June 30, 2005

Shorts, 6/30.

Aida Edemariam in the Guardian on Domino Harvey, the subject of Tony Scott's biopic, written by Richard Kelly:

They've already had to re-shoot the ending once. They may have to do it again - not to mention reconsider such cod-profound, Hollywood-judgment lines as "There's only one conclusion to every story. We all fall down." On Monday night the makers of Domino, a new film starring Keira Knightley scheduled for release in the autumn, must have been somewhat discomfited to find that the 35-year-old inspiration for their $30m action flick - about a beautiful, public school-educated English girl turned gun-toting LA bounty hunter - had provided one last plot twist: she was found dead in her bath in West Hollywood, suspected drowned after a drug overdose.

Domino

Edemariam tells two troubled stories: Harvey's and Domino's. The Guardian reports that the film will be released on schedule, that is, New Line has actually moved the film back to August after postponing the release to November. More from Jeffrey Wells.

Also: Jason Deans and Owen Gibson report on The Road to Guantánamo, a docu-drama Michael Winterbottom will be making about three British Muslims incarcerated in "the gulag of our time."

"The films by Cassavetes, Toback, Scorsese, Coppola, they had an energy, a rage, a vitality and a dynamic quality to them, and something exotic as well. They were discovering the subcultures of America. One of the themes of this film is inheritance, and what I inherited from Toback's film is this sort of cinematic territory." Jacques Audiard, director of The Beat That My Heart Skipped talks to Robert Abele. Also in the Los Angeles Times: Kevin Thomas on I Vitelloni and the American Cinematheque's "Mods & Rockers: The Return of Groovy Movies of the Shagadelic Sixties" series.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

James Toback himself interviews Audiard in the LA Weekly: "When you proposed the idea of remaking Fingers, I knew what a terrific director you were and there was no question that you would come up with an interesting film. But I thought: Where are you going to find an actor with the nuances and complexity of Harvey Keitel? Alain Delon, at that age, would have been great. But I didn’t realize that there was someone who was actually, on many levels, a kind of reincarnation of Delon at his peak." That someone, of course, is the great Romain Duris.

Also, Scott Foundas: "[A]s with many institutions, one crucial detail risks getting lost amid the celebratory hoo-ha: Roger Ebert is very, very good at what he does." But Elbert Ventura presents the case for the prosecution at the New Republic site: "Instead of seeking to broaden his reader's experience of movies, he presumes to approximate it, in the process lowering the culture's standards for what makes a good movie."

Francis Ford Coppola: Memo

And the LA Weekly runs a memo from Francis Ford Coppola to UA's Herb Jaffe dated December 16, 1968: "Here is both the short film and the feature length first draft screenplay of THX 1138." The second page seems to be a now-anonymous and then-unimpressed reader's analysis.

George Lucas says the days of the blockbuster may be numbered. Xeni Jardin reports on a recent talk in which he also urged distributors to figure out a way to "deliver content in fee-based systems online."

Marebito

Mark Gilson at Twitch on Marebito: "General J-Horror fans may not find this their cup of tea, but [Takeshi] Shimizu fans willing to scratch the surface will find a lot to uncover." Also: Todd looks ahead to several highlights of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (loads o' links, too).

Kirby Dick's Twist of Faith opens this weekend in New York and San Francisco - but not in Toledo, Ohio, where much of its story unfolds. As Ryan E Smith reports for the Toledo Blade, both Dick and local firefighter Tony Comes, the focus of the film, aren't buying the theater's decision not to show the film is a merely "financial" one. More on the run-in from the indieWIRE Insider and more on the film from Francine Taylor.

Pickpocket

Philippa Hawker talks to Babette Mangolte about her documentary, The Models of Pickpocket, in which she tracks down who performed in Bresson's 1959 film.

Also via Movie City Indie: Saibal Chatterjee in the Hindustan Times on thoughts in Bollywood about how to break further out into the international circuit and: Greetings from Ashbury Park. It's not just a postcard anymore. Or an album. It's also a doc in the making. Kathy Hall reports on Christina Eliopoulos labor of love in the Tri-Town News.

For Christianity Today, Jeffrey Overstreet gathers thoughts from religious press reviewers on Bewitched, Land of the Dead, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Batman Begins and, of course, War of the Worlds.

Speaking of which:

  • Three reviews at Movie City News: Ray Pride ("Spielberg goes where dreams live and nightmares breed, whistling darkly over many graveyards, in images, explicit images drawn from the tenderest spots of collective consciousness"), Leonard Klady ("What's on view is the cinematic equivalent of ADD") and David Poland ("It didn't suck. But it wasn't very good either.").

  • In the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas sees "a reverse inventory of 20th- and 21st-century atrocities, beginning with 9/11 (blinding clouds of debris filling the streets of New York and airplanes falling from the sky) and winding its way back through the LA riots (a truly terrifying scene in which Cruise is pulled from his car and beaten by an enraged mob), the corpse-strewn rivers of Rwanda, the battlefields and deportation trains of WWII, and even (in a perilous drawbridge scene) the sinking of the Titanic, with its eternal reminder of man’s hubristic folly. And so it is that the movie’s aliens - whose origin is never identified and who rarely appear apart from their giant, stalking tripod vehicles - are presented not as a specific threat but as the abstract manifestation of all that shatters our notion of ourselves as all-powerful beings."

Dakota Fanning

  • Kevin Maher in the London Times: "[T]here is something fundamentally paradoxical, and frankly odd, about Spielberg employing the very genre that he helped to establish and that supposedly contributed to 9/11 in an attempt to explain the meaning of 9/11 itself." Also, James Christopher: "[Q]uite simply the greatest B-movie ever made."

  • Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "Spielberg runs away from the dark heart of his material.... [George A] Romero's action sequences pale beside Spielberg's expertly directed tours de force. But like the lumbering zombies who always catch their prey, Land [of the Dead] sneaks up on the zeitgeist and takes a chunk out of its neck."

  • Neil Morris in the Independent Weekly: "Frankly, Spielberg has an 80-minute movie, tops, that he is forced to elongate into almost two hours by stuffing it with a succession of hollow vignettes and extraneous material."

  • Gary Susman in the Boston Phoenix: "Even on summer popcorn terms, it's a tepid finish to a movie that, for its first hour or so, taps so expertly into our fears."

  • Maybe it's a parody, suggests Eugene Hernandez.

Lepage

For Film-Philosophy, Ed Keller reviews Aleksandar Dundjerovic's The Cinema of Robert Lepage: The Poetics of Memory, "an excellent overview of Lepage's cinema and theatrical work, process, and thinking, and also of the political context in Canada that he reveals was instrumental in the formation of Lepage as a director."

BRAINTRUSTdv interviews video artist Andres Tapia-Urzua: "Any media artist who is working to reveal a broader understanding of the world, while using the same technologies of power, to offer original and independent cultural points of view, is generating a relevant discourse in our narrow media culture."

"Nothing gives credence to a film festival like the discovery of a translucent new movie," writes Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix. "I'd never heard of Ralph Arlyck’s feature documentary Following Sean - thank you, P-Town. This is the finest film I’ve seen in 2005. And so far, it has no distributor!" Plus: an anecdote about Game 6.

Screenwriter Keir Pearson and writer-director Terry George have won the Humanitas Prize for Hotel Rwanda. The BBC reports.

For the Pitt News, Dan Richey profiles local filmmaker George A Romero, collecting quotes from the man himself and from a fan, Quentin Tarantino. Via Cinema Strikes Back.

Phantasm

Marc Savlov: "For better or worse, Phantasm will likely be the film that Michael Baldwin is remembered for - you can almost see his epitaph reading along the lines of 'Kicked the Tall Man's Ass' - but it's by no means an albatross around his neck in the way that so many golden-age horror stars and character actors - Bela Lugosi - being the most obvious example - viewed their own fame." Also in the Austin Chronicle, Steve Uhler: "Fifty years ago, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were the biggest phenomena in show business - hotter than Elvis."

The Reeler talks to Spencer Drate, co-author of The Independent Movie Poster Book; quite a nice piece that might have run up at the front at indieWIRE.

Watch your favorite vlogs on TV. Akimbo makes it happen. James Fee passes along word at Digital Media Thoughts. Via Cinema Minima. And, as Chuck Olsen exclaims, you can also watch them in iTunes 4.9.

The Caligari Awards. Via M Valdemar.

At indieWIRE, Vanessa Romo ticks off the winners of the Frameline29 fest and Jonny Leahan looks back on the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Girish remembers Torontos past.

The Economist: "The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents."

Online listening tip. "Theme From an Imaginary John Hughes Movie." A playlist by Ben Donnelly. 'Swunnerful.

Antonioni: Blow-Up

Online browsing tip. Blow-Up photos at HQ. Via Flickhead.

Online viewing tips #1 through #7. Trailers: Initial D (site; via Todd at Twitch); Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (via AICN; see also a few general updates at Cinema Strikes Back); and Twitch's Gomorrahizer has five more.

Online viewing tip #8. Classic 1970 spot for Levi's. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #9. Silly, but if you've got kids, they'll probably like it: "What is Life?" Via Newstoday.

Online viewing tip #10, and the best of the bunch: "Punchline." Wiley Wiggins, Fritz Hoepfner and Christian Panic. (Don't try to Google that last name; the results are terribly depressing.)

Posted by dwhudson at 2:38 PM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2005

Shorts, 6/29.

Toronto International Film Festival Deepa Mehta's Water will see its world premiere when it opens the Toronto Film Festival (September 8 through 17). The BBC has a bit of background on the controversy the film kicked up when Mehta was shooting in India way back in 2000; she had to complete the film in Sri Lanka.

Eugene Hernandez sorts through the evolving Toronto lineup at indieWIRE and Darren Hughes has already started marking up his calendar.

Meanwhile, Anthony Kaufman files a detailed report for iW: "While the big studios lament the slowdown of summer business, there's another casualty at the box office this season: foreign language films."

Rob Nelson introduces a big fat summer movie cover package for the City Pages with sort of a downer of a reminder for those getting a kick out of the Slump: "You could say the small screen is getting its belated revenge on the big one, except that our money spent on DVDs and video games and cable subscriptions is still flowing to the same handful of mega-conglomerates. So it's hard to trust that our disapproval of multiplex fare is hitting Hollywood where it counts."

Also:

City Pages: Blockbusters

  • Nelson has a good long talk with David Thomson, asking first where the movies have gone wrong: "The question that faces anyone who loves the medium is whether this is a cyclical thing - a passing dip, so to speak - or whether there might be something much more worrying.... There's a lot of evidence to suggest two things - which could, in fact, be working [in tandem]: that films don't mean as much to audiences anymore, and that they don't mean as much to filmmakers anymore, either."

  • Terri Sutton previews the 5th annual Flaming Film Festival, today through Sunday.

  • Peter Ritter profiles indie filmmaker Eric Tretbar, who "is to indie-rockers as Kurosawa is to samurai."

  • Matthew Wilder sorts the white hats from the black hats in the industry, submits a list of ten summertime studio flops from 1984 (Best Defense) through 2001 (Swordfish) and another of five summer films that "bucked the trend of the brainless summer blockbuster," from 1978 (Interiors) through 1999 (Eyes Wide Shut).

  • The staff recalls some of the better movies of summers past.

  • And of course, Nelson on War of the Worlds. All in all, he's not exactly "W.O.W."ed.

More WotW:

  • "A sci-fi masterpiece." These are the words David Edelstein works his way towards at Slate, and it's fun going, too.

  • In the opposite corner, Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "[I]t embodies all of Spielberg's bad impulses and almost none of his good ones... It's bad enough that Spielberg has lost faith in his own sense of decency, but it's even worse that he's lost faith in the decency of his audience."

  • For Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, Spielberg "has made what is arguably one of the best 1950s science fiction films ever, and that is not a backhanded compliment." And Rachel Abramowitz and John Horn have a sort of grab-bag piece mixing 9/11 in the movies and Hollywood's hopes that WotW will bring audiences back to the theaters.

  • Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club: "In the end, Spielberg overreaches, but at least he has the long arms to do it."

  • The AP's David Germain: "They made it, but the rush job they delivered shortchanges story, character, design and even execution on some of the colossal special-effects sequences."

Hana and Alice Alison Willmore at the IFC blog on Hana & Alice: "[Shunji] Iwai's has a great ear for dialog, scripting funny, realistic, meandering conversations that nevertheless carry a great emotional weight."

Reading Grady Hendrix, you can only hope we do see Namprix some day and that Sammi Cheng holds up long enough to complete Everlasting Regret.

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

  • "Booted, buckled, and buxom, the formidable Satana/Varla became an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino (where else does Kill Bill's Pussy Wagon roll from?), John Waters, Divine (check the sketchy eyebrows), and countless little girls looking for a superheroine, part all-consuming id, part wrathful goddess." Kimberly Chun calls up Tura Satana.

  • Cheryl Eddy: "[Dakota] Fanning's particular gift is that she already seems like an adult actor - technically speaking, she's light years ahead of her peers. Sure, she's cute, in that wholesome, Pottery Barn Kids kind of way. But she also seems much wiser than her years, a striking trait that's also occasionally spooky."

  • "[Miranda] July might just be the crossover figure of the moment, and I can't say I'm surprised," writes Johnny Ray Huston, recalling the summer of '98 when he knew her pretty well and profiled her for the SFBG. "A Gallo-size backlash may await this writer-actor-director down the road, but for now, she's looking mighty fine." Susan Gerhard spoke with July the day after Me and You and Everyone We Know was accepted at Cannes. More? There's always more Miranda July: Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club.

  • Gerhard on March of the Penguins, "the most beautifully filmed animal story of the year."

Chuck Stephens meets Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Dennis Lim reviews Tropical Malady. There's more from Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, but don't skip Akiva Gottlieb's brief but intriguing observation, either.

Also in the Village Voice:

 A Decent Factory

"[O]nce you start digging, you find zomflicks everywhere. Why?" asks Steven Wells in the Philadelphia Weekly. "I put it down to the popularity of the South Beach Diet. One low-carb gorefest I'm particularly eager to see is Mark 'Curse of the Queerwolf' Pirro's '91 zomcom musical Nudist Colony of the Dead."

At Movie City News, Ray Pride has a good long talk with an old friend, director Ken Kwapis (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), about movies for adults.

Brief book reviews at Kamera:

Bad Boys At the San Francisco Chronicle's new Culture Blog, Peter Hartlaub introduces a series (maybe), "Movies Worth Reconsidering." Volume 1? Bad Boys.

So here's an idea for a reality show: Film your subjects filming a doc. About a film festival. SXSW producer Matt Dentler has a few details on MTV's Real World: Austin.

Kaleem Aftab interviews Stephen Chow for the Independent.

A Wired News editorial on the US Supreme Court's Grokster decision: "In the end, the business model in the entertainment industry is going to change, and these companies can either find a way to insert themselves into the new order, or risk finding themselves frozen out forever."

Meanwhile, via Slashdot, Ryan Naraine reports for PC Magazine on DVD Jon's cracking Google's video player.

Online viewing tips. The Crime in Your Coffee has plucked well over a dozen new highlights from the Internet Archive.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:18 AM | Comments (2)

June 28, 2005

2 oeuvres.

"Over the past decade, the endings of Spielberg's movies have become, in the public eye, the most prominent dimension of his auteurship, and not in a good way," writes Sean Weitner at Flak. "The pragmatic comment would be that if crowd-pleasing was the aim, wouldn't he notice the displeased crowds? The real answer is that so many people have misapprehended what he's up to for so long that when he deviates from the formulas that Hollywood has derived from his successes, he's considered to have lost his touch."

Weitner then revisits the endings of Spielberg's five most recent films (up to and not including War of the Worlds), knocking down the most common misapprehensions about each one with a very deft hand indeed.

War of the Worlds: Tom Cruise

All well and good, but what he's done for us lately is what we want to hear about in a season of immediate gratification. Michael Atkinson seems rather rattled, remarking in the Village Voice that WotW is "a rare thing - a summer movie that demands to be taken as a serious emotional experience," before he practically segues right into Jessica Winter's piece explaining how Wells's original novel and L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics (reviewed just yesterday in Salon by Laura Miller) make for some pretty uncomfortably snug bedfellows.

AO Scott's review in the New York Times has an indecisive air about it that suggests he'd have liked a few more hours to mull the movie over before turning in his copy, best summarized in his last sentence, "It's not much to think about, but it's certainly something to see." Spielberg possesses an "unparalleled skill as a visual storyteller" and this film is "a primer on how to mix computer-generated imagery with the techniques of classic, large-scale cinema," but this one is, nonetheless, "a lesser Spielberg movie"? Tom Cruise "remains adept at playing - either with or against type, depending on how you look at it - a jerk brought low by circumstances beyond his control"? Well, depending. With, one'd imagine. That's his schtick, isn't it. See also: Risky Business, The Color of Money, Rain Man, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia and Collateral, for starters.

Meantime, at Cinematical, Karina Longworth is gathering first reviews and wonders out loud, "Finally, a summer blockbuster that's also a serious piece of filmmaking?"

Posted by dwhudson at 4:28 PM

DivX/GCOFF. Winners.

GreenCine is proud to announce the winners of the DivX, Inc., Presents the GreenCine Online Film Festival:

  • The 2005 Narrative Feature Grand Prize was given to Red Cockroaches, a futuristic thriller written and directed by Miguel Coyula.

  • The 2005 Documentary Feature Grand Prize was given to Empire of Juramidam, a profile of unconventional religious practices directed by Colum Stapleton.

Both winning filmmakers receive a $2,500 prize. Congratulations also to Rob Nilsson's Security, which was the recipient of the Audience Choice Award, and Peep Show, directed by J.X. Williams and restored by Noel Lawrence, which was the winner of the Eclection Award. The two Grand Prize winners will remain online and available for download until July 5. Empire of Juramidam and Peep Show will also screen at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco next week.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:55 AM

Shorts, 6/28.

Darwin's Nightmare Tom Hall on "the film that has changed my year": "There are not very many films that defy description, that make writing words seem superfluous and genteel in the face of their images, but Darwin's Nightmare renders all attempts at description impotent. This is what cinema was made to do; to present images so profound, experiences so full that any other medium seems useless."

David Lowery on War of the Worlds: "It is, essentially, [Spielberg's] most serious and harrowing film since Schindler's List, passable as entertainment simply because it is, after all, about an alien invasion." David's also surprised to discover how "unabashedly romantic" Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs is.

"What an exquisite movie, and absolutely perfect in its way." M Valdemar thanks everyone on Net for pointing him to Danger: Diabolik.

"Seijun Suzuki’s latest film (his fifty-sixth) confirms that the octogenarian director is as much a visionary today as he was when he was making stylish gangster flicks for Nikkatsu back in the 50s and 60s," writes Filmbrain. "Princess Raccoon (Operetta Tanuki Goten) is a magnificent spectacle - a colorful, musical adaptation of a well-known folktale that is a reminder of why it is we love cinema in the first place, and the film that will be hard to beat as the most lively and entertaining of 2005."

Tropical Malady Two films get two takes each from the Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady and Jia Zhang-ke's The World (be sure and watch Jonathan Rosenbaum talk about the film as well).

Gunner Palace is out on DVD today and Michael Tucker has just returned home after another tour of Iraq. At Movie City News, Gary Dretzka asks him what's changed (a lot in some ways, not so much in others) and whether or not the doc's been screened in Iraq: "Pirated versions of it have been floating around Baghdad for a while, now. Ironically, those discs come in the form of a double-feature. On the other side is Black Hawk Down."

"McLibel starts out in the infotainment/propaganda vein now so familiar to weary documentary viewers," observes Noy Thrupkaew, but it becomes "a complex and fascinating film, with heroes all the more convincing for their unflashy devotion to their cause."

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Sympathy for Lady Vengeance site's up, alerts Cinema Strikes Back. Also: The Malay Mail's Chow Ee-Tan talks to the cast of Initial D.

Opus: "The International Horror Guild nominates The Passion of the Christ for 'Best Horror Film." And it's up against Shaun of the Dead. You can't make up this kind of stuff."

There is no slump, argues David Poland. Studio grosses are actually up for the year. But attendance is down, counters Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times.

Pundits at Slate and, via Karina Longworth at Cinematical, the Wall Street Journal sort through the implications of yesterday's Supreme Court rulings; in particular, on the MGM vs Grokster case.

Online listening tip #1. Daniel Clowes on Fresh Air with a bit of a preview of Art School Confidential. Via Bob Sassone at Cinematical.

Online listening tip #2. The Essential Ghoul's Record Shelf. Via M Valdemar.

Radio Online browsing tip. About 700 images from the Soviet magazine Radio. Stunning, gorgeous stuff (in hindsight, of course) via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tips #1 and #2. You've seen the trailer for the trailer. Now, Twitch's logboy is one among many who'll point you to the actual trailer for the actual movie, King Kong. Cinematical's Karina Longworth and Ryan Stewart are way disappointed, but Karina does like the trailer for Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic - which has just been picked up by Roadside Attractions, as Anne Thompson reports at, well, the Hollywood Reporter. Where you can also read Nick Holdsworth on the 40th anniversary of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Online viewing tips #3 and #4. "Hey Man (Now You're Really Livin')" (Eels) and "Voices from the Future" (Bullemhead). Via Chuck Olsen.

Online viewing tip #5. Gabriel Koenig's How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:44 AM

June 27, 2005

Shorts, 6/27.

"I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Grady Hendrix and his cohorts at Subway Cinema for putting on one of the most consistently interesting and entertaining film festivals in the city," writes Josh Ralske from the New York Asian Film Festival before launching into a review of Jeong Yoon-chul's debut feature, Marathon. Granted, he finds the film "hokey and unconvincing, [though] I’m still glad I saw it."

Also at Twitch:

Puteri Gunung Ledang

  • Todd on Puteri Gunung Ledang, "a gorgeous high budget take on a famous Malaysian story of a forbidden love. And mark my words: if this is a first attempt then keep your eyes on Malaysia because there are no freshman jitters here. Puteri Gunung Ledang is a poised, complex, impeccably crafted film."

  • And: "What makes Git work so well is precisely the same thing that makes 3 Iron - a film very similar in tone - work. Song Il Gon understands that there is power in simplicity."

  • Mind Game boasts "animation rendered with a fresh DIY feeling that is noticeably different from most other anime productions," writes Mark Gilson. "Will that turn off some fans of the genre? Well if it does, it's their loss."

Harry Knowles turns in a spoilerific review of War of the Worlds at AICN. The first half is safe, though (he'll tell you when to stop). And Harry's in awe.

What's got to happen to the theatrical experience if it's going to survive? The Boston Globe's Ty Burr has a few ideas. Via Movie City Indie. More on the Great Slump of 2005 from Rachel Abramowitz and R Kinsey Lowe in the Los Angeles Times and, via the IFC Blog, Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star.

"Is it already over?" asks "gracelee" (of the Grace Lee Project, see) at the indieWIRE @ LAFF blog. And yes, it is. The Los Angeles Film Festival, that is. IW's Brian Brooks wraps things up with winners and quotes while, at Movie City News, Andrea Gronvall adds an interview with Stolen director Rebecca Drefus to Leonard Klady's recent reviews.

A Star is Born David Thomson on A Star is Born: "Only the 1937 version really clicked, and that owes a lot to the astonishing idealism of Hollywood at that time and to the romanticism of the film's producer, David O Selznick." Also in the Independent: Jonathan Romney meets Maggie Cheung.

So conservatives have claimed South Park. Not so fast, counters Simon S Maloy at Alternet.

Julie Salamon profiles Frontline producer Ofra Bikel, whose work has actually resulted in getting prisoners released who never should have been locked up in the first place.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Ross Johnson explains why Peter Jackson is suing New Line. Slate's Jack Shafer asserts that the piece, while starting out just fine, ultimately violates the paper's code of ethics, by the way.

  • Expect even more pre-movie ads in theaters, warns Jane L Levere.

  • Sharon Waxman: "This may turn out to be the summer when celebrities overshadowed their movies."

Tom Cruise Speaking of which. With a few exceptions here and there, the Daily has steered clear of most of the Brad and Angelina, Lindsay Lohan stuff. But James Verini's Tom Cruise piece in Salon is one to take seriously. What does the actor's "sudden outspokenness about, and even proselytizing for, the controversial Church of Scientology" mean for Scientology's profile in the US and around the world? The three articles to follow in the series Verini's launches may explicate that question further.

Before driving home a point about the "Fake liberals!" crossing the picket line in NYC to see it, Christian Lorentzen, despite "misgivings," recommends Me and You and Everyone We Know at n+1: "It makes sense that critics and audiences have embraced this indie - and its vision of love as a salve - during a month when the romantic comedy at the top of the box office charts, Mr and Mrs Smith, locates love in ultraprofessional homicidal violence."

The cinetrix finds My Summer of Love "simply an updated Radley Metzger provocation masquerading as sophistication."

The Reeler hears Hal Hartley explain why he'll be shooting his "quasi-sequel to 1997's Henry Fool" (with, once again, Parker Posey as Fay Grim) in Berlin.

"What are some of your favorite teen movies?" asks Girish Shambu.

"Sequels no one needed." Joe Leydon recalls five you might wish he hadn't.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Hugh Hart interviews George A Romero, who sees Land of the Dead as "the fourth in a series of ten," none of which will ever have a happy ending: "I'll never live long enough to arrive at some sort of peaceful coexistence of some kind. That's probably the only way you could end it on a note of promise, which would mean the zombies would learn how to eat Spam or chicken livers, instead of your liver... But I'll never get to that point." Via Cinema Strikes Back.

Flickhead keeps that meme moving.

Online viewing tip #1. Maas Digital imagines NASA's Deep Impact sending its impactor on a collision coarse with comet Tempel 1. Via DynaSoar, who points to an interview with Daniel Maas and his company's site.

The Shining Online viewing tip #2. Overlook Revisited; and actually, just about everything Tim Nolan's been up to lately. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #3. Works by Robert Smithson. Via Greg Allen.

Online viewing tip #4. Rocketboom interviews Kirby Dick. Via Matt Clayfield.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:30 PM

Opinion of the Court.

While today's Supreme Court ruling with regard to the MGM vs Grokster case isn't overtly or obviously related to movies, it's likely to have an impact, however large or small, on future distribution models. So, in brief: as things stand as of today, file-sharing services may be held responsible for how "third parties" use them. The AP reports, Slashdotters are all over the story, the EFF comments and the Guardian's Onlineblog is collecting bloggers' reactions.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:12 AM | Comments (1)

Offscreen. 9.5.

L'Agent IXE-13 For those of us reading the journal online, the May 31 issue of Offscreen's a new one. And, as the intro says, it's devoted "entirely to the recent and past of Québec cinema," beginning with Canuxploitation! editor Paul Corupe's history of Canadian pulps, from their heyday - "Written, illustrated and printed in Québec, these 32-page booklets encompassed the thrilling sub-literary genres of romance, science fiction, crime and espionage, all with indigenous settings and protagonists" - to their run-in with massive American competition to their eventual reemergence, in the form of at least one diehard character, Agent IXE-13, on screen.

Isabelle Morissette interviews Denys Arcand and the occasion is pretty remarkable: the National Film Board's release of L'oeuvre documentaire intégrale de Denys Arcand 1962-1981. "[T]here is 20 years of my life in this little box set," he told the press when it was launched.

Editor Donato Totaro does the heavy lifting, revisiting Robert Lepage's Le Confessionnal, "which, to my mind, remains one of the most impressive debut Canadian films ever," as well as Jean Yves Bigras's 1952 La Petite Aurore, L'enfant Martyre, based on a hideous incident that "has been in continuous adaptation in most mediums (theatre, novel, radio, television, film) from its first appearance as a stage play in 1921 (by Petitjean and Rollin) to this day." Totaro also queries filmmakers Karim Hussain and Julien Fonfrède with particular regard to their sci-fi short La Dernière Voix (The City without Windows).

Posted by dwhudson at 12:19 AM

June 26, 2005

Weekend shorts.

Peter Bowles not only had a crucial role in Blow-Up, he had a crucial speech as well. But Michelangelo Antonioni cut it.

Blow-Up

Bowles recalls protesting the cut:

He listened, and listened, until finally I ran out of words. There was silence. So I said, "Erm, sir, are you going to put the speech back in now?" He replied, "No. Because, Peter, you have explained to me exactly why I should cut it. If I leave the speech in, everyone will know what the film is about, but if I take the speech out, everyone will say it is about this, it is about that, it is about the other. It will be controversial." So it was cut. But there is a speech, which I have, which explains exactly what the film is about. It is all there in the film, if you know where to look, but I can't disclose specifically what it is. Antonioni is still alive, so if anybody's going to say anything it's up to him.

Also in the Guardian:

"Anders Klarlund’s Strings is an absolute wonder to behold," writes Todd at Twitch, "Completely unique, absolutely beautiful, well-written stuff."

MPD Psycho

Also, Takashi Miike's MPD Psycho turns out to be "a surprisingly thoughtful psychological treatise on the nature of evil... Go another level down and you have a biting satire of both our media saturated society and that segment of society that would rather blame evil on the media rather than on our own nature."

Also: The Gomorrahizer reports on the upcoming release of "Dark Tales of Japan, a collection of six short horrors from the cream of Japanese terror directors, including Hideo Nakata (Ring), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure) and Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge)."

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore finds Fruit Chan's segment of Three... Extremes "by far the best," Miike's "ultimately an empty exercise in style" and Park Chan-wook's somewhere in between.

David Austin on Princess Racoon: "Seijun Suzuki has directed one of his all-time greats here.... From the traditional samurai rapping, to the chorus of adorable tanuki girls with tails, to the romantic tap-dancing, to the tanukis who play their stomachs like drums, everything just works." Plus: Production Notes.

And via Cinema Strikes Back:

Initial D

Matt Clayfield, who'll be covering the 14th Brisbane International Film Festival for Senses of Cinema (July 27 through August 8), comments on Richard Wolstencroft's "1st MUFF Manifesto." In short, it "succinctly sums up the general consensus of an increasingly large number of Australian filmmakers and practitioners." Whether the manifesto matters is a more complex question.

Documentaries figure prominently in Sunday's edition of the New York Times. James Ulmer checks in with a slew of right-wingers striving to get a handle on - and make political hay out of - the genre and AO Scott considers why narrative clichés that fall flat in features often actually work pretty well in docs.

Tropical Malady

Also: Manohla Dargis: "It's a measure of how conservative even professional filmgoers have become that Tropical Malady was greeted not only with puzzlement at Cannes but also with outright hostility."

In the magazine, photographer Jeff Riedel shoots various DPs in various poses and outfits and Matt Bai explains what Mike Easley, Democratic governor of North Carolina, knows his party could learn from King of the Hill.

Nora FitzGerald reports on the remarkable turnaround in the Russian film industry for the International Herald Tribune. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

At Nerve, Lily Oei asks Shelby Knox to look back on The Education of Shelby Knox. And now: "More women need to be inside in the formal political arena. I think I'm up to that challenge, and I want to make it my life's work."

Fury

John Sturges's Bad Day at Black Rock, Richard Brooks's Blackboard Jungle and Fritz Lang's Fury comprise the "meaty section" of Warner Home Video's "Controversial Classics" collection, writes Travis Miles for Stop Smiling. Fury "proves, unsurprisingly, to be the most powerful of the three, packing a universe of anguish into its streamlined 90 minutes."

"On an island where it is pretty much impossible to get a hamburger for less than $10, I have to admit there were moments when I had a crisis of faith as a film programmer, and they always came at the strangest of moments." But Tom Hall's worked through them and realized this year's edition Nantucket Film Festival came off pretty well in the end after all.

"[W]hat do we call this new crop of books about the tedious lives of low-level assistants who yearn to succeed in the entertainment industry?" wonders Amy Wallace in the Los Angeles Times. "Tinsel lit? Mailroom lit? Striver lit? Glick lit?" Up for review: Rachel Pine's The Twins of Tribeca, Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare's The Second Assistant: A Tale From the Bottom of the Hollywood Ladder and so on.

Wallace concludes, naturally enough, that while these people are sufficiently connected to get their grievances published, most people just plain don't care. But as Kevin Fanning discovers and reports in the Morning News, most people do care about their employers and they are, in fact, "Worried About Celebrities."

In the Independent, Robert Hanks profiles Richard Curtis, a filmmaker he's got decidedly mixed feelings about.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Newsweek's Sean Smith turns in a piece on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and interviews Johnny Depp.

Vince Keenan picks up the film meme.

Coudal Parners are making a movie.

Greg Allen collects a few items related to Francesco Vezzoli's faux Caligula trailer.

Tony Takitani

Online viewing tips. Trailers via Movie-List: Tony Takitani (site); The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things; The Skeleton Key (better than the trailer that greets you at the site).

Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM

June 24, 2005

Shorts, 6/24.

A Cock and Bull Story is Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and it isn't due on screens until the fall. But Winterbottom decided to throw a benefit screening in Shandy Hall, the house in Coxwold where Sterne wrote the novel that out-postmods most 20th and 21st century postmods.

Tristram Shandy

Christina Patterson was there:

There's not much in the way of plot, of course. Tristram eventually gets born, but in the meantime we have glimpses (fictional, presumably) of the film's production processes: scenes in wardrobe, chats with the director and screenings to funders. Stephen Fry plays [curator] Patrick Wildgust in a scene at Shandy Hall. Gillian Anderson plays a Widow Wadman who is cast but never appears.... It's a wonderfully playful mix, wittily self-referential and very funny.

Also in the Independent:

Van Dyck

Crime Scene 2005 looks like another snappy little fest running at the National Film Theatre from June 30 through July 3, and the London Times has quite a package of related stories. The way into it is definitely via Alison Willmore's excellent entry at the IFC Blog, where she's mapped out the highlights.

Downfall

"Downfall is not about Hitler, human or otherwise, not about Nazism and evil," argues Michael B Oren in the New Republic. "It is about letting Germany off the hook."

"Nothing pleases my ego more, than to be thought of as a European filmmaker." Helene Zuber interviews Woody Allen for Der Spiegel.

For Film-Philosophy, Robert Sinnerbrink takes a long hard look at Mulholland Drive: "[David] Lynch, I want to suggest, can be regarded as a cinematic philosopher-artist, presenting thought through sound and image ('ideas', to use Lynch's term).... In a manner recalling Kant's 'aesthetic ideas', Lynch's cinematic Ideas are presentations of the imagination that exceed conceptual determination and linguistic expression. They are inexhaustible imaginative representations open to infinite interpretation."

"'Sex is Confusing' could serve as an alternate title to these three movies, all high-profile film festival prizewinners." Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader on Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know, Keren Yedaya's Or and Kim Ki-duk's Samaritan Girl.

Survive Style 5+

Filmbrain lauds the "original and beautiful" Survive Style 5+, "a black comedy that is justifiably uplifting."

Miramax, Fine Line, Warner Independent, Fox Searchlight, Newmarket, Paramount Classics and DreamWorks all took a serious look at Brian Herzlinger's debut feature, My Date With Drew, shot on video for $1100, but all eventually passed, despite the awards and the raves it'd garnered. Now, as Anne Thompson writes for the Hollywood Reporter, it's finally been picked up by DEJ Productions: "DEJ president Andrew Reimer is risking some $300,000 on clearing music rights, blowing up the movie to 35mm and creating prints and an ad campaign."

"The biggest danger with clearances is when they interfere with documenting real life." That's Mad Hot Ballroom producer and writer Amy Sewell talking to Stay Free!'s Carrie McLaren about bending over backwards to, as McLaren puts it, "survive the copyright cartel... by limiting music that played in classrooms, haggling over clearance fees, and cutting out a scene." It's an infuriating read by way of Greg Allen. Be sure to catch the comments, particularly Steve Lambert's, and the follow-up post (and consider that an online viewing tip as well).

"Journalistically, we might offer this as the last interview; but in a way it is also the first interview, because [Geoffrey] Jones - a pioneering documentary maker in the 1960s - had been virtually forgotten and had not made a film for 25 years." Stephen Moss gathers other voices as well on the "singular artistic voice" who passed away just days ago.

Also in the Guardian:

  • John Patterson has just read "David E James's majestic new book, The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles, which upsets many previously held notions of the primacy of the East Village as ground zero for radical film-making, and establishes LA - home of Machine Hollywood, satanic TV production, and the San Fernando flesh-factories - as a major and pioneering locale for dissident film-making of every stripe."

In the Mood for Love

"[T]here are a number of [screen]writers out there who might want to make occasional postings, but don't really have the inclination to maintain a regular blog," notes Jacob Weinstein. "For writers like that, there's now a site called The Blank Page, a group blog with posting privileges open to any member of the WGA." Via Cinema Minima.

"And then there's Glenn Close. Man alive, what a performance." Andrew Wright's thumb is up in the Stranger for Heights.

"Superheroes aren't heroes any more," laments Matthew Sweet in the New Statesman. "They are cases. Their private miseries have eclipsed their acts of derring-do."

Land of the Dead is "an excellent freakout of a movie," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "One thing that has always distinguished Mr. Romero's films, not only from the horror-genre pack but from so many action flicks, is that the director knows killing is killing." And Jim Tudor at Twitch: "From the get-go, I knew Romero hadn’t lost his touch."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:54 AM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2005

Shorts, 6/23.

Brand on the Brain! "Forty minutes of stills unfold. The gentle harp and strings echo between rooms, and throughout the piece, no one speaks, a word can't be heard, yet there is one constant strain, as if a troop of 165-pound mice were afoot." Ray Pride caught Guy Maddin's presentation of photos he's taken on the sets of his films at the Heaven Gallery in Chicago and writes up what sounds, oddly enough, like quite a romantic evening. Related: At Twitch, Todd posts a handful of lovely stills from Maddin's new one, The Brand Upon the Brain!, and Ed M Koziarski interviews Maddin for Reel Chicago.

Ray's also got a sudden slew of notable pointers at Movie City News:

  • For Channel NewsAsia, Mervin Tay and Yong Shu Chiang talk to Alan Mak and Andrew Lau about their live-action adaptation of Initial D.

  • Angela Pacienza in the National Post on "Cellywood": "While the mobile cinema market is in its infancy in North America, Canadians have a leg up thanks to a long history of making premium short films, says one mobile content producer."

  • Holly Wagner at Wired News: "Vivid Entertainment... has licensed a system that will let shoppers preview racy trailers on their camera phones just by scanning the bar code on the box."

The moment Wiley Wiggins posted, "This is a picture of [a feature-length] movie playing, full speed, full resolution (and I mean full resolution. It looks good) off the iPod Shuffle. This movie is playing over USB," I shot off an email to friends with the subject line, "I dunno, something about this feels big." A day later, it still does.

Darknet At Slashdot, droopus reviews Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, which "[rips] to shreds the entertainment cartel's claims that the locks they're putting into our digital devices are for our own good, their claims that this is a fight about theft and piracy, and other distortions that the author exposes to devastating effect."

At Twitch, John Fisk offers a first glimpse one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the New York Asian Film Festival, Late Bloomer.

When Toby Met Julie is the story of the meteoric rise and acrimonious fall of the Modern Review. The two antagonists, of course, are Toby Young and Julie Burchill. In the Guardian, director Mark Halliley recounts how he walked into a "hall of mirrors" (more like a minefield, it seems) and came out with a film.

"Rabelais would blush." Sharon Waxman has a terrific piece in the New York Times on the challenge of selling The Aristocrats.

In his "Beyond the Multiplex" column for Salon, Andrew O'Hehir takes on The World, "a dreamy romantic tragedy, staged with tremendous poignancy against the hypermodern desolation of contemporary Beijing," as well as Yes and Lila Says, both of which "try to create the haunted, magical space of cinema, which exists somewhere between the outside world and the innermost temple of our consciousness. They remind us, among other things, that while all movies are constructions, the best are closer to being cathedrals than airports."

Romero's Land of the Dead George Romero has been talking to Los Angelenos. In the LA Times, Robert Abele notes that he wrote Land of the Dead before 9/11, but "says he didn't have to tweak it much to reflect new fears of terrorism." To the LA Weekly's Scott Foundas, Romero remarks, "I'm not sure if you showed this movie at the White House that anybody would get it, except when the money burns at the end - then they might feel a little pang of sadness."

Also in the LAT: Kevin Crust on Pereira dos Santos's Rio 40 gráus (Rio 40 Degrees), a forerunner to Brazil's 60s-era Cinema Novo - and of course, the ongoing Los Angeles Film Festival blog.

And in the LAW:

  • Nikki Finke tells the rather harrowing tale of the disappearance of Anita Busch: "To refresh your memory, the long-time trade paper reporter-editor was newly hired as a contract writer by the Los Angeles Times when she was threatened while working on a story about has-been action star Steven Seagal's alleged ties to the mob. That's when Anita in LaLaland fell down the rabbit hole and never came out again."

  • Ella Taylor meets Miranda July and Foundas reviews Me and You and Everyone We Know; both quite like the film, too.

  • Holly Willis on Yes, "a visually impeccable and conceptually intriguing film that poses one of the most volatile questions of our time - can two fundamentally different cultures work through their historical biases to achieve a deep and mutual respect? - and optimistically answers in the affirmative."

  • Abele on Kirby Dick's Twist of Faith.

  • Not quite film-related, but still: Brendan Bernhard with Michel Houellebecq in the city.

Tracking the film meme: David Lowery and Nick Rombes.

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov talks to Zev Asher about his touchy doc, Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat. Also: Raoul Hernandez on Gary Cooper, "the Brad Pitt of his day."

Brothers "It's inevitable as the turning of the earth that we will, in due time, be introduced to a sub-genre of post-9/11 dramas," writes David Fellerath in the Independent Weekly. "But it says something about the timidity of American movie culture that the subject is being brought to our movie theaters courtesy of Denmark." And Susanne Bier, whose Brothers "is one of the first conventional Western dramas to directly explore the ways in which the actions of 19 hijackers affect a seemingly ordinary middle-class family."

When Andrew Bujalski mumbles, Michael Koresky hears "mumblecore" and the Boston Phoenix's Gerald Peary hears "the mumble corps." Both work, actually. Peary's point, though, is that "'mumble movies' rocked and reigned at this month's 6th Newport Film Festival.

More up-n-coming festivals of note:

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

At indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan discovers a running theme in the LA Film Fest Documentary Competition: A "survey of the eleven films offered reveal an emphasis on personal portraits, three of which follow very different stories that ultimately reveal the same underlying theme ­ the dysfunctional economic relationship between the US and Mexico and its drastic effect on individual lives."

Missed Robert Fisk's piece when it ran in the Independent, but it is definitely worth catching up with now at Selves and Others: "[W]hen I left the cinema after seeing [Ridley] Scott's extraordinary sand-and-sandals epic on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven, I was deeply moved - not so much by the film, but by the Muslim audience among whom I watched it in Beirut."

Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect: "It's been a bit of a disappointment that Western awareness of Miyazaki's films is on the rise just when the artist is beginning to lose a bit of the discipline that marked the storytelling of Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and the haunting, Hemingway-esque Scarlet Pig."

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake has found a couple of items on Scorsese's The Departed and several on Land of the Dead.

From the Onion 2056: "Final Installment of Frogger Trilogy Poised to Sweep Oscars." Via Jared Moshe.

Harper's: June 05 Offline reading tip. "Bambi vs Godzilla: Why Art Loses in Hollywood." David Mamet in the June issue of Harper's. Via George Fasel.

Online viewing tips #1 through #3. Cameron Crowe breaks the Internet viral marketing mold (teaser poster, teaser trailer, on-set shots, first one-sheet, etc and so on) by cutting together a seven-plus-minute music video (in which Crowe reminds us again that there was once a time when Elton John could write himself a pretty solid song) and passing along this ode to a movie we haven't seen yet, Elizabethtown, to Harry Knowles and AICN.

And AICN's got more glimpses of movies to come: Superman Returns and "the tease for the tease" for King Kong. "Be the first to see the trailer..."? Yep.

Online viewing tip #4. Via Alternet, a 13-minute-plus "prototype" for Bottle Rocket.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:55 AM

June 22, 2005

Shorts, 6/22.

Tura Satana Tura Satana has stories to tell. About girl gangs, about piercing ears with a knife, about revenge, about breaking a stalker's bones, about tassel twirling. And more. Randy Waage interviews her for retroCRUSH. Via The Crime in Your Coffee. Related, in a way: The trailer for the SuicideGirls DVD. Via Fimoculous.

The Chicago Sun-Times's Chuck Ulie presents a history of zombie movies. Via Adam Finley at Cinematical.

In the Morning News, Michael Rottman lists the actors who've given 007 a go - and failed. And why.

Peter Ritter meets Matt Bakkom, "a custodian of orphaned movies, an explorer in a vast, forgotten library of celluloid." Bakkom oversees a collection of 6500 16mm films - "experimental animation, 1950s educational filmstrips, promotions for heavy industry, newsreels, and things too mysterious and wonderful to classify" - that were once kept in the University of Minnesota's archives and curates a weekly series of screenings, "Search and Rescue." For the City Pages, Ritter asks him, "What is it that these films have to teach us?"

He thought for a moment, then said, "I look for movies that are interesting not just because they were interesting when they were made, but that are interesting to us now, that speak to the present. There's this idea that our contemporary perspective is authoritative. These films that seem archaic in a lot of cases raise the possibility of the obsolescence of our perspective. It's destabilizing, but in a good way. It raises the notion that we really don't have any idea what's going on."

That film meme seeps deeper: Matt Clayfield, Filmbrain and Chuck Tryon.

Petra Tabeling has a backgrounder on Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge for the Deutsche Welle. Via Movie City Indie.

Car talk in the New York Times: Sewell Chan on Aernout Mik's Refraction, an installation at the New Museum through September 10, and Stephen Holden on Herbie: Fully Loaded, "a perfectly silly movie for a silly season that in recent years has forgotten how to be this silly."

Waging a Living Also: Annette Grant talks with Sally Potter and Jeannette Catsoulis: "For most of the readers of this newspaper a 25-cent increase in hourly wage would hardly be cause for celebration. But for at least one of the subjects of Waging a Living - an eye-opening, often heartbreaking documentary about America's working poor - that pittance could mean the difference between disaster and survival."

In the Los Angeles Times:

Twist of Faith The lineup for the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8 through 17) is already taking shape; at indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez looks it over and reports on the unusual release of Kirby Dick's Twist of Faith.

Steven Yates looks back at the Cracow International Film Festival. Also at Kamera: Oliver Berry talks with Tony Fingleton, who wrote the story of his life, the screenplay that became Swimming Upstream.

"Rize has greater kinetic energy and visual splendor than you're likely to find in this season's big-budget blockbusters," writes Johnny Ray Huston. Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Kimberly Chun on 5 x 2 and Cheryl Eddy on Bewitched.

Online whoa! tip. A photo snapped way back at the opening night screening of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Via Cinema Strikes Back.

Online viewing tip. Evan Mather's Expressions, a portrait of landscape artist Calvin Abe.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:58 AM

June 21, 2005

Shorts, 6/21.

Alison Willmore files the first of her dispatches from the New York Asian Film Festival, "and it's a doozy." But it is, though. After all, she'd just caught Seijun Suzuki's Princess Racoon. Also at the IFC Blog: another massive roundup of interviews, news of Jia Zhang-ke's next two films and a few online viewing tips: the trailer for Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardener as well as for Bergman's Saraband and Tennyson Barwell's debut feature, Dorian Blues.

Business Week: The Anime Biz Yes, anime is huge. And yes, hugely influential, too. "But to realize its global potential, this business still has lots of growing up to do," explains Ian Rowley in a Business Week cover story. Via Grady Hendrix at Kaiju Shakedown.

At PopMatters, Michael Buening looks back on this spring's Otaku Cinema Slam! in NYC.

James Emanuel Shapiro has a good long talk with Kiyoshi Kurosawa at DVD Talk.

Perlentaucher has discovered not only that the Hungarian publication Magyar Narancs is pleased with John Cunningham's Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex but also a brief interview in English with Cunningham about the book. Related: Craig Phillips on Kontroll: "[T]he film's raggedness suits it, and it is the hangdog cast of characters who will remain in my memory."

Then, in Italian, Cesare Balbo's interview with Ermanno Olmi for L'espresso.

From Cahiers du cinéma to Libération, critics are writing of a "Nouvelle Vague Allemande." What's propelling it may well be a "Berlin School," a notion just as new and not yet widely established though it's certainly worth exploring, writes Rüdiger Suchsland in film dienst (and in German).

In the Al-Ahram Weekly, Samir Farid looks back on the 5th Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam, the shadow of the murder of Theo Van Gogh hanging over it. Also: "It remains peculiar that, given the quantitative and qualitative rise of film festivals worldwide, there should still be no Arab film festival in Cairo, perhaps the oldest and greatest film centre in the Arab world."

Robert Farrow for Metaphilm: "[I]f The Wicker Man breaks so many of the genre rules, why is it such an unsettling film? One answer is illuminated by the complex matrices of truth, power, and knowledge made familiar by the French historian and philosopher, Michel Foucault: The Wicker Man presents us with an alarm call to wake us from 'anthropological sleep,' and to tear down and burn our own false conceptions of 'man.'"

"I may have seen The Blues Brothers more times than almost any other film. Make of that what you will." A stunning realization dawns on the cinetrix as she points to the Chicago Sun-Times's celebration of the movie's 25th anniversary.

At indieWIRE, Brandon Judell recaps the Seattle International Film Festival. Also: The Reverse Shot team disagrees when it comes to Sally Potter's Yes.

Laura Sinagra also reviews the film and has a brief but solid talk with Potter.

Also in the Village Voice:

Blonde Venus

Joe Morgenstern pops up at Slate after all:

I don't think Spielberg and Lucas were the marauders they've been made out to be. For my money (which, mercifully, I don't have to spend to see movies), the Jeffrey Dahmers of today's feature-film business are the people who make the decisions at the entertainment conglomerates, vast and sprawling institutions which have perfected - or so it was thought until very recently - a manufacturing process for crudely made movies that can be marketed successfully via TV and the Web and that can recoup their increasingly absurd costs overseas (the best, or rather worst, recent example being Troy) even if they bomb domestically.

New York City's Beekman Theatre (the comments there make for some interesting reading, by the way), which scored a cameo in Annie Hall, will be forced to close, reports Randee Dawn for Reuters. Meanwhile, AMC's buying Loewe's; another Reuters piece, this time from Julie MacIntosh. At Out of Focus, Aaron has thoughts on all this: "I've actually been fascinated by exhibitor ownership recently."

Through the Back Door Mary Pickford "may be the greatest movie star we've ever had," argues Ray Young at Flickhead.

Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "Like many great stars, [Bette] Davis and [Joan] Crawford were supreme narcissists, the leaders of their own personality cults. But as the Warner sets make clear, they directed their narcissism to strikingly different ends."

Andrew Osborn in the New Zealand Herald: "[A]ccording to the Odessans, Battleship Potemkin is little more than a fairy tale." Also via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?: Van Gower's swift review of William J Mann's Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger for the Washington Blade.

DV and DVD are democratizing video distribution, writes Elaine Dutka in the Los Angeles Times, offering dozens of examples.

Negotiations aimed at bringing a peaceful end to the costly DVD format wars have, tragically, ended in failure. Bloodshed may be unavoidable. Tony Smith reports for the Register. Via HD for Indies.

Online viewing tip. A very bizarre marketing experiment: "Cruise/Spielberg: Unscripted." Related, and via Coudal Partners: War of the Worlds book covers.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:38 PM

CineVegas. A Tale of Two Lands.

Jonathan Marlow on the latest films from the CineVegas Vanguard Directors.

Land of Plenty If all things are merely the sum of their parts, CineVegas can be distilled into one day and two choices. Director of Programming Trevor Groth cleverly paired two features at the close of the festival and, by extension, two Vanguard Director awards to deserving filmmakers Wim Wenders and George Romero. Both, in their own way, inspirations for my own aspirations as a filmmaker (and clearly many other folks in the industry as well). In the case of the former, The State of Things gives evidence to what is truly possible when presented with an impossible situation, both real and imagined. With the latter, Martin demonstrates (in much the same way as the Dead pictures) a startling expression of the human condition in allegorical terms.

It is not by coincidence that these two programs, presented consecutively (although requiring some unexpected tricky maneuvering to attend both) deal with the shape of the world through the prism of American influence and interference. Wender's Land of Plenty is a quasi-realistic drama of a young, idealistic woman returning to a post-9/11 America to find her uncle, a Vietnam vet who envisions himself as an independent secret agent in the "War on Terror." Romero's Land of the Dead, presented as a World Premiere (it fortunately opens nationwide this Friday), is a "scenes from the class struggle" sort of film, pitting the haves, the have-nots and the undead. If you've seen the three previous installments, you can likely guess where it will all lead.

America's declining relevance on the world stage, despite much bluster and fear-mongering, make both films timely if not equally well-crafted. Land of Plenty, filmed when the financing of Don't Come Knocking stumbled (since completed and recently screened at Cannes to mixed reviews), views America as somewhat off its natural path in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Due perhaps to the relative youth of the team that brought the film to completion, Plenty supports a heavily plotted script that uncomfortably sports a superficial take on our disconnected world. Lana (the persistently earnest Michelle Williams) serves as the catalyst for a Pollyanna-esque viewpoint. The film's bewildering solution to our problems? Things are not as bad as they seem.

Land of the Dead This opinion is not shared by Romero's Land of the Dead. The end times are no longer nigh, they are upon us. Day, the weakest of the four Dead films, established that the undead possess the ability to learn. Heaven help us if these abilities lead to some form of collective intelligence. Without getting into the specific machinations of the plot, imagine a spunky Thunderbirds-like crew set in an Escape From reality (in reverse) where the living are segregated to an island and flesh-eating zombies rule the outside world. A restored skyscraper, remade into the model upscale community Fiddler's Green, becomes a beacon for Big Daddy and his rag-tag army of flesh-eating stumblers. The words are uttered by the have-nots but the actions are left to the undead - in your numbers, rise up and take control.

Where Plenty evokes the Lord in its Mission setting, Dead speaks in Biblical proportions. Harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God? Kaufman (the perfectly cast CineVegas Creative Advisory Board Chairman Dennis Hopper), chief architect of this hierarchical setting, is not a reflection of the way things will be. As with all Romero films, Kaufman is a reflection of how things are today. His crass lack of concern for anyone but himself channels Dick Cheney and his cronies' Ameri-centric efforts in a form that other US fiction filmmakers are evidently unprepared to address. During a conversation at the CineVegas closing night party, LA Weekly critic Scott Foundas called the film Romero's masterpiece. I would still reserve that distinction, if only by a slight edge, to Dawn of the Dead. Given that US screens are frequently filled with Romero-lite horror fare, it is a treat to see the real McCoy back behind the camera with a reasonable budget and cast. These upstarts have nothing on the man that essentially (re-)started it all. Wenders, however, in the midst of a decade-long narrative decline, is in need of a rediscovery of his "vanguard" roots - a move fully in evidence in New German Cinema compatriot Werner Herzog's three recent films. Not fair to compare, admittedly, but the truth is there. If Romero can return from the Dead, as it were, twenty years later, anything is possible.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:42 AM | Comments (4)

June 20, 2005

Reverse Shot. Summer 05.

Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert's introduction to the walloping "East Meets West" issue of Reverse Shot really is where you should begin, but I want to leap right ahead (as MK and JR suggest themselves) to Andrew Tracy's outstanding piece, setting Naomi Kawase's Shara next to Jonathan Glazer's "unfairly dismissed" Birth, though it is about far more than only those two films:

Shara

No critic worth his salt is immune to the lure of exoticism. After all, it was that initial thrill of discovering whole other worlds of film (coupled most likely with an innate snobbishness) that got us into this game in the first place. "Difference" is a powerful motivation for both positive and negative ends, and what makes that power troubling is that the positive and the negative cannot assume the form of a binary opposition: grounded as both of them are in the perception of difference, they must share the edge. And thus comparative exercises such as the one now before us become doubly instructive, revealing as they do the limits to which even expanded consciousnesses (such as they are) are subject. For the perhaps inevitable undertone of even the most self-aware comparisons is to reduce matters to "immutable" cultural truths - that is, to the supposedly insurmountable barriers of difference separating "East" from "West." Good contextualizers that we are, we labour to escape from such knee-jerks, but how very easy it is to reject something intellectually while maintaining it instinctually.

How's that for starters? Even with such limitations in mind, the exercise driving this issue is aimed toward "de-exoticizing" cinema from the "East" by, as David Byrne once put it, "Shaking things next to other things." So you have, for example, Nicolas Rapold on All About Lily Chou-Chou and Morvern Callar, Tom J Carlisle on Last Life in the Universe and Punch-Drunk Love, Travis Mackenzie Hoover on Cure and Se7en and so on, eleven fascinating juxtapositions in all.

As if that weren't enough to chew on for a season, there is yet another feature, a new one along the lines of what Reverse Shot has been doing for indieWIRE since last fall, pitting varied viewpoints on the same film against (albeit occasionally alongside) each other. Here, James Crawford provides the "Shot" and Nick Pinkerton the "Reverse Shot" on Sin City.

And has RS ever run so many interviews?

Then seventeen new theatrical releases are reviewed (one of them, 3-Iron, twice) before Pinkerton introduces a "new, expanded DVD section... [W]e will concentrate on films whose releases or re-releases are DVD-only affairs, and we intend also to expand our scope to bootleg and foreign region releases (Eric Hynes's piece on the Russian bootleg DVD market points the way)."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:15 AM

Shorts, 6/20.

"Frankly, I had no idea the lives of penguins were as heart-rending as this. Did you? Holy anthropomorphic pathos!" Critics for the Los Angeles Times are blogging from the Los Angeles Film Festival; more from Leonard Klady at Movie City News and indieWIRE's blog. Through June 26.

The Golden West Also: Richard Schickel reviews The Golden West: Hollywood Stories, a collection of short fiction by Daniel Fuchs, a screenwriter who actually enjoyed working for the studios back in the day, and Mark Olsen meets Miranda July.

Acquarello offers a string of excellent reviews from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Eugene Hernandez posts the winners of the Silverdocs fest at the indieWIRE Insider; evidently, he met Cynthia Rockwell there, too, who promises more coverage in retrospect soon.

Mark Gilson is sending reviews from the New York Asian Film Festival up north to Twitch. So far: Seijun Suzuki's Princess Racoon ("like nothing you've ever seen"; more from Mr Flibble at AICN) and Godzilla Final Wars. Through July 2.

At Stop Smiling, Josh Tyson reports briefly on the brief Movieside Film Festival in Chicago, hosted this year by Guy Maddin. Links from the fest site may lead to aimless wandering and lost hours.

Michael Collins is keeping a Sydney Film Festival diary for Hollywood Bitchslap: Parts 1 and 2. Through June 25.

Eshman sends a dispatch from the Moscow International Film Festival in to the Reverseblog (and I'll be reading the new Reverse Shot later on today).

Monkey Peaches lists the award winners at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Guy Trebay in the New York Times Magazine on krumping and, of course, David LaChapelle's film:

Rize

Rize falls under the rubric of what could be termed the Romance of the Permanent Underclass. According to the genre's unvarying conventions, characters must scale rope ladders of unlikely opportunity to escape their destinies. And this LaChapelle's dancers do - out of a place where gangs and drugs and violence are not merely raw video wallpaper, artifacts of some Snoop Dogg cartoon. The film is dedicated to a dancer named Quinesha (Lil Dimples) Dunford, who was killed with a 13-year-old friend in a 2003 drive/by shooting, and not one of the dancers in it is without a story like Quinesha's to tell.

To a large extent, Rize does what Jennie Livingston did in Paris Is Burning, her 1990 documentary about the gay underground ball scene from which phenomena like vogueing first arose, and what the independent filmmaker Charlie Ahearn did when he documented the birth of hip-hop culture in the semifictional 1982 movie Wild Style. It trains its lens on an exceptional group of self-taught artists and lets their art speak for them.

And in the paper: Dave Kehr on the rediscovered and restored English language version of Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle, screening at MoMA tonight and then Wednesday through Sunday.

Newsweek's Sean Smith is pretty worked up about War of the Worlds: "[T]hink Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a far more sinister edge. There are images here - the wreckage of an airplane, an alien tripod rising to full height behind a ferryboat, a river of corpses, the clothes of the dead floating down through trees like snow - that are just breathtaking." Smith also gets to chat with Spielberg.

And then, according to David Ansen, Bewitched is not a disaster. Related: Rachel Abramowitz talks to Nicole Kidman and Nora Ephron about "girl-empowerment." For the New York Daily News, Joe Leydon traces the lineage of onscreen witches.

Koyaanisqatsi Anthony Lane reviews the film in the New Yorker, but the one to go for here is Alex Ross's, beginning with an appreciation of Michael Giacchino's score for Lost, arcing back through Eisenstein's ideas on film music before sweeping back up at midpoint to a good second listen to a few landmark scores by Philip Glass and a second look at the films themselves: "When I saw Koyaanisqatsi in college, I dismissed it as a trippy, slick, MTV-ish thing, to which some well-meaning soul had attached hippie messages about the mechanization of existence and the spoliation of the planet. At Lincoln Center, I understood it as something else altogether - an awesomely dispassionate vision of the human world, beautiful and awful in equal measure."

Also: Rebecca Mead on Leonard Nimoy's photo exhibition, "Maximum Beauty."

John Bleasdale at Film-Philosophy: "Hannah Patterson and many of the contributors of to The Cinema of Terrence Malick opt for a literary term: Malick's cinema is poetic and he is a poet."

Tom Giammarco:

Marathon

There was a lot going on in the world of Korean film at the beginning of 2005. The controversy of The President's Last Bang was being played out in the courtrooms and in the entertainment news. The collapse of the PiFan Film Festival was a hot topic and the hype surrounding the impending release of Another Public Enemy was overwhelming. Almost missed among all that was a quiet film directed by a virtual unknown but starring the talented Jo Seung-woo. The media found it interesting as "a story of human triumph" but most people seemed certain that Kang Woo-suk's feature would dominate the box office. That all changed however, after Marathon had its press screening.

Also at Koreanfilm.org: Kyu Hyun Kim on An Byung-ki's horror film, Bunshinsaba, and Adam Hartzell on Kim Ji-hyun's indie, Popee.

Filmbrain admires how Pen-Ek Ratanaruang "took a plot that's been done to death and created something entirely unique and fresh" in 6ixtynin9.

Anthony Kaufman isn't particularly wild about this year's biggest indie: "Fiercely committed acting aside, Crash is an atrocity committed against the craft of drama, filled with forced, shorthand trickery to create hollow statements about race without a shred of humanity at its core."

"Soon, I'll hit the two-week mark of my stay in Tokyo," writes Patrick Macias. "After that is undiscovered country. I run the risk of getting comfortable now, imaging I could someday go native, feeling like I understand even a fraction of all this somehow."

Online viewing (and interacting) tip. Rhizome One, from Adrian Miles via Cinema Minima and Nick Rombes.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM | Comments (2)

GCOFF. Last week.

With just under a week left for our ongoing GreenCine Online Film Festival, now seems an appropriate point to remind you that five narrative features...

GCOFF: Narratives

... and five documentaries...

GCOFF: Documentaries

... including a world premiere in each category are on view, still being rated in the run-up to the audience awards, even as our esteemed panel of judges deliberate. Sponsored by DivX, the fest offers filmmakers a share of the profits and you exposure to some of the best new documentaries and indie features from around the world.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:46 AM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2005

Weekend shorts.

"My love for Christoffer Boe's Reconstruction has been well documented [at Twitch]," writes Todd who, well, called him up and chatted with Boe about "Danish film, genre, the fusion of Tarkovsky and Lerner and Loewe musicals, and details on each of his coming projects."

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Todd also runs a long talk from way back, a conversation that "stands as one of the best I have ever had," with Jim White, the singing Virgil to Andrew Douglas's Dante in Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Which brings us to an early online viewing tip. Besides the film's trailer, goes without saying. But don't miss Zach Passero's video for White's "If Jesus Drove a Motorhome," either.

Also at Twitch, a report from the World Wide Short Film Festival and, as always, a zillion trailers you'd never have run across anywhere else.

A film meme makes the rounds: Doug Cummings, Darren Hughes, Megan McMillan, Micah Newman, Girish Shambu and MS Smith.

Via Movie City Indie, Nick Sylvester's "Untold Story of Mondo Kim's Raid" in the Village Voice, a piece in which Mr Kim gets to tell his side: "We are serving the poor, young, very experimental artists nationwide - I should say the world wide."

Cynthia Rockwell: Silverdocs

"I've just seen the great You're Gonna Miss Me and am off in a few minutes to catch Abel Raises Cain." Cynthia Rockwell is blogging from the AFI Silverdocs fest (through Sunday), posting pix; more of those from Amy King. Meanwhile, at Filmmaker, Gabriel Paletz looks back at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Wrapping up Slate's "Summer Movies Week":

  • What was the appeal of Steve McQueen back in the day? Matt Feeney in Slate: "McQueen defined a fleeting moment in Hollywood's depiction of manhood, standing between the '50s kitsch of Sinatra, John Wayne, and Elvis and the post-Vietnam second-guessing of the pathological Eastwood, the sensitive New Age Redford, and Burt Reynolds. He was the first and maybe the last action hero to be neither absurd nor ironic."

  • Michael Agger has an interesting piece on the science behind deciding which movies to make and how to market them. Hardly a romantic science, but it's got a deeper history than you might think. And here's where it gets really interesting: "[Chrysanthos] Dellarocas also imagines a future where a Hollywood executive could monitor, in real time, a numerical analysis of the word-of-mouth of a movie on its opening weekend and adjust the marketing accordingly."

  • For Bidisha Banerjee, Howl's Moving Castle is "a letdown... insipid and conventional. The good news, however - even if critics missed it - is that Jones' book is amazing. Her plucky heroine, dazzling disguises, and cheeky interrogation of clichés out-Miyazaki Miyazaki himself."

  • Rebecca Onion asks, "Why has no shark movie since Jaws managed to hold a bloody, severed leg to the original?"

  • David Edelstein caps a one-sided conversation.

LA Weekly critics select and write up their highlights for the Los Angeles Film Festival - so, too, does Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat and indieWIRE has a blog fired up and running - and one of them, David LaChapelle's Rize, gets the full feature treatment from Ernest Hardy, while another, Sally Potter's Yes, is the focus of one of the most unusual set-ups for an interview in quite a while (which makes it a refreshing departure from the standard three-act press junket script ["Where'd the idea come from?" / "What was it like working with X?" / "What are you working on now?"]).

Yes

Scott Foundas, see, panned the film in one of the very first reviews to appear. In Variety. In a sense, Potter is given a chance to make a rebuttal here, and she makes the most of it.

Also, Ella Taylor: "My Summer of Love is not just about the multitudes we all contain, but about the loving, murderous powers we bring out in each other, for better and worse." More from AO Scott in the New York Times.

Eugene Hernandez has five questions for The Talent Given Us director Andrew Wagner. Manohla Dargis reviews the film in the NYT (it "shouldn't work but does rather remarkably").

Also at indieWIRE: Gary M Kramer interviews Miranda July; so does Karen Durbin in the NYT, while AO Scott reviews Me and You and Everyone We Know. What's more, Scott Macaulay's Filmmaker cover feature is now online. And the cinetrix? "At the end of Me and You, I felt the way I did after seeing Trust for the first time, or The Dreamlife of Angels: I had been somewhere new and strange and was reluctant to come back to the "real" world; I had fallen in love."

And Armond White? Well, let ClarenceCarter over at Reverseblog answer that one. Also in the New York Press: Matt Zoller Seitz is not too impressed with either Batman Begins or The Talent Given Us; and Josh Cohen recommends This Land is Your Land.

Back to the NYT:

  • "Scientists and technologists have the same uneasy status in our society as the Jedi in the Galactic Republic." Neal Stephenson has a rather dark prophecy for one big rich country.

V for Vendetta

For the Washington Post, appropriately enough, Bob Thompson reports on W Mark Felt's book and movie deal. Looks like Tom Hanks may end up playing Deep Throat. Commentary: Mark Lawson in the Guardian.

Palahniuk: Survivor

Via Peter Sciretta at Cinematical, a book-by-book update from Quint at Ain't It Cool News on upcoming adaptations of Chuck Palahniuk's novels.

Jeffrey Wells has read William Monahan's screenplay for The Departed, Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs: "[I]t appears as if all the elements for a genuine Scorsese comeback are in place."

"More than one commentator has mentioned that science fiction as a form is where theological narrative went after Paradise Lost, and this is undoubtedly true," writes Margaret Atwood in a piece on why we give possible worlds trial runs in fictional spaces. "Understanding the imagination is no longer a pastime, but a necessity; because increasingly, if we can imagine it, we'll be able to do it."

Also in the Guardian:

At Koreanfilm.org, Darcy Paquet reviews Lee Jeong-cheol's melodrama, Family.

The Girl in the Cafe

A romantic comedy about the G8 Summit? Turns out, as James Rampton reports in the Independent, The Girl in the Café airing on both the BBC and HBO next Saturday, is the film of which Richard Curtis is "most proud." You'll find related interviews at the site and Kristin Hohenadel's with Kelly Macdonald in the Los Angeles Times.

Also in the Independent, fresh interviews: Tiffany Rose with Michael Caine and Roger Clarke with Jill Sprecher.

"'Snoop just looked at me,' continues [director Marc] Klasfeld, 'and said, "Cool. I'm in."'" Baz Dreisinger gets the background on The LA Riot Spectacular, "a satire on an event that - literally and metaphorically - scarred Los Angeles." Also in the LAT: Another rapper, another movie. Geoff Boucher has a longish piece on the making of Get Rich or Die Tryin', a 50 Cent biopic starring 50 Cent. But with Jim Sheridan directing, it'll most likely turn out better than that sounds.

In the Los Angeles Daily News, Valerie Kuklenski reports on a new survey and her headline says it all: "3 of 4 Americans prefer movies at home."

Big congrats to Nick Davis.

IFC Center

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei interview John Vanco, VP and General Manager of the new IFC Center in NYC, for the Gothamist. Related: Lewis Beale in the NYT on what constitutes a midnight movie these days. Nostalgia for the 80s is big, he discovers.

For the inside track on Clint Eastwood, one turns to the Carmel Pine Cone. There, Paul Miller talks to the director about his next film, his biggest yet, Flags of Our Fathers.

Winners of the AltWeekly Awards were announced on Friday; quite a few film reviewers among them, too.

Previewing "Safety Last: The Films of Harold Lloyd," Steve Vineberg considers "the breeziest of the silent comedians, the most effortlessly upbeat, the most cheerily reckless." Also in the Boston Phoenix: Gerald Peary reads Scott Eyman's Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B Mayer.

Gary M Kramer interviews Bruce Campbell for the Philadelphia City Paper.

Austin has the Alamo Drafthouse and Portland has The Mission. Now, Seattle has Central Cinema. Andrew Wright tells its story in the Stranger.

Marc Savlov profiles PJ Raval, director of photography, in the Austin Chronicle.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Nick Rombes: "Now, this is a very unscientific theory, but I've noticed over the years - especially in preparation for teaching film classes - that there is surprisingly little discussion of the technical achievements of African American cinema."

Andrew Billen interviews Spike Lee for the London Times.

In the Telegraph, Mark Monahan meets Dan Harris (Imaginary Heroes) and David Gritten celebrates Robert Mitchum.

Festival notes in the Chicago Reader: Africa Diaspora Film Festival (through June 23) and the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival (through Sunday).

Steve Erickson picks a few highlights of the New York Asian Film Festival for the Gay City News.

How many movies has John Woo announced yet hasn't actually, you know, made? Grady Hendrix counts thirteen.

Online viewing tip #1. Skin, directed by Vincent O'Connell and written by Sarah Kane. Via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Online viewing tip #2. The BBC Motion Gallery. Background: Bija Gutoff for Apple.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:59 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2005

Cinema Scope. 23.

The 23rd is the post-Cannes issue of Cinema Scope and it finds editor Mark Peranson in a funk. Mostly. On the one hand, blasting away, film by film, at his fellow critics' herd mentality in his own Cannes roundup is more than just an exercise in letting off steam; it is, for him, it seems, also a confirmation of his own sanity. Surveying the instant opinions of those who needed to get copy to their editors within hours, "I found myself agreeing with absolutely nobody across the board... I take this as a positive sign for my own mental health." On the other hand, such persistent iconoclasm is exhausting. By the time he gets to his Editor's Note, Peranson sighs, "Maybe I'm burnt out."

A History of Violence

The biggest bone Peranson has to pick with the herd (and really, was there actually such widespread agreement those two weeks in May?) is the still-reigning auteurist sensibility tainting the first looks at works from so many Cannes veterans. Example. A History of Violence. "If anyone other than Cronenberg had directed the film, would critics be talking about the virus of violence that infects the family? About the mind-body problem?" But why should anyone walk into a screening of Violence determined to ignore the full context of its origin? I doubt Peranson is calling for a return to the mid-20th century age of New Criticism, so isn't it possible to view the film with more than one eye? Read the text as text, if you like, but also as a chapter in the meta-narrative of the whole of a filmmaker's work and as an instant within a particular historical moment and so on and so forth. We can handle it; we're a multitasking bunch, after all.

But good on Peranson for egging on so many debates within a single piece - judgement is passed on about a dozen films in there - and for pulling together yet another strong issue, worth seeking out in print for the full Cannes spotlight section alone but also for the features and interviews not online. As for those that are, first Cannes:

Shanghai Dreams

  • Jason Anderson on Wang Xiaoshuai's Shanghai Dreams, "remarkable not only for its precision and slow-building emotional power, but the way it extends its teenaged characters' feelings of confusion and hopelessness to the community around them."

  • Pedro Butcher on Carlos Reygadas's latest: "While the more abstract Japón strived for universality, Battle in Heaven is very much Mexican and Latin American, reflecting some of its most complex issues with a very straightforward approach."

Bilge Ebiri surveys recent Turkish cinema which, like the country itself, is a fascinating vortex of opposites and syntheses.

"Fear is the last redoubt of the lack of vision. And I don't think politics can go on without any substance to it. I'm optimistic, but I also might be wrong. A cynical journalist said to me, 'I think you might be right, but all the terrorists need is a bomb every 18 months.'" Each conversation with Adam Curtis about The Power of Nightmares seems to bring out new insight, and Robert Koehler's is no different.

10e Chambre

Jay Kuehner talks with Raymond Depardon about his wide-ranging, "under-recognized career."

Columns and reviews:

Night Watch

  • Eric Hynes: "[F]or all of its clichés and blatant derivations, Timur Bekmambetov's Russian blockbuster Night Watch... might be the most nationally specific film ever to receive international distribution.... You're meant to associate Night Watch - the first of a planned trilogy - with its forebears The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, et al, but beneath the genre trappings and timeless trenchcoats is an uncanny distillation of life in Moscow circa 2004."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:41 AM

June 16, 2005

Online viewing tips.

Rummaging through Movie-List, you can discover all sorts of trailers out there. Thing is, they tend to provide "deep links" directly to the QuickTime files, though they also provide, to their credit, links to a film's official site when available. Which is what you'll see here, when the link to the trailer is plainly visible off those pages. If not, then Movie-List's page, plus the site.

The World

And don't forget, Movie-List's greatest page is actually its collection of "classics." Of course, these are weighted towards the last two decades, so a quick reminder of a few departure points for voyages further back: TCM's multimedia page, Dr Macro's clips, and of course, the IMDb.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:01 PM

Sight & Sound. 7/05.

Sight and Sound: July 05 In one of the few instances in which Sight & Sound posts a piece online actually related to the cover, Edward Lawrenson's review of Batman Begins happily reports that "[Christopher] Nolan's stamp is detectable throughout."

"Torremolinos 73's triumph is to reveal that the sex comedy - that long-lost and much-maligned genre - can be as touching and tender as it is funny," writes Paul Julian Smith, while Kim Newman, not exactly impressed by Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, nonetheless admires its look.

L'eclisse is screening as part of the National Film Theatre's Michelangelo Antonioni series this month, but of course, with the recent Criterion DVD release, the questions Guido Bonsaver raises are just as pertinent; in short, we're invited "to reflect on his early achievements and to ask what his films still offer 21st-century cinema-goers."

Michael Brooke pays tribute to Alastair Sim, "the eccentric uncle of British cinema."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:19 AM

Advertisements for ourselves.

GreenCine has launched a press and PR blog: Pravda.

Pravda

Pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to take the opportunity to note, first, that this is not only not the first advertisement for ourselves at the Daily right here in the "content column" (we've plugged our own special screenings and so forth in the past), it also won't be the last. But, as with the "Featured VOD" or the flagging of the GreenCine Online Film Festival in the right-hand column, any ad will always be distinctly marked as such. Just so you know.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 AM

June 15, 2005

Online viewing tips.

Sometimes, they get a little unwieldy and have to be siphoned off to an entry of their own.

Archive Films Movie Player

Let's start, though, with an online viewing tool. The Archive Films Movie Player. It's a Dashboard widget for the new version of Mac OS X, Tiger: "Plays seven public domain films from video streams provided by archive.org. The player is updated every Monday with seven new films." Oh, my. Via Cinema Minima.

Online viewing tip #1. The Downing Street Memo clip from Hijacking Catastrophe.

Online viewing tips #2 through #4. Trailers via Movie City News: Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's MirrorMask and Curtis Hanson's In her Shoes.

Online viewing tips #5 through #10. From the Guardian's Kate Stables.

Online viewing tips #11 through #14. Clips from the Turkish Star Wars via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online viewing tip #15. A promo clip for George A Romero's Land of the Dead, featuring plaudits from John Landis, Guillermo del Toro, Clive Barker and Eli Roth. Via Matt Dentler by way of AICN.

Another slow motion movie

Online viewing tip #16. Another slow motion movie from Wiley Wiggins. This one's something else.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:09 PM

SFBG. Frameline29.

Frameline29 Frameline29, this year's edition of the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, opens tomorrow and runs through June 26. Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Some of the festival's best, if least-heralded, programs celebrate those tribes within our tribe that laid groundbreaking pipe (ahem) for real freedom of identity, that bucked stereotypes, that continue to define diversity as deeper and more humanly relevant than race, gender, creed, costume, and even political affiliation."

Also, "a far-from-complete guide to some of the currents flowing through this year's programming." Plus: The SFBG staff writes up nine more highlights.

One more Bay Area viewing tip. The Power of Nightmares at the Roxie.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:06 PM

Summertime shorts.

"By investigating the art of summer moviemaking, its tone and textures, we hope you'll feel slightly better about seeing Batman Begins," writes someone at Slate, introducing a package of articles dubbed "Summer Movies Week." And with Christopher Nolan's bid to restart a franchise now opened and opened wide, that'll be the first order of business before dipping into the seasonal ruminations at Slate and the Village Voice:

Batman Begins

  • At Movie City News, Ray Pride smartly zeroes in on the element that defines any interpretation of Batman: Gotham City. And "it's the 'realness' of Nolan's world that fascinates."

  • Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "Batman has finally come home. Not just to a story that painstakingly details his origins but to an ominous style that suits it beautifully."

  • For Slate's David Edelstein, it's "overlong, but in the second half there's full-throttle creepiness."

  • "[I]t does not disappoint." Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where Max Goldberg assesses Benoît Jacquot's À Tout de Suite.

  • Sean Burns gives the film an A- in the Philadelphia Weekly.

  • Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene: "All the movie lacks is a spark of transformative vision."

  • Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "In the movie's bid for solemnity, even Jung is explicitly invoked, but Nolan and his co-screenwriter David Goyer can only press the big buttons so hard - it's still an old-school superhero summer movie, the plotting tortuous, the characters relegated to one-scene-one-emotion simplicity, the digitized action a never ending club mix of chases and mano a manos."

  • Rob Nelson in the City Pages: "A pretentious Batman was probably inevitable."

  • Salon's Stephanie Zacharek finds the film "leaks existential phoniness from the first frame."

  • The Guardian's Andrew Pulver interviews Nolan. Plus: Andrew Gilchrist on the Batmobile.

  • In German: Dietmar Kammerer in die taz (also running Denis Duclos and Valérie Jacq's mini-history of realism in cinema for Le Monde diplomatique), Tobias Kniebe in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Sebastian Handke in Der Tagesspiegel and Andreas Borcholte at Spiegel Online.

Now about that "Summer Movies Week":

Spielberg, Scorsese, De Palma, Lucas and Coppola

  • "Lucas vs Spielberg" is a fun rundown on the relationship, "something... like the impacted, covert, passive-aggressive version of rivalry practiced by siblings," by Tom Shone, author of Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer.

  • This summer's dirty little secret is the advent of the "indie blockbuster," argues Christopher Kelly. "Indie" filmmakers will cash in, the studios will score cred, but "some of our best and most challenging filmmakers, among them Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant and Spike Lee, are likely to be even further marginalized in the decade to come." By the way, Jackie McGlone gets off to a rough start with Spike Lee but manages well enough to write up the encounter engagingly for the Scotsman. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

  • Bryan Curtis: "The apoplexy [Michael] Bay's movies inspire reveals something interesting about film critics: That no matter how much they insist that they've made their peace with the summer movie, and its bullying domination of the multiplex, they can still go limp at the idea of the summer movie as an artistic end in and of itself."

  • Charles Taylor reemerges with an appreciation of the original Bad News Bears.

  • Grady Hendrix: "If you're thinking about running a film festival: don't."

Filmbrain passes along some sage advice on dealing with the summer; and sparks one helluva conversation.

Take refuge in the art house, encourages the Voice. Dennis Lim introduces a package of alternatives, mostly in the form of profiles of their makers:

David LaChapelle

Also in the Voice:

The next big summer movie, of course, is War of the Worlds, and Emanuel Levy's got your primers on Orson Welles's 1938 radio event and the 1953 George Pal/Byron Haskin film.

Premiere's Glenn Kenny may have only had a few minutes with Hayao Miyazaki, but the resulting interview is meatier than many others. As for the animator's view of the current scene, "There's only one word I can say about Japanese anime and that is it's unfortunate, or too bad, what a shame." Doug Cummings (who has also posted a wonderful appreciation of Bresson's Au hasard, Balthazar) is delighted by Howl's Moving Castle.

Back at the NYT:

Wheel of Time

For the Huffington Post, Noah Helpern interviews Errol Morris, who's evidently busy as hell making new films, even as his landmark earlier works are finally headed to DVD. Still, there's always time to talk politics. Via Fimoculous.

There's a lot more to Kill Bill than a flurry of allusions, argues Michael K Crowley in 24LiesASecond: "I confess my notions about Kill Bill are strange. But the film itself is strange. Kill Bill has been described - not only by critics but by co-creator Uma Thurman - as a story of revenge and redemption.... What about this vital question of redemption?"

Police Beat

Police Beat is the pride of Seattle at the moment; for Cinematical, Kim Voynar talks to screenwriter Charles Mudede, director Robinson Devor and producer Jeffrey Brown.

In Stop Smiling, Nathan Kosub has some unusual and refreshingly unsensational thoughts on a film not currently vying for your attention, David Gordon Green's Undertow.

Sudha G Tilak for Outlook India: "Prosenjit Chatterjee, 40, all acknowledge, is the man responsible for rejuvenating Bengal's mainstream cinema today." Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

The President's Last Bang

At Cannes, Paolo Bertolin got to talk with Im Sang-soo about The President's Last Bang; that interview is now up at Koreanfilm.org, where you'll also find:

  • Darcy Paquet on Kim Ki-duk's The Bow: "After three straight 'hits,' I think Kim has to file this in the 'miss' category."

  • Adam Hartzell on Kim So-young's Women's History Trilogy: "The highlight... for me is definitely 'I'll Be Seeing Her: Women in Korean Cinema' (2002), a collage of images from films past and present."

  • Hartzell on Byun Young-joo's Ardor, which "provides enough of an engaging story for me to recommend it, at least for those who don't have problems watching people get freaky."

  • Tom Giammarco on Oh Yo-seop's Hyeong-Rae And The Hulk, a Korean live-action children's film, a rarity these days, though, as Giammarco explains, this was not always the case.

Where did some of those obit headlines for Anne Bancroft come from? At CJR Daily, Brian Montopoli has a few ideas. Via Coudal Partners.

Rename Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart doc. Via Alternet's Peek.

In the New York Observer, Andrew Sarris previews the "Paramount Before the Code" series, June 24 through July 21. Yes, four weeks.

Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky's Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database is now available on DVD. An undoubtedly handsome booklet comes with.

The BBC has a creepy story on the auctioning off of photos snapped during the shooting of Leni Riefenstahl's Tiefland (Who's selling? Where's that money going?): "The 33 original photos... include shots of young gypsy children who were allegedly taken from Nazi internment camps." Via the Alternative Film Guide.

BlackBook has a fun if somewhat dated interview Amy Sedaris has conducted with Sam Rockwell; just as fun at least is Glenn O'Brien's "Art is a Joke!" Via Bob Sassone at Cinematical.

Drawing Restraint 9

David Lowery's found more, in fact, "pretty much everything you might want to know about" Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9, including details on Björk's soundtrack.

Online browsing tip. Italian movie posters. Via Rashomon.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:03 PM | Comments (4)

Biz/tech notes.

Though I've been told he's got it all wrong, Edward Jay Epstein's piece in Slate on why Rupert Murdoch has "placed an order for 20 million digital video recorders for his customers" is nonetheless a terrifically provocative read if you've got a thing for speculating on how we'll be watching movies a few years down the line. Sidenote: Bill Smith in the New York Observer on an odd emerging alliance: Murdoch and Hillary Clinton.

The PSP's UMD Meanwhile, as big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target begin phasing out their stock of VHS tapes (as Mark Chediak reports for the Washington Post), and a resolution to the DVD format wars seems further off than it seemed just a few weeks ago (Richard Brunton sums up developments nicely at the Movie Blog), another format suddenly clamors for attention: The UMD, li'l discs you slip into a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). Blockbuster will be renting them (according to news passed along by Chris Thilk at Cinematical) and Fox will release Robots on UMD and DVD simultaneously (as Scott Hendrick reports in Variety). Click on Amazon's entry for the UMD version of Kung Fu Hustle, and you can follow links to plenty more.

Many have assumed it'd be Apple that'd dream up the iPod for video; has Sony, inadvertently or not, leapt ahead? If so, then only temporarily, I'd imagine. As with music, portable video won't break through until it requires no hard copies at all.

Kris Oser reports at AdAge.com on AOL's new content strategy; it's going to involve a lot more freely accessibly video content, evidently.

Georg Szalai for Reuters on the Viacom split. More on how media moguls are refashioning their empires from Daniel Gross in Slate.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:53 PM

Midnight Eye. 6/05.

Tom Mes: Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto With the re-release of Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man slated for June 28, Midnight Eye editor Tom Mes's new book, Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto, couldn't be more timely. Which, of course, is not very likely a coincidence, but still. Looks like a fun browse and maybe even a terrific read.

In the issue proper, more nostalgia of a sort, as Mes interviews Sogo Ishii, focusing on the Japanese punk scene of the 70s and 80s. In terms of historical placement (rather than style, certainly), he seems to have been a sort of Japanese Jim Jarmusch.

Kenji Misumi is the subject of this issue's Round-Up. "Best known for his work on the Baby Cart and Zatoichi series," writes Mes, but "it's time for a drastic re-appraisal."

Reviews:

  • Jaspar Sharp on A Stranger From Afar: "With each of his films proving even more successful than the last, [Takashi] Shimizu's career looks unstoppable, but one can't help but hold a few reservations as to which direction he will head in next." Even so, "Fear junkies certainly won't come away wanting."

  • Sharp on Akihiko Shiota's Canary: "For various reasons aside from its shared cinematographer, the work of Kore'eda springs to mind."

  • Mes on Nobuhiro Yamashita's Linda Linda Linda: "[E]ven for those entirely unfamiliar with the history of Japanese rock music, this film's infectious, three-chord charm will prove hard to resist. And that former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha provides the score won't hurt its international appeal either."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:13 AM

June 14, 2005

Seattle Dispatch. SIFF Wrap-up.

Sean Axmaker, a film critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a DVD columnist for the IMDb and frequent GC contributor looks back on the recent highlights of the marathon of festivals, which wrapped on Sunday night. Earlier dispatches: 1 and 2.

Innocent Voices After 23 days and almost 250 features, the Seattle International Film Festival is over. Finally. For the working press, it's an exhausting haul - with press screenings running for the four weeks before opening night and the tape library rotating throughout, it can be overwhelming and, frankly, hard to finally put into any perspective. SIFF's lack of focus and definition doesn't make that any easier, though what may be its biggest weakness is also its greatest strength: it is everything to everyone in the community, a festival for the people of the city, not the critics or industry movers and shakers. Where attendance is down in theaters nationwide, the festival had a five percent upturn in attendance - this, in the shadow of Star Wars (which robbed the festival of its traditional screenings in the Cinerama).

The Golden Space Needle Award (an audience-voted trophy) for Best Picture went to Luis Mandoki's Mexico-produced Innocent Voices, a well-meaning, heartfelt and utterly conventional social statement about the citizens caught in the crossfire of El Salvador's civil war, notably the children turned into soldiers or snatched off the streets for sexual assault. First Runner Up was Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, which played SIFF in its original Japanese-language version on the day the English-dubbed version opened nationwide.

Yes Best Actress went to Joan Allen for her performance in Sally Potter's Yes (Emmanuelle Devos was robbed - she wasn't even a runner up for her fearless performance in Kings and Queen) with a well-deserving Maggie Cheung First Runner Up for Clean. Joseph Gordon-Levitt won Best Actor for Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin (Peter Sarsgaard was First Runner Up for The Dying Gaul and Mathieu Amalric Second Runner Up for Kings and Queen).

Gregg Araki took Best Director for Mysterious Skin and Sally Potter was First Runner Up for Yes. Best Documentary went to Murderball. For a complete list of the awards, click here.

Banlieue 13 Just for contrast, the privately tallied "Fools Serious" awards, voted on in a complicated system by the Full Series passholders, provided their own take on the festival. The highest number rating went to Howl's Moving Castle, with surprising a second place finish for the adrenaline-charged French B-movie thriller Banlieue 13 (see below for my review). Their least liked, surprisingly, was Miike Takashi's Izo.

Gus Van Sant's Last Days saw its North American premiere at the closing night ceremony. It was another film that divided audiences. Continuing his experiments in narrative deconstruction and reconstruction, it drifts through the final days in the life of Blake, an alienated, drugged-out-of-coherence rock star "inspired by" Kurt Cobain and played by Michael Pitt in a shambling, mumbling, suggestive performance under shaggy blonde locks that leaves no doubt as to who he's emulating. The story is pure speculation, Van Sant's fantasy on what might have happened during those final days of self-isolation, but he loads the film with distinctive imagery - from Pitt's wardrobe to the architecture of the damp, murky forest that envelopes it all like some primeval landscape - that makes a definitive connection to the real events and complicates any kind of reading of the film. What he's really interested in, however, is the experience: the decay of the mansion, the isolation and depression that continually fuels itself, the sense of abandonment, the queasy disorientation of the narrative timeline as it slips back to replay events with details just a little off. There's no explanation to be found here and Van Sant is defiantly vague about pretty much everything (except the rather heavy-handed religious imagery), but the disturbing indifference of the self-absorbed housemates and the texture of Blake's haunting deterioration creates an experience that is hard to shake off. I still haven't really come to terms with it.

Grizzly Man I missed many of the 55 documentary features spotlighted at SIFF in this record year, but my pick of what I saw is without a doubt Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, a portrait of a real life Fitzcarraldo named Timothy Treadwell. This new-age Grizzly Adams with a video camera and a quest to save the Alaskan habitat from humanity spent thirteen summers living amidst the grizzly bears of the Alaskan wilds until he was killed and eaten by his beloved cause. Herzog's fascination with and respect for the man and his fanciful (and somewhat false) self-created mythology as "the lone guardian of the grizzly" is genuine, and his perspective is honest. Treadwell's quest was sincere and passionately undertaken, but his sense of privilege gives him justification to break laws that he would hold everyone else to and his passion blinded him to the contradictions inherent in his stated goals. Those contradictions and controversies, as well as fundamentally opposite philosophies on the essence and reality of nature and wild animals, are where Herzog's film lives.

Argentina got the spotlight in this year's festival with a sidebar of twelve films. I saw very few of them, though what I did see suggested a subject for further study - The Holy Girl, Lucrecia Martel's follow-up to La Cienaga, is just as queasy a cinematic meditation as her debut, and Pablo Trapero's lively and loose The Rolling Family observes the antagonisms of an extended family trapped together on a sloppy road trip with a wry affection.

Kings and Queen What did impress me was the French line-up. There wasn't a richer film on display than Arnaud Desplechin's dense, daring and emotionally churning Kings and Queen, a character study that leaves audiences sharply divided about the truth of its heroine, played with an exceptional balance of poise and raw intensity by Emmanuelle Devos. Her twice-married (sort-of) single mother lives her life with a certain arrogant selfishness and Desplechin contrasts her personality and her melodrama-charged crisis (her father is dying of cancer with only days left to live) with her former "husband" (Mathieu Amalric), an equally arrogant and far more irresponsible musician who is committed for a two-week observation period in a mental facility. While audiences seem eager to embrace the most critical judgments passed on Devos by herself and other characters (in particular, a vicious hate letter from a bitter loved one - which ultimately reveals more about the writer than the subject), they are ready to forgive Amalric because of his eccentric antics and shaggy charm - which is part of the fascination of the experience. The film is a minefield of uncomfortable emotions and moral cowardice, yet there are undercurrents of selflessness and sacrifice throughout, complicating any simple assessment of what these characters are all about. It's at once devastating and uplifting, and I found it hopeful and generous.

Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped, a contemporized remake of James Toback's Fingers set in a shady real estate underworld of Paris, has its own churning drama. Romain Duris has all the emotional stability of a lit fuse as a scrappy streetwise hustler coercing tenants and squatters out of valuable property with strong-arm tactics, when a sudden drive to return to abandoned piano studies overtakes him like a mad love. Duris makes you feel the tension between his adopted life and the driving need to succeed in conquering the keyboard and making the music come alive under his fingers. Audiard gives it all an edgy volatility as the world of small-time hustles and under-the-table scams comes back with a vicious sting.

5 x 2 The back-to-front narrative structure of 5 x 2, François Ozon's scenes from the dissolution of a marriage, opens on the divorce of married couple Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Stéphane Freiss and ends with their first hints of romance (tellingly during his vacation with his longtime girlfriend). Ozon plays each of the five moments of the birth and death of their lives together with startling dramatic austerity and clarity. It's both a remembrance of things past and a post-mortem in fragments: pieces of character, telling decisions indicative of their life, moments when weakness or pettiness overcome calm and affection. His greatest special effect is holding the camera in tight on faces which radiate helplessness, insecurity, hardness, anger, disgust, ennui and, at times, simple unguarded love and rapture.

High concept blast Banlieue 13 is further proof that Luc Besson has found his calling as a writer and producer of the leanest, cleanest, most adrenaline-charged B-movie action thrillers in the world. A pair of opposites - ghetto hero David Belle and kick-ass undercover cop hero Cyril Raffaelli - become a volatile team of urban guerrillas to break into the maximum security ghetto (police keep the poor penned in like convicts) and defuse a stolen "clean bomb." It's less Escape From New York than a hysterically overheated socio-political commentary on the ghetto-ization of neighborhoods into impoverished prisons abandoned by civil authority and ruled by the drug lords. That straight-faced outrageousness is part of the film's charm, while the stripped down aesthetic, driving pace and efficient and impressive action sequences are the film’s charge. Curiously, the emphasis is on acrobatic chase scenes through the city, which spotlight a new, uniquely French urban sport known as Parkour that star David Belle helped create. Which doesn't mean that first-time director Pierre Morel stints on fights; he just cuts them down to their essentials with a well-honed sense of how to make images move. They do.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:49 AM

June 13, 2005

Shorts, 6/13.

The 31st Seattle International Film Festival wrapped last night and the Grand Jury handed its prizes for Best New Director to Ilya Khrzhanovsky for 4 (Special Jury Prize: Brad McGann for In My Father's Den), Best New American Film to Doug Sadler's Swimmers (Special: Scott Coffey's Ellie Parker) and Best Documentary to Walter Stokman's Based on a True Story and (Special: Heather Rae's Trudell). Eugene Hernandez has the full list at indieWIRE.

Veer-Zaara

Veer-Zaara swept the International Indian Film Awards this weekend in Amsterdam, winning best film, best director (Yash Chopra), best male lead (Shah Rukh Khan) and best supporting actress (Rani Mukherjee). More from the BBC and the AFP.

Kim Voynar interviews Jenni Olson for Cinematical. This could be potentially amazing: "At the moment I'm dying to make a non-conventional documentary exploring the history of urban planning in San Francisco."

"Without gay men, the movie industry would be a barren wasteland," declares Michael Thomas Ford in the San Francisco Chronicle, introducing his "key moments in the gay movie canon," from Bette Davis in Dangerous (1935) through Gregg Araki's current film, Mysterious Skin. Via Movie City News.

War of the Worlds

In the Observer, Peter Conrad recounts the various tellings of HG Wells's War of the Worlds, noting along the way how each interpretation has reflected its own times, including Spielberg's. "His Martians, [screenwriter David Koepp] claims, are merely conducting the belligerent foreign policy of the US, even though this time they happen to be stomping into New York. What stops the armoured, insensitive global power is 'a local insurgency'; the film, he says, is his commentary on the Iraq war."

"[I]n June 1978, in the middle of the punk revolution, my musical version of The War of the Worlds was released," writes Jeff Wayne in the Independent. "And to everyone's surprise (mine especially), it became a major international success."

Back to the Observer: Philip French remembers Anne Bancroft and reviews Kings and Queen.

Newsweek's Devin Gordon gets to pop a few questions for Hayao Miyazaki. One of them: "Were you surprised Spirited [Away] won an Oscar?" The answer: "Actually, your country had just started the war against Iraq, and I had a great deal of rage about that. So I felt some hesitation about the award. In fact, I had just started to make Howl's Moving Castle, so the film is profoundly affected by the war in Iraq."

Michael Caine

Also: Nicki Gostin chats briefly with Michael Caine.

A sir, a dame and a Harvey. In the Telegraph, Hugh Davies lists the names of those most likely offended by James Ivory in Conversation.

Eric D Snider has begun a CineVegas diary at Hollywood Bitchslap.

"The old Waverly Theater on West 3rd and Sixth Avenue, sung about in Hair and famous for launching the Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight feature, is now a beautifully refurbished cinema - and a powerful branding tool, too. Logan Hill in New York on the IFC Center. More from Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

Los Angeles Film Festival

The Los Angeles Times's Kevin Thomas revels in the variety on hand at the Los Angeles Film Festival (June 16 through 26).

Time's James Poniewozik on Morgan Spurlock's new reality show: "30 Days pretty much busts the assumption that all of Rupert Murdoch's TV networks are tools of Karl Rove.... But the series is not strident, and seems to have been made in a genuine spirit of curiosity."

John Sutherland: "Nitpicking is to film criticism as blogging is to journalism." Also in the Guardian: Simon Hattenstone on the first ever screening of Deep Throat in the UK.

Who's your Daddy? Now? Ben Slater knows.

Bruce Campbell is whiplashing between coasts all summer long, reading from his book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, and promoting his new film, Man with the Screaming Brain. He's definitely coming to a book store or theater near you; it's just a matter of time. Click here to find out when.

Oliver Twist

Online viewing tip #1. A teaser for Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist is up at the French site. Via Ain't It Cool News. And while you're there: Scott Green's "AICN Anime," another massive update.

Online viewing tip #2. Bloc Party's "Pioneers." Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #3. Nick Rombes's amusing 6th episode of Sunday Evening Aesthetics.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:11 AM

June 11, 2005

Howl's and dissent.

Reviews of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle have, for the most part, been positive. A few examples:

Howl's Moving Castle

  • Not only does AO Scott review the film for Friday's edition of the New York Times ("Admirers of his work, which is wildly imaginative, emotionally intense and surpassingly gentle, will find much to appreciate in this film because it demonstrates, once again, his visual ingenuity and his sensitivity as a storyteller. For newcomers to his world, "Howl's Moving Castle" is a fitting introduction to one of modern cinema's great enchanters"), he's also got a very fine and appreciative profile of Miyazaki in the Sunday edition which starts right off establishing him as "the world's greatest living animated-filmmaker."

  • Four stars from Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader and, once again, a sharp and vital point about Hollywood assumptions right at the end.

  • Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "In its merger of antiquarianism and fantasy, artisanship and magic, the castle neatly sums up the art of its creator."

  • David Edelstein in Slate: "It's as if Miyazaki has wedded his enchanting Spirited Away to his ferocious allegory of the end of nature, Princess Mononoke, and come up with something more discomfiting than either."

  • Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "Miyazaki's gifts as an animator place him in a category of his own. To see his latest film is to be somehow reminded of Italians who could hear Verdi's operas as soon as they were sung or English readers who could experience the novels of Dickens episode by episode."

And so on. But not everyone is won over. "I must come clean: Miyazaki bores me to tears," confesses Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. At the same time, though, "[M]y problems with Howl's Moving Castle may have been exacerbated by the fact that I'd been lucky enough to see a new movie by the 82-year-old wild-card director Seijun Suzuki in the same week.... Princess Raccoon is inventive, weird and beautiful, all the qualities that are commonly ascribed to Miyazaki's movies. But unlike Howl's Moving Castle, it's also passionate and heartfelt, and not just an exercise in studied whimsy."

Josh Neuhouser's disappointment, though, is of quite a different order. Miyazaki most certainly does not bore him. Of his "most creative period" in the 80s and early 90s, for example, Neuhouser writes, "Particularly of note is the wonderful Kiki's Delivery Service - it seems to be a simple (though charming) coming of age story on first glance, but the attention paid to the relationships between the young and the old, and the rural and the urban are strongly reminiscent of Ozu." But with Howl's, he fears that what we have here "represents a serious stagnation." Perhaps his most interesting and even cautiously hopeful points come when he explains why "Ghibli doesn't have to go down like this."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:28 PM

Weekend shorts.

Human Rights Watch Howard Feinstein at indieWIRE: "American democracy is in serious peril - though it doesn't keep the powers-that-be from paying lip service to such useful authoritarian governments as those in Russia and China. This 16th edition of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival is more relevant than ever." Through June 23.

Turns out you don't have to subscribe to the Nation to read Stuart Klawans. Pointing to Klawans's review of Kings and Queen, Ryan Wu notes of discovering Agence Global, "Worth a bookmark." Indeed.

Princess Raccoon Filmbrain not only praises this year's lineup for the New York Asian Film Festival (all in all, June 17 through July 2) as "the strongest ever," he's also got a slew of recommendations for you. If you're going, do check in.

Grady Hendrix: "What's the big craze in entertainment? Korean television dramas."

Even on a Friday in summer, Manohla Dargis manages to slip a fervent recommendation into the New York Times: "Forget the Sith, Tom and Katie, the big movie news this summer is the release on DVD on Tuesday of one of the greatest films in history: Au Hasard, Balthazar... a masterpiece that stirs the heart and soul as much as the mind." On a related note, Doug Cummings: "L'Argent showcases the filmmaker at the height of his formal ingenuity, particularly his use of narrative ellipses and fragmented space (close-ups of legs, hands, objects)."

For the Sunday edition, Ms Dargis has a timely profile of Jonas Mekas, who's currently representing Lithuania at the Venice Biennale: "Both a necessary opportunist and a national treasure, Mr. Mekas has earned a place in the pantheon of American avant-garde filmmaking for work that has chronicled the world he has made since sailing into the Hudson long ago."

Also:

Age of Consent "It's a very different Helen Mirren. Instead of the iron-willed detective from Prime Suspect, a dame of the British theatre or the authoritative voice of a computer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it's an earthy young sex symbol, all breasts and bum, on a sunny Queensland beach." Garry Maddox looks back to Michael Powell's Age of Consent in the Sydney Morning Herald. Via Movie City News.

David LaChapelle's Rize may turn out to be one of the best films of the summer and Carina Chocano has a terrific piece on its making. As Steve Gallagher points out at Filmmaker, if you're in NYC, you can catch it on June 14, projected on an outdoor 40-ft screen at Rockefeller Center.

Back to the Los Angeles Times:

Reviews from the Seattle International Film Festival are coming fast and furious now at the Siffblog.

Drawing Restraint 9 David Lowery's found a few shots from Drawing Restraint 9, the film Matthew Barney is working on. Björk's not only writing music for it; she'll also be in it, evidently.

Peter Bradshaw thoroughly approves of John Walker's selection for the #1 spot in Halliwell's Top 1000. "After Tokyo Story, Ozu made another eight films, all of them superbly accomplished, though arguably not achieving the sublime quality of this movie." More from George Fasel.

Also in the Guardian:

Liberation: Chaplin In Libération, an overview of the exhibition "Chaplin et les images" at the Jeu de paume from Samuel Douhaire.

One more in a foreign language if you don't mind: Rainer Werner Fassbinder died on June 10, 1982, and just a few hours before he did, actor Dieter Schidor interviewed him. Yesterday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung ran the interview. Via signandsight, which translates one passage, so I'll choose another, the last question and last answer:

Schidor: You've made more than forty films in thirteen years, not counting your work in theater or other media. How would you explain this extraordinary activity?

RWF: I can't imagine doing anything other than making films. If I weren't making films, I'd paint or write novels.

In an interview with the Athens newspaper, Ta Nea, Theo Angelopoulos has said he'd like to cast Michelle Pfeiffer and Harvey Keitel in his next film, To Trito Ftero.

"[T]he real story of Batman’s beginning, much of it unearthed only after painstaking research for my forthcoming book, Men of Tomorrow, is probably even more dramatic [than Batman Begins]," claims Gerard Jones in the London Times.

Angelina Jolie Allen Barra sings praises of Angelina Jolie in Salon, and the opening chorus comes from Pauline Kael: "'My God,' she exclaimed, 'this girl could play both the Brando and Maria Schneider roles in Last Tango! Where in the world did she come from?'"

Which leads us to the most recent round of Mr and Mrs Smith reviews: A click away, right there in Salon, Stephanie Zacharek ("How can we cast even a glance Pitt's way when she's anywhere near? That's not to say Jolie is a selfish performer: She's the opposite of a succubus - she breathes life into Pitt instead of sucking it out"); Manohla Dargis in the NYT; Kenneth Turan in the LAT; Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian; Robert Hanks in the Independent; Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph; Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger; and Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat.

Which is where Dean Kuipers asks Gary Indiana why felt compelled to write The Schwarzenegger Syndrome: Politics and Celebrity in the Age of Contempt:

When I saw him at the Republican National Convention, it just hit me. The way he delivered his speech was better than Hitler. It surpassed Mussolini, because it had charm as well. It had every gimmick and cliché - these fabulous stories about Soviet tanks rolling in Styria, where there never were any. That entire convention just told me something about the country that I guess I had known all along but that I just saw in a new way.

Also: Andy Klein polls three very different thumbs and they're all up for Batman Begins.

Scottish accents, Ulster accents... Ellin Stein on the pros and cons of providing subtitles in English for some English-language films. And the Independent's interviews: Chris Sullivan with Mario Van Peebles and James Mottram with Nick Nolte.

Here's what might seem at first glance to be an unlikely friendship: Ousmane Sembène and Leni Riefenstahl. And yet, as he tells Sheila Johnston, so it was. And he still admires Olympia.

Also in the Telegraph:

Ron Howard is a strange case, but if anyone knows what to make of him, it's Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Chuck Tryon's caught two films recently that've made him stop and think: September Tapes and The Agronomist.

Apple II At Wired News, Kim Zetter talks to Jason Scott about his "five-and-a-half-hour paean to the era when computers were named Stacy and Lisa, and tech loyalists fought bitter battles over the superiority of Ataris to Amigas," BBS: The Documentary. The site goes deep. Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

Blog addicts will have noticed that a story came and went unremarked on here, but I was always hoping it turn out the way Chuck Olsen says it has: "The saga is at an end, so it's time to pass the peace pipe and get butt-ass nekkid." Isn't it always time? No, seriously, good news.

Online browsing tip. Raster. Via Filmmaker's Steve Gallagher.

Online viewing tip #1. Wiley Wiggins's first submission to the Slo Mo Video Festival.

Online viewing tip #2. Demo for Data Tiles. As Jim Coudal says, "Whoah."

More online viewing tips. Dozens and dozens of them, actually. You have to hear this question in your mind with the proper accent: "You are looking for a French director to shoot a commercial?" All About French Directors. Once again, via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:19 PM | Comments (2)

June 10, 2005

Kim's raided.

Kim's Video Major crackdown yesterday at Kim's Video in NYC, "known widely for its independent labels, and sometimes ornery staff," as Thomas J Lueck puts it in his report for the New York Times. The store also happens to be known widely for carrying copies of movies and music of at least questionable legality. Hence the official charge of "trademark counterfeiting" and the carting away of five employees in handcuffs.

Lueck gets in a few good quotes establishing what makes the Mondo Kim's outlet a "longtime fixture in the East Village" (scroll down), but you don't really get the full picture until you read Filmenthusiast2000's reaction to the news over at Reverseblog. Which is, to oversimplify, mixed. A "disgruntled ex-employee" of the Ave A outlet, FE2000 writes, on the one hand, "I had a firsthand seat to experience the complete corruption of Kim's upper management, who bear comparison only to certain Soviet Bloc dictatorships for sheer ineptitude and venality," but on the other, remembers that when he arrived in New York from Ohio, "Kim's was a paradise fulfilled."

A series of questions follow, raised by FE2000 and two excellent comments, but the gist is: To what degree is some level of piracy acceptable, maybe even necessary, for a culture to flourish?

Posted by dwhudson at 9:12 AM | Comments (10)

June 9, 2005

Shorts, 6/9.

1949. Look sends the young photojournalist Stanley Kubrick to Chicago, arguably the most photogenic city in the US, and the magazine runs eleven shots over five pages. "But Kubrick shot 40 rolls of film. What happened to the other photographs?" asks Mary Panzer? The Chicago Tribune runs her answer (it's a happy one, of course) alongside a gallery of eight.

Kubrick: State Street

Spectacular stuff via Coudal Partners and Movie City Indie. Also in the Trib: Mike Hughlett on TiVo to go.

Wild in the Streets

J Hoberman will be introducing the five films he's selected for the series "American Outlaws: Scenes from the Dream Life, 1968 - 72," screening at the Pacific Film Archive from tomorrow through Saturday, June 18. What first strikes Max Goldberg is that Berkeley is a supremely appropriate setting; second, the series "shies away from the Vietnam generation's most oversaturated films in the interest of privileging context over cults of personality that develop around icons like Easy Rider. Indeed, Hoberman is concerned here with the films that didn't live on - those that didn't survive the 60s for a healthy shelf life in Blockbusters the nation over." Third, if The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties is any indication, the lecture and the intros are going to be well worth catching.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

All the President's Men

Elbert Ventura for the New Republic on "a particularly fecund phase in Hollywood history" and Alan J Pakula's paranoia trilogy, Klute, The Parallax View and All the President's Men:

In films like The Conversation, Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor, and Marathon Man individuals found themselves enmeshed in - and fighting against - schemes of unimaginable proportions. Jake Gittes's stunned retreat from his own quest, with the ineffectual salve, "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," could well be the emblematic ending of the genre. All the President's Men can be seen as a culmination of that string of conspiracy thrillers, not least because it finally gave the good guys an unambiguous victory.... Seeing Pakula's paranoia trilogy now calls to mind an era when the movies dared to be relevant.

At long last, another list of the greatest movies of all time. No, seriously, this one's at the very least notable since it's about to be published in book form as Halliwell's Top 1000, and Alison Willmore's already broken it down at the IFC Blog, based on a series of articles in today's London Times. The big surprise, as she notes, is that Citizen Kane has been knocked down several notches to #6, and at the top? Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story. "It's a spectacular victory for those of us who believe that less is more," writes Times critic James Christopher. "The film is as bare as one of Aesop's Fables. It sits at the top of the pile, as inscrutable and compelling as a three-line haiku."

Tokyo Story

Over three pages, the Times then lists the top 100, with the top ten annotated. Alison on that batch: "The only inclusion we find fault with is Some Like It Hot, which we've never been that fond of, and which has become the kind of comedy version of Citizen Kane, occupying undeservingly high spots on top tens and such because it's a safe comedy title (and comedy is so much more subjective than drama)." Back in the paper, John Walker, who compiled the list, elaborates on how he went about constructing it. A few notables comment briefly on Tokyo Story.

On a far smaller scale but perhaps of more immediate interest, Jeffrey Anderson at Mindjack considers the best of 2005 - so far, of course.

"Dear Hollywood Agents," begins satirist Siamack Baniameri at Muslim WakeUp!, "Years of playing Hamlet and Francisco in small theater houses all over Europe have prepared me for more dynamic and meaningful parts such as hijacker, suicide bomber, kidnapper, rock-throwing fanatic, hostage-taker, insurgent, fundamentalist mullah, or the ringleader of a terrorist sleeper cell in New York City." Via Alternet's Peek.

My Summer of Love

For his "Beyond the Multiplex" column in Salon, Andrew O'Hehir calls up Pawel Pawlikowski to talk at good, healthy length about My Summer of Love (for trailers, click "passionate") and then reviews François Ozon's 5 x 2, Sébastien Lifshitz's Wild Side, Christophe Honoré's Ma Mère, Pierre Salvadori's Après Vous, Chris Terrio's Heights and Alexandre Aja's High Tension.

Another onstage interview at the National Film Theatre, another terrific transcript in the Guardian. Bonnie Greer has more for Ousmane Sembène than questions, too. When he challenges her to show him "one man who doesn't love women," her immediate reply is, "Well, you are in England." Related: Darren Zenko in Vue Weekly on Moolaadé.

"Over the next three months, Miramax Films, founded and operated by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, will release at least 10 movies, including seven films that have been gathering dust on the studio's shelves for up to four years." As John Horn reports, among the orphans are:

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Il Postino

"What are viewers to make of a three-hour film about the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and the legacies of human development along the Danube River, technology, and violent ruptures in recent European history from the Holocaust to the collapse of communism to the breakup of Yugoslavia?" asks Peter Monaghan in the Chronicle of Higher Education. "David Barison and Daniel Ross are finding that their 189-minute opus, The Ister, has been winning rave reviews and awards in several countries since its debut last year." Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Nick Rombes: "The democratization of filmmaking means that avant gardes are everywhere, and nowhere."

Howl's Moving Castle

Matt Zoller Seitz finds Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle "so richly imagined that it makes most American fantasies, animated or live-action, seem thin and stale. It's a storybook dream." Also in the New York Press: Armond White: "You don't have to be Osama bin Laden to think that only a horrible culture would produce an 'entertainment' like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But when a bootleg of this facetious comedy does get satellite-projected to that crazy hermit in a Middle Eastern cave, he'll probably break into an 'I told you so' grin."

Days of Being Wild

Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene on Days of Being Wild:

[I]t's an hour-and-a-half of beautiful actors luxuriating in the visual steam bath of Christopher Doyle's ravishing cinematography, awash in shadow and sensual heat, as Wong's scenario meanders from action thriller to tragedy along what will become his familiarly unpredictable path. There's a current trend toward "sandbox" video games that let the player wander anywhere and interact with anything in his virtual environment. Wong's plots are similar in that any stray character can tug the movie in a different direction... Indeed, the enigmatic ending introduces a new character (played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai) whose significance may not even be known until Wong's much later In the Mood for Love and his current 2046 - which threads its way back to complete a 14-year circle.

The Sydney Film Festival opens tomorrow and runs through June 25. A perfect opportunity for Sacha Molitorisz to, first, establish that there is indeed a crisis in Australian cinema, and second, ask 'xperts around the world how, for example, Germany and France have made their national film industries so much more successful - relatively speaking. Related: Director Bill Bennett: "Here's a thought - instead of investing tax dollars in bureaucrats paid to make decisions about what films get made irrespective of their outcome, how about we spend that money on providing incentives to producers to make hit movies?" Via Movie City Indie.

There are times when, after a furious rush of clicking from here to there and on, even more words have an almost staggering effect. They silence the noise. The cinetrix is running passages from François Truffaut's "What Do Critics Dream About?"

"[R]are is the case where filmmakers actually set out to do good and can claim to have achieved it." Alan Riding reports on Videoletters, "designed to further reconciliation among people from the former Yugoslavia who had once been friends and who had been separated and even alienated by the bloody nationalist conflict." A moving clip accompanies the piece.

Also in the New York Times:

Jason Silverman at Wired News: "Along with bloggers and independent journalists, Iraq-based filmmakers are transmitting stories they believe have been neglected by mainstream media outlets." The focus is on Dreams of Sparrows; via the Alternative Film Guide.

At Twitch, Todd has a preview of the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, July 7 through 18.

Cinevegas: Christopher Walken

The honorees at CineVegas, opening tomorrow and running through June 18: Christopher Walken, Ann-Margret, Nicolas Cage, Samantha Morton, George A Romero, Wim Wenders and Rhonda Fleming.

Wendy Mitchell sends a "Dispatch From Europe" to indieWIRE. Of course, some might argue that, since she's in London, the dispatch doesn't get truly European until she previews the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, July 1 through 9. (Wink-wink, etc.)

Never mind the tweaks. It's time to completely reinvent the San Francisco International Film Festival, argues Michael Fox in the SF Weekly. Via Robert Davis.

For Christianity Today, Peter T Chattaway (now there's a Dickensian moniker for an interviewer) asks "self-described 'atheist Christian'" Brian Flemming about The God Who Wasn't There.

The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway interviews George Lucas.

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D, a roundup: Marc Savlov talks with the kids, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Dooley (that's right) for the Austin Chronicle; Ella Taylor reviews the film for the LA Weekly ("Much hair-raising fun is had on the Train of Thought and the Stream of Consciousness, excellent embodiments of the loosely associative world of today's fully digitalized youth.... After the truly horrid Sin City, it's a relief to see [Robert] Rodriguez let his inner Spy Kid out to play again."); and Movie City News passes along a copy of the first legal steps taken against Rodriguez et al. for trademark infringement by a professional wrestler who goes by the name of, yes, Shark Boy.

Also in the LA Weekly: Scott Foundas on Batman Begins, "a more rugged, robust, athletic picture than [Tim] Burton's two contributions to the franchise, and ultimately a more compelling one" (much more from David Lowery who, like many reviewers, you'll notice, seem almost more intrigued by what Christopher Nolan will do with the sequel than with what he's done here; and, from Collin Smith at That Movie Site, a look back at Burton's 1989 Batman), and on two Iranian "crowd pleasers" that "can reveal as much about the fabric of Iranian culture as their more sophisticated art-house brethren," Friday's Soldiers and Soul Mate.

And back to the Austin Chronicle: Marrit Ingman on how the Freaks and Geeks marathon at the Alamo went and Josh Rosenblatt on Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait.

Seventeen

Online browsing tip. The Silent Film Still Archive. Via Rashomon.

Online listening tip. "Present at the Creation: The Graduate." Via Karina Longworth at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #1. MeaningofLife.tv. Robert Wright's conversations with smart people. Bring time and attention.

Online viewing tip #2. Fingerboarding. Very little time or attention required. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #3. Robert Sanchez's interview at IESB with Bruce Campbell. Via Todd at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #4. Jamie Stuart asks director Don Argott and producer Sheena Joyce about Rock School for Mov..., no, Mutiny City News.

Online viewing tip #5. Alessandro Bavari's "Headcleaner." That it is. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

And then, sad news. The UbuWeb Project "has finished." Via filmtagebuch.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:44 PM

June 8, 2005

Cahiers du cinéma. The site.

Cahiers 602 The slightly cheesy, slightly cool (in a "Let's go out to the lobby!" sort of way) Flash intro still greets you when you hit the Cahiers du cinéma site, but what lies behind it is new. Of the greatest immediate interest are the archives. At the moment, you can view PDFs of a selection of issues - #1 (April 1951), #100 (October 1959), #200 (April/May 1968), #300 (May 1979), #400 (October 1987) and #500 (March 1996) - the complete issues. And the full library, all 70K pages of it, is headed online "soon."

Of course, if, like me, you don't read French, you'll be spending some time with Google, but fair enough. Clicks (rather than euros) away are pieces by Bazin, Renoir, Truffaut, Godard, Henri Langois (on the 25th anniversary of the Cinémathèque) and the rest, and besides, as with most magazines, the most fun's to be had just leafing through them aimlessly.

But there are other places to wander: Selections from the current issue (#602; one piece in English even), stills from city shots, a calendar of events, a new forum, a few more reads and, most playfully, Takeshi Kitano's "Ciné-manga interactif." He snapped 69 photos; you make your selections, write your captions and place your storyboard alongside those from Kitano and others. Among those who participated in the run-up to issue #600 were Olivier Assayas, Catherine Breillat, Arnaud Desplechin, Hong Sang-soo, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and others. Many others.

Thanks, Frederic.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:01 AM | Comments (2)

June 7, 2005

Anne Bancroft, 1931 - 2005.

Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft, who won the 1962 best actress Oscar as the teacher of a young Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker but achieved greater fame as the seductive Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, has died. She was 73. She died of cancer on Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital, John Barlow, a spokesman for her husband, Mel Brooks.

The AP's Dino Hazell.

William Gibson put it this way: "More happens in her face in 10 seconds than happens in most women's faces in 10 years." ... She was more interested in performance than theory, although she was a member of the Actors Studio early in her career. The actor Rod Steiger once gave her a copy of Stanislavsky's writings on acting. "I still have it," she said some years later, "but I've never read it." The landmarks in Ms Bancroft's acting life were, unquestionably, the two Gibson plays and The Graduate.

Robert Berkvist in the New York Times.

Updates: "The acting profession lost one of its finest," writes Nikke Finke for the LA Weekly. "But Hollywood has lost something even more precious: a role model."

David Edelstein at Slate: "[S]he was a casualty of her best role... her performance was so indelible that it became difficult for audiences (or studio executives) to see her as anything but 'the older woman'... My favorite moment is her saddest, when, after professing ignorance about (and indifference to) a work of art, she admits, with a faraway look (but no evident self-pity) that her major in college was 'art history.' She has so much more stature than the self-centered protagonist."

Elisabeth Kuball, who wrote a longish profile of Anne Bancroft for Salon back in 2001, reflects on how her interest in the actress nudged her own life in a different direction.

George Fasel: "The depth and texture of Bancroft's best work makes a great deal of what passes for acting throughout the length of her career pale.  She was a dedicated artist with the talent to match her devotion to her work; not many of those around."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:57 PM | Comments (3)

Shorts, 6/7.

The Raspberry Reich For Assembly International, staging an evening of screenings, talks and so on in Berlin on Friday evening, Darius James chats with Bruce LaBruce. It's a wide-ranging talk with occasional expletives and shout-outs that touches on John Landis, gay porn, Gus Van Sant, the crisis of the American Left, the New York Press, Kenneth Anger and on and on. Also: Nicolas Siepen interviews Azza El-Hassan, a filmmaker from Ramalla, plus Godard with line breaks.

"Does Hollywood need to remain so out of synch with reality?" Edward Jay Epstein isn't talking culture or politics, he's talking money and, at Slate, he maps several of the seismic shifts reshaping the film industry. Also: David Edelstein on why Hal Holbrook made for a more evocative Deep Throat than Mark Felt.

Christopher Doyle shooting for M Night Shyamalan? One can imagine the vivid imagery, but, given their very different working methods, it's a lot harder to imagine them making it through an entire shoot together. Then again, you never know. Via Todd at Twitch.

"It seems that Fox Home Entertainment is suddenly making a bid to rival Warner Home Video and the Criterion Collection for first-rate handling of its library titles." Dave Kehr on Nightmare Alley, The Street With No Name and House of Bamboo. Also in the New York Times: Michael Wilson and Andrew Jacobs on all that Russell Crowe silliness.

Klute Knowing he's going to be interviewing Jane Fonda at considerable and yet not unlimited length at the National Film Theatre, David Puttnam makes a very smart choice: He concentrates on the films between 1969 and 1979. And so, we hear Fonda talk about They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, spend quite a while - and quite justifiably, too - with Klute and get the lowdown on the lowdown in Coming Home. Then Puttnam steers the conversation to her father, segues to politics and opens it up to questions from the audience. Which happens to include Mario Van Peebles. It all wraps with lessons learned from Katharine Hepburn.

Also in the Guardian: Paul Hamilos interviews Taylor Hackford.

Nick Pinkerton kicks off Reverse Shot's trio of reviews of François Ozon's 5 x 2 for indieWIRE. More from Dennis Lim in the Voice.

Speaking of which:

The Cinema of the Low Countries Oliver Berry and Ben McCann compile Kamera's "Top 10 Being Watched Movies." You know, Rear Window, The Truman Show, etc. Also: Robert Williamson on The Cinema of the Low Countries: "The latest in Wallflower Press's ambitious series of 24 Frames titles sets out to eschew issues of national cinema in favour of a regional perspective. That it ultimately fails demonstrates how prevalent and important issues of national identity remain in world cinema."

George Fasel on Arnaud Desplechin's Kings and Queen: "I do not know of a film that, for all its allusions to literature and art and classical mythology and philosophy and psychoanalysis, is more a celebration of the concrete, the vast collection of detail that makes up the richness of human life."

Former Miramax publicist Rachel Pine's got a novel coming out, The Twins of Tribeca, and Celia McGee has no problem at all pegging characters' fictional names to some fairly famous ones in the New York Daily News. Via the IFC Blog, where Alison Willmore's rounded up pointers to umpteen interviews, each - and this is the good part - annotated with topics that should have been covered.

In "Women with Guns" at Flickhead, Richard Armstrong discovers that the power of film can side-swipe you in unexpected ways.

Oksana Bulgakowa: Sergei Eisenstein Online browsing tip #1. "It is with great pleasure that the Daniel Langlois Foundation presents an Internet project dedicated to an early sketchbook of Sergei M Eisenstein (1898-1948), dating from 1914 when the artist was 16 years old." Which is just amazing once you see these drawings. Anyway: "Eisenstein specialist Oksana Bulgakowa comments on the sketches and draws from her biography of Eisenstein to help us understand the familial, social and political environment in which he grew up and developed as an artist. The visual material also includes a wide variety of documents: drawings, plans, notes, videos, photographs and reproductions of paintings." Related: Matt Clayfield on Alexander Nevsky.

Online browsing tip #2. The Drive-in Museum. Via Coudal Partners, where the Crash Ballets are definitely an online viewing tip.

Online listening tip #1. Zoë Bell, one of two stunt women profiled in the doc Double Dare, is a guest on DVD Talk Radio.

Online listening tip #2. CC Banana has a question for George Lucas. Via Peter Sciretta at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for The Aviary, a true indie aimed at countering misconceptions about the lives of flight attendants.

Online viewing tip #2. "In Green" (last link on that page), an excellent video for the song by Volcano, I'm Still Excited!. Via Tom Hall.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:37 PM | Comments (4)

June 6, 2005

Shorts, 6/6.

Wired: Jobs and Eno Since the last batch of "Shorts," the greatest concentration of gotta-reads has suddenly clustered at Filmmaker's blog:

  • Scott Macaulay rounds up the latest speculation on Apple's switch to Intel's chips. It's about movies. Seriously.

  • After citing the Anne Thompson piece in the Hollywood Reporter on the rapidly closing window between theatrical and DVD releases mentioned here earlier, Scott points to something of a followup, only Mark Cuban goes much, much further. And a zillion readers pick it up from there.

  • Scott, like anyone with ears and a bit of substance between them, is intrigued by next week's release of Another Day on Earth: "Eno has been, alternately, a provocative pioneer and a watchful, influential observer to many of the key artistic moments of the late 20th century."

  • Besides pointing to Katie Dean's piece in Wired News, which shall pass by here without further comment, Steve Gallagher's found a really nifty camera.

Wired: Spielberg 05 You know it's summer when Steven Spielberg follows George Lucas on the cover of Wired. Frank Rose anchors his report from the War of the Worlds set in two corners of the magazine's mission: He elaborates on producer Kathleen Kennedy's declaration, "Technology has been our friend," by spelling out what all previsualization ("computer-animated, scene-by-scene sketches of the movie that incorporate both actors and effects") can do in preproduction (Spielberg: "Once all the info goes into the hard drive, I'm able to take a mouse and fly the set... I can do a 3-D cyberspace location hunt and nail my angles"), what all ILM's Zeno software can do in post and - nice touch - we get a snapshot of the supergeek Wired knows its readers look up to, aspire to become or already are: "'This backpack is my office,' [pre-viz specialist Dan Gregoire] says, sitting in a tent near Spielberg's and holding up a black nylon bag stuffed with gear: a Titanium PowerBook G4, a bright red Opteron-equipped Acer Ferrari laptop, 60- and 250-gigabyte FireWire drives, and a Sony PD100 digital camcorder."

The second anchor is firmly snagged in the big picture, a beat the magazine has actually felt freer to explore since the Net became ubiquitous and the dotcom boom went bust:

This apocalyptic idea - that in a flash, some weapon we have no defense against could upend our existence - is as resonant a theme in the post-9/11 world as it was in HG Wells's day. In 1898... Britannia ruled a quarter of the Earth; its military prowess was as unchallenged as the United States' is today. Yet Wells had the audacity to imagine its people as defenseless as the natives they were subjugating.

Batman Begins While we're on summer blockbusters, we can turn right away to another Condé Nast publication, the New Yorker, where David Denby turns in early reviews of Batman Begins (BadAssMovieNews rounds up more reviews) and Mr and Mrs Smith. As it turns out, for Denby, they fit well on the same page. He reminds us first of the promise of the early indie careers of Christopher Nolan and Doug Liman in the 90s and then notes, either with melancholy or relish, it's hard to tell: "[B]oth directors have now attempted blockbusters, and neither shows much of what was lively and fresh in their previous work. I don't underestimate the skill and tenacity required to pull a big movie together, but, from the outside, it looks as if Nolan and Liman have capitulated to the marketing demands of a system that is squeezing the art out of large-scale moviemaking."

New York's Ken Tucker has seen both flicks, too: "Mr & Mrs Smith works on almost every level and against all odds.... But Begins, at two-hours-plus, is a nonstarter." Also, quick! A Werner Herzog timeline: Logan Hill. Related: Steven Rosen on Grizzly Man.

"At 91, [Budd] Schulberg is one of the few living links to the early days of Hollywood - who else is still around who can say he wrote a screenplay with F Scott Fitzgerald, yakked about movies with Sergei Eisenstein and is still owed $100 by Harry Cohn?" Patrick Goldstein listens to story after story and then asks around about the Sammy Glicks of today.

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Jake Forbes on what drew Hayao Miyazaki to Diana Wynne Jones's 1986 novel, Howl's Moving Castle, and Lisa Rosen on the complex origins of the penguins of Madagascar.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly From July 30 through January 22, 2006, the Autry National Center's Museum of the American West in Los Angeles will be hosting an exhibition entitled "Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone." So you can imagine that Dennis Cozzalio, who has, after all, dubbed his blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, is pretty worked up about this. Besides a bio of the director, Dennis also has info on seemingly countless related events slated for this "Summer of Sergio."

Rebecca Jamison's new piece at Flickhead has me jotting down film titles next to a note that reads, "See something with Grayson Hall. ASAP."

Most theories as to why box office numbers have been down this year point to the greater number of distractions an arm's length away that are keeping people at home. DVDs, games, the Net. But for AO Scott, the problem is the movies: "The commitment to meticulously engineered mediocrity suggests that the American movie industry, in its timid, defensive attempts not to alienate the audience, is doing just that." Thoughts from George Fasel: "The doggedly sunny Scott insists that he is hopeful of a turnaround, although for my part it is hard to find any grounds for such hope in a culture so reality-denying, self-referential, and - to borrow a term recently applied to us by British novelist Hilary Mantel - 'God-besotted.'"

Back to the New York Times:

  • Adam Cohen: "Watching Nashville three decades later, there is an unsettling shock of recognition, because the government's current policies seem to be hurtling us to another time of deep national disillusionment."

  • Joe Rhodes previews Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days. In the first episode, he and his fiancée try to live that long on the minimum wage. Like Barbara Ehrenreich, they find it pretty tough going. Related: Spurlock's commencement address for Woodrow Wilson High School in his hometown of Beckley, West Virginia.

Heights

"The question of whether I consider myself more German or Turkish is similar to the question Turks ask themselves. Is Turkey Western, or isn't it? My answer is that it's both." Der Spiegel's Anke Dürr and Marianne Wellershoff talk to Fatih Akin about Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul.

The All-Time 100 was evidently quite a hit, racking up a "record-busting 7.8 million page views in its first week, including 3.5 million on May 23rd, its opening day," reports Richard Corliss in a column that probes countless readers' complaints as well as his own misgivings about what did and did not make the list. At length. Halfway in, Corliss reveals the scraps snipped from the final draft - and Richard Schickel's, too.

Wired: Spielberg 02 Of course, everybody loves lists, even the renegades at Hollywood Bitchslap. Erik Childress introduces their "Top 100 Director's Power List" (it's the apostrophe that makes you look twice, isn't it?), counting backwards, building up from 100 to 51 and then from 50 to 1. Of course, HBS wouldn't be HBS if there weren't also a "Bottom 100 Director's List (Or, Who We Don't Want Directing X-Men 3)."

The Guardian runs another transcript of a long and engaging onstage interview. Alan Rusbridger talks with Ronan Bennett about the docudrama he wrote, The Hamburg Cell: "I think the thing that helped me take them and their belief seriously was that exposure at an early age to strong political beliefs, particularly the kind that left people feeling that they had no alternative but to take militant action."

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

The Postman Always Rings Twice

"More than painting, music, or literature, film has an astonishing ability to record ordinary people in ordinary settings with an aural and visual clarity that can be mesmerizing," writes Doug Cummings. "Andrew Bujalski's independent 16mm film, Funny Ha Ha (2003), released theatrically in Los Angeles this past weekend, exemplifies this tradition and is one of the most captivating movies I've seen all year."

Nick Rombes: "Medium Cool is both a movie and a theory of movies.... It is the product of the very tools that it damns. And its accusatory ending hits a note that is rarely struck in American film."

"One of the few films to already grace Filmbrain's 'Best of 2005' list, The President's Last Bang is a triumph of acting and directing that allows Im Sang-soo to rub shoulders with the likes of Kubrick, Mamet and Altman, and a cutting satire that works even if one is limited to a rudimentary understanding of the events portrayed."

James Hughes: "In celebration of the release of The Stanley Kubrick Archives from TASCHEN Books, Stop Smiling spoke with the editor of the project, Alison Castle, and a contributing writer, Anthony Frewin, about their experiences working on the book, considered to be the most comprehensive study of the filmmaker to date."

Aren't blogs grand. Alison Veneto runs the bits - lots - that didn't make her interview with editor John Ottman for MovieMaker.

Georgia Straight: Summer Movies The tax incentive wars between US states like New Mexico and Louisiana on the one hand and Canadian provinces like British Columbia on the other, that is, the battle to lure in film productions, may not sound like fodder for a fun read, but Vancouver journalist Ken Hegan pulls it off in the Georgia Straight. Also: Ken Eisner on the summer's movies.

Liam Gallagher may be steering his career towards film, reports Ian Herbert in the Independent. Don't la... nah, go ahead. Laugh.

The AP's Ryan Pearson lists the winners and relates a few anecdotes from the weekend's MTV Movie Awards ceremony.

The SFist has been haunting (Yet) Another Hole in the Head all weekend.

Yesterday, the Austin Film Society hosted a benefit preview of Robert Rodriguez's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D, followed by a kids' carnival. Matt Dentler snapped some photos.

Online browsing tip (and desktop wallpaper construction kit). Fred Camper's Brakhage stills. Via Wiley Wiggins.

Online listening tip #1. Terry Gross interviews Thelma Schoonmaker. Via Greg Allen.

Live From Iraq Online listening tip #2. Cyndi Greening: "Director Paul DeNigris talks at length about the process of making and distributing his independent film The Falls. One of the earliest totally digital films, DeNigris' film is often described as the 'Best Looking Film Noir' without the film."

Online viewing tip. Live From Iraq, the 4th25's album trailer. Warns Newsweek: "Contains graphic language and violent images."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:04 AM

June 5, 2005

Firecracker. 7.

Paul Spurrier is the Brit who "made the bold decision that it was within his ability to research, write and direct a film in the Thai language, with a Thai cast, and based on very specific aspects of local culture." The result is P, already winning awards on the festival circuit; Robert Williamson talks to him.

The Harmonium in My Memory Besides a short piece on Asian features at Cannes, the bulk of the new issue of the London-based Firecracker is made up of interviews and reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 7:47 AM

June 3, 2005

Shorts, 6/3.

Holy War, Inc "The Power of Nightmares, a three-hour BBC documentary directed by Adam Curtis, is arguably the most important film about the 'war on terrorism' since the events of September 11," begins Peter Bergen in the Nation. That said, though, Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc (and of these words in Mother Jones last year: "What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams"), has a few bones to pick with Curtis and they boil down to this: "[H]e blows it when he concludes that Al Qaeda is a phantasmagorical construct of US officials." And that said: "Still, despite my many disagreements with The Power of Nightmares, which sometimes has the feel of a Noam Chomsky lecture channeled by Monty Python, it is a richly rewarding film because it treats its audience as adults capable of following complex arguments."

Also in the Nation, or rather, on the site: Katrina Vanden Heuvel asks, "Will Russell Crowe KO Bush's shameless scam to shred America's most successful antipoverty program?"

"It could only have happened in Los Angeles. It could only have happened in Dogtown." Back in the summer of 2001, when Stacy Peralta's Dogtown and Z-Boys was winning awards on the festival circuit, Joe Donnelly turned in a deep history of the scene that made the cover of the LA Weekly; he also interviewed Jay Adams, "the soul of the Dogtown movement." This week, he interviews Catherine Hardwicke, the vivacious and earthy director of Lords of Dogtown, reviewed in this issue by Scott Foundas. More from AO Scott in the New York Times and Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

Also:

Looking at Los Angeles

Nancy Ramsey talks with Peter Raymont about returning to Rwanda with Dallaire and shooting Shake Hands.

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Outfest 05

Robert Davis: "[I]f you're anywhere near the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the next couple of weeks, stop in and see [Chris] Marker's latest project, a 19-minute video loop called Owls at Noon.... Marker takes Eliot's evocation of a shapeless, colorless, purposeless existence and applies it to [WWI's] stunned-silent aftermath, the lull and those that came later, as if the 20th century isn't so much defined by its wars but by the brevity of the pauses between them."

Heir to an Execution A few paragraphs into Sam Adams's piece on Robert and Michael Meeropol, you may wonder what it's doing in the "Movies" section of the Philadelphia City Paper. If you're easily distracted, that is, because it is otherwise a riveting read. "Robert and his brother Michael, who will appear at the Free Library on June 7 as part of the First Person Festival, were 6 and 10 years old when their parents were put to death in June 1953, convicted at the height of the Red Scare of stealing atom bomb secrets for the Soviet Union." Their parents, of course, were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Heir to an Execution, made by Michael's daughter, Ivy, will also be screened.

Embedded Already, a handful of festivals have been mentioned, but that's not even the half of what all is going on in June. Eugene Hernandez offers a rough guide. Also at indieWIRE: Brian Brooks on Tim Robbins's unconventional distribution plans for Embedded Live.

"Change is in the air. Seismic change." In the Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson describes the varied ways indie distributors are contemplating shaking up the system. "What everyone knows, but few want to admit on record, is that day-and-date delivery of movies through every platform - with different pricing - is inevitable. As Landmark Theatres marketing chief Ray Price puts it, 'This is the year that the walls of Jericho could come tumbling down.'"

Kevin Maher:

The comic-book geek, long regarded with paternalistic tolerance by mainstream culture, has been cruelly undone by his latest big-screen crush, Sin City. For despite pretences of sophistication - a Cannes premiere, a media charm offensive, and even suggestions of High Art - this computer-generated comic-book adaptation is so steeped in fetishistic adolescent imagery and casual misogyny that it overexposes the sinister appetites of its hardcore fanbase. In fact, such is the sublime level of sexual sadism on display here (paedophilia and slut-killing are big in Sin City), and so relentless is the leering softcore depiction of prostitutes, dancers and slatternly lowlifes, that the movie unwittingly reveals the frank and masturbatory hatred of women that is fundamental to any understanding of the comic-book geek.

Well. Also in the London Times: Sean Macaulay measures the eccentricity of today's directors against the true legends and Christopher Wood interviews Patrick Keiller.

Patty Hearst "The SLA affair was, says Robert Stone, the director of the new documentary Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, a media landmark." It was, as Phil Hoad explains, the moment at which the news became subsumed by the entertainment industry.

Also in the Independent:

Doug Cummings: "For my money, Nang Nak is also a lot more fun - and even touching - than any one of the Star Wars prequels or Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (2003), for that matter. Not that it's high art."

The Man Who Fell to Earth An interview with Nicolas Roeg is rare enough, let alone one as full and far-ranging as Jason Wood's. David Lean, the role of chance in several key scenes in his films, his penchant for casting musicians, the Guardian runs the full transcript. Also:

"What we predicted would happen has happened." The news Custodes Lucis Group has to report is not good; but there is still time to do something towards salvaging the work being done by Britain's National Film and Television Archive.

The Stranger blurbs its picks for the current week at the Seattle International Film Festival. And Tablet's Siffblog keeps on rolling. Also: Steve Kirch on ...Loves Martha, "one of three entries at Seattle International Film Festival's annual Fly Films Festival. The event presents local filmmakers with a different set of constraints each year and turns them loose with limited time and resources to make their film 'on the fly.'"

The Animation Show David Lowery interviews Don Hertzfeldt, producer of The Animation Show and director of The Meaning of Life.

"The rules are vague and their application inconsistent. But in most Indian films you won't see French kissing, nudity of any kind, excessive drug use, or representations of Hindu-Muslim romance. Interclass romances are fair game." In the wake of the Indian government's ban on smoking in movies (for more, see Wilfred Lobo over at Cinema Minima), Daniel Engber explains the rules of Bollywood.

Also in Slate:

  • Edward Jay Epstein has a few more rules, nine of them, the "common elements of the Midas formula," or: How to make a blockbusting franchise.

  • David Edelstein on Cinderella Man: "It's schmaltzy - but it's schmaltz veined with foie gras."

  • And David Fellerath on the real Max Baer's Jewishness.

The Boy From Lam Kien At Filmmaker, Scott Macaulay has word on a new book by Miranda July, The Boy from Lam Kien, and Steve Gallagher notes that Alan Cumming will be hosting the Sundance Channel's "Friday night cult-movie destination, Midnight Snack."

Tom Cruise's weirdness of late may be beginning to have an effect on his career, reports Sharon Waxman. More from Time's Richard Corliss.

Also in the NYT:

The Maltese Falcon MSNBC's John Hartl lists ten remakes that are better than the originals. Via Movie City News, where Gary Dretzka talks to Rock School director Don Argott and his subject, Paul Green: "For me, Zeppelin and Zappa are Plato and Descartes. If I can get the kids to listen to Zeppelin, I try to push them back even further, to Robert Johnson." Reviews: Manohla Dargis in the NYT and JR Jones in the Chicago Reader. Pix and a plea to save CBGB: indieWIRE's Brian Brooks.

"[Premiere critic Glenn] Kenny's good-naturedness is just one of the things you'll discover about him in this dishy, engrossing, and very funny interview," writes Aaron Aradillas, if he does say so himself over at RockCritics.com. It is a great read, though; here's where a big smile broke across my face and I was won over: "Imagine being a 14-year-old in 1973 and trying to defend Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets to a bunch of Deep Purple fans. This is actually hypothetical - the Deep Purple fans were not interested in having the conversation..." Via cinetrix, naturally.

Anne S Lewis describes how the 50th anniversary of Giant will be celebrated in Austin and Marfa, where it was shot. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Spencer Parsons on F for Fake.

Todd at Twitch: "[Douglas] Coupland - famous for Generation X and Life After God - has written an original screenplay titled 'Everything's Gone Green' and it is going into production this month with Paul Fox at the helm and Paulo Costanzo in the lead role."

Annalee Newitz at Alternet: "Interestingly, as the country has grown more conservative, [George] Lucas's films have tipped further toward liberalism."

"The experience of watching movies (videos) on the web is almost painful, and sort of lonely," writes Nick Rombes. Chuck Tryon responds, noting that this loneliness is most likely a phase as online viewing eventually moves to living room screens, plus these up-close experiences strip a film naked and, all in all, it "makes me more aware of the craft that went into the making of the film, the fact that it was made, whereas most Hollywood films do their best to hide that very fact." David Lowery, too, emphasizes that what's unpleasant about online viewing is likely temporary.

Online viewing tip. Clips from the films slated to be broadcast during IFC Pulp Month. Which is this one. June.

Online browsing tip. Chris Hughes's "Video Art Links." Via Wiley Wiggins.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

June 2, 2005

Zizek on Star Wars.

I saw this in German some time back and was just now wondering if it'd appeared in English anywhere. Sure enough, In These Times is running Slavoj Zizek's "Revenge of Global Finance":

Darth Vader

The political connotations of the Star Wars universe are multiple and inconsistent. Therein resides the "mythic" power of that universe - a universe that includes a Reaganesque vision of the Free World versus the Evil Empire; the retreat of the Nation States, which can be given a rightist, nationalist Buchanan-Le Pen twist; the contradiction of persons of a noble status (Princesses, Jedi knights, etc.) defending the "democratic" republic; and finally, its key insight that "we are the bad guys," that the Empire emerges through the very way we, the "good guys," fight the enemy out there. (In today's "war on terror," the real danger is what this war is turning us into.) Such inconsistencies are what make the Star Wars series a political myth proper, which is not so much a narrative with a determinate political meaning, but rather an empty container of multiple, inconsistent and even mutually exclusive meanings. The question "But what does this political myth really mean?" is the wrong question, because its "meaning" is precisely to serve as this vessel of multiple meanings.

A must-read, if for no other reason than to discover why "the true companion piece to Star Wars III is Alexander Oey's 2003 documentary, Sandcastles: Buddhism and Global Finance."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:06 PM

Zeitungen, 6/2.

I'll try not to make a habit of clogging up the Daily with pointers to German-language pieces, but today happens to be another rich one.

Die Nibelungen

Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen

For two years, Lars von Trier, who openly admitted he knew next to nothing about opera, struggled with Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. He was slated to direct the tetralogy in Bayreuth (i.e., Mount Olympus as far as Wagnerians are concerned) next year, but last June, he threw up his hands. He has now delivered to the Bayreuther Festspiele something of a letter of resignation, an explanation, and Der Tagesspiegel is running an abbreviated version of that letter. There is nonetheless enough here to see that von Trier had thought this thing through thoroughly, from his initial raw concept to the most minute details, such as how the leaves of the trees would be lit ("Greatness in detail and godliness in nature. That was my Wagner!"). To abbreviate even further, though, it comes down to this: "I'm not claiming it would have been impossible, but because of my sick drive for perfectionism, it simply would have been hell."

Also: Christina Tilmann talks with Imre Kertész about Fateless, the adaptation of his novel (he wrote the screenplay himself).

Andreas Kilb in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Ten years of Dogme were enough, now we need a rebellion of the undogmatic."

Oskar Roehler, whose most recent film is Agnes und seine Brüder and who is now working on an adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles, in Die Zeit: "For me, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's In a Year With 13 Moons is the most impressive film in postwar German history."

In die taz, Dominik Kamalzadeh on the newly restored Modern Times. Mentions of Walter Benjamin are held off until the fifth paragraph.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:38 AM

June 1, 2005

Shorts, 6/1.

Options "I think of the medium as offering a way to transform experience of (architectural) space, and increasingly also as a great reservoir of space that it is no longer possible to experience directly. There is perhaps a conflict between these two ideas." Patrick Keiller proves to be a fascinating interviewee for Edmund Hardy at Kamera.

Meanwhile, frequent Kamera contributor Antonio Pasolini has a new blog, The Filter. He's still tweaking the format, but the emphasis will remain on goings on in and around London, most of which, naturally, are of universal interest.

"Sixty years ago, many German people regarded the American military as liberators. Few people see it that way anymore." Richard Phillips interviews Margarethe von Trotta for the World Socialist Web Site.

Oh, that Apichatpong Weerasethakul! Ever the trickster: "I invited a filmmaker friend to make an imaginary film in the jungle for four days. We rented a 35mm camera and lighting and shot it with real film stock. But we didn’t process it. The camera persons and the lightings didn’t know this fact. I made a video documentary about this filmmaking thing." From Todd's fine interview at Twitch.

David Thomson on Michelangelo Antonioni at 93, "here and not quite here. Observing if not exactly participating? It reminds me of the feeling in L'Avventura (1960), after the young woman, Anna, has disappeared, that she is watching the rest of the film, and may even be its director, looking into the empty spaces - the emotional spaces as well as the physical - where once she was." Also in the Independent: Jennifer Rodger on the various ways film sets are blessed - yes, blessed - throughout the world.

"Deep down I had a feeling that people were getting tired of shallow stories and half-hearted narratives - they were longing for something meaningful and profound to experience online, as opposed to 90 second cartoons about defecating puppies and exploding breasts." Hence, the 12-hour Flash epic, Broken Saints. At Mindjack, Melanie McBride gets the back story from Brooke Burgess.

It's one of indieWIRE's best features (and the same goes for Filmmaker when they run their own version): Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indie films currently in production.

Screenwriters are gathering in Nashville this weekend. Real ones. Who've written real movies that actually got made. Jim Ridley talks to one of the conference organizers for the Nashville Scene.

In the City Pages, Laura Sinagra (who has a few words with Israeli director Keren Yedaya in the Voice) argues that Alexander Payne fans need to take a second look: "Omaha's favorite filmic son has become the arthouse bard for breadbasket middlebrows."

Robert Irwin in the Times Literary Supplement: "Kingdom of Heaven is visually inspiring and thus well worth seeing, but, sounds of battle, neighing horses and grunting camels apart, not worth listening to. It would have been a much better film, if the director had dispensed with both script and stars."

The Sound of Music With a two-disc 40th anniversary edition of The Sound of Music heading to stores in November, Todd S Purdam revisits "the movie that everybody hated but the people." Nice audio slide show, too, plus Bosley Crowther's 1965 review and a ten-year-old trailer.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Steven Erlanger: "'Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people,' [Israeli news anchor Haim Yavin] says in Yoman Masa, (Diary of a Journey), which he filmed by himself, with a hand-held video camera, in the West Bank and Gaza over the last two and a half years."

  • Spencer Morgan on filmmakers' efforts to save Kodachrome.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVD collections: Gary Cooper, James Dean and Steve McQueen.

"McQueen's cool lay in silence," suggests Lee Siegel at the New Republic site after tracing the lineage of cool back to Epictetus. Also: Stanley Kauffmann on Kings and Queen and Tell Them Who You Are.

Jonathan Marlow's right: the west coast is hopping this month. Look at all the San Francisco Bay Guardian's got to cover this week:

Meanwhile, the Siffbloggers are all over the Seattle International Film Festival.

To the east... in the Voice:

Newfest 05

F for Fake "Not just a work of genius, F for Fake bursts the categories of greatness that limited Welles's reputation and still plague moviegoers," declares Armond White before lambasting Time and Dogme and all the rest. Also in the NYP: Russ Smith knows why real people don't go to movies anymore.

George Fasel recommends catching the Off Broadway production Orson's Shadow if there's any way you possibly can.

And if you're not in New York, find Iceman, recommends Vince Kennan: "It features two of my all-time favorite scenes and what is easily one of the finest performances in cinema history."

In their batch of reviews of Alexandre Aja's High Tension at indieWIRE, three Reverse Shot contributors don't quite see eye to eye.

Alice Wu Q&A's: Sarah Harrison in Nerve and Logan Hill in New York.

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Jason Whyte ranks the best films of 2005 - so far.

For the studios, the stakes this summer are higher than ever, which is why, explains Anne Thompson, they're pulling unprecedented stunts to nab media mindspace. Also in the Observer: Jason Solomons's summer blockbuster cheat sheet. Related: Ben Cosgrove's summer movie haiku at MTV, via Movie City News.

Richard Corliss adds ten shorts to Time's list of 100 features.

Newsweek's Devin Gordon: "The rugged charm of Batman Begins, which stars Welsh actor Christian Bale, lies partly its refusal to join the visual-effects arms race that the summer-movie season has lately become. When [Christopher] Nolan does turn to digital wizardry, he uses it to amplify the action, not supply it."

You probably suspected that the unrated versions of movies like Anchorman or Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle would sell better than the blander theatrically released versions. But the numbers Elaine Dutka has for you in the Los Angeles Times are pretty eye-popping. Also: Chris Lee on how Crash "has turned into must-see viewing for those who want to stay inside the cultural loop" and Rachel Abramowitz's profile of Ron Howard.

The Boston Globe's Renée Graham explains why the movie industry ought to be racing to tighten and eventually close altogether the window between theatrical and DVD releases. Via the Alternative Film Guide.

You can contribute to Robert Greenwald's next film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Evan explains at Alternet. For background on both the film and its maker, check David M Halbfinger's piece in the NYT.

Up-n-coming:

Not only have the Actors and Actresses pages at Koreanfilm.org been extensively updated, Darcy Paquet has a new review up: Park Chul-soo's Green Chair.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has been following those who've been following news of Chris Cunningham's Rubber Johnny. In the Telegraph, and via the IFC Blog, Chris Campion profiles the company releasing it, Warp Films.

Online viewing tip #1. "David Lynch Trailers (Misc. Oddities)." Via Movie City Indie, where, if you're looking for a smile, you'll also want to see this and this.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Last Best Chance. A little like Dr. Strangelove, only without the funny bits.

Online viewing tip #3. The cinetrix treats you to Nico.

Online download tip. Nobody Needs to Know. Via Robert Davis, who was rather taken with it over a year ago now.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:22 PM

SXSWclick + Current.

"Real life" festivals will always play a vital role in "real life" communities and, as Robert Davis has pointed out so very well, they're thriving and merrily multiplying. A good thing, even a great thing.

SXSWclick At the same time, online film festivals are suddenly thriving and merrily multiplying as well. There's Sundance, of course, and many others, right on up to the newest of the bunch, our very own. In its second year, SXSWclick has a new name - and now, a new partner as well: Current, the new cable network launched by Al Gore and partner Joel Hyatt, or rather, to be really and truly and officially launched on August 1.

Details of the partnership will be spilling forth soon, but the gist for Matt Dentler, Producer of SXSW Film, is greater exposure for the indie film and video makers submitting their work to SXSWclick.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:36 PM

Green Screen. Preview.

Two Green Film Festivals opening on the same day? It could happen. It has happened. Jonathan Marlow, having steered one to its opening day, previews the other.

Green Screen June is festival season along the Pacific, what with the Seattle International Film Festival continuing for a few more weeks and a number of exceptional events happening in San Francisco throughout the month - Frameline, (Yet) Another Hole in the Head and so forth. First up is the Green Screen Film Festival, a ride-along with the UN World Environment Day. Not to be confused with the GreenCine Online Film Festival, which coincidentally begins the same day - today.

Regain One could endlessly comment on the wonderful films that Tom Luddy assembled for the program. One could argue that we already have. However, to settle on only a handful to highlight, you must catch Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness (the experience on video, as with most films, pales in comparison to seeing it on the screen); Darwin’s Nightmare, a devastating winner of numerous awards at festivals throughout Europe, all of them deserved; the stunning Letter That Was Never Sent by Mikhail Kalatozov (I Am Cuba), an extremely rare film that could easily be ranked among the great works of Soviet cinema; Marcel Pagnol’s wonderful Harvest (Regain), introduced by Alice Waters (followed by a program of films by the great Les Blank, one of which - Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers - will be presented in Aromaround). All of this and I haven’t bothered to mention almost-President Al Gore’s introduction of The Real Dirt on Farmer John or a free screening Judith Helfand's toxic comedy Blue Vinyl.

Instead, I insist that you attend (if you’re in the neighborhood) fellow Swede Stefan Jarl’s afternoon of films at the Castro on Sunday (or evening of films Monday at the Smith San Rafael Film Center). Beginning with his mentor Arne Sucksdorff’s Cannes-winner The Great Adventure, Jarl is feted throughout the afternoon with four of his outstanding films. This pair of programs clearly places him among the greatest documentary filmmakers in the world. Don’t take my word for it, though. After five days of extraordinary screenings, we can compare notes.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:34 AM

Seattle Dispatch. 2.

Another lively, and this time, full-to-bursting report from the Seattle International Film Festival from Sean Axmaker, a film critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a DVD columnist for the IMDb and frequent GC contributor.

Godzilla: Final Wars The "Asian Trade Winds" sidebar has gone with the wind this year, but Asian films are still the festival favorite source for odd, offbeat and cult programming. The 50th anniversary Godzilla: Final Wars is presented as Toho's last Godzilla movie (right, they've said that before) and they've brought Japan's adolescent action stylist Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus) on board for the occasion. He delivers something unexpected: a blithely campy, altogether good-natured love letter to the classic Godzilla films of the 1960s and 1970s. The first Godzilla film in decades to embrace that early "history," it brings back all the old monsters (even Minilla!), tosses in an alien invasion force to send the monsters rampaging across the globe, and creates a team of Power Ranger-ish mutants (led by a Jesse Ventura-like American soldier) to enlist Godzilla in their battle to take back Earth. It's all classic suitmation effects (except for one suspiciously familiar CGI lizard, who is hilariously tromped by the real lizard king) and stomped-on miniatures, with CGI flourishes and classic clips from the original movies. Directed by a true fan of the old school, it's lusciously, knowingly cheesy in a loving way.

Takashi Shimizu's Marebito goes for a more insidious kind of horror than his trademark Ju-On films, somewhere between the supernatural and the terrifyingly human. The film's hero, a freelance videographer, all but lives through his camera lens, through which he glimpses a hidden world of creatures and terrors he becomes obsessed with, and his odyssey takes him to a subterranean Lovecraftian hollow-Earth realm, where he adopts a feral vampire girl as a pet and stalks the alleys for fresh blood to feed her. Shimizu delivers blood and brutality with a dispassionate directness, giving the unnerving imagery and insidious madness a weird crackle, and undercuts the fantasy with a revelation that turns the psychotic madman cliché inside out. It plays more like a rough draft than a completed feature, but the inspired insanity is the stuff that real nightmares are made of.

Three... Extremes Which is what Three... Extremes, the Asian horror trilogy with contributions from Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike and Park Chan-wook, lacks: inspiration. Chan's Dumplings, a take on the Countess Bathory legend with a cannibal twist, may lack the visual panache of the other films display, but the focus is squarely on the emotional and mental state of its youth-obsessed character and its climax pays off. The same can't be said for Takashi's quiet, controlled, eerily austere dream horror Box or Park's Cut, an eye-grabbing but unimaginative tale of a sadistic psychotic on a deluded quest for revenge. It's all show-off and no payoff. And what's with the title? This is awfully restrained, given the careers of Takashi and Park.

The surreal McDull, Prince de la Bun, an impressionistic, melancholy modern fairy tale about a sweetly slow-witted young pig with a hyperactive leg twitch, falls in the chasm between kids' film and adult animation. In this underhanded satire, kindergarten piglet McDull chants service industry slogans in class and endures abusive practice job interviews while in his fantasy life (or, rather, his mother's fantasy - she takes on JK Rowling with her bedtime story) he's a dimwitted Prince who wanders out of his kingdom and tries to fit in with normal folk. There's a wistful, longing quality to the film as it explores the space left by loss (the Prince transforms from McDull to his absent father) with a gentle, sweet, and sad sympathy.

Strings

Not Asian but certainly offbeat, the Danish Strings is a high concept fantasy with strings attached. Marionette strings, to be exact, which are not merely acknowledged but embraced as a physical and spiritual component of the fantasy world. It's what gives this otherwise overwrought epic with Shakespearean undertones its defining details: the strings shoot up through the sky, giving life and defining movement. Form follows function as gates and prisons are tailored to stop the puppets by blocking the strings. Granted, puppet wars look a little silly in action and the "all things are connected" lessons become literal, but the puppeteering is accomplished and the execution inspired - it's the grandest looking puppet film I've every seen. I seem to hold the minority opinion, however, as it was roundly dismissed by everyone else.

10th District Court In the fascinating documentary The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial, director Raymond Depardon shot the proceedings of twelve cases in front of Judge Michele Bernard-Requin (a clear-eyed bench veteran who cuts through the bullshit with a sardonic commentary) and pared them down to brief but vivid portraits of the defendants. The glimpse into the French legal system is fascinating - judges not only question the accused but serve as the jury tribunal - but ultimately, it isn't about law or the legal system. It's about people before the court, an array of characters as they present themselves to the judge. They range from an indignant middle-aged drunk driver to a stalker who can't deny that he terrorized his duly terrified ex-girlfriend (his attorney's closing remarks are so unbelievable that you'd swear they were a joke) to a five-time loser pickpocket who protests his innocence all the way to prison. You wouldn't expect such a seemingly simple, direct piece of observational documentary to be so fascinating, but Depardon's lens captures human behavior under pressure in all its dimensions. It's the greatest people-watching documentary in ages.

Olivier Marchal's 36 Quai des Orfevres is an old-style policier that doesn't explode so much as smolder from friction between up-from-the-streets OCU Captain Daniel Auteuil and bitter alcoholic and by-the-book BRI officer Gérard Depardieu, friends turned rivals in the competition over a career-making case. Good enough to be disappointing in its failings, it's the kind of film more likely to get remade than released in the US. I can see Michael Mann making it - and making it better - by tightening the drama around the friendship pushed to the breaking point and really investing in the antagonism within the force as this struggle delineates the difference between bending the law and corrupting oneself for power.

Childstar Don McKellar's Childstar is a Canadian indie that takes potshots at Hollywood arrogance and American runaway productions in Canada in addition to the cliché of the snotty child star and blithely manipulative stage mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). His adolescent sitcom star (Mark Rendall) is a horror. He's also a child living in a world of adult expectations and adult companions who are determined to wring every last moment they can while he's still cute. The film is best when it's cutting, or at least ambivalent, and McKellar sneaks much of the humor in under the dialogue. Everyone has their reasons - and their price - but McKellar is understanding and even forgiving of them.

Alice Wu's Saving Face is another romantic comedy where the gender gap is complicated by culture clash, this one set in the Chinese American community of New York and complicated by the fact that its heroine is a lesbian who has yet to come out to her widowed mother (Joan Chen) who, in turn, has a surprise of her own. Pleasant and unsurprising, it has a nice community feel and first-time director Wu is surprisingly adept at handling comedy. How can you not smile at a film that ends on a spit take?

Posted by dwhudson at 1:55 AM