November 30, 2005

Shorts, 11/30.

Voice: Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain is tackled from three angles in a Village Voice cover package this week. Gary Indiana goes broadest and deepest: "The insular quality of American life reinforces a stubborn naïveté about sexual matters that's been part of our national character from the outset. The hermetic communities pictured in Brokeback Mountain illustrate sociologist Kai T Erikson's findings in Wayward Puritans (1966) - that American communities have always defined themselves in terms of who doesn't belong in them."

Jessica Winter talks with Annie Proulx, who wrote the original 10K-word story that appeared in the New Yorker in 1997, and with Larry McMurtry, who co-wrote the screenplay with her and producer Diana Ossana: "We milked it for every single sentence, every single phrase we could."

"The western has always been the most idyllically homosocial of modes - and often one concerned with the programmatic exclusion of women," writes J Hoberman in the midst of a review that reveals him neither over- nor underwhelmed. Also, Paths of Glory: "[Y]ou have to wonder how it would play in Washington today, or Iraq."

And also in the Voice:

  • Dennis Lim meets Joe Dante in Turin to talk about Homecoming, "easily one of the most important political films of the Bush II era." Says Dante: "Somebody has to start making this kind of movie, this kind of statement. But everybody's afraid - it's uncommercial, people are going to be upset. Good, let them be upset. Why aren't people upset? Every minute, somebody's dying in this war, and for nothing. To establish a religious theocracy in Iraq? It doesn't seem to me quite worth it."

  • Michael Atkinson on I Love Your Work, "a cold-serious, dead-air brood about how tough, lonely, and desolate it is being a celebrity." Also: "Le Samouraï has, in effect, been remade a thousand times—every impassive, hollowed-out, urban-man-of-violence movie made in the last 30 years owes it a drink."

  • Ben Kenigsberg on Transamerica and The Kid & I, "both issue movies that encourage viewers to hug the outcasts in their midst."

Be Here to Love Me

Far more than a profile, Carol Felsenthal's piece in Chicago on Roger Ebert is a pocket-sized biography: from childhood to the screenplays, the show and the paper, politics, romance, and most of all, work, work, work. Via Movie City News, where Leonard Klady talks with Bertrand Tavernier.

Matt Clayfield: Via Fred Camper at a_film_by, the Serge Daney in English blog, which 'attempts to keep track of all the english translations of texts by French film critic Serge Daney.'"

Dave Kehr: "As advertised, Match Point is indeed Woody Allen's most interesting film in a very long time – probably since Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), to which Match Point bears a chilly resemblance."

Anthony Kaufman's had a quick talk with David Cronenberg.

Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post: "Years before he wrote On the Waterfront, before that film brought him an Oscar, and before he earned the ire of many colleagues by testifying during the Hollywood communist witch hunt, writer Budd Schulberg had the distinct honor of arresting Leni Riefenstahl." Via Anne Thompson.

Adaptation Susan Orlean guest blogs at Powell's for a week: "One of you wisenheimers asked what I thought of the movie Adaptation, so, what the hell, I figure I might as well answer. I love the movie - it's hilarious and a remarkable commentary on the nature of writing and of passion itself." Also: Greil Marcus on No Direction Home.

Steven Barrie-Anthony drops in on a recording session for a future episode of The Simpsons. The guest voices: Tom Wolfe, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen and the only writer to survive the 20-odd minutes, Gore Vidal. Also in the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Abramowitz and John Horn pick up where Nikki Finke left off in the LA Weekly: Marketing for Munich will indeed be very, very low-key.

Stephen Holden: "The Boys of Baraka is so rich that you wish there were more of it.... [T]he film's message is clear and pointed: If you take the boy out of the poor neighborhood, you stand a good chance of taking the despair and hopelessness of the poor neighborhood out of the boy." More from Laura Sinagra in the Voice. Also in the New York Times, Somini Sengupta reports from Pakistan: "The Melody Cinema had sat fallow for two years, ever since a mob of religious radicals set it on fire and reduced it to nothing more than a charred, trash-filled shell. Today, it has been reborn as the Melody Relief and Rehabilitation Center, and the occupants of its 53 beds are women with broken backs."

Richard Schickel: Elia Kazan Gregory McNamee reviews Richard Schickel's Elia Kazan for the Hollywood Reporter.

In Fortune, and via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, Daniel Roth outlines why one corner of the industry carries on booming while the rest wring their hands and alienate (and sometimes infuriate) their customers:

[A]nime and manga firms have taken on forms very different from Hollywood studios or publishing houses. They more closely resemble the constantly updating startups of Silicon Valley. Their ethos is to get the product out to the right people - whether it's on a DVD or over a mobile phone or downloadable - and see what happens. If it succeeds, milk it; if not, try something different. And if the fans are into file sharing (which they are), keep the lawyers leashed and find a way to make piracy work for you.

For MSN, Sean Axmaker presents "the best of the director's cuts, the worst of the defective cuts and a few of the most interesting alternative versions available on DVD - and the stories behind them."

André Soares remembers Jocelyn Brando, 1919 - 2005.

Online viewing tip #1. Smith & Foulkes' ad for Motorola. Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical.

Online viewing tip #2. Fritz Lang's M. At the Internet Archive, via Wiley Wiggins, who's also pointing to Toe Stubber's collection of downloadable 60s and 70s-era radio spots for exploitation flicks.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:49 PM

Fests and events, 11/30.

A Movie "I've told people that one sign of success is when you or your work become cliché." And now, Bruce Conner tells Michelle Silva in a fine phone interview for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The occasion: Two days of screenings and discussion at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 8 and 10.

Also in the SFBG: Chuck Stephens previews the Samurai! series at the Balboa (December 2 through 22) and what a lively introduction it is.

Michael Atkinson previews Maysles Films: Five Decades (December 1 through 31, MoMA): "[C]inema vérité proved to be a historical prophecy, not the running-with-the-devil antithesis to the documentary tradition but the tradition itself." Also in the Voice: Atkinson on A Popular Cinema: Nelson Pereira dos Santos (December 5 through 20, BAMcinématek) and Leslie Camhi on Hard Questions: The Films of Amos Gitai (through December 8).

Charlotte Rampling will head the International Jury of the Berlinale (February 9 through 19).

Caroline Palmer in the City Pages: "This week Twin Citians can enjoy an unusually large number of shorts programs, and while none of them deal with the love lives of giant gorillas, they do tackle some weighty and memorable subjects."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:59 PM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2005

Shorts, 11/29.

First, a bit of brilliance from Michael Bérubé: "Variety, May 1, 2008 - According to insider reports, action star Bruce Willis is drastically over budget and cannot decide on an ending for his pro-war Iraq film, Mission Accomplished.... Industry analysts note that the cost of Mission Accomplished now exceeds $200 billion... 'It's way beyond what happened with Coppola,' said one of the film's producers, 'not that there are any parallels with Vietnam or anything.'" Via Evan Derkacz at Alternet. Update: David Kline's response to Roger L Simon's enthusiasm for Willis's project. Via Weblogsky.

Coppola / Altman

At 24 Lies a Second, Robert C Cumbow compares and contrasts "the Trotsky and Stalin of Hollywood in the 1970s": "What happened in the world of movie-making between the Hollywood of the 1950s and that of the 1970s was not a weakening but a redistribution of power. Not coincidentally, the redistribution of power is exactly what Altman and Coppola, in different ways, made their most enduring films about." Related online browsing tip: This wonderful page.

Chuck Tryon reviews The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah, a mockumentary about "Brian," who insists that he is, of course, not the messiah, but "a regionally-selected messiah for a '100-mile radius'... The film is currently making the rounds at film festivals, and I hope it receives the much wider audience that it deserves."

BlackBook's realized a terrific idea: Sit Philip Seymour Hoffman and New Yorker editor David Remnick down together and get them to talk about Truman Capote. Also: Screenwriter and novelist David Benioff gets Don Cheadle and Ryan Gosling talking about the state of things in general.

Darren Hughes picks "My Top Five Spiritually Significant Films."

Ordet / The Decalogue

David Lowery replies with a list of his own.

In the New York Times - on the editorial page, no less - Lawrence Downes remembers Pat Morita, "one of the last survivors of a generation of Asian-American actors who toiled within a system that was interested only in the stock Asian."

Also, Charles McGrath considers the "very different Restoration" evoked in The Libertine from, say, Restoration, and, from this week's new DVD releases, Dave Kehr highlights in particular Emile de Antonio's Point of Order and Peter Watkins's Punishment Park.

Nick Rombes finds Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse "uniquely frightening... Near the end of the film, there is an especially unsettling scene..." And he walks you through it, shot by shot.

Pulse / Public Lighting

Acquarello: "Mike Hoolboom continues to refine the tonally complex, multi-chapter, mixed media compositions of his 2003 video essay, Imitations of Life with his latest - and equally ambitious and inspired - offering, Public Lighting."

Yes! Filmbrain joins the Cinemarati.

In the Agony Booth Forum, rosybloom posts an anonymously told tale (originally told here) of the long and silly (and expensive) road to Superman Returns. Slashdotters discuss.

Bill Gibron at PopMatters: "If you believe that Italians offered the best examples of neo-realism in cinema, think again. You haven't seen the mind-numbing dullness of true reality until you've witnessed the work of Coleman Francis."

DK Holm's new "Nocturnal Admissions" column at Movie Poop Shoot is once again just too honking big to encapsulate, but: plenty of movies, DVDs and books, plus one literary hoax are reviewed (and I was actually pleasantly surprised by Asia Argento's The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things; ultimately, the hoax probably won't skew my appreciation) and, of course, reviewed well.

"Smugness" is "what connects Good Night, and Good Luck, The Squid and the Whale, North Country, The Dying Gaul, The Weather Man, Syriana and Capote - some of the year's most acclaimed yet detestable films," writes Armond White in the New York Press. But wait, there's more: "Smugness may be at the heart of the low attendance problem that perplexes Hollywood this year." Why hasn't anyone else thought of this? Via Ray Pride at Movie City News.

Also: White's review of Syriana (more from David Denby in the New Yorker, who, just as startlingly, detects "that something unhappy in the national mood has crept into the movies"; you think?) and Matt Zoller Seitz on The Libertine.

Ray Pride interviews Harold Ramis for Movie City News. Speaking of which, in the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein takes potshots at David Poland (who's responded), Jeffrey Wells and Tom O'Neil (who also responds). Related: Eugene Hernandez on Wells's Sundance predictions: "If that rate of about 20 percent accuracy holds up, it's quite distressing."

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back: "The Pinky Violence Collection is a fantastic entry-point to a genre that, until very recently, was almost completely inaccessible to the Western viewer. In the 1970s, facing stiff competition from television, the Japanese film industry fought back by providing viewers with what television couldn't - excessive sex and violence."

Pinky Collection / Marebito

Surrounded and ambushed by the Reverse Shot trio at indieWIRE this week: Takashi Shimizu's Marebito.

At Salon, Allen Barra on the persistence of The Warriors.

Greg Ursic has a pair of Match Point-related interviews at Hollywood Bitchslap: Scarlett Johansson and Emily Mortimer. Related: A first impression you can trust: Anthony Kaufman.

Christopher Campbell has harsh words for The Boys of Baraka at Cinematical.

At nthposition, CS Lewis's letter to a BBC producer: "A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy." Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Rowan Atkinson will once again play a vicar in Keeping Mum; John Mullan looks back on a grand English tradition. Also in the Guardian, Andrew Pulver on why we should take Madonna's directing ambitions seriously and Justin McCurry on what's upset many in China and Japan about Memoirs of a Geisha even before it opens. Related: Alison Willmore's Geisha roundup at the IFC Blog and Dave Kehr: "Shohei Imamura's version of Memoirs of a Geisha would have been something to see, but of course, Sony Pictures Entertainment (a Japanese company, I believe) would not for one minute have considered entrusting this Japanese subject to a Japanese filmmaker - certainly not when the director of Chicago was available."

Tropical Malady / Last Days

Also: Dave Kehr's takes on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady and Gus Van Sant's Last Days.

Up-n-coming:

At Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explains why, for the studios, "downloading for dollars may prove irresistible - even if it means doing away with the windowing system."

John Borland tracks the technical implications of Sony's Blu-ray discs for Microsoft and Apple at CNET.

Online viewing tip #1. Your shot at watching the first 26 minutes of This Divided State has been extended another week.

Online viewing tip #2. Let Screenhead point you to Andreas Nilsson's video for Junip's "Black Refuge."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:45 PM

Indie Spirit. Nominations.

Noah Baumbach Gregg Kilday in the Hollywood Reporter: "With six nominations, Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, the autobiographical tale of two boys dealing with their parents' divorce, led the list of nominees for Film Independent's 2006 Independent Spirit Awards." The full list follows, but it should be mentioned that, with four nominations each, the other competitors for best feature are Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

More from Eugene Hernandez at indieWIRE.

Update: Aaron Dobbs considers several of the nominees.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM

Fests and events, 11/29.

Amos Gitai The retrospective "Hard Questions: The Films of Amos Gitai" runs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from November 30 through December 8; in the New York Times, Steven Erlanger considers "Gitai's efforts to mix documentary techniques into a fictional form, to capture the confusions and cracked truths of the Middle East conflict in films with narrative drive."

For the Hollywood Reporter, Randee Dawn congratulates Jim Jarmusch for receiving a Gotham Awards feature tribute from the IFP and Trisha Tucker talks with another tributee, Matt Dillon while Gregg Goldstein surveys the event as a whole.

Hans Helmut Prinzler discusses the 30th Retrospective slated for the Berlinale (February 9 through 19): "The films of [the 50s] depict changes, experiences that are naturally linked to the Second World War, and also the new political conditions. Women and actresses in certain roles reacted to the times in very diverse ways and this can be seen in the films we selected."

Brian Brooks sends a dispatch from the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam into indieWIRE (and Matt Dentler's been snapping shots), where Michael Gibbons reports on the Mix Brasil Film and Video Festival of Sexual Diversity.

Sujewa Ekanayake will be talking about making Date Number One at the Kensington Row Bookshop in Maryland at 7:30 pm on Thursday.

For the Al-Ahram Weekly, Mohamed El-Assyouti looks ahead to the Cairo International Film Festival, through December 9. Via Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:39 PM

Dimension's end.

Lars Von Trier Some snicker at Lars von Trier's rules and the obstructions but never at a poet's rhyme and meter. Willfully submitting to limits can spark a certain creative friction - unless the overall setup is simply too overwhelming.

Filmz.de points to a short report in Die Welt (and in German): Von Trier is giving up on Dimension, a project he started in 1991 for which he'd been shooting three minutes a year. The premiere was slated for 2024. The aging of the actors, which included Udo Kier, Jean-Marc Barr, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge and Eddie Constantine (the latter two, of course, have since passed), was to have been incorporated thematically in the film.

You have to figure, depending on whether or not he shot anything this year, that he's got either 39 or 42 minutes. Die Welt reports that the fate of this footage has not yet been determined.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:22 PM

Sundance. The lineup.

Sundance 06 There are various ways of looking at the lineup for Sundance 06. If you're actually going or simply obsess on these things for whatever reason, you can download the PDF from the site, blow it up and hang it over your desk. Or, more reasonably, you can click straight to Eugene Hernandez's excellent breakdown at indieWIRE. It'll make you want to actually go.

What's more, Eugene's spoken with director of programming John Cooper and festival director Geoff Gilmore: "Nearly 50 first-timer feature filmmakers are set for Sundance 06, which Gilmore agreed includes many films coming from outside the typical channels. He also seemed to emphasize Sundance's roots, seeking to distinguish it from the many other leading film festivals in the world."

If I see further commentary over the next few days on how the fest's shaping up, I'll add pointers as updates to this entry.

Updates: Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter: "[P]rogrammers characterized the upcoming fest as a return to its roots in independent programming"; The Reeler's first impressions; Steve Rhodes has quite an entry on the docs.

Update, 11/30: Once again, Eugene Hernandez, this time introducing the Spectrum, Frontier, and Park City at Midnight sections. And indieWIRE has its Park City special section up and running as well.

Update, 12/1: Eugene Hernandez posts the lineup for the Premieres section, plus: the opening film will be Nicole Holofcener's Friends With Money and the fest will close with Nick Cassavetes's Alpha Dog.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:19 AM

November 28, 2005

MovieMaker. 60.

From its new issue, MovieMaker offers a few features and, almost more interesting, really, several "Hands On Pages." First, the features:

MovieMaker 60

  • Atom Egoyan offers ten "Golden Rules." Example: "9. Film directing is a strange and neurotically-inspired vocation. It sometimes involves coaxing and/or manipulating people to do things they wouldn’t consider doing otherwise."

  • David Fear talks with Thomas Vinterberg about Dear Wendy: "I am, by nature, a sentimental fool and I come from a more naive perspective.... But I think that, when it's done right, there isn’t a better way of dealing with a social issue like gun control than by making it the subject of a satire."

  • "Before the hurricane, New Orleans was a movie boomtown with an infrastructure capable of supporting an increasing number and variety of projects." Dave Roos looks into what happens now.

  • Sharon Knolle: "New York's Made in NY program - with new tax credit incentives, vendor discount programs and free advertising for films that complete 75 percent of their filming in the city - has kicked off a moviemaking renaissance in New York City."

  • What's the appeal of Asian horror in the West? Bryan Reesman asks around. Tartan Video's Tony Borg: "There aren't sweet little resolutions to these movies, and that's why they stick with you." Elite Entertainment's Vini Bancalari: "Many of these films are shot so beautifully, you forget you're watching horror."

Hands On:

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party

Posted by dwhudson at 8:25 AM

November 27, 2005

Shorts, 11/27.

Melton Barker There'll be no rest for the hunters and gatherers of film news. For one thing, Ray Pride's found an amazing story by Chris Garcia in the Austin American-Statesman about Melton Barker, an "itinerant filmmaker" gone missing, and Caroline Frick, an archivist and historian all but obsessed with finding out more about him.

Newsweek's Devin Gordon has seen Peter Jackson's King Kong and finds it "a surprisingly tender, even heartbreaking, film... Jackson has honored his favorite film in the best possible way: by recapturing its heart-pounding, escapist glee."

Linkage between the movies and the burning cars surrounding Paris have centered on Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine, but Geraldine Baum talks with Bibi Naceri about another relevant film he's co-written with Luc Besson. Banlieue 13, a dystopian Escape From New York-like actioner set in and around the Paris of 2010 has received upbeat reviews at Twitch (Todd and Matthew) and, stateside, will be heading straight to DVD. "The walls in my movie aren't there," Naceri tells Baum, "but there is so much violence and distrust that traps the innocent along with the criminals, it's as if the walls really exist."

Also in the Los Angeles Times:

  • "'It's amazing what a broad will do for a buck,' was friend Frank Sinatra's comment on the spiritual workshops [Shirley] MacLaine held in the mid-80s after the publication of Out on a Limb and Dancing in the Light," writes Mary McNamara. "But compared with Sinatra in his alcoholic, temper-plagued later years, MacLaine, at 71, is practically midcareer, with three movies out this year, including the upcoming Rumor Has It."

Brown Derby
  • "In its 50-year heyday, the Brown Derby was where Hollywood hung its hat." Cecilia Rasmussen relates the lore and laments the last remaining restaurant's demise.

  • Robert W Welkos: "Yes, as implausible as it might seem, Rocky Balboa is back for Round 6."

Ian Whitney introduces a new symposium: "As the writers of The Dual Lens look at the movies that they feel define America, we are also looking at the movies that define ourselves." So far: Whitney on The Parallax View ("Alan Pakula's 1974 conspiracy thriller defines the America of the early 1970s") and Davin Lagerroos on the battle of the coasts in Annie Hall.

Speaking of whom - no, that's not fair; she's much, much more - Michael Sragow talks with Diane Keaton for the Baltimore Sun. Via Movie City News.

"All the world loves to see the experts and the establishment made a fool of." It's a quote from Welles's F for Fake and from Pat H Broeske's piece on the man who spoke it, Clifford Irving. In the early 70s, Irving convinced McGraw-Hill and Life magazine that he'd transcribed Howard Hughes's autobiography, forcing the recluse to deny it via a televised phone call from the Bahamas. Now Lasse Hallström's made The Hoax with Richard Gere as Irving - who claims the film is "a hoax about a hoax."

Also in the New York Times:

Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me

  • Steve Chagollan, anticipating The New World: "Hollywood loves a romance, and its problem with Pocahontas, historically speaking, is that she and Smith were very likely never more than cordial allies."

  • Jori Finkel profiles Lynn Hershman Leeson: "[A]rt historians have begun to credit her as a pioneer. But until recently the technology has been recalcitrant. And so has the art world."

  • Perla Ciuk, briefly, on the International Film Festival of Morelia: "Political themes were popular at the festival, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Zapatista rebels in Chiapas and Guerrero have trained indigenous people in the use of cameras, computer editing and satellite Internet."

  • "You're born and you die, and between those two events, it's a really difficult and hard journey. That's life. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know," says Mike Leigh to Deborah Solomon.

  • Strawberry Saroyan: "[F]ormer child actors now routinely populate the screen and have occasionally emerged as masters of their craft."

  • Dave Itzkoff on the mysterious return of Dave Chappelle.

Photographer Kevin Cummins shoots celebs but also, and far more interestingly, their fans. Following his own story are testimonials from seven look-alikes (or maybe just look-alike wannabes).

Also in the Observer:

Mike Russell: Aeon Flux Mike Russell's "Not-so-secret history of Aeon Flux" is a nifty feature in the Boston Globe. Check out a few extra drawings at Mike's blog.

Jörg Tszman profiles Fatih Akin for Deutsche Welle.

Juan Diego Solanas's Nordeste has picked up top honors at the Stockholm International Film Festival. The BBC reports.

Online viewing tip. Koulamata's The French Democracy, via Clive Thompson by way of Fimoculous.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

November 26, 2005

Addenda.

Tristram Shandy Interrupting the long weekend break because, at Twitch, Kurt, who's also got news about Cronenberg's next one as well as possible release dates for Grind House, A Scanner Darkly and Ultraviolet, has found a trailer for Tristram Shandy - A Cock and Bull Story.

So, meanwhile... wait a minute. Last weekend, Richard Schickel praised three collections of criticism by John Simon in the Los Angeles Times, and this weekend, Simon's reviewing Schickel's biography of Elia Kazan in the New York Times. "No mere page turner, this is a page devourer..." Hm.

Also in the NYT, Nazila Fathi profiles Massoud Dehnamaki, "Iran's Michael Moore, having directed a documentary on the taboo issue of prostitution and another forthcoming film on soccer as a metaphor of political struggle."

Book reviews in the Guardian:

  • Frederic Raphael: "This new volume, Stanley Kubrick, Drama and Shadows: Photographs 1945-1950, reveals a command of camera angles which it is tempting to call 'instinctive,' but is more likely to have been planned as consciously as chess moves." More in German from Anke Westphal in the Berliner Zeitung (where Mariam Schaghaghi interviews Woody Allen).

  • Frank Cottrell reviews Rob Long's Set Up, Joke, Set Up, Joke, a slightly fictionalized account of his doing time on a US comedy series: "[T]here's a brilliant section on the nature and meaning of Hollywood gossip - Long points out that Hollywood is the least imaginative place on earth and therefore all its gossip is probably true."

  • A few dozen writers choose their books of the year.

Also in the Guardian:

Das Fliegende Auge

Elaine Dutka wonders: Did two synagogues charging admission to screenings of Ushpizin on DVD realize they ought to have gotten in touch with New Line Picturehouse first? Also in the Los Angeles Times: John Horn on why "a lightly Japanese-accented English" was chosen as a unifying audial identity for Memoirs of a Geisha.

Minnie the Moocher Online viewing tip. First a little background. My kids get both American and German holidays off (don't worry, they make up for it in the end), so we've been catching up with a few recent releases. My favorite by far, and perhaps my favorite new film of the year (which is to say, it's even threatening to knock A History of Violence off its perch, but that may be simply because I'm still under its spell) has been Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

When Mr Bonejangles sings out Emily's background story, I was reminded of a classic animated short I knew I simply had to show the kids later. Turns out, the reference was intentional, as Danny Elfman has told MTV's Larry Carroll, "There was, like, a link there to that kind of old jazz, and a little bit of a Max Fleischer, Betty Boop kind of influence."

And so, for you, too, Minnie the Moocher.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:14 PM | Comments (4)

November 25, 2005

Long weekend shorts.

La Chienne Jonathan Rosenbaum is going to make you want to track down Jean Renoir, the Boss: The Direction of Actors: Dialogue. "Don't think you know what this documentary is doing if you've seen only clips from it, such as those included on the DVD of Boudu [Saved From Drowning] recently released by Criterion, which treats Rivette's film as raw material to be plundered," he writes in the Chicago Reader. "The full version - edited by the legendary Jean Eustache (The Mother and the Whore), a post-New Wave figure as uncompromising as Renoir and Rivette - is as radical in its own way as Boudu."

The Gospel According to St Matthew Well, I know what I'll be doing over the Christmas holidays: revisiting the Pinakotek der Moderne in Munich, this time to see the exhibition, PPP - Pier Paolo Pasolini and Death (through February 5). "Pasolini was a radical, then a poet, then a film-maker, and it is his radical moral sense that you see in his drawings," writes Jonathan Jones. "The oil lamps are as lyrical as the images of southern Italy in The Gospel According to St Matthew."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Geoffrey Macnab visits the set of Paul Verhoeven's first film since returning home from Hollywood: "Blackbook exposes a particularly uncomfortable moment in recent Dutch history: a period at the end of the second world war when the brutal occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazis fanned treachery, collaboration and anti-semitism. Verhoeven has been planning the project for more than 30 years."

  • Philip Hensher picks up where Caryn James left off in the New York Times: "The way Hollywood is rushing to reward heterosexual actors playing gay roles does not, really, reflect very well on its engagement." Meanwhile, Jamie Wilson rounds up some gay cowboys.

  • Tom Shone on why so many of us want to see horror movies these days.

  • John Patterson on musician biopics.

Film Weekly: Constance Cummings

Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "Syriana spreads before you a grand political vista, only to deny the possibility of political agency." Also, The Boys of Baraka: "[Heidi] Ewing and [Rachel] Grady are marathon-runner documentarians - the type who are committed to living with their subjects for months and years, and to discovering the film's content and shape along the way." And Punishment Park: "It took thirty-four years, but the near future of [Peter] Watkins's movie has now become our present."

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir once again turns in a sort of "special edition" of his "Beyond the Multiplex" column. He talks with Eran Riklis not only about his film, The Syrian Bride, but also about what Riklis calls a "revolutionary year" for Israeli cinema. "These movies are made by both Jews and Arabs about both Jews and Arabs (and others)," writes O'Hehir. "While the political context of the Middle East is necessarily never absent, these filmmakers are committed to transcending, and even subverting, the ideological orthodoxies that have defined Israeli (and Palestinian) life since 1948." A few further examples: Paradise Now, Wall, Another Road Home and Ushpizin.

Jonny Leahan at indieWIRE: "[T]here is a crop of new documentaries that pose very different questions about the same election - questions like 'How could Kerry have lost?' and 'Did those computerized machines really count your vote?'"

Il Conformista The revival of Bertolucci's The Conformist has had its run on the east coast and now it heads west, where David Thomson is not nearly as willing as many New Yorkers to pronounce it a flawless masterpiece. Even so, after pointing out a few problems as he sees them, he does agree that it is "a great film, drunkenly beautiful and deeply disturbing."

Also in the LA Weekly:

  • Nikki Finke is intrigued by the PR campaign for Spielberg's Munich, which will likely be extraordinarily minimal. Smart move; in a noisy season, silence may well conjure reverence.

  • Ella Taylor on Syriana: "Seldom have form, content and cultural sensibility been so excitably aligned as in this fascinating, exasperating film about the unholy marriage of power politics and global business." More from David Edelstein at Slate.

  • Scott Foundas has a talk with Syriana writer-director Stephen Gaghan - a good one.

  • Foundas is as repulsed by Rent as most other critics. More from Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper and, in the NYT, Jesse McKinley, who goes off in search of the East Village of 1989 and 1990, "when crime was high, morale was low and even getting a quart of milk seemed like an adventure."

The Passenger Also in the PCP: Sam Adams: "At once one of Michelangelo Antonioni's most mesmerizing and silliest movies, The Passenger glides forward on a cloud of anomie and movie-star charisma."

David Lowery on Lars von Trier's Manderlay: "This is not a film of liberal ideology, nor is it one in which liberal ideologies are unexpectedly subverted by conservatism. No, this is a film in which the political machine as a whole is subverted by the viciousness of human nature, and all the good and bad and mixed intentions that go along with it."

Alan Riding: "[A]rt, in the form of movies and rap music, has long been warning that French-born Arab and black youths felt increasingly alienated from French society and that their communities were ripe for explosion."

Also in the NYT:

Also in the LAT:

Moon Over Harlem Hollywood Detour: The Independent Mind of Edgar G Ulmer runs from November 29 through December 20 in Austin. Marjorie Baumgarten marvels at a most unusual career. Also in the Austin Chronicle: "If you imagine the annual convention of the international Association of Moving Image Archivists - taking place in Austin Nov 30 - Dec 1 - to be a gathering of fusty librarian types, think again." And Steve Uhler: "Brando's inventiveness makes The Missouri Breaks one of cinema's most compulsively watchable train wrecks."

Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix: "Critics are given license to unzip in The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to Movies That Turn Us On (Da Capo Press). I promise you a genuinely raunchy anthology."

"Leafing through the opening of Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause - Us Magazine veterans Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel's book on the making of [Nicholas] Ray's greatest film - you'd be forgiven for thinking it tabloid gossip, full of sex and sorrow, embarrassment and embitterment," writes Gregopry McNamee in the Hollywood Reporter. But "their book is an eminently serious, revealing look behind the scenes at a film that seemed ill-fated long before it opened."

Cinematical's Martha Fischer remembers Pat Morita, 1932 - 2005.

Also: Robert Newton talks with Marc Levin about his Protocols of Zion.

Saul Symonds in Light Sleeper: "When you start taking apart a film that looks as simple, and turns out to be as intricate as The Bird People in China, is it surprising to have trouble finding a place to put all the pieces?" Also: Cisco Pike.

In the Independent, James Mottram interviews Laura Linney and offers a theory as to what's gone wrong with Bee Season and Where the Truth Lies. Also, in Charlotte Cripps's short piece on the Qatsi Trilogy, we learn that director Godfrey Reggio "is looking for funding for Savage Eden, 'a comedic cinematic opera' that will be his first film to feature actors."

Cut: Anthony Hopkins "When I was young and arrogant and pugnacious, like a lot of young actors are, I wanted to do it all myself, and in those days I thought, 'Who needs directors?' It took me some years to mellow out and gather a respect for directors," Anthony Hopkins tells John Hiscock. Also in the Telegraph: Sukhdev Sandhu on the "winning musical drama," Mrs Henderson Presents, and Craig McLean's interview with Tilda Swinton.

Jason Gray attends one helluva party. Via Todd at Twitch, where Mack points to Sci Fi Wire's chat with Michelle Yeoh about working on Danny Boyle's Sunshine and Todd notes that there's probably going to be a Bubba Nosferatu.

Flipbook Printer and, for Macs, Movie Flipper. Via Drawn!.

Dave Kehr: "I still think it's hilarious that the studios believe film critics and Academy members to be significant sources of bootleg videos."

Online viewing tip. "Standoff," an ad for the XBox 360; Amanda Nanawa, a welcome new blogger at indieWIRE, has got a copy.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Screenhead gathers more amusing ads for more amusing products.

Online viewing tips, round 2. A trailer and clips for Abel Ferrara's Mary. Via Todd at Twitch, where he's also hosting two short works "directed by Velasco Broca with help from Nacho Vigalondo."

Online viewing tips, round 3. Pointing to Daniel Birnbaum's 2003 Artforum piece on Dieter Roth, DVblog also has two short films.

Online viewing and fiddling around tips. At Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin collects a batch of silly fast-food links for your cheap and immediate gratification.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:15 PM

LA CityBeat. Holiday preview.

LA CityBeat If you're looking for another annotated holiday release calendar, Andy Klein's got one for you in the LA CityBeat. Moreover, he's got a fine piece on the two-disc King Kong DVD in which he notes that the movie he's "anticipating with the greatest hope and the greatest anxieties is Peter Jackson's remake."

Klein, underwhelmed by Rent but impressed by Brokeback Mountain, also talks Ang Lee through his career while David Ehrenstein, anticipating Breakfast on Pluto, chats up Neil Jordan and Cillian Murphy: "We've all got to find our inner Mitzi Gaynor!"

"The two pillars of cinema's 'secret histories' - and two of my favorite books on the subject - are David Thomson's Suspects and Geoffrey O'Brien's The Phantom Empire," writes Anthony Miller. "Five recent books about film offer their own 'secret histories'... these are books to keep on your shelves to return to, to choose films from, to quote from, to quarrel with, and, most of all, to get lost in." Miller has a paragraph each on Thomson's The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood, David E James's The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles, Mark Feeney's Nixon at the Movies: A Book About Belief, Clinton Heylin's Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios and Theodore Roszak's Flicker.

Dean Kuipers: "Despite a focused joint effort by studios, producers, and unions to restore California and Los Angeles as affordable filming options, the situation continues to worsen."

Steve Appleford interviews Harvey Pekar: "I'm pretty disappointed that at this point superheroes are still the most popular form of comic books." And as for American Splendor, "That lovable-curmudgeon stuff is really starting to choke me."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:47 AM

November 23, 2005

Shorts, 11/23.

Heavens. "New York scoops up David Edelstein from Slate," reads the mediabistro headline. The piece notes that New York is looking to spiff up its site by getting bloggier. No word on when this'll happen, so, will there or won't there be a "Movie Club" at Slate this year? Via Movie City News.

Also: David Poland resorts Jeffrey Wells's preview of Sundance 06, January 19 through 29.

Torino Film Festival Dave Kehr: "The Torino Film Festival makes it very easy to live in the past with the exhaustive retrospectives they put on, and this year was no exception, with a complete career retrospective devoted to the work of Walter Hill, the first half of an exhaustive Claude Chabrol retro that will be completed next year, and smaller tributes devoted to the American indie Lodge Kerrigan, the pre-Code films of Alfred E Green (whose 1932 Baby Face remains an astonishment) and the late Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka."

NP Thompson eviscerates The Producers: "[I]t's a stinkeroo to end all stinkeroos, a Thanksgiving turkey, and a lump of coal in this year’s horror-day stocking all meretriciously rolled into one."

So what else is playing...

Rent

Rent:

  • Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene: "Watching the movie version of Rent in 2005, I know how ex-hippies felt watching Hair in 1978. God knows HIV and poverty aren't going away anytime soon, but the late Jonathan Larson's East Village reworking of La Bohème attacks them with the kind of earnest Broadway bombast that dates on arrival - especially when it purports to rock." Also: The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.

  • In the New York Observer, where Rebecca Dana and Lizzy Ratner have an important piece on how we've allowed the media to sleep through the war in Iraq, Choire Sicha establishes the historical context of the play before turning to the film: "It makes the East Village look a little less authentic than Sesame Street, a little more than It's a Wonderful Life. It's illusory, despicable and the worst sort of rewriting of history, because that history has actually never really been written in the first place."

  • Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "Rent is commodified faux bohemia on a platter, eliciting the same kind of numbing soul-sadness as children's beauty pageants, tiny dogs in expensive boots, Mahatma Gandhi in Apple ads."

  • AO Scott in the New York Times: "Rent is often dramatically jumbled and musically muddled - but every time the film seemed ready to tip into awfulness, the sneer on my lips was trumped by the lump in my throat."

  • Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "I wasn't sure a movie musical could be worse than last year's styrofoam-and-gilt swan-boat travesty Phantom of the Opera, but I'm afraid Rent proves me wrong."

  • Jorge Morales (Voice): "Rent is about as timely now as Gigi."

  • Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "It doesn't do what Chicago did, reimagining and stylizing the source material for the big screen."

  • Karina Longworth at Cinematical: "By erring, at every turn, on the side of fan-wary caution, [Chris] Columbus has made a film that will probably go over splendidly with devoted 'Rentheads.' The problem will lie in not just pleasing, but in fooling, everyone else."

  • Nathan Rabin at the AV Club finds it "plays like Last Exit To Brooklyn as reinterpreted by Up With People."

  • Dylan Hicks in the City Pages on trying to review the thing: "[I]t feels like shooting fish in a barrel, only the fish are puppies." (Also: Matthew Wilder on William Eggleston in the Real World.)

Syriana

Syriana:

  • AO Scott (NYT): "[I]ts sheer entertainment value... is worth emphasizing... Someone is sure to complain that the world doesn't really work the way it does in Syriana: that oil companies, law firms and Middle Eastern regimes are not really engaged in semiclandestine collusion, to control the global oil supply and thus influence the destinies of millions of people. OK, maybe. Call me naïve - or paranoid, or liberal, or whatever the favored epithet is this week - but I'm inclined to give [Stephen] Gaghan the benefit of the doubt."

  • Stephanie Zacharek (Salon): "Syriana often feels more complicated than it needs to be, and there are too many places where its willful complexity undercuts what the actors are doing.... It's as if Gaghan knows we're up to the challenge he's handing us and yet secretly hopes we're not - maybe because the more confused we get, the smarter he looks."

  • Kenneth Turan (LAT): "Syriana is a fearless and ambitious piece of work, made with equal parts passion and calculation, an unapologetically entertaining major studio release with compelling real-world relevance, a film that takes numerous risks and thrives on them all."

  • J Hoberman in the Village Voice: "[B]y far the Bushiest of Bush II thrillers... The ensemble is stellar... The movie may be too knowing for its own good, but it's not glib and it never goes cheesy."

The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest:

  • Manohla Dargis (NYT): "There is very little fun in The Ice Harvest, which wouldn't pose a problem if the film had some fleshed-out ideas to go along with the booze, the booty and the recycled plot points."

    J Hoberman (Voice): "Funny, tense, and exceedingly well made... This is one of the most sustained movies of the year, as classic in its structure as Double Indemnity or No Exit."

  • Keith Phipps: "[Harold] Ramis is at his best when dealing with men facing a soul-defining crisis, and he finds plenty to work with in [Richard] Russo and [Robert] Benton's script, which offers Russo's trademark blend of colorful characters and slow-building dilemmas. The Ice Harvest finds them all operating in top form in as dark a territory as they've ever explored."

  • For Kevin Thomas (LAT), it's "a classic guilty pleasure."

  • James Rocchi at Cinematical: "[T]he big names in the credits... somehow wind up making for a very little movie."

  • Mike Russell: "Following Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, it's maybe the year's second-greatest Christmas noir."

Also in the NYT:

Olivier
  • "In the early 1960s, Laurence Olivier defined the goal of acting to Michael Gambon, his young protégé at the National Theater. Every member of the audience, he said, both male and female, should want to have sex with you." William Grimes reviews Terry Coleman's Olivier. Related: MaryAnn Johanson at Cinemarati: "We go to the movies to watch beautiful people do exciting things while we imagine ourselves having sex with them."

  • Jeannette Catsoulis: "Part road trip, part love story... 39 Pounds of Love presents a bracingly honest yet poetic portrait of a man refusing to be defined by the limitations of his body." More from R Emmet Sweeney in the Voice.

Also in the Voice:

Match Point Also in the New York Observer: Scott Eyman on Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Andrew Sarris on Match Point and Rex Reed on Mrs Henderson Presents.

Also in the SFBG: Dennis Harvey on Dorian Blues: "There's something to be said for a first film whose faults aren't those of indulgence or excess." More from Nathan Rabin at the AV Club.

Also at the AV Club: Scott Tobias on I Am Cuba: The Siberian Mammoth and Gilles' Wife.

"Time (and an overwhelming need to see it a second time) doesn't permit for a full length review, but Filmbrain is seriously toying with the idea that Love Streams might be [Cassavetes's] greatest film."

Glenn Abel in the Hollywood Reporter: "Old weird Americana takes a bow in the sprawling and richly rewarding DVD set Unseen Cinema."

Tokyo Decadence (1992) has finally made it to Korea and, in the Korean Times, Kim Tae-jong asks director Ryu Murakami why he thinks it took so long.

Ray Pride: "Indiapost.com gets the Hare Krishna perspective on Bee Season, which includes Aaron, a young man played by Max Minghella, finding a devotee (played with Hare Barbie gleam by Kate Bosworth) almost as irresistable as her religious beliefs."

Kevin Smith responds to AICN's Talkbackers.

At Flickhead, Ray Young reviews Ringers: Lord of the Fans, "the latest addition to a subgenre of recent documentaries about aficionados in the throes of their showbiz-related passions."

"This is not a 'death of cinema' essay, and I firmly believe that cinema and post-cinema can and should coexist," writes Matthew Clayfield at BRAINTRUSTdv. That said, "We are forever in need of new formal models - new ways of seeing images, hearing sounds, and of being in the world - and the post-cinematic landscape is rife with possibilities."

Nick Rombes: "Movies are losing their bodies, and so are screens."

Online browsing tip. At Worth100.com, "Director's Cut 6: Movie scenes you didn't get to see." Via MCN.

Online viewing tip. Park Hopping 3D Video Podcast, Disney rides to take wearing red and green glasses, via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, where Xeni Jardin is covering the MPAA-BitTorrent deal. Slashdotters discuss.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:51 AM

Midnight Eye.

Buried Forest "In what seems like an active form of resistance to the feverish pace of film production in Japan, [Kohei] Oguri has directed only five feature films in a 25-year career," writes Tom Mes. "The impact each of them has made, on the other hand, has been formidable." Mentions of Oscar and Cannes follow, and then, "The Buried Forest like Oguri's previous films, is an attempt to reawaken our capacity to interact with images. The casual viewer might complain that there is no story, but they would be wrong. There is no plot, perhaps, but there are stories aplenty."

Oguri is also the featured interviewee in this new issue of Midnight Eye. Because human vision and the film image are so radically different by nature, "cinema becomes fiction," he tells Mes. "Instead of trying to overcome that hurdle by widening the scope of the image, we can emphasise the fiction, to try to find the reality within the fictional image."

The other feature sees Alexander Jacoby looking back on Pordenone, or the Giornate del Cinema Muto, a festival of silent film staged last month in Sacile. Japan was the focus this year, specifically, "the gendai-geki: films about contemporary life," including four by Mikio Naruse and other works by Hiroshi Shimizu, Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and many others.

The idea behind Mes and Adam Campbell's roundup is open enough: All five films hit Japanese theaters this year. Mes's favorite, though, Ryuichi Hiroki's "powerful, uncompromisingly intimate" It's Only Talk, has a page all its own.

Adam Campbell's review of Train Man offers background on the enormous popularity of other "whimsical" love stories like it, such as Crying Out Love and Korea's My Sassy Girl.

We need a book like Japanese Horror Cinema, notes Jasper Sharp, "a timely and welcome attempt at creating a wider discourse around this vital aspect of modern global film culture. Unfortunately, taken as a whole, it is not an entirely successful one."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:44 AM

November 22, 2005

Shorts, 11/22.

Yvonne Rainer "[P]erhaps the key to understanding [Yvonne] Rainer's work is that there isn't always a key," writes acquarello after reading Shelly Green's Radical Juxtaposition: The Films of Yvonne Rainer, though he does find one consistent element.

Jeremiah Kipp interviews Down to the Bone writer-director Debra Granik for Filmmaker.

Dave Kehr: "Never has the repressed returned as mightily as it did in Kong, a film that remains a riot of phallic symbolism in which the Empire State Building is only a supporting player." Also in the New York Times: Gina Bellafante on TCM's I'm King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C Cooper.

Fritz Lang For the Los Angeles Times DVD column, Susan King chooses to highlight the Fritz Lang releases Kehr also writes about.

"Recognizing that the holidays aren't a holly, jolly time for everyone, filmmaker Harold Ramis teamed up with John Cusack to create a comedy so dark, it could make even the sourest of Grinches curl his toes." Heather Havrilesky talks to the director and star for Salon. Ramis is also a guest on Fresh Air.

"It's colder in Manhattan than it is in Iceland - and the Christmasy thing is a bit insane!" She's right, you know. Christmas is already stuffing the stores here in Berlin, too. Besides that, though, Björk tells New York's Luke Crisell about working on Drawing Restraint 9.

Winding up the year seems to grow more exhausting each time around. Maybe Rex has the right idea: start early. He's already got his "Lists: 2005" page up at Fimoculous. At the moment, there's only one film list, Metacritic's evolving "Best-Reviewed Movies of 2005," but with a slew prestige titles slated for a December deluge, it's probably best not to start too early.

"The absence of hypocrisy and the opportunity to get it all out, are not enough. Nor are self-reflexivity and meta-irony substitutes for vision," writes Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect. "Perhaps I'm asking too much of Sarah Silverman, her fans might say - she's a comic. But she is a superbly smart one, brilliant at what she does, and she can clearly do more."

Hard to beat Jasmina Tesanovic's title for her brief piece in Make (here, as a PDF): "How to Make a Film, With No Money, While Being Bombed." Via Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing.

Speaking in Images Michael Berry has "written a book Speaking in Images that is the best book of interviews with Chinese directors that I've ever read," announces Grady Hendrix.

Takeshis'? Three out of five stars from Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

Kyu Hyun Kim finds Lee Woo-chul's Cello "almost stupifyingly dull." Also at Koreanfilm.org, Adam Hartzell on Yeo Kyun-dong's Silk Shoes.

None of the Reverse Shot trio of reviewers thinks much of The Libertine.

In the Independent, David Thomson admires Jodie Foster.

Hannah Patterson looks back on last month's Lisbon International Documentary Film Festival. Also in Kamera: Calum Waddell chats with Bill Moseley.

For the Austin Business Journal, Chantal Outon reports on the first round of films to be produced by the Truly Indie initiative. Via Movie City Indie.

"Why do so many people insist that cinema is dead (or dying)?" asks Chuck Tryon. "And, a slightly different question, what are the desires involved in witnessing the death of cinema?" That's the more interesting one, isn't it.

The theatrical release of a big budget movie is just "a promotional thing," George Lucas tells Paula Parisi in an interview for the Hollywood Reporter's "ILM at 30" special section. "I mean, you could chop that off in a second, and it wouldn't even bother them." Nonetheless, "I don't think the theatrical exhibition business will go away because I think people will always want to go to the movies, just as they go to the opera, they go to the ballet, and they go to football games." But George, those are live events.

On a related note, Patrick Goldstein sums up this year's conventional wisdom in the LAT: "The era of moviegoing as a mass audience ritual is slowly but inexorably drawing to a close, eroded by many of the same forces that have eviscerated the music industry, decimated network TV and, yes, are clobbering the newspaper business. Put simply, an explosion of new technology - the Internet, DVDs, video games, downloading, cellphones and iPods - now offers more compelling diversion than 90% of the movies in theaters, the exceptions being Harry Potter-style must-see events or the occasional youth-oriented comedy or thriller."

For years, a German tax shelter "provided Hollywood with an El Dorado of easy cash for the past quarter-century and allowed studios to increase their earnings without any risk," writes Edward Jay Epstein at Slate. "Now it is dead."

The Trio network's going Net-only, notes Steve Monaco at Culture to Go.

Scott Ard writes a FAQ for CNET: "Behind TiVo's play for iPod, PSP."

Stubbs the Zombie Dave Heaton rates new soundtracks for PopMatters.

Sam and Jim Go To Hollywood. Via Ed Champion.

E.T. and Marlon Brando talk Harry Potter in Chris Shadoian's Popcorn Picnic at Flak.

Online viewing tip #1. At DVblog, "3 fascinating clips from a documentary film on the legendary underground photographer and filmmaker, from Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.

Online viewing tip #2. Moving Fashion. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Online viewing tip #3. For a few days only, the first 26 minutes of This Divided State.

So. As of today, Germany has a new chancellor. Though I consider myself a social democrat, I am, oddly enough, not particularly bummed out. In the meantime, a September entry from Alex Ross.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:55 AM | Comments (2)

November 20, 2005

Shorts, 11/20.

Jacques Demy Jonathan Romney in Modern Painters: "In [Jacques] Demy's cinema, the everyday is magically transmuted, with even the drab port towns of northern and western France - Cherbourg, Rochefort, the director's native Nantes - becoming poetically heightened, visually amplified locales for stories that are bigger, more jubilant and more heart-rending than realism ever affords."

Matthew Wilder in the City Pages: "[O]ne of the signature pleasures of Bresson's work, whether he would have liked it said or not, is its magnificent acting - as strong and truthful as that of the writhing Method performers in an Elia Kazan movie."

Ken Worpole for openDemocracy: "For those of us for whom Bergman's films have provided much of the imagery of our interior worlds - in my case for something like forty years - Saraband is as fearsome and emotionally terrifying as ever."

Short but beautiful Jonas Mekas snippet at Invisible Cinema.

Signandsight translates Katja Nicodemus's interview with Lars von Trier for Die Zeit. Q: "What would be Condoleeza Rice's role in your Manderlay plantation?" A:: "She would be a 'good' slave. One who works in the master's house."

"Can someone who loves American movies really hate America?" asks Joseph Braude, author of The New Iraq:

In the Arab world, Hollywood rivals the mosque for impact on the popular imagination. Conservative Muslims may stick with tradition and condemn the U.S. film industry as an instrument of American or Jewish hegemony, but the movies have a wider audience in the Middle East than ever before and a fan base that spans the cultural spectrum. Often under the cover of the Internet, Hollywood images are fueling discussions about almost anything, from the prosaic to the political.

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Rachel Abramowitz profiles Heath Ledger. Related: Choire Sicha in the New York Observer: "Brokeback Mountain may be the first film to come out of Hollywood since God knows when which doesn't whimper over the difficulties of finding love, assessing love, complaining about love or denouncing love."

Seoul Train Independently produced Seoul Train DVDs are now available at the site, notes acquarello at Cinemarati: "I'm heartened that more people will get a chance to see this powerful film because the humanitarian crisis in North Korea really is such an underreported tragedy, much like most human rights violations that don't conveniently serve the political agendas of the governments of 'civilized nations'."

"The Bush administration's failure to pull themselves out of their current military quagmire has apparently sparked renewed interest in the films that documented the conflict in Vietnam," writes Jane Fonda in her piece in the Guardian on two revivals and a new doc.

Sir! No Sir!

  • She quotes Vincent Canby on Hearts and Minds: "I don't think the film means to knock American achievements but only to point out that a certain lack of perspective, of modesty, perhaps, can be close to fatal."

  • She recalls her own involvement in realizing Winter Soldier: "Today, we do those who served in Vietnam a grave disservice to feign outrage at what these men said and did, and to deny that any atrocities were committed by Americans."

  • And she recommends Sir! No Sir!, "which shows how some of the most dedicated troops turned their backs on violence and devoted themselves to the peace movement."

Related: The cinetrix has a story about The Green Berets and the US Senate. Back to the Guardian and Observer:

That last one's inspired by the silly fact that, as you've probably heard, Pride & Prejudice ends differently in the UK than it does in the US. IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez finds that this sort of tweaking is "increasingly commonplace in Indiewood." Also, as November races outta here, indieWIRE's set up its "Awards Watch." Anthony Kaufman: "With national pride on the line, not to mention increased value, the Academy's single award for foreign achievement raises significant anxiety overseas - as well as here at home."

Meanwhile, Oscar's list of potential nominees in the Animated Feature category is now down to ten. Via the SXSW News Reel.

Syriana Early reviews in the Hollywood Reporter: "[T]he character and geographical jumps leave you in a muddle with thinly sketched personalities and confusing plot points," writes Kirk Honeycutt. "Worse, dialogue dense with nuance and shaded meaning flies by too quickly. So what Syriana feels like is a television miniseries condensed into two hours." Related: AICN's Moriarty has a long talk with writer/director Stephen Gaghan. More Honeycutt: Rob Marshall has - surprise! - "Americanized" Memoirs of a Geisha.

"From the first Golden Age that emerged from the shadows of World War I and the Great Depression to the fears and anxieties of post-World War II America that gave birth to film noir, social unrest arguably makes for more-compelling cinema." For the Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Cassidy asks a slew of filmmakers if we might be entering another such phase. Via Movie City Indie.

John Simon on Film "John Simon is a critic who improves with age," writes Richard Schickel in a piece for the LAT on three new collections of Simon's film, theater and music reviews. "Or, perhaps what I want to say is that he improves in our age, during which there has been a noticeable decline in the amount of space and attention that general-interest journalism cares to devote to discerning and knowledgeable criticism."

"I consider Agee one of the five major American film critics, the others being Otis Ferguson, Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael," announces Phillip Lopate immediately after writing, "Before he quit to write Hollywood screenplays, he left a substantial record of moviegoing that has inspired many reviewers since, while irritating the hell out of others." Also in the Nation: Olivier, a biography by Terry Coleman, has not been well received, but never mind. David Thomson has stories to tell about the actor anyway.

Arin Crumley and Susan Buice's Four Eyed Monsters has done fairly well on the festival circuit but has yet to score a distributor. Even so, the couple's done extraordinarily well in the PR department. Their vlog's been noted on a wide variety of blogs, including this one, and they've seen heavy coverage at indieWIRE, where they're also blogging, laudatory mentions elsewhere, and now, they're Exhibit A in Charles Lyons's piece in the New York Times in that they "appear typical of a generation of filmmakers determined to bring their visions to the screen, never mind that a staggering number of completed films don't get farther than the filmmakers' closets. In one measure of the glut, the 2005 Sundance Film Festival received more than 2,600 feature-film submissions - up nearly 30 percent from a year earlier - and selected only 120."

Also in the NYT, the Big Three are on a roll this week:

Armond White on Jim Sheridan's Get Rich or Die Tryin': "A moviemaker who can detail the conflict of retribution and rebirth that was at the heart of Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson's Irish-troubles love story in The Boxer should have been able to see through Fitty's bluster and question the way hip-hop, post-Dr Dre (Fitty's sometime producer), has corrupted the African American human-rights struggle." Also in the NYP: Jennifer Merin interviews Ric Burns.

Steven Mikulan, LAW: "Now that his latest documentary is out, Greenwald is finding that the real work is just beginning as he spends the next two months crisscrossing the country and Europe to promote Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price."More on the doc itself from Chuck Tryon. Also, Mikulan's talk with George McGovern about One Bright Shining Moment.

The Dying Gaul Dennis Harvey in the SFBG: "Shamelessly schematic, effectively cinematic, and brilliantly performed by all three principals (especially [Peter] Sarsgaard, pushing himself just shy of excess mannerism), The Dying Gaul is a striking gambit that will reward those who like their dramatic cocktails strong, with a bitter aftertaste."

Girish: "So, tell me: your favorite literary adaptations? And why?" The conversation spills over into the chutry experiment.

Russian Insider: Blogging Russian animation. Via Coudal Partners.

AICN's Moriarty has a huge update on Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon, which is, yes, a remake of The Poseidon Adventure.

Interviews in the Independent: Kaleem Aftab with Martin Scorsese ("I don't know if I have the patience any more to do a film in a sense for them [Hollywood], and to find myself in a film for them"; The Departed, it turns out, has been made primarily for Leonardo DiCaprio) and Phil Hoad with Terrence Dashon Howard.

For Grist, and via Alternet, Amanda Griscom Little talks with Larry David about Earth to America!, "a two-hour comedy extravaganza produced by Laurie [David] and starring Larry that is designed to get America laughing - and, more to the point, learning - about global warming." Sunday night, TBS; more from Michael Janofsky in the NYT.

Sujewa Ekanayake has a brief chat with Caveh Zahedi. Related: Chuck Tryon reviews I Am a Sex Addict.

AICN's Quint chats up Harold Ramis.

Beat Takeshi Vs Takeshi Kitano Grady Hendrix reads Casio Abe's Beat Takeshi Vs Takeshi Kitano and several Japanese books that have been made into Japanese films.

Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "What is so disquieting, unnerving, even distasteful about Vengeance is Mine is that, in closely following Enokizu's murder-spree, in its refusal to offer simple explanations or moral judgments on what is depicted onscreen, and through its frequent use of black humor, the film seems largely to sympathize with the sociopathic killer." Also: Rumsey Taylor on Bad Timing.

Filmmaker, writer, musician, etc Amir Motlagh is revving up his first narrative feature and blogging about it.

Oh, my. Flipbook.info. Via Drawn!.

In the New Statesman, Boyd Farrow lists the conservative Christian groups who've poured money into The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and notes that the wave of merchandise in the film's wake will be very unlike that for most other films as well.

Every time Heart on a Stick sees the Rent trailer, "I think to myself: You couldn't pay me to see that crap. And then I think again. You - YOU! - could pay me to see that crap. Thaaaaat's right. I'm offering the opportunity to MAKE ME SUFFER. For charity!" Via Movie City News.

"A spate of fall movies crashed and burned, movies that if they had been produced and marketed at the independent level might have worked," argues the Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson, sparking a response from David Poland, sparking, in turn, a response from Thompson.

Orson Welles Online listening tip #1. The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Via Matt Clayfield, who's been "Reading, Closely," and has an online viewing tip (and followup): Chasing Windmills.

Online listening tip #2. Sarah Silverman is Elvis Mitchell's guest on The Treatment.

Online listening tip #3. Jeffrey Wells launches his new talk radio show, Elsewhere Live, on Sunday, 7 pm PST.

Online viewing tips. Chuck Tryon points to this MCI ad; there's more to explore in the "Semiotics of Advertising" section of Landscapes of Capital.

Online listening and viewing tip. TheMovieTimes.Interviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:37 AM

Fests and events, 11/20.

The 10th Rencontres internationales Paris/Berlin runs through November 27, presenting "more than 250 cinema, video and multimedia works from Germany, France and 70 other countries."

Mind Game Matthew Forsythe is blogging from the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema (through Sunday) for fps. The most recent entry's on Mind Game which, for Filmbrain, calls up memories of Heavy Metal.

For Movie City News, Pablo Villaça grades 30 of the 61 films he's caught at the São Paulo International Film Festival.

At Twitch, El Duderino offers a string of capsules on the films he caught at the Torino Film Festival. Dave Kehr'll tell you who scored prizes.

Brian: "Whatever dam was holding them back, the centennial of [Mikio] Naruse's birth is opening the gates to allow prints of his films to flow into the view of Frisco cinephiles, now at a trickle and soon a healthy stream."

At indieWIRE:

Le chiavi di casa.jpg Cinematical's Martha Fischer looks ahead to the MoMA series, "Poetry in Motion: The Films of Gianni Amelio" (through November 30).

In the Independent, Charlotte Cripps previews Brief Encounters, the 11th Bristol International Short Film Festival, November 23 through 27.

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein previews the series, Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film, Part II," through December 11.

Next stop for the 1922 silent melodrama Beyond the Rocks with Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson: the "Lost and Found" series in LA, November 29. Susan King reports in the Los Angeles Times.

Film Forum's "Essential Hitchcock" series runs from December 9 through January 12.

The Reeler's looking forward to the "Epic Film Blog Orgy" at SoHo's Apple Store on December 16. (FWIW, indieWIRE very kindly asked, but I'll not be able to make it to NYC next month. Nonetheless, I look forward to reading all about it and maybe even seeing snapshot or two. Naughty ones, please!)

Posted by dwhudson at 4:25 AM

November 19, 2005

Weekend arts.

Greg Allen races to the defense of Michael Ovitz? It is a sad and beautiful world.

Background. This summer, ARTnews ran its list of the 200 most powerful collectors and Ovitz is on that list. "To date," writes Nikki Finke in the LA Weekly, "no one has gone behind his collection to describe what he did to amass it early on." So Finke sets out to tell "a tale of ambition, greed and ego not only on his part but also on the part of those who did business with him. In the process, Ovitz helped change the art world for the worse by bringing the same ruthless tactics to SoHo and 57th Street that he'd used to rule Hollywood."

Sensationalist? Naturally. Moldy, as Greg asserts? Perhaps Finke's quotes and anecdotes are set in the 90s because that's when Ovitz was doing that amassing "early on." To be fair, it's difficult to imagine that there are 20 out of the 200 collectors on that list with higher ethical standards. It's a vicious trade.

ARTnews: Women Comic Artists Meanwhile, Carly Berwick revives a question Linda Nochlin asked in ARTnews back in 1971 - "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" - and applies it, with a twist, to comics. Turns out there were a lot of reasons women went missing on the comics scene until only just the last decade or so. Though there are no women in the Masters of American Comics exhibition, as David D'Arcy notes in the intro to his interview with Art Spiegelman, there are, in fact, "so many women now in the field that the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MOCCA) in New York will mount an all-female exhibition called She Draws Comics, running from May through September 2006."

Back to the Masters exhibition, which has just opened at the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. For the LAW, Doug Harvey presents "10 Comics That Shook the World," briefly surveys the exhibition and declares that "Jim Shaw has managed to produce one of the most visually exciting, complexly conceptual and disturbingly entertaining pop-culture-based bodies of work to emerge from the world of fine art."

Also: Bill Smith meets comic artist Tony Millionaire.

Online look-closer tip. A poster for Scarface, handwritten from the entire 300-page script. Via Coudal Partners.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:10 PM

November 18, 2005

Interviews.

Some press releases simply have to be shared. Here's the first paragraph of one of the very few worth actually reading (I'll post the whole thing as a comment below):

Open House

Culver City - Bugeater Films confirmed today that due to popular demand, next week Wellspring Media is releasing a special "One Week Anniversary" DVD edition of Dan Mirvish's real estate musical film, Open House [more], starring Anthony Rapp. Rapp also stars in Sony's big screen version of Rent that opens one day later on November 23rd. In a massive promotional blitz this weekend, there will be over half a million "Open House" signs planted on street corners and front yards throughout North America. "It's the ultimate grassroots promotion," said Mirvish. "People will not be able to avoid seeing a sign with our film's name on it."

This news hook, if you will, provides an excellent opportunity to launch a modest feature here at the Daily. It's been an extraordinarily busy season for interviews over at the main site and names and little red New!s have been popping up and rolling down the "Recent Reads @ GC" list over there on the right at a ridiculous pace. So, not often, but occasionally, a little reminder will likely be in order.

So when Jonathan Marlow, who's recently interviewed film noir connoisseur Eddie Muller and that purveyor of art school smut, Eon McKai, spoke with Dan Mirvish, they covered a lot more ground than Open House. Particularly interesting are Mirvish's recollections of the earliest days of Slamdance.

One Bright Shining Moment Two interviews need to be mentioned immediately because they're pegged to events in Los Angeles this weekend. Opening at the Laemmle tonight is One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern. As Francine Taylor discovers, director Stephen Vittoria actually campaigned for McGovern in 1972 - when he was 15. McGovern's landslide loss to Richard Nixon disillusioned Vittoria to the degree that he became a "political atheist," but Bush has managed to rekindle the fire.

The Masters of American Comics exhibition opens this weekend at the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles before setting off next year for Milwaukee in April and New York in September. David D'Arcy, who, just over a week ago, spoke with Jarhead author Anthony Swofford and, a tad earlier, right here, reviewed Who Gets to Call It Art?, talks with Art Spiegelman about how comics and film have informed each other for over a century.

Many have been startled by David Lynch's plans to raise $7 billion to found seven Universities of World Peace but what may be even more startling for some is that Lynch has been practicing Transcendental Meditation daily for over 30 years. "For Mulholland Drive, many ideas came in one beautiful string of pearls," he tells John McMurtrie. "During meditation, out it came, the way to make the pilot into a feature."

Other recent interviews: NP Thompson with Ellie Parker director Scott Coffey, Sara Schieron with Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X director Jack Baxter, Craig Phillips with Capote director Bennett Miller and another generous handful from talker extraordinaire Sean Axmaker: Christopher Nolan, George A Romero, David Strathairn and Walter Hill.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:01 PM | Comments (2)

November 17, 2005

Rouge. 7.

Rouge 7 Meenakshi Shedde and Vinzenz Hediger's fascinating essay in the seventh issue of Rouge may appear at first to be purely of musty historical interest but is instead acutely relevant. One of the things that made the first summer issue of Reverse Shot so unique and valuable was that it addressed head on the issue of exoticism, an issue most fans of Asian cinema don't talk about much (and don't seem to want to). Is this attraction to the big-O Other, in both the sensual and intellectual senses, some of sort of ultimately insulting extension of dormant imperialist impulses or is it instead a healthy expression of not only a desire to comprehend other cultures but also of respect? And is it possible both these things might be going on when we walk into a screening of, say, 2046?

Der Tiger von Eschnapur As Shedde and Hediger remind us, before we had screenings of Asian films to walk into, Westerners generally created their own versions of the East to gawk at. Der Tiger von Eschnapur (The Tiger of Eschnapur) and Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb) "represent an archive of German fantasies of India as they evolved over the twentieth century... [and] perpetuate a peculiar German interest in, if not an obsession with, Indian philosophy and culture that emerges in the early nineteenth century."

Oksana Bulgakowa tells the High Modernist tale behind a film Eisenstein never made, The Glass House, "intended as a polemical response not only to [Metropolis] but also to Bruno Taut and Mies van der Rohe's glass architecture." The Tower of Babel scene in Fritz Lang's classic might make for a nice segue into Nataša Durovicová's piece.

Cut to Fiddler's Green Tower and Tony Williams: "Land of the Dead represents Romero's new lesson for the twenty-first century. It resurrects key elements of the 70s political horror genre for a new era, by revealing the relevance of a past tradition disavowed by trivial, postmodernist... horror films such as Scream (1996)."

Nicole Brenez offers an annotated list of films which are, in different ways, to their makers as À propos de Nice is to Jean Vigo.

A good chunk of the issue is devoted to John Ford:

The Searchers

  • Miguel Marías sets up the section: "Despite several notable eclipses during the last half-century, in the long run it seems that it is John Ford's impressive body of work - much more than the efforts of his critical supporters - that has succeeded in winning over many of his former detractors and most of the sceptical or indifferent observers, so that today his status as a first-rate filmmaker is generally admitted everywhere."

  • Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Today The Sun Shines Bright is my favourite Ford film, and I suspect that part of what makes me love it as much as I do is that it's the opposite of Gone with the Wind in almost every way, especially in relation to the power associated with stars and money."

  • After quite a build up, Ross Gibson begins "to assay the extraordinary power in the opening minutes of Ford's masterpiece, to understand the odd spell it casts through me every time I become part of it." That film is The Searchers.

  • Shigehiko Hasumi, in the "Pure Movement" section of his piece: "In Ford, throwing an object does not only represent a collective, anti-conformist ritual at the core of a rigid community. This thematic, repeated right throughout his career, takes on varied significations and functions."

The top level of the TOC wraps with an excerpt from Nick Cave's screenplay for The Proposition.

Victor Fowler Calzada pays "A Scattered Homage to Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929 - 2005)."

Penny Webb reveals that there is "a similar economy of glamour and desire" in late 19th and early 20th century Japanese prints as in studio-era Hollywood publicity photos.

Thierry Kuntzel argues that in Freaks, "The game of normality and abnormality is... much more subtle than the initial paradigm would make us believe."

Now, then. A massive spoiler warning. If you think you're going to get a chance to see Tsai Ming-liang's The Wayward Cloud, I'd highly recommend that you wait until you do before you read the Rouge editors' analysis of the film's last scene.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:39 AM

November 16, 2005

Reverse Shot. Autumn 05.

"[E]very film lover has a selection of embarrassing skeletons in their closets, those universally lauded classics, firmly ensconced in canons high and low, that remain unseen, usually for a variety of reasons," write the editors of Reverse Shot, introducing the new issue's symposium, "Reverse Shot Fesses Up." Toss in a "Spotlight" on Kiyoshi Kurosawa, five interviews, a section on the New York Film Festival and about a dozen interviews and you're looking at one hunky issue. A quick rundown:

Vertigo

  • Jeff Reichert: "Plain and simple, for better and for worse, The Godfather represents the best of what commercial American Cinema has the ability to accomplish."

  • Michael Koresky: "Watching John Ford's 1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance for the first time in my life in 2005, so soon after bearing witness to History of Violence and War of the Worlds... was crystallizing, both in terms of Ford's placement in my own cinematic cosmos and in affirming and reconsidering the endeavor of this strain of the American drama itself."

  • Joanne Nucho: "It was in this long overdue first viewing of Bicycle Thief that I first recognized the often discussed link between Italian films of this era and contemporary Iranian films of today, and how such structural and thematic similarities in these films meld so seamlessly across what would appear to be such differing cultural divides."

  • Saul Austerlitz: "Simply put, Birth of a Nation is a horrific document of stomach-churning racism, on a par with Triumph of the Will as a well-crafted film that expresses humankind's absolute, unvarnished worst, an aesthetically pleasing expression of a hideous ideology."

Eraserhead
  • James Crawford: "Seeing Eraserhead a second time (no director benefits more from multiple viewings than Lynch; this particular work more so than most) significantly reconfigures my initial impression." Related: Just up at the main site, John McMurtrie's interview with Lynch.

  • Neal Block: "Director Bob Clark attempted to avoid sentimentality in A Christmas Story (something at which he was modestly successful in Porky's and viciously successful in his pre-Halloween slasher film Black Christmas) but managed to replace it only with nostalgia, sentiment's closest cousin."

  • Tom J Carlisle: "The Wild Bunch upped the ante so high on what we might call the classical revisionist Western (before knee-jerk irony became de rigueur), that it doesn’t seem possible that anyone could play that particular game anymore. From that point forward, the Western was forever in quotation marks."

  • Brad Westcott: "With so much evident historical and thematic import behind it, Rashomon, for the aspiring cinephile, becomes a film about which one will invariably be instructed, in one way or another, regardless of whether one actually gets around to experiencing it first hand."

  • Travis Mackenzie Hoover: "And the massive, shattering truth I discovered was something I had dimly suspected all along: I am too damn old for Gone with the Wind."

  • Nicolas Rapold: "Snow White awed me with the power of its anxiety about growing up, or, to use a broader synonym, with maturation, and so with sexuality."

  • Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega: "Perhaps The Night of the Hunter epitomizes the ideological limits a film text must not trespass if dealing with children and aiming to be minimally productive in an ultimately economic-driven industry such as filmmaking."

  • Michael Joshua Rowin: "JFK was the Fahrenheit 9/11 of its time, arousing both admiration and ire because of its transparent politics and fueling a fact-checking industry that has most likely not seen its like for a single film before or since."

  • Adam Nayman: "Nashville is a simplistic thesis statement (America is a wobbly wonderland) in the guise of a loose-limbed hangout movie."

Pulse "It's been a long time coming, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa is finally getting the respect and representation from the US industry that he's always warranted, and upon the theatrical release of 2001's Pulse, audiences will get to see one of the great works of horror, period," writes Paul Matthews, introducing his interview.

Linked up are two reviews from the summer, Matthew Plouffe on Pulse and Hoover's juxtaposition of Cure and David Fincher's Se7en, and two new ones from Crawford: "As far as generic hybrids go, Charisma goes pretty far off the reservation." And: "Kurosawa has always explored metropolitan anomie to chilling and profound effect, and in Bright Future he may have hit upon a perfect synecdoche of its manifestations with the preternaturally calm and detached Arita (Tadanobu Asano), who murders his boss and his family and never gives justification."

"Why are so many young and old photographers and filmmakers influenced by [William] Eggleston's work?" asks David LaSpina, introducing his interview with the photographer. "It's because it looks like contemporary cinema." Eggleston doesn't have much to say about Michael Almereyda's William Eggleston in the Real World or Vincent Gérard and Cédric Laty's By the Ways: A Journey with William Eggleston because he hasn't seen them. But he does chat a bit about David Byrne, Sofia Coppola and his own Stranded in Canton, which Nick Pinkerton reviews with vigor.

Danielle McCarthy has a good long talk with Ira Sachs about Forty Shades of Blue. More interviews: Jeannette Catsoulis with Andrew Niccol, Justin Stewart with Noah Baumbach and Catsoulis with Tilda Swinton.

Putting their patented "Shot/Reverse Shot" approach to fine use, Andrew Tracy and Koresky face off over Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times, thus opening the NYFF section of the issue, 14 more reviews of 13 more films.

Another duel: Reichert and Pinkerton vs Kevin Curtis. Two thumbs up, one down for Oliver Twist. Twelve reviews of new releases follow and then: the latest additions to the DVD review collection.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:58 AM

November 15, 2005

Shorts, 11/15.

Film Forum's Mikio Naruse retrospective wraps on Thursday. Keith Uhlich has been catching the films for four weeks, overwhelmed with "the sense that I had been completely absorbed into and was experiencing an utterly unique cinematic worldview." He's been gathering first impressions for special feature in Slant.

Mizoguchi and Japan "If you want to know more about [Kenji] Mizoguchi and Ugetsu, I can make no higher recommendation than Mark Le Fanu's Mizoguchi and Japan, writes DK Holm at Movie Poop Shoot. "[H]e writes in an engaged, interested, knowledgeable manner full of digressions - my favorite kind of film writing." Also covered in this column: Bresson, Cronicas, Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Ice Harvest and Derailed.

"The abduction turned out to be standard procedure for anyone visiting Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, spiritual leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hizballah, who, unbeknownst to [writer/director Stephen] Gaghan, had an interest in movies and had decided to grant the screenwriter an audience - even though Gaghan hadn't requested one." Josh Tyrangiel tells the story behind Syriana in Time. Via Movie City News.

Related: Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times: "Normally when I sit in on meetings at production companies, the talk is all about outrageous actor salary demands, insane shooting schedules and botched script development. But at Participant Productions, the self-absorption of the movie business feels as far away as a distant moon of Jupiter."

Filmmaker has partnered with the IFP to present a "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" award to be presented in conjunction with the Gotham Awards. Scott Macaulay describes the process by which Filmmaker editors have whittled the original list of contenders down to five nominees, which he then introduces with a few sentences on each.

Brian Flemming passes along word from Dan Mirvish of his latest unique marketing move for Open House. Meanwhile, more traditionally, Jonathan Marlow interviews Mirvish at the main site.

The Boys From Baraka THINKFilm has acquired North American rights to The Boys of Baraka. It's on the Academy's shortlist of 15 docs in consideration for the Oscar, and guess what. As Nathaniel R points out at Cinemarati, Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man is not on that list.

"Remember Tom Tykwer?" Scott Roxborough does. He's visited the set of Perfume in Spain for the Hollywood Reporter and asks another question: "Can the hip German auteur deliver a mainstream blockbuster?"

Adam Gopnik turns in a study of CS Lewis to the New Yorker: "If in England he is subject to condescension, his admirers here have made him hostage to a cult." Also: David Denby on Walk the Line and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Related: Cinematical's Karina Longworth: Is Wal-Mart barring its employees from seeing the film?

The Reeler reads Peter Biskind's "fascinating (if not periodically repellent) profile of the soon-to-be-septuagenarian Woody Allen" in the December issue of Vanity Fair and finds a great game to play.

Michael Atkinson: "The new film Breakfast on Pluto may be [Neil] Jordan's wildest mis-shot yet, so dense with dying fizzle and limp ideas that I began to wonder if Jordan has an evil twin, or if there are in fact several Neil Jordans, among them at least one literate stylist and one humor-handicapped village idiot."

Also in the Village Voice:

Love Streams

Steven Boone offers a contrary opinion: "Jarhead easily trumps the Vietnam standards Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket by documenting not loss of innocence but the discovery of it."

David Thomson on Paths of Glory in the Independent: "This is a great work of satire in which Kubrick's camera is as chillingly controlled as the prose style of Jonathan Swift."

Garry Maddox in the Age: "Critics have voted Look Both Ways the year's best Australian film." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

For Cinematical, Robert Newton talks to Dorian Blues director Tennyson Bardwell.

"Károly Makk is often regarded as one of the great also-rans of the Hungarian cinema," writes Travis Miles at Stop Smiling. "Love is a brilliant synthesis of stylistic excess and pointed historical evocation."

For DVD Talk, John Sinnott interviews Suzanne Lloyd, Harold's granddaughter, and reviews the Comedy Collection.

Dave Kehr: "Lloyd may have been the great American go-getter, but as his films quietly but consistently suggest, it is a position that comes with a large share of anxiety."

Also in the New York Times:

Zizek!
  • Christian Moerk, briefly, on Zizek!, "in effect, a concert movie of his performances." More in the Voice from Michael Atkinson and Joshua Clover: "The movie is an attempt to disseminate serious social philosophy, haunted by the threat one might be selling it out."

  • "For the first time in nearly two decades, since the 1987 Moonstruck and its rhapsodic scene from La Bohème, the house said, a movie is being filmed at the Metropolitan Opera," writes Daniel J Wakin. "The rarity is a result of the Met's busy schedule as well as of the general absence of opera from movies and most of popular culture."

Meanwhile, Eric Alterman lambasts Matt Bai and the NYT and the paper's fact-checkers for, besides an amazing goof, basically treating Hollywood liberals as you'd expect the East Coast media establishment would. More on this from Chuck Tryon, and for that matter (check Alterman for the relevancy), here are two highly recommended listening tips: George Packer and Thomas Frank.

David Weaver reviews Réal La Rochelle's Denys Arcand: A Life in Film for the Globe and Mail. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

Taking a cue from Nick Davis, Tim R reevaluates Network.

David Smith profiles Johnny Depp for the Observer.

What to see next? Chris Barsanti has three recommendations.

David Lowery: "So here's what's going on with all of our films (minus one)."

Dennis Cozzalio wraps up tabulating the results of his summertime quiz.

More power to the British film director! Don Boyd makes the case in the Guardian.

Hollywood can't afford not to make its movies even shittier than they already are, explains Edward Jay Epstein in Slate.

Ken Tucker's leaving New York to return to Entertainment Weekly, notes Anne Thompson.

Metropolis The BBC: "An original poster for Fritz Lang's classic 1927 science fiction film Metropolis has sold for a world record price of $690,000."

The Filmmuseum Berlin has acquired the GW Pabst estate. Andreas Conrad reports in the Tagesspiegel (and in German). Via filmz.de.

King Kong, the merchandise: Alan Taylor adds it up. Via Andy Baio.

Imagine, within five years, a terabyte iPod that serves as a "coffee table media center," replacing the DVD player and the TiVo, suggests analyst Gene Muster to CNN's Amanda Cantrell.

PC World's Melissa J Perenson has an update on the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD wars. Via Slashdot.

The MPAA's declaring that pirated DVDs are "The New Drug on the Street." Read the release at Boing Boing.

What a shot. Kon Ichikawa and Leni Riefenstahl at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

Online browsing tip. Rashomon's found three Buster Keaton galleries.

Online listening tip. Mark at music (for robots) on this is a process of a still life: "Where's the love for bands like this? It's tailor-made for movies. Like, remember that scene in 28 Days Later when the dude wakes up and that one mogwai god speed you black emperor song played for like 18 minutes or whatever, and it was just building and building and getting scary and crazy? That's exactly the type of shit I'm talking about. Let's get some more of that, ok? Put me in charge. I'll make it happen."

Online viewing tips. The trailer for Day Watch. Via Kurt at Twitch, where Mack's got a "Wacky" one.

Online viewing tip #1. Antonio Mendoza's Scarface remix at the DVblog. NSFW.

Online viewing tip #2. Aardman's ad for Johnnie Walker. Via Coudal Partners, also pointing to Marc Hairston's report for fps, "Brad Bird and the First Annual Tex Avery Animation Award."

Online viewing tip #3. A WTF clip from Mr. Klek's Triumph.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:01 PM

Fests and events, 11/15.

The Wayward Girl Acquarello's been reviewing films he's seen in the "A Luminous Century: Celebrating Norwegian Cinema" series.

Dave Kehr: "Here at the midpoint of the 23rd Torino Film Festival, the most talked about title is unquestionably Joe Dante's galvanizing Homecoming."

"No one needs to tell the readers of Film-Philosophy that the world is in deep trouble and that the United States, under the leadership of a bizarre kind of visible and invisible cabal of greed and corruption, has assumed a primary role in the perpetuation of needless suffering and destruction," writes Martha P Nochimson in the first part of a long look back at the New York Film Festival. "However, it would seem that, without ignoring the dark side of American hegemony, the filmic artists selected by NYFF have dredged hope from the toxic waste of media madness - a sorely needed cause for celebration and gratitude."

André Soares's got the AFI Fest winners at Cinema Minima. AFI Fest reviews at Twitch: Peter Martin on Rosario Tijeras, Stories of Disenchantment and Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures.

"As Smart As They Are: The Author Project documents the collaboration between One Ring Zero, a band whose unique sound combines unusual instruments with unorthodox techniques, and an ensemble cast of award-winning writers, each of whom contributed original lyrics." A screening tomorrow at the Makor in NYC will be followed by a live performance; Rick Moody'll be there, too.

"An Evening with Phil Solomon," Friday at UCLA. Stan Brakhage called him "the greatest filmmaker of his generation."

Howard Feinstein previews "Poetry and Rigor: The Films of Gianni Amelio" (November 18 through 30 at MoMA) for the Village Voice.

Silverdocs (next June 13 through 18) has named Sky Sitney as Director of Programming, Amy King as Associate Director, and issued a call for entries.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:08 PM

November 14, 2005

A whole lot more than entertainment.

Afghan Film archives The AFP tells the remarkable story of how staff at Afghan Film and Radio and Television of Afghanistan hid away 14,500 hours of television footage dating from 1978, 45,000 hours of radio starting in the 1940s "and more than 100,000 hours of film, including the first Afghan movie, Love and Friendship, made about 60 years ago," when the Taliban was on the rampage, destroying any record of Afghan culture it could find. They stashed them away in the ceiling or the basement and then told the Taliban they'd been looted.

"Having emerged through all that, the precious store is under threat again, this time from humidity and temperature changes that destroy film and tape. Since 2002 the French National Audio-Visual Institute (INA) has been helping to digitize the footage, a painstaking process has covered only about 1,200 hours of material - an occasion marked by the showing at the Ariana [Cinema in Kabul] last month." And there are worries now that the recovery may not be able to catch up with the decay. It must because, as the AFP emphasizes, this is the story of a vibrant culture interrupted by a quarter-century of war, and it can be returned to its people.

Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, an Islamic militia has been trying to forcibly shut down cinemas and video stores in the Somali capital. Clashes have left twelve dead and 21 injured. Reuters reports: "Leaders of Mogadishu's influential Islamic courts oppose Western and Indian films which they say promote immorality in the mainly Muslim nation."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:02 AM

November 13, 2005

Golden Horse Awards.

Kung Fu Hustle Kung Fu Hustle's taken Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Chow), Best Supporting Actress (Yuen Qiu), Best Make Up and Costume Design (Shirley Chan) and Best Visual Effects at the Golden Horse Film Festival, "the Chinese-speaking world's leading film awards," as the BBC puts it.

Others who've made a fine showing: Hou Hsiao-hsien (named Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year, and his Three Times is Taiwanese Film of the Year while Shu Qi picks up Best Actress); Aaron Kwok, Best Actor (Divergence); and, on the complete list of winners, you'll see Johnnie To's Election and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Initial D mentioned a few times as well.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:39 PM

Film Comment. Nov/Dec 05.

Film Comment Nov/Dec 05 "Who then possesses a creative sensibility befitting our contemporary hash of dread, disgust, and rage?" asks Paul Arthur in the piece that fronts the new issue of Film Comment. Michael Haneke, it turns out, and Hidden is "arguably [his] most accomplished provocation."

Jim Supanick: "Viewed as a whole, [Morgan] Fisher's films are like a service entrance hidden behind the Hollywood sign, leading into corridors that take us past the film labs, sound stages, and utility closets of a vast movie empire."

Amy Taubin is proving herself to be a tireless advocate for Andrew Bujalski. Good for her. This time, she's issuing a call for a distributor for Mutual Appreciation.

Chris Chang talks with Alan Bishop about putting together Ennio Morricone: Crime and Dissonance.

Chris Norris reviews Walk the Line: "[Joaquin] Phoenix's scarily brooding Goth affect occasionally makes it seem like he wandered in from a remake of In Cold Blood. His obsidian stare recalls Eminem in 8 Mile more than any country figure, but you can’t say it doesn’t fit the material."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:33 AM

NYT Magazine. "Hollywood Goes to War!"

For those of us who experienced the euphoria of 1989, the year historians will likely see as the true end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, it'll be very hard to explain to our kids that the now seemingly ridiculous hope we had - that large-scale wars, or at least America's involvement in them, had been consigned to the past - was genuine. After all, it was only two years later that Bush I demonstrated that, no, massive military engagement was not over; it had simply evolved. Now, with Bush II once again questioning the patriotism of anyone questioning the wisdom of the ongoing quagmire in Iraq, if you're going to do a special movie issue of a magazine, war's a smart choice for a topic.

Saving Private Ryan

AO Scott's audio introduction to the "Hollywood Goes to War!" issue of the New York Times Magazine is the obvious place to start. An overview of nearly 100 years of American war movies, it is, by necessity, short and ends with a boomer's take on WWII, Saving Private Ryan. No mention of Vietnam, but again, he's only got a couple of minutes.

Scott's article for the issue argues that George Clooney is a contemporary version of the liberal Hollywood mover and shaker exemplified in the 70s by Warren Beatty and Robert Redford. In a somewhat related piece, Matt Bai notes that "these last few months have given Hollywood's much-maligned activists some reason to gloat.... On Iraq, at least, Hollywood's self-righteous skepticism appears now not only to have been justified but also to have been precisely what Bush said it wasn't: a leading indicator of mainstream American opinion."

Occupation: Dreamland

This second war in Iraq has dragged on so long now, in fact, that not only have several important documentaries about it already been made, they're actually aging just enough now for us to get some perspective on them. "The analytic content of these Iraq documentaries sometimes feels like journalism in a hurry," writes Tom Bissell as he weighs the strengths and weaknesses of BattleGround, Occupation: Dreamland, Gunner Palace, Control Room and Dreams of Sparrows.

Manohla Dargis considers a few classic war films that were not made in the USA; it's not that there "aren't worthy American war movies; our cinema is, after all, brilliantly violent. It is the lulls between the bangs that we have difficulty with, the quiet before, during and after the storm."

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a war movie, too, begins Charles McGrath, but the piece isn't really about that at all; instead, it's a fun backgrounder on CS Lewis, his friendship with JRR Tolkien and the state of children's literature in general.

Susan Dominus: "[Henry] Rollins is an unusual relic of the punk era, one of the few celebrated stars who stayed clean enough to remember it.... Of course, as faces of the USO go, he's even more unusual, an antiestablishment rocker whose hero is Iggy Pop, not Bob Hope."

Platoon

Peter De Jonge profiles Dale Dye, "Hollywood's top military adviser and hardest-working monger of virtual war." Colorful character.

Lynn Hirschberg has a long piece on Peter Sarsgaard. The tie-in, of course, is Jarhead.

Simon Norfolk annotates two photos of a set for Over There: "To transform the California landscape into an Iraqi desert, 600 gallons of fuel were used to burn off the grass at the Hidden Creek Ranch north of Los Angeles, creating a bowl a couple of hundred yards wide in each direction."

Hirschberg asks Terry Press, head of marketing at DreamWorks, about selling war movies to women before segueing to all sorts of other marketing questions. Also only tangentially related to war is Rob Walker's report on the other indie scene being driven - and quite successfully, too - by fundamentalist Christians.

Also: Soofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello snap shots of 40s-era fashion, Christine Muhlke scopes out Hollywood's hottest eateries and Jaimie Epstein listens to location scout Deren Getz.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:52 AM

November 12, 2005

Weekend shorts.

Matt Feeney takes a good, hard, honest look at La Haine in Slate. Yes, it's remarkably prophetic; but is it also, as a film, overrated?

A Woman Under the Influence The Reeler has a scrumptious report on Gena Rowlands's recent appearance following a screening of A Woman Under the Influence, part of BAM's "An Independent Spirit" series. "I would say it's the hardest picture that I ever did to get over," she told Peter Bogdanovich onstage. "It did linger a while." And via The Reeler: Army Archerd blogs.

Darren Hughes: "I had so much fun watching Jim Jarmusch's films this summer, I've decided to devote the fall to another "author study," this time of Nicholas Ray." He begins with In a Lonely Place and, as it happens, is reminded here and there of Cassavetes. Also: "Five Favorite Performances By Actors I Otherwise Dislike."

David Cronenberg has signed on to direct an adaptation of his Dead Ringers - as a TV series. No, really. Denise Martin reports in Variety. Via Ain't It Cool News.

Steven Spielberg is a man with many fingers in many pies. At AICN, Quint passes along roundup of updates.

Sujewa Ekanayake: "Like Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise or like experiencing a church basement Positive Force DC indie/punk rock show, Chain offers a technically simple (seemingly), accessible, but totally inspiring and dare I say positively transformative experience that made me want to go home and work on editing my movie and made me notice the ordinary surroundings that I walked through daily in a more romantic light (at least for three hours or so at full effect)."

"These days, if you make a movie about East and West and turn it into a simple piece of disposable entertainment, that seems to me criminal," Stephen Gaghan tells Stephen Farber. Gaghan, who wrote Traffic, has taken a similar multi-narrative approach to writing and directing Syriana. In the audio slide show that accompanies the piece, he sounds rather exhausted, having just juggled four stories; "this type of fractured narrative has turned out to be a hallmark of this year's thoughtful, independent-spirited films," writes Farber.

Also in the New York Times, Anupama Chopra:

Traditionally, there were two schools of Hindi cinema. The center stage was occupied by Bollywood, which enthralled Indians globally with song-and-dance extravaganzas and melodramatic stories big on family values. The other was the Satyajit Ray-inspired realistic art-house films, which flowered in the 1970s and 80s.... Lately, a third type of Hindi cinema has emerged. It's composed of smaller, offbeat films that are more realistic than Bollywood tales and edgier than art-house ones. The films have an urbane, uniquely Indian sensibility.

And:

Peter Arkle

Mike Russell's posted another one of those big, long, career-encompassing interviews of his. This time it's with Shane Black.

Julian Fellowes talks to Sheila Johnston about LA Confidential and the world it conjures:

William Eggleston

At that time, Hollywood was supplying the most sophisticated movies in the world, yet it was still a kind of Wild West town. I remember Laurence Olivier talking of when he first went there. He'd go to parties and down the staircase would come a series of glamorous people. Forty-five minutes later, they'd all be throwing up in the bar. There was an incredible contrast between this very high-resolution image that LA liked to present and the jungle behind.

Also in the Telegraph:

Slate's David Edelstein proposes a new tagline for Pride & Prejudice: "Sometimes the last movie on earth you expect to like is the one that seduces you utterly." Related: Cinematical's Ryan Stewart, Stephen Holden in the New York Times, Annie Wagner (and here's her review) interviews director Joe Wright in the Stranger, Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect, Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times, Stephanie Zacharek in Salon and Kim Masters has a fun NPR piece on how the Jane Austen Society has reacted to the film.

Laurence Sterne scholar Lana Asfour in the New Statesman: "In my view, Tristram Shandy is only as unfilmable as it was unwriteable."

For WSWS, Marc Wells talks with Quintosole director Marcellino de Baggis and Joanne Laurier reviews David Riker's La Ciudad and Adrián Caetano's Bolivia.

Richard Gott on Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba: "Those who have had the chance to see it recognise it at once as one of the masterpieces of world cinema, the outcome of the Soviet Union's first exposure to the world beyond its frontiers since Eisenstein's encounter with the Mexican revolution in the 1930s which produced his unfinished opus Viva Mexico."

Also in the Guardian:

Filmbrain: "Everything that's wrong with 80s films can be found in this lame remake of Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street."

Hellboy Animated, the production diary (i.e., blog). Via Drawn!.

Cory Doctorow reads John Scalzi: "Agent to the Stars is the story of Thomas Stein, a junior agent in a cuthroat Hollywood agency who finds himself representing an entire alien race to humanity."

Pulse Steve Erickson at Gay City News on Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse: "The loneliness it describes long predated computers, even if the film suggests that they further it along."

In the Independent, Elaine Lipworth talks with Toni Collette.

Rebecca Barry interviews Tilda Swinton for the New Zealand Herald. Via MCN.

Nerve's Will Doig meets Patricia Clarkson.

For the Nation, Sam Graham-Felsen has five questions for Robert Greenwald.

Ari Eisner interviews Josh Stolberg for Creative Screenwriting.

Fests:

In Cold Blood Online viewing and listening tips. A roundup at Bibi's Box via Wiley Wiggins.

Online viewing tip #1. Chris Cunningham's PSP ad. Via Opus.

Online viewing tip #2. A trailer's up at the Brick site. Via Anne Thompson.

Online viewing tips, round 1. At Twitch, Todd links to a trailer for Jan Svankmajer's Sileni and X translates an interview with Im Kwon-taek.

Online viewing tips, round 2. "Watching all six Star Wars movies simultaneously" at WeirdHat.com. Now that's avant. Via Screenhead, who's got much more to wile away the hours with into the weekend.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:53 PM | Comments (7)

"Silvermania!"

Jesus is Magic "Even though she spent a year on Saturday Night Live early in her career... and has been in a dozen or so features (There's Something About Mary, School of Rock)... and has been a regular on Mr Show and Greg the Bunny, that two-minute bit may have been her 'big break.'" The LA CityBeat's Andy Klein talks with Sarah Silverman about The Aristocrats and, of course, Jesus is Magic.

Will Doig also chats her up; for Nerve.

Slate's David Edelstein: "When you get on Silverman's wavelength, you brace yourself for the joke - and then it swims up from behind, like the shark in Jaws, or it Jackie Chans you with some pretzel contortion you didn't think a human being (let alone a complacent princess) could execute."

Josh Tyson for Stop Smiling: "Why is it funny when she says that September 11th was just as devastating as the day she found out that her favorite coffee drink has 900 calories? Because her on-stage persona is rooted in contemporary Americana: It is a direct reflection of a populous up past our eyeballs in infotainment and duplicitous coddling, with a quickly-eroding sense of empathy and a severely itchy trigger finger."

Robert Newton at Cinematical: "Yes, the woman has balls - and riff on that all you want - but the fact is, she's funny, no matter how you feel you need to spin it."

AO Scott in the New York Times: "Ms Silverman is not smashing taboos so much as she is desperately searching for them."

JR Jones in the Chicago Reader: "[I]t's the most exciting stand-up performance I've seen in years, yet in all honesty I can't say it made me laugh that much."

Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "Her formula hardly ever varies and never fails: She says something terrible, and it immediately dawns on her that she's said something terrible. Then she tries to clear it up with something worse."

For Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter, the musical numbers are "[c]onsiderably more miss than hit."

Online viewing tip #1. Silverman as host of Chapelle's Show, via Molly Priesmeyer at City Pages' Culture to Go.

Online viewing tip #2. Christina Ducklow at the San Francisco Chronicle's Culture Blog! revels in Channel101.com, "where you can see Sarah in the no-budget glory of a series called The Most Extraordinary Space Investigations.... (There's also a cancelled show called Laser Fart that has Jack Black in a couple as The Elegant Hunter.)"

Posted by dwhudson at 2:21 PM | Comments (6)

LAT. DVD Sneaks.

The Lady Eve Carina Chocano opens "DVD Sneaks," a special section in the Los Angeles Times on, that's right, forthcoming DVDs, with an attack on the notion of the "Chick Flick": "It doesn't do much, actually, beyond legitimize the already generally accepted notion that there are movies for everyone, and then there are movies for women. Like a miracle household product, it marginalizes as it defines." Then, "In this post post-feminist world, there are actually a number of movies that speak to real women." And she lists and annotates 54 of them. Fifty-four.

How about another list: "A dozen Times critics offer suggestions for discs they deem worthy of a spin, or even of a permanent spot on your media shelf." A fun one because, no, the LAT doesn't actually have 12 film critics; its critics from several other sections of the paper chime in, you see.

And another one, less interesting, basically the release schedule divided into genre groups. Then, the same thing, only it's TV DVDs. Don't laugh; it's a booming market, as Judith McCourt reports in Home Media Retailing.

There's a short list of music-related releases and another potential Oscar contenders.

Animals are the new hunks, argues Chris Erksine. They're the only über-sexuals left.

Harold Lloyd Collection A walloping Harold Lloyd collection is on the way and Geoff Boucher's got background: "Chaplin is a titan as a Hollywood icon, and Keaton was ahead of his time as a sublime master of absurdity, yet Lloyd was the one who remained on the Hollywood scene with the most longevity and the least personal volatility."

When DVD tech upgrades, there'll be even more extras and "interactivity," reports Susan King, who goes on to list five sorts of extras that have "worn out their welcome," while Mary McNamara writes that the problem with trying to get kids to review extras is "coaxing them to higher analysis — 'boring' and 'cool' may not evoke Pauline Kael but it will do. No, it's persuading them to actually sit down long enough."

DVD isn't the only alternative to the theatrical experience, of course. David Colker takes a brief look at a few others. And VHS? Dumped, but recycled, too, reports Casey Dolan, who's also got a few suggestions for your own, too: "Use the tape as ribbon for - what else? - your Christmas DVD gifts."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:14 PM

Goldies.

A Trip Down Market Street 1905 "For close to a decade, Melinda Stone (more) has been taking film to new places." Literally. In an intriguing piece for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston traces Stone's development from her first outdoor projection on a mountainside in southern California to her most recent, A Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005, juxtaposing an anonymous century-old cinematic record of San Francisco's main thoroughfare with her own.

Stone is one of two recipients of this year's Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Awards (Goldies) in the film category. Cheryl Eddy tells the story behind the other, the Edinburgh Castle Film Night: "Though the films created for the shows are incredibly varied - from [David] Enos's stop-motion fables to [Cathy] Begien's deeply personal explorations - there's a certain consistency to the work. Moe sums up the overall vibe with this fitting phrase: 'eclectic unity.'"

Posted by dwhudson at 3:58 AM

November 11, 2005

Moustapha Akkad, 1935 - 2005.

The Message
Hollywood Arab film director Moustapha Akkad has died in hospital from wounds sustained in this week's hotel bomb attacks in Jordan, Arab television stations said on Friday.

[...]

Akkad was executive producer of the Halloween horror films and directed a 1976 English-language movie about the Prophet Mohammad starring Anthony Quinn, The Message. In his controversial epic about early Islam, Akkad faced the challenge of shooting a movie where viewers neither see nor hear the main character because of Islam's ban on images of Mohammad.

Reuters.

And it works. Even more amazing is the fact that Akkad's project received the approval and blessing of Islamic officials!

[...]

The 3½ hour epic serves as the best celluloid introduction to Islam that you can find, and people from a Judeo-Christian background will likely be surprised to find numerous parallels to their own religion, including Moslem ideas about progressive revelation that establish Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Christ as previous prophets of God.

John Nesbit, 2001.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:52 AM

November 10, 2005

Shorts, 11/10.

Details: Keanu Matt Welch, associate editor of Reason begins his celebration of "The Long and Happy Death of the Celebrity Profile" by tossing one in Details on Keanu Reeves on the bonfire: "[Contributing editor Bruce] Wagner's piece, from November 2003, contains most of the devices we’ve come to loathe in celebrity profiles: precious descriptions of banal interactions, an intrusive and unabashedly narcissistic use of the first and second person, and a hyper-inflationary regard for the interviewee's wisdom and earthly importance. (Sometimes all in the same sentence: 'Now here he is, impossibly innocent, eating fruit, you can almost smell him, very Siddhartha.')"

It would seem impossible, here under this all-smothering blanket of media coverage, that anyone would be able to "four-wall a film in the shadow of Hollywood, without an ad campaign, in the hope that his audience will find him," and then see a return of about $70 from five theaters. John S Rad may have pulled it off, though, with his film, Dangerous Men. "Or maybe he's an actor hired to advance some cryptic, byzantine hoax, in which I am a more-than-willing Judith Miller," suggests Paul Cullum in the LA Weekly. You've got to click and take an admiring look at that exquisite shot of Mr Rad. Seriously.

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore has news of new projects for Michel Gondry (speaking of which; via Coudal Partners, his new video for the White Stripes), Miranda July, David Gordon Green, Alexander Payne, Jon Morrison and a bit more on that Harmony Korine movie.

At Cinematical, Karina Longworth has news of Kimberly Peirce's plans to make her first film since Boys Don't Cry. Also, Martha Fischer: Is this the story of a-Johnny Rotten? With Justin Timberlake?

Christopher Sandford, author of Keith Richards: Satisfaction, in Kamera on Stoned: "[Director Stephen] Woolley's use of grainy film stock and his characters' array of gay-cabaret gear and bouffant wigs are all to the good; shame, though, about the script..."

"[T]his blog is not a strict look at the making of the documentary itself but rather it's about the day to day experiences we encounter as we travel around East Africa," writes Jeremy Harrison: Dancing in Rwanda.

Independent Weekly: Wal-Mart Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price sets off a big cover package in the Independent Weekly. David Fellerath recommends the film, but that's just for starters. Dan Coleman asks the title question, "What's wrong with Wal-Mart?" (rhetorically, of course), Mosi Secret takes it local (the Triangle) and profiles a business in the mega-store's cross-hairs and Fellerath sounds a note of caution: "I think that the full-frontal assault on Wal-Mart - while justified in highlighting the ways in which the store exploits its workers - carries the risk of pitting liberal activists against the poor."

Also in the IW, Fellerath: "Winter Soldier is an important document, but finding a moral in it is a difficult as the problem of war itself."

"Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse about dead souls spilling through the Internet, isn't just scary, it's primally disturbing," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press. J Hoberman in the Voice: "[A]t his best - in the 1997 occult serial-killer chiller Cure or the 1999 Charisma, in which a village is terrorized by a malignant tree - this prolific filmmaker is capable of conjuring up atmospheric tales as unsettling and sustained as the 40s B movies produced by the master of supernatural suggestion, Val Lewton. (Would that Kurosawa had Lewton's brevity.)" And more from Anita Gates in the NYT and Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Following an audio clip from Jesus is Magic, Terry Gross talks with Sarah Silverman on Fresh Air. More on the film from Marcelle Clements in the NYT and J Hoberman in the Voice.

Pamela Paul also chats with Silverman in Slate, where Sam Anderson writes, "All of Silverman's controversies are essentially large-scale pieces of PC performance art - but instead of settling anything about race and humor in America, they just expose the incoherence of the debate."

Vue Weekly: Trudell Brian Gibson in the Vue Weekly on poet and activist John Trudell and the film entitled simply, Trudell: "Director Heather Rae spent more than 10 years chronicling the Native activist's life. Intercutting grainy black-and-white interviews with Trudell, sweeping landscape shots set to the man's spoken-word poetry, footage of Native protests in the 70s, and rock-video-like flashes of images set to Trudell's music, Rae has assembled a fascinating collage of the man's thoughts, memories, and experiences."

Also: Trent Wilkie on Of Whales, the Moon and Men, Carolyn Nikodym on Yes and Rugburn, Paul Matwychuk on Desolation Sound and David Berry on The Weather Man.

Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post: "Since Chain made its debut at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival, audiences have been shocked to find out, during the closing credits, how many locations [Jem] Cohen used - and, by extension, how homogenized the global landscape has become." Via Chuck Tryon.

In his "Beyond the Multiplex" column for Salon, Andrew O'Hehir calls Ellie Parker "one of the most proudly and genuinely low-budget features I've seen in a long time.... [Director Scott] Coffey turns out to be one of those filmmakers who can turn these restrictions into advantages." Related: NP Thompson interviews Coffey at the main site and Melissa Anderson in the Voice.

Back to O'Hehir, Good Morning, Night:

Marco Bellocchio is performing an act of something like Jungian therapy on his nation, unpacking the most traumatic event of its recent history as a concatenation of dream symbols, and also as an allegorical way of addressing the tortured state the Western world, beset by terrorists both real and imaginary, finds itself in today. It's a strange and murky movie, at times a frustrating one, but I also found it profoundly moving in a way no regular thriller ever is.

La Sierra More from Armond White in the NYP. But back to O'Hehir again: Quick takes on Gilles' Wife and La Sierra. More on that one from Joshua Land in the Voice and Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT.

Kimberly Chun in the San Francisco Bay Guardian on Pride and Prejudice: "Director Joe Wright favors a muddy, frizzy-haired, minimal-makeup naturalism, reminiscent of 60s-era reworkings of Penguin Classics, complete with zooming camera, an emphasis on daylight, pigs' testicles, and odd moments of modern-day randiness." More from Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, Jessica Winter in the Voice, Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper and Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, where you'll also find Jeffrey Gantz, briefly, on Antonioni's The Passenger.

Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer: "Gidi Dar's Ushpizin, from a screenplay by Shuli Rand, has emerged as the strangest yet still entertaining movie that a secular reviewer like me has seen this year."

Jeffrey Wells is wild about Rent.

"There is no way that I am going to come out ahead on this," Joel Turnipseed, author of Baghdad Express, a memoir of the first gulf war, tells David Carr in the New York Times. Turnipseed believes some of his book has made its way into Jarhead. "The guy who says 'you stole my stuff' is always the jerk, but this is not something that is based on a scene I did; it is verbatim dialogue." Meanwhile, Caryn James argues that the "claims to neutrality" maintained by the teams behind both Jarhead and Over There "are bogus and counterproductive," and at Slate, Nathaniel Fick, who left the Marines as a captain after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, argues that Jarhead the movie is more accurate than Jarhead the book.

Also in the NYT:

  • David M Halbfinger: "To the lengthening list of political films vying for the attention of a polarized public, James D Stern - a serious Hollywood financier and Broadway producer who dabbles at directing his own movies - hopes to add one that looks squarely at the 2004 presidential campaign between President Bush and Senator John Kerry."

  • Jeannette Catsoulis on The Swenkas, "a study in contrasts" (more from Michael Atkinson in the Voice).

  • Dana Stevens on Shooting Magpies, "the latest project of the Amber Collective, a leftist group that has been making films about the lives of the inhabitants of industrial Northern England since 1968." More from Ed Halter in the Voice.

San Diego Reader: Anime For the San Diego Reader, Geoff Bouvier runs through a brief history of anime and takes a long prowl around the area, talking to fans about its current reception in the US.

Old films, new reviews: The cinetrix on An Angel at My Table and Jim Knipfel in the NYP: "Simply put, Cannibal Holocaust is a vile movie. It would be more accurate, though, to say that Cannibal Holocaust is repellent, nauseating, obscene, barbarous, revolting and inhuman. It's an exercise in nihilistic depravity. But I don't mean that in a bad way." Meanwhile, Nick Davis and Tim R forge ever onward.

Grady Hendrix has fresh details on several of the Shaw Brothers films headed to DVD.

Marjorie Baumgarten talks with Shane Black about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; and so does Nathan Rabin for the AV Club and Sean M Burns for the Nashville Scene.

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking

MS Smith: "In Shopgirl, as in life, Los Angeles can seem as wide as the world."

For the City Pages, David Ng looks at the partnership of Ang Lee and producer James Schamus while Jim Ridley reviews Brokeback Mountain. In the Nashville Scene, Ridley reviews Michael Almereyda's documentary William Eggleston in the Real World.

At the AV Club, Noel Murray interviews Noah Baumbach.

The Guardian's literary adaptations quiz. Also: David Teather on Disney's hopes for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Sophie Heawood asks a fantasy role-player for an opinion on The Brothers Grimm.

Anne Thompson: "Harvey is up to his old tricks."

Bulworth Maybe he will, maybe he won't. Caria Hall in the LAT on Warren Beatty's political aspirations. More from Nikki Finke in the LA Weekly.

Online listening and viewing tip. Michele Norris talks with Walter Murch in a piece laced with film clips and links.

Online viewing tip #1. The trailer for Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain.

Online viewing tip #2. Fallen Art (AVI). Via Screenhead, also pointing to Pablo Hadis's interview with director Tomek Baginski.

Online viewing tips. The Guardian's Kate Stables rounds up 16.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:34 PM

Fests, 11/10.

Tsotsi Brian Brooks and Eugene Hernandez send word from the AFI Fest on how the foreign entries are playing, in particular, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, Tsotsi and C.R.A.Z.Y.. Also at indieWIRE: Anthony Kaufman has details on iW and Emerging Pictures' traveling Undiscovered Gems Film Festival.

Three AFI Fest reviews at Twitch from Peter Martin: Life With My Father, Initial D and An American Haunting.

And Matt Langdon has quick reviews of six films he's caught at the fest; five more from the LA Weekly.

In the Village Voice, Julian Dibbell looks into "the world of machinima - movies made not about video games, not to look like video games, but inside video games, using the built-in characters and code to shoot sub-shoestring "live action" films, occasionally to brilliant effect." The Machinima Film Festival takes place at the Museum of the Moving Image on Saturday and Ed Halter offers a brief preview. Also: Leslie Camhi on "A Luminous Century: Celebrating Norwegian Cinema" (November 12 through 29).

Summi Kaipa previews the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival for the Bay Guardian. Tomorrow through Sunday. Brian rounds up more Bay Area goings on.

Caroline Palmer in the City Pages (Minneapolis-St Paul): "Through its journal and the various arts events it produces, the local organization Mizna gives voice to Arab culture and seeks to shatter stereotypes and foster greater understanding. Its third annual Arab Film Festival opens this week with over 35 features, shorts, and documentaries (including Being Osama)." Tomorrow through November 17.

"Why does the world's most notorious 'faith-based' nation produce some of the world’s best movies?" asks Peter Keough in his preview of the Twelfth Annual Boston Festival of Films From Iran in the Boston Phoenix. Tomorrow through December 4.

At PopMatters, Ellise Fuchs looks back at Torino's recent "series of intimate film festivals."

A favorite at the Pusan fest, The Unforgiven, is going to Berlin; HanCinema passes along a report.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:40 PM

Tryin'.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' "All bets are off for Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, whose film debut should get him laughed out of show business," writes Bill White in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Based on his own trumped-up autobiography, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a disaster on all levels."

The Village Voice has a mini-package, with Laura Sinagra's review ("Be warned, when a fedora-sporting Godfather starts wheezing out pearls about violence begetting violence, you may die tryin' to stop laughin'"), Nick Sylvester's amusing faux plot summary and Tom Breihan asks, "Is he turning Republican?" 50 Cent, that is.

More from AO Scott in the NYT, Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, Stephanie Zacharek at Salon, Karina Longworth at Cinematical, Jim Tudor at Twitch, Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper and Michael Tully.

Related: For Slate, Martin Edlund notes how 50 Cent breaks with autobiopic tradition: "Eminem's song is a challenge, inspiring listeners to do as he's done. 50 Cent's is a taunt, telling listeners they can't have what he's got. So much for luck and pluck and decency." And Maria Luisa Tucker at Alternet: "Among those calling for the removal of the Get Rich or Die Tryin' ads are African-American groups concerned with civil rights, anti-violence and oppression. However, the leaders of these organizations fiercely resist any comparison to the Christian Right."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:25 PM

Trouble with Harry?

Three out four say, Nope, not at all:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Tim Grierson, writing for Screen Daily, is the only dissenter so far: "A solid but mostly uninspired melding of the adventure and fright that have been the benchmarks of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is neither as singular a film as director Alfonso Cuarón's third installment nor as kid-pleasing as Chris Columbus's first two entries."

  • But for the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt, "The movies keep getting better and better."

  • Variety's Todd McCarthy: "[Director Mike] Newell becomes the first English director to have a go at Harry, and he doesn't let the home team down."

  • James Christopher for the Times of London: "What's fresh about the Goblet of Fire is the intriguing tension between the feeble and the strong.... For the first time we sense what makes Harry tick under pressure."

Related: Ten scary bits in children's movies: Robert Hanks in the Independent.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:23 PM

Is Paris Burning?

Burning It isn't Paris itself that's burning, of course, but the desolate areas the French literally refer to as "out there." At his site, Mathieu Kassovitz, whose film La Haine (Hate) has been described as a French Do the Right Thing, he writes that he has been deluged with requests to comment on the violence that may finally be ebbing now after nearly two weeks. Instead of responding to each and every request, Kassovitz has - what else? - written a longish entry at his blog (the Guardian excerpts the piece today as well). For Kassovitz, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of French Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, media star and future presidential candidate:

If the suburbs are exploding once again today, it is not due to being generally fed up with the conditions of life that entire generations of "immigrants" must fight with every day. There is not, unfortunately, anything political in the combat that is pitting the youth of low rent housing projects against Nicolas Sarkozy's police forces. These burning cars are surface eruptions in the face of the lack of respect the Minister of the Interior has shown toward their community.

Nicolas Sarkozy does not like this community, he wants to get rid of this "these punks" with high pressure water hoses and he shouts it out loud and clear right in the middle of a "hot" neighborhood at eleven in the evening.

The response is in the streets. "Zero tolerance" works both ways.

[...]

Nicolas Sarkozy is certainly a little Napoleon, and I do not know if he has the potential of a real one, but it will be impossible to say tomorrow that we didn't know.

More background: Doug Ireland (more) and Rami G Khouri at Alternet, Joshua Clover in the Village Voice, Elizabeth Eaves at Slate and Tuesday's To the Point.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:01 AM

November 9, 2005

Sight & Sound. December 05.

Sight & Sound: 12/05 Other than the obvious, i.e., that all the movies mentioned in Sight & Sound begin as screenplays, there isn't much of this issue's "Script Special" online other than a single feature and, indirectly, John Wrathall's review Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - since, after all, it's the directorial debut of hot-shot screenwriter Shane Black. Wrathall finds it "a compendium of existing Black-isms: a central buddy relationship, ingeniously foul-mouthed wisecracks, scuzzy low-life humor, sadistic torture/interrogation scenes, and preposterous action climaxes" and, as if that weren't enough, "a 1980s pastiche of a 1940s thriller, complete with a big-band score and animated credits that seem to have strayed in from the 1960s."

The feature is Michael Eaton's, addressing the question, "Who is Eliot Stannard?"

If the name is recognised these days it would most likely be for his writing credits on eight of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films.... Stannard, however, had already garnered over 80 screenwriting credits since he started in the trade in 1914.... Equally significantly, Stannard was one of the very first practitioners of the profession to think seriously and write publicly about exactly what it takes to be a writer for the screen. And his articles about the craft remain, to my mind, more analytical and useful than the shelves of 'how to' volumes that have proliferated in recent years.

In the other feature online, Linda Ruth Williams asks, "What is arthouse darling Atom Egoyan doing directing a starry, studio-esque work of pop schlock?" Her answer, of course, is that there's more to Where the Truth Lies than titillates the eye.

The other reviews: Roger Clarke on Tickets (I agree with him on the Abbas Kiarostami section, but disagree on both the Ermanno Olmi and Ken Loach sections) and some poor anonymous soul on Lower City, "a likeable and accomplished addition to the Latin American new wave."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:48 PM

November 8, 2005

Shorts, 11/8.

The Fountain "I've been calling it a psychedelic fairy tale. What do you think of that?" AICN's Moriarity has a long, personable talk with Darren Aronofsky about The Fountain. The editing's evidently been rough, but it sounds like we'll be seeing a teaser very, very soon. Also: Masheen81 offers a few tidbits on Oliver Stone's World Trade Center.

The Reeler's caught a screening of Sydney Pollack's Sketches of Frank Gehry and the Q&A that followed: "Maybe I copied it down wrong. But it seems like Pollack's approach stems from Gehry's own, which is essentially to illuminate a sort of epistemological motor behind the creative process."

Darren Hughes delivers a paper: "Despite my own reservations, I really like most of [Caveh] Zahedi's films, and [In the] Bathtub [of the World], in particular. I've probably watched it fifteen times now, and I never fail to be moved by Caveh's humor and sincerity. I suspect this speaks to my own peculiar and evolving ideas about art, democracy, humanism, and (again for lack of a better word) God, but it is also testament, I think, to Zahedi's skill as a filmmaker."

Ellie Parker Michael Koresky leads the Reverse Shot roundup on Scott Coffey's Ellie Parker, in which Naomi Watts "manages to throw herself so fully into this screeching, squealing, vomiting, hectic spasm of a role that you may want to throw a bucket of ice water over her head."

Jesse Walker at Mindjack: "The back cover of The 70s Dimension describes the decade as an 'impossibly innocent world,' a description belied not only by any half-decent history of the period but by the contents of the disc itself, which are anything but innocent. But that's another part of the process of decade-decay: the projection of naivete onto everything that came before us."

Sujewa Ekanayake launches a new blog, Filmmaking for the Poor: "Everyone should make movies, not just the awesomely rich."

Go ahead, snicker at Zinda. As George Thomas notes, Bollywood take-offs are a dime a dozen.

Twitch's AFI Fest reviews: Peter Martin on Ripley Under Ground, with the great Barry Pepper, and On the Other Side, Mexico's entry in the Oscar race.

Adam Hartzell at Koreanfilm.org: "Host & Guest is a film that I'll let in again if it comes knocking on my door a second time."

IndieWIRE runs the list of nominees for the European Film Awards to be presented in Berlin on December 3.

The Libertine

AC Grayling in the Independent on The Libertine: "However good the film is, and however many X-ratings it gets, it can never capture all the truth about Rochester... not all his doings can be reprised on the cinema screen." Christopher Campbell at Cinematical: "Unfortunately, the prof never addresses what actual doings couldn't be fit for 21st century audiences and I have trouble pondering taboos that are still too heavy for film... What I assume Grayling means is that The Libertine will not be a huge hit at the box office... being too raunchy for the usual period-piece crowd, and too much a period piece for the usual fans of crass." Oh, I don't know. Period raunch sounds like an inviting combo to me.

In the Los Angeles Times, Tony Perry asks active-duty and retired Marines what they think of Jarhead. Via Movie City News. Related: David D'Arcy's new interview with Anthony Swofford, author of the book.

At Filmshi, Craig Phillips notes the strange yet effective lack of actual politics in Jarhead, Paradise Now and Turtles Can Fly.

All Quiet on the Western Front Sean Axmaker: "Men at War: Hollywood's Top 10 Soldier Stories." Also for MSN Movies, Sean picks out the discs with the best extras, "a sampling of the unique supplements, unexpected extras and creative uses of the digital format. They offer the kinds of goodies that can make the supplements essential, exciting or simply enterprisingly entertaining elements of the digital experience."

Ray Pride at MCN in one fell swoop: Jarhead, The Dying Gaul, Forty Shades of Blue, Paradise Now, The Squid and the Whale, The Weeping Meadow and five DVDs.

Alternet's Joshua Holland on Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: "Hopefully, the message people will take away is that raising the power of working people in developing countries raises the standards of our own."

Dave Kehr picks the best of the week's DVD releases for the New York Times.

The films aren't new, but the reviews are: Vince Keenan on Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows, acquarello on Arnaud Desplechin's How I Got Into an Argument and, at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Tom Huddleston on Whiskey Galore!. And don't forget: Nick Davis is still running down - make that running up, 100 to 1 - his favorite films with smarts and flair, and so, too, is Tim, albeit his method is to place one well-chosen image next to a single, foot-down sentence.

Scott Weinberg at Hollywood Bitchslap: "Weighing in at nearly five pounds, swollen with over 320 pages and 600 photographs, measuring a healthy 9 x 12 coffee-table book standard, and packed to the blood-soaked rafters with absolutely everything you'd ever want to know about the Friday the 13th series, Crystal Lake Memories is, quite simply, one of the finest books I've ever seen." Related: David Konow's interview with Victor Miller for Creative Screenwriting. Also at HB: Jay Seaver on why Boston's Brattle Theatre matters.

Lenny Bruce Without Tears SuicideGirls' Daniel Robert Epstein roundup: Bomb the System director Adam Bhala Lough, Pulse director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Lenny Bruce Without Tears director Fred Baker.

Steve Buscemi's kept a brief diary for one week. Also in the Telegraph, Neil Marshall, director of The Descent: "I first saw Escape From New York on a grainy video... In fact, a neighbor of mine used to hire it every weekend - every Saturday, without fail, for a year, he got it out. I decided I wanted to see what this was about, so I went to one of his 'screenings.' And I was totally drawn to it - I just thought, what a fantastic idea, and really convincingly pulled off."

Interviews in the Guardian: Andrew Dickson with Rachel Weisz and Lindesay Irvine with Ian McDiarmid: "I remember when I sat there in the Evil Emperor's swivel chair and George [Lucas] said things like, 'Does it remind you of the Oval Office?' And I realised that at that time Richard Nixon was in his mind."

Anthony Kaufman: "Try as best I can to keep these missives tied to the film industry, a recent blog from Tom Gilroy, actor, director and writer (Spring Forward) on The Huffington Post titled '"White House in Chaos" & Other Utter Horseshit' has fueled a fire inside me, and judging from the comments on his post, has also struck a chord in a lot of other people, as well."

A short, funny and infuriating must-read: "[C]onverting cinemas into airport security zones and asking ushers to act like Sky Marshals is positively suicidal," writes Cory Doctorow in an excellent post at Boing Boing you're already seeing a zillion blogs linking to. "What fantasyland are MPAA executives inhabiting in which treating your customers like criminals makes them want to go on spending their money at your business?"

The Films of Oskar Fischinger Matt Clayfield: "My major problem with the videoblogging community is the schizophrenic manner in which a number of its more prominent members continually try to define videoblogs in radical opposition to television and the cinema while simultaneously coming to emulate these mediums more and more in terms of form." Also: Thoughts on Oskar Fischinger's Motion Painting No 1.

Scott Kirsner sums up the immediate implications of the TiVo/Yahoo! deal.

Zhang Ziyi is evidently going to show a bit of skin in Memoirs of a Geisha and, as Grady Hendrix points out with relish, this is a matter of hot and heavy debate among Chinese editorialists: "It's the kind of fiery verbal fireworks you don't see very often and EastSouthWestNorth has kindly translated the whole thing and posted it here. Do yourself a favor and at least skim it."

Dennis Cozzalio remembers Sheree North, 1933 - 2005.

Only tangentially related to film, but still: Ross Simonini at Stop Smiling talks with Aimee Bender about Haruki Murakami.

Online listening tips. Two terrific Fresh Air interviews. Terry Gross talks with Robert Hofler about his book, The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson, and with Tab Hunter.

Online viewing tip. Coudal Partners' Copy Goes Here.

Online viewing tips. Screenhead's found two Aardman clips, the second of which, "makes us laugh unexpectedly hard."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:17 PM | Comments (2)

November 7, 2005

John Fowles, 1926 - 2005.

The French Lieutenant's Woman
Writer John Fowles, author of The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman, has died at the age of 79.... Fowles once said, "I don't think the English like me. I sold a colossal best seller in America, and they never really forgave me."

The BBC.

John Fowles's best-selling tale of a young Victorian gentleman who falls in love with a mysterious woman of tarnished reputation has the romantic sweep of a great film, but it has a problem: Although the story takes place in the late 1860s, it is narrated by a distinctly 20th-century author whose wry, intellectual asides enable us to see the story from both a Victorian and a modern point of view. It's a dazzling design for a novel, but it couldn't be less cinematic, and distinguished directors such as Lindsay Anderson, Michael Cacoyannis, Richard Lester and Fred Zinnemann all came to grief trying to develop a script - or even a concept.

[...]

Now the film has been made.... The screenplay is by Harold Pinter... It is directed by Karel Reisz... Fowles, who has disliked the two previous movies made of his works, The Collector and The Magus, is pleased with what has happened here - which is fascinating, since his fans may be up in arms when they see the film.

Leslie Garis, New York Times, 1981. See also the NYT's "Featured Author" collection.

More: John Fowles: The Web Site and the "Movie Adaptations" page; the British Council; the Guardian; Don Swaim's 1985 interview (RealAudio).

Update: Sarah Lyall in the NYT, Melvyn Bragg in the Guardian, the Times of London, the Telegraph and Jenny Davidson (via Ed Champion).

Posted by dwhudson at 7:43 AM

November 6, 2005

Shorts, 11/6.

Eliasson: The Weather Project "The Sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it." Sunshine, the film director Danny Boyle, writer Alex Garland and producer Andrew Macdonald are working on, has a production blog. Via Fimoculous, where Rex writes, "McSweeney's has a new online store, and the first thing I notice is a new DVD magazine called Wholphin." The description notes that it features "short films, documentaries, animaation, and instructional videos that have not, for whatever reason, found wide release. Contributors include Spike Jonze, David O Russell, Miranda July, Miguel Arteta, David Byrne and many others."

Like Slate's "Movie Club," but without the venom: Dan Jardine and Ben Livant.

"Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and a Michael Jackson impersonator all walk into the Brazillian rain forest..." Cinematical's Karina Longworth has the latest on Harmony Korine's next one.

Also: Martha Fischer has a bit on the Tenacious D movie and pointer to "11 full minutes of gorgeous insanity," a trailer for Chen Kaige's The Promise, and news of Woody Allen's Scoop. But back to weird: Robert Newton discovers the "bizarro head-scratcher," Miss Cast Away.

"Arriving when it did, Hearts and Minds was from the first a historical document, and if there are perhaps five documentaries no American should be able to finish public school without seeing, [Peter] Davis's searing ordeal belongs on the docket," writes Michael Atkinson. Why? A little earlier on, he reminds us, "The war [in Vietnam] pressed on officially for nine years, unofficially for 14 or more - as someone in Davis's stinging gallery of talking-heads interviews reminds us, it's the longest US conflict of all time - and yet virtually all that remains of it in our public ether are pop-cult clichés and the most beautiful monument in the District of Columbia."

Also in the Guardian: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a buddy movie that works, claims Jonathan Bernstein: "Whether it's the double-cool-guy pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid or The Sting, twin freaks Hopper and Fonda in Easy Rider, uptight Jack Lemmon and disreputable Walter Matthau, or snivelling coward Bob Hope and unflappable Bing Crosby in the Road To... series, the most successful teamings are the ones that convince film-goers that they're observing an actual functioning friendship with all its unique dynamics, that the two guys on screen actually enjoy each other's company." Related: Harry Knowles at AICN is urging you to give Kiss Kiss a fair shot.

"Few tasks have given me as much pleasure as curating the complete retrospective of films by Billy Wilder, which runs until Christmas at the National Film Theatre to mark the centenary of his birth next year," writes Philip French in the Observer.

"The Polish brothers, Mark and Michael, got their start in the late 90s with a debut feature, Twin Falls Idaho, that received some acclaim and led to two more low-budget films, Jackpot and Northfork.... They made all three films without studio money, in one case wooing a Texas millionaire all night long to raise financing, which ultimately resulted in their receiving a $100,000 charge card." And now, with Jonathan Sheldon, they've written The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking, which Chris Bolton reviews for Powell's.

A book review from 1994: McKenzie Wark, "Postmodern Essayist On Adrian Martin's Phantasms," via Matt Clayfield.

The Telegraph's Toby Harnden reports on a 10-minute animated short broadcast on Iranian television that 'glorifies suicide bombings against Israelis, depicting a young boy blowing himself up after being told: "Go and show the Zionists how brave and heroic are the children of Palestine.'"

Also: Emma Urquhart, 14, sneak peeks Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Related: Groover's preview at AICN and Laura M Holson in the New York Times on what the movie's going to mean for Warner Bros.

La Haine André Soares: "As the riots in the poor, crime-ridden Parisian suburbs continue into their ninth day - having now spread to other French cities - I would like to recommend a French film made ten years ago, Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine (Hate)."

"A new feature film, Stoned, to be released this month, will tell the story of Brian Jones's life and death," Steve Bloomfield in the Independent. "Directed by Stephen Woolley, producer of The Crying Game, it could prove controversial. Woolley contends that Jones was killed by Frank Thorogood, his builder."

Time's Richard Corliss looks into the making of Memoirs of a Geisha.

"Personally, I come away from the interview with a whole new appreciation for CS Lewis, not just his writing, but the way he lived and approached his faith. And obviously, the thought of CS Lewis telling bawdy jokes to a pub full of patrons just fills me with delight." Jason Morehead's glad to have found Mark Moring's interview with Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, for Christianity Today.

Blake suddenly posts up a storm at Cinema Strikes Back.

At Listology, dgeiser13's found a couple of fun lists: Sarah Garb's "Lesser-Known Movie Prequels" at McSweeney's and, more recently, at Ask Metafilter, "What do you suppose are some of the most over-rated movies you've ever seen?"

Deutsche Welle: "A European filmmaking masterclass is steadily producing a new generation of producers who, it is hoped, will in years to come go head-to-head with the mighty Hollywood machine."

"If movies lasted as long as games, they'd cost $13 billion," reads the headline for Cory Doctorow's pointer at Boing Boing to Edward Castronova, who's done a little math: "It's an irresponsible calculation, but it just makes me think that, well, we may be pouring truly massive amounts of money into synthetic world creation in the future." If there's anything to the rumor that Spielberg has come up with an innovation that will open up some sort of new immersive cinema, maybe. At the same time, the frame is such a powerful artistic device, I doubt it'll fade away for a long, long time.

Leonard Klady at Movie City News: "The notion that films and especially film going might not exist as we've come to appreciate it has crossed my mind more than once in the past couple of months. I think it's an inevitability we simply have to accept and bite down hard that whatever experience evolves is as good or better than the current multiplex environment."

Steve Friess at Wired News: "A podospheric migration to video has begun, but it's been hardly at the breakneck pace seen in June when Apple released the podcasting-capable iTunes 4.9 software." Via SXSW's News Reel.

Online browsing tip. Artist, filmmaker and production designer Dan Ouellette's Neurotica Divine. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Online listening tip #1. The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle's podcast on the "Sin in Soft Focus" series of pre-code Paramount films at the Balboa.

Online listening tip #2. WBUR's Andrea Shea rounds up opinions on digital projection. Via CinemaTech, also pointing to Joe Cellini's piece on Walter Murch at Apple's site, "Apocalypse Then: A Second Look at the First Gulf War."

Online listening tips. NPR. Linda Wertheimer talks with Vilsoni Hereniko, director of the first Fijian film ever to be submitted for an Oscar, The Land Has Eyes, and Bob Mondello on the season's gay-themed movies.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:36 PM | Comments (5)

Fests, 11/6.

Twitch's AFI Fest reviews: Peter Martin on 7 Virgins, Tsotsi, The Red Shoes and a few quick capsules. Related: André Soares's Top Picks.

Machinima Film Festival

Scott Kirsner at CinemaTech: "If you're in the tri-state area next Saturday, definitely check this out... the 2005 Machinima Film Festival, a day of panels, software demos, and screenings."

The 9th International Latino Film Festival is underway in San Francisco, running through November 20.

Peaches Christ hosts a sing-along screening of Truth or Dare on Saturday.

Amazing stuff coming up at the BAMcinématek, notes Tom Hall.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Todd at Twitch: "Variety have posted a mittful of trailers for films appearing at this year's AFM in one handy dandy little trailer gallery."

Online viewing tips, round 2. Independentfilm.com posts clips from the Hamptons Film Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:13 PM

LAT. Holiday Movie Sneaks.

It's Christmas on the west coast, too. The Los Angeles Times's "Holiday Movie Sneaks" extravaganza opens with a set of 22 pix before offering, over all, a bit more of a balanced package than the NYT's in that more movies get coverage; the coverage just doesn't go as deep. Here, for example, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire gets an actual article (by Gregory Katz), albeit nowhere near as long as John Horn's piece on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Both films, of course, get honorable mention in Rachel Abramowitz and Mary McNamara's piece on "the turbocharged children's film": "In the case of the Potter and Narnia books, filmmakers argue that their first loyalty is to the text, but turning words into images may make the stories too intense for their original audience."

King Kong and Munich

The release schedule is skimpy, compared to the NYT's, but NYT forgot to include a piece on a contender for the title of holiday season champ, King Kong. Kenneth Turan: "Peter Jackson is not the man you want to bet against. Especially not with a project that changed his life."

Among the other films that slipped the NYT's spotlight:

  • Abramowitz: "Months before the Dec. 23 release of Munich, interested parties across the political spectrum are gearing up for the film, which has been shrouded in intense secrecy - even by Hollywood standards." Just to quickly thrown in a related online viewing tip, the trailer, via Harry Knowles at AICN. And Kim Voynar at Cinematical: "Director Steven Spielberg was recently named one of Smithsonian Magazine's "35 Who Made a Difference."

  • Martin Miller, all too briefly on The Ice Harvest. For more, check Dave Kehr: "Unlike ninety per cent of the movies scheduled for this holiday season, The Ice Harvest makes no attempt to be 'awesome.' Maybe that's why it is."

The Ice Harvest and The Libertine

Brokeback Mountain and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Rumor Has It and Zathura

The overlaps:

Memoirs of a Geisha and Rent

A little fun with Horn: "22 current - and real - loglines, with five fakes thrown in. The challenge: Spot the impostors."

A couple of mini-profiles: King meets Bee Season's Flora Cross and Walk the Line's Ginnifer Goodwin.

Re-runs:

Ballets Russes and Walk the Line

Posted by dwhudson at 2:56 PM

NYT. Holiday Movies.

Remember when the holiday season began the day after Thanksgiving? Retailers, Hollywood included, who would undoubtedly prefer to celebrate Christmas all year round, have at least managed to haul the starting line up to the moment the Halloween costumes are packed away. And so, not even a full week into November, we have the New York Times's "Holiday Movies" special.

The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

If the cultural battle of the season pits Aslan and his Christian warriors against Harry Potter and his fellow wizards, the NYT seems to be betting on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Even so, right alongside Lorne Manly's backgrounder on the CS Lewis adaptation runs an ad for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which otherwise warrants a poster that might have fared better running a week ago.

For readers of this blog, Caryn James may have the most interesting piece of the package:

[Terrence Malick's] legendary status as some bizarro genius (and it's hard to argue with that) accounts for the great curiosity about his fourth film, The New World, a version of the Pocahontas story with Colin Farrell as the least anonymous of John Smiths. New Line Cinema hopes to release the film on Dec 25, and hope is the operative word; the original November release was postponed so that Mr Malick could go on editing. That can't be reassuring coming from a man who spent nearly a year editing Badlands (1973) and two whole years editing Days of Heaven (1978). Yet even now those works seem as nearly perfect as films can be.

The New World and Syrianna

For those in a hurry, Manohla Dargis picks up a phone and races through the schedule, picking out one she's most looking forward to, Syriana, and recommends Brokeback Mountain, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Hidden.

Speaking of which. Alan Riding meets Michael Haneke. Other interviews and profiles: Lola Ogunnaike with Rosario Dawson (Rent) and Sharon Waxman with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Match Point). Then, of course, special regular Karen Durbin highlights five performances to keep an eye out for (slide show).

Match Point and Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Back to the making-of-type pieces: David M Halbfinger on Memoirs of a Geisha, Jesse McKinley on The Producers and Margy Rochlin on Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

Finally, after a good browse, the print-n-keeps: Dave Kehr's annotated list of current and upcoming releases (November and December and January) and Stephanie Zacharek and Charles Taylor's recommendations for the next couple of rounds of DVD releases.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:51 AM

November 4, 2005

Shorts, 11/4.

Dave Kehr Since when has New York Times film and DVD critic Dave Kehr had a blog? Since the New York Film Festival, evidently. Wish I'd discovered it earlier. Few blogs, for one thing, have an "About Me" page that makes for as terrific a read as Kehr's. A quick look back at the early 70s, for example:

These were days when you could provoke a passionate argument at a party over whether a so-called hack like Hitchcock was worthy of even being mentioned in the same breath with an obvious, transcendent genius of the form like Fred Zinnemann or George Stevens (though I have come back to respect Stevens’s early films since then) - or, much less, vaunted European masters like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, both of whom in my adolescent hubris I found to be bloated and basically worthless (an opinion I will stand by today, with a few carefully chosen exceptions).

Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter Anne Thompson launches the Risky Biz Blog.

And who says worthy bloggers without a long record in print get no respect? Just look at Darren Hughes.

Breakfast on Pluto It's a good day to get to know your critics, evidently. "There is accounting for taste - there has to be - and so I begin this review of Breakfast on Pluto by acknowledging my career as a cross-dressing musical artiste of the 1970s." But the Nation's Stuart Klawans seems to like the film for its own merits. And as for Shopgirl, "Watching [Claire Danes], you think other actresses look half-alive at best. You even forget for a while that other actresses exist."

Rebekah Sanders catches DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation: "Seeing the haunting images over and over again - of white-hooded Klansmen, eerie as phantoms, or rolling-eyed blacks stalking their sexual prey - chills the bones more deeply than a once-through viewing." Also in the LA Weekly: "What could, and should, Bush learn from West Wing?" asks Nikki Finke.

Massaker Rory McCarthy meets "Lokman Slim, a Lebanese writer and publisher, and his German wife Monika Borgmann, a journalist; they have turned the ground floor into a centre for research into the history of Lebanon's brutal civil war." Their documentary, Massacre, is unique in that, "While others have focused on the victims of the years of killing, the couple hunted down the killers."

Also in the Guardian:

  • Mark Lawson: "Separate Lies is, in short, an attempt to create a tragedy about a middle-class marriage that captures the texture of the lives of the skiing-trip and school-fee generation without satirising them. If this is a new battlefield of the class war for Julian Fellowes, then it is not one to which British and American directors in general have committed many troops."

  • Ryan Gilbey: "This domestic dourness was once the abiding impression of Leigh's work, and he thinks it's what people mean when they refer to something being 'like a scene from a Mike Leigh film.' He appreciates being part of the language in this way, but believes that he stopped making that kind of movie after Life Is Sweet in 1990."

  • "For the next couple of weeks the 'plucky Brits' at Punk [Cinema] will be telling us how they get on as they take their debut film The Gigolos to Hollywood."

What's cinematographer Chris Doyle up to? Grady Hendrix knows.

Shaw Brothers He also knows a bit about the agreement between Image Entertainment and Celestial Pictures to release 30 Shaw Brothers titles in North America, but Blake at Cinema Strikes Back has more details and quick takes on three of those films.

Also at CSB: Charlie's transcription of the Park Chan-wook Q&A during the New York Film Festival; Sympathy for Lady Vengeance spoilers galore.

Adam Hartzell at Koreanfilm.org: "The follow-up to his critically successful debut This Charming Girl, I don't find myself talking as lovingly about Love Talk as I do about Lee [Yoon-ki]'s debut."

Andrew O'Hehir introduces his current "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon:

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Beyond the question of that polo shirt you bought for $3.79, for which some Indonesian teenager who gets two days off a year got paid 4 cents, it's a massive week for cultural history. We've got a documentary reminding us that for gay men, the 1970s weren't about poppers and coke and Fire Island parties and mind-blowing amounts of sex - well, OK, yes they were - but also about a culture and a community discovering itself, right before being hit with a veritable holocaust. We also witness the unlikely reunion of the New York Dolls from an even unlikelier perspective, and learn the impossible, delightful story of how ballet traveled from the 19th century Russian aristocracy to American popular culture. We've only got one fictional feature this time out, but it's a doozy for those so inclined, a creepy, slow-moving existential ghost story from the enigmatic Japanese master, Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Vince Keenan on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: "Go see this one. Trust me. It's a blast."

"The Dying Gaul is a boldly expressionistic, proudly theatrical film," writes Stephen Holden in the NYT. "It revels in extreme close-ups that feel like psychological X-rays, dramatic silhouettes shown against fiery orange backgrounds and eerie shots of Jeffrey's white Malibu mansion, which resembles a cavernous airline terminal perched on a precipice. Here, cocktails flow like glistening cups of hemlock." More from Steve Erickson in Gay City News.

Joe O'Connell has a short but splendid talk with Anand Tucker and Jason Schwartzman about Shopgirl.

Also in the Austin Chronicle:

Power Trip

There must be a dozen reasons the list of the top 50 horror movies compiled by retailer HMV gets it all wrong; Geoffrey Macnab counters with a list of his own. Also in the Independent: Stephen Applebaum interviews Kirsten Dunst.

Speaking of lists, Peter Howell in the Toronto Star: "The Total Film people are, quite frankly, lunatics." Via Movie City News.

It's "Peter Sarsgaard Meditation Day" at Hollywood Elsewhere.

Cuba Gooding, Jr is "a comic genius with the innocence, pluck and vulnerability of Buster Keaton," argues Steven Boone.

At Alternet, Maggie Brock gets five minutes with Janeane Garofalo.

Interviews in the Telegraph: SF Said with Paul Schrader and David Gritten with Fernando Meireilles.

My Man Godfrey Dennis Cozzalio: "Hardly a week goes by in which Turner Classic Movies doesn't offer up at least three or four must-see titles to keep both the experienced cinephile and the enthusiastic neophyte clapping happy. But November seems especially full of good stuff, especially if you, like me, worship at the shrine of Carole Lombard."

The Alternative Film Guide notes that the Academy will be honoring Olivia de Havilland with a Tribute on June 15 of next year.

Facing a paucity of real men at home, Hollywood resorts to importing them, claims Boyd Farrow in the New Statesman.

At PopMatters, Adrien Begrand praises the second round in the Directors Label series.

Online browsing tip. Monsters photoshopped into classic paintings at Worth1000.com. Via MCN.

Online viewing tips. A roundup of musical interludes via Screenhead. Café Bouillu, Wamono, Nothing But Green Lights.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:29 PM

Jarhead.

Jarhead The Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum is more impressed by Jarhead the book than Jarhead the movie:

In the second chapter [Anthony] Swofford writes, "There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country.... But actually, Vietnam films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended." He goes on to argue that civilians see these movies as moral statements - and that military men see them as pornography. "It doesn't matter how many Mr and Mrs Johnsons are antiwar - the actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not."

As for Rosenbaum's take on the film, "I suspect the warmongers lured in by the trailer will walk out disappointed and the pacifists will come away confused.... Jarhead the movie can serve just about any agenda today - and tomorrow."

Jarhead "[N]either my book nor the film are anti-war. You know, they're about men with rifles, not about the guys in suits who make the decisions," Swofford tells the Stranger's Andrew Wright, whose review begins, "Director Sam Mendes is perhaps the most talented filmmaker who has yet to make a fully satisfying movie."

"It would've played equally well whether the United States had triumphed conclusively in Iraq, or, as happened, became mired in a bloody, protracted insurgency," writes Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly. "When I say Jarhead plays well, I mean as an involving, sharply crafted entertainment, not as the more incisive, challenging - and yes, political - film that might have been made on the same subject."

For the NYT's AO Scott, "It is a movie that walks up to some of the most urgent and painful issues of our present circumstance, clears its throat loudly and, with occasional flourishes of impressive rhetoric, says nothing."

More from Sudhir Muralidhar in the American Prospect, David Edelstein at Slate, Stephanie Zacharek at Salon, Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, Jim Tudor at Twitch and James Rocchi at Cinematical.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

Fests, 11/4.

AFI Fest 05 Brian Brooks launches indieWIRE's special coverage of AFI Fest.

Scott Foundas introduces the LA Weekly's preview of 36 of the films screening at AFI Fest: "[T]he next 10 days will bring with them a sampling of worthy films from all corners of the globe, most screening locally for the first time. But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't say that something strikes me as fundamentally wrong-headed about a supposedly international film festival in which 34 of the 92 features are American productions or co-productions; in which the country with the second largest number of films in the program, Germany, hasn't been a vital player on the world cinema stage in decades [the Los Angeles Times's Kevin Crust would disagree on that one]; and in which a sidebar of five Johnny Depp films qualifies as a retrospective."

Also, looking back to Pusan: "[T]he 10-film retrospective 'Lee Man-Hee: The Poet of the Night'... was a potent reminder that, even in an age when it would appear no cinematic stone remains unturned, there are still major careers waiting to be reclaimed from obscurity.

Kim Ji-seok, PIFF's Asian programmer, is interviewed by Davide Cazzaro and Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org.

Biennial of Moving Images The 11th Biennial of Moving Images runs November 11 through 19 in Geneva.

Pete Scholtes offers a few recommendations for the Get Real City Pages Documentary Film Festival, tonight through November 10 in Minneapolis.

Martha Fischer at Cinematical: "Every year for the last quarter century, New York's Museum of Modern Art has run Kino!, a short, thorough program of recent German cinema; the 2005 edition has just begun."

Jim Ridley looks ahead to the Nashville Jewish Film Festival (Sunday through November 12) in the Nashville Scene.

Brian at Hell on Frisco Bay: "In honor of the Paramount pre-code series that begins at the Balboa tonight [i.e., last night] and runs through November 24th, here are my current ten favorite Paramount feature films from the period, each accompanied by a favorite quote."

Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog, a roundup on the Tokyo International Film Festival. First, the award winners. Then, In the Japan Times, Mark Schilling explains why he and fellow members of the jury for the Japanese Eyes section chose to give its Best Picture Award to Mitsuo Yanagimachi's Kamyu Nante Shiranai (Who's Camus Anyway?), and Mark Thompson: "Having viewed all 15 of the films in the competition division of this year's TIFF, including [Yuki ni Negau Koto (What the Snow Brings)], I would have to say I didn't foresee this film picking up not only the Sakura Grand Prix but also the Best Director prize and the Best Actor award, given to [Koichi] Sato."

Films don't compete at the London Film Festival, which closed last night, but some awards are given out. Lindesay Irvine has a list in the Guardian.

Matt Dentler traces the happy fates of many of the films that screened at SXSW last year.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:47 AM

Firecracker. 12.

The new issue of Firecracker opens with a set of pieces following up on the Pusan International Film Festival:

Journey From the Fall

  • The tenth anniversary edition reconfirms the fest's position as "East Asia's pre-eminent movie event," writes Nick North.

  • North on the retrospective that looks as if it may leave a lasting impact: "Audiences at the ten Lee Man-hee movies screened in Pusan as part of the retrospective which hailed a man describe as the 'Poet of the Night' were treated to an intriguing journey of rediscovery, or in the case of the mostly youthful crowds, just plain discovery."

  • Erika Franklin on Cages, a film shot and produced in Singapore by American director, Graham Streeter.

  • "24 year-old first-time director and writer Yoon Jong-bin scooped three main prizes at Pusan this year for his film, The Unforgiven." Franklin talks with him.

  • Two reviews: North on Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Loft and Franklin on Ham Tran's Journey From the Fall.

Mike Atherton looks back on the Japanese films screened at the Raindance Festival in London: "To put it simply Midnight Eye is the resource on Japanese cinema on the Internet making Jasper [Sharp]'s selection some of the hottest tickets of the festival."

Dean Bowman reviews a touring program of films by Yasuzo Masumura, "marking the first chance for English cineastes to see the films of an intriguing and prolific director."

Reviews:

Born to Fight

Posted by dwhudson at 7:29 AM

November 3, 2005

FAF. AFI. Previews.

Two festivals open today, one each in the yin and the yang of California. Hannah Eaves peeks ahead.

Film Arts Festival FAF 05

The San Francisco International Film Festival's determined ignorance earlier this year of Bay Area local Caveh Zahedi's latest film I Am a Sex Addict came as a great, if not entirely surprising, disappointment. The film screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival to sold-out crowds and received an extremely high audience rating. Those wary of entering Zahedi's mindscape after his previous, squirm-inducing, confrontational films were greeted with a happy surprise. I Am a Sex Addict is accessible - an important point when put in the context of his other work. It is funny, engaging and enjoyable despite its off-color topic. I was sitting next to Caveh in Rotterdam as programmers from other festivals around the world approached him, hopeful for a shot at screening his film. But I didn't see a single face from San Francisco, his hometown. Luckily, the Film Arts Foundation has stepped forward and will be presenting I Am a Sex Addict as its closing night film. And really, that's what the foundation is there for - to give deserving films a chance.

Romantico

GreenCine will be co-presenting two documentary screenings at the festival, which runs through November 9 - Romántico and Wellstone!. If you've visited the artistic Mission District in San Francisco, you'll be familiar with the protagonists of Romántico, the mariachi performers who are a regular fixture at popular tapas joints like Esperpento. The film follows Carmelo, an illegal Mexican immigrant and musician, as he decides to return home in order to be closer to his diabetic mother and growing daughters. Thanks to Lou Dobbs and others, illegal immigration is a hot topic right now, regularly sparking rhetorical outbursts and fist-shaking. Taking a different approach, director Mark Beker has instead made a quiet film that chooses to simply document Carmelo's contrasting worlds.

Wellstone!

Wellstone!, as befits its subject matter, is not so calm. The documentary is a memorial tribute to Paul Wellstone, the Minnesotan Senator who gave us hope that regular Americans can occasionally stop thinking of "liberal" as a dirty word and actually vote for one. In 1990, Wellstone chose to run a real race against long-time Republican incumbent Rudy Boschowitz and, largely through the power of grassroots organization, labor support and his infectiously sincere spirit, actually pulled off a win. He consistently voted according to his beliefs and was the only senator up for reelection who voted against the war in Iraq. The Republicans made it their mission to upend him in the 2002 election, but tragically, before they could, he, along with his wife, daughter and other staffers, died in a plane crash just eleven days before the election. This film is not hard-hitting, or even particularly well-made, but it does serve as a good introduction to Wellstone for those unfamiliar with his passionate leadership.

AFI Fest

AFI Fest 05 As the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq passes 2000, and as the Senate closes its doors to discuss the duplicity surrounding those now-infamous fabricated documents presented as justification for the invasion, it's an appropriate time to examine past and present wars. The New York Times is doing just that at AFI Fest (through November 13) in their inaugural series of panel discussions, "Times Talks." It's a great marketing tool, an elaborate plug for the Times' Hollywood coverage. Considering the Times' vacillation over the war itself and the self-flagellation that followed, dealing with war on the screen seems like a comparatively safe bet. In the first of the three "Talks," NYT film critics AO Scott and Manohla Dargis will discuss "Hollywood at War," then and now. The second talk will see NYT Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati moderate a discussion amongst war doc directors Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Stephen Marshall (BattleGround), Jehane Noujaim (Control Room), Garrett Scott (Occupation: Dreamland) and Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace). Panel discussions like these usually resolve nothing, but this group in particular should have some interesting personal stories to tell about their time in Iraq. Then, moving on to the Cold War, Lynn Hirschberg will interview George Clooney on the heels of his success with Good Night, and Good Luck. It should be an engaging interview considering that Clooney is both (thankfully) intelligent and (sadly) the closest thing our generation has to Cary Grant.

Merry Christmas

Wars, then and now, serve, too, as a backdrop to some of AFI's highlights this year. In a controversial move, France has put forward Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) as its candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award rather than the obvious US crowd pleaser, March of the Penguins. It concerns the now legendary Christmas Truce of 1914 that saw German, French and British troops in the horrific trenches of Ypres cease fire for Christmas to collect their dead, sing carols and play football. Now considered to be the last great gesture of dying 19th century honor, the truce was greeted with disdain by those in charge who, in reaction, instituted Christmas Eve artillery bombardments for the remainder of the war.

Mrs Henderson Presents

A similar determination to cope despite adverse circumstances can be seen in Stephen Frears's latest, Mrs Henderson Presents, about that most historic of nude review houses, the Windmill Theater, which refused to close (or clothe) during the Blitz. Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins spar as Laura Henderson, owner of the Windmill, and Vivien Van Damm, its manager, from the time the Windmill is bought and reopened in 1931 until Mrs Henderson's death in 1944. The intelligence of their repartee draws attention to something now almost entirely absent from movies - witty dialogue, as once exemplified by Oscar Wilde, brought to the screen by the likes of Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, and all but entirely lost for (and possibly on) audiences today.

Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures

Another WWII-era film, Brazilian Marcelo Gomes's Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures, follows two odd "miracle drug" salesmen on a road trip of sorts - Johann, a German who has escaped the war and Ranulpho, a Brazilian who is himself running away from a drought that is destroying the Northeast of his country. Together they introduce people in the remote areas of Brazil to two items it's hard to imagine living without - movies and aspirin.

The Art of Flight

Of course, we shouldn't forget the smaller films, and two documentaries that are sure to be impressive are The Art of Flight, which tells the story of two Sudanese refugees struggling in Egypt along with their filmmaker witness, and The Devil's Miner, a document of the life of 14-year-old Basillio who works in the deadly mines of Cerro Rico, Bolivia, a place where usually Catholic workers, once underground, worship the devil.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:45 AM | Comments (4)

November 2, 2005

Shorts, 11/2.

Mutual Appreciation Did you know Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation now has an official site? From which you can buy the DVD? I didn't, but Doug Cummings did: "Like Funny Ha Ha, the film benefits enormously from a charismatic and unique lead performance that seems relaxed almost to the point of boredom yet is oddly fascinating, compulsively watchable, and ultimately touching."

Chuck Tryon joins the Club of 15.

There are interviews and there are interviews. This one's something else. Jennifer Ehle sat down and typed out answers to over a hundred questions from fans and the entire exchange is presented as handsome PDF files at the fan blog entitled simply Jennifer Ehle.

For In Focus, ME Russell talks with Harold Ramis about Ice Harvest, his influence on a younger generation of filmmakers, comedy in the crime genre, eccentrics and lots else.

The first part of Thomas Giammarco's "Brief History of Korean Animation" is up at Koreanfilm.org.

Iodo Also: Darcy Paquet on Kim Ki-young's 1977 film, Iodo and Adam Hartzell on Hur Jin-ho's April Snow.

"Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) announced its first-ever Indian co-production, in partnership with [filmmaker Sanjay Leela] Bhansali," reports Namrata Joshi for Outlook India. "The announcement is significant in that it's the first time a leading Hollywood studio has decided to pump money into its Asian counterpart, Bollywood."

"The screen, along with the skyscraper, has for some time been one of the particular features of Asian modernity," writes Tom Vanderbilt in a piece for Artforum: "[A]s the glass-curtain wall was to modernism, the screen is becoming the iconic facade of the digital age." Also, Isa Genzken and Wolfgang Tillmans chat; and Greil Marcus: "In the 50s [Harvey] Kurtzman's MAD magazine was Lenny Bruce for kids."

Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Review of Books: "There have been many films about writers writing, and generally they resort to a kind of clichéd visual shorthand to convey the agonies of what people like to call the creative process: pieces of paper being yanked in frustration out of typewriters, crumpled, and tossed into wastebaskets. Capote is the only movie I know of that comes close to suggesting successfully what the complex process of creating a literary work actually looks like." And that's just scratching the surface of all he admires in the film. Others, like NP Thompson, writing for Brainwash, would disagree.

Thomas Jones in the London Review of Books on The Constant Gardener: "Jeffrey Caine, the screenwriter, has no time for people who'll say that 'Big Pharma is too obvious a target.' He's right that there's nothing wrong with obvious targets.... You'd have to be very naive to think that they were especially interested in curing people: the best way for them to make money is by keeping ill people alive, much as it was in the spooks' interest to keep the Cold War going."

Nine Lives In the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann admires both Nine Lives and Ushpizin.

"Although Jarhead is more visually accomplished and less empty than American Beauty or Road to Perdition, it still feels oppressively hermetic," writes J Hoberman of the latest Sam Mendes film. "As Desert Storm was the designated un-Vietnam, so Jarhead has an ambiguous relationship with the Nam movies that presumably fueled its combatants' warrior dreams." And: "Entertaining if cornball," The Dying Gaul, and the "model ethno-doc," Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan.

Also in the Voice:

  • "Flightplan's deepest vein, despite a mention of "post–9-11" and an obvious pertinence to contemporary airborne anxieties, is not topical but emotional." Devin McKinney on the myth of the Vanishing Lady: "The original legend focused on a mother and daughter arriving in Paris for the Great Exposition of 1889."

  • Ed Halter: "A low-budget talking-headster about man-on-man action in the years between Stonewall and AIDS, Gay Sex in the 70s is lightly entertaining, but - not unlike the cheap action it chronicles - leaves one wanting something much more substantial."

  • James Crawford on Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: "Viewers may not be surprised to learn of Wal-Mart's horrific track record, but they can't deny [director Robert] Greenwald's airtight advocacy." Related: Ray Pride has an update on Michael Barbaro's piece in the New York Times on Wal-Mart's "war room."

The Weather Man

"Green Green Water is a documentary film about hydroelectric power and its impact on the lives of thousands of Aboriginal people in northern Manitoba," reads the site (which sports a vlog). Julia Ruekert profiles filmmaker Dawn Mikkelson.

Also in the City Pages: Rob Nelson salutes Noah Baumbach's mom, Georgia Brown: "'I hesitate to say Kael doesn't speak to me, but it's true,' Brown wrote in a Voice review of Kael's For Keeps, an epic anthology that, for me, has nothing on the Brown book I created from Xeroxes and gave to a colleague as a way of dealing with the news that the most underrated and inimitable of great film critics had broken her self-described 'addiction' to journalism and retired from the field." And: Terri Sutton on The Squid and the Whale and David Ng: "As made abundantly clear in Jacques Richard's engrossing documentary Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinémathèque, the man's penchant for anarchical excess was matched only by his tireless generosity - to young filmmakers, forgotten auteurs, and broke movie addicts in cine-crazy Paris."

Return of the Sith Alexandra DuPont for the DVD Journal: "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: The DVD: The FAQ." More from Aidan Wasley in Slate, who sees the Compleat Star Wars as "really just one big elephantine postmodern art film. Star Wars, at its secret, spiky intellectual heart, has more in common with films like Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books or even Matthew Barney's The Cremaster Cycle than with the countless cartoon blockbusters it spawned."

Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production for indieWIRE.

At Stop Smiling: An excerpt from JC Gabel's interview with Terry Gilliam and Nathan Kosub on the Val Lewton collection.

B Ruby Rich in the San Francisco Guardian: "Paradise Now is as much about its characters' mind-sets as ours. In a way, Abu-Assad is building a bridge of subjectivity in the form of a madcap thriller." Also: Cheryl Eddy, briefly, on Jarhead.

Lifeboat Armond White on Lifeboat: "Hitchcock's famous toying with psychological dread has a complexity that also speaks to the present political moment." Also in the New York Press: Matt Zoller Seitz on the "epic meta-war movie," Jarhead.

At Flickhead, Kenneth Anger sends Michael I Cohen in search of Andy Arthur.

Hershmanlandia: The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, via Net Art News.

At independentfilm.com, Corey Boutilier talks with Shadowboxer director Lee Daniels.

We knew that, in the wake of the phenomenal success of The Passion of the Christ, that Hollywood would be targeting Christian audiences. Sharon Waxman reports on "Sony's release of its first high-profile DVD aimed at believers, Left Behind: World at War, the third in a series about the biblical end of days but the first time a major studio has significantly backed evangelical entertainment."

Also in the NYT, Dave Kehr on new DVDs; and Chris Elliott's run into a bit of trouble with his new novel, The Shroud of the Thwacker. He tells Edward Wyatt "that he knew Boilerplate was some kind of a spoof. But, he said, he thought it was a 19th-century spoof, not a postmodern, post-dated parody of a hoax."

Buongiorno Notte In the New York Observer: Andrew Sarris on Marco Bellocchio's Good Morning, Night (Buongiorno Notte) and Sean Howe on Stanley Donen's Two for the Road.

retroCRUSH's "100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances," via Screenhead.

Girish resolves an ethical dilemma. Admirably.

"Why in the world do I find myself identifying with him as much as I do?" Jason Morehead watches Naked.

Looker isn't exactly transported to Heaven's Gate.

Nick Rombes: "We make blogs, digital movies, playlists, links, because we want to be consumers of our own media. A endless playback loop. A sort of narcissistic confessionalism, a blank publicity, our own 15 minutes of fame, every day."

Grady Hendrix considers Jackie Chan's playlist.

Paul Harris's deathwatch in the Guardian may be intended with respect, but it does seem rather ghoulish.

At PopMatters, Simon Wood ponders the potential impact of UNESCO's resolution aimed at protecting global cultural diversity.

"Imagine a day," proposes Margeurite Reardon at CNET, when, "[i]nstead of subscribing to a service from a cable, satellite or phone company that might offer you hundreds of channels you'll never watch, you would be able to select what you want and watch it on your own schedule. That day might not be so far away."

"The iTunes distribution model [gives] the networks a huge opportunity to reinvent themselves," argues Ivan Askwith. Also in Slate: "Pushing the reality envelope" is an exercise Hollywood enjoys offscreen as well as onscreen, Edward Jay Epstein points out.

Before iTunes really established itself as a viable means of online distribution that benefits everyone, the RIAA tripped over one PR blunder after another until finally running into a PR disaster when it started suing poor grandmothers who didn't even know they'd downloaded anything illegally. You'd think the MPAA would have taken note. Nope. Bob Purvis reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gary Dretzka on collapsing windows at Movie City News.

Louis Malle Like Variety, the Los Angeles Times has decided that awards season has begun. Also: Susan King on Louis Malle.

Online browsing tip #1. Photos taken by lost cameras, toy cameras and more. Via Coudal Partners.

Online browsing tip #2. kinema icon. Via e-flux.

Online viewing tip #1. Shorts by Atomic Elroy. Via DVblog.

Online viewing tip #2. At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake'll point you to the "QT6 Flashback Video."

Online viewing tips. Trailers of note: Wolf Creek (trailer), The Libertine (trailer), After Innocence (trailer at the site) and Zinda (trailer).

Posted by dwhudson at 4:01 PM

Fests, 11/2.

FAF 21 The 21st Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema opens in San Francisco tomorrow and runs through November 9; Brian Brooks picks out a few highlights at indieWIRE.

GreenCine's Jonathan Marlow will be introducing the screening of Wellstone! (more), the story of the senator from Minnesota, on Saturday at 8:20 pm at the Roxie. GC's also co-presenting Sunday's screening of Romántico (more), about the underground community of illegal immigrants in the US.

Johnny Ray Huston picks a few highlights in the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Rita Felciano focuses on one: "Ballets Russes is a great yarn, well spun."

Also in the SFBG: Dennis Harvey on the "Sin in Soft Focus: Paramount Pre-Code" series at the Balboa, tomorrow through November 24.

Three Rivers Film Festival Also opening tomorrow is the Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh, running through November 17 with an excellent lineup that seems to have a little something for everyone. The Movie Review Query Engine has set up sort of a portal to reviews of the films on offer.

Barry Paris, author of Garbo, Louise Brooks: A Biography and Audrey Hepburn, has a piece in the Post-Gazette on the opening night event, a screening of the recently restored Beyond the Rocks, the only film that Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson made together, with live accompaniment by Philip Carli.

The film is vital enough for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival to present a screening for the first time outside its own schedule. The "West Coast Premiere Revival Screening" of Beyond the Rocks takes place on Sunday, November 13.

The Undiscovered Gems Film Festival: IndieWIRE has unveiled the seven films it'll be taking to nine cities from November 7 through December 4 via digital technology.

You may remember George the Cyclist's coverage of Cannes this year and last at Rashomon. As we learn in Patrick McGavin's profile for the Hollywood Reporter, he's George Christensen and: "I am a bicyclist who likes movies much more than I am a moviegoer who likes to bicycle."

Also: Sheri Linden opens the HR's AFI Fest package. Tomorrow through November 13.

There Goes the Neighborhood: Gentrification on Film, in Brooklyn on Sunday.

In the Voice: Joshua Land on the CinemaEast Film Festival, November 4 through 10, and Michael Atkinson on the "New Czech Films" series, tomorrow through Sunday. Meanwhile, Dennis Lim looks back to Vancouver.

High Falls Film Festival At Cinematical, Kim Voynar previews the High Falls Film Festival (Rochester, NY, November 9 through 14).

Cinema For Everyone is a festival that aims to draw the deaf, the hard of hearing and the hearing alike for two days of movies, November 18 and 19, in Seguin, Texas.

Bill Viola: At the James Cohen Gallery in New York, November 5 through December 22.

At Kamera, John Atkinson on London (wraps tomorrow) and Marcelle Parks on Oldenburg (back in September).

The Alternative Film Guide rounds up lots more festival news.

Online listening tip. Cathy R Fischer, senior editor for PBS's Inside Indies, moderates a discussion among festival programmers, talking about what their jobs are really like. The participants: Matt Dentler (SXSW), Brian Gordon (Nashville Film Festival) and Rachel Rosen (Los Angeles Film Festival).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:18 PM

Criticine.

Criticine "While writing of western critics on eastern cinema is no doubt invaluable, to allow it to be in a monologue with itself in the dominant discourse is dangerous," asserts editor Alexis A Tioseco in the inaugural issue of Criticine, a new journal devoted to Asian film - with an emphasis on "expanding past Kurosawa and Ozu, Wuxia and Yimou" and on publishing translated texts from writers native to the countries' cinemas. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phillipines - as Todd notes at Twitch, these are primary among the national cinemas that are too often overlooked by critics, programmers and distributors: "Until now."

"How do artifacts of popular culture become the filter to screen the anxiety of the people and the nation itself?" One of the many questions Rolando Tolentino raises in "Rethinking Cinemas of Asia: Preliminary Thoughts."

Galk Cheng Khoo: Reclaiming Adat: Contemporary Malaysian Film and Literature Hassan Muthalib offers a brief history of Malaysian cinema and then explains Anuar Nor Arai's concept of its "five voices." Vinita Ramani further probes the notion of "Malaysian cinema": "[T]he essential point of my essay: namely, that cultures are not static, that traditions can be re-interpreted and that the little exposure I have had to Malaysian cinema from the 1950s - 1960s has clearly demonstrated to me how acutely aware the filmmakers and actors of the time were of this." And Galk Cheng Khoo: "Malaysian indies are quickly gaining a reputation for remaining consistently active while independent of a state which does not have a systematic way of providing funds in the form of loans and grants."

In those pieces, you'll see indie filmmaker Amir Muhammad cited and quoted and referred to pretty frequently; Benjamin McKay interviews him. The second interview is Tioseco's with Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, who breaks into laughter easily and is evidently taken with Berlin.

"In the Philippines' only film school, there is not much to do," writes Raya Martin in an entry in the journal he's keeping as part of the Résidence du Festival de Cannes, an entry that describes how he forged ahead with his education regardless.

Reviews:

Sanctuary

Posted by dwhudson at 6:37 AM

November 1, 2005

Pop Goes the Doc

David D'Arcy presents his take on a documentary making the rounds on the festival circuit. You may or may not agree, but hopefully, you'll find it provocative. As a casual reader when it comes to art, weaned primarily on the books of Calvin Tomkins when it comes to the American artists of the mid-20th century, I certainly have. It's a long shot, but if you can find David D'Arcy's excellent review of Jed Perl's New Art City in the Art Newspaper, do. Meantime, Jan Herman has an update on what he calls the "D'Arcy affair," a tangle with NPR that will have gone on a year now come December.

I did not go to the Hamptons International Film Festival, which ended last week, but I did go to the launch party in Manhattan about six weeks ago. It was there that I got a tape of Who Gets To Call It Art?, which played at the festival.

Geldzahler and Co Peter Rosen's film walks us through the rise of Pop Art and the rise of one of its champions, the curator and bon vivant Henry Geldzahler (1935 - 1994). The cast, presented as the troops of a liberation movement, includes the Pop Art crowd: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, David Hockney, the sculptor John Chamberlain and the journalist Calvin Tomkins. Pop Art's penetration into the mainstream is viewed as a triumph. The artists and Geldzahler are portrayed as its heroes.

After its current parade through film festivals, the documentary opens at Film Forum in New York on February 1, 2006.

It makes sense for a film like this to have made its New York debut at the Hamptons. After all, artists as early as the 1940s (perhaps earlier) were fleeing squalid expensive Manhattan for fresh air and open spaces where you could wake up with a hangover and not risk getting run over by a bus. Jackson Pollock painted there, drank there, and died there in a car wreck in 1956. Willem De Kooning also fled the bars and walkup studios of Greenwich Village in the late 1950s, and died on the East End of Long Island in 1997.

These days there are plenty of Warhols out in the Hamptons - hanging like trophies in collectors' houses. Those collectors, who don't seem to mind that their trophies were mass-produced, are likely to be very wealthy. To buy a Warhol these days, you have to be.

Once an escape for artists whose works could barely be sold, the Hamptons are now a place where those once-unsellable artists decorate the walls. The works of artists who mocked the victory of commercial banality are now the status symbols for those who have risen to the top of the commercial ladder. Go figure.

Who Gets to Call It Art? begins with Abstract Expressionists exploding and fizzling (bear in mind that this is more interpretation that fact). We soon see the young Henry Geldzahler, the son of diamond merchants, finding his way into the small circle that was the art world in those days. Few people cared about art back then, and even fewer people cared enough to buy it. John Chamberlain (known for his sculptures of bent crushed metal) recalled that the audience for art was mostly artists, who scorned the world north of 14th Street. "Who gives a rat's ass what the public thinks. It's their job to catch up," he said. It's a wry observation, given the way so many of today's artists seem to be producing to meet market demand.

The conventional wisdom, now offered assuredly in retrospect, was that art need some lightening from the somber, moody Ab-Ex, and Warhol and company were there to make that happen with a blithe indifference to anything that smacked of art history. It didn't catch on right away, but eventually it worked. People bought it.

You begin to get a sense of who does "get to call it art." It's the people who buy and sell it.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol Much of the documentary's march toward recognition and beyond for Pop Art is extremely familiar territory for anyone who follows the art world. The interpretive twist extolling Warhol and Pop Art sets it apart. Geldzahler emerges as the canny, campy fixer who helps elevate Warhol to stardom by introducing his soup cans and brillo boxes to a skeptical public. Not all the critics fell for it - far from it - but Warhol and Geldzahler proved to be critic-proof. In this film, they still are. If the critics saw the soup cans as half-empty (or just empty, as Hilton Kramer does), this documentary sees them as half-full.

Neither Warhol nor Geldzahler is around to speak for himself, but Rosen (respected for documentaries on classical music) has plenty of archival footage to tell his story. Led by these brothers in glibness, the Pop crowd wouldn't have had its impact if the media hadn't been rolling the cameras. Warhol's boilerplate deadpan to reporters' questions still gets you laughing. Making art "gives me something to do," he says.

Geldzahler's real triumph was New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970, the exhibition that brought living artists to the Met in 1970. Easy to underestimate - now, at a time when contemporary art has become an appendage of the interior decoration industry - it brought living artists to a museum that rarely showed them, like it or not. And it wasn't just Pop Art, but the art of the 40s and 50s - everyone from Gorky and Pollock to the Warhol crowd. Like every curator, Geldzahler was attacked for those whom he hadn't included.

Geldzahler could not fix all the forces that he helped set into motion, especially the rising price of art, at least the rise in price of the Pop artists. (Let's not forget that then, as now, most artists could not support themselves by selling their work.) The documentary shows some rarely-seen footage of the famous 1973 Scull auction, a sale at which art bought by a taxi-fleet mogul, Robert Scull, was sold publicly in Manhattan, and the results revealed that the price paid for contemporary art had soared, and suggested that those prices would continue to rise. At the sale, when the rest of the art world gloated, artists sulked, and then exploded. Robert Rauschenberg, after watching two works bought for less than $5000 bring $175,000, confronted Scull, asking, "I worked my ass off so that you could make a profit." Scull struck right back, "Yeah, and now you'll be selling better, too."

Scull turned out to be far more insightful than anyone expected, yet the artists' innocence here is more surprising. Artists who seized on commercial logos and banal mass-produced "icons" as an alternative to moody abstraction were indignant that the images they ridiculed for commodification were being commodified again, by the collectors and merchants buying and selling them. Had Brillo objected to Warhol's use of its boxes, artists would have smirked with delight. When dealers and auctioneers sold and resold the boxes for whatever the market would bear, the satirists wailed, and no one listened.

Geldzahler was disheartened. He left the Met, took a job as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York, and then moved to the Hamptons. The documentary shows him ending his life as a champion of a new set of fashionable artists - Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente and Jean Michel Basquiat.

It would appear, from Peter Rosen's film at least, that the zeitgeist-savvy Geldzahler simply went from one fashion trend to another. Geldzahler's friends and former colleagues say that perception misrepresents the curator's important influence. Those who have seen the film object to it. Geldzahler wasn't a Warhol acolyte, or anyone's acolyte, they say. We now await a more measured consideration of the man. That probably won't come in a documentary film, since this one already exists.

The film's problem is not what it tries to do, but what it fails to do, or chooses not to do. It's not a history of Pop Art, so we don't see that Warhol continued to thrive after Pop went out of fashion, thanks to portraits that he and his advisers commissioned from the power elite and the glam-ocracy. He understood how fashion works best, by playing to the vanity of the wealthy. Warhol's advisers recommended that he paint portraits of the rich and famous. He did, and they paid lavishly for the works.

The film is also not a biography of Henry Geldzahler. In following him fom one droll moment to another, it often reduces the portly man to a Pop image, kind of like an art Hitchcock cameo, painted over and over again by his artist friends, but still only viewed on the comical surface.

Who Gets To Call It Art? is an ungainly vessel, ideal for the Public Broadcasting System in its overture/journey/appreciation structure, and in its rehashing of the conventional wisdom on its era. Yet it still has moments at which interviewees speak with lucidity. On Pop art, the critic Clement Greenberg says, "It's nice, it's minor, and the very best of the Pop doesn't succeed at being more than minor." That's all that needs to be said.

Another artist speaks of the commercial revolution that he and others witnessed: "If you can sell art to people who don't like art, you've got a bonanza, like popular music."

Toward the documentary's close, Francesco Clemente, a painter of a later career whom Geldzahler and the glossy mags championed, discusses the curator's eagerness and passion in a judicious way. You won't remember much of what Clemente says, although he does mention that Geldzahler was able to find "the second life... that we all seek" in supporting a new generation of artists. Yet you will remember what Clemente wore while he was saying it - an elegantly tailored grey suit and vest, the kind of staid dandy-ish costume associated with dealers and collectors in the 1920s. In a suit that cost more than what Pop Art paintings sold for in the early 1960s, he couldn't be more different in attire or demeanor than James Rosenquist or Frank Stella, who appear in work clothes. What is art now, if not fashion?

There's a final chapter to this story, not mentioned in the film, that no one can blame Henry Geldzahler for. The Pop artists have won the battle of the market that they began winning in the early 1960s. Warhols are setting auction records all the time. James Rosenquist's 80-foot-wide painting of a warplane, F-111, which the Guggenheim and MoMA were vying for, was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for its reopening last year. And MoMA didn't stop there. Earlier this year it bought Rebus, a 1955 Rauschenberg combine painting, for $30 million. With prices like this for Pop Art, the Met's purchase of a Duccio Madonna (ca. 1300) for a reported $46 million looks a like a steal.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:03 PM

Bright Lights. 50.

Bright Lights Film Journal The Voice isn't the only publication to have just hit the big Five-O. In the case of Bright Lights Film Journal, "a print and online mag, stretching back, serendipitously, to the year Nixon resigned, 1974," as editor Gary Morris notes, we're measuring not in years but in issues. And the first thing you'll notice about this one (besides the absence of Gary's "little stabs," which will be sorely missed until the next round) is that there's just a whole lotta horror.

"We know, we know," writes Gary, "there's so much real horror around these days, why devote an entire 'hallway' to it? Why not, say, a shelf or a corner? But let's face it - horror is an inexhaustible subject and genre and the reigning mood of all jaded moderns, and we had to have our say on it again."

The Leopard Man RKO producer Val Lewton is the runner in the hallway, which is both fitting and helpful now that that five-disc collection (nine movies and a doc!) has just come out. Mark A Viera tackles the major overview, tracing Lewton's steady rise and fall and, in between, tells engaging, quote-spiced tales behind the now-classic features.

Erich Kuersten zeroes in on The Leopard Man, but along the way, notes: "It takes a very level-headed and generous Hollywood artisan to pull off the hat trick of being entertaining and 'healing' without being corny. You can count them on one mangled hand: Hawks, Ford, Lewton." And Roderick Heath: "To watch [Jacques] Tourneur's The Leopard Man and [Henri-Georges] Clouzot's Le Corbeau is to see two almost concordant minds, within the same year (1943), conjure two films of fascinating similarity, reflecting on the nature of evil, with some moments that are virtual replicas, though there is no possibility of their having influenced each other."

Tom Sutpen on The Innocents: "Jack Clayton's film still manages to have its way with us, ravishing the viewer to a degree many films of its genre never dreamed possible." Outside the "hallway" (though it might as well have one foot in), Sutpen opens a piece on Robert Altman's Secret Honor by noting that the American people's relationship with Richard Nixon could well be considered "codependent, borderline sadomasochistic."

While focusing on The Guardian, John C Turner notes that the horror of both that film and The Exorcist is that, "You can't control yourself, and there's nothing that can be done about it. Even the tools you would use to climb out of the pit end up deepening the hole. If [William] Friedkin wasn't so dedicated to the search for knowledge, his ideas could be mistaken for nihilism."

Stephen Harper recognizes that much has been written about Night of the Living Dead, "my discussion (I might almost say disinterment and dissection) of the film offers some original contributions to the film’s generic, stylistic, and structural analysis and explores some of the reasons for its continuing popularity at a time of renewed cultural and cinematic fascination with zombies."

Keursten argues that the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre serves "as a post-mortem of free love, illuminating why the return to Eden never panned out like we wanted."

Olive Thomas And that would wrap the horror section if it weren't for Andrew Grossman's strange dream of an orbiting multiplex, which he offers as a launching pad of sorts from which to explore the history and current state of the gaze, among many, many other things.

Grossman's feature goes long but its relevancy keeps popping up throughout the issue. Compare and contrast: Gordon Thomas and, over at Flickhead, Ray Young, who finds that Olive Thomas "lumbers across the screen, graceless and bovine." Gordon Thomas, on the other hand, who tells the tale of this life cut short well: "In the end I'll admit that I'm infatuated with Olive Thomas, and why not? Just look at her."

Then there's Alan Vanneman suggesting that we could ignore the inferior choreography of The Barkleys of Broadway if Ginger Rogers had just dropped ten pounds.

Another exercise in compare-n-contrast from Anya Meksin: Leni Riefenstahl and Fred Wiseman. Both have "used reality to construct elaborate allegories of the human condition" and both " insist, shockingly, that art cannot be used for moral and ideological ends." And yet "theories of how the individual exists socially and physically couldn’t differ more."

For Richard Armstrong, The Last Days of Chez Nous is "one of the most underrated Australian films to be shown in the west in twenty years."

The interviews:

The Music Room

"Recent Cinema Roundabout":

Forty Shades of Blue
  • Dan Callahan: "Forty Shades [of Blue] is not a movie about other movies, like so many of the most ambitious films of the past ten years. [Director Ira] Sachs has something to say and as an artist he is using film to say it; he remains dedicated to a humanist investigation of overlooked people."

  • "Despite the unconvincing pairing of [Gwyneth] Paltrow and [Jake] Gyllenhaal," Proof basically works for Page Laws.

  • Ian Johnston offers one of the most thorough readings yet of The Wayward Cloud (spoilers and all, it should be noted) and concludes: "It is another superb piece of filmmaking from Tsai Ming-liang, even if this time we might be inclined to resist its final confused and confusing message."

Festivals:

  • Cannes is always exciting, explains Karin Badt: "The films were not, however, themselves at the peak this year, none shining with genius in either execution or story, a view shared by many, even by the festival jury president, Emir Kusturica."

NYFF
  • Each of the highlights of the New York Film Festival gets a smart paragraph from Megan Ratner, then: "Overall, a festival with some real delights. The disappointments, as in years past, are often very mainstream films that don't need the NYFF clout to find an audience."

  • Robert Keser in Chicago: "With 2005 shaping up as America's annus horribilis, a year that saw a great native city reduced to a FEMA-ville of trailers parked amongst the wreckage, its inhabitants scattered in every direction, and the national culture heedlessly bent on closing itself off from the world (except for buyers and sellers of its products), letting the vault door slam shut, this film festival acts as an essential foot planted in the door, an annual intervention to keep communication open with other cultures, their ways of seeing and their ways of thinking." Then, his take on nine films.

In the video section, Matthew Kennedy - "It is too easy to call Boudu Saved from Drowning a straightforward assault on the bourgeoisie" - and Vanneman on Monk, "a show whose quality and consistency are almost too good to be true."

And, saving an appreciation for last, Callahan: "[Joel] McCrea's sexual charge in his early and middle movies is exciting because he is completely natural about it and sometimes bashful. It is a kind of sex appeal that is founded on diffidence. It is in short supply today."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:07 AM | Comments (2)