August 31, 2005

Voice. Fall Preview.

"The upcoming fall slate mostly shows signs of distraction lust and nostalgic obsession," yet the overriding theme of Michael Atkinson's opener for the Village Voice's "The Reel Deal: Fall Film Preview" package is hope. There are at least half a dozen films he seems to be genuinely looking forward to this season, and he's got a few words of explanation as to why for each. And there's a list of ten in a sidebar.

Voice: Fall Preview Dennis Lim looks ahead to all those series we read about unreeling in New York. Even if those of us outside the city can't catch the films themselves, we know we'll be treated to think pieces on or inspired by each in the NYT, the Voice and probably Film Comment in the weeks to come.

Anthony Kaufmann: "The best argument so far against the box office 'slump' may be that 2005's most potentially lucrative films have yet to arrive." Joy Press is doing her part for movie attendance, too, pointing out that there'll be plenty not to watch on TV.

Also in the Voice:

Posted by dwhudson at 4:46 PM

Shorts, 8/31.

We've got a lot of links over there on the right, so it's hardly a surprise that the writer behind at least one of them would be in New Orleans. If donating to the Red Cross seems too impersonal for you, think about offering a little support to day for night.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose Screenwriter, and now, director - of The Exorcism of Emily Rose - and Christian Scott Derrickson:

In my opinion, the horror genre is a perfect genre for Christians to be involved with. I think the more compelling question is, Why do so many Christians find it odd that a Christian would be working in this genre? To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre, it tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it's unpleasant. The genre is not about making you feel good, it is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that's something that a lot of Christians don't want to do.

Peter T Chattaway conducts the interview for Christianity Today. Via Opus.

At independentfilm.com, Patricia Freeman talks to Derrickson, writer Paul Harris Boardman and Laura Linney.

Blake at Cinema Strikes Back on Edwige Fenech: "She brought this very disturbing emotional core to her character... a tortured soul persona that gave her performances far more than a scream queen title... but as one of the best actresses of her time."

Garbo Lee Siegel on Greta Garbo for the New Republic: "Her so-called reclusiveness was really her assertion of dignity in the face of the studio's bottom-line depredations and celebrity's leveling blandishments." Would that even be allowed today? Also: "Garbo's evocation of sex had the most subversive connotation imaginable: It was no big deal."

The Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE - pretty much the whole team this time - presents "13 valuable lessons" learned over a long, hard summer.

In the New York Times:

  • Mark Russell's piece on Empress Chung, "the first film to be released at the same time in North and South Korean movie theaters," is also a mini-history of the studio that draws The Simpsons and an assessment of the current state of Korean animation: not good, at least in terms of box office.

  • Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home and its soundtrack have Jon Pareles revisiting Bob Dylan's early years.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVDs. As for one of his assertions, Looker wonders what in the world he's on about.

  • AO Scott on Games of Love and Chance: "[Director Abdellatif] Kechiche's interest in connecting France's classical literary heritage with its contemporary social reality is intriguing, and it has resulted, in this case, in a spirited and insightful comedy of manners." More from David Ng in the Village Voice.

William Eggleston in the Real World

Darwin's Nightmare is "terrifying nonfiction, a movie I've tried to shake but can't," writes Ray Pride at Movie City Indie. He points to Philippa Hawker's interview with director Hubert Sauper in the Age.

Nina Berman at Alternet: "Watching the film is like experiencing a slow burn: The pain is shocking at first, then you settle in and hope for relief. But relief never comes - it's impossible to watch Winter Soldier today without thinking about Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, which is why the distributors have chosen to release the film now."

John Levine at WSWS on Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire: "Among liberal opponents of the war in 2004, there developed a conception that an electoral defeat of Bush would end the militaristic trend in American foreign policy. To the extent that the filmmakers adopted this idea, they set limits on their own search for the deeper roots of the war within American society."

Doug Cummings: "Jun Ichikawa's Tony Takitani is an elegant little film, and one of the most emotionally resonant movies I've seen this year."

"On its own, Iqbal is a lovely little 'feelgood' film," writes Namrata Joshi in Outlook India. "But it's the cricket in it that's arousing much of the interest." Via signandsight.

Terrence Malick may write and direct Tree of Life; "The film's story outline has not yet been disclosed," though much of it will be shot in India, Nyay Bhushan in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Blade Runner's dystopic inversion of biblical creation illustrates an enduring distrust in both human and divine attempts to establish Eden." Alex Harley in the M/C Journal, via wood s lot.

Goodfellas Chiranjit Goswami at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "Filmed after the stock market crash of 1987 and making its debut as the 1990s commenced and the Reagan-Era concluded, it seems relatively easy and reasonable to interpret Goodfellas as a condemnation of the Yuppie-endorsed greed that America enthusiastically embraced years before."

Reviews of The Brothers Grimm can't be too much fun for Terry Gilliam to read, but his troubles aren't stopping there. Jeffrey M Anderson has details at Mindjack.

At PopMatters, Simon Wood picks out four "LAuteurs," that is, directors who "stand as proof that commercialism and quality are not mutually exclusive." Also: Nikki Tranter hits the Lebowski Fest.

Grady Hendrix's quite enjoyed the live action Initial D.

Fashion will never get over Hitchcock, observes Laura Compton at the Culture Blog.

For those who love The Leopard: You'll want to read Javier Marías on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in the Threepenny Review. Via Rake's Progress.

Dirk Schulz considers the future of interactive TV for keyframe.org.

Starting in the late 80s, movie posters went bland. "Movie marketing people had a name for it that really said it all: Big Heads Floating in the Sky," explains Greg Stacy in the Orange County Weekly. Via Coudal Partners. And as posterwire.com reminds, posters could be exhilarating back in the day.

Online listening tip. There may be hope yet for Eyes on the Prize. Neda Ulaby reports for NPR. More from Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Good Night, and Good Luck Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Good Night, and Good Luck. Via... well, everyone. Because it looks fantastic.

Online viewing tip #2. Diane Martel's video for Franz Ferdinand's "Do You Want To," a casual mingle through mid-to-late 20th century art clichés. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #3. Nick Cave, screenwriter. Quite a cast, too. The Proposition. Via David Lowery.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:41 PM

Fests, 8/31.

Venice 1947 As the fall film festival season kicks off with the opening of the Venice International Film Festival - Clara Ferreira-Marques has coverage for Reuters, Frances D'Emilio for the AP; then, there's the BBC - Variety launches a festival guide. Via Vast Wasteland.

Tom Hall's bracing for a busy season as well.

Todd at Twitch: "The first block of titles for the first Fantastic Fest has been announced and the four day, Austin based, genre film festival is off to a solid start." Meanwhile, Gummo has been covering London's Frightfest. And how: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The San Francisco Film Society has appointed a new executive director: Graham Leggat, of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Lot of traffic between the film festivals in those two cities. Related (and a lot more fun): Lance Arthur in the Morning News.

The New York Korean Film Festival: September 2 through 11. Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice: "Solid mainstream genre expertise."

At indieWIRE, Ellen Keohane previews the Atlantic Film Festival (September 15 through 24 in Halifax, Nova Scotia).

And at Filmmaker, Jason Sanders looks back on the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:48 PM

Kamera.

"The two soundtracks that had the most influence on me date back to the late 1970s, and they stand the test of time... The first was Apocalypse Now, where Walter Murch revolutionized the way sound was used in films, and the second was Days of Heaven... I don't think [they] have been excelled, in either their subtlety or indeed their bombast, by the advances that have been made in technology in the intervening years." Phillip Noyce tells Peter Cowie why "sound is 60 percent of the experience, not 50 percent!"

Dean Kamera can bump along for weeks without causing much of a stir, but occasionally, there's an issue like this one. Christopher Sandford, author of McQueen: The Biography, takes measure of the immediate and lasting impact of James Dean: "Warner Brothers came knocking with East of Eden, the start of one of the most spectacularly brief screen careers of all time. McQueen took longer to find his feet, shamelessly filching Dean's angst-ridden act in The Blob (1958) before becoming a sort of male equivalent of the Statue of Liberty.... Personally, I always think it striking that Dean died in the same year as rock and roll was born."

Marcelle Perks wraps her report from July's Fantasia Festival in Montreal and Catherine Richards Golini looks back on the Locarno International Film Festival.

Dallesandro Antonio Pasolini reports on Hurluberlu Films, sort of an international version of Atom Films, founded in the UK earlier this year, and Tim Smedley reviews Paul Morrissey's Flesh: "For [Joe] Dallesandro it meant instant cult and mainstream fame, depending on which country's perspective you look from. Nineteen when Flesh was filmed, he seemed to embody many of the intangible ideas of the late sixties – a new sex, a masculine androgyny, a drugged-up Renaissance figure."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:35 AM

Brazil.

"On March 15, 1990, two men took Brazilian Cinema into the woods and shot it in the head." In "A Brief History of Recent Brazilian Cinema," a piece for Movie City News, Cinema em Cena editor Pablo Villaça explains why, for all practical purposes, that was pretty much the case. But, thanks to corrective measures taken by the government, things are finally looking up: "Between 1990 and 1994, we basically produced a couple of features per year. Some never even got released. Nowadays, dozens of local productions have a chance to be discovered by the audiences."

Cidade de Deus "'Violence is a subject that all Brazilian films have in common,' says Geórgia Costa Araújo, who produced 2003's confrontational Contra Todos (Up Against Them All), 'but now we want to explore more themes.'" For indieWIRE, Michael Gibbons reports from São Paulo on two companies branching out.

Both pieces mention Fernando Meirelles's City of God as something of a milestone and, as he recently told the Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson, "My ideal career would be to do what Pedro Almodóvar does (in Spain). I'd like to make Brazilian films for international audiences that are not big-budget."

Rounding up recent takes on his current film, The Constant Gardener:

  • AO Scott in the New York Times: "In pointedly applying President Bush's phrase 'axis of evil' to multinational corporations rather than to rogue states, the movie shows a willingness to risk didacticism in the service of encouraging discussion. This strikes me as noble, but it would also strike me as annoying if Mr Meirelles were not such a skilled and subtle filmmaker, and if his cast were not so sensitive and sly."

  • Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice: "I wouldn't call The Constant Gardener exploitative, even if it does exploit our grateful distance as viewers from the vast Kenyan slum of Kibera, and cinematographer César Charlone's irradiated images of wholesale destitution."

  • David Edelstein in Slate: "Is [Ralph] Fiennes miscast? Perhaps... But he's remarkably fine."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 AM

August 30, 2005

Midnight Eye. 60s.

Velvet Hustler "I caught my first film from the Nikkatsu Action Series today, Masuda Toshio's The Velvet Hustler (1967) and it has definitely motivated me to catch more," wrote Adam Hartzell in his second dispatch from the Udine Far East Film Festival back in April. Jaspar Sharp and Stefan Nutz were there, too, and now run their interview with the director and one of the stars of the film, Jo Sushido. Sharp also rounds up seven highlights of the series and Tom Mes reviews programmer Mark Schilling's book, No Borders, No Limits: The World of Nikkatsu Action, which "finally [gives] us the big picture of the studio and environment that nurtured a style of filmmaking that was a radical break with genre movie conventions..."

The raucous 60s dominate the new issue of Midnight Eye. The other feature, from Go Hirasawa, probes the history of the Art Theatre Guild which, as Roland Domenig explains in an earlier essay, soon "became the most important producer of Japanese independent movies. Until the mid-1980s ATG strongly influenced the whole of Japanese cinema." But Go Hirasawa explores ATG's place in a global radical cinema movement peaking in the late 60s and early 70s.

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 8:04 AM

August 29, 2005

Shorts, 8/29.

Katrina, naturally, is on all our minds today. So are countless families like Jette's. As Ed Champion, who's has been following the news all day, writes, things have "turned out much better than projected." Even so, Brian Flemming passes along some very simple and on-the-nose advice about the best way any of us far and away can help.

Meanwhile.

Die Dreigroschenoper "There's a common conception that early sound films represented a tragic break with silent cinema: stodgy, talky and stage-bound, entirely losing the visual fluidity of silent film style," writes Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "Pabst's work in Die Dreigroschenoper at the very least disproves this. Stylistically, it’s a direct continuation of his great silent films, in particularly Pandora's Box (possibly the greatest silent film ever) and Diary of a Lost Girl."

Also: "[T]he interest of House of Bamboo above all lies in the tremendous use [Sam] Fuller makes of the colour Cinemascope frame. There's very little in the way of conventional Hollywood shot set-ups or editing, a lot of wide shots and not much cutting within the scene; and in his own way Fuller is trying genuinely to incorporate Japanese culture and the Japanese location shooting into the visual design of the film."

Tama Leaver has a few thoughts on those viral Serenity promos. Via Fimoculous, where Rex adds, "I guarantee Whedon has been reading Gibson."

"The Edinburgh film festival is the time of year when we go in search of the novel and unusual for the Guardian new directors award," writes Andrew Pulver, and after a winding process of elimination, pinballing from one mini-review to the next, he finally lets on that Thumbsucker is "the one that succeeds best in treading along the cutting edge of cinema, marrying the traditional virtues of story and character with whimsical style and seductive design. Hence the Guardian new directors award goes to Mike Mills."

Thumbsucker

On his blog, Mike Mills celebrates, reminisces and snaps photos of his lead, Lou Taylor Pucci, in a kilt and posing with Tilda Swinton, who not only appears in the film but is also credited as "co-executive producer." In the New York Times, Lynn Hirschberg profiles her and Raymond Meier shoots more pix.

Brian Brooks has more on the winners at Edinburgh at indieWIRE, where... yes, that's Pedro Almodóvar. Not blogging exactly, but keeping an online diary, a "shooting journal," as he works away on Volver.

Girish, in the meantime, preps for Toronto.

Josh Friedman: "Dinner with your agent: something good's happened. Lunch with your agent: something bad's happened."

More screenwriting tips: John August on choosing an agent and Craig Mazin: "Pitching is showmanship, hucksterism, theater, dance, psychology, chutzpah and good old fashion creativity... all rolled into ten minutes. The rooms are tough, the stakes are high, the odds are long... Yup. I love it."

Hollywood doesn't make as much money overseas as you might think, explains Edward Jay Epstein in Slate. What's more, globalization "may actually be part of the problem."

"Hollywood isn't the only one suffering through a bummer summer at the movies. New York's film companies have been enduring their own dry spell," reports Miriam Kreinin Souccar for Crain's. At Landmark Theatres, for example, grosses are down ten percent from last year. Also via Movie City Indie: The Tribune-Review's Ed Blank talks to Pittsburgh writer and director Thom Thomas about the recent writing he's been doing with Tom Tykwer.

This Charming Girl At Twitch, X offers an extensive review of Lee Yoon-gi's This Charming Girl, the film and the DVD.

Online browsing tip. Foto dei Film di Alfred Hitchcock. Via Coudal Partners, where Jim writes, "One maguffin, two maguffin, three maguffin."

Online listening tip. Cyndi Greening and Mike Curtis, parts 1 and 2.

Little online viewing tips. Akinori Oishi's micro films. Via Greg Allen.

Online viewing tip bonanza. The Resfest lineup at videos.antville.org with loads o' links. Via Screenhead.

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

Jodorowsky's Dune.

"I did not want to respect the novel, I wanted to recreate it. For me Dune did not belong to Herbert as Don Quixote did not belong to Cervantes, nor Edipo with Esquilo," wrote Alejandro Jodorowsky in Issue #107 of Métal Hurlant, which, as far as I can tell, appeared in around 1985. (More on the magazine.) On its blog, Magpie, Arthur Magazine has run three entries - hardly news, but fascinating nonetheless - on a version of Dune that actually got rolling but was never made: Jodorowsky's.

Mobius: Dune

In the first, a rough translation of Jodorowsky's own account, illustrated, evidently, by Jean Giraud aka Moebius, the director presents his take on the novel before launching into recollections of various stations along the way towards what he hoped would be its realization. It wasn't.

Still, we meet Michel Seydoux, the producer who's secured the rights though he probably hasn't read the book; Christopher Foss, "an English draughtsman who illustrated covers of science fiction books... Like Giraud, he had never thought of the cinema"; HR Giger, his "art declining, sick, suicidal, brilliant, was perfect to carry out the Harkonnen planet"; Dan O'Bannon, after refusing to work with Douglas Trumbull; "each planet had its style of music, for example, a group as Magma could carry out very well the warlike rates/rhythms of Harkonnens"; Pink Floyd, who piss him off before coming around; and Dalí, "for the role of the insane Emperor," and we spend quite a while with him, too.

Ultimately, "Almost all the battles were won, but the war was lost. The project was sabotaged in Hollywood."

Giger: Dune

The second entry is Giger's wry account of his involvement, which lasted longer than Jodorowsky's, that is, until David Lynch decided that his work was too closely associated with Alien to use in his version.

Foss: Dune

In the third entry, Jodorowsky comments on Chris Foss's designs (more; and more images from the early stages of design by Mobius, Giger and Foss).

Via dgeiser13 at Listology, who found it at WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:24 AM

Location, location.

Roger Ebert has added Fitzcarraldo to his list of "Great Movies":

Fitzcarraldo

[Werner Herzog] has spoken of the "voodoo of location," which caused him to shoot part of his Nosferatu in the same places where Murnau filmed his 1926 silent version. He felt the jungle location would "bring out special qualities in the actors and even the crew." This was more true than he could have suspected, and in the fourth year of his struggle to make the film, exhausted, he said, "I am running out of fantasy. I don't know what else can happen now. Even if I get that boat over the mountain, nobody on this earth will convince me to be happy about that, not until the end of my days."

Of all the directors associated with the New German Cinema of the 70s and 80s, it may be difficult to find two more different from each other than Herzog and Wim Wenders. And yet, and yet. A few weeks ago, a German station ran a speech Wenders delivered about a year ago in which he insisted on the primacy of location. Over such Hollywood fundamentals as story, since, for him, a story takes shape under the influence of his sense of a particular place; or stars or any other components in the conventional "package."

He talked, for example, about the gestation of Wings of Desire. Visiting Berlin in the mid-80s for the first time in years, he was so struck by the city that he simply knew he had to make a film here. He knew nothing more until he wandered and explored and noticed that he was seeing angels everywhere... and the rest is film history. (At the Filmmuseum in Berlin, you can buy maps of the city marked with locations of the shoot; on the other side are photos of the angels that caught Wenders's eye.) Then there's the film whose very title is both a location and a poetic declaration of one of major themes running throughout his work: Paris, Texas.

What's intrigued me these past few years: Here are two German directors who have travelled and worked around the globe - bis ans Ende der Welt - and both have settled, more or less, in Los Angeles? Why? Granted, Wenders has been splitting his time between LA and Berlin lately, but still. Surely there's more to it than that that's where the movie money is?

Well. David Thomson in today's Independent: "I'd have to say - having known both men - that Herzog played Kinski like a great fish.... Whereas Herzog believed, I think, that his own will and his quiet madness were stronger. He would triumph. So it passed."

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

August 28, 2005

Shorts, 8/28.

"New Hollywood has become the multiplexer's idea of the classical. But nobody ever writes about the movies we saw on television in the 70s." If you were growing up in Britain at the time, as Richard Armstrong was, you would have grown up watching "Chabrols, Sauras, Widerbergs and Satyajit Ray, Wyler, Sirk and Bette Davis."

Wantagh: Cars

New, too, at Flickhead: Photos of Flickhead's hometown, Wantagh, New York, shot in 1961. Also: A review of Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell's Fan-Tan.

Time's Richard Corliss:

For about 15 years, from The Seventh Seal through The Magician and The Virgin Spring and in three films with you, Max von Sydow was the actor who embodied the Bergman male. His clear gaze, blond hair and jutting jaw gave a heroic aspect to even the most flawed or timid characters. Then he stopped, and [Erland] Josephson became the male character. There was a difference: something more domestic in Josephson, though no less powerful or bitter.

Scenes From a Marriage

Liv Ullmann:

Honestly, I think it's because Ingmar was writing himself into the female characters - my characters. I was being Ingmar, the way Max used to be. I think it's only because he wanted to work with me that he wrote it for a woman instead of a man. That is my theory, anyway.

Via Adam Finley at Cinematical.

Doug Cummings "was absolutely transfixed by [A State of Mind's] energetic montages, which can only be visually described as resembling Busby Berkeley routines remade by George Lucas and his army of animators using tens of thousands of computer-generated models."

A big, end-of-summer round-up from Slate's David Edelstein, having a bit of fun with John Pierson as he comes off in Reel Paradise, and... the "very formal, detached, and, regrettably, sane" Asylum, the "semi-enjoyable, semi-tacky" Eternal, the "slick and fast-moving Flemish thriller," The Memory of a Killer, the "elegantly designed and very weird" Valiant, the evidently liberal humanist Sky High and The Brothers Grimm: "It's not as bad as I'd heard, but like a lot of Gilliam's movies it's too overloaded - antic, indulgent, overdesigned - to get off the ground for more than a minute or two at a stretch."

Rome

Also at Slate: Brendan I Koerner on consumers' surprisingly swift embrace of the UMD and Dana Stevens on HBO's Rome, somehow both dirty and boring evidently, and "How to fix Entourage."

"While some fired directors have lost their jobs because of profligacy or lack of control over their casts, others - well-meaning, competent, sometimes even visionary - have been sacrificed to appease puffed-up stars, philistine producers or spineless studio chiefs." Ed Leibowitz presents a set of irresistible anecdotes: The Wizard of Oz, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, ten in all, counting the current example at hand, Rumor Has It.

Also in the New York Times:

Intolerance

  • Peter Edidin looks back to early 20th century predictions of how radio, film and television would change the world. Example. DW Griffith in 1915: "The time will come, and in less than 10 years, when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again."

  • Edward Wong: "Reality TV could turn out to be the most durable Western import in Iraq." Related: Keith Bradsher on Donald Trump and Vincent Lo's dueling reality shows on Chinese TV.

  • Mark Lasswell on Nickelodeon's anime-like series: "One thing that stands out about Avatar... is that it is not Japanese."

Acquarello: "In the book Chasing the Truth: The Films of Mrinal Sen, author John W Hood provides an insightful examination of the sociopolitical and cultural conditions that have shaped filmmaker Mrinal Sen's personal and creative ideology."

Nick Rombes: "[O]n one level all films - regardless of genre - are documentary and quote the real in the sense that they record an available reality."

My Generation

Adam Hartzell reviews Noh Dong-seok's black and white DV indie, My Generation at Koreanfilm.org.

Overlooked greats? Observer readers send in a few suggestions. Also: Rachel Cooke meets Gillian Anderson, Sarah Hughes on soccer movies, Lindsay Posner defends David Mamet and Philip French on The Mighty Celt, "a small picture certainly, but a thoughtful and engaging one."

In the Guardian, John Patterson vents: "Ever since [The Full] Monty, we've had to put up with an endless stream of rotten films about plucky little Brits doing boring things that appear a tiny bit momentous and unusual, and snagging miniscule victories so impossible to care about that the movies just die on the screen in front of you. If only they'd never made it." Also, Andrew Pulver's adaptation of the week: Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly.

Business Week on Rocketboom: "Daily downloads have doubled in the past six weeks, to 50,000. If they stay on that pace, they'll soon approach the 200,000 viewers of an established cable show, such as CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer."

Black

"The first-half of year 2005 broke the jinx for Bollywood and how!" Tanya Chaitanya in the Times of India, via Movie City News.

In the Los Angeles Times: Mary McNamara profiles Robert Downey, Jr, Dana Calvo on a drive-in revival in Texas and Christine N Ziemba on Dateline: Hollywood.

"Is Pixar the new model for corporate filmmaking? Wouldn't that be nice?" CW Nevius visits HQ for the San Francisco Chronicle. Via CinemaTech.

Tom Green blogs and vlogs. Via Matt Dentler.

Quentin Tarantino goes for a ride. The AP reports.

Online browsing, reading and viewing tip. A Man Ray collection at wood s lot.

The Exorcist: Interior

Online browsing and viewing tip. Via Listology: "Evil Interiors (2003 - ) are reconstructions of feature films sets from movies like Psycho, Reservoir Dogs and Scarface." While you're there, don't miss Ass Video.

Online viewing and reading tip. Errol Morris: "Van Hoogstraten's Peep Show or Ames's Room?" Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tips #1 through #7, courtesy of the Guardian's Kate Stables.

Online viewing tip #8. The trailer for Capote. Via AICN.

Online viewing tip #9. Finally, a QuickTime version of the Christopher Hitchens / Jon Stewart face-off. At One Good Move. Via Screenhead.

Online viewing tips #10 through #12. James Seo's Grrr, Constant and Combo.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:56 AM

Fests, 8/28.

David Levinson and Tim Wong of the Lumière Reader look back at their best and worst viewings of the New Zealand International Film Festival, the largest in the country.

The Vancouver International Film Festival (September 29 through October 14) has announced "two areas of regional focus," new indies from the US; and eastern Europe. Reads the release:

VIFF 05

As burgeoning social unrest develops in the United States, a good number of feature films reflect troubled times in surprising ways. Without being explicitly political in nature, they do express the spirit of disenfranchisement from both their own government, and popular culture as a whole. American independent cinema, jettisoning the brash cinema of Tarantino, has turned to a cautious, "cool" and modest perspective on life south of the border.

Scroll down for titles lined up from that batch as well as features from Austria, Bosnia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia.

At Koreanfilm.org, Lalit Rao interviews Pusan International Film Festival founding director, Kim Dong-ho, who explains, among other things the role the fest played in fighting off the dominance of US films in South Korea. The dates for this year's edition: October 6 through 14.

Jason Solomons has quick takes on three films at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the Observer, but his real "Eureka Moment" hit him when he saw Song of Songs. Richard Brunton carries on blogging of the fest as well.

Another Toronto preview from Todd at Twitch: "As you might expect from the title, Adam's Apples has some rather metaphysical leanings tied in to the normal [Anders Thomas] Jensen blend of existentialism, absurdism, and jet black comedy. While he has flirted with religious ideas in the past, with Adam's Apples, Jensen moves well beyond batting eyelids at the spiritual and goes ahead and invites God home for a drink or two while he slips into something more comfortable."

ANSA's brief takes on the films competing for the Golden Lion in Venice (Wednesday through September 10). Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Chuck Tryon notes that DC Shorts (September 16 through 18) will be showcasing Lunafest, a series of short films by and about women. Proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Fund and the local non-profit organizations that host the festival.

During the Chicago International Film Festival (October 6 through 20), keep an eye on Cinematical, where Kissing on the Mouth director Joe Swanberg will be filing entries.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:47 AM | Comments (2)

August 27, 2005

Light Sleeper. 2.

With a second issue of Light Sleeper up, editor Saul Symonds proves that the first was no fluke, not just some very fortunate accident. Here's the same intriguing mix of fresh takes on fresh flicks and lost-n-found gems of past criticism. You can slice the issue in a variety of ways: Recent and past cinema, articles and DVD reviews or, this time, English and French.

The Dreamers The first piece in the "Recent Cinema" section, for example, is taken, untranslated, from Positif: Jean-Pierre Coursodon reviews Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate. The other, in English and by Symonds himself, is an analysis of Bertolucci's The Dreamers, arguing in both content and form that the film must be more than simply "watched or discussed."

The DVDs in this section: Aaron W Graham, who keeps an infrequent but stimulating filmlog, writes on Manoel de Oliveira's A Talking Picture; and Symonds reviews the second volume of Samurai Champloo and Ginji the Slasher.

The "Past, Classic, Cult & Obscure Cinema " section opens with another Coursodon piece, this one on Raoul Walsh, accompanied by another, also from Positif, also in French and also on Walsh, from Michael Henry Wilson.

Bob le flambeur Raymond Durgnat's chapter on Jean-Pierre Melville from the out-of-print monograph, Le Nouvelle Vague: The First Decade is followed by Gideon Bachmann's 1974 piece on Miklós Jancsó for Sight & Sound: "For Jancsó, the definition of film is the art of movement. All else only serves its purpose: time manipulation, decor, colour, story, sounds and drama. But shining with pristine presumptuousness, it is the movement of the camera that creates his style."

Tom Sutpen tells the engaging story of the cine-club Truffaut was more than willing to commit petty crimes for.

"If Hannibal Lecter, as a figure of evil genius, embodies society’s distrust of the intellectual, then Dahmer personifies society’s disquiet at discovering the secret murderer in the boy-next-door." And Robert Keser admires the film David Jacobson based on the story.

Two shorts from Ronald Bergen, one on Kubrick exhibition (now heading to Melbourne) and the other on a restored film by "Roberto Roberti, the pseudonym of Vincenzo Leone, the father of Sergio Leone."

And all the DVD reviews here are by Symonds: Two from the Shaw Brothers, two by Herschell Gordon Lewis and Paul Wendkos's The Legend of Lizzie Borden. A fine way to wrap an issue of a journal sub-titled "Late Night Writings on Cinema."

Posted by dwhudson at 11:01 AM

August 26, 2005

Shorts, 8/26.

Jean Renoir "It's called 'The Photogenic Golden Calf' and was written by Jean Renoir in 1936," writes Matt Clayfield. "There's a number of timely lessons in here for burgeoning young filmmakers everywhere, especially those of us in Australia who have been talking for the last twelve months about how to start a new wave, perhaps naïvely."

Meanwhile, Filmbrain's transcribing Truffaut. In Dallas.

About Last Night: OGIC has more rants and sharp things.

X introduces a "Korean Cinema Databank" at Twitch. Intense.

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung (and in German), Wim Wenders tells Fritz Göttler a story about shooting Don't Come Knocking:

Don't Come Knocking

Jessica [Lange] didn't want to rehearse, so we only did a technical run-through. Then we shot live and the fur went flying. Sam [Shepard] didn't know he'd be slapped around the ears with a handbag or that, at the end, when it was all over, that there'd be a kiss. He stood there and forgot that he was actually supposed to get up and leave. Tears poured down his face. It was as if we'd all been struck by lightning.

Andrew O'Hehir opens his "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon with a few words about Asylum, "one of the year's signature film experiences," leading to an interview with director David Mackenzie; then, shortish reviews of The Memory of a Killer, which "admirably adapts the American neo-noir tradition to the rainy, gritty surroundings of Antwerp" ("An amnesiac killer is an inherently rich conceit, and it's no surprise that an American movie company has already snapped up remake rights," notes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times); Wall, "an important human and artistic testament... It demonstrates, more clearly than a thousand magazine articles, how intimately these two groups [Palestinians and Israelis] live side by side, in mutual distrust and terror, on this beautiful and sacred desert landscape" (more from Dargis in the NYT and Stuart Klawans in the Nation); and William Eggleston in the Real World: "One might describe the Eggleston we see here as a certain type, the hermetic artist whose superficial politeness can't hide a hard kernel of protective hostility."

In the Los Angeles Times, Merrill Balassone talks to Dai Sijie about the making of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, "based partly on his experiences during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, when children of professional families were sent to remote villages to be politically 're-educated' by peasants."

Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix: "The World is so much more intelligent and exciting than it could have been.... Jia [Zhangke]'s visual design is a deterrent to easy ironizing."

Thumbsucker Two via Movie City Indie: First, Roger Ebert remembers the great movies houses of Chicago's past; and second, Luc Besson's secret is out. For the first time in six years, he's directed a movie and, despite the total media black-out, we know it's a romantic comedy in black and white and stars Gilbert Melki and Sara Forestier. Fabien Lemercier reports at Cineuropa. Also: Mike Mills blogs. At least for now. At the Thumbsucker site.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has noticed the blog, too, and more: Alongside the marketing campaign that actually works (i.e., it makes you look twice), the site's got a better-than-average set of links, downloadables and such.

Charlie Prince at Cinema Strikes Back: "D kicks ass."

Sneak peeks: Walk the Line, from Gummo at Twitch, and Oliver Twist, from AICN's Moriarty.

Three Dancing Slaves "By lucky coincidence, what Four Brothers could have been is boldly demonstrated in the new French film Three Dancing Slaves," writes Armond White in the New York Press.

At Cinematical, Erik Davis reviews "one of the most entertaining films this summer has to offer," The Baxter. But for Dana Stevens, writing in the NYT, it's "well meaning and mildly likable, but unlikely to sweep you off your feet."

"Neither Proof's Gwyneth Paltrow nor The Libertine's Johnny Depp was willing to go forward into the crowded fall season without help from Harvey Weinstein. They demanded him. And they got him." Anne Thompson explains in the Hollywood Reporter. Also: Gregg Kilday on a "lively little survey," The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing.

Martin Scorsese's next documentary project? The life of Elia Kazan. The Reeler has details. Oh, and a few thoughts about John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, too.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs Carluccio's Celebration of Italian Film is a series running at the Everyman Cinema Club in London, September 9 through 15. A fine occasion for Charlotte Cripps to ask Anthony Minghella to talk about his favorite Italian films. Also in the Independent: Roger Clarke interviews Michael Pitt.

For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein talks to Fernando Meirelles about The Constant Gardener. But of course, we have our own interview, too: NP Thompson's. More? Mr Beaks at AICN.

Jeffrey Wells looks back on Summer 05. So does Duncan Shepherd in the San Diego Reader. But at Movie City News, David Poland is already looking ahead to Summer 06.

In the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams picks out some of the best of the DVDs released this summer.

The cinetrix on Hustle & Flow: "[O]nce it's over you realize how expertly you've been played and how empty you still feel."

Back to the NYT:

Formula 17

  • Jeannette Catsoulis on a hit in Taiwan, Formula 17: "Partly because of its bouncy, bubblegum soundtrack and enormously appealing leads, this tiny indie has connected with a generation typically critical of homegrown talent. And by studding her film with signifiers of generic infatuation... the director, DJ Chen, has breached barriers of sexual orientation with surprising success." Also, Undiscovered: "[I]f Ashlee Simpson appears to be playing herself, she probably is."

  • Irene Lacher talks to Henry Jaglom about Going Shopping, which "ompletes his trilogy of movies about female obsessions, which also includes Eating (1990) and Babyfever (1994)." Related: Caveh Zahedi's talk with Jaglom back in December.

  • Ned Martel on We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen: "The spiky documentary in their honor keeps alive the echoes of their slapdash, Smithsonian-worthy sound."

  • Laura Kern on The Cave: "It's a shame, a travesty even, that the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that in order to keep viewers from contemplating the absurdity of what they are watching the action must move at a pace that doesn't allow for it." Also, Mark Meily's "lively follow-up" to Crying Ladies, La Visa Loca.

  • Catsoulis: "Eternal is quite possibly the dullest, least sexy lesbian vampire movie I have ever seen."

Vue Weekly: Mysterious Skin For Vue Weekly, Paul Matwychuk conducts an email conversation with Gregg Araki: "True to his in-your-face directing style, he's an all-capper."

With its giant inflatable screen, the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Road Show recently rolled into Archer City, the setting of Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, and Joe O'Connell was there to capture scene and render it in the form of a treatment. Related: Scott Sandell in the LAT on the Roadshow's local screening of Repo Man.

SXSW Presents Also in the Austin Chronicle: Shawn Badgley interviews Penn Jillette; and the lineup for SXSW Presents, with your host, Matt Dentler. Speaking of SXSW, the new site's up.

Suppose the Stranger threw an amateur porn contest and nobody... submitted? "Forty-three entries, four sold-out screenings, and one packed afterparty later, the naysayers have been spanked," crows Dan Savage.

For indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan reviews Megan Cunningham's The Art of the Documentary, 368 pages of enlightening conversations with a diverse group of accomplished directors, cinematographers and editors." Related: Chuck Tryon's quick notes from a panel on "Documentary and Social Justice."

Friday Review: Rock School Paul Green, who runs the real-life School of Rock, is still pissed at Richard Linklater, notes Will Hodgkinson in his Friday Review cover story. Also in the Guardian: Oliver Burkeman interviews Steve Carell. And: The Pitchers.

"A big-screen TV carries its own set of social implications," Bryan Curtis reminds us in Slate.

The Economist reports that growth - growth, mind you - in DVD sales will likely dwindle to nine percent this year and four percent the next.

Apropos of not much: Yesterday was Duchamp day at wood s lot.

Jennifer Allen, Berlin to Buenos Aires. Upside down. And lives to tell about it in Artforum's "Diary."

CulturePulp 035: The Vlad-Masters, preceded by ME Russell's interview with Vladimir.

Online browsing tip. "Mate a Movie 10" at Worth 1000. Via MCN.

Online listening tips #1 and #2. DVD Talk's interview with Park Chan-wook and with Peter Weir, who talks a bit about his adaptation of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

Rosie Perez Online listening tips #3 and #4. John Powers on Fresh Air, contemplating compassionate, brainy, even difficult women on the screen. Also: Rosie Perez.

Ongoing online listening tip. The Spoilers offer full-length alternative DVD commentaries as podcasts. Via Karina Longworth at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #1. Nextoons. A festival at Nickelodeon, through Saturday and via Screenhead.

Online viewing tip #2. "Bateman365": "An animated film a day for a year. How hard can that be?" Via Alternet's Peek.

Online viewing tip #3. "The plan is that my mind will ruin pornography, instead of the other way around," writes Philip Clark at Destroy.Hot.Action, which Scott Macaulay calls a "totally genius video blog." And, as Scott notes, he's quite a writer, too.

Online viewing tip #4. The trailer for Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Via Todd at Twitch, where he's also pointing to fresh clips from MirrorMask, Thumbsucker and Serenity.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:46 AM

Fests, 8/26.

"One year short of its 60th birthday, the longest continually running film festival in the world has shelved the Hollywood glitterati and put British films and unheralded independents at the heart of its programme," writes Kaleem Aftab of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (through Sunday). "But the way that the festival has ignored some of the competition-winners of the world's premiere film festivals, and the lack of big Hollywood productions, has divided attendees."

One celeb has been feted, though: Paul Schrader, as Brian Brooks reports at indieWIRE. And he brought bad news to the Isles, too: "In the 70s, we thought storytelling in Hollywood had changed permanently, but [we] now realize it was just a bubble."

CIFF 05 Also: Vanessa Romo previews the Chicago International Film Festival (October 6 through 20).

Back to the Independent: On the eve of Frightfest (through Monday in London), Abigail Sanderson considers the current state of horror.

Cyndi Greening tracks the fortunes of this year's Sundance vets.

Andre Soares has the complete list of winners at the Gramado Film Festival in Brazil. Tizuka Yamasaki has won best director, and her film, Gaijin: Love Me as I Am, took the top prize.

Jason Morehead's Toronto picks. If he were going, that is.

Todd at Twitch is in town, though, and in fact, is already hitting the press screenings: "Clocking in a little over two hours, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a little over long but embedded in that lengthy run time is a near flawless film."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:57 AM

Grimm.

The critics are on Terry Gilliam's side. They want to like The Brothers Grimm. But evidently, he's made it tough on them.

The Brothers Grimm Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "It's eye-popping, energetic and rudely funny in the time-honored Gilliam manner. But it's also muddled, frenzied, exhausting and, overall, more superficial than it should have been, especially when one considers the subject matter: a fairytale about the Brothers Grimm." And the Stranger's Sean Nelson regrets to report that it's a "ghastly mess."

"Mr. Gilliam's strengths as a filmmaker - an out-of-bounds visual imagination, a tendency to spiral wildly off topic, a fractious wit - can also be his gravest liabilities," Manohla Dargis reminds us in the New York Times. On a similar note, Salon's Stephanie Zacharek: "When his ideas work, they're golden. But when they don't - or maybe when he just can't find his way through them - sitting through his movies can be exhausting. And his latest, The Brothers Grimm, is a workout."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "Money can be a good thing on a film, but in this case it has simply encouraged Gilliam to lose himself in increasingly excessive flights of grotesque fancy that must have been fun to play around with but are the opposite to watch."

Godfrey Cheshire turns up in the Independent Weekly actually kind of liking the film, but delves into the problems the others are only mentioning politely: "Along with Peter Jackson and Tim Burton, Gilliam is among the contemporary cinema's most distinctive fantasists. Like Orson Welles, though, he's dogged by the suspicion not only that he seldom lives up to his artistic potential, but that he unwittingly collaborates in the undermining of his reputation and thus of his ability to mount the films he wants to make."

But as for the film at hand... well, Cinematical's Karina Longworth: "[I]t's certainly not an eyesore, but it is boring, and I'm afraid that's a worse offense."

Alison Willmore for IFC News: "Gilliam, shooting Brazil back in 1984, reportedly informed Jonathan Pryce after the first day of shooting that he was competing with the fantastical set and losing. Gilliam's sets have stayed just as impressive, but this time around, whether the actors flail frantically as [Peter] Stormare or underplay like [Matt] Damon and [Heath] Ledger, we're left wanted to shoo them out of the way so that we can admire the lovely backdrop they're standing in front of."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM | Comments (6)

August 25, 2005

Frieze.

Poland: Sunset Boulevard "Contemporary illustrated film posters inevitably hark back to some indeterminate golden age, but it is important not to be too sentimental about their forebears," writes... well, someone in Frieze who nevertheless has a soft spot for some of the most popular posters on the Web in the past few years: "Polish and Czech film posters, the best of which were designed between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s, offer an even more straightforward example of hand-crafted images being used as a means of cultural emphasis.... [T]hese posters were intended to recast film scenarios in symbolic, often abstract terms and thereby render them appropriate for a socialist audience."

Also, someone else: "Yang [Fudong]'s work is a world away from the on-the-spot realism that dominates contemporary Chinese independent film and video and uses none of the gunshots-and-nudity shock tactics that many of China's installation artists have recently been delighting in."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:42 PM

Fests, 8/25.

Rudolph Valentino Just think, the weather would be perfect, too: Andre Soares reports at the Alternative Film Guide that "Rudolph Valentino's hometown, Castellaneta, located in Puglia, near the tip of the Italian boot, is set to host the first edition of the Valentino Film Festival next spring. The festival will run from April 29 to May 6, 2006, wrapping up on the 111th anniversary of Valentino's birth."

The Guardian's Xan Brooks hits the highlights of the London Film Festival (October 19 through November 3).

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez presents a preview of the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (November 24 through December 4).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM

O, Canada!

"It's hard for us to comment on our own place in the festival world - that's your job," Toronto International Film Festival co-director Noah Cohen tells indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez:

O, Canada!

But we are certainly pleased that we have been able to provide such a healthy and happy home for many different sectors of the film world. From what we can tell, our role is really fourfold now. We act as a conduit for non-English language films to penetrate the North American market; we act as an unofficial starting gate for awards season hopefuls; we are a significant "market" for the selling of hot films; and we are the launch pad for new Canadian cinema.

Sure, Eugene's offered a different pullquote, but I'm going with that one.

Meanwhile, Konrad Yakabuski in the Globe and Mail: "Almost everyone agrees the three Montreal festivals cannot or should not co-exist indefinitely; that it would be in the city's and film aficionados' interest to see one emerge as the definitive Montreal event; and that, until that happens, mediocre programming and an autumn marathon of screenings will leave everyone feeling irritable." Via Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:29 PM

"Movies You Can't See"

La Commune "Films That Got Away," co-presented by the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a series playing out through the weekend in Los Angeles. In the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas writes at least a few good words on about half the nine films screening and a solid paragraph or so on the other half.

In the LA Weekly, though, it's a very different story. Scott Foundas's piece on the series is the centerpiece of a four-article package: "Movies You Can't See." What's more, announces Foundas, "this report is intended as but the first in a recurring series that will allow our critics to weigh in on movies that merit your attention, even if you may have no immediate way of seeing them - movies, to put it glibly, that aren't coming soon to a theater or video store near you."

This opener, then, can be seen as a sort of report on the state of cinephilia and its discontents, laying out the economic realities that, at this point in time, are keeping worthy fare (and of course, unworthy fare as well) out of our line of sight. Do read it, definitely, but keep in mind, too, that changes are afoot. Let's hope they're for the better; that is, if it may be modestly mentioned, a large part of what GreenCine is about. As for this specific series, "the lineup is remarkable."

Also in the package:

Duma

  • Ella Taylor revisits the frustrating case of Carroll Ballard's Duma, championed by Foundas in Variety and Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times as well as other critics, yet so far not exactly embraced by audiences: "Depending on whom you talk to, Duma is another casualty either of risk-averse corporate movie marketing or of a crass new generation of young audiences fed and watered on special-effects pizzazz, for whom live wild animals are sissy stuff, and with whom an aging body of film critics is increasingly out of touch."

  • David Thomson has a story to tell about the way movies work.

  • In a sidebar, Foundas presents an annotated list of ways Los Angelenos can catch otherwise obscure movies.

Elsewhere in the issue, a two-piece set on a movie you can see, The Constant Gardener. For Taylor, it's "a smart, beautiful piece of storytelling, attentive to Le Carré's broad intent, while boldly taking a knife to his more egregious longueurs." Larry Gross not only talks to director Fernando Meirelles but also offers up quite an introduction, one that aims to establish the Brazilian director as one of the greats of our time.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:26 PM | Comments (2)

alt.film

The San Francisco Bay Guardian The San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Fall Arts Preview" issue is out and Cheryl Eddy trains a discerning eye on the movie release schedule and, for those in the Bay Area, Johnny Ray Huston presents "a top 10 of upcoming cinematic pleasures" - series, special screenings and the like.

By the way, it's a bit shrill - well, it's pretty shrill - but the SFBG's open call for the Justice Department to intervene in a prospective merger between New Times and Village Voice Media is worth a read if you care about the state of the alternative press in the US.

And you should. Outside of a few magazines and journals and a very few daily papers, the alternative press has been the last refuge of timely, vibrant writing about film that goes anywhere beyond "Can we take the kids?" The squeeze on these weeklies has been long and painful over the years, and who knows, they may well all die out at some point. But until blogs and online zines are truly ready to take up the slack (and we're getting there, but let's face it, there's still quite a bit of growing up to do), it's still the alternative press that we turn to read seasoned voices on the many, many films the mainstream press ignores.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:52 AM

August 24, 2005

Shorts, 8/24.

October "What are your favorite sacred-ish cows to slaughter?" asked ourgirlinchicago at About Last Night just a week ago. Following the preliminary results, she's now posted a few readers' comments. Example: "Eisenstein's October has been known to induce epileptic seizures in small children. They're the lucky ones."

But hold on, this rubs both ways. The team at the AV Club present "10 Notorious Bombs Worth Seeing."

A Satyajit Ray double via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: Andrew Robinson, author of two books on the director, draws up a portrait in the London Times and, for rediff, Raja Sen looks back to Shatranj Ke Khilari. This is the beginning of a trio of revisits to Hindi historicals occasioned by the walloping success in India of The Rising.

"1962 is one amazing year for movies," marvels Ryan Wu. "I mean, check out this lineup..."

"I directed the English world premiere of this great play exactly 50 years ago and I was there on that tumultuous first night," writes Peter Hall. "Waiting for Godot hasn't dated at all. It remains a masterpiece transcending all barriers and all nationalities. And it could have been written today: there is nothing of the 50s about it. It is the start of modern drama and it gave the theatre back its metaphorical power."

Also in the Guardian:

Mike Leigh: A New Play

Metropolitan Nathan Kosub at Stop Smiling on Whit Stillman's debut, Metropolitan: "The movie is fifteen years old this August, and more and more looks like one of the great movies about growing up."

Josh Neuhouser on recent work from Mamoru Oshii: "[N]o longer enslaved to the sci-fi trappings of his anime films, he finds himself free to create purely atmospheric imagery tied to abstract themes and concerns."

"Japan's oldest anime uncovered in Kyoto," reads the headline over the Mainichi Daily News story, but as Muken notes at Cinema.3Yen.com, Midnight Eye's Jaspar Sharp isn't buying it.

Up-n-coming:

Goya: Inquisition

Going to Toronto but overwhelmed by the offerings? Grady Hendrix picks out over a dozen Asian highlights; Doug Cummings spots three docs he'll want to catch; and at indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez not only breaks down the lineup but also highlights the most anticipated premieres.

Richard Brunton lists the audience's top ten at Edinburgh.

Signandsight gathers varying reactions in the German press to Wim Wenders's Don't Come Knocking. Go ahead and scroll down; s&s is in English.

Martin Roumagnac Deutsche Welle reports (also in English) on the TV debut, 60 years on, of Martin Roumagnac, the only film to feature both Marlene Dietrich and her lover at the time, Jean Gabin.

At the World Socialist Web Site, Panini Wijesiriwardane: Boodee Keerthisena's Mille Soya "is an intelligent and at times poignant exploration of the social difficulties confronting a group of youth from a poor village on Sri Lanka's west coast and their determined and at times tragic struggle for a better life."

"At last. A summer movie I can call my own," writes Vince Keenan of Red Eye. And he's glad it's getting good reviews, too, but why are the critics so preemptively defensive about their raves? "[H]as film criticism fallen to such a lowly state that anything that delivers on its promise of old-fashioned thrills can only be seen as guilty pleasure?"

Otherwise, that was the summer that wasn't. In the New York Times, Sharon Waxman sorts through the wreckage: "Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough."

Mary McNamara tells a good Hollywood story in the Los Angeles Times. David Ellison, son of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, stars in - and pours his own money into - Flyboys, a project producer Dean Devlin and Tony Bill had been trying to get off the ground for nearly ten years before Ellison came along.

For Wired, Thomas Goetz talks to Jon Stewart about nothing less that "Reinventing Television." Also: Josh McHugh on Yahoo!'s video plans, but also much more:

Wired: September 05

A household with 300 cable or satellite channels has access to 7,000 hours of programming a day, almost 3 million per year. That's a lot, but it's only a fraction of the 31 million hours of total annual programming. Every major cable company is making investments to allow TV to be distributed over the Internet, giving you access to each one of those 31 million hours. And then there's this year's 36-fold explosion in consumer-generated video on the Internet.

Slashdotters discuss the breakdown in negotiations between Sony and Toshiba aimed at ending the next-generation DVD format war.

Online browsing tip. Starlets in chadors. Via the cinetrix.

Online viewing tip. At independentfilm.com, Corey Boutilier talks to Lionel Baier, director of Garçon Stupide, about the differences between US and European audiences and the national pecking order on the continent.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:58 AM

Brock Peters, 1927 - 2005.

Brock Peters
Actor Brock Peters, best known for his heartbreaking performance as the black man falsely accused of rape in To Kill a Mockingbird, died Tuesday at his home after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 78.

Gary Gentile for the AP.

Now mind you, from day one I had to arrive at a point where I burst into tears, could not contain them, had to try to stifle them, and that's not easy to do but in [Robert] Mulligan's hands it became very possible. Once we were on track I needed to go only to the places of pain, remembered pain, experienced pain and the tears would come, really at will.

Brock Peters.

His explosively convincing performances in the roles proved as much a burden as a blessing. With his dark skin, searing eyes and intimidating scowl, Mr Peters was quickly type-cast as the archetypal, menacing, black villain on screen.... By the mid-60s, Mr Peters was recognized as one of the most versatile and talented black actors in America.

Mel Watkins in the New York Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:27 AM | Comments (2)

August 23, 2005

Shorts, 8/23.

"This is how they do you in Hollywood." The most entertaining (and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny) new film-related blog I, at least, have come across in a long, long time (via the ever sharp-eyed Vince Keenan) is Josh Friedman's I find your lack of faith disturbing. Friedman collaborated with David Koepp on the screenplay for War of the Worlds, and he'll tell you all about that, his own backstory and more. And since he knows you're wondering, Tom Cruise: "All you need to know is this: the man is a fucking movie star and even if he didn't travel with two hundred flashbulbs surrounding him he would still glow."

The Bow Acquarello at Strictly Film School: "Rather than validating Kim [Ki-duk]'s entry into a subtler, more artistically mature phase that had been reflected in his recent films since Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall...and Spring, The Bow instead regurgitates like a bloated self-parody of his earlier work." Also: A quick note of praise for Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema.

Todd at Twitch: "Wild Life - an early [Shinji] Aoyama offering being brought to the western world for the first time thanks to Artsmagic's DVD release - is a sly, deadpan crime comedy.... Beautifully shot, smartly written and slyly funny, Wild Life shows that Aoyama has learned [Kiyoshi] Kurosawa's lessons well. Like most of Kurosawa's work, Wild Life is a genre film that both subverts and transcends genre." Oh, and The Bow? Todd would disagree with Acquarello: "Highly recommended."

All David Lowery has to say about it for now is this: "After seeing Bad Guy with Yen last night, I decided that my brief love affair with the films of Kim Ki-Duk had come to an end."

A teen comedy. And another one - with vampires. Park Chan-wook tells MTV's Carl Davis what'll follow the revenge trilogy. Via AICN.

Tsui Hark and Stephen Chow will be collaborating on an adaptation of the "cartoon," Warm-Blooded Society, reports CRI's Shen Min. Via Adam Finley at Cinematical. At Kaiju Shakedown, Grady Hendrix has news of three more eyebrow-raising team-ups.

Three mixed reviews for Three Dancing Slaves. At indieWIRE, courtesy of the Reverse Shot team. more from Dennis Lim in the Voice: "Unfocused and vaguely arty, Three Dancing Slaves is a Bruce Weber shoot come to life.

Also in the Voice:

The Baxter

Sometimes, indie filmmakers are "unwilling to simply ride out the fest circuit wave and move on to a new project, or even pursue a different career altogether." Eugene Hernandez delves into the case of Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, who've briefly entertained such thoughts but have forged ahead in their pursuit of a distributor for Four Eyed Monsters.

"I really think most of what we call cinema is not cinema. It's really film theatre or, even worse, illustrated literature... Real cinema is much closer to music," Carlos Reygadas tells Charlotte Higgins.

Also in the Guardian:

Daniel Johnston: Fear Yourself

Turtles Can Fly has arrived in Australia, so Philippa Hawker interviews Bahman Ghobadi for the Age.

For New York, Logan Hill profiles Rosario Dawson and interviews Terry Gilliam.

In the New York Times:

Moog

  • As Allan Kozinn reports, Robert Moog has died at the age of 71. Jon Pareles reminds us his impact. More: Fresh Air.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVDs.

  • Joel Topcik reports on studios, large and small, using Web ad campaigns "to identify and reach niche audiences online."

  • The headline over Lorne Manly's piece says is self-explanatory: "Extinction Long Seen, Video Stores Hang On."

"If punk is dead, as has been said, it appears to be kicking and digging its way out of the grave." Shana Ting Lipton reports on a startling (and welcome) number of punk-related docs and narrative features on the way. Also in the Los Angeles Times: Elaine Dutka on the making of all those making-of's on all those DVDs.

Designboom explains why you don't see hand-painted posters anymore. Not even in Russia. Via things magazine.

Aaron Hillis launches "The Last Picture Game Show."

Dazed and Confused Set your timers: Sunday night, September 18, AMC airs Kahane Corn's Making Dazed, reuniting the cast and crew of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. Via Erik Davis at Cinematical. Wiley Wiggins, who, of course, gives a wonderful performance in the film, has more.

Scott Kirsner has a bone or two to pick with Lisa DiCarlo's Forbes story, "What's Wrong With Digital Cinema?"

Online browsing (and viewing) tip. Science Cinémathèque, from the Museum of the Moving Image.

Online viewing tip #1. Five top voice-over artists in a limo. Via Coudal Partners, also pointing to the work of Alessandro Bavari (a rerun here, but worth it) and - back to text - Ed DiGiulo on making lenses for Kubrick.

Online viewing tip #2. The video for the Mountain Goats' "This Year." Via Michaela at depravedfangirls.

Online viewing tip #3. This time, Mutiny City News has a penguin interviewing Luc Jacquet; and again, back to text: Ray Pride interviews Alex Wurman, "whose intelligent, impressive score is an important component of the American version" of March of the Penguins.

Online viewing tip #4. At Twitch, the trailer for Sha Po Lang.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:47 PM

Fests, 8/23.

Venice International Film Festival The Venice International Film Festival opens in about a week (August 31 through September 10) and, via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau," L'espresso prepares with a nifty little package (in Italian) that opens with an interview with festival director Marco Müller. He's pretty much as Peter Kiefer describes in his piece in the Hollywood Reporter on the rocky road that's led to this year's edition: "Contrary to what many observers might expect, a feisty Müller seems emboldened by this year's Venice film lineup and by the prospect of having a go at naysayer."

Henry Geldzahler If you want anyone's initial impressions of a trio of films screened at the International Documentary Association's DocuWeek ("not 'festival'"; and it isn't, no, but this belongs here nonetheless), it's Doug Cummings's: Thomas Riedelsheimer's "aesthetically immersive but philosophically overextended" Touch the Sound; the "lively and amiable" Who Gets to Call it Art?, focusing on the guy with the greatest name ever given a curator, Henry Geldzahler (that's him on the left); Hubert Sauper's "quiet, shattering" Darwin's Nightmare.

Blake files a report from the Asian Film Festival of Dallas (through August 26) at Cinema Strikes Back.

The complete lineup for the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8 through 17) is up. Kurt picks out several and links to titles to previous Twitch entries on them.

The latest review from Richard Brunton at the Edinburgh International Film Festival is up at Twitch and the Movie Blog: Serenity.

Brian Brooks at indieWIRE: "Launching what it calls it's most 'extensive tour yet,' RESFEST 05 will debut in New York September 15-18, the first of 40 cities worldwide bringing its signature mix of short film and music video programs, special events, parties and live music."

The Reeler catches a quote or two from the director of programming for the LaCinemaFe Film Festival of New York (through August 27) about the Latin American lineup.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:36 PM

August 22, 2005

Screening the Past. 18.

Pop music and film. That's the gist of Issue 18 of Screening the Past, though the intro by guest editors Amanda Howell and Cory Messenger can get a little chewy saying so. But minus the parenthetical elaboration: "[A]s varied as they are in their objects of study, these essays have in common an effort to strike a balance between their attention to music's role in the production of meaning in film texts... and their consideration of economic and social contexts and the cultural uses of music."

Don't Look Back To shift metaphors, David Baker strikes the first chord (resonating nicely with David D'Arcy's interview with DA Pennebaker just up at our own main site) with a close reading of Don't Look Back. To oversimplify, he unpacks a myth: "Both verité and rock could in the 1960s be understood as asserting a commitment to truth."

The editors: Howell burrows into Blaxploitation; Messenger into "rocksploitation."

Given the current interest in Jia Zhangke, Steve Fore takes on a fascinating subject, the depiction of "youth subcultures" in China in two films made years before Xiao Wu: Tian Zhuangzhuang's Rock Kids (1988) and Zhang Yuan's Beijing Bastards (1993).

Rebecca Coyle and Michael Hannan are "concerned with how, far more than merely accompanying the image track, the music (or musics) in [The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own] provide/s significant information about Australia in the early 1970s." Delving deeper into the continent: Tony Mitchell on "something of a landmark in Australian cinema," Rowan Woods's The Boys.

Diana Sandars on what separates 90s-era sci-fi from its generic forebears: "Just as the conventions of the musical are reworked through the sci-fi film, the revolutionary aspects of techno music are transported from its warehouse inception to the cinema multiplex."

Anahid Kassabian revisits her book, Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music, to - bravely - tweak it here and there.

And it's not just the music; this issue strikes home for me twice, personally, touching on both Texas and Berlin. In School of Rock, "[Richard] Linklater has fashioned one of his most trenchant critiques of American youth culture," argues Jeff Smith; and Ken Woodgate explains what few outside Germany are likely to grok right away: Why Sonnenallee was such a hit a few years ago.

There's an intermission of sorts before the issue's dozens of literary reviews by an illustrious host of readers: Belinda Barnet on the Xanadu that doesn't ring a bell.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 AM

August 21, 2005

Shorts, 8/21.

The Major Film Theories "[O]nce film studies became a legitimate discipline, once it became institutionalized, the unruly tone of those working around its edges and fringes became lost amid the duty-bound obligations for authors to deploy the usual discursive formulas in making their arguments." Nick Rombes wonders if blogs might be able to liven things up again.

"It is an unfortunate side-effect of the benefit of free speech that people tend to think that, because things may be said, it does not matter if they are." In the Telegraph, Charles Moore scolds the Dean of Lincoln, the Very Reverend Alec Knight, for "his Anglican illusion that £100,000 is a lot of money to extract from Hollywood" and for allowing Ron Howard's crew to shoot scenes from The Da Vinci Code in the cathedral.

Nick Davis at Cinemarati: "Giant is a pretty subversive ride in and of itself. Starting with Mercedes McCambridge's salty, grimacing cameo in the first 45 minutes and stretching all the way to the rows over anti-Mexican racism and miscegenation in the final hour, Giant has some real curios in its cabinet and some major bones to pick with American and specifically Texan culture. Sirk it isn't, but the mind of the picture is still alive."

Tender is the Night "Like an unrequited love, the surprisingly ungraspable dream of translating Fitzgerald's doomed romanticism to the big screen has gotten under moviedom's skin yet again," writes Steve Chagollan (related: more up-n-coming film news in Film Comment's "e-bulletin"). The other lit-on-film piece in the New York Times this weekend comes from Michael Joseph Gross, who reports on how Roman Polanski and Ben Kingsley have collaborated to reimagine Fagin in their version of Oliver Twist, avoiding the anti-Semetic slant of past characterizations.

Also: Charles Solomon reports that ADV, the largest distributor of anime in the US, has decided not to ignore or shun BitTorrent and instead actually use it to release promotional materials. Slashdotters comment.

"Far from just homage to anime, [Fragile Machine] is a well-styled piece of visual and audio cyberpunk, setting lessons learned from Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Metropolis to a beat." Brett D Rogers in fps Magazine, a nicely designed magazine you can download as a PDF file. There's plenty to discover online, too, though, such as Emru Townsend's interview with Mind Game director Masaaki Yuasa.

Jim Biancolo points to Luxo's remembrances of Joe Ranft, "Story and Voice 'Guru' at Pixar Animation Studios" (more), and to Ronnie Del Carmen's tribute at Tirade.

Great characters, great voices, great animation, great writing. So why is Hopeless Pictures leaving Dana Stevens at Slate "unaccountably, depressed? he only explanation I can offer: It's the subject matter. Quite simply, there's something sad about the fact that television has nothing left to laugh at but itself."

Lost-n-found:

Deadly Dialectics

"Jean Eustache is a great, underrated poet of the cinema," claims Jim Jarmusch, one of several contributors to a collection of shout-outs to undeservedly neglected works - films, books, works of art. And it spills over onto a second page. On a third, sacred cows are slaughtered.

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

Gigi

Heather Havrilesky in Salon: "The characters on Six Feet Under feel sort of like family members to me, in that they're so often such a serious pain in the ass." Alan Ball: "I wouldn't have it any other way." The Los Angeles Times interviews the cast and Greg Braxton also talks to Ball.

Romance & Cigarettes Also in the LAT: John Clark talks to John Turturro about his film, Romance & Cigarettes, which everyone seems to like though few know what to do with it as yet; still what a cast: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, Eddie Izzard, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro and Steve Buscemi. And Patricia Ward Biederman talks to Brian Flemming about The God Who Wasn't There.

Armond White in the New York Press: "Pretty Persuasion dares to itemize our moral chaos, and that's preferable to what has gone wrong in other recent topical youth films."

Dennis Cozzalio posts an appreciation of David Edelstein: "I don't think I've ever read a piece written by Edelstein that made me feel like he was trying to elevate himself above a piece of work... Yet he can also turn around and deal with more 'serious' work... without suddenly making himself sound like your least favorite film professor who has some cinematic spinach he insists on foisting upon you before you sit down to your Hollywood cheeseburger."

"Bob Iger suggested this week that the move to an even shorter Home Entertainment window would be a good thing. Why?" asks David Poland, to whom this simply does not make sense; theatrical and ancillary are "two distinct income streams. It is analogous to Costco vs the local Ralph's." It's a big issue at Movie City News at the moment. Bill Mechanic argues: "Take it down to a single market and the economics will collapse." Meanwhile, Gary Dretzka surveys the shake-up in movie marketing.

And via MCN:

Pride & Prejudice

What are your "comfort movies" asks Girish.

The BBC: "More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the Sarajevo Film Festival, which started out as a cultural stand against the Bosnian war 11 years ago."

Brian picks out the highlights from the Pacific Film Archive calendar.

Bardot A Go Go Online viewing tip #1. "Friend of DFG Pink Frankenstein, KALX DJ and host, since 1998, of the Bay Area-based 60s French pop dance party Bardot A Go Go, has been hard at work on a documentary about French pop music," writes Andrea. Watch the preview for Bardot A Go Go and consider helping him out.

Online viewing tip #2. Video tombstones. Via Slashdot.

Online viewing tip #3. Jason Koxvold's video for Citizens Here and Abroad's "You Drive and We'll Listen to Music." Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #4. Live webcam imagery projected on 3D models of the same locations. An installation by Markus Kison. Via Sarah Cook at Eyebeam's reBlog.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:39 AM

Sympathy and evil.

In the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz finds Sympathy for Mr Vengeance "a more controlled piece of work [than Oldboy], arguably Park [Chan-wook]'s best." As for the ongoing debate:

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

Park's movies are more sophisticated than his critics. On paper, his movies sound mindless. But if you pay attention to shots and cuts, Vengeance reveals itself as one of the most savagely intelligent movies of recent times - a film whose tricky melding of form and content succeeds where similarly stylized brutality fests (Sin City, for instance, or Tarantino's formally audacious but emotionally inept Kill Bill movies) stumbled. Unlike violence in a Tony Scott picture (or most Tarantino movies, or Scorsese's Cape Fear and Casino, or Gaspar Noe's Irreversible, or many of Takeshi Beat Kitano's yakuza thrillers), the violence in a Park film rarely seems to have been devised solely to shock audiences, provoke censors or achieve a savagely decorative effect.

Why all the brouhaha over Park Chan-wook anyway, wonders Josh Neuhouser, when Takashi Miike's so much more interesting? Specifically, "Izo does for the revenge picture what Weekend did for the road movie. And yes, I know exactly what I'm saying with this comparison."

More on the subject of violence for its own sake rather than for art's: Roger Ebert's exchange with the producer and director of Chaos. This is via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog, who has comments of her own, but there's more: A discussion of the exchange has drawn Ebert himself to respond to a comment "cel" has posted at Cinematical.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:20 AM

Edinburgh and Brits.

Richard Brunton's reviews from the Edinburgh International Film Festival are lining up at Twitch: Thumbsucker, P and The Magician.

Edinburgh The festival is showcasing the latest and greatest of British cinema, but what the Observer's Jason Solomons has seen so far has him worried:

We're not perhaps yet in the Hollywood habit of churning out fast-food junk cinema, but my fear is we're getting that way. It's what happens when an industry gets a bit fat on handouts and profits and trains up too many production execs who think about how things will "play" in America. My suggestion is: you make a good film and it will play just about anywhere and I believe there's no place like home to start - get your own people into the cinema first, then worry about what some lardarse in Nebraska thinks of your regional accent or quaint Saxon sayings.

Why is the British press ignoring Gaby Dellal and her debut feature, On a Clear Day, wonders Steve O'Hagan of the Sunday Herald. After all, it's screened at Edinburgh, opens across the UK on September 2 and was well-received at Sundance. "With a high-profile British cast - Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd - and its understated comedy and poignant story, the new film has the hallmarks of The Full Monty." Dellal herself has a few ideas about why there's been so little coverage, though. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

"Is there, in the history of black British cinema, a moment that charts black language entering the mainstream?" asks Kevin Le Gendre in the Independent. And answers: "Yes, and it took place over 20 years before Bullet Boy was released. But it's not a film, a documentary or a short. It's a music video." The occasion for his overview - and the "Who's who in black British cinema" that follows - is the "Black World" season at the National Film Theatre.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:55 AM

August 20, 2005

George Fasel

I've only just now come across Aaron's post pointing to sad and stunning news. George Fasel, who wrote one of the very best film-related blogs out there, A Girl and a Gun, passed away on Wednesday. Though I never met George, this is a rough blow.

George's wife, Ruth, writes that he "relied on the Film Forum in New York City, www.filmforum.org, to see hard-to-find films and films which he thought were still best seen the old way. Contributions can be made in his memory to support this resource." She explains how.

Regular readers will know that just about each and every time George posted a new entry, I'd link to it. His clear, astute writing was simply that consistently valuable. I wanted to select a handful of entries that were particular favorites of mine, but there are too many. Instead, just one.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:00 PM

August 19, 2005

Shorts, 8/19.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus Shannon has a lovely little piece on Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus at depravedfangirls.org: "[Jim] White mentions that you don't find the South on interstates, but rather on the pigtrails and logging roads that cut through the trees, along natural red clay and hauled-in caliche gravel tracks that wind with the shape of creeks and rivers, and tire ruts that cut across floodplains. You find it in barbershops, churches, and fleamarkets, and the number-marked two-lane highways that lead to the razor wire and guard towers of the maximum security facilities that ring the outskirts of my hometown." And a few excellent comments follow.

Jeffrey Wells isn't exactly looking forward to the 9/11 movies heading our way. For one thing, why are they all "being conceived from the same patriotic and (can I finally say this?) in some ways simple-assed point of view?"

Mark H Harris at PopMatters: "I'm talking about Hollywood pimping: the whoring out of black culture for celluloid profit.... Here's how to do it in 10 simple steps."

Singin' in the Rain "'The musical is a great underestimated form,' declares Sally Potter. 'In all cultures, dance and music are the first and deepest ways of expressing the big events in life: births, weddings, funerals, harvests. And whenever a dance number breaks out in a movie, it's tapping into those roots. I've yet to make my own musical, though I certainly want to, and music has always been a central thread in my work.'" Sheila Johnston talks with the director about Singin' in the Rain.

Also in the Telegraph: Marc Lee listens to another angle on the making of Jaws, producer Richard Zanuck's, and Judith Wood interviews Nicholas Hoult.

"I feel like some sort of epochal shift is happening in my life." Canfield interviews Wes Craven for Twitch.

Craven "must have already used every 'Boo!' setup imaginable, and he still comes up with a couple of new ones to make you jump. What a treat." Yes, Slate's David Edelstein quite likes Red Eye but he's less impressed with The 40-Year-Old Virgin. More on both from Manohla Dargis in the New York Times and Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin Scott Foundas likes Virgin. "It's an unconscionably funny sex farce that, by its end, turns into a tender and honest romance, an acute portrait of loneliness and, believe it or not, a musical. This is a movie Blake Edwards might have made." And Robert Abele chats with Steve Carell. For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein interviews director Judd Apatow.

Also in the LA Weekly:

Point Blank "John Boorman's 1967 Point Blank was among the earliest attempts to develop a color noir style." Andy Klein in LA CityBeat on "an arty, elliptical, European-inflected thriller... [made] at MGM, no less." Klein also revisits War of the Worlds because he's got a fresh idea about what's actually going on in there.

Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, makes the case for "a long-overdue reappraisal" of Tourneur père's rep. Also in the Boston Phoenix: Peter Keough on 2046 (more from Craig Phillips) and Gerald Peary on 9 Songs and Junebug.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Bill Berkowitz reports on all that Michael Moore's been up to since Fahrenheit 9/11. Also at Alternet: For James Westcott, Occupation: Dreamland "comes closer than anything else about Iraq to connecting us to the raw experience on the ground - and, hopefully, leading us to a real reckoning."

"When compared with the higher profile Over There, the Steven Bochco series about soldiers on the front lines of the Iraq War, Embedded/Live's teeth are sharper, coaxed by wicked humor and touches of pathos at all the right moments," writes Belinda Acosta.

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

Summertime Blues Band At Movie City News, both David Poland and Ray Pride look back on the summer and wonder about the future of blockbusters and artier fare. And both Martin A Grove in the Hollywood Reporter and Tom Shone, author of Blockbuster, consider the long-term implications of the Slump in the Guardian. The Slump's got theaters and studios sniping at each other, reports Sharon Waxman.

Also in the NYT: Joyce Wadler profiles Ricky Gervais and more reviews: Stephen Holden on Valiant, Jeannette Catsoulis on This Divided State and Dana Stevens on El Crimen Perfecto and Now & Forever.

Back to the Guardian:

Me and You and Everyone We Know

  • Miranda July's snapped shots of people who caught the British premiere of Me and You and Everyone We Know. The Guardian posts them along with their email addresses and invites you to write them: What'd they think?

  • Beautiful Boxer is based on Parinya Charoenphol's true story. What does she think of it? Will Hodgkinson asks her.

  • "Without them, we wouldn't have..." John Patterson lists a slew of films from the past couple of decades that opened doors for countless others. Also: "[W]e are living in a low-level golden age of DVD reissues."

"Fall is to the specialty film distributors what summer is to the studios: It's the make-or-break season," writes Anne Thompson at the Hollywood Reporter. "This year, as it contemplates the fall lineup and the Oscar heats, Focus Features, NBC Universal's specialty film label, faces a dilemma that only Harvey Weinstein could love: It has four films all worthy of an Oscar campaign."

"'My partners Suki Hawley, David Beilinson, Jeff Sanders and I self-distributed Horns and Halos," Michael Galinsky tells Brian Brooks at indieWIRE. It was tough but also a learning experience, and what's more, "we actually made a bit of cash on the theatrical run [and] it did significantly better on DVD than it would have if we hadn't put it in theaters." So they're preparing to go the same route on three more films.

Grim's been busy:

Once Upon a Time in the West

Nimoy/Shatner Yet another link between Star Trek and sexual deviancy? Ellen Ladowsky looks into it at the Huffington Post.

Along with passing along other Matt Damon newsbits, The Reeler points to shots Just Jarad's got of Scorsese and Damon on the set of The Departed.

OutNow.CH has collected its interviews conducted during the Locarno Film Festival. They're quick affairs for the most part, but still.

Up-n-coming:

Casshern

At the World Socialist Web Site, Joanne Laurier credits Abbas Kiarostami for drawing attention to Uganda's AIDS crisis in ABC Africa. "However, the overall effect of the film is quite limited."

Completely unrelated to film, but absolutely amazing: Lifestraw. How about a Nobel for Design? Via Coudal Partners.

Looking for more to read? How much time have you got? If a lot, Matt Clayfield has two suggestions. In a hurry? ME Russell's CulturePulp comic goes to the drive-in.

Wheedle's Groove Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Wheedle's Groove. Longer than the usual trailer, but you'll likely be glad.

Online viewing tip #2. Dougal Wilson's video for LCD Soundsystem's "Tribulations." Wow. Via Coudal Partners.

Online listening tip. Kim Masters on NPR: "The Aftermath of Movie Flops." Also, the Talk of the Nation Summer Movie Awards: Best Death Scenes.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM | Comments (2)

Korean "artsploitation"?

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance One of the most blogged and debated reviews Manohla Dargis has written since the New York Times won her over from the Los Angeles Times is surely her review of Oldboy. Not one to shy from such virtual tempests, Dargis rephrases her argument today: "There is so much talent on display in Park Chanwook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it is a drag that the film never rises to the level of its director's obvious ability." By way of a relatively lengthy quote from Mark Russell's interview with Park in the Hollywood Reporter, she presents his case for the defense, hears him out, but decides nonetheless that the problem with Sympathy is that "the violence carries no meaning beyond the creator's ego."

Steve Erickson calls it "artsploitation." In his review of Sympathy for Gay City News, he cites Takashi Miike's Audition and Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl as examples and notes, "If artsploitation films have one thing in common, it's restoring pain to screen violence."

At indieWIRE, Brad Westcott opens Reverse Shot's trio of reviews. He's enthusiastic; Karen Wilson is mixed; and Nick Pinkerton: "Is it roundly competent? Yes. At times borderline emotionally involving? Sure. Will I ever find the occasion to think about, much less watch it, again? Oh, God, no."

Update: Aaron Hillis responds to the film's critics. While admitting that Sympathy "is far from perfect and definitely not suitable for those who can't stomach an old-fashioned tendon slashing," he also argues that "to cheaply bury the film as meaningless exploitation is an unacceptably surface-deep reading from a crew [he calls them out by URL] who should know the difference between Park and less humanist pop-stylists like Takashi 'I just made three more films while you read this' Miike and Quentin 'You can thank me for hearing The 5.6.7.8's every other commercial break' Tarantino."

Meanwhile, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (US theatrical release: February 3), along with Welcome to Dongmakgoi and The Big Scene, are all doing quite well in Korea, raising hopes that three hits in four weeks signals an upturn for the industry. Chosun: "That three films in completely different genres should be enjoying such a harvest in as many weeks is seen by the movie world as a good omen for Chungmu-ro, Korea's Hollywood."

Tom Giammarco describes the unique Mokdugi Video at Koreanfilm.org: "When you get the chance, snap up this DVD, enjoy it right to its hair-raising conclusion as it draws you into believing the impossible. Then consider how these same techniques are used on us every day in everything from media to religion and from advertising to politics, in a far more frightening way."

And, as always now, X has more Korean film news at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:32 AM

Fests, 8/19.

"We have a new war and a new Nixon to deal with, and if the 60s counterculture taught us anything, it was the value of living in the here and now," writes JR Jones in the Chicago Reader. "So what's with the Nixon-era bong smoke hanging over this year's Chicago Underground Film Festival? ... To judge from [the] lineup, the 60s explosion of radical idealism has become a ball and chain for the current generation of underground filmmakers."

Chicago Underground Film Festival

The New York Film Festival has announced its lineup for the 43rd edition and Alison Willmore has done you a big favor in providing links, wherever at all possible, for each of film titles and directors. Among those sorting through the list and offering a few initial impressions: Filmbrain, Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE and the The Reeler (who's also planning, however reluctantly, to for over lots of cash to MoMA this fall - but probably not to the IFC Center).

IW's Brian Brooks tracks the ever-expanding Toronto lineup.

Besides the Guardian, the London Times also has a special section on the Edinburgh Film Festival.

At Twitch, Todd's come across the lineup for the Firecracker Showcase 2005, bringing Asian films to the UK.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:23 AM

August 18, 2005

Online browsing tip. Contour 05.

Contour 05 "Is cinema slowly coming to an end?" Chris Dercon asks Chantal Akerman. "I don't think so," she answers. "Look at the films of oldies such as de Oliveira, Godard or Rohmer. They seem younger than most films made by young ones."

Find the full interview at the site for Contour 2005, the 2nd biennial for video art (Mechelen, Belgium, September 17 through November 20). If you go in through that front door, choose "English" up there on the left if you'd like and then the name of any participating artist. Some of them - Pipilotti Rist, for example, or Vasco Araújo - have sites of their own, and you'll find the links (and/or interview snippets and other pleasant surprises) on each of their pages.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:37 AM

August 17, 2005

Shorts, 8/17.

Capote Have You Heard? stars Toby Jones and Sandra Bullock as Truman Capote and his childhood friend, Harper Lee; Capote features, in the same roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener. Which would you rather see? Lining up the supporting casts: Heard has Daniel Craig, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Isabella Rossellini and Hope Davis. Capote has Clifton Collins Jr, Mark Pellegrino, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Cooper, Amy Ryan and Bob Balaban. Directors? Douglas McGrath vs Bennett Miller.

Not since the duelling "Presidential-offspring flicks, First Daughter and Chasing Liberty, has a pair of movies been so potentially symbiotic or had such possibility for mutually assured destruction," notes Leon Neyfakh, who has seen Heard: "As the edit stands now, many months before completion, it's all very messy, with about a million unnecessary characters doing a million unnecessary things."

On the same page in the New York Observer, Sara Vilkomerson reports on a visit to the set of Diggers: "'It's kind of like Breaking Away... but with clams,' laughed Paul Rudd."

Fred Astaire Also: Andrew Sarris on 2046, "quite simply an incomparably sublime work of art, a triumph of lyricism over narrative in the cinema, and the most exquisite homage to the beauty of women it has ever been my privilege to witness on the screen," and that wondrous new boxset: "From my own vantage point as a collector, connoisseur, and teacher in the genre, my favorite Astaire-Rogers movie would be a composite: the first half of Top Hat - with Irving Berlin's 'Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,' 'Isn't This a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain,' 'Cheek to Cheek' - and the second half of Swing Time with Jerome Kern's 'The Way You Look Tonight,' 'A Fine Romance,' and 'Never Gonna Dance.' This is to say that whereas Top Hat starts enchantingly and ends conventionally, Swing Time starts lethargically and ends ecstatically." More on the set Aaron at Out of Focus.

James Verini tells one helluva story in Salon, the story behind Red Scorpion: "The film was to be a manifesto for [DC lobbyist and one-shot producer Jack] Abramoff; a Rambo-like morality tale and a grand indictment of communism - his Reagan Doctrine parable in action-packed Technicolor. And in the process of conceiving of and making it, Abramoff helped groom an African despot, rose to high levels in the K Street food chain, and got to play international spy."

"'You'll be ruined in a few years,' one executive tells me matter-of-factly. If I'm lucky, I think. If being 'ruined' means being able to pay off my car, start a college fund for children real and hypothetical, and get central air in the warped sweat lodge I call home, then let me be thoroughly and elegantly ruined." Diablo Cody, blogger and author from the Midwest, heads out to LA to, first, discover that all the clichés are true, and second, to score a two-script deal with Warner Brothers "for an amount of money that surprises even my barracuda lawyer."

Also in the City Pages: Terri Sutton on Grizzly Man (and, on the side, The White Diamond).

Samurai Rebellion Chuck Stephens to New Yorkers: "The pitter-patter of barefoot blade runners is coming your way, with a fistful of 60s and 70s slice operas by idiom savants like [Kihachi] Okamoto and Hideo Gosha, a week-long run of Masaki Kobayashi's austerely anti-authoritarian Samurai Rebellion, and inevitable reiterations of Seven Samurai and four other Kurosawa/Mifune chambara ('swordplay') chestnuts unfurling in Film Forum's 'Summer Samurai' series."

Also in the Village Voice:

Red Eye

Ray Pride sums up this one best at Movie City Indie: "The London Times's Dalya Alberge reports on what happens when you have a swell script." Also in the Times: Shaun Considine, author of Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud, retells the story "with fresh details."

Robert Rodriguez has quite a lot to say about collaborating with Quentin Tarantino on Grind House in IGN FilmForce's interview with him. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

"It's a big pain in our asses,' says Bob Myerson, exec VP at Tartan Films USA, which holds the rights to Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. There's no question about it." The "it," as Anthony Kaufman reports at indieWIRE, is the lack of any window at all between the release of many Asian films on DVD in Asia itself and in theaters in the US.

"A collapse in local audiences brought the industry to its knees six years ago, but an injection of funds and fresh talent has since seen it rise from the ashes." That's Israeli cinema Julie Szego's writing about in the Age.

Everything is Illuminated.jpg Tasha Robinson has a good long talk with Liev Schreiber at the AV Club.

Marxy: "As reported in the news media, the 'Akiba-kei' magazine Elfics is holding the first "otaku" certification exam, OTAK.... Apparently, the exam authors are incensed by the recent media attempts to make otaku 'cool' for the masses, which ultimately takes away the central taste-making authority from the subcultural leaders."

Looker: "I strolled over to Grand Central Terminal yesterday for the Transit Museum Gallery Annex show "On Location: New York Transportation in Film."

"Just who is Ken Annakin?" Simon Jones asked himself before he set out to review Annakin's autobiography, So You Wanna Be a Director?. "True, I was more than a little impressed by the fact that his book has forewords by both Sir Richard Attenborough and Mike Leigh and yes, I was surprised to hear that George Lucas had been so enamoured with the Yorkshire-born filmmaker that he named Anakin Skywalker after him as a tribute." Only after finishing the book does Jones realize, "I had in fact seen quite a few of Annakin's films and, what's more, I found myself wanting to see a few more."

Also in Kamera: Darren Arnold on Damien Odoul's En attendant le déluge and Marcelle Perks's report from the Fantasia Festival.

For Mike D'Angelo, Pretty Persuasion "joins such highly touted efforts as Murderball, The Squid and the Whale, Last Days, Millions, Good Night. And, Good Luck and The World among a long list of Really Intriguing Films That Didn't Altogether Work for Me."

Bertrand Tavernier tells Christiane Peitz about becoming fast friends with Volker Schlöndorff when they were teens and about his politics back in the day: "We were against the war, the church, the police, and of course, against the genocide of the American Indians. But John Ford's cavalry, we loved that, too." In the Tagesspiegel and in German, via signandsight.

Congrats to David Lowery and all the recipients of 2005 Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund.

Wiley Wiggins: "Nothing soothes a tormented soul better than slow-stepping tone poems about ennui-racked middle-aged men and suicidal rock stars."

"Michael Bay" in the Onion: "What Has Our Society Come To When March Of The Penguins Is The Blockbuster Hit Of The Summer?" Via James Israel.

Reverse Shot declares war on filmcritic.com.

"Know your 9/11 movies," advises Karina Longworth at Cinematical.

Joanna Neuman and her boyfriend get to be extras in Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers: "Also on hand was Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld, to watch how Hollywood does war. Maybe he picked up a tip or two." Also in the Los Angeles Times, John Horn: "Thanks to an array of tax incentives offered from Rhode Island to New Mexico, screenwriters are recasting their plots to accommodate new locales, producers are learning new math to stretch budgets and Hollywood has settled into a multiple-time-zone way of life."

Bruce Weber reports on the fine food and wine, valet parking and plush seating some smaller movie theater companies are offering to lure audiences back in. Also in the NYT, Ken Belson notes that Blu-ray has scored a supporter in its battle with HD-DVD: Lion's Gate. Bruce Gain, by the way, presents a sort of Blu-ray FAQ at Wired News.

Memoirs of a Geisha

PosterWire.com: "If 'eyes are the window into the soul' then two recent and similar one-sheets are out there doing some soul searching."

Online listening tip #1. Elizabeth Blair kicks off a NPR series on flops.

Online listening tip #2. Terry Gross interviews Jim Jarmusch on Fresh Air.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home.

Online viewing tip #2. "Mutiny City News Presents: An Amy Adams Film." This is best edition yet. Bravo.

Online viewing tip #3. Fiat Lux. Via Screenhead.

Online viewing tip #4. Austin filmmaker Kyle Henry goes to Crawford. Via Matt Dentler.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:32 PM | Comments (1)

Fests, 8/17.

Toronto 05 For a Wednesday in late August, it's been a ridiculously rich day, so let's siphon the festival news off to its own entry and begin with Todd at Twitch. Besides the lineup for the Eurasian Film Festival (September 24 through October 1), he's also got this: "Apparently Isabella Rossellini really enjoyed working with Canada's Guy Maddin on The Saddest Music in the World. She enjoyed it so much that when she wrote a film to mark the 100th anniversary of her father's birth she brought Maddin on board to direct. The end result - My Dad Is 100 Years Old - stars Rossellini in every role." Both director and star will be on hand for the film's world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8 through 17) as part of the intriguing Dialogues program.

More Toronto news from Brian Brooks at indieWIRE, where he also previews the Chicago Underground Film Festival (August 18 through 25).

The Edinburgh International Film Festival opened today and runs through August 28. The Guardian's launched its special section with Peter Bradshaw's review of the curtain-raiser, Wah-Wah: "[Richard E] Grant recreates a baroque White Mischief world, but with lighter notes of comedy, absurdity and sadness." In the Independent, Louise Jury reports on "one of the strongest line-ups of British films in years," and Richard Brunton is off and blogging. At his site, Edinburgh: The Experience. At Twitch, his first review: Mørke.

San Sebastian 53 The San Sebastian International Film Festival has unveiled an enticing preview of its 53rd edition (September 15 through 24).

The Chinese government is threatening to blacklist Stanley Kwan and much of the cast of Everlasting Regret, including Sammi Cheng and Tony Leung Ka Fai, if changes aren't made before the film is screened at the Venice Film Festival. Mack at Twitch has more details.

Not exactly festivals, but still, via indieWIRE Insider: MoMA's tribute to Killer Films on its 10th anniversary (September 22 through October 8) and a Daniel Brühl retro at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (September 15 through October 5).

"Is there a statute of limitations for disgust?" asks Peter Howell in the Toronto Star. He's addressing the ongoing controversy surrounding Karla, a "biopic of sex killer Karla Homolka was supposed to premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival later this month," but now won't because Air Canada threatened to withdraw its financial support of the fest if it were shown. This is via the IFC Blog, where Alison Willmore has been following the brouhaha.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:23 PM

August 16, 2005

Teruo Ishii, 1924 - 2005.

Teruo Ishii
Teruo Ishii, a director of strange and wild films, died of lung cancer at the age of 81 on Friday, August 12, 2005. Ishii was perhaps best known for directing the long-running Abashiri Prison series (aka Abashiri Bangaichi) for Toei in the 1960s, starring Ken Takakura. He was also known for a series of films depicting torture and brutality in the Edo-era, under the Tokugawa Shogunate. In his time, Ishii worked with a number of Japanese cinema's biggest stars, including Ken Takakura, Sonny Chiba and Tetsuro Tamba.

[...]

Ishii's films have always demonstrated an inspired lunacy. The Executioner (aka Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken) is a truly joyous little piece of madness, shucking off logic and taste, and reveling in its own depravity.... Rest in peace, Teruo Ishii, and thanks for everything.

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back, in an entry that includes links to several related pieces.

Update: Patrick Macias: "We all had this idea in our heads that the Japper-knees made the nuttiest movies in the world. But it was Ishii who actually made them that way."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:13 PM | Comments (2)

Reverse Shot. Jarmusch.

Jarmusch Another issue of Reverse Shot, another symposium. But while editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert seem just enthusiastic enough about their choice this time around, they don't seem what you might call wildly enthusiastic: "What we discovered in compiling, assigning, and writing about Jim Jarmusch, upon the occasion of the release of his Cannes Grand Prix-winner Broken Flowers, is that unlike Linklater, who perhaps we had taken for granted all those formative years as we grew into film-lovers and thinkers, Jarmusch perhaps had to unfairly hold the mantle for American Independent Cinema for so long - and his inconsistent yet fascinating output shows that it's obviously been too much for one man to reasonably handle."

James Crawford meets the director and introduces a mini-symposium within the symposioum on Broken Flowers; three takes: Kristi Mitsuda, Chris Wisniewski and Jeff Reichert.

Then, the previous films:

Jarmusch

That would have been just about enough for RS in its salad days (not that long ago), but there's also a "Spotlight" on Junebug (Catsoulis interviews director Phil Morrison and Mitsuda reviews the film), a "Shot/Reverse Shot" feature in which Pinkerton and Brad Westcott face off over The Devil's Rejects and the current state of horror in general as well as 14 reviews of 13 recent theatrical releases.

But wait... the "new, expanded DVD section" which Pinkerton introduced last issue is still expanding.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:25 AM

Shorts, 8/16.

Funny Ha Ha is out on DVD today and many are wondering about the prospects of Andrew Bujalski's just-as-extraordinary second feature, Mutual Appreciation. So the cinetrix has asked Bujalski himself: "Well. I guess you can announce to the world that we are trying to seduce all the small distributors & having a predictably hard time of it..."

Mutual Appreciation

Distributors: Entertainment Weekly may be looking forward to Panic Room in the sky, but more modest outfits like this one - thing is, see, we're legion - would urge our readers to be rattled by Bujalski ("dangerously observant," as the cinetrix nails it) any day of the week instead.

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake is very excited about a bit of news he picked up in Kevin Filipski's interview at Static Mulimedia with KimStim co-founder Ian Stimler:

We've got some titles coming up from director Seijun Suzuki. He had a falling-out with the major Japanese studios some years ago, and we picked up several of his films that we're planning to put out in a boxed set. He made three films from 1980-1991 which came to be known as the Taisho trilogy. Zigeunerweisen is considered his masterpiece, and it's a visually stunning film.

Was ist los A few years ago, I translated two books on net.art by Tilman Baumgärtel. A few years before that, Tilman wrote his doctoral dissertation on Harun Farocki, and I've often wondered if at least parts of it - the interviews, for example - ought to appear in English in some form or other. Seeing acquarello's entry at Cinemarati today has me wondering all over again.

Flickhead's been blasted to the past recently as well. Browse covers for his mid-70s to mid-80s publication, The Magic Theater, editions of which are now much sought after and worth bunches.

"In total, there are at least six models of anti-heroes," asserts Nick Birren at Creative Screenwriting.

"So, I decided to make everyone on the crew do their version of an orgasm, and told them to take it over the top..." Pretty Persuasion director Marcos Siega talks to Nerve's Bilge Ebiri about breaking the ice with his teenage cast.

But "nudity is a decided liability when it comes to the commercial success of the movie," argues Edward Jay Epstein at Slate.

Love Eterne Doug Cummings enjoys Li Hanxiang's "undeniably charming" Love Eterne, "one of the most popular Hong Kong films of all time."

In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein describes Bob Berney's latest challenge: Selling The Chumscrubber now that so many critics have panned it.

Jason Scott, director of the BBS: The Documentary, has announced at Slashdot that he's partnered with the Internet Archive to present "what will be hundreds of hours of interviews online": The BBS Documentary Video Collection.

"You see the music labels and movie studios toss around the words unauthorized and illegal indiscriminately, as if they're the same thing," observes JD Lasica. "They're not." Jon Lebkowsky is hosting the conversation with the author of Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation at the WELL.

Vítezslav Jandák, who's appeared in over 30 films, is about to become the Czech Republic's new culture minister. The BBC reports. Also, today's recovered rock icon footage: Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Online viewing tip #1. "Debbie." The B-52s. Via James Seo's excellent new blog, Split Screen.

Online viewing tip #2. Japanese anti-piracy ad at TechJapan. Via Screenhead.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:49 AM

James Booth, 1927 - 2005.

James Booth
Veteran British actor James Booth, star of Zulu, has died at the age of 77.

The BBC.

The reason for Booth's success lay simply with his personality. His height also helped. He would loom over the footlights with a commandingly wide grin. And his unpretentious manner added to the ease with which these early [stage] performances were accepted.

Booth's films included [Joan] Littlewood's screen version of Stephen Lewis's Sparrows Can't Sing (1962), opposite Barbara Windsor, Alfred Wood in The Trials Of Oscar Wilde (1960); Ken Russell's French Dressing and, playing Private Henry Hook, Zulu (both 1964). He was a Scotland Yard inspector in Robbery (1967) and Shirley MacLaine's secret lover in The Bliss Of Mrs Blossom (1968).... he also played the ex-convict Ernie Niles in David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990).

Eric Shorter in the Guardian.

See also James Booth: A Tribute Website.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:09 AM

August 15, 2005

Fests and shorts.

For Matt Clayfield, this year's edition of the Brisbane International Film Festival beat last year's and was, in fact, "one of the most pleasurable experiences I've yet had as a film watcher." Matt has a list, a top eight, and thoughts on each.

Nine Lives

Locarno's Golden Leopard goes to Rodrigo García's Nine Lives; that film's ensemble, which includes Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn, Emily Mortimer and Molly Parker - collectively took the Best Actress award as well. Details from swissinfo's Isobel Leybold-Johnson, who also reports on the "mixed legacy" of departing festival director Irene Bignardi.

And, via Movie City Indie, Stephanie Bunbury's Locarno roundup in the Age, laced with quotes from Susan Sarandon and the "lethally outspoken" John Malkovich.

Festival coverage at indieWIRE: Eugene Hernandez previews Howl! (NYC, August 21 through 28), Brian Brooks looks ahead to National Geographic's All Roads Film Project (LA: September 22 through 25; DC: September 29 through October 2) and Wendy Mitchell's anticipating the Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 17 through 28). Also: Ellen Keohane takes a sneak peek at Film Forum's fall and winter lineup.

One Night in Mongkok

Brian's caught three films at the San Francisco Asian Film Festival (through August 21).

Armond White "makes some very good — and highly contentious — points" in his review of the Kino collection Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s, but Nick Rombes takes issue with one: "It's not that there is no avant-garde today, or that Hollywood commercialism is a natural enemy of the avant-garde imagination, but rather that the avant-garde has become so thoroughly familiar as a style, a gesture, a stance."

David Thomson on Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour: "'You saw nothing at Hiroshima' is the gentle, literal truth insisted on by this masterpiece, a film that only underlines the complete absence in this time of anything like a political cinema." Also in the Independent: Anthony Barnes reports that a DVD coming out in October will include rare footage of George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Leon Russell jamming out a version of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

A Bittersweet Life

Filmbrain: "Just as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction gave rise to a slew of PoMo indie action-comedies with characters dropping pop-culture references every four minutes, there are now South Korean directors doing their damnedest to duplicate what Park Chan-wook did last year with Oldboy, the powerful, stylish neo-noir that appealed both to art house crowds (it won the Grand Prix at Cannes) as well as the average moviegoer. The first contender is A Bittersweet Life, a film that very badly wants to be deemed 'this year's Oldboy.'"

At Twitch, Max From Fearless reviews the screenplay for Richard Kelly's Southland Tales - possible spoilers, which is why I didn't read it myself - and X chooses the diary format for a review of Im Pil-Sung's Antarctic Journal.

Richard Schickel: "My most persistent thought as I read Living Dangerously, Mark Cotta Vaz's breathless, uncritical but deliciously readable biography of [King Kong-creator Merion C] Cooper, was how utterly unduplicable this life would be today." Also in the Los Angeles Times: Claudia Luther remembers John Bryson, a photographer "probably best known for earning the trust and affection of celebrities who allowed him to photograph them as they went about their daily lives." He died on Wednesday at the age of 81. Among his subjects: Hemingway, Dali, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, JFK and RFK.

Film Threat's Mike Bell talks to Stephen Statler about making The Breathing Show for around $15K. He pretty much found his cast via Craigslist; they were drawn to the project, he says, by the "chance to play fucked up people like themselves. I hope it was cathartic for them." Also: Michael Ferraro chats with Eric Fleming about making The Almost Guys.

Junebug

A big indie roundup from the cinetrix: the "lovely if uneven" Junebug, the "devastating" Tony Takitani and, "[h]ighly recommended," The Aristocrats. More on that one from Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic.

ME Russell, a critic for the Oregonian, presents fuller versions of his reviews of The Skeleton Key, The Edukators and 5x2.

In Grizzly Man, Doug Cummings finds "a humane and multifaceted portrait of an individual whose emotional makeup probably wasn't all that different from the rest of us."

"[Steve] Carell's success is just the latest example of how widely the trademark mock-the-messenger aesthetic of The Daily Show has now spread," writes Joe Rhodes in the New York Times. Related: Via Fimoculous, Comedy Central's new blog, CC Insider.

The Business

Jason Solomons on Nick Love's The Business: "It's a bit Sexy Beast, a bit Goodfellas and a little bit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels... but where it carves out a singular niche in British cinema is in its detailed reverence for the clothes and music of the hitherto little-examined eighties 'casual' subculture." And just barely film-related profiles in the Observer: Vanessa Thorpe on Julian Barnes and Sean O'Hagan on John Lennon.

Time's Richard Corliss considers Ralph Fiennes, whose "strength is revealing the power, and the danger, that reticence masks."

Martin Johnson profiles André Benjamin for New York.

Flak's James Norton interviews Daniel Clowes.

Daniel Robert Epstein's SuicideGirls interviews: Mark Wahlberg and David Mackenzie.

Tomorrow's (or Wednesday's) batch of shorts might be a whole lot shorter than your average Tuesday's; The Reeler has the latest on a possible meltdown at the Village Voice.

Ryan Kim reports in the San Francisco Chronicle on TiVo's probable cooperation with IFC and the implications of VOD via their box.

Winter Soldier: Invitation

Online listening tip #1. NPR's John Kalish on Winter Soldier. Update: Chris Barsanti comments: "If one feels like scrolling through pages of right-wing invective, go to Free Republic where they posted my entire review of Winter Soldier. Good crazy fun."

Online listening tip #2. Scott Kirsner talks with John Eraklis and Max Howard of the Exodus Film Group. Related: Kirsner doesn't consider Roger Ebert's enthusiasm for Maxivision all that reasonable.

Online viewing tip #1. Coudal Partners' Copy Goes Here now has a trailer; no executive producer as yet, though and they're looking for more executive producers.

Online viewing tip #2. The South Will Rise Again, which, as Screenhead notes, is a "pretty funny trailer for a hillbilly Kung-Fu zombie movie which does not yet exist, presumably only because Billy Bob Thornton has yet to get wind of it."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:58 AM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2005

Wenders. 60.

Wim Wenders turns 60 on Sunday. An assessment (in German) from Ulrich Kriest in film-dienst:

Wim Wenders

Unfortunately, Wenders hasn't yet been lucky enough to find or develop coherent material that even approaches that of Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire). In place of the postmodern bricolage of the early films and the ventures into mythological narrative (Berlin), an aimless search for originality has arisen which so far has only led to thematic sketches (The End of Violence, 1997), exoticism (Buena Vista Social Club, 1999) or stylized nostalgia (Viel passiert - Der BAP-Film [Ode to Cologne: a Rock 'N' Roll Film], 2001).

In 2005, Wim Wenders's art consists of staging scenes from Edward Hopper's paintings with a Marlboro Man in Butte, Montana. Depending on your temperament, you may find this pragmatic or helpless, but whatever it is, it has nothing to do with Germany anymore.

Im Lauf der Zeit You'll find big round-number birthdays marked fairly regularly in German papers and Wenders's is no exception. Among the pieces online: Dieter Oßwald interviews Wenders for the Welt am Sonntag (via filmz.de) and so does Anke Westphal for the Berliner Zeitung. When she asks about what's on pretty much everyone else's mind this year, he replies, "The blockbuster formats, with their manic drive to outdo everything, are washed up.... Piracy is just another excuse. Hollywood depends too much on used up formulas. If it really knew how to go to great lengths and make a great film, it'd be making more great films. No one makes a flop on purpose."

For its appreciation, the Süddeutsche Zeitung scores a minor coup. How's this for a brief bio: "Hanns Zischler has translated Derrida's Of Grammatology, is researching Kafka and cinema and is an internationally renowned actor - he is currently in Budapest shooting Munich with Spielberg." In the SZ, he recalls Wenders as a film student before segueing into Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road).

Posted by dwhudson at 7:24 AM

Online browsing tip.

Not Coming to a Theater Near You. You'll want to go in through the front door to fully experience the extraordinarily well-conceived feature, "Titles Designed by Saul Bass." In 24 "Interactive Image Galleries," you can click through these credit sequences at your own pace and read notes on the background for each. Definitely a feature to spend some time with. As Rumsey Taylor writes in his introduction, "Bass's impact in credits design remains virtually unparalleled, even to this day."

Psycho

Two more pieces address Bass's work as a director. Watching the 25-minute Why Man Creates, Jason Woloski finds himself asking, "Who'd have guessed Saul Bass was a romantic?" And Thomas Scalzo: "Quiet, haunting, beautiful, Phase IV is an intriguing, and largely overlooked, science-fiction masterwork centered on the latent destructive power of the insect world and humanity's inherent vulnerability in the face of catastrophic change."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:18 AM

Weekend papers and shorts.

Corpse Bride Charles Solomon talks with Carlos Grangel, "a Spanish artist whose designs are coming to define the cutting edge of big-studio animation," about his work on Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. In an audio slide show, Grangel himself comments on the film's character designs.

Also in the New York Times:

  • "'The world would be a better place if it was directed by Terry Gilliam,' a crew member said to me in complete sincerity. Charles McGrath visits the set of Tideland and retraces Gilliam's career, placing emphasis on troubled relationship between Gilliam and Hollywood. And Bob Weinstein.

  • Terrence Rafferty previews the Film Forum's "Samurai Summer" series: "I suspect, the revelation of the four-week extravaganza, which starts Friday, will be the fiercely beautiful work of Masaki Kobayashi."

  • We all know we're going to be massively Konged this holiday season. Dinitia Smith warms up with a phone call to Mark Cotta, author of Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C Cooper, Creator of King Kong.

  • Ned Martel on the "strange and sultry melodrama," The Rising.

Sean Chapman sounds an alarm: "Filmmaking is a hi-tech industry being run in the UK as a jumble sale. The Bafta denizens who've made fortunes out of their executive posts while presiding over the collapse of the industry must invest available funds not in luncheons but in training, connecting film students with writers, actors and experienced producers, immediately."

Also in the Guardian:

Trainspotting

"We live in fear of being boring and afraid of being creative, so the answer is hit people over the head with the soundtrack and then give them 24 quick shots," David Cronenberg tells the Los Angeles Times's Mary McNamara.

At Think Secret, Ryan Katz tells the story of an expensive falling out between Errol Morris and Apple. Via Movie City Indie.

Filmmaker's Matthew Ross: "Grizzly Man is the best film to be released this year and one of the best non-fiction films ever made.... Yes, it's a masterpiece."

Online listening tips. NPR. Bob Saget talks about The Aristocrats and David Edelstein considers Junebug.

Online viewing tip. Samuel Bayer's video for Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends," with Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell. It starts a bit schmaltzy (well, a lot schmaltzy), but stick with it. At Crooks and Liars, via Screenhead.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM

August 12, 2005

Shorts, 8/12.

Emmett Till "Of the important documentaries being released this month, [The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till] registers farthest to the left on the raw-to-cooked scale. You watch it for what it tells, not how it does the telling; for what it might accomplish in the world, not for what it is." Four docs, four compact reviews in a row from Stuart Klawans in the Nation. Had Winter Soldier been released a year ago, it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome of the election, Klawans suggests; "But I believe most people know the face of truth when they see it." As for A State of Mind, "you will simply stare in appalled fascination"; "And now, to conclude, a documentary that is a fully realized work of art: Grizzly Man, by Werner Herzog."

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader: "Less dreary than Van Sant's Gerry but far less interesting than his Elephant, Last Days founders as a programmatic, mannerist experiment because it offers so little content apart from vague intimations of the Cobain myth." Related: Dan Halpern interviews Michael Pitt for the Guardian.

"Among [Jonas] Mekas's many achievements, one of the finest remains Lost, Lost, Lost (1976), a beautifully constructed diary film consisting of material from three decades, beginning in 1949 and ending in 1963." Manohla Dargis recommends catching it if you can. Of course, there are all kinds of cinematic pleasures; Dargis finds The Skeleton Key is "[o]ne of the most enjoyably inane movies of the season."

Also in the New York Times:

The Goebbels Experiment

  • Jeannette Catsoulis: "In their fascinating documentary The Goebbels Experiment, the director and writer Lutz Hachmeister and the writer Michael Kloft provide a rare and chilling glimpse into a brilliant but toxic mind.... Some of the film's most engrossing moments deal with Goebbels's exclusively utilitarian ambitions for German cinema. 'We can learn a lot from these Bolsheviks,' he reluctantly admits after a viewing of Sergei Eisenstein's 1927 epic, Ten Days That Shook the World."

  • Adam Curtis's The Century of the Self presents "a complex and ambitious argument that it manages to sustain over its four-hour running time," writes Dana Stevens. "In essence, the film argues that Sigmund Freud's seminal theory of the subconscious has been successfully deployed over the past century as an instrument of consumer manipulation and social control."

  • Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell and Kenyon, a collection restored by the British Film Institute, offers "an amazingly clear window into a horse-drawn society, the view unobscured by movie stars prancing in the foreground, or by the dust speckles and scratches that inventively attached themselves to much-used old movies," writes Dave Kehr. Also: A terrific piece on Busby Berkeley's "infinitely delightful, effortlessly inventive" The Gang's All Here, including the tale of its initial revival in 1972.

  • Stephen Holden: "About the only thing to be said on behalf of The Great Raid, "a tedious World War II epic that slogs across the screen like a forced march in quicksand, is that it illustrates a depressing similarity between reckless war-mongering and grandiose moviemaking."

  • Ned Martel on Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo: "[T]here is an essential meanness to the entire project." Related: In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert recalls Rob Schneider's ad war with Los Angeles Times critic Patrick Goldstein and declares: "Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

David Poland's fall preview continues: November/December.

Deutsche Welle runs a quick backgrounder (in English) on Tom Tykwer's Perfume.

Pretty Persuasion This time around, Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column takes on Grizzly Man, "one of the most hair-raising films you'll ever see," Pretty Persuasion ("Skander Halim's screenplay has a far-reaching ruthlessness, along with a grand ambition to turn a movie that starts as dark satire into something approaching Greek tragedy"; more from the Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE and The Reeler), The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, "a vital documentary," Tony Takitani, "more a tribute to Murakami than an attempt to capture him in a bottle, but for those so inclined it's 75 minutes beautifully spent," and briefly, Lustre, an "odd but often lovely spiritual odyssey through the streets of Manhattan in the year following Sept. 11, 2001."

Also in Salon: Stephanie Zacharek on Four Brothers ("Even when it wobbles off-track, it has some juice to it") and The Skeleton Key: "No director yet has found the best use for [Kate] Hudson, the role that will tap those terrifying and thrilling reserves that are just lying in wait. But [Iain] Softley comes closer than anybody has."

Flickhead's all about The Wild One.

"Meyer was one of the movies' most instinctive image-makers, and his looming, low-angled compositions are instantly recognisable." But Jimmy McDonough's Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, writes Christopher Bray in the New Statesman, "never really gets beneath the surface of things."

Looker's "Hustle & Flow Life Lessons."

Tideland "I'm actually going to go from the Venice Film Festival with [The Brothers Grimm] to Toronto with Tideland, so I've got two films in two festivals in one week!" Phil Stubbs, who edits Dreams, has a longish talk with Terry Gilliam; mostly about Tideland. Via Ian Dawe at Mindjack. Related: Photos Jeff Bridges shot on the set of Tideland.

Alexandra A Seno profiles Anthony Wong Chau-Sang for the International Herald Tribune.

For Creative Screenwriting, Deirdre McGill talks to Hans Weingartner about writing The Edukators.

At Twitch, Todd reviews The Way to Fight, "a period piece set in the hardscrabble working class neighborhoods of 1970s Japan, the environment that [Takashi] Miike himself grew up in.... Highly recommended."

Dan Glaister gleams Hollywood stories from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also in the Guardian: Peter Bradshaw on The Rising.

In the Independent, Charlotte Cripps previews Frightfest, "the UK's biggest horror and fantasy film festival" (August 26 through 29), Fiona Sturges revisits Jaws thirty years on, Matt Wolf interviews Joan Allen and James Mottram gets Dennis Hopper to talk through his life and career.

For the New York Observer, Blythe Sheldon mills around with John Pierson, Kevin Smith... basically, the Reel Paradise crowd.

Today's Daniel Robert Epstein interview for SuicideGirls: Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza.

From mobile phones to "a great black beast of a computer made by Toshiba," a team for the London Times tests a variety of players of downloaded movies.

Artaud "Artaud: A Staged Life." Films, drawings, documents, at the museum kunst palast in Düsseldorf: "[F]or the first time, this multimedia show will show the artist in all his film roles." 22 in all. The exhibition is open through October 16 and moves on to Milan in November.

Walken 2008. Via Screenhead.

Online listening tip. Cinematical's Karina Longworth is podcasting again.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Jarhead. Via Quint at Ain't It Cool News.

More online viewing tips. Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "Anyway, IFC's introducing three original series this month: Greg the Bunny, puppet parodies of films... Hopeless Pictures, an animated show about being an indie film studio that features the voices of many Christopher Guest alums... and The Festival, a... 'vérité satire' about an idealistic filmmaker debut his first feature at a small festival.... [T]oday through the 17th we have the premiere episodes of Greg and Hopeless up in their entirety online in downloadable Quicktime.... and see a sneak preview of The Festival."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:59 PM

August 11, 2005

Sight, Sound and Shorts.

Matsumi Tsuda: Dr Oppenheimer.jpg Greg Mitchell, co-author of Hiroshima in America and advisor to the documentary Original Child Bomb, tells the full story in Editor & Publisher of how original news footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after bombings was suppressed for decades. For his report, he spoke with Lt Col (Ret) Daniel A McGovern, "who directed the US military filmmakers in 1945 - 1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades."

"I always had the sense," McGovern told me, "that people in the Atomic Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb. The Air Force - it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those [film] images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. ... They didn't want the general public to know what their weapons had done - at a time they were planning on more bomb tests. We didn't want the material out because ... we were sorry for our sins."

Via Doug Cummings.

Related: "openDemocracy presents images from a special multi-media exhibition 'After Hiroshima: nuclear imaginaries' involving artists from Japan, America, Britain and Russia. Hosted at the Brunei Gallery and curated by Siumee Keelan, the exhibition explores contemporary visions of nuclear conflict."

Scott Macaulay attended the premiere of Fernando Meirelles's "exciting and unexpectedly moving" The Constant Gardener, adapted from John Le Carré's novel (Raegan Johnson was also there for the New York Observer), and came away with quotes from Donald Rumsfeld and Slavoj Zizek, courtesy of Focus Films co-prez James Schamus, and then, this:

At the film's end, a statement by Le Carré appeared on screen: "Nobody in this story, and no outfit or corporation, thank God, is based upon an actual person or outfit in the real world. But I can tell you this; as my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard."

And: "Le Carré elaborates on this statement and spells out the point-of-view of Meirelles's uncommonly tough-minded thriller" in a 2001 piece for the Nation.

Anthony Kaufman: "Winter Soldier and The Century of the Self provide backward glances at particular points in our nation's past to reveal bracing realities about our present.... Oddly enough, some of the archival footage in The Century of the Self was actually shot by Barbara Kopple during the filming of Winter Soldier. Needless to say, she was quite unhappy to discover that [Adam] Curtis used her footage without asking permission."

Sight & Sound Michael Pitt is on the cover of the September issue of Sight & Sound, but Amy Taubin's piece on Last Days is not online. So, a quick detour to the City Pages, where Jessica Winter writes, "Owing a debt to Abbas Kiarostami's notion of the 'half-made' film and employing the long, mobile takes of Hungarian master Béla Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies), [Gus] Van Sant's premature-death trilogy - each installment shot by Harris Savides - locates its rhythms in the characters' perambulations," and Rob Nelson interviews Van Sant.

For the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams takes on both the review and the interview. Boston Phoenix? Peter Keough: Review. Gerald Peary: Interview. Review? Jim Ridley for the Nashville Scene.

Back to the CP: David Ng talks a bit with Arnaud Desplechin.

But wait, back to S&S:

Reviews:

  • Philip Kemp on The Night of Truth, which universalizes the Rwandan tragedy by fictionalizing its setting: "The strength of [Fanta Régina] Nacro's film lies not so much in its plot, which occasionally errs on the side of predictability, as in the all-too-convincing texture of its portrayal of a country traumatised by a decade of hatred and slaughter."

  • Ryan Gilbey on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: "Perhaps [Tim] Burton and [production designer Alex] McDowell should have worked harder to distinguish their film's most important sets from something that might crop up routinely on a cartoon series like Kim Possible or Dexter's Laboratory."

  • Brad Stevens notes that Preston Sturges's work "often seems to belong to any historical period other than the one in which it was made."

The 70s Dimension Other Cinema is about to unleash The 70s Dimension on DVD, "an exercise in cultural anthropology," as Paul Matwychuk calls it in Vue Weekly, "a lesson in the evolution of mass communication and a telling glimpse at the obsessions and unconscious social and sexual assumptions of a bygone time."

Adult movie-goers: Put on Loudon Wainwright III's "Summer's Almost Over" and read David Poland's preview of the fall season.

Girish Shambu's mom convinces him to accept a gift.

For ReadyMade, Shoshana Berger asks Daniel Clowes all about Art School Confidential: "My guess is that parents will see the film and think, 'Thank god, now my kids won't go.' And kids will see the film and think, 'I can't wait to go!'" Via Coudal Partners.

At the AV Club Blog, Scott Tobias lets off steam: "I don't doubt that movie piracy will become a much bigger problem as time goes on and technology improves, but if the industry keeps looking at critics as the #1 suspects, it'll get what it deserves." Also: Josh Modell and Keith Phipps agree that The Chumscrubber is basically "American Beauty meets Donnie Darko but bad. Real, real bad." But Cinematical's Kim Voyner disagrees.

Joshua Gibson on the subgenre that plays on our fears of evil children:

Though far too young to be sexualized, they embody the heterosexual fear of the hedonistic, patriarchy-defying homosexual... The disturbed and alien child may be queer or may be a murderer, but in either case his presence is frightening and must be destroyed for the sake of order, sanity and heterosexual desire. Fritz Kiersch's film Children of the Corn (1984) plays this threat out in its most extreme form.

Grizzly Man Also at PopMatters: Cynthia Fuchs interviews Werner Herzog. So does Kristine McKenna for the LA Weekly, where Ella Taylor reviews Grizzly Man. For the Philadephia City Paper, Cindy Fuchs takes on both the review and the interview (wait... oh, that was Last Days). More reviews: Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, Steve Erickson for Gay City News and Kimberly Chun in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Also in the SFBG: Dennis Harvey on Junebug: "Without meaning to dismiss the deliberate craft [director Phil Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan] bring to the table, I think this indie drama has the unexpectedness of a wonderful creative accident. It's one of the year's best releases, though the lack of any easily encapsulated story hook or obvious marketing point means you'll have to catch it fast." More from David Edelstein at Slate.

And Cheryl Eddy calls up Andrew Bujalski to talk about what he calls the "incredibly long and strange and unpredictable lifespan" of Funny Ha-Ha and gets a few words in on the 9th annual San Francisco Asian Film Festival, today through August 21. More on the fest from Jeff Yang in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lee Siegel sets out to review Showtime's Weeds, but it's a while before he gets there. There are several paragraphs first contrasting the way movies and cities have depicted American suburbs: "For screenwriters, the caricature is sufficient... But for the best suburban novelists, echt-suburban chroniclers like Updike and Cheever, no easy irony exists between surface and depth." More from Robert Abele in the LA Weekly.

TV Guide 1949 In Slate, Bryan Curtis looks back on half a century of what was once America's most popular magazine: "A more profound legacy arises, perversely, from TV Guide's mandate to 'speak well' of its medium. Perhaps more than any other magazine, TV Guide advanced the idea of television as a serious art form."

"I wanted to tell a fictive story about Charlotte Rampling, who is sixty, and myself, aged forty. When I saw the hotel for the first time, I was quite astonished by the excess, by the pompous, utterly crazy, actually idiotic but somehow also effective furnishings"; sleek asks photographer Jürgen Teller about a series he shot in the "Louis XV" room of the Hotel Crillon in Paris.

"The extraordinary variety of performance on film and video must from now on be carefully examined and the material critiqued for the treasure trove which it is." RoseLee Goldberg for Performa; she also interviews performance artist Zhang Huan.

For Tom Schouweiler, writing in Ruminator, What's New, Pussycat? "has aged remarkably well, living up to contemporaneous critics' adjectives 'zany,' 'madcap' and 'wacky.' To those, I would add 'surreal'; it's interesting to know that [Woody] Allen the screenwriter is behind such absurdist one-liners as 'You are a monster and a monster in that order!' and 'Silence when you’re shouting at me!' — dialogue that would fall with a thud were it not for the special genius of Peter Sellers."

Todd at Twitch on "a minor masterpiece," Memories of Murder: "It is richly detailed, beautifully performed and disturbing in precisely the way that people need to be disturbed in from time to time."

Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog, Mark Schilling in the Japan Times on Koji Wakamatsu, a leftist filmmaker in the 60s who became "king of the pinks" in the 70s, and his new film, 17-Sai no Fukei: Shonen wa Nani o Mita no ka (Scenery of Seventeen: What Did the Boy See?), which "expresses the sort of personal passion and formal boldness I seldom see in the work of directors half his age."

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance While Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance cleans up in Korea, Tartan Films USA is bringing Sympathy for Mr Vengeance to, yes, the USA. When the official site goes online, it'll be here.

Tom Hall on Green Street Hooligans: "[I]t is clear [director Lexi Alexander's] heart doesn't beat for the ramifications of violence; only for its thrills."

Up-n-coming:

"THOUGHT THIEVE$ is a short film showcase about corporate appropriation of knowledge, culture, and creativity. It is a grassroots response to the Micro$oft propaganda competition of the same name." Deadline: September 16.

"Imagine a kid playing Star Wars in his basement. Now take away his toys and fast-forward to double time and you get a sense of what [Charles] Ross is up to," writes Jason Zinoman. See for yourself in Ross's clips: five and a half minutes of One Man Star Wars and, for good measure, nearly five minutes of his One Man Lord of the Rings.

Also in the NYT:

Brian: "Saturday is Home Movie Day!"

Home Movie Day More from Jim Knipfel in the New York Press. Also: "These 24 short films make you think about the movie experience even while enjoying it." Armond White's review of the Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s collection is... actually about something else: "With the idea of the avant-garde now relegated to the effete and obscure, it is impossible for some people to recognize the ingenuity in cinema like Spielberg's." And: Matt Zoller Seitz explains the many ways in which The Dukes of Hazzard stinks, but Stealth, on the other hand, "is a rare summmer blockbuster that knows how to abstract and heighten action without making it incoherent... it's one of the year's best studio movies — a series of casual astonishments, and an antidote to the August blues."

Wrinkling a brow, Jette ponders the calendar: "A bunch of film festivals are overlapping in Austin in late September/early October: the Quentin Tarantino Film Festival (September 9 - 17), aGLIFF (September 30 - October 8), Fantastic Fest (October 6 - 9), and the Austin Film Festival (October 20 - 27)."

To this list, Shawn Badgley adds Cinematexas (September 14 through 18).

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

"Whither the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival?" ask David Fellerath and Neil Morris in the Independent Weekly. "Even as the popularity and acclaim of the NCGLFF continues to grow... the burgeoning number of screenings exacerbates another, more unfortunate trend - a steady decline in the overall quality of the selected films over the past several years." Today through August 14.

The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen, Vol I 1995–2005 "I'm just trying to pick up on an idea here and there, and we're not going to be here forever, and it's nice to leave something behind." Michael Madsen waves off The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen, Vol I 1995 - 2005. Peter Gilstrap listens for the LA Weekly, then notices: "At the bar stands the great Harry Dean Stanton, just turned 79, looking like a man who just might know everything important and funny and wise there is to know."

The way John Horn sees it, test screenings of The 40 Year-Old Virgin resulted in less sex, more laughs and, all in all, a better movie. What's more, "The costs of research screenings — about $10,000 per test — are negligible given the stakes."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

Daniel Robert Epstein talks with Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme director Kevin Fitzgerald for SuicideGirls.

James Mottram interviews Campbell Scott for the Independent.

The University of Southern California has acquired the Ernst Jäger Collection which includes recordings, photos, letters from Leni Riefenstahl. Daniel Knapp elaborates.

Canfield at Twitch: "This entry is deeply personal. Matt McGrory, star of Big Fish, The Devil's Rejects and Carnivàle among others has passed away at the too early age of 32."

What's Opera, Doc? Online browsing tip #1. Patti Smith is in Bayreuth, taking in the operas. And shooting Polaroids. You can see them in Die Zeit, which is also running her Bayreuth diary (she really should write more often) and, online only and also in German, an interview.

Online browsing tip #2. Italian Soundtracks. And American, English, French, German and Japanese as well. Via Rashomon.

Online browsing tip #3. Schaukasten, a "blog dedicated to the aesthetic values of movie art beyond the screen." Via Wiley Wiggins.

Online listening tip #1. Peter Pan, featuring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff. Via filmtagebuch.

Online listening tip #2. Your Call, 8.9.05. Mary Ambrose talks with Kenneth Turan and Jeffrey Anderson about why people aren't going to movies anymore.

Online viewing tip. Mutiny City News riffs on The Aristocrats. Related: Amelie Gillette interviews Gilbert Gottfried for the AV Club, reviews from Johnny Ray Huston in the SFBG and Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly, and: Tell the joke, win a prize. Your version might even be included on the DVD. The rules.

Online viewing tips, round #1. The "Lost Screen Tests" for Entourage. Also via Screenhead: Eugene Mirman's videos.

Online viewing tips, round #2. At Twitch, where Todd has Toronto's doc lineup, trailers: Jackie Chan's The Myth; Aeon Flux, with Charlize Theron; a new one for Domino; and Marc Forster's Stay. More from Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:40 PM

August 10, 2005

Barbara Bel Geddes, 1922 - 2005.

Barbara Bel Geddes
Barbara Bel Geddes, the winsome actress who rose to stage and movie stardom but reached her greatest fame as Miss Ellie Ewing in the long-running TV series Dallas, has died. She was 82.

The AP.

Long before sighing through the misdeeds of her Texas brood at TV's fictional South Fork, Miss Bel Geddes originated the role of Maggie, the caustic, sexually starved wife in Tennessee Williams's 1955 Broadway play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She earned an Oscar nomination for the 1948 film I Remember Mama and played James Stewart's plucky girlfriend in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 Vertigo. In a memorable 1958 episode of TV's Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Miss Bel Geddes played a housewife who murders her unfaithful husband with a frozen leg of lamb, roasts the murder weapon and serves it to the detectives.

Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:49 PM | Comments (3)

August 9, 2005

Moonlit shorts.

Winter Soldier Milestone Films is celebrating its 15th anniversary and, as far as the Village Voice's Michael Atkinson is concerned, the recent round of prestigious citations its garnered "couldn't have happened to a nicer or smaller family-run outfit; over the years, [founders] Dennis Doros and Amy Heller have put their faith in Mikhail Kalatozov, Lotte Reiniger, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Marion Davies, and Manoel de Oliveira when no one else would." Anthony Kaufman talks to them about how they thought twice and then thought ahead before releasing Winter Soldier: "[S]ays Heller, 'because the right is well funded and very litigious, it became clear that the best way to release it was to have a separate corporation that would protect the assets of Milestone just in case the Swift Boat Veterans want to make trouble.' Now under their new banner Milliarium Zero, Heller and Doros say they can take on riskier material."

Riskier? "Seldom has a film seen by so few caused so much consternation for so many years," writes David M Halbfinger in probably his best piece yet for the New York Times. He, too, talks to Heller and Doros, who emphasis the contemporary relevance and sheer prescience of this record of the three-day session at which Vietnam vets told of the crimes they'd seen or committed themselves; he notes the "extraordinary collective of 18 unknown but up-and-coming documentarians" behind it; and reminds us:

This was being filmed, it should be emphasized, before the advent of rap groups and the confessional culture, before people routinely unburdened themselves on television or an Oprah granted absolution every afternoon. And it was happening at a stage in the war when the invasion of Laos was still a secret, when Agent Orange was unheard of, and when the public was still struggling to make sense of My Lai.

Back to the Voice:

Lost Lost Lost

Kino: Avant Kino's release of its two-disc set Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s has generated a pleasantly surprising amount of interest and comment. One of the films in the collection, Even - As You and I (1937), happens to play right into Nick Rombes's current field of research and, for him, only confirms "how tenuous the line is between 'art' and mass culture is, and how context means everything."

At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride wonders out loud if Dave Kehr's speculation in the NYT as to why Pauline Kael would claim Dimitri Kirsanoff's 1926 Ménilmontant as her all-time favorite film is, well, "distasteful."

Charles McGrath's piece on The Constant Gardener is political rather than personal. Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) had just been to Kenya ("more than a setting, in fact; it's practically a character") and tells McGrath, "[C]ompared to the slums in Kenya, the Brazilian ones are really Beverly Hills... It's the poorest place I've ever seen in my life."

Stephen Cooke: "If you've never read [Karl] Brown's Adventures With DW Griffith, it's a vital look behind the scenes at the early film master at work."

Michael Freedland, who's directed the radio documentary, Hollywood on Trial, describes the widely varying destinies of the blacklisted - once they got out of jail. Also in the Guardian: The only smokers on screen these days are bad guys, according to a recent study; Tim Radford reports.

The Golden Compass So far, the adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, the first novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy, has not gone smoothly. Following rumors that there'd be essential changes in the story, Chris Weitz up and left the director's chair. Now, Anand Tucker is keeping it warm again, as the BBC reports.

The cast for Ryan Murphy's adaptation of John Jeter's Watergate play Dirty Tricks is taking shape, as the BBC reports: Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep and Annette Bening.

As for Oliver Stone's 9/11 movie, it's already wrecking havoc on friendships: Jeff Jarvis, James Wolcott, David Weinberger... the casualties mount.

For IFC News, Andrea Meyer asks Maggie Cheung six questions. One of them: "Are there any directors you'd love to work with?" "In my wildest dreams, David Lynch.... When I watched Mulholland Drive, Naomi Watts, God, I would die to play that part." As for 2046, Alison Willmore writes, "it's almost required to be a great success or an even greater failure, and I'm firmly with the first camp."

Chuck Tryon finds The Edukators to be "an intellectually compelling and emotionally moving reflection on political commitments."

Christopher Orr on the Thin Man series: "[T]hese days what is perhaps most striking about Nick and Nora is not their easy blend of comedy and drama or their balanced sexual dynamic, but rather their carefree booziness." Also for the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann's take on Last Days:

There is supposed to be an unbridgeable gap between the avant and the garde, but [Gus] Van Sant contravenes the dictum: he has a sizable public. Some of the reason, I'd say, is the dollops of implicit despair with which he can make his viewers feel existentially deep without having to think about it. And much of his appeal, I'd say, is related to rock - his soundtracks are in some degree where his films are located.

Battle Angel For the Independent, James Rampton listens to James Cameron talk about his love for the ocean - and, possibly, his next feature, "an almost insanely ambitious sci-fi blockbuster," Battle Angel: "'It's going to be a mega-budget film shot in 3-D,' Cameron enthuses."

Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle: "At some point between the breathtaking stop-motion animation in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad in 1958 and the hit-and-miss Fantastic Four visuals in 2005, special effects appear to have become more of an arms race and less about supporting a story. And even as technology improves, most blockbuster special-effects movies are leaving audiences with more of a feeling of numbness than wonder." Via Adam Finley at Cinematical.

In the Los Angeles Times:

  • Elaine Dutka on Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

  • Patrick Goldstein on DreamWorks: "[I]n Hollywood there remains a great puzzlement over the career arc of this unique company, whose many achievements have never seemed to free it from a nagging sense of unfulfilled promise."

  • Richard Verrier and Kim Christensen: "A Delaware judge today ruled against Walt Disney Co. shareholders who had sued the company's directors for failing to properly monitor the hiring of former President Michael Ovitz and then granting him a $140 million severance package after only about a year on the job." Well, if anyone's worth over $380,000 a day, surely it's Michael Ovitz?

In the US, as the "window" between theatrical and DVD releases narrows, movie theaters wring their hands. In Germany, they're balling their hands into fists. Economically speaking. Following a boycott of Herbie: Fully Loaded by three major chains because the window for that one was less than six months (no, really), Cinemaxx, one of the three, is threatening to do it again to Sin City. Ernst Corinth reports in Telepolis (and in German). Via filmz.de.

Frankly, I sometimes wonder about those "new poster!" entries at various blogs I otherwise dearly love and admire... but this is something else.

The Breakfast Club

Online listening tip. The Talk of the Nation Summer Movie Awards turn to teen movies. The clips make for a fun quarter of an hour.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for 10 mph. Two guys quit their jobs and Segway from coast to coast. Didn't they ever see Lost in America?

Online viewing tips, round #1. The 1989 memorial service for Graham Chapman. Also via Screenhead: Adam Philips's Taken, Tim Burton's ad for Hollywood gum and Andy Morahan's for Guess jeans, starring Harry Dean Stanton and Juliette Lewis.

Online viewing tips, round #2. Todd at Twitch has been trailer hunting: Ilya Khrzhanovsky's 4, Carlos Reygadas's Battle in Heaven, "Hungarian Joan of Arc Opera" Johanna, Christian Alvart's Antikörper and Paul Fox's The Dark Hours. Plus: Toronto's lineup is looking more and more enticing.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:07 PM | Comments (2)

Undiscovered Gems

More than reporting the news, indieWIRE's making some of its own today by announcing a partnership with Emerging Pictures to bring as-yet-undistributed films to theaters in "at least 12 cities nationwide." The "six to ten films" will most likely be "culled from indieWIRE's annual list of the best undistributed films," the most recent of which was compiled by Wendy Mitchell, complete with synopses, links, the works, and it's quite a list. "Using digital technology" is the intriguing phrase here, raising all sorts of questions, but these will most likely be addressed in the fall along with the actual titles.

Yesterday, iW editor Eugene Hernandez pointed to Tal Mekel's piece for CNN which basically asks, "What's indie?" At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride pointed to another, similar piece, Desson Thomson's in the Washington Post. In general, it's an open question these days. Specifically, though, this partnership, "Undiscovered Gems," looks like one promising answer.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:40 PM

Firecracker. 9.

Firecracker is now more than a magazine. From September 8 through 18, it'll be staging the Firecracker Showcase 2005, "London's East Asian film festival." What's more, its series of preview screenings continues this month in Manchester and Glasgow.

Firecracker 9

For those of us not on the Isles, though, there's the magazine. Even if it means reading about events in the UK, such as last month's Cambridge Film Festival. Dean Bowman reports on "a season of understated Studio Ghibli films."

Robert Williamson looks back to Kaizo Hayashi's The Most Terrible Time in My Life, "an affectionate tribute to a range of cinematic sources including American B-movie film noir, the French new wave, and Japanese gangster films of yesteryear."

Ben Slater revisits the long lost Singapore kung fu flick Ring of Fury, adding to observations initially made at harrylimetheme.

Erika Franklin interviews actor and director Robin Shou and Nick North reviews his "inventive half-doc, half-feature," Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntman.

Reviews:

The Naked Island

Posted by dwhudson at 5:26 AM

August 8, 2005

Shorts, 8/8.

Young Frankenstein Chris Mooney has had it with Hollywood's recycling of the Frankenstein myth and says so in the American Prospect: "The trouble is that the argument against 'playing God' is frequently an anti-intellectual mantra used to stifle debate about new technologies, the epitome of fear-mongering."

"The political and intellectual climate in the United States... is one that is essentially hostile to the scientific conceptions that are illustrated with such power in March of the Penguins. Indeed, hostile not only to the conceptions one sees in [Luc] Jacquet's film, but toward science itself!" exclaims Noah Page at the World Socialist Web Site. And yet, the doc "has found a growing and receptive audience. Perhaps it is unwise to read too much into that, but it's a healthy and encouraging sign."

Jonathan Letham's site is up. You may know him from such pieces as "Serling," "The Killers," "The Drew Barrymore Stories" or "Donald Sutherland's Buttocks." Via Rake's Progress. And says Ed Champion: "Lethem's openness here (which appears inspired somewhat from Michael Chabon) is the right way for an author to run a website."

A lot of directors' commentaries aren't worth running the DVD through the player for again; but, starting with Roman Polanski and Robert Altman, Girish Shambu names a handful he's happy to listen to any time.

A Bittersweet Life Besides the now-usual roundups of Korean news, Twitch's X takes an in-depth look at A Bittersweet Life, finding it "tremendously fresh, giving new vigor to the Korean film noir."

Flickhead hitches a ride down memory lane with evocative yet critical takes on Bertrand Blier's Les Valseuses (known in the US as Going Places) and Richard Rush's Psyche-Out.

"In the more than thirty years between his best performances – opposite Jean Seberg in Lilith (1964) and in Ulee's Gold and The Limey in the late 90s – Peter Fonda cock-walked through many roles, adopting a hipster version of his father's easygoing gait and gazing at the world with a rebel's remove, usually through a nice pair of shades." Lawrence Levi samples Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race With the Devil for Stop Smiling.

Filmbrain's also on a 70s kick at the moment, recommending Slaughterhouse-Five. For one thing, "The casting is truly inspired - rather than settling for the big names (as [director George Roy] Hill did in every film leading up to and following this one), he instead chose actors who are living embodiments of the richly detailed characters from Vonnegut's novel." In short, " this is one of those films that a major studio would never touch today."

George Fasel wraps his re-viewing of Angels With Dirty Faces with a thought on Cagney: "To the degree that his gangster films worked, it was because his characters galvanized the audience, accomplished that tricky feat of making us pull for the bad guy while understanding he had to go down ultimately, a little like Lucifer in Milton's Paradise Lost."

The Thin Man The Thin Man series quickly topped Amazon's list of bestselling DVDs and, on the editorial page of the New York Times, Adam Cohen notes, "If it's surprising that 21st-century Americans find Nick and Nora so appealing, it's no more so than that [Dashiell] Hammett, a dedicated socialist with a very dark worldview, created them in the first place."

Also, David Carr: "They became brands of their own - Eisner, Ovitz, Semel, Diller, Katzenberg, Geffen and Guber - writ large on the wide screen they ruled.... But the days when company heads would offer notes on dialogue have been supplanted by a heads-up from the marketing guys about product placement and plot points that might help ancillary revenue." And in the Magazine, Clive Thompson files a longish piece on the machinima phenom, focusing on Red vs Blue.

Another economics lesson in Slate from Edward Jay Epstein: "The best-kept secret in Hollywood, especially from Wall Street, is that the movie studios' biggest profit center is not theatrical movies, or even DVD sales; it is TV licensing."

You can listen to Elvis Mitchell these days, but you don't often get much of a chance to read him anymore. In the Observer, he observes: "[N]o studio would stop making action films when they fail. Yet, films with minority casts - or movies about race - constantly have to prove themselves." The occasion is the UK run for Crash, which Liz Hoggard praises as a "rare cinematic event - a film that challenges audiences to question their own prejudices."

Also:

And in the Guardian: "Invasion fantasies, as the critic Ignatius F Clarke convincingly argues, are a sensitive register of a society's current nervousness." John Sutherland wonders what Nicole Kidman and Oliver Hirschbiegel have on their minds.

Bell, Book and Candle Skip Bewitched, David Thomson advises his readers in the UK, and instead, try to book yourself a double feature: Vertigo and Bell, Book and Candle. Also in the Independent: Cahal Milmo on plane crash survivor movies, a genre unto itself.

The true story behind The Great Raid is remarkable enough on its own, so director John Dahl was able to convince Miramax to stick to it. The reward so far has been approval from WWII vets, reports Hugh Hart in the San Francisco Chronicle. Related: Uri Lessing and Dan Lybarger interview Dahl for Hollywood Bitchslap.

At Movie City News, Leonard Klady argues that the Great Slump of 05 just isn't that big of a deal. Counter-point: Signandsight is running an English version of a piece that ran in Die Zeit a little over a week ago. For Georg Seeßlen, the crisis runs more deeply than can be read in numbers. It lies in the architecture of the multiplex, in the thinning of cinematic imagery, in the self-referentiality of the DVD - which, it turns out, may be where hope lies after all: "[C]inema might be able to reconquer itself."

In German: An update on the restoration of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz from Franziska Prechtel in the Berliner Morgenpost. The project is costing nearly half a million dollars and will first be seen at the Berlinale in 2007, the 25th anniversary of RWF's death. Also via filmz.de, Spiegel Online remembers Ufa star Ilse Werner, who died last night. She was 84.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' "Jim Sheridan and 50 Cent can't have seen each other coming," marvels Amos Posner at PopMatters. But, "with no new actors to easily market to urban audiences - or to the white suburbanites who fawn over what they perceive as black culture, Hollywood has turned to a familiar fallback plan. When actual movie stars are in short supply, just look to the pop charts."

Meanwhile, Daniel Robert Epstein talks to Hustle & Flow star Terrence Howard for the SuicideGirls, while, for Time, Josh Tyrangiel chats with Andre Benjamin.

For the Age, Philippa Hawker looks back on the highlights of the Melbourne International Film Festival, while Jay Seaver gives the "Hollywood Bitchslap final grade" to the Fantasia Festival: "A."

For indieWIRE, Brian Brooks previews the Sarajevo Film Festival and Vanessa Romo listens in as Maggie Cheung talks acting.

"Ibrahim Ferrer, a leading voice with the hugely popular Buena Vista Social Club of vintage Cuban performers, died Saturday, his representative in Cuba said. He was 78." Anita Snow reports for the AP, Ben Ratliff pens an obit for the NYT and David Teather files one for the Guardian.

Online viewing tip #1. Matt Clayfield captures Adrian Martin discussing the state of the Australian film industry.

Online viewing #2. Manu Luksch's Movie Stars. Via the DVblog.

Murk More online viewing tips, round #1. At Twitch, The Gomorrahizer rounds up trailers for the Horror Theater series, "comprised of a half-dozen hour-long movies based on manga by Kazuo Umezu." You'll recognize the names of a few of the directors. Also: Todd's found the trailer for Anders Thomas Jensen's Mørke.

Online viewing tips, round #2. Animation by Joseph Seigenthaler. Via Screenhead.

Still bored? Play along with Reverse Shot's "empty, vitriolic exercise in spiteful contrarianism."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:27 PM

Synoptique. 10.

Synoptique editor Adam Rosadiuk marks the tenth edition: "I decided to dig into our archive and present 10 articles from the last nine editions — articles I feel were important to the journal, were particularly good, or which I just happen to like." You'll find that annotated list right on the front page from which you can launch the new edition devoted to "Contemporary Asian Cinema," guest-edited by Owen Livermore and featuring a punchy layout by Marcus Benigno. Therein:

Gary Xu on Kung Fu Hustle: "[Stephen Chow's] intent is made clear in his attention to the process of physical, mental, and moral growth, in his incorporation of elements of Shaw Brothers' cinema, and in his historicity that is based on not only the history of cinema but also a strong sense of historical justice, which, in the film's fable-like setting, points to contemporary China's political and economic situations."

Synoptique 10

Matthew Bolton: "Shanghai Noon and The Last Samurai make for a particularly interesting comparison, because the films do not, as one might expect, follow parallel bildungsroman structures, despite each telling the story of a stranger adapting to a new culture. There is a great contrast between how these films represent a Westerner in the East versus an Easterner in the West, and this contrast is attributable less to the differing conventions of comedy and tragedy than to an underlying Orientalist ideology."

James Udden: "In no other time, or in any other part of the globe, have a set of directors so ardently pursued such a minimalist long-take style as what has occurred in East Asia. In effect, Hou [Hsiao-hsien], Tsai [Ming-liang] and Hong [Sang-soo] are at the forefront of what can be best described as a pan-Asian style. Yet certain questions arise from this. Is there any larger cultural meaning behind this, or is this merely a quirky aesthetic phenomenon?"

Two pieces on Wong Kar-wai. In the first, Laurel Wypkema "briefly explain[s] the thrust of Hong Kong's cinematic history," arguing that "particularly its new wave cinema – cannot be considered outside of its distinctive political and social history," and Wong is among its filmmakers who have "implicitly understood the transience and ultimately culturally fractured and transnational nature of the space of the city; of their city." The second, by Philippe Tremblay and in French, focuses on Chungking Express.

Early works by Tomoko Matsunashi Peter Rist: "There are examples of female directors to be found in the horror and 'pink' genres of Japanese film, and in the independent sphere of documentary film, but only one Japanese woman has made a real breakthrough as a fiction feature film director on the international scene and that is Naomi Kawase (with Suzaku, 1996, and Shara, 2003). Perhaps Tomoko Matsunashi will be next."

"Fandom researcher" Brent Allison addresses Sean Leonard's essay "Progress Against the Law: Fan Distribution, Copyright, and the Explosive Growth of Japanese Animation."

Bruno Dequen has a piece in French on Ghost in the Shell, postmodernity and anime.

Jodi Ramer reports on the recently wrapped Fantasia Festival.

Randolph Jordan's fourth "Squalid Infidelities" column once again considers "the intricacies of sound’s relationship to the moving image"; "today's example: Sogo Ishii's Electric Dragon 80,000 V (2001)."

Andrea Ariano reviews Takashi Miike's Izo, zeroing in on the juxtaposition of violence and humor.

And then, the Splinters, 16 brief reviews of Asian films.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:01 AM

August 6, 2005

Weekend shorts.

Embedded Sheldrake and Tim Robbins have a long, freewheeling and very fun talk at Ain't It Cool News, not just about Embedded, but also about The Power of Nightmares, Gore Vidal and the film and theater productions Robbins is working on now.

"When I first saw Paris Is Burning in Los Angeles in 1991 it blew me away." So now, with that doc headed for DVD later in the year and director Jennie Livingston's short, Who's the Top?, on the festival circuit, Eugene Hernandez has five questions for her. But she has far more than five answers, really; sharp stuff. Also at indieWIRE, another fine interview, Michael Koresky's with Junebug director Phil Morrison.

Screen Door Jesus James Israel isn't the first to point out that two very different takes on the South are opening this weekend; he just does it very well. Chuck Tryon, in the meantime, previews another, Screen Door Jesus, which "elegantly weaves together several narratives set in the small east Texas town of Bethlehem, reflecting on race, class, and politics, particularly as they are inflected by religious belief and practice."

Joseph Epstein opens his review of David Thomson's The Whole Equation and and Edward Jay Epstein's The Big Picture in Commentary with a fun Hollywood anecdote of his own - before essentially agreeing with both authors' pessimistic outlook: "Globalism, whatever else may be said for it, also means lowest-common-denominatorism, and technology plays right into it." Via Arts & Letters Daily.

The Conformist George Fasel: "Let us put aside for a moment that The Conformist (1970) is the most magnificently photographed, scored, choreographed, and costumed film made - ever, anywhere - because while those are not insignificant achievements, there is more to this work by Bernardo Bertolucci, who finished it when he was just short of thirty." More from La Depressionada, though the comments turn into a lively yet (reasonably) civil debate on Polanski.

Jonathan Rosenbaum on Saraband: "The performances are perfectly distilled, but the traits I dislike in Bergman are all here - self-pity, brutality, spiritual constipation, and an unwillingness to try to overcome these difficulties." And: "Like Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, Broken Flowers can be read largely as a querulous lament for the 60s counterculture, for what it became."

Broken Flowers For Slate's David Edelstein, "Broken Flowers is Jarmusch's most conventionally entertaining film, but it's still visually rigorous, swimming in pregnant silences, and un-filled-in in a way that's tantalizing," while for David Gilmour of the Globe and Mail, where Liam Lacey interviews Bill Murray, it's "a terrific performance piece for a handful of good actors, an engaging metaphor and a so-so piece of storytelling." More from Canfield at Twitch, Stephanie Zacharek in Salon, Bradley Steinbacher in the Stranger and Ty Burr in the Boston Globe.

At Cinemarati, acquarello opens a thread on Tsai Ming-liang's The Wayward Cloud, "a good step forward for the filmmaker in terms of evolving and maturing his familiar themes, but I honestly can't see this one as converting any Tsai detractors or gaining him exposure to a wider audience." There are no detractors in the thread as yet; they simply disagree on which previous film is superior, What Time Is It There? or Goodbye Dragon Inn.

Mayles's glasses Take a look at over 60 different people and a dog wearing Albert Maysles's glasses. Jess Search explains; via Movie City Indie, where Ray Pride argues - well - that the Los Angeles Times should have killed Mary McNamara's piece on Jarmusch before it ever saw print or pixels.

Also via MCI:

  • Stanley Crouch in the Chicago Sun-Times on Hustle & Flow, "not only the latest update of blaxploitation and the most recent neo-minstrel development in black popular culture. It also represents a crisis of artistic consciousness..."

  • Tsui Hark's Seven Swords has Brian Hu thinking in Asia Pacific Arts: "[H]ow would we describe the aesthetics of Hong Kong wuxia post 1997, after which the allegory model seems to break down?"

  • Police raid pirates: A first-person report in China Daily.

There's a 2046 double feature in this weekend's New York Times. Karen Durbin, who noted that Tony Leung is an actor for Americans to keep an eye on earlier this year, serves up a full-fledged profile: "For all of Mr Leung's accomplishments elsewhere, his continuing collaboration with [Wong Kar-wai] is the spine of his career. Time and again, Mr Wong gets something invaluable from Mr Leung that no one else does: the power to surprise even himself, whether it's the furious gay lover in Happy Together (1997) - Mr Leung has never been so butch - or the fatalistic blind assassin in Ashes of Time (1994) with his grim, unshakable cool."

2046

Just like us, Salon's Stephanie Zacharek couldn't think of a better title for her appreciation than "In the Mood for Leung." Mark Olsen also scores an interview for the LAT.

Manohla Dargis lauds both the film and its maker: "Memory turns finite moments into spaces - a hotel room, say - that we return to again and again. It gives us a glimpse of the eternal and, like art at its most sublime, like this film, a means for transcendence." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir essentially agrees, but, via Chris Barsanti, Slant's Ed Gonzales offers a contrary opinion: "Like a fucked-up commentary track for its predecessor, the film is both coyly self-reflexive and self-consciously detached, irritating even..."

But back in the NYT:

Secuestro Express
  • Laura Kern: "The constant threat of violence and rape is difficult to endure, but the unpredictable Secuestro Express is more than just a dizzying thrill ride laced with small doses of pitch-black comic relief. It manages to raise awareness of frightening real-life class wars and deep-rooted corruption in a world where the cops are more treacherous than the crooks, and no one can be trusted." In the LAT, Kevin Thomas reviews the film, while Agustin Gurza listens to director Jonathan Jakubowicz tell how his own kidnapping sparked the project.

  • Stephen Holden on the "desperately sentimental" Saint Ralph and My Date With Drew. Related: Emma Garman's interview with filmmaker Brian Herzlinger for Radar, via the cinetrix.

  • Jeannette Catsoulis on Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision, "unfortunately, more disorienting than dazzling" and "an incomplete portrait of a complicated man."

  • Sarah Boxer: "This week the Web site ifilm.com introduced a new 'channel' called WarZone with film clips from World War II, Vietnam, Israel and Iraq. Looking at the selection of videos about Iraq, it's hard to say which are scarier: the clips themselves or the advertisements that run with them."

  • Caryn James "The Aristocrats is a lot of things: a triumph of marketing, and a movie that many people will find funny. But most of all, it's an exercise in nostalgia, a look backward to old-time show business when punch lines ruled." Related: Peter Keepnews on Andy Kindler's annual flirtation with "career suicide." And in the Guardian, John Patterson.

  • Ned Martel on Queer as Folk: "It's too bad that pioneering productions don't know how to bow out gracefully, that hits often hang on too long. (Not true of the original British version, whose brief run is still revered for its élan and impact.)"

"The Rising is a historical epic complete with all the Bollywood trimmings." As Geoffrey Macnab reports, its subject is "the so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857," about which little is actually known.

Also in the Guardian:

Edinburgh: Richard E Grant

With London's National Film Theatre staging a Catherine Deneuve retrospective throughout September, Rhoda Koenig takes a critical look: "Deneuve, despite insisting on the importance of independence, is often a glorification of the woman who, as a 'sensible' wife, trades her looks for status and money."

Also in the Independent: Kaleem Aftab interviews Thomas Vinterberg:

Dear Wendy

In Dear Wendy, I think primarily it is about Lars [von Trier] and the white man feeling inferior to the black male... Lars is always talking about black men's genitals and the size of them and he is deeply fascinated and envious about it, and I do, too. In this way, the film treats America in the same way the film treats black men - something we're somehow inferior to, and attracted to at the same time. This is not a very precise answer. The more precise answer is that Lars does not want to be politically correct.

But Independent critic Anthony Quinn is as underwhelmed with the film as Bradshaw is. The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu is more generous: "[F]or all its periodic moments of grace, and rapturous gun-fights, we finish the film a little puzzled: why does one of the most talented directors of his generation persist in standing in the shadows of Lars von Trier?"

Meanwhile, Tiffany Rose finds that Michael Keaton presses fewer hot buttons.

Back to the LAT:

vista-tall.jpg For the LA CityBeat, Perry Crowe writes an ode to the Vista Theatre while Andy Klein asks, "Has there been any other event in the last year – or even in the entire young millennium – as significant for Los Angeles film lovers as the opening of the American Cinematheque's second location, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica?" Also: Klein on 2046 and Broken Flowers and Donnell Alexander on the joys of bootlegs.

Back to theaters for a moment: Scott Kirsner, who recently had a forward-looking chat with Mark Urman, head of distribution at THINKfilm, points to a piece Jenn Abelson had in the Boston Globe a couple of weeks ago on Cinema de Lux, which "may represent the future of movie theaters."

David Lowery files a dispatch from the Dallas Video Festival, "the oldest video festival in the country."

Matthew Clayfield takes the Brisbane International Film Festival to task for not featuring "Australian shorts and features that haven't had exposure elsewhere (as opposed to merely screening a number of Australian films that have either already premiered somewhere else or which are about to get theatrical release anyhow) with a mind to push the boundaries of the film culture at large."

Peter Chan's Perhaps Love, "[b]illing itself as the first movie musical to be shot in China in 40 years," as Gregg Kilday writes in the Hollywood Reporter, will be closing the Venice Film Festival next month. Kilday talks with producer Andre Morgan about the rush to get it completed in time.

The Rider Named Death Charlie at Cinema Strikes Back on The Rider Named Death: "It won't knock your socks off, but this recent Russian film succeeds in probing the question of 'What motivates a terrorist?' by looking at an early 1900s Russian revolutionary."

"[T]here were so many ways in which [Welcome to] Dongmakgol could have gone wrong." But according to Kyu Hyun Kim, it doesn't. Also at Koreanfilm.org: Adam Hartzell on Kim Sang-jin's Ghost House, "not a brilliant film, just a good one."

Criterion will be releasing Mike Leigh's Naked in September. For Ed Champion, "this film's ballsy magnificence, multilayered characters and deceptively fragmented narrative cannot be overpraised."

Rumor has it that People on Sunday is headed to a Region 1 DVD release at some point; in the meantime, you can see reviews of two Region 2 versions at DVD Beaver. Matt Langdon recently caught the 1929 film "made by Robert Siodmak, Curt Siodmak, Edgar G Ulmer, written by Billy Wilder and shot by Eugen Schüfften and Fred Zinnemann" which "captures the exuberance of youth and the general nature of human beings on a weekend in Berlin in the 1920s."

Nicola Christie talks to Green Street director Lexi Alexander (and in case you're wondering, the film is known as Hooligans stateside).

Blue Velvet

Also in the Telegraph:

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus turned 70 yesterday and filmtagebuch writer Thomas Groh has rounded up several related German-language reading and listening tips.

Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin has "pledged to step up efforts to boost domestic cinema," reports the Neue Zürcher Zeitung - in English.

Jack Malvern: "The British internet Broadcasting Company (BiBC), a film download company, says that it is in negotiations with the holder of the rights to movies including Fahrenheit 9/11 and 9 Songs." Also in the Times of London: Marianne MacDonald chats with Ewan McGregor.

Online browsing tip. Posters for all the movies shown in the Mystery Science Theater 3000. Via Opus.

Online listening tip #1. The very strange and periodic podcasts from and about the production of Spike Lee's current project, Inside Man.

Online listening tip #2. NPR's Reese Erlich on how censorship imposes limits on filmmakers in Iran and the creative means they find to work around them. We also get an audial glimpse of Jafar Panahi's next film. Via Cinematical's Adam Finley.

Unseen Cinema Online viewing tips #1 through #6. Clips from landmark avant works, part of the seven-disc set due from the Anthology Film Archives in October, Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film, 1894 - 1941. Doug Cummings recommends that you get that set and Kino's Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 30s.

Online viewing tip #7. Tom Hall on an online solid gold standard: "The Residents have always held a special place in my heart... I haven't seen them in years, but over the past few months, via a series of web animations, I think I have found their heir: Weebl."

Online viewing tips, two more rounds. Short works by Bryan Boyce via the DVblog, also pointing to loops from the X(818) Video Project.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

August 5, 2005

MovieMaker. 59.

MovieMaker: Summer 05 Serious as granite, Werner Herzog peers at you from cover of the new issue of MovieMaker. With a batch of his earlier films freshly out on DVD, Grizzly Man in selected theaters, Wheel of Time in selected art-houses and The Wild Blue Yonder on the way, not to mention - no, let's go ahead and mention them - the recent meta-Herzog experiences, Incident at Loch Ness and Criterion's release of Burden of Dreams on DVD, it's hard to believe that about a decade ago he was teetering on the edge of "What ever happened to...?" I wouldn't call it a comeback, but to see him bounce back from his previous return to narrative filmmaking (Invincible), to see his name on marquees and his face in the press is one of finer pleasures of 2005.

MovieMaker's piece on/with him isn't online, but he doesn't get a somewhat honorable mention (sort of; Grizzly Man as "astounding snuff film"?) in David Geffner's survey of indies as "counter-programming" since 1973. The definition of "indie" here stretches far and wide; what Geffner's really describing are come-from-behind hits. In a related piece, Bob Fisher talks to cinematographer Bill Butler about shooting Jaws thirty years ago: "When Spielberg asked if he knew how to shoot day for night on the ocean, Butler tried to look casual when he assured him that it wouldn't be a problem."

Troy and Clay Nichols on moviemaking in high school: "Kids have been picking up cameras, recruiting a few buds and making videos for a while now. Lately, however, they've been growing more ambitious. They don't just want to make a funny home movie. They aren't satisfied with improvised dialogue and shaky, handheld camera work. They want to make a real movie."

Joe Eszterhas growls through his ten golden rules. Some are worth considering: "If you're stuck for something to write about, think of all those things your family just doesn't talk about. Somewhere in there lurks at least one good script." Some aren't: "In the company of the director, don't bend over.... He is your enemy."

In the Bathtub of the World Modesty demands saving a pointer to Daniel Nemet-Nejat's article on video-on-demand for last, but it doesn't prohibit one iota of insistence that you go and read it right now: "Last May, GreenCine began distributing [Caveh] Zahedi's films, marking the first time that any service had made films that were not released on DVD available online for on-demand viewing. [Jonathan] Marlow developed GreenCine's VOD as a way to give exposure to a growing number of quality films that were unable to secure a theatrical release.... Zahedi, for one, finds it 'liberating' to know that 'anyone in the world can see my films.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 9:42 AM

August 4, 2005

Shorts, 8/4.

Duma "[I]t's what [Carroll] Ballard does with this story that makes it sing." And so, Stephanie Zacharek is issuing a call to Chicago area moviegoers to go see - and possibly save - Duma.

"I've been making films for 25 years. I don't like looking back into my own past, but I've learned that progress comes from the mistakes. Mistakes are gifts. The stuff that didn't work remains mysterious. You can't analyze why something worked, but you can analyze why it didn't work," Jim Jarmusch tells Howard Feinstein. Another reason he tossed a script called "Three Moons to the Sky" in favor of the one that became Broken Flowers is that "I wanted to do something with this incredible wealth of female actors 40 - 55 who seem discarded." Also at indieWIRE: "Wong Kar-Wai's fans enjoy the occasional teases and vague answers; they've become as much a trademark of the filmmaker as the distinct slo-mo, saturated visuals, his use of latin-flavored music, or his own black polo shirt and trademark dark glasses." Eugene Hernandez listens to the director's vague thoughts on 2046.

Jarmusch/Wong As it happens, Scott Foundas considers both films at once in the LA Weekly: "Whereas Jarmusch is a Westerner who possesses an Eastern sense of art-making rigor and discipline, Wong is an Easterner whose movies explode with the mad stylistic fervor of Otto Preminger in his prime." Dave Shulman gets the long talk with Jarmusch, who, in turn, gets in a good rant aimed at Hollywood: "My real criticism is that they're so timid... Even just on a business level — wouldn't it make sense to have a wider variety of products that cost less to produce? Wouldn't you have a better chance of increasing your profit margin? But I don't know. I'm not a business guy, so maybe I'm completely wrong."

Also in the LAW:

  • Doug Ireland has a compulsively readable piece on what the latest revelations about the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini may ultimately mean for the poet, novelist and filmmaker's reputation; you might want to head straight for the expanded version at his blog.

  • John Albert: "Edward Bunker, actor and author of five books and three films, died in Burbank on July 19 at the age of 71, a free man."

Junebug

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake spots this in Andrew Sarris's latest column for the New York Observer: "Since I decided recently that I was going to live forever, I figured that I had enough time to update The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929 - 1968 to the 21st Century, beginning with Richard Linklater, whom I am tentatively placing in the category 'The Far Side of Paradise.'" And, as Alison Willmore notes at the IFC Blog, he's still nursing wounds from "the Sarris-Kael imbroglio."

They Came Back Paul Kalina talks with They Came Back director Robin Campillo: "In the film, there is some kind of winter, the feeling that we are preparing ourselves for a big mourning. I think 9/11 did a lot to us. In the terrorist project, there is something to take us out of life, to have the feeling that we are not in our own place, our own cities, our own homes, our own lives." Via the IFC Blog.

Why is the Pentagon spending $25K to teach 15 scientists how to write and sell screenplays? As David M Halbfinger explains in the New York Times, the idea, basically, is to prompt a deluge of movies and TV shows that "depict scientists in flattering ways," to make science popular via pop culture. Otherwise, the US will never make up its deficit of science and engineering students.

Nick Rombes considers the "little disasters" that enliven and humanize art.

Xeni Jardin reports on the Directors Guild of America's annual Digital Day for Wired News. Via Scott Kirsner, who asks, "At some point soon, will every day be digital day for directors?" And Slashdotters comment.

If you download a movie you wouldn't be seeing in a theater anyway, how much is Hollywood actually losing, asks Jason Kottke.

Dennis Cozzalio hits the drive-ins.

"Is Miranda July's debut feature as good as everybody says?" asks Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly. "Although the film seems to divide people into love-or-hate-it camps (with the former being far larger), my own reaction was somewhere in between, one of admired-it-with-reservations."

Taylor Holland's contribution to the "Damn Dirty Ape Issue" of the Austin Chronicle is an appreciation of actors in monkey suits and, in general: "When you say 'monkey movie,' you might as well say 'movie.' From a strictly Darwinistic point of view, any movie is a monkey movie." There's an accompanying photo quiz - "Real or Fake?" - and you can find the answers once you're through. Holland also interviews Norman Tempia of Animated FX Inc: "How did you get started in chimp suits?" And Louis Black on Robot Monster: "The ape in the diving helmet and the girl he sexually desires, the romance, the other earthlings and their resistance whacked my personal sexuality gyroscope permanently off course."

Also:

Je t'aime moi non plus

Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene: "The lesson of the 48 Hour Film Project is that choice can be a filmmaker's crippling enemy, while restrictions are often a shot of creative adrenaline."

A film program for teens gets a nice grant. In the Philadelphia City Paper, Jenna Portnoy explains why it's deserved. Also: Sam Adams on Bergman's Saraband and Cindy Fuchs on Broken Flowers.

The Boston Phoenix Broken Flowers double: Gerald Peary and Peter Keough.

On the Road The Guardian wants your iMovies. Mike Figgis and Peter Bradshaw pen the invitations. Also: Will Hodgkinson on Francis Ford Coppola's latest attempt - after buying the rights in 1968 - get an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road up and rolling.

At Hell on Frisco Bay, Brian knows one reason "Herzog's documentaries are so incredible. They force the viewer to watch with his or her own eyes and be aware of his or her own reactions."

Over the years, Looker has learned when it's time to walk out.

Current TV is so 90s, sighs Dana Stevens at Slate. More from Aaron at Out of Focus.

Richard Phillips and Ismet Redzovic wrap their coverage of June's Sydney Film Festival for the World Socialist Web Site. Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Online listening tip. Cyndi Greening talks with Emanuel Levy about the book he's working on, Michael Moore and the New American Documentaries, and the conversation fans out from there: politics and money, festivals and just plain good movies.

Online zoning out tip. The Fountain. Via AICN.

Online viewing tips, round #1. "Some QuickTime Movies" by Michael Szpakowski, plus notes and a more complete concordance. Via DVblog.

Online viewing tips, round #2. Cumming. The fragrance. Via Screenhead, also pointing to Michal Migurski's Vox Delicii and Madness's "Our House," "designed and animated by students 12 to 15 years old, and originated entirely on flipbooks."

Online viewing tips, round #3. Nicolas Randall's parody of Mike Mills's video for Air's "All I Need." Via Coudal Partners, also currently pointing to OÏO (watch the clip).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:56 PM

Bright Lights. 49.

Bright Lights Film Journal Gary Morris introduces the new issue of Bright Lights Film Journal far more wittily, succinctly and helpfully than I'm about to, so you might want to save yourself a bit of time and trouble, click his name and get on with it. Unless, of course, you have a penchant for bullet points.

Click the title, though, and you're hit with a jolting juxtaposition: Margaret Sullavan and SpongeBob SquarePants, their heads tilted at the same angle. The Sullavan piece, by Dan Callahan, is situated in its own rubric, "The Empty Guest Room." Kind of chilling, isn't it. Sullavan's voice, writes Callahan, "haunts the movies still... Sullavan has never become a cult, though she certainly has all the elements necessary." If it ever happens, Callahan knows Gore Vidal will have laid the foundational stone:

Margaret Sullavan Card

Margaret Sullavan was a star whose deathbed scenes were one of the great joys of the Golden Age of Movies. Sullavan never simply kicked the bucket. She made speeches, as she lay dying; and she was so incredibly noble that she made you feel like an absolute twerp for continuing to live out your petty life after she'd ridden on ahead.

The Nation: SpongeBob SpongeBob, of course, doesn't know the meaning of "petty." In his celebration of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, culminating in a sadly necessary evisceration of right-wing fundamentalist attacks on "America's favorite sponge," Robert Keser writes, "Call it infantile, call the show comfort food cartooning that wallows in a shiny world of idealized innocence, but what's undeniably striking is SpongeBob's positive energy: he rarely models TV-engendered passivity, but gulps and bravely sails on to negotiate the shoals of reality."

In all, the "Recent Cinema Roundabout" is like a quick review of the Summer of 05:

Princess Raccoon

Then, a jolt: "As the covert bottom-line interests of capitalist film distribution circumscribe our viewing options as much as overt censorship ever could, we should earnestly applaud the arrival of the new INDEX label, an Austrian DVD distributor launched as a collaborative venture of Medienwerkstatt Wien and Sixpackfilm, specializing in the heretofore marginal, seldom spied, and transnationally uncharted corners of the Austrian and international avant-garde," writes Robert M Grossman, who then dives into the collection that spans four decades of work.

The other piece in the "Avant-Garde Atelier" is Morris's appreciation of Jenni Olson's "brilliant 65-minute experimental film The Joy of Life."

Two festival reports: Joanne Bealy on the San Francisco International Film Festival and Cleo Cacoulidis on the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

Matthew Kennedy celebrates Criterion's releases of Jacques Becker's Casque d'or, "a gloriously tactile movie," and Touchez pas au grisbi, "an eye-opener for anyone unaccustomed to postwar French cinema."

Polish cinema has suffered and waned since the death of Kieslowski, but Sheila Skaff finds six films made in just the last couple of years worth a view.

To the "Features Foyer"!

  • Megan Ratner, who's just contributed the most recent addition to our own primer collection, "Italian Neo-Realism," looks north, to the recent spate of German films which, taken together, are "like a reclamation of the Third Reich from its global definition to one specifically German."

Chaplin/Mutual Postcard

Retiring to the "Articles Antechamber":

More interviews: Morris with Darren Stein, one of the directors of the "fascinating" Put the Camera on Me, and Karin Badt with Lars von Trier in Cannes: "What about faith in God, in the world?" "I wish."

Tom Sutpen's urgent call for some sort of distribution for Peter Watkins's 1966 film Privilege is preceded by an account of "the fastest, sharpest rise and fall the British film industry — or any film industry — had ever witnessed."

Arthur Dong: Stories from the War on Homosexuality And from here on in, the terrific rest, it's all Gary Morris:

  • "Arthur Dong's documentary Licensed to Kill explores the 'laws' — sometimes written, sometimes simply understood — against homosexuality and the men who take it upon themselves to rid the world of what they've been trained to think of as a weak, disposable group — gay men."

  • "[Fred] Halsted's films owe more to the underground fetish-fantasies of Kenneth Anger than to the kinds of commercial narratives that other porn filmmakers aspired to."

  • "British documentarian Kim Longinotto, seems ideally positioned for closer scrutiny and wider recognition. Longinotto is unique among contemporary toilers in the genre of 'true cinema,' having built up a substantial body of work comprised of definitive readings of their subjects."

All rounded off with this issue's "Little Stabs of Happiness (and Horror: Random Short Reviews of the Worthy and the Worthless in Recent and Old-School Cinema."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:36 AM

August 3, 2005

Shorts, 8/3.

Doug Cummings: "Okay, summer break is over and the blogging shall resume." And now. What's more, I've only just now seen that Cinemarati, the "professional guild for film writers whose work appears primarily online," has launched a blog. An excellent blog, too, though that's hardly a surprise.

Story of a Love Affair

At Stop Smiling, Jared Rapfogel reviews No Shame Films's "highest-brow" release: "At once surprisingly atypical in its strong, noir-influenced plot, and yet unmistakably Antonioni-esque in its mise-en-scene and its mood of disconnection and despair, Story of a Love Affair is a tremendously confident debut, despite Antonioni's inexperience, his low budget, and a production imperiled by the suicide of its primary funder." By the way, there doesn't seem to be a trailer for Affair up as yet, but you'll find many others at No Shame's site.

"Quietly outraged and actively upsetting, Darwin's Nightmare spirals out from a case study of one cannibalistic killer to a far bigger and more rapacious fish," writes Dennis Lim. "The ruthless supremacy of the Nile perch and its devastating effect on the lake's ecosystem constitute a gruesomely resonant metaphor for the impact of global capitalism on local industry." And Joshua Land has three quick questions for director Hubert Sauper: "There isn't anything new in my movie. It's all known. I just give it a face."

Darwin's Nightmare For AO Scott, the "harrowing, indispensable" film "is clearly aimed at the political conscience of Western audiences, and its implicit critique of some of our assumptions about the shape and direction of the global economy deserves to be taken seriously," he writes in the New York Times. "But its reach extends far beyond questions of policy and political economy, and it turns the fugitive, mundane facts that are any documentary's raw materials into the stuff of tragedy and prophecy."

Back in the Village Voice:

Saint Ralph

"Why the glut of interesting movies all of a sudden?" asks Eugene Hernandez.

At indieWIRE, Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies currently in production.

Stephen Moss profiles Robert Baer: "His devastating critique of his former employer, See No Evil: the True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, appeared in 2002 and was leapt on by those seeking to explain why the September 11 attacks had evaded the radar of US intelligence. A film of the book called Syriana, in which George Clooney plays the baggy-jacketed Baer, will be released in the autumn. Baer, his stock rising fast, can afford to be insouciant."

Chimes at Midnight Also in the Guardian, Geoffrey Macnab in Locarno: "Audiences here in this rain-sodden mountain resort will have a rare chance to see Welles's masterful Shakespeare adaptation, Chimes at Midnight." And: "The city of New Orleans is known as the supernatural capital of the United States," writes Iain Softley, explaining how he came to direct The Skeleton Key. "But it's also a city known for its music, and it was this potent combination of music and the supernatural which drew me to the script, and for the first time in my life, to New Orleans, Louisiana and the Deep South."

The Harvard Lampoon parodies Premiere. Only a few pages are available online as a PDF file, but still. Via Bob Sassone at Cinematical.

David Lowery on Simon Pummell's Bodysong: "In retrospect, it represents not the epitome of multimedia's potential but the epitome of the possibilities of that potential."

Unfaithfully Yours For Beth Gilligan at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Unfaithfully Yours, the "Preston Sturges film that doesn't quite feel like a Preston Sturges film," is "richer than it's often given credit for."

Flickhead: "Today I've hardly an ounce of objectivity when it comes to Bedazzled."

Charlie Price at Cinema Strikes Back on Ko Nakahira's Crazed Fruit: "Okay, so the film was shocking then, but is it interesting today? Only somewhat. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and the editing is fast-cutting and does a lot to keep things exciting. But it's not saying much when you realize the 86-minute film has started to drag in the second act."

Kyu Hyun Kim at Koreanfilm.org: "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, if anything, will add more dry wood to the fierce bonfire of controversy surrounding Park's status as an artist as well as the real worth of his undeniably spellbinding films."

Welcome to Dongmakgol Welcome to Dongmakgol "offers a utopian place in which soldiers from the two Koreas and the United States are intertwined in a happy-go-lucky fashion during the Korean War," writes Yang Sung-jin of the Korea Herald. "The $8 million movie may not offer a satisfactory alterative to the six-party talks, but it can be a sure-fire place to cool down the heat wave that is currently hitting the peninsula."

Memoirs of a Geisha. Grady Hendrix has found new photos and an extra's diary, and sighs, "Ah, there's nothing better than an American movie, about Japanese people, cast with Chinese actors, who all speak English." Also: As Li Peichun reports, Tsui Hark's Seven Swords is not exactly a runaway hit in China or Hong Kong.

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston sorts through Justin Kelly's music video work with the director himself and reviews Occupation: Dreamland, "filmed in early 2004, over a period – a good five and a half weeks longer than the usual three-day, hit-and-run style of embedded journalism – that captures the mounting frustrations in Fallujah."

The Reeler is impressed with the "extremely good teen comedy" Pretty Persuasion.

Andy Battaglia at the Onion AV Club's new blog: "One of the many things I liked about Gus Van Sant's Last Days was the sound design... You can hear the sounds most of us hardly even notice gradually turn to unbearable noise in the mind of the film's 'Kurt Cobain,' whose ears wrap like parentheses around the feedback in his head."

Joe Robinson interviews Werner Herzog in the LAT.

In the NYT, Sharon Waxman pokes at the "scrim of secrecy" Sony's dropped over the production of The Da Vinci Code. The problem: How do you offend neither Christians nor fans of the book?

Mix-n-match:

Afrosamurai

At PopMatters, Bill Gibron describes his long journey from hate to love for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Now you have movies that are nothing but special effects, overwhelming sound, which is a great sensation, but character acting and script development, social realism — these things are actually declining," Camille Paglia tells Robert Birnbaum in the Morning News. "So I am very concerned about the cultural future of the United States in this kind of environment."

TCM At Out of Focus, Aaron has a quick and smart word or two for each day of TCM's month-long "Summer Under the Stars" series.

Lee Siegel in the New Republic: "Over There wants be a great a war movie, but it has the soul and the reflexes of cheap commercial television."

Current TV Salon's Heather Havrilesky on Current TV: "As each pod progresses, an indicator (like the one you see in QuickTime or iTunes) demonstrates how much time is left in the segment. If you've never seen your TV imitate your laptop before, that's just the beginning." More from James Wolcott: "It's as if all the marketing 'cool hunters' got together in a conference room, sent out for Red Bull and Listerine mint strips, and brainstormed into the night to create a channel appealing to MTV viewers looking for a little extra somethin'-somethin'."

For the Mercury News, Dawn C Chmielewski reports on a possible commercial future for BitTorrent: "They've forged a partnership with paid-search provider Ask Jeeves, and recently the duo flew to Burbank for high-level talks with the Motion Picture Association of America." Via Zonk at Slashdot, who asks, "You have to wonder about a crucial part of the equation: why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?"

Fans who saw films praised by Sony's fake critic will get a refund. Five bucks per fan. For a grand total of $1.5 mil. The BBC reports.

I Cannot Do It Online browsing tip. Egyptian movie posters. Via Rashomon.

Online viewing tip #1. Steve Sullivan's A Heap of Trouble, among other fine works at his site. Via Todd at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #2. Glen Fogel's video for "Hope There's Someone" by Antony and the Johnsons. Via Steve Gallagher at Filmmaker.

Online viewing tips #3 and #4, both rather silly, but it is August, after all. Lucky Stalin. Also via Screenhead: Tintorera Joe's "Friday the 13th Part III vs The Beverly Hillbillies" at CampBlood.org.

Online viewing tips #5 - #8. The winners of 2005 SXSWclick Online Media Festival have been announced, and they're all viewable from a single page. Arturo Cabanas's Man Up is the jury award winner. Nick Miller's Robot-Ussin is the winner of the People's Choice Award. Runners-up include Lorenzo Llanillo's Finding the Unknown God and Matt Ogens's 101.

Open question: What ever happened to the projected adaptation of George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline?

Posted by dwhudson at 2:00 PM | Comments (2)

August 2, 2005

Shorts, 8/2.

Aaron Aradillas of RockCritics.com not only gets David Edelstein to spill about the first film to make a major impression on him at a young age (Bride of Frankenstein), his background in theater, his pre-Slate days at the Voice and elsewhere, Pauline Kael, the 70s, TV, the email he gets, vigilantism ("the principal motif in modern action movies"), bad movies (his least favorites are Natural Born Killers and Mississippi Burning), the Bush administration ("this is gangsterism on a scale that would have shocked Al Capone, along with lies and doublespeak that would have shocked Orwell"), the state of movies now and why we need good criticism "more than ever," but also posts a snapshot.

Bride of Frankenstein

And in Slate: "How will Hollywood get out of the death spiral?" Edward Jay Epstein asked last week before adding, "(Stay tuned for the answer next week.)" His parentheses. Well, this is that week, and frankly, you have to wonder if he wasn't hoping the answer would hit him by now. Not that the sketches for several possible solutions to Hollywood's current quandary aren't interesting, but no, nothing's hit him yet.

James Surowiecki doesn't have a whole lot more to add, though one point can't be emphasized enough: "What's becoming increasingly clear is that the people who buy DVDs are, for the most part, not the people who go to the movies on opening weekend." If the movers and shakers play their cards right, "The rise of the DVD... should allow Hollywood to spend less and make more." Also in the New Yorker: David Denby on Broken Flowers and Grizzly Man.

For Pitchfork, Ryan Dumbal interviews Chris Cunningham. Robots, Kubrick and the videos he'd love to have made. Via Coudal Partners. Related: Go to the Director's Label site for a trailer thumping for the four new titles on the work of Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer, Mark Romanek and Stéphane Sednaoui. Via the IFC Blog.

Street Angel Half the fun of Filmbrain's review of the 1937 Chinese classic Street Angel - "This Maoist melodrama (made shortly before the Japanese shut down most Shanghai studios) is an absolute wonder to behold, and director Yuan Muzhi was clearly influenced by American, European and Russian cinema of the time" - is the story of hunt that leads to his finding it in the first place. Can't help but admit that in a less globalized and teched-up world, that film and that eager and perceptive viewer would never have found each other.

Two new reviews by Adam Hartzell at Koreanfilm.org: Moon Jong-keum's disappointing Saulabi and Kim Soo-yong's 1965 A Seaside Village.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Once again, X has oodles of news from Korea at Twitch. Besides the round-up, entries are devoted to theatrical and DVD release schedules (links and trailers galore), Welcome To Dongmakgol, Cello, The Big Scene and The Host. Meanwhile, the Gomorrahizer covers Japan, with news of films set to be screened at the PIA Film Festival and more.

The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival vs the Real Fantastic Film Festival. Mark Russell tells the tale.

Also in the New York Times:

"To watch Saraband begin is to feel a surge of happiness.... The very making of Saraband is one more Bergman marvel," writes Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic. And then, after effusive and undoubtedly due praise, "Now we arrive at a sadness. The screenplay dissatisfies." More from David Lowery.

Jean Simmons "[S]he wasn't just pretty, she was glorious; she wasn't just spirited, she could be filled with mischief, spite, poetry and madness. It's still not recognised - I fear - how very good an actress she is." David Thomson on Jean Simmons. Also in the Independent: Ed Caesar on the "cult of Donnie Darko."

At Movie City News, Leonard Klady talks to Edukators director Hans Weingartner: "If there is a new wave of German filmmakers, he'd have to characterize it as more of the zeitgeist than an actual physical community."

Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is only part of a nationwide campaign that's just now coming to a boil, writes Liza Featherstone in Salon. More from Peter Rothberg at the Nation.

Blake's been up to some creative blogging at Cinema Strikes Back; more than simply linking to the journal Fernando Meirelles kept during the making of The Constant Gardener, he's already run them through Google's translator for you. Related: Meirelles on NPR.

On Sunday, Catherine Elsworth reported in the Telegraph that Paul and Chris Weitz were so "rattled" by the London bombings that they were considering changes to their screenplay for American Dreamz. Not so, Paul Weitz tells David Poland: "[T]he plot of my film has not changed, nor is a change being contemplated. The film is a comic examination of our cultural obsessions and how they can anesthetize us to the actual issues of our day."

Cinematical's Karina Longworth talks to Nicholas Jarecki about the making of The Outsider which, in turn, documents the making of James Toback's When Will I Be Loved.

W "It wasn't a photography shoot. It wasn't a celebrity shoot... We looked at it like a small, independent film, an investigation into the breakdown of a family." Photographer Steven Klein tells Chris Lee about that 58-page spread in W featuring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Klein's current exhibition, "Case Study #13," is at the Gagosian Gallery.

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Elaine Dutka on the direct-to-video boom.

Alison Coffey interviews "beloved local filmmaker" Kat Candler for the Austinist. Via David Lowery.

With Mick Jagger's past among the "dregs" resurfacing in the news for no apparent reason, now's nonetheless a good time to look back with Flickhead to the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, "a joyfully compelling document of the acid generation."

"Every time the lights go down there's a part of me that whispers, 'Maybe it'll be good.'" David Sterritt turns a final column into the Christian Science Monitor. Via the IFC Blog, where Alison Willmore also points to Richard Corliss and James Inverne's profile of Terry Gilliam in Time.

Ian Haydn chats briefly with Los Debutantes director Andrés Waissbluth. Also in Kamera: Ben McCann on Stephen Heath's study of Marcel Pagnol's César.

Good Night and Good Luck George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, featuring David Strathairn as Edward R Murrow, will open the New York Film Festival (September 23 through October 9), reports Eugene Hernandez. Also at indieWIRE: Brian Brooks previews the Atlantic Film Festival (September 15 through 24 in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and Jonny Leahan on five docs that have had wind blown in their sails thanks to festivals.

The 58th Locarno International Film Festival opens tomorrow and runs through August 13.

"The last Jamaican-made feature film to hit it big, internationally? The Harder They Come... and that was over 30 years ago," notes Matt Dentler. "This is one of the reasons why, in 2005, the Flashpoint Film & Music Festival was created."

Chuck Olsen has a disturbing story about "the price of being honest." Update: See comments.

"'Security' is a red herring; we are witnessing instead the triumphal rearing-up of an unconscious cinematic fantasy," proposes Geoff Manaugh. "Accordingly, we find ourselves, everyday, living more fully than ever before in the utopia of someone else's inescapable, fortified film set."

The Third Man Online listening tip. Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir. Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards discuss the classics. In the latest episode: The Third Man. Coming soon: The Maltese Falcon and Blade Runner.

Online viewing tips, round #1. First, Tcheupel Garanger's Making of. Via Coudal Partners, where you'll find many more pointers to remarkable things such as director Adria Petty's commentary track for her video for the Ditty Bops' "Wishful Thinking" at Video Static, the R*Emote Mirror and InspireMe.tv, featuring artists' briefs on "what inspires them, what books are on their shelves right now, where they work or simply talk about what's on their mind at that moment in time."

Online viewing tips, round #2. The Story, a short film by Homer Groening. Yep. Via Screenhead, also currently pointing to the disturbingly amusing third episode of Leave It To Bush!.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

THR. Indies.

The Hollywood Reporter presents its "annual survey of the indie dealmaking, production and finance community."

  • Anne Thompson: "As the major studios suffer through the summer boxoffice doldrums... [t]he premium on low-cost, narrow-targeted, high-quality production has never been greater. More producers and financiers are jumping headlong into the indie arena, and new technology is bringing a mind-boggling array of distribution alternatives." She asks several of these leapers what's on their minds, and then, talks to indie producers who "painstakingly develop, assemble, sustain and push."

  • Nicole Sperling presents "a case-by-case examination of the year's most interesting indie marketing stories." Related: To Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay, it looks as if Hustle & Flow is going to do rather well by indie standards yet still fall short of expectations. Posing the rhetorical question, "What happened?," he proposes a few answers. Eugene Hernandez approaches the problem from another angle.

Johnny Depp as The Libertine
  • Stephen Galloway on the next film featuring Johnny Depp: "In all, it has taken a decade for Malkovich [and his business partners, Russell] Smith and [Lianne] Halfon to bring Libertine to the screen, with the film set for a September release through Miramax. The project's rocky ride to existence might prove cautionary for anyone hazarding the turbulent waters of indie film."

  • Galloway again, on "agents in today's independent-film arena... acting more and more like producers, finding new and sometimes inventive ways to package and finance movies," and on foreign "tax breaks and subsidies that rapidly are becoming the lifeblood of the indie sector," and on Film Finances Inc, one of the last companies in North America offering "completion bonds."

  • Minju Pak: "[C]able networks such as IFC, Sundance and Bravo are targeting those who seek an insider's view of filmmaking."

Filmmaker profiles:

THR also profiles the companies, their "indie status," their management and their plans:

Posted by dwhudson at 6:12 AM

August 1, 2005

Summer reading. Scope.

Somehow, the second issue (since Scope started renumbering) slipped online back in June without my noticing. Once again, the book reviews for some reason are always the most inviting reads for me, and there are twelve this time around as well as eight film reviews and four conference reports. The articles:

Kieslowski: Red

  • Brian Gibson explains what he's after when he applies the term "transcendental humanism" to Kieslowski's Red and the first wave of Dogme films.

  • John Lewis on the single mothers of The Sixth Sense, The Others and The Ring, films that "appear to reflect conservative... ideologies about 'the family' and women's traditional place within the family unit."

  • There's a lot more going on than you might think when Lance Johnson (Sam Bottoms) takes to the waves in Apocalypse Now, argue Jeff Lewis and Kirsty Best.

  • Anthony McCosker: "The link between cinema and history, the camera and human experience, is both pursued and problematised by the combat film genre – a style of narrative that profits from the re-production of history and experience like no other genre."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:04 AM