, who notes: "But Monster falls into a safer, more familiar cinematic genre than The Woodsman."

In the paper:

  • John Darnton watches Hotel Rwanda with Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security advisor: "Mr. Lake, for his part, requested two ground rules in agreeing to see and discuss the film: that he not be made to appear 'self-serving or self-exculpatory' (a rule that tended to take care of itself), and that he be allowed to air his views on the current situations in Darfur in Sudan and in the eastern Congo. The extensive loss of civilian life in those places, he believes, is a direct echo of the Rwandan genocide, and this time, he asserts, international powers should not sit idly by, as they have largely done to date."

  • One of the NYT's better audio slide shows accompanies Laura M Holson's piece on how the business culture of Hollywood is changing in the wake of the Eisner vs Ovitz show.

  • Sharon Waxman takes to the year-end box office figures with a calculator. More money came in, but fewer tickets were sold, even though The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 are assumed to have brought many to theaters that hadn't been in years. But DVD sales, of course, are still booming; Lorenza Muñoz reports in the LA Times (via Movie City News).

  • Maureen Dowd casts "Rummy" in an if-only update of It's a Wonderful Life.

  • Matt Richtel reports on how wireless carriers are deliberating over what sort of entertainment to carry - neither too much sex nor too much violence, for starters.

  • Over a period of two hours last Friday, TiVo gave away nearly 2000 DVRs in the Bay Area, reports Ken Belson.

David Thomson: "As the years go by, I remain unconvinced that there has ever been a more fascinating subject in the movies than sex." Also in the Independent: Mark Simpson spells out his theories as to why the ancient world has been catapulted back on the screen lately, among them: Epics "offer reassuring, if utterly fraudulent, nostrums about masculinity in an uncertain, metrosexual world... Hollywood is emasculating the past. It isn't raiding it, but paving it over. Telling us there never were any heroes."

Ray Pride talks to James L Brooks about Spanglish for Movie City News.

Biopic Not Only But Always gets Peter Cook all wrong, argues Richard Ingrams in the Observer. Toby Young begs to differ.

The Guardian's Michael Billington delights Ian McKellen's Widow Twankey in the new Aladdin at the Old Vic: "Inside McKellen there has always been a dame struggling to get out; and at last it's been joyously released."

Remember Greg Allen's list of the top five most frequently borrowed titles from e-flux video rental? At greg.org, he lists 6 through 10.

Online browsing and view-at-your-own-risk tip. Twitch's Todd has found the mother lode of won't-believe-it-til-you-see-it trailers at the American Film Market site.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:23 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Paste: Wes Anderson "Deliciously warped," is Jay Sweet's initial reaction to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Wes Anderson, it turns out, when he interviews him for Paste, isn't (despite low culture's guy sharp decoding of the director's new look), and in fact, explains that every time he thinks he's being "fantastical," someone points out that real life is already a step or two ahead of him.

In an earlier issue, by the way, Tim Porter revisits the age-old question, "What is indie?"

Dan Harris in Written By: "Partly in reaction to the rebirth of teen movies that I couldn't identify with (and with the notion that, if lucky, a cheap film would allow me to attach myself as director), I set out to write what would ultimately cover years of therapy: a script called Imaginary Heroes."

Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews "An engrossing document of a unique career, Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews depicts its subject as an artist, manipulator, child-man, spendthrift, multimillionaire, glutton, late-twentieth-century Pre-Raphaelite, someone hoping his phone service won't be disconnected for unpaid bills." To hear Ray Young tell it, it's a terrific read, too. Also in Flickhead, Young reviews White Thunder, a doc by Victoria King chronicling the literally disastrous shoot of The Viking, also part of the Milestone DVD release; and David Thomson's The Whole Equation. Then... Richard Armstrong holds onto the film in his head: Barefoot in the Park.

Charles McGrath reminds New York Times readers that house critic AO Scott has called Million Dollar Baby "the best movie released by a major Hollywood studio this year," and then looks back on what "used to be a grand Hollywood tradition," the boxing movie.

Also in the NYT:

  • MG Lord explains what a professional art service like Film Art LA actually does for a movie; fascinating stuff.

  • Catherine Billey tells how director Terry George got his the rating for his Hotel Rwanda notched down to a PG-13 from an R without changing his film. Very good news, and yet the argument is... interesting: You didn't actually see what I wanted you to think you were seeing.

  • Nathan Lee goes shopping for pirated DVDs. Finding them, of course, is easy; interpreting them is something else: "[B]ootlegged pseudo-movies reframe the art form in interesting ways."

  • David Carr visits Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, a couple of "workhorse actors," as Bacon puts it, whose lives actually sound a lot more enviable that the lives of most A-list stars.

  • Batman Begins, the first Batman movie in ages that actually looks maybe-just-maybe promising, "will arrive as the product of a startlingly British alignment of talent and location," writes David Gritten.

  • Stephanie Zacharek reviews The Whole Equation, which "includes brilliant flashes of insight and patches of lovely writing.... But to get to them, you have to wade through pages of gassy digressions: Thomson is loquacious to the point of reader numbness."

  • Greg Allen (yes, that Greg Allen) lists the five "most frequently borrowed titles from E-flux Video Rental, which rents tapes by video artists."

Throne of Blood In a relatively recent issue of Film International, Daniel Gronsky examines non-English adaptations of Shakespeare, focusing "primarily on the resonance of the plays with the directors Kozintsev and Kurosawa and the ways in which they subsequently translate the plays' language into a system of their own."

Steve Trautlein in Metropolis: "There are several compelling reasons to doubt that Godzilla: Final Wars will, in fact, be the monster's swan song."

Jonathan Watts reports from Beijing: House of Flying Daggers may have western critics swooning, but in China, it's been given "a resounding raspberry."

Also in the Guardian:

The Oscar race so far: David Poland and Newsweek's Devin Gordon

Online chuckle. A menagerie of posters at Worth1000, via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:06 PM

Offscreen.

Decasia André Habib introduces his interview with Bill Morrison, most known for his haunting Decasia: "If Morrison has, in recent years, imposed himself as one of the most important experimental filmmakers of his generation, it is because he has understood the possibilities of a poetics of the archive, of the historicity not only of cinema but above all of its material base and of its modes of projection, exploring and expanding all its limits."

The long, rich talk probably climaxes when Morrison observes, "I believe every artist has this fantasy to see nitrate on fire, it's some sort of sexual metaphor," and is accompanied in the latest issue of Offscreen by Habib's consideration of Morrison's work, editor Donato Totaro's and another from Claudy op den Kemp, who is sent back to memories of Peter Delpeut's Lyrical Nitrate, a film that "opened up a world of images I didn’t know existed, which highly influenced my further choice of study."

Totaro reviews This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film, a 720-page collection introduced by Martin Scorsese, edited by Roger Smither and published by the International Federation of Film Archives.

Offscreen also offers an online browsing tip, the previously noted Industry from filmmaker Richard Kerr.

By the way, in the previous issue, Totaro and Peter Rist interviewed Bottled Fool director Hiroki Yamaguchi, Rist interviewed the team behind Fuon (The Crying Wind)... and more.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:04 AM

December 17, 2004

Shorts, 12/17.

Before Sunset is "the best movie of the year," argues Nathan Kosub at Stop Smiling, but not because it's some sort of American equivalent to an Eric Rohmer film: "A movie about love at middle age, reunion, and expectations might sound like Eric Rohmer, but three films from the second half of the French director’s long career - Autumn Tale, A Good Marriage, and A Tale of Winter - exemplify the differences, as subtle as Ozu’s family variations."

before-sunset-big.jpg

The Guardian's John Patterson doesn't address the Rohmer issue, but he's in full agreement with Kosub as to which film is the best of 2004: "[I]t was an eloquent repudiation by example of the bloated and empty spectacles - and sequels - that mainstream Hollywood laid upon us. But much of its appeal had to do, tangentially at least, with geopolitics.... As much as anything else, Before Sunset is a fantasy about how a lively discourse between the two countries, and by extension, the two main western power blocs, might or should be conducted."

Quentin Tarantino moderated a discussion last night at MoMA with Bob and Harvey Weinstein, kicking off a celebration of Miramax's 25th anniversary with a series of 50 films to be screened at the Museum through next summer. IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez listened in on the conversation which, of course, reveled in old times, but naturally steered soon enough to the company's ongoing falling out with Disney. Eugene adds a few more thoughts on his blog: "[I]t was obvious to me that the brothers are working hard to tout their successes and build sympathy as they continue to battle Disney, and also showcase themselves for potential investors." Also: A who's-who of the NYC indie scene gathers for something "like a night of greatest hits from 04 parties past."

"I think that buying a movie at Sundance for x number of dollars as an advance and opening it in five, 10, 20 screenings and hoping for the best is pure gambling. It's economically idiotic - I don't care who you are. It makes no sense." That's Larry Meistrich, telling the New York Observer's Jake Brooks why the approach to distribution his company, Film Movement, takes "collapses the window between the release of a film in the theaters and its DVD release and cultivates a built-in audience, much like a cable station - [and] is a way to minimize the gamble of independent-film distribution."

Hal Hartley: Possible Films Hal Hartley, too, knows the system's undergoing rapid changes. His new DV feature, The Girl From Monday, will debut at Sundance, screen right after at MoMA and then, right away, go out on DVD via his own label. Ray Pride quotes the director: "I attended Sundance in 1990 and 1991 with my first two features.... I could see that the films we were making then, and the way we were producing them, had the professionals thinking about new distribution trends. 13 years later, I'm back with new work and everyone is talking about even newer - more radically different - trends in distribution."

Movie City News has the list of bests from the Washington DC Film Critics Association. Nice to see another film catch a few rays of spotlight, particularly one as worthy as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Best Film, Director, Acting Ensemble and Screenplay.

New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani finds David Thomson's The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood "appealing but overstuffed and at times undernourished" while the updated version of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is "wonderfully entertaining." You knew that about the Dictionary, but anyone who's worried lately that Thomson's writing is heading off on some weird trajectory won't be comforted. "Sometimes, Mr Thomson gets carried away with his own musings," writes Kakutani; and she's got evidence, too.

Also, it's biopic season. You'll have noticed. And for every biopic there's a book, at least one, some of them direct tie-ins, some of them long preceding the movies they've inspired. Caryn James sorts through the pile, recommending a few, warning you off others.

Back to the Guardian:

  • Universal will be the first studio to make a movie set in the midst of Dubya's sequel to his father's war. "The Battle for Falluja," reports Dan Glaister, "promises to depict the story from the point of view of US soldiers and politicians; it seems unlikely that the plight of the Iraqis will figure too prominently in Hollywood's take on the subject."

  • Sure, there are "omissions and distortions" in Ray, writes Richard Williams, but: "You could barely slide a cigarette paper between [Jamie] Foxx's portrayal of Charles and the real man."

  • Geoffrey Macnab interviews Zhang Yimou. And so does Julia Stuart for the Independent.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Twitch presents an "Essential Christmas Movie Guide." And via Twitch, Terry Gilliam welcomes you to the official site for Tideland; three trailers you will want to see; and a rumor: Nicolas Cage in the US remake of Oldboy?

Tim Cooper also looks back on the best and worst of Christmas movies. Also in the Independent: Tiffany Rose talks with Kate Beckinsale.

The Telegraph picks 22 Region 2 DVDs of the year. Also: Sheila Johnston listens to Tracey Emin finally decide on a favorite movie: Rosemary's Baby, but getting there, you take a lively path with a few surprises around each corner. And: Mark Monahan on why everything is right about Dangerous Liaisons.

Holden Frith offers a "First Glance Review" of Danny Boyle's Millions in the London Times.

Jeremy Harrison: "The Australian Film Commission (AFC) launched IndiVision (media release) yesterday, it's new low budget feature film making initiative.... The funding devoted to it is laughable, but at least it's a push in the right direction... Rolf De Heer (The Tracker) and Chris Noonan (Babe) have already signed on to the project." More, via Movie City Indie, from Garry Maddox in the Sidney Morning Herald.

Ed Rampell for Alternet: "[A]s On the Waterfront is re-released it's important for 21st-century audiences to place the movie in its proper historical context as a case study in Red Scare movie propaganda."

Noir City 3 San Francisco, tonight, the Castro: "A Judy Garland Christmas." Meanwhile, Steve Rhodes sends word that there'll be a gathering tomorrow afternoon in front of the theater to "Save the Castro." In happier Bay Area news, Noir City 3 is slated for the Balboa from January 14 through 27.

Aaron Dobbs looks ahead to the final week of the "Essential Noir" series at Film Forum. More NYC goings on via the cinetrix: In the Realms of the Unreal, also at Film Forum and, at the Anthology, Joseph Cornell, people, tonight.

Brian Flemming points to SinclairAction, "a campaign to protest Sinclair Broadcast Group's continued misuse of public airwaves to air one-sided politically charged programming without a counterpoint."

Chuck Olsen's getting more and more excited about videoblogging these days, and understandably so. Among his latest finds (and there are more; click his name): BlogTelevision.net.

Second online viewing tip. The finalists for the Arts Project Moving Image Contest in which entrants were asked "to create short films demonstrating some of the tensions between art and intellectual property law, and the intellectual property issues artists face, focusing on either music or documentary film." Via greg.org.

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

December 16, 2004

Shorts, 12/16.

LA Weekly: Clint Eastwood "'Clint,' of course, isn't exactly your average interview subject." No. But Scott Foundas seems to find the going pretty easy, thanks, evidently, to Eastwood's relaxed manner and the fact that, at 74, the man's got stories to tell and knows well what he thinks about them. As for Million Dollar Baby, which Foundas notes is "a movie that lives and breathes and hurts and bleeds right along with its characters":

We took it to a couple of other studios, and they turned it down, much like Mystic River was turned down - the exact same pattern. People who kept calling and saying, "Come on, work with us on stuff." I'd give it to them, and they'd go, "Uh, we were thinking more in terms of Dirty Harry coming out of retirement." And who knows? Maybe when it comes out they'll be proven right.

That cover piece kicks off the LA Weekly's bulging holiday package which features another interview - Dave Schulman meets Daniel Handler, more famously known as Lemony Snicket, and things get a little rowdy - and of course, reviews galore:

There's also a rambunctious bunch of stories to be told about that considerable town as well as Nikke Finke's updated review of the Eisner vs Ovitz show so far.

Before considering Million Dollar Baby and House of Flying Daggers, Slate's David Edelstein presents the winners of his latest "biopic challenge" in which contestants were encouraged to submit the silliest lines to be uttered in the genre.

Roy Batty, the replicant played by Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, "and his fellow replicants seem to suffer from what EM Cioran once called 'the temptation to exist,'" writes Michael Smith. (At times, bloggers suffer the same temptation, I might add.) On his way towards a moment of clarity at the end of the entry, he first ducks through the darkness:

Blade Runner

It is a temptation so profound that it consumes them, almost to the point where they want to hurl themselves at the universe; when Pris (Daryl Hannah) is shot by Deckard, she flails and screams and pounds the floor with her hands and feet, not so much because she is in pain, but because she is hysterical over her finality, over the fact that she has reached her end, that she knows she will be no more.

And via that entry at CultureSpace comes today's first online viewing tip. Megan and Murray McMillan's The Grasp Hand and Walking Method.

The very thought of Brian De Palma in pre-production on an adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia is awfully upsetting for Aaron Dobbs, but that's not the half of it.

For indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio looks in on five indies currently in production. Three of them already have sites: 'do, Runaway and Wedding Photo.

For PopMatters, Rino Breebaart contemplates the long-term implications of the murder of Theo van Gogh. As you've probably heard by now, 06-05 and related material is online.

Margaret Cho: "I don't know where sorrow is anymore, its presence in the world has vanished, leaving behind greed and the false claims of democracy."

"Hollywood is not a hero in this book." The San Francisco Chronicle's Hugh Hart talks to David Robb, author of Operation Hollywood. Via Wandering Out Loud.

Are the studios really going to be so stupid as to repeat the mistakes the music industry made before reaching a tentative truce with its own customers (it's called iTunes)? Yep. Neil McIntosh spells out the obvious: It doesn't have to be this way: "Customers find new control, freed from being told what to consume and when, and discover they enjoy the experience so much they're willing to break the law to continue doing so. They'll only start handing money over again when the owners of that entertainment catch up with their desire to consume it in new ways."

Also in the Guardian:

Julie Salamon's meeting with Martin Scorsese is brief and light. Also in the New York Times, Charles Lyons asks those who direct them why film festivals are sprouting up all over. By the way, thinking of submitting a film to one yourself? Tboot's got a tip for you.

Oscar-winner Sandy Powell, "the Kandinsky of costume design," tells the Telegraph's Sally Williams all about spending $2 million to dress Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale. Via Movie City News.

"[W]hat are some of the lengthiest and/or best long takes?" asks Filmbrain.

Salon's Laura Miller takes a break from the perpetually replenishing stack of books to be reviewed with the extended version of The Return of the King: "If there's a better antidote to holiday tensions than a marathon session with all three DVDs and your parents' new widescreen TV, it's probably illegal."

Hooray for Santy Claus! Yet more DVD gift-giving ideas from the Austin Chronicle.

Online listening tip. Señor Tonto covers "Hooray for Santy Claus!" from the soundtrack of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Via The Crime in Your Coffee, and I'd simply add that during this holiday season, you might want to be tuned into "Xmas in Frisko," SomaFM's "irreverent annual holiday broadcast."

Three online viewing tips via Twitch: Behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; an odd little montage of scenes from the Japanese horror flick Marronnier; and a clean trailer for the Walter Salles's remake of Hideo Nakata's Dark Water.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:16 AM

December 15, 2004

Shorts, 12/15.

The Whole Equation Though it clearly thrills him, Scott Eyman finds quite a bit in David Thomson's new book to argue with; but then, that's half the fun, evidently. The Whole Equation, he writes in the New York Observer, "is structured as an interlocking series of essays laying out the chronological progression and aesthetic deterioration of American movies." Eyman will quibble with this point or that - two of Thomson's arguments are labeled "patently ridiculous" - but as for that main line, Eyman's along for the ride:

As a matter of fact, movies were better 30 years ago, unless you happen to think computer graphics are a fair exchange for character and emotion.... Movies have lost most of their power to move the mass audience because that audience has lost belief in the idea of film as art.... David Thomson is still the best critic we've got. The sad thing is that he doesn't really have much competition. (And anyway, 10 great movie critics wouldn't have much to occupy themselves with these days.)

Well. Good thing, then, that the rest of the world is making movies, too. Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn is opening in San Francisco at a particularly fitting moment in the city's history, notes Chuck Stephens, who also offers a quick refresher on the significance of King Hu's original Dragon Inn, more than "just an extraordinarily exciting slice of world cinema."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Movie City News has the list of Toronto Film Critics Association Awards; yep, Sideways. And the Broadcast Film Critics have announced their nominations.

Brian Brooks reports in indieWIRE on the Toronto Film International Festival Group's unveiling of "Canada's Top Ten."

Phil Hall presents Film Threat's "Ten Best and Worst Unseen Films of 2004." Via IFCine & Heard.

Here's how "Imagine," a marvelous new entry at Margaret Cho's blog begins:

Imagine being Anna May Wong at the premiere of your film, Thief of Bagdad, title apropos to these times, as a Chinese American at Graumann's Chinese Theatre, then in its Chinarama phase, chock-a-block with faux orientalism, a chinkee apocalypse in plastic and red paper. And you, surrounded by an extraction of your own culture, are not allowed to put your hands in the wet cement to commemorate your contribution.

Geoffrey Macnab in the Guardian: "26,000 Faces is a series of short films designed to embarrass the Dutch government into repealing a controversial law passed in February to repatriate 26,000 'failed' asylum seekers. The expulsions will take three years. Bosland and his team want to make a film a day, giving a face to the thousands who will shortly be booted out of the Netherlands."

Ray Pride lays four stars on the DVD release of Mikey & Nicky, "Elaine May's nicotine-stained 1977 masterpiece."

For the Gothamist, Lily Oei and Aaron Dobbs interview Nancy Schwartzman, Creative Director at Heeb Magazine and filmmaker. The first question, naturally, is about the doc she's working on now; no hemming or hawing for Schwartzman: "This is a film about my trip back to Jerusalem to confront the man who raped me four years ago."

St Richard of Austin Particularly since he's in it, Wiley Wiggins has been interested in reactions - from those who've been able to catch it - to "St Richard of Austin," a profile of Richard Linklater and part of the Art Show series broadcast on the UK's Channel 4.

BridgeToTheStars.Net: "Citing the 'technical challenges of making such an epic,' director Chris Weitz has exited New Line Cinema's highly anticipated adaptation of the bestselling Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, and the studio has launched a search to find his replacement." No mention of the recent controversy over the portrayal of the villains in the films.

British ad agency M&C Saatchi has hit upon the realization that when it comes to selling the US as a tourist destination, American movies have already done most of the work. All they need to add is the slogan: "You've seen the film, now visit the set." Heather Timmons reports in the New York Times.

Defamer: "The Fug Girls turn their fashion hate-rays on the Harry Potter kids. Isn't puberty hard enough, ladies?"

Online viewing tip. Blogumentary Trailer 3.0.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:01 AM | Comments (2)

December 14, 2004

Thoughts and shorts.

Sideways is so far turning out to be the film of the year as far as critics are concerned. The New York Film Critics Circle is the latest of these organizations to tap it; for more, see the full list, awards scoreboard and "Awards Watch" at Movie City News and Eugene Hernandez's piece at indieWIRE, plus their "Awards Watch." And we'll soon see how far all the critical endorsements carry it into the awards season that culminates with the Oscars on February 29.

Tarnation But Sideways may not turn out to be the story of the year, and you know, in the long run, even the Passion vs Fahrenheit slug-out might not be, either. No one can predict these things with total confidence, but, as many have pointed out, we may end up looking back at Tarnation as just as much a landmark event as, say, Easy Rider, Stranger Than Paradise or The Blair Witch Project. In the past, I've thought the next bump in the road would arise from the distribution end of things, and that may well yet happen as well. But Tarnation is most remarkable for its production. It's not so much the money; once the $7000 legend was established, pulling off a feature for even just a couple of hundred is, yes, still quite a feat, but the biggest barriers had already been broken.

Instead, Jonathan Caouette will most likely earn his bookmark in history for the manner in which he pieced his film together. Peter Greenaway has been arguing long and loud for the liberation of film from literary conventions. Why can't he show potential investors a painting, he asks, rather than a sheaf of pages? Well, for that matter, why not a film? Considering that, once those low, low budgets were recorded for posterity and the PR departments, both Robert Rodriguez and Caouette were given more money to spend on post-production, that is, essentially what they've done. Caouette has moved things along (or at least along one tangent) by, for one thing, moving them to the living room Mac, and for another, building a cohesive, feature-length film out of what was, more or less, "found" material, but also material he'd shot himself, even if he was unaware at the time of what would eventually become of that footage.

Again, he certainly wasn't the first; many a film has been created (Bruce Conner) or entirely reimagined (Annie Hall) in the editing room, but look at the phrases Caouette has critics coining: "iMovie Nation" (Susan Gerhard), "the age of iMovie" (Jeff Economy), "iCinema" (Stuart Klawans). Ultimately, this tangent into the future may indeed be only one of a few or more, but it's hard to imagine that, as the means of production become handier, we won't be seeing more filmmakers outlining with cameras rather than First Draft. (As a word guy, I should add that I have mixed feelings about this, but find it exciting nonetheless.)

"The best compliment I can give Tarnation is to say that it's the first film I've seen in weeks that compelled me to write." That said, Darren Hughes respectfully argues that "the film's formal problems - its haphazard construction, conflicted voice, and questionable re presentations of life - become too great to sustain the weight of Caouette's noble ambitions."

"Examining the elegiac works of Arthur Penn, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Robert Altman, author Robert Kolker's A Cinema of Loneliness is a towering work of critical analysis and a testament to the importance of cinema." For Kamera, Deryck Swan reviews the third edition: "Rather than simply tacking on revisions Kolker has produced a new book, a new outlook, and a new opinion."

Eartha Melzer reports on "A Dubious Doc" for In These Times: "A call to Magnolia Pictures in New York was answered by a man who, lowering his voice when asked about Voices of Iraq, whispered, 'Nobody here wanted to release this and we didn’t do any of the promotion on it. [Mark] Cuban steamrolled us on this.' ... Nobody involved with the film is willing to say who initially put up the money for the film or how they ended up represented by the Army's PR firm." Via Movie City Indie.

Gunner Palace Like the editors at Salon, when Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Donald Rumsfeld in Kuwait why US troops aren't as well-equipped and they could and should be, I thought of Michael Tucker's Gunner Palace. Now, Salon is offering a relevant clip from the film. Also: Allen Barra argues that James Joyce's "The Dead" is the "greatest of all Christmas stories" and that John Huston's is a worthy adaptation; now if it were only available on DVD.

Slate's got clips, too. June Thomas introduces and annotates a series taken from Pedro Almodóvar's films:

Again and again, his films depict the rituals associated with putting on the costumes that confer authority: priests donning robes for mass; nuns adjusting their habits; matadors putting on the suit of lights; and, most commonly, actors and actresses making up and dressing - or undressing - themselves for a performance.

Given this obsession with exaggerated versions of womanhood and the rituals of dressing, as well as his roots in the underground and gay culture, it shouldn't be surprising that Almodóvar has used drag queens, transvestites, and transsexuals to explore questions of authenticity, ambition, and romanticism.

Via MCN: Roger Ebert lunches with Martin Scorsese:

He's talking out loud about ideas for his next movie. He'll make a Boston police picture, starring DiCaprio for the third time in a row. Then maybe he'll adapt Endo's The Silence, about a Jesuit missionary in Japan in the 16th century. Or maybe Boswell's London Journal - he loves that book, about a young man from Scotland, on the make in the big city: "I love it when he gets the clap from that actress and after he's treated, he goes around and presents her with the doctor's bill."

Nick Pinkerton leads the Reverse Shot team's trio of takes on The Aviator by asserting that it is "nothing less than (need I say it?) [Scorsese's] Citizen Kane, with all the faux newsreel, authorial self-portraiture, dime-store Freudianism, and yes, greatness, that the comparison implies."

The first 'Scorsese on Scorsese' Alessandra Stanley: "Scorsese on Scorsese is not just a plug for the director's latest movie, The Aviator. This documentary on TCM tonight is mostly a comfortable chat - plus film clips - with one of the world's most engaging conversationalists."

Also in the New York Times:

  • Sharon Waxman: "Christmas - according to Hollywood - has become something to endure rather than celebrate, and that sentiment is breeding a whole new genre of anti-holiday holiday movies." Two accompanying pieces: Christian Moerk points out how Revolution Studios, and its partner, Sony, have learned from The Passion of the Christ to use "Christian- and family-oriented media" to turn "potential loser" Christmas With the Kranks into a "modest hit"; and Lizette Alvarez on the UK's "Santa slump."

  • Hassan M Fattah reports on last week's glittering Dubai International Film Festival, which was mostly a success, but: "About the only unhappy people were Arab filmmakers, who fancied themselves as the stars of the program."

  • Dave Kehr picks the highlights from this week's round of new DVD releases.

Matt Zoller Seitz finds Alexander "a richer work" than The Aviator ("The film's suggestion that Alexander's conquests presaged 20 centuries of ego-driven imperialism is as politically resonant as anything in Godard's Notre Musique, and subtler, too"), and in fact, keeps the comparison running pretty much all the way through his review of the latter, ultimately concluding, "for all its skill, you're aware you're watching a Scorsese movie for people who don't like Scorsese movies." Seitz has another pair for you, too: Beyond the Sea ("a disaster") and The Sea Inside ("orks so well that I wished it were more adventurous").

Also in the New York Press:

Ed Park's the only Village Voice writer to pair up two film and bounce them off each other this week. In short: He prefers The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

Also in this issue:

"How often in the history of literature has a writer come up with a new subject?" asks Nicola Shulman in the Times Literary Supplement: "Barrie did, and in the many thousands of words written about Peter Pan, too few of them credit him for it."

The Big Sleep The Guardian's Michael Billington reviews the Warehouse Theatre's production of Phil Willmott's Femme Fatale, "two hours of knowing, jovial, rib-nudging pastiche."

Noir enthusiast Aaron Dobbs is still relishing the "Essential Noir" series at Film Forum, spelling out all the good reasons you - even if you're nowhere near NYC - really do need to see The Big Sleep, Murder, My Sweet, The Woman in the Window and The Big Heat.

Online download, print out and put to good use tip. DrapIndustries Design Co's SHHH, the Society for HandHeld Hushing. Via the SF IndieBlog.

And an online viewing tip. The trailer for Nobody Knows, via Todd at Twitch, who adds, quite rightly, "They're making it look surprisingly chipper for a film about four young abandoned children and Mr Movie Voice must die, but it does look like fairly compelling stuff..."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:32 PM

Synoptique. 6.

Once again, it really is best - simply because it looks best - to enter the new issue of Synoptique via the nifty widescreen navigation panorama (designed this time by James Culleton). Following the splash made last issue with the opening of the Style Gallery (and there are now 18 "examples," i.e., clips, all but one accompanied by thought-provoking comments), the editors present three views on the concept of style which'll "provide some of the groundwork for a Forum on Film Style to be published in in Synoptique 7 (February of 2005)": Brian Crane, Adam Rosadiuk and Colin Burnett.

Synoptique

In "There is No Band at Club Silencio," Mario Falsetto seeks to get at whatever it is that gets us when we watch David Lynch's Mulholland Drive: "Perhaps it's related to that elusive 'third meaning' that Roland Barthes talks about, that level of meaning that resides somewhere beyond plot and style. Cinema is an art of resonance. Cinematic moments linger in our unconscious, and they haunt us unaccountably."

Jodi Ramer examines "The Construction of the 'Hitchcock Blonde'," the image of which "is a familiar one, more specific but perhaps almost as well known as that of the femme fatale.... Marnie (1964), starring Tippi Hedren, stands out as a Hitchcock film in which the “cool” heroine breaks out of her supporting role as poised-and-pretty love-interest and enters the fray."

Chris Meir on Barry Lyndon: "Instead of 'chiming' clichés, Kubrick made a film that intentionally defied convention. This paper will be an examination of just how Kubrick carried out this project of genre revision by examining one specific device in the film: the third-person narrator."

Synoptique

"Since the 1980s, reception has played a crucial role in film studies." Lysandra Woods quickly outlines that role before recalling a raucous: "As one of the more high profile protests organized against a Hollywood release, the outcry over Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) acts as a telling case study that foregrounds the fault lines and discursive competitions within the multifarious components of reception."

"Luckily, the Hong Kong industry has a history of resurfacing with new trends. One of the current emerging trends is perhaps documentary filmmaking, as evidenced by promising Canadian-Hong Kong filmmaker David Chow." Melanie Morrissette talks to him.

Owen Livermore is a Takashi Miike fan; so, he had an excellent time at the Fantasia Festival, where he not only saw three of Miike's most recent films but also his cameo in Last Life in the Universe: "Thin, grumpy and wearing sunglasses, this yakuza boss had little patience for post-9/11 airport security. Takashi Miike didn't say much in his cameo, but he didn't really have to: his own films would do all the talking."

Synoptique

Jonathan Doyle, "Synoptique's resident Splinter sprinter," presents brief write-ups of 17 films caught at the Montreal Festival of New Cinema; more, in French, from P-A Despatis D.

Wrapping up the issue are the Splinters themselves, well over two dozen quickie reviews, many of which may strike you as drive-by blasts of opinion, but sometimes, short really does result in succinct.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:29 AM

December 13, 2004

Plays and shorts.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Monty Python's Spamalot is slated to open on Broadway this coming Valentine's Day (there'll be a pre-Broadway run in Chicago from December 21 through January 23). Written by Eric Idle and directed by Mike Nichols, it's a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail and stars David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry and Hank Azaria. So the New Yorker sent Dave Eggers to go meet Idle and talk about all this, but before they get into it, Eggers, in a perfectly straightforward, and naturally, well-written manner (no footnotes or drawings, and everything's printed right-side up and in the same size font), runs through the history of the comic troupe.

Accompanying that piece is Matt Dellinger's online-only interview with Eggers, who notes that a lot of the conventions Monty Python blew apart on television for the first time had long been blown away on the page by the likes of Cervantes and Laurence Sterne; nevertheless:

You know, I re-watched most of the forty-five episodes [of Monty Python's Flying Circus], and they're way stranger than I'd remembered. And as they went along the show became much harsher and weirder. I think that everybody would benefit from looking back at this stuff. The Meaning of Life is far darker than I'd remembered. I can't remember anything since being that dark.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore Rhys Ifans plays Peter Cook and Aidan McArdle plays Dudley Moore, pioneers of a previous generation of British humor, in Not Only But Always, a play to be broadcast in the UK during the holidays. William Cook, editor of Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook and Goodbye Again: The Definitive Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, meets Terry Johnson, "a master of what might best be called the post-modern popular history play."

Also in the Independent:

  • Psychiatrist Raj Persuad diagnoses Howard Hughes: "If he walked into my office today... he would discover that the self-made super-rich are probably more prone to [obsessive-compulsive disorder] than the rest of us, because they have often used their brains intensively to amass wealth."

  • David Thomson remembers John Drew Barrymore, "the ghost in one of America's most illustrious family trees."

  • Nigel Morris and Helen McCormack: "The booming trade in pirate DVDs will soon cost the British film industry £1bn a year and jeopardise thousands of jobs, a report warns today." So they go out looking for pirated DVDs themselves; and find plenty.

Once again, if you're an awards and lists junkie and like to know the very moment another string of titles has been announced, this is the season you'll probably want to keep on browser window open and tuned to Movie City News. Just hit refresh every now and then, and lo, there'll be another collection to ponder. Recent additions:

Alright, what about the best soundtracks of 2004? The cinetrix assesses a few of the lists so far.

Supplement all that with indieWIRE's Awards Watch, and you're set.

Ken Tucker meets and profiles Wes Anderson for New York. Also: Logan Hill asks Sean Penn about what he reads, listens to and looks at and Adam Sternbergh asks "indie queen" Parker Posey what in all creation she's doing in an action flick: "I really liked playing a vampire. Their hunger is insatiable. Even when they eat someone, it’s never enough. They’re like addicts. So that was fun."

Back in the New Yorker, David Denby reviews The Aviator ("brilliantly entertaining... not an exposé of Hughes (what's left to expose?) but a rehabilitation and celebration"), Million Dollar Baby ("joins the honor list of great fight films") and Hotel Rwanda: "In all, I can hardly think of another movie in which sheer intelligence and decency have been made to seem so attractive or effective."

John C Reilly, quoted in Josh Tyrangiel's Time profile of Leonardo DiCaprio: "He's used his capital wisely."

Time: Howard Hughes Peter Conrad rounds up the various approaches storytellers have taken to Howard Hughes. Also in the Observer: Sean O'Hagan meets the Yes Men and Rachel Redford listens to Michael Palin's Compendium, maybe even all 30 hours and 20 minutes of it.

Like most Israeli filmmakers, Joseph Cedar addresses fairly weighty issues, but, as Steve Erlanger explains, he tries to entertain as well: "What interests him, he says, are 'characters who are able to break out of the community's tribal embrace.... There is something about our reality now that is undeniably influenced by the settlers' movement.... I resent that, and that resentment is there in the movie.'" Still, his second feature, Campfire, ends with "an awkward effort to be uplifting."

Also in the New York Times:

  • As organizations representing producers and actors continue to meet to sort out how to divvy up profits from booming DVD sales, Ross Johnson explains how it's worked so far and how it might change.

  • In the NYT Magazine, AO Scott proposes we all agree that there's a new subgenre flourishing out there but can't seem to settle on a name for it: "autodocumentaries," "narci-cinema," "moicumentary"?

  • Idris Elba, who's played Stringer Bell in The Wire, is the latest actor to feel the full brunt of HBO's penchant for "unconventional plot twists and bold, can-you-believe-they-did that? surprises," writes Lola Ogunnaike, who asks the actor, What now?

  • Anthony Tommasini: "[M]usically, A Wedding plays it safe."

  • Robert Evans is following up on his book, doc, cartoon and future Broadway show with a weekly radio program, reports Jeff Leeds.

Well, Sean Connery hasn't retired after all. The Guardian's Geoffrey Macnab learns he's "simply taking a sabbatical to write his memoirs" and hears something of a preview of the forthcoming tome.

So how was Harry Knowles's Butt Numb-A-Thon this year? Matt Dentler and El Fishbulb Diablo & Nordling revel in the surprises.

The latest screenplay in drew's collection: Maria Full of Grace.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay will be checking out the East Village USA exhibition at the New Museum, though he does worry that the underground film scene will be underrepresented.

"What we see in films like American Beauty and Fight Club is not actually a critique of consumerism; it’s merely a restatement of the 'critique of mass society' that has been around since the 1950s. The two are not the same. In fact, the critique of mass society has been one of the most powerful forces driving consumerism for more than 40 years." That's from "The Rebel Sell," a 2002 piece by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter in This Magazine, and arrives via Metaphilm.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:48 AM

December 12, 2004

Sight & Sound. Jan 05.

The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon "Our own familiarity with the moving image may have made us indifferent to the ubiquity of the video camera, but the appearance of a film camera in the early 1900s was a remarkable event, greeted with a sense of wonder clearly written on the faces of the Edwardians who proudly posture, wave or cheer for the camera in the 'reality cinema' local film companies would produce to show at fairgrounds." But in 1994, "three metal drums were found by building contractors in the basement of a former shop in Blackburn, Lancashire, once the premises of Edwardian film company Mitchell & Kenyon," and an entirely new realm of fiction one-reelers was rediscovered. Nick James revels in The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon. (There is, by the way, a book, and we are a Powell's affiliate, so, you know.)

Also in the new issue of Sight & Sound, Ian Christie visits the set of The Aviator, and of course, reviews:

Sight & Sound: January 05

Posted by dwhudson at 6:18 AM

Holidays and lists.

Newsweek Newsweek's big holiday movie package splashes happy ink on The Aviator, The Phantom of the Opera and its star, Emmy Rossum, Million Dollar Baby (and it's on that page that you'll find the newsweekly's top five male and female performances, plus the option of listening to David Ansen chat about the year), Hotel Rwanda and one of its stars-in-the-making, Sophie Okonedo, In Good Company, Spanglish and one of its shooting stars, Paz Vega, and culminates with the magazine's choices for the ten best and ten worst movies of 2004. Guess which film tops which list: The Village and Sideways.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:26 AM

LA, NY, Barcelona.

Sideways Faster than a speeding wire service, Movie City News got word out first of a rapid-fire succession of awards announcements yesterday. What'll hit you right off is the obvious: Alexander Payne's Sideways is on a roll. Both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the upstart New York Film Critics Online (site; not to be confused with the Circle, announcing tomorrow) have named it the best film of 2004. They also agree that Imelda Staunton turned in the best female performance of the year in Vera Drake and that The Incredibles is this year's best animated film. But they diverge a bit in all other categories.

Gegen die Wand The European Film Awards (site) were unveiled in Barcelona, with Fatih Akin's Gegen die Wand (Head On) named best European film and, once again, Ms Staunton lauded. Interestingly, though the Academy named Alejandro Amenábar best European director, Akin was the favorite among European audiences who voted for the Jameson People's Choice Awards. Otherwise, an interesting map of the continent emerges. Going by just these few awards alone - a very skewed picture, of course - you'd think the best cinematic work going on at the moment is happening within a long curve sloping south from France, through Spain, Italy and eastward to Greece. With the exception of Liv Ullmann's honor for her past work, Scandinavia plus the corridor running down through Mitteleuropa have all but disappeared and, even though the top film is German, it's shot through with a decidedly southern energy that eventually pulls its characters to Istanbul.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:20 AM

December 11, 2004

Weekend shorts.

Cahiers: Martin Scorsese "The Aviator is probably the last big movie that had themes that I could feel good about and relate to and want to go to the set to shoot with so many actors and with a crazy schedule - we shot this in 91 days and came in on schedule, by the way," Martin Scorsese tells the Telegraph's John Hiscock. "I'm getting to a certain age where I don't see myself doing any more big films within the context of the Hollywood system. I think I will be doing smaller films in future because I can take more risks."

Scorsese could well mean exactly what he says. On the other hand, the cynical among us, even the cynical among us who dearly love a handful of his films, might detect a subtext: Oscar, it's now or never. At Out of Focus, Aaron notes that the campaign is in full swing, with one of the most notable of the many signs being Scorsese on Scorsese, Richard Schickel's doc, slated for broadcast on TCM on Tuesday. But even defending Scorsese in the light of George Fasel's recent comments, Aaron finds himself admitting, "Over the last several years, he has been so active in efforts with film preservation and in making documentaries regarding the histories of cinema and music, I wonder if he finds those projects more exciting than finding his next Taxi Driver or Raging Bull."

Distributor by distributor, the Hollywood Reporter's Minju Pak surveys the shots each house in Indiewood has at an Oscar or two. Via Movie City Indie.

"Over the last few weeks, I've been slowly sampling one of the most entertaining - and important - DVD releases of the year, the National Film Preservation Foundation's More Treasures From the American Film Archives box set of (mostly) silent films from 1894 to 1931." And now, Doug Cummings shares his insightful notes.

Remember the Online Film Critics Society's list of "Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s"? Well, the cinetrix argues, there are reasons some of those movies are overlooked.

Finding Neverland sends the Cinecultist straight to her Dorothy Parker.

"For me, it stirs memories of a time when, as a young reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, a Hearst-owned paper, I became swept into the story and became a point of contact for the 'revolutionaries.'" Carol Pogash finds Robert Stone's doc, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, "good," even if it "also leaves me wishing it were better."

Also in the New York Times:

Time Out: Cate Blanchett

For Film-Philosophy, Andrew Browne reviews Film Style and Story: A Tribute to Torben Grodal, edited by Lennard Hojbjerg and Peter Schepelern. If, like me, you aren't immediately familiar with the subject of the tribute, Browne helpfully explains that "Grodal employs precise cognitive data to define genres in terms of the emotional responses they create in the viewer."

"Brando was one of the grandest and most grotesque exponents of the only purely American contribution to art: improvisation," proposes Jonathan Jones. "To improvise is to be free. It is to be truly alive - unmechanical, unpredictable. Brando was the greatest actor in the history of cinema because he would bring the complex fluency of real life to performances, despite the rewrites, cuts, endless takes."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Besides briefly profiling Billy Connolly, John Patterson has a fine piece on Los Angeles Plays Itself, "a major contribution to the great wave of LA urban theory and left-wing civic reassessment that started with the publication in 1977 of Robert Gottlieb's history of the Los Angeles Times and achieved critical mass with the success of Mike Davis's City of Quartz in 1990," though the film "is more playfully cranky and poetic than Davis's flinty, hard-driving prose."

  • David Storey reviews Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson, edited by Paul Ryan. A snippet from 1954: "The cinema is a war party of Apaches whooping murderously after the Lordesville stage; and it is also Jean Vigo killing himself to finish L'Atalante. Nothing is too grand for it, and nothing too humble: it is its scope which matters, not its limitations. And we have hardly begun to use it yet."

  • Patrick Barkham: "Through hippies, hedonists and the extraordinary experiences of ordinary festivalgoers, the surreal highs and muddy lows of Glastonbury are to be documented by an ambitious new film, which has finally received funding for a cinema release."

  • Lyn Gardner on the evolution of "Sleeping Beauty": "f Disney's version offered a sleeping princess who was very much a product of her era and in urgent need of a copy of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, others have manipulated the comatose beauty for their own purposes."

  • Keith Warner argues that Wagner "could be described as one of cinema's inventors, or at least its spiritual mentor."

  • Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: George Sluizer's The Vanishing.

  • And then, the Guardian has begun rounding 2004, first with a collection of its major film stories, month by month; plus, Xan Brooks chooses twelve films "you should have seen this year."

Writing in PopMatters, Andrea Lim describes the blast to be had on Kung Fu Fridays at the Royal in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Matt Dentler preps himself for Harry Knowles's Butt-Numb-a-Thon.

Online viewing tips. All via Twitch. The trailer for Be Cool. Just because John Travolta and Uma Thurman get out on the dancefloor together again. And then, because... well, just because it's just too strange: the trailer for Kampfansage: The Last Apprentice. Alternative subtitle, at least for the site: The German Martial Arts Project. And finally, because it's Napoleon Dynamite, clips from the soon-to-be-released DVD.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:39 PM

December 10, 2004

Sitges Dispatch. 7.

Juan Manuel Freire, direct from the Sitges fest.

Oldboy And the winners are... the right ones. No alarms, no surprises. The jury of the Official Section - Ken Foree, Marco Müller, Christopher Priest, Koldo Serra and Estrella Zapatero - has set every award in its right place (though, well, Primer deserved more attention). Oldboy, the great thriller by Park Chun-wook, has received two prizes, including the Best Film distinction and the Jose Luis Guarner Critic Award. Christian Bale took the Best Actor award for The Machinist and Best Director prize went to Johnnie To for Breaking News. In the Mèlies d'Argent category, "El soñador" won the Award for the Best European Short Film, while Michael Winterbottom's Code 46 won the Award for the Best European Film. Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle won the Audience Award and Mamoru Oshii's Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence received the Orient Express Casa Asia Award. For a look at the full list of awards, click here to download a doc.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:01 PM

Shorts, 12/10.

Bruno Dumont and Claire Denis If you only knew him via Errata, you might have feared that the election was, somehow, a fatal blow to Robert Davis. But: He lives. And one full month since his last entry, another long-awaited entry has appeared. And what an entry: a full-blown interview with Claire Denis, one of his favorite filmmakers. Wide-ranging as it is, there is a central topic, her tenth feature, The Intruder (L'Intrus), which, Davis writes, "is far more fragmented than most of Denis' films, and it's formal to the point of being clinical, although it's certainly, beautifully, provocative. But even if I don't fully understand it, I've learned that Denis' movies take time. They wait."

If you're more fortunate (or simply smarter and more industrious) than I am and can understand conversational French, tune into this roundtable discussion of cinema whose participants include Catherine Breillat, Damien Odoul, producer Patrick Sobelman and, pictured, Bruno Dumont and Claire Denis.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has been haunting the Gene Siskel Film Center and reviews four of his finds all at once in the Chicago Reader. He doesn't think much of A Tale of Two Sisters, but what he has to say about the other three will have you jotting down titles on your track-down-and-see list. It won't be easy, and Rosenbaum has some ideas in each case, too, about why that's so. Regardless:

The Seventh Victim

  • The 1961 low-budget indie The Exiles "can hold its own next to John Cassavetes's Shadows, which came out a year earlier."
  • The Seventh Victim (1943): "It's my favorite horror film."
  • Burn, Witch, Burn: Nothing particularly quotable, but by this point, you'll know what Rosenbaum means by "Lewton's aesthetic" vs the "pile-driver approach."

You may remember a flurry of commentary following the night New Yorker Films founder Dan Talbot accepted his Industry Lifetime Achievement award at the Gothams. If not, that flurry matters far less than his speech, which indieWIRE is running today in full. Following a few stories about James Joyce, Fassbinder, Ousmane Sembene, Emile de Antonio, Bresson and more, Talbot brings it all home:

The point of these mini-tales is that our business is not so much a business as a casino. And in this casino the independent filmmaker must spend over 90 percent of his time looking for money to make his film.... About 10 years ago I wrote an editorial in the NY Times OpEd page suggesting a system of film funding based on the Cinema de Centre operation in France. Simply put, if IFP or some off-shoot of IFP lobbied for a setup that accumulates money out of box office receipts, the boring, stupid and deadening search for independent film financing could appreciably change.... Of course this would not guarantee good films, but it would encourage the filmmaker to think more about his art and not what will work at the box office.

Matthew Clayfield makes an effective rhetorical decision: "You know, it's very hard to write an opening sentence for what's ultimately going to be a negative review of Ocean's 12 (2004) when you're fan of both the original remake [oxymoron?] and of Soderbergh in general. In the end, you're ultimately forced to write one like the one that you just read: one that's as smugly self-reflexive as the film you're about to attack." Alternative takes: Stephanie Zacharek in Salon and Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, where she's still answering readers' questions.

James Wolcott's exquisite find of the moment: Final Edition, a magazine fully intended to run a course of one issue only, edited by Wallace Shawn. Click its title to download a sample, which features Shawn's own interview with Noam Chomsky. As Wolcott writes, "Chomsky gives a lot of interviews, booksful, but this one strikes a variety of topics with a solid bang. Ever the forlorn optimist, Shawn floats the possibility that humanity might survive by availing itself of the moral codes embedded in traditional religions. Chomsky cuts right through those dreamy clouds."

Shades of Fitzcarraldo: Benjamin Secher reports in the Telegraph on the logistical "nightmare" of launching the Amazonas International Adventure Film Festival in Manaus, capital of the Brazilian state that "still contains the invaluable majority of the greatest jungle on the planet, home to a third of all known plant and animal species, and a fifth of the Earth's fresh water."

Moviehole is reporting that Paul Schrader's version of The Exorcist: The Beginning will be getting a theatrical release after all. Via Movie City News.

In the UK, public service announcements are evidently called public information films; Peter Bradshaw places them in the tradition of horror classics, noting that the ads evolving along parallels lines with the genre.

Also in the Guardian:

In the Independent:

The Europe in Motion: Moving Images, Shifting Perspectives in Transcultural Cinema fest opens today in Berlin and runs through Thursday.

James Stewart: Rear Window

Online viewing tip. It's Alfred Hitchcock week at Movie-List. A favorite moment for some reason: James Stewart addressing the camera directly.

Bonus online viewing tips, in case you haven't heard, though you should've, 'cause everyone's talking about them: Teasers for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and War of the Worlds. Also, I greatly admire Terrence Malick, but the first trailer for The New World just isn't doing it for me.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2004

Sitges Dispatch. 6.

More from Juan Manuel Freire at Sitges.

Sitges Two more days like Tuesday and Wednesday and I'll have to crawl into a thermal bath as soon as Sitges ends. The festival is turning into a non-stop, full-throttle series of films featuring blood, suspense... our hearts might not be able to hold out.

To review some of the films in competition, especially since the awards will be announced tomorrow: The second promising Spanish feature of the section, Guillem Morales's El habitante incierto didn't turn out to be as disappointing as The Birthday, but it's not the well-rounded and intriguing first feature we were expecting from the director of the short, "Upside Down." It's only a halfway-there thriller too obviously indebted to the ambiguity and paranoia of the best of Roman Polanski.

One Point O Other disappointments in Official Section have been Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson's One Point O, a pretentious Kafkaesque thriller whose only positive point was the always seductive presence of Deborah K Unger; Takashi Shimizu's US version of The Grudge, presented by its lead player, Sarah Michelle Gellar, as the greatest thing in the world when, in fact, it's a dull horror flick whose capacity to shock relies essentially on an array of rather cheesy sound effects; and Chuck Parello's The Hillside Strangler, an inept exploitation movie with C Thomas Howell burying his Mr Nice Guy persona.

On the plus side, one film sets new standards for animation and, indeed, cinema in general: Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence, a beautiful sequel to one of the greatest animes of all-time. Again, Mamoru Oshii is incapable of deciding between technical perfection and deepest pathos and delivers plenty of both in this incredible story of humans who seem to be robots and robots which [who?] feel too human for their own sake. This is hardcore.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:15 PM

Snickers® and shorts.

Psycho: The Snickers Cut These long dark nights of December, a good laugh is always welcome, and Greg Allen has found a very good one indeed: "Using Product Placement in Your Serial Killer Script," by Rick Paulas in The Morning News: "But always, always, the ultimate place for finding a dead body is the supermarket cereal aisle. It not only will bring in tons of brand-name dough, but also will lead to the brilliant 'We have a cereal killer on our hands' joke, offered by the detective's comical partner. This joke will make him more human, which will be important when he's killed at the end of the second act."

In a similar vein, Aaron at Out of Focus whips up a fine subject line for his (probably justified) trashing of Blade: Trinity: "Brought to you by Apple - When you need to kick some vampire ass, soundtrack yourself with an iPod."

Another one? Ok, here's one via Metaphilm: Andy Ihnatko tries to explain Shallow Hal to his mother: "I was about to sigh the sigh of the ages and patiently re-explain the premise yet again, when I realized that she had, in fact, spotted a logical inconsistency in the film. And I couldn't simply acknowledge that."

Not quite in the laugh-out-loud vein, but amusing nonetheless is David Mamet's take on "Goldilocks," which, he argues, is "about the latent wish to kill the new baby." That's via Movie City Indie, which is rapidly getting awfully damn good, and runs in the Threepenny Review, where Cynthia Ozick conducts "An (Unfortunate) Interview with Henry James."

But seriously, folks. Though there are still a few major releases yet to roll out, as well as, let's hope, a few notable minor ones, it's probably not really too early for the first of what will surely be many "that was 2004" pieces. Charles Taylor has one in Salon today that, yes, is built on the juxtaposition of Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ (and again, most of these pieces will be), but fortunately, doesn't leave it at that. Can movies bring together what movies have helped tear asunder? That's the question, more or less, Taylor is posing; and there's one observation in particular worth highlighting: "[T]he movies that treat the old Hollywood impulse to reach a mass audience as something to aspire to, rather than something to condescend to, have come from abroad."

Coincidentally, though, Michael Moore is campaigning for a People's Choice Award.

Blu-ray or HD-DVD? Well, Blu-ray's better, argues Paul Boutin, but he also takes the whole brouhaha one step further: "All HD-DVD and Blu-ray do is pack more video onto an existing medium at a time when we're discovering the joys of broadband connections, downloadable video, and hard drives big enough to hold a small movie library. If Sony, Toshiba, and the movie studios go to war, they might find that by the time it's over, we won't care about shiny silver disks at all."

Also in Slate, Dana Stevens reviews So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton at MGM, which "examines the technological, artistic, and financial forces that contributed to the downfall of one of the great artists of the 20th century." More from Vince Keenan.

Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "Either a cinema vérité experiment gone horribly wrong or a successful 'attack on the nature of reality,' Norman Mailer's Maidstone is the '60s hangover supreme - Easy Rider without the Byrds songs."

David Cotner survives the 4th annual Shock-A-Go-Go Film Festival (December 3/4; 2nd item), which saw live appearances by, among others, David Friedman, Mary Woronov and Roger Corman. "As bleary-eyed festival producer Eric Eichelberger juggled nudie loops and the manager's ever-watchful curiosity, evangelicals outside dragged wooden crucifixes along the boulevard sidewalk, and feckless children handed out soup to the grindhouse faithful."

Also in this week's LA Weekly:

Isherwood: A Life Revealed

  • David Ehrenstein reviews Peter Parker's "massive 832-page, 12-years-in-the-making tome," Isherwood: A Life Revealed: "[P]art of [the] fascination stems from the fact that it was in presumably uncultured LA that Isherwood wrote his most important works."

  • Scott Foundas on Pedro Almodóvar and his Bad Education: "That he is a master now, capable of some of the most gloriously expressionistic moving pictures this side of Hitchcock and Welles, has only made his subversive side seem that much more radical."

  • Ella Taylor on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, "a potentially great little cult picture shrieking in protest at being bumped up into a $50 million studio movie whose only real pleasure is its happy-color production design," and, by extension, Wes Anderson and the rest of the bunch. You know who they are: "[S]ometimes it's possible to dwell so far inside your own innovative mind that your brains fall out."

  • Nikki Finke on how the William Morris Agency, "the oldest, richest and stodgiest of Hollywood talent agencies is undergoing a seismic shift not unlike what’s happening beneath the San Andreas Fault."

Randy Kennedy profiles not an individual celeb, but a company, Plum Pictures, run by three women and "also a model for a new wave of independent movie companies: anchored resolutely in New York, attracted to youthful, offbeat material and also comfortable shuttling between tiny-budget art movies and expensive, more conservative studio projects." Also in the New York Times, Frank Rich on how, in the wake of November 2, Kinsey has become "a bellwether cultural event of this year."

Jonathan Freedland on The Merchant of Venice: "It's clear that director Michael Radford does not want to make an anti-semitic film. But he has big two problems. The first is the play. The second is the medium."

Also in the Guardian:

The Austin Chronicle's not quite finished suggesting DVDs to give to your beloved and befriended. Also: Marjorie Baumgarten reviews Graydon Carter and David Friend's coffee table book, Oscar Night: 75 Years of Hollywood Parties and Joe O'Connell notes that Warner Bros has optioned "the entire run" of Piers Anthony's 29-title Xanth series.

For indieWIRE, Wendy Mitchell interviews Born Into Brothels filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. And via the indieWIRE Insider, the BBC's Saibal Chatterjee unveils news of Mira Nair's next film. It'll be "based on The Namesake, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jhumpa Lahiri's novel about the Bengali expatriate community in Boston.... Like the book, which deals with a Bengali emigre family that left the shores of India in the 1960s, Nair's film will be located in both Calcutta and New York."

Online listening tip. "The Voice of Vince," radio shows hosted by Vincent Price. A new feature at The Crime in Your Coffee, via filmtagebuch.

Online viewing tip. Let's end, too, with a laugh, shall we? The Napoleon Dynamite holiday e-card, via Movie City Indie.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:05 AM | Comments (3)

December 8, 2004

Shorts, 12/8.

The Yakuza Papers John Behling has a crackling good piece in the City Pages on Kinji Fukasaku's epic series, The Yakuza Papers, in which "every shootout... plays like an A-bomb aftershock, every yakuza war like a reflection of postwar imperialist politics."

Also:

  • Amy Taubin on Arna's Children, "not a wise film, but it is an absolutely necessary one."

  • Taking a cue from Andrew Sarris (you'll have to let him explain), Rob Nelson chats up himself. The topic is the current batch of holiday movies and he does bring out the best in himself in an entertaining sort of way.

  • "A Couch Potato's Guide to TV on DVD." It's big.

IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez reports from the International Film Festival Summit.

In the New York Times:

  • Some have found Closer anachronistic; Caryn James would disagree, particularly when it comes to the subject of infidelity, "one of the year's hottest topics." Joe Leydon's take: "It isn't a movie you like. But I would very much like to see it again."

  • Manohla Dargis answers readers' questions. Movie City News is reminded of her "Ask Manohla" column at the Los Angeles Times; wouldn't it be terrific if the NYT could find a format that would allow its full-fledged return?

  • David Carr reminds us that, "While Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton remain better known, [Harold] Lloyd outgrossed both combined. But his legacy has been buried, partly because he would not allow his movies to be sliced and diced to accommodate television commercials." There's a concerted effort underway to revive that legacy - the films, of course, but also Lloyd's photography, beginning with the release of Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3D.

In an accident of timing, Edward McPherson, author of the forthcoming Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat, snaps back in his review of the new two-disc Buster Keaton Collection, arguing that Keaton was "darker than wholesome Harold Lloyd, less sentimental than hammy Charlie Chaplin and a hell of a lot funnier than both." Also in the New York Observer: Rex Reed and Andrew Sarris have both enjoyed The Aviator, but for different reasons.

Besides forever tweaking lists of the greatest films of all time, cinephiles also love to argue about which year was the best in cinematic history. The argument will go on forever, but point a gun at all our heads at once, and we'd probably agree to settle on 1939. Which also happens to be year the Bridge Theatre opened in San Francisco. To celebrate its 65th anniversary, it's launching a series of vintage '39 films beginning on Friday. In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Cheryl Eddy previews the offerings; but what she's really excited about is Blade: Trinity.

The Phantom Museum

Meanwhile, Dennis Harvey is anticipating a double feature at the Red Vic Movie House: Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee and, from the Brothers Quay, The Phantom Museum.

Also: Robert Avila is impressed by Yoav Shamir's Checkpoint, which documents roadblocks manned by Israeli soldiers set up not just along Israel's borders but between Palestinian towns as well: "[T]he checkpoints represent all by themselves a severe restriction on the ordinary day-to-day movement of more than three million people. This quotidian nightmare makes for undeniably riveting cinema in Shamir's hands."

That lucky fellow Matt Langdon has caught a screening of Wong Kar-wai's 2046. "And it wafts through the air as light as cigarette smoke yet it mezmerizes and pulls the viewer in with its seductive pace."

NP Thompson on a film he wasn't exactly looking forward to: "Yet my fears of slow torture were unfounded. The Sea Inside marks a tremendous leap forward for [Alejandro] Amenábar as a director to watch."

Doug Cummings on Welles's It's All True; especially Four Men in a Raft, which "at once seems like a visually dynamic elaboration of a Robert J Flaherty film... and a proto-neorealist fable comprised of photogenic locals and working class heroics."

Guardian blogger Jon Dennis rounds up the going political interpretations of The Incredibles. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker's blog, which is currently on another great run.

Online viewing tip #1. Greg Allen writes: "When I saw this link the other day, I didn't click on it. Execution couldn't be any funnier than the concept, I figured. Boy, was I wrong." Dubyamovie.com.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Seijun Suzuki's Princess Racoon (select your preferred format from that link). Via that essential daily, Twitch.

Online viewing tip #3. Approximations/Contradictions, by Ana Torfs. A stunning contrast between minimal design and the sincere, concentrated passion it can barely contain. 21 performers sing one song each from Hanns Eisler's Hollywood Songbook. Introduction by Sara Tucker. Via Net Art News.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM | Comments (1)

Sitges Dispatch. 5.

Juan Manuel Freire at Sitges.

The Birthday Yesterday's most discussed film was Eugenio Mira's The Birthday, a rather poor film for some, almost a masterpiece for others. My five cents? Sadly, I have to say my expectations were high for Mira's debut - his well-known short, "Fade," was a milestone for the format in this country - and they weren't exactly fulfilled. Featuring Corey Feldman in the main role, and a rather cool American look that blends the 40s with the present, the film tells the curious story of a neurotic man who nervously comes to his fiancée's father's birthday party and finds, well, the end of the world, more or less. The story could have been told within a single episode of Twilight Zone. But Mira spends more than an hour of his comedy-horror - which runs to 117 minutes - developing situations that pack few laughs and few thrills. The payoff is a bit funny, a bit thrilling, but it doesn't make up for an hour and a half of derivation. Hopefully, Mira, who can shoot with musical, stylish flair, will do far better in the future.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:54 AM

December 7, 2004

Shorts, 12/7.

London Fields Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay pointed out all the delicious stuff that'd been posted at Muse Films by producer Chris Hanley. The story Scott tells is terrific and the accompanying link to Roberta Hanley's screenplay for an adaptation of Martin Amis's London Fields, to be directed by David Cronenberg no less, is worth a read as well.

KEITH TALENT
Bereavement, innit. Still. God?
Get her a brandy. She needs it! What's your name, sweetheart?

NICOLA SIX
Nicola Six.

KEITH TALENT
Sex!

NICOLA SIX
Actually it's Six. S-I-X.

KEITH TALENT
Seeks! Relax, Nicky. We get all sorts
in here. (Calling out to Guy) Hey,
Cock! Dead posh! Guy! High society,
innit. Come and be introduced.

Among the other heady pieces in the new issue of Invisible Culture, you'll find Alanna Thain's "Funny How Secrets Travel: David Lynch's Lost Highway."

For Movie City News, Emanuel Levy, author of Cinema of Outsiders (which I very much enjoyed) and All About Oscar (haven't caught up with that one), assesses Martin Scorsese's chances at scoring an Oscar this year for The Aviator. In depth. More? Check his site for his across-the-board predictions.

David Thomson in the Independent: "I'm sure that Closer is the film of the year for me."

IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez talks to a couple of Sundance programmers about their selection of 82 shorts out of the 3887 submitted.

Outlook India's Namrata Joshi looks ahead to Ashutosh Gowariker's long-awaited follow-up to Lagaan. For Swades, Gowariker "has again chosen an unusual, if entirely relevant, subject for a mainstream film: returning NRIs." Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Blood and Bones

Best Japanese film of the year? The other day, in Screen Daily, Mark Schilling wrote that it's Yoichi Sai's Blood and Bones (no longer viewable to us who don't have a subscription, but trust me, that's what the guy said). Now, in Time Asia, Ilya Garger and Michiko Toyama concur. Via Movie City Indie.

You may remember mention of filmmaker Duraid Munajim back when he was blogging from IDFA in Amsterdam. Well, now he's in the Dominican Republic, shooting with a camera he seems pleased with, the A-Cam SP-16. Even if it whines, it looks dreadfully cool.

"It's happening," writes Chuck Olsen. "What blogging does for print journalism, podcasting does for radio and videoblogging does for TV. It's rough around the edges, it's unpredictable, it's real. And it's putting the means of media production into the hands of the peoples."

Speaking of working around conventional means of distribution (lousy segue, sorry; best not to try at all), Todd Booth describes the unique route of Olive or Twist? to its select audience.

In the New York Times, Doreen Carvajal checks up on the state of pocket-size viewing: "The increasing power of cellphones is fast shaping innovative forms of compact culture: micro-lit, phone soap operas and made-for-mobile dramas that can be absorbed in less time than it takes to flick through a book introduction." Also: Dave Kehr on a few of this week's notable DVD releases.

In the Village Voice, Jorge Morales previews the "Spanish Cinema Now" series at the Walter Reade, and so does Saul Austerlitz in the New York Press.

Also in the Voice:

A Talking Picture

The AFP reports that some of "the finest noses in the French wine world" are furious at Jonathan Nossiter for his claim in Mondovino that "they are complicit in the American-led homogenisation of world tastes and the steady destruction of France's centuries-old tradition of 'terroir'." Via the indieWIRE Insider.

Though 2004 undeniably turned out to be the "year of the doc," a few worthy entries have nevertheless missed out on the spotlight. Steven Rosen writes up a reminder.

Jazz your jazz? The cinetrix's found a site for you.

Imagine going to jail for telling a joke. If the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill becomes law in Britain, it could, in theory, happen, which is why, as Toby Helm reports in the Telegraph, Rowan Atkinson is leading a campaign against it: "The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression."

Online viewing tip. A little reminder from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Via Todd at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:03 PM

CinemaTexas Notes

Ah, memories. In a message fwd'd to SCREEN-L, Louis Black, now the editor of the Austin Chronicle, introduces a new resource, CinemaTexas Notes.

CinemaTexas Notes

From around 1970 through the 80s CINEMATEXAS was a graduate-student-run film society at UT-Austin that showed films in conjunction with courses being taught in the Department of Radio-Television-Film.... For each film a set of notes was written, distributed and printed [that would be "printed and distributed," but never mind]. These were written by graduate students, many of whom have gone on to write, teach and/or make movies. The classics were covered as were many major auteur titles. But some films almost no one has written on were also included.

And he lists several, most of which I don't recall at all. But see, before moving on to the English Dept and grad school, I was an RTF undergrad at UT in the early 80s. I remember these notes. [*Fond sigh.*] Whether or not they rouse wistful recollections for you, too, you can download them, but be forewarned: They come at you as PDF files (so as to preserve that antique hand-typed atmo), volumes that can run up to 80 pages and 6 or 7 MB.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:27 PM

Turner Prize. 04.

Jeremy Deller's Memory Bucket: A Film About Texas has taken this year's Turner Prize. In the New York Times, Carol Vogel writes that the work "focuses on two politically charged locations: the site of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco and President Bush's hometown of Crawford. Mr. Deller is best known for The Battle of Orgreave, a film he created with the director Mike Figgis that recreated clashes between the police and picketers during Britain's 1984 miner's strike."

Deller: History

From Deller's The History of the World

In the Guardian, Maev Kennedy notes that the announcement is hardly a surprise: "Even the losers don't have a word to say against the winner." Elizabeth Mahoney is happy, too: "The unpredictable way that he works, and the sometimes playful, sometimes darkly serious work that he produces, suit these bewildering days.... Accessible and yet intelligent, touching and frequently hilarious, Deller's art is always involving." Last week, Tania Branigan profiled the artist; and Jonathan Jones has been pulling for him for a while, too.

What's remarkable is how many of the finalists have made use of film and video. Memory Bucket even made Chrissie Iles's list of top ten films of 2004 in Artforum. The Tate describes Turkish artist Kutlug Altman's work: "His films reveal the complex texture of memory and imagination, truth and fantasy, which composes our understanding of everyday life. They are deliberately modest in technique, retaining the immediacy of home movies despite being presented as multi-screen, multi-layered installations."

Langlands & Bell's The House of Osama Bin Laden is an interactive animation and Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare presented his first film this year, Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball).

Little wonder, then, that past Turner winner Tracey Emin recently decided it was time to make a movie.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:44 PM

The Life Aquatic.

The first reviews of Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou are coming in. In fact, they're piling up fast. Better siphon them off to their own little entry...

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

  • Michael Koresky heads up the Reverse Shot collection of initial reactions at indieWIRE, with responses to his take by Karen Wilson and Michael Joshua Rowin. For Koresky, Aquatic "seems more like the work of a filmmaker who has begun to believe too much in his own cult status; almost as if in parodic response to the perceived threat of his increasingly hermeticized movie worlds, his latest candy-colored concoction of lost boys and broken homes moves inexorably toward an even more airless setting: a submarine."

  • Armond White likes it. Writing in the New York Press, he explains why, for him, it beats recent works from fellow "American Eccentrics," Alexander Payne's Sideways and David O Russell's I ♥ Huckabees, points out that Anderson knows well to incorporate the privileged background of all "AE"'s, breaks to yelp "Billmurray! Billmurray!" and concludes: "Anderson's obsession has genuine, daffy substance."

  • Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice: "[Y]ou get a taste of fin de siècle cheese tangy enough to inspire a hunger for a film that lets the antique beauty bloom. Anderson's new film doesn't, quite; it's a collage of half-measures."

  • Jean Oppenheimer in Screen Daily: "[D]espite its numerous charms, The Life Aquatic can't match either the cockeyed winsomeness or the perfectly balanced blend of comedy and melancholy that made Rushmore Anderson’s most satisfying work."

Heather Havrilesky, who finds the film's got "enough of the standard Anderson charms to distract you from some of the movie's shortcomings," interviews Anderson, who confesses, "I would kill for a good review in the New York Times, just once, because I always get something pretty mixed. Or, in the case of The Royal Tenenbaums, terrible."

The Cinecultist has also interviewed Anderson - for the Gothamist: "It's definitely not something people say to my face. Or rather they say, 'He wants to be thought of as an auteur.' It's a way that I might be described if I'm not in the room."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

Sitges Dispatch. 4.

From Juan Manuel Freire at the Sitges Film Festival:

Sitges The festival is in full swing. One morning, 10 am, the same hour some are trying to come to terms with Lucile Hadzihalilovic's one-of-a-kind Innocence, Guillermo Del Toro gives a charming master class in which he yearns for a more juvenile and active film criticism, one with a greater respect for popcorn films.

While this dialogue between the Mexican director and a thousand fanboys carries on, Brad Anderson's psychological thriller The Machinist is shown to a Spanish audience for the first time. The director and the vast majority of cast is from US, and the film's spoken in perfect English, but this is essentially a Spanish production, backed by the Castelao and Filmax production houses and staffed with a crew of Spanish professionals. And what a production, I must say. The Machinist features beautiful cinematography by Xavi Giménez, precise editing by Luis de la Madrid and great score by Roque Baños. They all contribute to make the film a memorable aesthetic experience.

Indeed, along with Oldboy, The Machinist (despite its painfully unsuccessful US release prior to its screening at Sitges) is one of the favorites for the awards. It seems this is not the case for two British films which also premiered yesterday in competition - John Simpson's Freeze Frame, which didn't win many over with its chaotic mixture of textures serving as an obvious visual metaphor for its main character's feelings of paranoia, and Michael Winterbottom's Code 46, whose existential flair some critics and viewers interpreted as mere pedantry.

Maribito / Samaria

I reserved the night to see two very different films from parallel sections. In the Noves Visions zone, Takashi Shimizu's Marebito, which ruined what could have been a nice night with its unbearable philosophical rumblings on fear. But in the Seven Chances zone, critics' week, Kim Ki-duk's Samaritan Girl - a crude but beautiful tale of troubled souls in search of an inner stability, only marred by those cheap shocks that the Korean filmmaker should learn to avoid. They make him look like Takashi Miike, whose Izô bored everyone to death who was exposed to it yesterday.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:15 AM

December 6, 2004

Midnight Eye. 12/04.

The news Midnight Eye editors and writers Tom Mes and Jaspar Sharp seem most excited about is the imminent release of the Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. And understandably so, what with a blurb like this one from Donald Richie: "All you need to know about the cutting edge of the new Japanese film - genre animated, inventive and imaginative, violent and cool... a cinema that has reinvented itself."

Kawamoto Otherwise, the emphasis this issue is on Japanese animation, starting with Sharp's interview with Kihachiro Kawamoto, "a pioneer in the neglected field of stop motion puppet animation." Kawamoto was already over 40 when he met Czech animator Jiri Trnka, "and only then did I begin to understand everything there was about the puppet world." Now, nearing 80, he's working on a feature, "a long-term dream," A Book of a Dead Person (Shisha no Sho).

Michael Arnold: "[G]lobalization or no, the anime boom has been in the works for decades."

Reviews:

  • Sharp on Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, "neither markedly better nor worse than any of his brilliant previous works. Neither particularly similar nor radically different, it is a film that can, and no doubt will, be savoured again and again, revealing different aspects to different people upon different viewings."

  • Arnold on Satoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers, which "tries unsuccessfully to take sides instead of artfully running circles around the imaginary boundaries that Miyazaki, Otomo and Oshii have so skillfully exploited."

  • Mes on Suzuki Matsuo's Koi No Mon, which "revolves around the turbulent romantic push and pull between a pair of manga-obsessed nerds... quite a few people's definition of two hours of fun."

And then, Sharp's roundup of a few of the highlights of the 17th Tokyo International Film Festival (October 23 -31).

Posted by dwhudson at 9:10 AM

Shorts, 12/6.

In the New Yorker, Woody Allen imagines Mickey Mouse in the witness stand: "Dumbo felt that Donald Duck should talk to Mr. Eisner about our concerns because Mr. Eisner always seemed to listen to Donald. As he put it, Donald was 'one of the deepest ducks he'd ever met.' The two spent a lot of time together in Donald's pond."

Mickey Mouse: A Star

While "there is no doubt that the realm of accepted theories in film studies is already so crowded and broad as to be almost unmanageable," writes Brian E Butler, reviewing Thomas Elsaesser and Warren Buckland's Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis for Film-Philosophy (and his breathless list of ongoing theories is [probably intentionally] hilarious if read in the right frame of mind),

in film theory there is one line of thought specifically developed in reference to American film that appears to be amazingly consistent and held across many of the otherwise divergent theories. As put in Studying Contemporary American Film, there is a "broad underlying assumption" of many, if not all, theories and methods of film analysis, and this has been an agreement that "the purpose of Hollywood story-telling is to disguise the ideological contradictions of contemporary capitalist society and to enforce patriarchal values in the form of normative heterosexuality."

Robert Margolis At the Gothamist, Mindy Bond and Raphie Frank interview Robert Margolis, whose new film, The Definition of Insanity, is a pseudo-doc about a fictional character, an actor wannabe, whose name also happens to be Robert Margolis. Bond and Frank note that, although the film has won awards at two of the three festivals it's entered, it hasn't made it into the Sundance lineup. Margolis is sanguine about it, though:

It's the marketing platform for films in the US and as it grows it becomes much more market-driven, not unlike the rest of our culture. So you can't exactly blame them.... Smaller films like ours have to rely more on a grass roots/guerilla marketing campaign & word-of-mouth.

Indeed; we need to be cultivating new seeding grounds. At any rate, that's via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Coming soon to the Lyric Opera in Chicago (where, by the way, the Festival of New French Cinema is running through December 12): A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman and based, of course, on the comedy I remember fondly (though it's been years). The local papers are all over it. Via Movie City Indie, Paul Engleman's piece in the Chicago Tribune, and via Movie City News, Roger Ebert's in the Chicago Sun-Times.

By the way, the latest addition to Ebert's "Great Movies" collection: Fanny and Alexander. In his most recent column for Movie Poop Shoot, DK Holm, an especially strong one, what with that section on Welles, he reminds readers of Ebert's positive, populist qualities: "[H]e is always on the side of the viewer in his causes."

Anyway, via MCN, news that the New York Press has found the rest of Armond White's cover feature after all, his version of "Film 101: A Syllabus for Life, complete with recommended readings."

Film is "a medium that's never quite known what to do with unmarried characters other than marry them off. Or kill them," writes Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe. Via the cinetrix.

Good stuff via Twitch: A trailer for the Tetsujin-28 feature (known stateside as Gigantor), a new site for Beowulf & Grendel, shot on remote locations along the southern coast of Iceland, and the first pix from Memoirs of a Geisha.

Flying Boys New at Koreanfilm.org: Darcy Paquet on The Coachman, "the first Korean film to win a major overseas award, taking home the Silver Bear (Special Jury Prize) from the 1961 Berlin International Film Festival," and on Flying Boys (site), the new film from Byun Young-joo with which she "commits herself further to making genre films that are audience-oriented, while refusing to compromise her personal ideals." And Adam Hartzell reviews another film from a woman director, Kim Eun-sook's first feature, Ice Rain.

"Gedogen" - "The word translates as a kind of pragmatic tolerance - legislating to put up with something - which is probably a necessary outlook when you live, as it were, in your neighbour's face." Despite the undeniable contributions of the concept/policy, in one form or another, to the flourishing of both the culture and economy of the Netherlands over centuries, maintaining it may simply no longer be feasible. Andrew Anthony surveys the Dutch political and social landscape in the wake of the murder of Theo van Gogh.

Also in the Observer:

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Newsweek's Sean Smith charts the bumpy road that eventually led to the making of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Also, wondering out loud what the point of making Beyond the Sea could be, David Ansen spars lightly with Kevin Spacey.

Then, Ansen again: "Ocean's Twelve is busier, messier and thinner than its predecessor, and while it looks like the cast is having a blast and a half, the studied hipness can get so pleased with itself it borders on the smug." And for Time, Joel Stein admires George Clooney, who'll be making Good Night and Good Luck, pitting Edward R Murrow against Joseph McCarthy.

In the run-up to the release of Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera, the Guardian's Stuart Jeffries interviews Andrew Lloyd Webber.

New York's Logan Hill chats with Willem Dafoe.

Wendy Mitchell's piece on the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is now up at indieWIRE.

Roger Avary describes what sounds like a terrificly fun movie; what's more: "I'm a film purist, but when I see what Robert [Brinkmann] was able to achieve for pocket change, and how good it looked, I was taken aback. Digital projection has come of age, and when these projectors go mainstream, and are in your local multiplex... well, I think the writing is on the wall."

Online viewing tip. Brian Flemming introduces it best: "A short called 'Stories Untold," which shows doc filmmakers explaining in their own words what it is like to attempt to make films about our culture when that culture is owned - and the owners are, by turns, capricious, extortionate or unavailable."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:12 AM

December 5, 2004

Buenos Aires brouhaha.

Quintín A few days ago, Andrew James Horton mentioned that, towards the end of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, "a petition was circulating in protest of the removal of Eduardo Antín from his job as director of the Buenos Aires Film Festival [the official site seems to be down at the moment], despite his internationally recognized success at raising the profile of Argentinean cinema."

In case you were wondering what all that's about - and if you hadn't been wondering, you may well find the whole story far more interesting that it might seem at first glance - Cinema Scope has just posted Leonardo D'Esposito's interview with Antín (also known as Quintín) wherein he explains what's happened as he's experienced it and adds: "What worries me most is the authoritarianism of a government that claims to be progressive. I feel offended as a citizen, and it is my duty to make it public."

The petition Andrew mentioned is being circulated among critics, programmers and filmmakers and will appear in the January issue of Cahiers du cinéma.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:52 PM

Sitges Dispatch. 3.

More from Juan Manuel Freire at the Sitges Film Festival.

Appleseed The "Anima't" section gave us a gift yesterday. Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed is an incredible adaptation of Masamune Shirow's classic manga, previously translated to big screen by Katayama in 1988. Aramaki's version surpasses the old one, rising to the level of Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The impossible, incomprehensible density of its screenplay doesn't matter too much when you're in front of such cutting-edge visuals. Entirely shot on 3D, frantic and infinite, the new Appleseed presents inventive action in an inventive way and reminds viewers why they came to love cinema in first place.

The same can be said, really, about Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, the famous ultraviolent thriller that took Sitges by storm yesterday. It was the most sought-after ticket of the festival, and it'll be the most talked-about film once the festival wraps. It should take all the awards with it. By comparison, Johnnie To's Breaking News isn't much - but To's combination of action flick and meditation on the power of media deserves special attention for its transparency, its honesty and, as always with To, its effortless grace.

If Appleseed and Oldboy are reminders of the curative powers of motion pictures, then The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things reminds us that not just anyone ought to be allowed to pick up a camera. Adapted from the works of JT Leroy, Asia Argento's second feature after Scarlet Diva pretends to portray the other side of American dream in a sympathetic, natural, realistic mode, but it's just an offensive atrocity exhibition with no apparent point at all. Simply said, turkey.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:50 PM

December 4, 2004

Scope. Nov 04.

Scope "[R]ecording people's hitherto undocumented memories to 'recreate going to the pictures when film was the great social habit'" - that's one of the recent turns film studies has taken, writes Helen Richards in the new issue of Scope, leaning on a phrase from Enter the Dream House by Margaret O'Brian and Allen Eyles. Contacting a few dozen folks getting on in years in the South Wales town of Bridgend, Richards contributes a study to the pool.

Taking science fiction films made over the past three decades or so, Lincoln Geraghty and Rebecca Janicker "track the progress of the alien - how it was portrayed and what it represents - in relation to the shifting signs of the times."

Dead Ringers Juliana de Nooy and Bronwyn Statham examine "recent horror films featuring male conjoined twins" in part to show that "existing work on the representation of the body in contemporary horror only partially explains the emergence of this phenomenon, and that the pattern needs to be understood as a highly specific configuration of genre (horror), gender (male) and topos (conjoined twins) that lends itself to the rehearsal of a cultural anxiety regarding gender (male maternity)."

Coral Houtman: "What I hope to show is that the narration in The Sixth Sense serves a consistent aesthetic, and its very unreliability at the level of plot demonstrates a deeper coherence functioning at the level of character psychology, motivated by the film's self-conscious understanding and use of psychoanalysis."

And then, the fun parts. Thirteen book reviews and ten film reviews, plus four conference reports.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:24 PM

Sitges Dispatch. 2.

Juan Manuel Freire sends word from the Sitges Film Festival.

Primer Great ambitions, hard work. Two titles just screened strive to match the high objectives of the Sitges official section with varying degrees of success. Shane Carruth's Primer is an original take on time travel which transforms its economic limitations into virtues and demonstrates the sky's the only limit when you've got extraordinary talent - this movie is a true revelation you must have already read about a lot in these pages. Otherwise, Jonathan Glazer's Birth, though made by a filmmaker with an eye for fascinating images, sinks at times under the weight of its own self-importance, with long shots offering short interest and annoying string music acting as an obvious counterpart to icy exposition. However, like Primer, it shows an attention to sound design that is difficult to find in most contemporary films, Lynch aside. One fine idea, for example: the use of a kind of disco beat to make the internal tension of static characters clearer. Maybe this was already done successfully by Michael Giacchino on Alias, but it thrilled me again. It worked.

Great ambitions, great yawns, sometimes. As you can see, not every film here is exactly lighter than air, but tonight there's Seed of Chucky.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:21 PM

Weekend shorts.

BB On the eve of a screening of Cameron Jamie's BB in LA, Michael Joseph Gross relates the brief history of the cult following: "Gary Indiana wrote that the film's 'complex choreography of injury' has 'the visceral effect of a classical drama.' ... Accompanied by the Melvins, BB has played to packed houses in Europe about 20 times in the last three years. Mr. Jamie, who described the score as 'rock music of monolithic, Wagnerian proportions,' no longer allows the film to be shown unless the band performs with it."

Also in the New York Times:

  • "These days no one does glamour better than Chinese filmmakers." Manohla Dargis traces the end of glamour in Hollywood and its subsequent rise in post-Cultural Revolution China.

  • Sean Elder moderates a conversation between Alvin Rosenfeld, "who worked with [Bruno] Bettelheim and shares his belief that children's entertainment loses its moral dimension if it is overly sanitized," and Brad Silberling, who's directed Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

  • Alessandra Stanley on The Life and Death of Peter Sellers: "Why is Hollywood so addicted to making movies about Hollywood, despite all the evidence indicating that biopics about movie stars almost always flop? And why is our culture so intent on cannibalizing the pop-culture past?" Regardless, Salon's Heather Havrilesky finds that this one "expertly and imaginatively captures the joyful, horrible, fantastical world of a unique comic genius who was anything but simple and boring."

  • Felicia Fasano: "Is [Hilary] Swank, now 30, becoming trapped in the he-she ghetto of Hollywood? Given her looks and range, that doesn't need to happen. Here's what I, as a casting professional, would like to see Ms. Swank do..."

  • Sarah Vowell: "The Godfather is not only a perfect movie; it has become one of America's sacred texts; it should be running on a loop at the National Archives between the Declaration of Independence and a first edition of Leaves of Grass..... The Godfather Returns is not only a real book by a real writer. It's also a real pleasure, a fine, swirling epic - bitter, touching, funny and true."

Chung Kuo, Michelangelo Antonioni's four-hour documentary shot in China in 1972, has just been given its first public screening there. Geoffrey York explains in the Globe and Mail. Via Movie City News.

Five Guardian regulars name seven films and one director everyone is supposed to be just nuts about - only, they aren't. At all. Charlie Brooker kicks things off by committing the cardinal sin of finding The Godfather "a bit slow, isn't it?"

Tale of Crow Also: John Patterson hopes Natalie Portman won't give up acting for a career in medicine and Andrew Pulver picks his adaptation of the week: John Huston's The Dead.

For PopMatters, Scott Thill interviews Bill Plympton.

Online viewing tip. The odd little films of Doron Golan.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:17 PM

December 3, 2004

Finding Sitges.

The Sitges Film Festival has just opened in Catalonia and Juan Manuel Freire is there.

Sitges Here we are again, folks. Sitges strikes back and we're happy to be hurt. Surprised. Thrilled. Even disappointed. This must be one of the few festivals in the world where even bad movies are good - they pack just enough cheap thrills to keep our inner geek awake, to entertain us in all their badness. But this year's edition of the fantastic film festival, running from December 2 through 11, looks stunning, leaning less on the so-bad-they're-good films and more on the so-good-they're-heavenly ones. The event will feature the cream of the crop of recent fantastic motion pictures in its Official Section, as well as a showing of all-time great European titles in a new space: Imaginary Europe. Tributes, retrospectives and special sessions complete a program that should make any film-lover swoon.

In addition, the festival welcomes the Star Wars Conference, the greatest event related to George Lucas's creation ever organized in Europe. No fewer than 5000 fans of the mythic series are expected to take in exhibitions, conferences and a special marathon screening. Steve Sansweet, LucasFilm's main PR man, will accept the honorary award, The General, granted by the direction of the festival, in the name of workaholic Lucas.

Yesterday, opening day, the festival offered excellent viewing, though the best is yet to come. The honor of inaugurating the festival was given to the dramatically flawed but visually fascinating Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, while Hayao Miyazaki's animated fantasy, Howl's Moving Castle opened the competitive section with a stunning array of poetic inventions. Special sessions hosted the entire Infernal Affairs trilogy, the posh Spanish spoof El asombroso mundo de Borjamari y Pocholo, a kind of Zoolander with Spanish points of reference, and the unclassifiable Chilean film Promedio rojo. More to come.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:33 PM

Lists, awards and shorts.

Artforum: December 04 Always one of the more interesting collections of top tens, Artforum's is now up: John Waters (his top of the tops is Tarnation; "scarily original"), Amy Taubin (Before Sunset; "a perfect movie"), James Quandt (The World; "Baudrillard goes to Beijing"), Chrissie Iles (Five; "masterpiece") and Jonathan Romney (Innocence; "echoes of Buñuel, Balthus, Borowczyk and Angela Carter"). Now if only Frieze could get that recent issue with Romney's piece on mainstream cinema's appropriation of avant techniques up some day.

IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez: "For this final look at IDFA '04 we offer a highly subjective list of just fifteen films. We've assembled a sampling of the best films we saw, alongside a few that had attendees buzzing and debating during the event. They are presented here in alphabetical order." Brian Brooks snaps the pix. Also at iW: Led by Ken Chen this week, the Reverse Shot team takes on House of Flying Daggers.

Movie City News lists the winners of the Gotham Awards; Sideways, which Craig Phillips is giving more thought to lately, won best feature; Jonathan Demme's The Agronomist took best doc and Maria Full of Grace did quite well, scoring two "Breakthrough" awards, one each for director Joshua Marston and actor Catalina Sandino Moreno.

New Yorker Films iW's Hernandez parses the full list and adds that the "greatest drama of the evening" came as Dan Talbot of New Yorker Films "boldly ignored tele-prompting and read from a lengthy text in accepting his award, detailing the history of his own career and thanking many people, all live on television.... [T]he extended remarks had planners scrambling, but planners wisely let Talbot speak uninterrupted."

Anthony Kaufman adds that the speech showed "what independent film is really about: it's not about awards ceremonies, celebrities, or miniature portions of haute-cuisine - it's about a crotchety, old, white die-hard liberal championing the works of African filmmaking luminary Ousmeme Sembene and stumping for a system in the US akin to France's tax on film tickets that goes to fund indie filmmakers. Too bad so few people were listening." But if the comments following that entry are any indication, some are, and they like what they're hearing, too. James Israel's got photos of the post-ceremony festivities.

Back at MCN, Leonard Klady considers the Indie Spirit Awards "The guidelines the IFP give its selection committee have historically created more problems than they have resolved. The budget of a movie for instance should reflect 'an economy of means.' It's one of those euphemisms that translate into: what the market perception will bear."

Oldboy Park Chan-wook's Old Boy did very well indeed at the Korean Film Society's Critics Choice Awards. Via Mack at Twitch, where Todd has the first image from Park's Sympathy for a Lady.

Meanwhile, at Koreanfilm.org, two new reviews: Adam Hartzell on Im Kwon-taek's The Genealogy, an important aspect of which is the "mutual respect conveyed towards a Japanese," and Darcy Paquet on Park Kwang-su's Chilsu and Mansu, "a bold attempt" in its day "to mix popular and political cinema."

For Filmmaker, Danny Schlechter writes about the making of his WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception: "Only independent film offered the promise of a platform that could document and challenge the betrayal of journalism I was detailing."

George Fasel on Notre Musique: "I wouldn’t be surprised to see the old fire-breathing Godard back on the ramparts, but this latest work reveals dimensions of his thinking, and of himself, that represent a very satisfying New New Godard."

Filmbrain on Fear and Trembling: "Regardless of whether or not you find the film racist, offensive, or simply exaggerated for comic effect, it is the dependency on and overuse of voiceover that ultimately destroys it."

The cinetrix descends on Manhattan and catches Days of Being Wild: "When it ended, the cinetrix drifted into the lobby, still rapt by the slumberland sensuousness that only the best movies can immerse you in."

Friday Review: Al Pacino Simon Hattenstone spends some time with Al Pacino and neither of them ever gets around to saying much of anything, really. Emma Brockes, on the other hand, manages to well and truly piss off Tracey Emin, who returns the favor.

Also in the Guardian: Blue state, red state. Cheech and Chong are planning their first movie in 20 years, so John Patterson pays them a visit; he also explains to British readers back home what in the world it is about Kinsey that has so many US right-wingers riled up. Plus: Andrew Pulver introduces the young and the restless of the British film industry.

"'Christmas with the Kranks will be my last movie.' she says, as casually as if she was asking, 'One lump or two?'" Tiffany Rose passes on the bad news from Jamie Lee Curtis, doubly cruel, considering her choice for a swan song. Also in the Independent: Matthew Sweet interviews Neve Campbell, Roger Clarke tells how that Dance of Death scene at the end of The Seventh Seal came about and Geoffrey Macnab previews a Robert Hamer retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London: "After the peak of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), arguably the greatest Ealing comedy of all, it was a long, slow slide downwards."

Henry Rollins, film critic? Why not. Henry's Film Corner premieres tomorrow on IFC.

Fool's Errand Wendy Mitchell announces the launch of the iVillage Daily Blabber: "Watch your back, Ted Casablanca!"

Online viewing tip. Evan Mather: "Drawing upon the Korean penchant for elaborate public art, 'A Fool's Errand' documents the construction of a recent installation by artists to celebrate the season of Lent and the temporal nature of decay."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:22 PM

December 2, 2004

Rushes and shorts.

The Life & Death of Peter Sellers Over time, I've learned to schedule tedious spam-deleting sessions during some online radio program. Last night, the program of choice was Elvis Mitchell's chat with Geoffrey Rush. The topic at hand, for the most part, of course, was The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, premiering Sunday on HBO. By all accounts, whatever reviewers think of the film itself, all agree that Rush is terrific as the disturbed and disturbing comic virtuoso.

A few minutes in, I found myself thinking: Geoffrey Rush sounds a bit like John Lennon. A few minutes later, I thought, no, Rush sounds a lot like Lennon. Or at least he could. Piece of cake. Sure enough, Mitchell and Rush's conversation eventually steered to Lennon. And this morning, I find that, expressing his extremely mixed reactions to Life & Death, James Wolcott, too, can help but wander into lingering thoughts on Lennon.

So how could this be arranged? Rush is 53. Lennon was 40 when he was shot dead. "Had Lennon Lived"? "John Lennon: Live from Purgatory"? Screenwriters: Have at it. Don't bother to credit me, either. (As a matter of fact, please don't.)

To the shorts. First up, Ella Taylor:

Few nations have been as efficient a builder of giant corporations as the United States, and no other culture has grown as robust a hatred and mistrust - or expressed its hostility more floridly in movies - of those same institutions. Hollywood's obsessive love-hate relationship with business and bureaucracy has a long and complex history.

Ressources humaines And, from Modern Times to The Incredibles, she sketches that history, pointing out along the way that "American pop culture's antipathy toward business is for the most part curiously abstract and unspecific," while it's been up to European filmmakers to explore "the quotidian rhythms of labor, or the workplace's tumultuous emotional significance in a time of rapid socioeconomic change."

Great to see a solid piece like that appear without any immediately visible tie-in to a currently traveling press junket.

Also in the LA Weekly:

Well, it looks like every alt.weekly is going to do a holiday DVDs-as-gifts guide. No doubt they're fun to do. Free review copies, hours on the couch in the name of "work." Today's comes from the Austin Chronicle and the choices are anything but predictable.

Also:

"I'm in a zombie movie," writes an enthralled Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today. "Not just any zombie movie, but Land of the Dead, directed and written by a man who has done more for the deceased than embalming fluid, Forest Lawn and HBO's Six Feet Under put together. To be in a George Romero zombie film, his first in almost 20 years, is like being in a Clint Eastwood Western or a Martin Scorsese gangster epic. It doesn't get much better than this." Via Movie City News.

Since he couldn't readily find Bertolucci's The Conformist on tape or DVD, Jonathan Demme decided to chat with the Telegraph's Sheila Johnston about Napoleon Dynamite, which he's seen four times already. Also: Steven Daly meets Natalie Portman.

Can John Travolta come back a third time, asks Caryn James. Also in the New York Times: You've read the book, seen the doc and maybe even the cartoon. As of next spring, you'll likely be able to catch The Kid Live on Broadway: The Notorious Life of Robert Evans. Jesse McKinley reports.

At IDFA last week, Albert Maysles mentioned he'd be making outtakes from Gimme Shelter available to San Francisco police as they reopen an investigation into the death of Meredith Hunter at the Stones concert at Altamont. Geoffrey Macnab reports.

Also in the Guardian:

Posted by dwhudson at 5:27 AM

December 1, 2004

Shorts, 12/1.

Sundance 05 The indie world and the blogs that follow it as it spins are still snipping, pasting and passing along lists before looking them over again in some future moment of Wordsworthian tranquility. Like, maybe on the weekend. But there are already a few starting points:

"Mike Leigh's Vera Drake swept the board at last night's British Independent Film Awards."

Also in the Guardian:

Save the Babylon!

"In 1941, when Hughes was still promising, flying and good-looking, Kane whispered that all was dust. It isn’t our great film just because of technical innovations, deep focus and overlapping dialogue - it's because of what it means." The Aviator inspires David Thomson to do more than just his job: "This is not meant simply as a film review - I'm talking about our history and our future... How do you make a Hollywood picture today about things like entropy, loss of belief and disquiet? ... When we wonder why we don't make much art any more, don't forget the countless ways in which American thinking is determined to do away with the tragic."

Also in the New York Observer:

The Aviator

  • Jake Brooks has a marvelously entertaining time laying out the absurdities of The Aviator's being dreamt up and made in the first place. Will there be a payoff? "The Aviator is a two-hour-and-48-minute pedigree production - culled from Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Weinstein's thoroughbred stable - that speaks to every branch in the Academy and explains the man who owned R.K.O. and produced the first Scarface. It was directed by America's Greatest Director Who Never Won an Oscar..."

  • Ron Rosenbaum: "The Merchant of Venice, the one starring Al Pacino as Shylock, may be the most misguided literary adaptation since the Miramax Mansfield Park.... And since I'm working on a book on Shakespeare scholarship and just published an anthology on contemporary anti-Semitism, it's something I have strong feelings about."

  • Andrew Sarris on Mike Nichols's "ice-cold" Closer, Notre Musique ("I am frankly surprised that most of my colleagues haven't seen through Mr. Godard's evasive paradoxes, the banal anti-'Zionist'/anti-American prejudices that he shares with his countrymen, whether French or Swiss"; yikes!) and the "Essential Noir" series at Film Forum.

In the City Pages, Kate Sullivan finds With God on Our Side: George W Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right "so even-tempered - so BBC, really - that it's difficult to imagine any Christian fundamentalist viewer (or evangelical viewer, to be PC) taking umbrage with the film, even at its most chilling." Also: Jesse Paddock talks to Ross McElwee about Bright Leaves. And for more on that one, see Russell Lucas's at filmjourney.org.

Doug Cummings on Bresson, Tell Them Who You Are (Mark Wexler's doc about his relationship with his dad, Haskell) and on learning from Kiarostami and Tarkovsky.

20 Fingers Mania Akbari plays the lead character in Kiarostami's Ten and, "While she readily acknowledges the influence of Kiarostami's cinema... she seems utterly undaunted by it," observes Dorna Khazeni in an introduction to her interview with Akbari for Film-Philosophy. Khazeni opens the piece with dramatic reactions to a screening of Akbari's 20 Fingers, "poised to aggravate viewers not only because of its difficult visuals but also because of its challenge to some of the quiet conventions and self-deceptions that relationships can be built upon."

After living abroad for a decade, Jon Jost returned to the US to make Homecoming. Now, as he explains in the Al-Ahram Weekly, he's left again, and won't be returning for four years: "For among the many obscenities of this election, one of the most obscene is the fact that Bush was elected by the very people most wounded by his policies - people just like the characters in my film."

Also via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau": Namrata Joshi in Outlook India looks to Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara as a measure of current Indian sentiment regarding the nation's relationship with Pakistan: "There's nothing like crying together - it helps exorcise your demons and cleanse your soul. Is that what Bollywood is trying?"

In the New York Times, Howard W French visits an animation studio on the campus of Shenzhen University and comes away with a story packed with intriguing angles: the city itself, currently "one of China's biggest, richest and most modern cities, the hottest hot spot of Chinese capitalism"; Jean Giraud, who's written the story for Thru the Moebius Strip, an animated feature representing China's intentions to make inroads into territory dominated by Disney and PIxar, and a reminder: "China is not so much coming from way behind in the animation business as it is reviving a long vibrant tradition."

"At best," writes Johnny Ray Huston in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Closer "motors along like a cold, mechanized update of the director's past fearsome foursomes," but even so, it "often feels even colder and more calculating than the characters it contains." Also: Cheryl Eddy on Overnight, "a must-see for anyone who's ever entertained their own klieg-light dreams," and on Who Killed Bambi?.

The Holy Mountain "Although Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowsky is best known for his psychedelic, violent movies (El Topo, The Holy Mountain), he has also been, at one time or another during his 75 years on Earth, the mime protégé of Marcel Marceau, a surrealist performance artist, an esoteric comic-book author, and a tarot card reader." In the SF Weekly, John Mecklin thoroughly enjoys reporting on traces of all these characters visible in a recent local appearance.

Ed Halter: "The 70s has ample amounts of gritty chic and ironic glamour to 00s pop culture: Witness the big-screen resurrections of Charlie's Angels and Starsky & Hutch, hairstyles largely intact. But independent filmmakers are digging past gags to investigate the politics of a bygone America that looks increasingly like our own, complete with Middle East conflicts, massive protests, political terrorism, and the re-election of a Republican president during a messy, morally questionable war."

Also in the Village Voice:

"Never before has movie culture been so reduced to brazen capitalist reflex," writes Armond White in his introduction to his own "Film 101: A Syllabus for Life, complete with recommended readings," advertised on the cover of the New York Press as "Cinema Armondiso." Sounds inviting, but... where is it? In this issue? The next? It doesn't seem to be online.

Anyway, what is viewable at the NYP site:

Taibbi: Moore

JD Conner in the Boston Globe: "America's current empire - enduring, threatened, temporary, semi-accidental, take your pick - seems to call for a cinema to think through its contradictions." Via Cinemocracy.

Filmbrain offers "some quick picks for the final days" of the "The Newest Tiger: 60 Years of South Korean Cinema" series in NYC.

What's up at Twitch: John Woo is dreamcasting, behind-the-scenes pix from Terry Gilliam's Tideland and... some Belgians are pretty scared of the new Luc Besson-produced Banlieu 13.

"At any given time, 80 percent of SAG members are out of work. And not just for a week or two." In the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara describes what life's actually like, day to day, for tens of thousands. Via Vince Keenan.

Greg Allen: "Have I got a site for you: CremasterFanatic.com."

Wiley Wiggins has a site, too: Query Letters I Love. Wonderful.

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

Kinoeye. 4.5.

Kinoeye Somehow, immediately after contributing three primers to GreenCine - on Polish, Czech and early Russian cinema - as well as eight dispatches from Thessaloniki, Andrew James Horton has found time to complete work on a new issue of the excellent journal he edits, Kinoeye.

It'll be a double issue, "Polish cinema: Old masters," with Part I offering views on the work of four "'classic' directors who established their reputations before the symbolic year of 1989" and one highly influential writer.

Repulsion "Much has been written about Polanski's work dealing with victimization, uncannily articulating the victim's view of things, as well as showing the precarious dynamics of victims turning into perpetrators, but the important thing missing in this discussion is Polanski's films' treatment of the specific 'double vision' available to victims and mostly inaccessible to the society around them and often even to the people closest to them," writes Gordana P Crnkovic. "This double vision involves victims' knowing - or rather seeing - that people who look fully normal to others have the potential to be monsters capable of the worst atrocities."

Crnkovic has another piece as well, and an important one, too, in the light of the ongoing discussion of border-crossing filmmakers: "[Agnieszka] Holland's model of global and cosmopolitan cinema escapes the trap of 'global' being a synonym for the execution of pre-given American mass culture models in local terms, avoids the homogenizing push of Hollywood and is instead based on active interaction with existent local and national cinema cultures and filmmakers."

Elzbieta Ostrowska, recently noted here as one of the co-editors of The Cinema of Andrzej Wajda: The Art of Irony and Defiance, considers Wajda's use of landscape to establish a sense of Polish national identity.

In an extract from his book, The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski: Variations on Destiny and Chance, Marek Haltof examines the filmmaker's early documentaries.

James Fiumara traces the influence of Bruno Schulz on the work of the Brothers Quay.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:15 AM