December 31, 2005

Top 15. And more.

From over here in Berlin, it's seemed that the studios' specialty houses, the neighborhood some call Indiewood, loaded "For Your Consideration" season (late November through December) even more heavily this year than last. Pointing to dozens of takes on each of these films has certainly helped me sort out my priorities when they eventually hit theaters here in the coming weeks and months, so thanks for another great year of rage and praise. The occasional yawn, the saddest reaction a film can elicit, has been helpful, too. Here's to a great 2006, and in the meantime, Craig Phillips has been slipping out of the GreenCine office in San Francisco and into theaters more often in the past couple of weeks so we can offer you...

Craig's Top 15 of 2005 List

Whereas compiling a Ten Best list last year at this time was a bit of a struggle, this year it was a challenge narrowing the field down. That's how much better the quality of films in 2005 has been; hence, a longer "Best of" list. Meditations on the sad chaos that is the Middle East, on man and nature, and on love gone awry (and on the perils of growing your own vegetables) are just a few of the themes linking these otherwise remarkably disparate and memorable cinematic visions. While article after article came out this year wondering about declining attendance numbers, cinema shrugs its shoulders and marches on regardless. It doesn't mean, of course, that there weren't plenty of depressing nadirs coming from the studio system this year, but there were enough signs of life there - and a ton of quality work coming from around the globe and from American independents - that rumors of the demise of moving pictures have been greatly exaggerated.

Capote 1. Capote: Bennett Miller's first feature and first collaboration with longtime friend actor Dan Futterman is an artistically fruitful one, a remarkably assured and near-flawless film that manages to hone in one seminal period in the titular writer's life while also capturing the gist of his career arc. It's hard to imagine anyone else in the lead than Philip Seymour Hoffman, who captures the oft-imitated writer with complete dimensionality, a long way from caricature. He's ringed by admirable support: Clifton Collins is just right as convicted killer Perry Smith, Catherine Keener as sharp as always as Harper Lee, and Bruce Greenwood touching as Capote's long-suffering boyfriend, writer Jack Dunphy. Superb.

2. The Squid and the Whale: Noah Baumbach's inevitably compared to his cohort Wes Anderson but this sharply written, darkly funny work digs deeper and feels less controlled than even Anderson's best work. One of the best films ever about the pains of a divorce, with biblically-bearded Jeff Daniels splendid as the narcissistic, bitter professor/writer father and Jesse Eisenberg his near-equal as the parroting son. The sharp dialogue stings like pin pricks and ultimately the film shows how when people reach a crossroads at the same time, some of them thrive and some quietly drown.

You won't give yourself a more important, timely double-feature this year than these next two:

Munich and Paradise Now 3. Munich: Spielberg effortlessly merges a taut thriller with a political meditation without any of the sentimentality or bias his detractors expected (with a large assist from Tony Kushner and Eric Roth). A throwback not only to Spielberg's best work of the 70s but to that decade's best political thrillers. Tense, appropriately harrowing, and complex. Rounded out by a fine cast (Eric Bana nails the lead, pre-Bond Daniel Craig mesmerizes, chameleonic Geoffrey Rush is spot-on as always). Provocative and powerful, the film makes you forgive the director for his recent transgressions.

4. Paradise Now: Director Hany Abu-Assad's film is similar to Jarhead in that its politics are ambiguous, if it can be considered political at all, in that it doesn't pass judgment on the suicide bombers depicted here who begin to question their mission. In fact, it's a terrific film that's all the more so for its contradictions, while naturally weaving in moments of black comedy. Tremendously suspenseful and provocative viewing.

5. Turtles Can Fly: Haunting children of war-torn and isolated northern Iraq are at the center of this heartbreaking, unforgettable drama that is less a war movie than it is about the people war displaces. Like Paradise, the film fluidly weaves dark comedy with tragedy. That the cast is comprised of non-professionals only adds to the film's miraculousness.

6. 2046: As slow, languid as you'd expect from Wong Kar-Wai, but surely one of the most beautiful films of the year - aesthetically and emotionally. If it's not a masterpiece, it's still masterful, a moving painting, a rhapsody and a ballad. The work of the remarkable cast that adds weight and depth to the film; along with Tony Leung as the lounge-lizardish sci-fi writer, some of China's best and brightest actresses are on hand - Faye Wong, Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi. Wry humor is woven throughout while hearbreak lurks underneath all the characters. As Antonioni-ish as Hong Kong cinema gets, 2046 is a striking oasis of art in a cinematic red desert.

Kontroll 7. Kontroll: Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal's first feature makes for an impressive debut. Set among the hapless subway fare inspectors of Budapest, the film effortlessly shifts from dark comedy to mystery and, in the film's final act, pretty near horror. Teeters precariously on the verge of disjointedness, but is strong on atmosphere and pacing that it scarcely matters. But it's the hangdog cast of characters who will remain in my memory most firmly.

8. Downfall: The best depiction of the final days of the Third Reich, as Berlin falls and Hitler's reign collapses, the film is brought to another level by Bruno Ganz's frightening, three-dimensional portrayal of the unhinged leader. Worries that it brought too much humanity to the man behind the Holocaust were misguided; by showing what horrors are possible from human kind, it's a sobering reminder what could happen again if we let it. Harrowing and riveting.

9. Brokeback Mountain: If it's intermittently repetitive, melodramatic and aimless as a drifting cowboy, Ang Lee's film comes together in an extremely moving final act. Beautifully shot and acted, Brokeback is also likely the most groundbreaking studio film of the year. Heath Ledger's perfect performance in the lead, and Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana's appropriately terse - and occasionally even funny - script (from Annie Proulx's short story) give the film its backbone.

10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Animation by hand and from the heart (you can literally see Aardman animators' fingerprints on some of the clay characters). Whimsical and hilarious, with perfectly realized set pieces. Gromit is as real to me as Kong, at 1/1000 the budget. Cracking good.

11. A History of Violence: David Cronenberg's noirish thriller (with Western elements) veers close to exploitation and absurdity and somehow doesn't cross too far over; this is pulp friction, as perversely funny as Cronenberg's best work, and almost as cold. Viggo Mortensen strikes just the right balance of humanity and dark-heartedness for a film that is more about character than about the straightforward vengeance plot that it seems on the surface.

12. Murderball: A truly great documentary about paraplegic athletes that is not a sports movie as much as an intimate examination of the nature of disabilities. And "disabled" is the last thing you'd call these intense guys. An exuberant, life-affirming movie that will kick your ass.

Grizzly Man 13. Grizzly Man: This excellent, appropriately non-judgmental Werner Herzog doc about an idealistic, and foolhardy, nature activist living among Alaskan bears is a (self-)portrait, an essay and a close-up look at an impressive animal. This is not your ordinary anthropomorphized look at the cuteness of nature; it's a film you won't soon forget.

14. King Kong: I think I cried more at the end of this film than in Brokeback Mountain, which possibly reveals more about me than the films, but also demonstrates how successful Peter Jackson and company (not to mention actor Andy Serkis, portraying him at times for Naomi Watts to play off of) were at creating a fully dimensionalized beast to Watts' beauty. Jackson is in thrall of the magic of cinema and fully aware of how to push an audience's buttons; rather than feeling manipulated, I just went on the ride. Jaw-dropping at times (plodding in a few others, but forgivably), it's essentially one helluva good-looking B-movie, in the best sense.

15. Head-On: Fatih Akin's uncompromising film is both a gritty love story and an exploration of cultural identity. Breathless, to say the least, even out of control, but the film manages to be both brutal and tender. No small feat. Akin's a director to watch.

Honorable Mentions:

Mysterious Skin

Guilty Pleasures:

Should Have Had a Wider Audience Award:

The Wish I'd Seen Them So I Could Consider Them For This List Award (aka the Impoverished Overworked Critic Award)

My Summer of Love

The Glad I Didn't See Them Award

At Least This Didn't Fully Suck Award

The Just Plain Suck Awards (or, the Please Stop Breeding Award)

What The...? Award

Best Performance by a Flock of Sheep

  • Brokeback Mountain

Posted by dwhudson at 8:22 AM | Comments (9)

Lists, 12/31.

Crash The Alternative Film Guide reports that the African-American Film Critics Association has named Crash "Best Film of 2005." More from Rene Lynch in the Los Angeles Times. On a related note, blackfilm.com editor Wilson Morales looks back on 05. His top ten is topped by... Crash. Wonder what Scott Foundas would say.

"Rather than offer a list of the 10 or 20 'best' DVD releases of 2005 - how do you compare a sleekly engineered release of a recent Hollywood blockbuster with an obscure Filipino action film wrenched from a moldering negative? - it seemed more useful to look at what individual distributors achieved in the last year," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "Many of these companies have developed distinct personalities, as easily recognizable - if not more so - than some of the filmmakers they distribute."

Another way of looking at it: In this digital age, distributors are forming some of the same sort brand identities associated with Hollywood studios in the 30s and 40s. At any rate, Dave Kehr picks out some of the best releases by the "twin titans" (Warner Home Video and the Criterion Collection), studios other than Warner and the indies, including Kino, Milestone, New Yorker, NoShame, First Run Features, Tartan, Dark Sky Films and Zeitgeist.

Ugetsu Silver disc fetishists are encouraged to... well, actually, they'll already know about the "DVD of the Year - 2005" extravaganza at DVD Beaver.

At Movie City News, Doug Pratt chooses his top ten DVDs. #1: King Kong.

David Poland introduces his top ten (#1 is a tie between The Constant Gardener and Kings and Queen), his bottom ten and spotlights the "Movies You Should Have Seen But Didn't."

Part II of Filmbrain's top ten, that is, his choices from the pool of films that actually screened in theaters in the US, is up, led by the "fillet of the year," The Squid and the Whale. On a related note, at Cinemarati, Filmbrain takes issue(s) with The Reeler's two-part worst-of-the-lists list.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir does a lot more than put Kings and Queen at the top of his list of ten and write 'em up. He first spends three pages talking with folks on the business end about how the year went for indies. In short, it's a jungle out there: "In some weeks, New York and Los Angeles saw 12 to 15 films opening on Friday, leading to what [publicist Sasha] Berman calls a 'lose-lose proposition' and [Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn] Bowles calls 'the tower of Babel.' Interesting, risky, worthwhile movies from all over the world were fighting each other tooth and nail for reviews, advertising space and a tiny piece of filmgoer consciousness."

"Ask any Hollywood studio executive whether 2005 was a good year and you'll get an emphatic no," writes Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter. She then chooses ten pairs of movers and shakers (e.g., Steve Jobs and Robert Iger) "who made an impact this year." On her own blog, AT posts her top ten.

Backstory 4 Among DK Holm's choices for the worst and best films of the year there are at least one or two guaranteed to rattle your cage or at least throw you off guard. Don't miss the latter section of his column (which you can also listen to) at Movie Poop Shoot in which he writes about Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s.

Two festival programmers post lists within minutes of each other: Matt Dentler (SXSW; #1: Me and You and Everyone We Know) and Tom Hall (Sarasota; #1: Kings and Queen).

WSWS's David Walsh runs two lists, the "12 best films released in a cinema in the US in 2005" and the "10 best films I saw in 2005 that have not yet been released in a cinema."

Mike Russell: "38 Movies I Didn't Loathe in 2005 (And 18 I Did), With All the Usual Disclaimers."

Aaron Hillis illustrates his top picks with shots of each film's female performers. But wait, there's more: Roll over 'em.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle and Ruthe Stein review the year and pick their faves.

The Toronto Star's Peter Howell and Geoff Pevere, via Ray Pride.

The Independent's Anthony Quinn chooses five bests and finds a unifying theme: "uneasy companionship."

Gabriel Shanks writes up his choices for the ten best performances in film and theater.

MSNBC's Dave White not only selects the worst films of 2005, he also explains why you need to see them anyway.

I'll post the release for the Twenty-Seventh Annual Fido Awards for Most Fidoesque Achievement in the Field of Motion Pictures as a comment below.

Looking ahead to 2006: Roger Clarke in the Independent, Jason Morehead and Jeffrey Wells.

Sujewa Ekanayake: "[M]y help-my-DIY-film-brothers-&-sisters-in-2006 project is to write about 1 new (new to this blog in '06) DIY (do-it-yourself), ultra-low budget/no-budget, self-distributed (or willing to self-distribute) feature length film every week of this coming year." And he begins now with Kissing on the Mouth.

Online listening tip. Bob Mondello's top eleven at NPR.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Screenhead's "70 posts from 2005 which made an impression on us for one reason or another."

Online viewing tips, round 2. Via Waxy.org, iFilm's top 25 viral videos of the year. Also: A public domain top ten.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:58 AM | Comments (2)

Weekend shorts.

The Rules of the Game The Jean Renoir season at the National Film Theatre in London runs through February and David Thomson tells Guardian readers: "Nothing but greed and obsession will suffice: you have to see every film. Only then will you know which ones you need to see more than once. This will change your life."

Also, John Patterson: "Let's get real, folks. The western, America's trove of foundation myths and 'morality' tales, literally throbs with latent homoeroticism." And Dale Fuchs reports that Woody'll be shooting in Barcelona next.

"As a Christian, why would I bother to watch and review Brokeback Mountain, a film so many other Christians have condemned?" asks Jeffrey Overstreet, who, of course, offers a long, carefully thought through answer. Also, comments on the future of Narnia.

Matthew Clayfield is more impressed than he thought he would be by Fun with Dick and Jane, though he does find that among its problems is that it "tends to promote the idea that the people in charge, the corrupt elite, are the problem, and that things can be made better by replacing the people in charge, as opposed to the system itself - an untenable position, in my opinion, but still."

Stop Smiling runs an excerpt from its interview with William Friedkin.

Peter Rainer in the Los Angeles Times: "Now that Stanley Kubrick has passed on, [Terrence] Malick is the undisputed recluse/auteur of the film business, the director the most movie people would most like to work with if only they could find him." Related: Malick actually stuck around after a showing of The New World for a Q&A recently. Susan Albert reports in the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. Via Anne Thompson.

David Walsh at the WSWS on Munich: "One is entitled to have ambivalent feelings about this film, but, in the end, it strikes me as an honest, relatively complicated and humane effort - in many ways, quite remarkable - and one that provides little comfort for defenders of the status quo, in Israel or elsewhere."

For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein talks with Hugo Weaving about V for Vendetta. Related: Jason Morehead on The Interview.

The Promise You've heard, but Grady Hendrix puts it best: "Weinsteins Dump The Promise."

Back to the the LAT for a round of globalization-related pieces:

  • "Now, faced with shrinking, fragmenting audiences at home, the studios are rethinking how they operate in foreign markets," writes Bruce Wallace in the Los Angeles Times. "And markets don't come any bigger than China: 1.3 billion people — a fifth of humanity — with more of them becoming middle class every day."

  • Geoff Boucher: "There is no bigger popcorn movie for 2006 than Superman Returns, Warner Bros' attempt to relaunch the grand old Man of Steel as a heroic 21st century franchise. And the film is all the bigger for having been made in Australia, where the US dollar goes far and the talent pool runs deep."

  • And Hui-Yong Yu reports that Washington State may launch its new incentives to draw productions.

Ben Sisario talks to moviegoers about another reason attendance was down this year: "Going to see a film has become an exercise in elaborate planning and, particularly this holiday season - when many big films like Munich, The New World and most famously King Kong, are clocking in at two and a half to three hours - a major time commitment." Related: Looker's special moviegoing moment.

Also in the New York Times:

  • What happened to Orlando Bloom this year suggests to Sharon Waxman "a cautionary tale about the difficulty of minting movie superstars from the ranks of a 20-something generation."

  • Recent movie posters suggest a move toward artier approaches, finds Christian Moerk.

  • Heather Timmons on the 9/11 movies in the works.

Music from the Inside Out The San Francisco Chronicle's Joshua Kosman leaps out of his seat to ferociously applaud Daniel Anker's doc, Music from the Inside Out.

The Google guys are helping finance a friend's indie. The AP reports.

Nick Rombes: "Revised Notes on the iPod Video."

Posted by dwhudson at 5:22 AM

December 30, 2005

Iraq in Fragments. 1.

The latest film from Gaza Strip director James Longley is Iraq in Fragments, which will premiere at Sundance. We'll be following the film there and beyond and begin here with Hannah Eaves's meeting with producer John Sinno.

Iraq in Fragments Seattle's 911 Media Arts Center seems deserted when I arrive. No one is manning the reception desk, and a quick look down the aisle of cubicle entrances reveals nothing but tastefully hung white linen roman blinds. No doubt, there are people in there working, if the recent successes of the center are any indication. Ward Serrill's documentary about a Seattle high school girls' basketball team, The Heart of the Game, was just picked up by Miramax in Toronto, after having spent several years in the editing rooms here. CEO of Arab Film Distribution and Typecast Pictures, John Sinno, has just found out that Iraq in Fragments, a film he recently co-produced along with its director, James Longley, will be screening in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Sinno soon pulls up outside and we decide to go out to lunch. We have a quick look in the editing suite, where we'll return later to watch some clips. It's a small room with a big G5 tower on the desk and a CRT reference monitor remains firmly off ("You can't watch it on that," John tells me, "it's terrible."). A whiteboard is covered in scratchings, including a large drawing of a steaming cup of coffee. Before we leave, John opens a drawer, full of miniDV tapes. Then another drawer. And another. He's excited about Sundance which, only months before, he had thought was a long shot. This morning he's received a call from the representative of a famous "independent" distributor. His main hope for Sundance is to sell Fragments to a company powerful enough to give it a wide theatrical release as quickly as possible. Most of the larger indie players such as Warner Independent, Sony Picture Classics and Miramax are notorious for picking up projects and leaving them on the shelf for anywhere from a few months to years, or even indefinitely. Down to the Bone, a 2003 Sundance alumni, is only now being seen in New York and LA. Why We Fight is slated for release in late January, a year after it was picked up at Sundance. Sinno readily admits that, in the case of Iraq in Fragments, with the region so unstable, waiting too long might date the material.

Iraq in Fragments

Iraq in Fragments is the latest documentary directed by Longley, whose previous film, Gaza Strip ("A documentary to make the stones weep," wrote J Hoberman in the Village Voice), fuelled some serious debate. The complex mess that we currently call contemporary Iraq would seem the perfect backdrop for another controversial film, but Longley's approach here is not nearly as aggressive. Again, he's chosen to tell his story entirely through the experiences of those living in the area - there's no omnipresent narrator. But there seems to be less political indignation and more of a real desire to bring the experiences and feelings of everyday Iraqis to Occidental audiences. As suggested by its title, Fragments is divided into three parts, each one chronicling, roughly, on-the-ground stories from Iraq's three largest religious-political factions: Sunni Iraqis in Baghdad, Shi'a in the southern provinces and Kurds in Kurdistan. The political message, if there is one, is more about the likelihood that these three segments will break off into autonomously ruled regions.

On the way back to 911 and the editing suite, Sinno is in communication with Longley at a local sound studio, Bad Animals. They are working on the Dolby mix, which seems to be another colossal cost in the small film world. There is no Dolby representative in Seattle, so not only are they paying thousands of dollars for the right to display the Dolby logo, they have to fly an expert in to ensure they have optimal quality. He's just had a look at the 35mm print they're sending to Sundance and is extremely happy with the results, especially considering the film was shot on a prosumer grade Panasonic camera (the popular "film look" DVX100A) at the film rate of 24 frames per second. Back in the suite, we take a look at a few clips from the final cut, which are clear and film-like. In the first one, an 11-year-old boy in the mixed Sheik Omar neighborhood of old Baghdad juggles his school life with working for a local mechanic. In the second, we are taken along on a raid conducted by a Moqtada Sadr's movement, who are pushing for regional elections, as they enforce their interpretation of Islamic law by kidnapping and beating up merchants who are selling alcohol in a local market. This segment is an intimate look at the inner workings of the messy Shi'a uprising and culminates in an armed revolt against the United States. The astonishment that Longley can gain such intimate access to the hooded militia (he's actually in the car with them on the raid) is only made greater by the fact that he is not fluent in Arabic.

There is one lone laurel on the widescreen Iraq in Fragments website: Sundance, Official Selection. Trusting that there will be many more to come, GreenCine is going to follow the film through its reception at Sundance and other festivals to (hopefully prompt) distribution. Next up, look for an interview with co-producer and director James Longley at the main site.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:07 AM

December 29, 2005

Lists. iW, IW and more.

Kings and Queen Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks, James Israel, Erica Abeel, Liza Bear, Howard Feinstein, Brandon Judell, Anthony Kaufmnan and Jonny Leahan. Regular readers will readily recognize those names as the editor and contributing writers to indieWIRE, still, after all these years, the essential source of indie and world cinema news. As the last story of the year, iW runs all those top tens, and there's a lot of Brokeback Mountain in there.

Anthony Kaufman: "In a surprising victory, French maverick Arnaud Desplechin's fifth feature Kings and Queen was voted best picture in indieWIRE's fourth foreign-language film survey. Wong Kar-wai's sumptuous sci-fi romance 2046 was the runner-up choice for best film, but was the highest vote-getter across all categories due to its high scores for best technical achievement."

Sweetening the surprise, Salon's Stephanie Zacherek puts Kings and Queen at the top of her list, too: "A complicated, fascinating picture - it left me exhilarated and devastated."

"After several complaints and cries of foul over my 2004 list, I have decided to create two lists this year - one for films that had a US theatrical release, and one for those that didn't (and probably never will)." It's that second list that Filmbrain's just posted.

On a related note, the LA Weekly is holding off one more week for its best-of issue, but Scott Foundas does offer a "a user's guide to the best movies you couldn't see - at least not in LA - in 2005."

Another welcome relief from the rehashings of 2005's greatest hits: Zach Campbell's "obligatory best-of-the-year rundown."

IW: 2005 "When I saw Brokeback at a pre-release press screening a few weeks ago, it was merely a movie." And on Godfrey Cheshire's list in the Independent Weekly, it warrants merely an honorable mention. At the top is Munich, "easily one of the most daring (and brilliantly crafted) political films ever to issue from Hollywood."

David Fellerath isn't buying into the wow-whatta-year thing going on in other venues. "While there were many fine movies in theaters this year, there was a paucity of greatness.... Last year, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Before Sunset were my favorites, and they still linger in my memory as absolutely perfect achievements: intelligent, original and romantic. This year, however, there are no obvious standouts, so I'm organizing the films alphabetically."

And the IW runs two more top tens from Neil Morris and Laura Boyes.

Posting his top ten in the Philadelphia City Paper, Sam Adams argues that some of the most potent politicizing this year went on in movies that didn't take themselves too seriously. Serenity, for example: "A future in which a well-meaning conglomerate government has been seized by fundamentalist zealots who want to sedate their own populace into comatose complacency? Gee, what could that be about?" For Cindy Fuchs, 2005 was one very violent year.

Blogging at iW, Matt Dentler looks back on his posts that roused the liveliest discussions.

Michael Musto laughs off 2005 in the Voice. "Juiciest comment I overheard at a holiday party: The director of one of the big December flicks was gleefully telling a friend, 'I don't think anyone's gonna see Spielberg's movie. No one's interested!'" Meanwhile, Joy Press surveys the year in TV (more and more).

Why, thank you, Gabriel Shanks.

Update: There's a lot going on at World / Independent Film at About.com, I'm just now seeing. Jürgen Fauth's top ten ranges from Sith to Darwin's Nightmare while Marcy Dermansky was "swept away by small moments in small films such as My Summer of Love and Nobody Knows. More lists: all-time essential world and indie films and the worst movies of 2005.

Another update: The Reeler picks up where he left off yesterday, rating critics' top tens "frustrating (10) to useless (5) to outright insulting (1)" and ensuring that he'll never be lunching in Time Warner Center or the Times Building. Bet you dessert that's just the way he wants it.

Update #3: Online viewing tips. DoCopenhagen chooses the top 50 music videos of 2005. Via Waxy.org.

Update #4: The Masters of Cinema crew have counted the votes and Criterion's release of Ugetsu has come in first place for the "DVD of the Year Award 2005." Criterion, in fact, "completely hog the poll with over two thirds of all votes cast." If you got money for Christmas, dive into those extraordinarily helpful (and tempting) comments from the voters accompanying the list that runs to 12; if Christmas cleaned you out, though, don't even click.

Update #5: Vince Keenan's five and more. Let him explain.

Update #6: Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black's "Mid-20th-century must-sees: Part I."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:27 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 12/29.

Syriana At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride points to a rousing rant by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) in Written By: "'That movie will never get made... You can't show the War on Terror to be wrong or, worse, absurd and tragic... Where are the easy answers? Where is the catharsis? Where's the part where the "antagonist goes down?"' Well, as a filmmaker friend of mine said, 'Isn't the goal always to write something unmakeable, but then execute it so well they have to make it?'" Related: Xeni Jardin posts a scanned page from the original screenplay for Syriana, noting a probably wise edit, and adds a few more related links as well; and more from JT Ramsay.

Brokeback Mountain is no breakthrough, sneers David Ehrenstein. Also in the LA Weekly. Robert Abele on HBO's Epitafios.

In the Village Voice:

  • Michael Atkinson on Match Point: "A modest and mildly pretentious mediocrity in the Woodman canon, the movie sports a British veneer, and this relative oddness has been cause for 'return to form!' sighs of relief. But Allen is, alas, pushing forward and downward into de-fertilized soil badly in need of crop rotation." More (and more comprehensibly) from AO Scott in the New York Times, the Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE, Ryan Stewart at Cinematical and a handful of German papers. The Hollywood Reporter's Martin A Grove looks into the unusual marketing campaign.

  • Works by Oskar Fischinger will be screened as part of the Walter Reade's ongoing survey of Cartoon Musicals. Ed Halter: "Imagine the paintings of Malevich or Kandinsky swirling into psychoactive phantasmagoria, choreographed to symphonic music or jazz, and you'll only begin to understand his achievements."

Ich hiess Sabina Spielrein

Rob at City of Sound: "With Kong, the ravishing pixellated-yet-painterly recreation of a decent chunk of thirties New York is too compelling to ignore." Via Coudal Partners.

More Munich: Duncan Shepherd in the San Diego Reader and Jeffrey Overstreet.

"[S]ophisticated animated films like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles - Pixar's two most successful movies of the six it's made so far - are not so much visual works as visual candidates for the occupation of a literary void." Lee Siegel in Slate on MoMA's Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition (through February 6). Also, Grady Hendrix has some fun: "[H]ow can anyone watch The Dukes of Hazzard special features and not be convinced that this is the most important movie of the 21st century?"

Seattle Times critic Moira Macdonald explains why, for the first time, she walked out on a movie, namely, Wolf Creek. Via Jim Emerson, who has more thoughts on the matter.

Stop Smiling has a quick chat with Roger Ebert.

M Leary suddenly posts a slew of reviews at Image Facts.

Typhoon Kwak Kyung-taek's Typhoon, with Jang Dong-gun, has all the makings of a Korean blockbuster. "But is it a good movie?" asks Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org. "Well, here the math gets more complicated."

In the Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough looks ahead to the theatrical releases of the new year (well, through March).

Laura M Holson profiles Eric Bana in the NYT.

BBC: "A TV adaptation of cult novel The Master and Margarita has become a ratings hit in Russia despite superstition that it was 'cursed.'"

In Die Zeit (and in German), Hanno Rauterberg has a long talk with Peter Greenaway about Rembrandt.

For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein interviews Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.

"Spend an hour talking to [Edward Jay] Epstein, and he will run down his estimable list of myths promulgated by and about Hollywood," writes Robert Wilonsky in SF Weekly. One of those myths, Epstein tells him, is the Great Slump of 2005 - but that doesn't mean things are changing and changing fast.

Scott Roxborough in the Hollywood Reporter: "Having closed the tax loophole that pumped more than $1 billion annually into Hollywood productions, the German government now faces a dilemma... what, if anything, will fill the film funding void?"

Online viewing tips. "Each month this group of diverse French filmmakers takes on a new theme for their videos." DVblog selects a few from Les Filmistes Associés.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:00 AM | Comments (4)

December 28, 2005

Lists, 12/28.

Movies as Politics "I believe it is part of the critic's business to help films fulfill a social function, part of which is artistic." And that's why we read Jonathan Rosenbaum. Slate's "Movie Club" takes off. AO Scott warns against "summarily denying that movies can play any constructive or galvanizing role in public discussion."

Before picking up this thread and making his own arguments with Munich as his Exhibit A, Scott Foundas first notes: "[W]hile the major Hollywood studios may whine and moan about the box office slump of 2005, things are immeasurably more dire for the distributors of foreign-language films in America - at least, those foreign-language films that don't offer some combination of crouching tigers, flying daggers, and Roberto Benigni shucking and jiving his way through the bloody atrocities of the past century."

David Edelstein cracks open a few more topics but not without losing sight of the running theme: "[W]hile I concede that my buckshot sometimes ends up in my foot, the note from a reader that read, 'Your job as a critic is not to tell us what you think of Israel or vengeance, it's to tell us what you think of Munich as a movie' is just fucking nuts. You don't look at movies in a vacuum."

As a wonderful visual soundtrack of sorts to the conversation, check the series of Magnum Photos, "Let's Go to the Movies," today's edition of Slate's new "Today's Pictures" feature.

Before breathlessly catching up with a few more top tens, The Reeler must be given the floor: "Sure, it is all in fun - the critic's fun. What about your fun? How much fucking fun are you having while 200 austere, antisocial cinephiles fight to outmaneuver each others' most clever turns of phrase summarizing the triumphs of Wong Kar-Wai and Steven Spielberg?" 200 seems a rather conservative estimate actually, or at least it seems so this week. These lists are "work that demotes critics from parasites feeding off filmmakers to parasites feeding off each other." Which makes bloggers... I don't even want to think about it. Regardless, "The Reeler's first Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists - five today, five tomorrow, ranked from frustrating (10) to useless (5) to outright insulting (1)" is a must-read for anyone open to the idea that year-end rush is not bringing out the best in our best writers - or for that matter, anyone with a sense of humor.

Me and You and Everyone We Know Meanwhile. A dozen "insiders," that is, programmers, producers, distributors - actual decision-makers - turn their top tens into indieWIRE: "This year Brokeback Mountain and The Squid and the Whale... A History of Violence and Me and You and Everyone We Know were also singled out by a number of participants." And, in reply to iW's invitation, readers are posting their own tops in the comments. Related: Miranda July may turn up blogging elsewhere, but no longer for Me and You.

The Nashville Scene critics, Donna Bowman, Noel Murray and Jim Ridley, offer their top tens and write up many, many more highlights.

Koreanfilm.org's Darcy Paquet unveils his "Top Ten Korean Films of 2005." #1: The President's Last Bang.

The Philadelphia Weekly's Sean Burns picks ten, too. And two might surprise you.

At Twitch, Jim Tudor posts a top ten - and a bottom ten.

The City Pages staff write up their choices for "Artists of the Year"; film is reasonably represented in the bunch.

Via Grady Hendrix, Rediff's "ten worst Hindi films of 2005."

André Soares has the Florida Film Critics Circle winners.

Posterwire.com selects - that's right - the best movie poster of the year and honorably mentions a few others.

Zentropa Maybe it's because it's not a year-end list, but Tasha Robinson's DVDs-we-need list at the AV Club seems refreshing right about now.

Online listening tip. "A review of the year in television must begin with its most significant milestone: the 20th anniversary of the publication of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman's laser beam of a tract about TV," writes Aaron Barnhart in the Kansas City Star. Listen to Barnhart talk with Postman's son, Andrew, at TV Barn.

And finally for now, there's a phrase in German, in eigener Sache, I enjoy translating absurdly (that is, I'd never do so professionally) as "in the matter of ourselves." We appreciate Jonathan Rosenbaum quoting from David D'Arcy's piece on Munich, but Sujewa Ekanayake's latest entry is downright blush-inducing.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:06 PM

Lists. Voice. "Take 7."

Voice: Take 7 So the essays are up and now the Village Voice "Take 7" package is complete. You already knew that A History of Violence had come out on top, but J Hoberman points out that it leads by the largest margin in Voice poll history; he also notes that David Cronenberg has been "the best-reviewed director in the paper's history" since the 70s. Lots of intriguing title, name and number shuffling ensues, all in an attempt to answer the question, "why do we like what we like?" Then, on his own top ten list, Hoberman exclaims (no, really; how often do you hear J Hoberman say "Hey" and "wow!") that it was a very good year.

For Michael Atkinson, "2005's salvations were predominantly imported micro-miracles, many of which were distributed so sparely and reluctantly that they hardly qualify as having succeeded or failed to have 'found' an audience." Dennis Lim cuts straight to the list, starting with his #1, Café Lumière: "Even partisans have deemed it minor Hou, but repeat viewings only deepen this Tokyo story's hushed eloquence and subterranean melancholy."

Before switching on the open mic, Ed Halter picks eight highlights from the year in experimental film and video.

And then the "Topical Medley," that long, long page on which a zillion critics lay out the bons mots they've been saving up all year. This is what printers are for. I'll pluck two, though, all but at random and practically right next to each other: "Crash offers a lesson on racism for those viewers who don't have to think about it, namely, white people." (Cynthia Fuchs) And: "Michael Haneke was prescient enough to explain this fall's banlieue riots even before the first car bomb was lit." (Stephen Garrett)

Second free-for-all: "Alone in the Dark," in which critics defend the films they put on their top tens even when no one else (out of 103 participants) did.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:05 PM

Lists. SFBG.

SFBG 05 Johnny Ray Huston introduces the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Year in Film" package: "Having made one of the year's best local movies - and a documentary that deserved a place on the Academy short list - this week's cover star, Nic Hill, knows a thing or two about battling the transitory nature of images. A history of graffiti in San Francisco, Hill's Piece by Piece not only reveals and rescues people and artwork that are often erased and ignored, but it also adds a layer of permanence to them." Huston's top ten begins with a moment mentioned in his Cinema Scope on João Pedro Rodrigues and, from there, moves on by theme rather than title.

Not just animals and New York but animals in New York, from bats to the 25-ft ape, is a theme running through 2005 and right at Susan Gerhard: "There's certainly no better setting in which to view the natural world as a fantasy than New York City, where human civilization has been running amok for centuries." Susan, how about Madagascar? At any rate, her #1: Hidden.

"Among the least -expected things about 2005 was that it would turn out to be the Year That Heath Broke. Who'd have guessed?" asks Dennis Harvey, who, instead of selecting ten movies, goes for "10 little shining moments of 2005."

For Cheryl Eddy, another man ruled this year: "When even the biggest documentary of all time (yep, the penguin army is still marching behind Fahrenheit) can't change enough minds to drive Bush out of the White House, it's time to find a new way - cinematically speaking - to present the argument. This is where Clooney comes in." Her #1: Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (at SF Indie Fest).

High up on Chuck Stephens's Asia-heavy list are A History of Violence and Land of the Dead: "The 74th and 83rd highest-grossing pictures of the year (in worldwide grosses, as of Dec. 17, 2005), these politically twinned visions of life in modern-day North America are at once proudly cartoony and sociologically precise - not to mention a pair of potent reminders of why I won't live anywhere near North America anymore."

Families, building them up and breaking them down, were all over screens this year, notes Max Goldberg: "From Bee Season to Palindromes, American filmmakers were preoccupied with the ins and outs of being nuclear, and it's no surprise given the fever pitch of last year's election." Plus, a note on the side about westerns: "the current adulation is curious."

"Memoirs' racial swap is like a bad ethnic joke with no easily parseable punch line," writes Kimberly Chun, noting that "Asian women seemed to be shifting into absence and dislocation this year." And her top ten is thematic, too.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:50 AM

December 27, 2005

Shorts, 12/27.

Omigod, Flickhead. That is the saddest movie-going story I've ever heard.

Ah, so that's why there are holidays: the cinetrix is reviewing again. Liked A History of Violence (as I did)? Brace yourself. Shrugged off The Squid and the Whale? Brace yourself again.

Larry Clark: Tulsa Larry Clark spoke recently at the ICA in London and Antonio Pasolini was there to hear a few stories and take notes on the next film, Wussa Rockers, of which Clark says, "it's like Kids ten years later." Also in Kamera: Calum Waddell has ten questions for Bruce Campbell.

Grady Hendrix: "Well, it's official: the Weinstein Company has cut Chen Kaige's The Promise by about 20 minutes, changed the beginning and the ending, and added an Anthony Minghella written intro." Wonder which version will be screening in Berlin.

"Here at the height of white elephant season, with the theaters full of overstuffed Oscar contenders, it's a relief to return to the world of what the critic Manny Farber defined as 'termite art' - those buzzy little B-movies, exploitation pictures and oddball imports that were never intended to win awards, but nonetheless offer cinematic pleasures often beyond their bloated, big-budget brethren." It's the holiday season for Dave Kehr, too, you know. Also in the New York Times: Box office also is down in Europe, report Jeffrey Goldfarb and Karin Strohecker.

For the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara profiles screenwriter Naomi Foner, "matriarch of the Gyllenhaal clan."

Alternet's running Patrik Jonsson's Christian Science Monitor story on "America's first locally produced telenovela, or Latin American soap opera... As the new show debuts across the South in late January, viewers will also see a short sermon on what equity means, how to open a checking account and the ins-and-outs of American law."

Online viewing tip. Heidi Grot reports for Deutsche Welle (and in English) on Philipp Geist's latest video installation in Zurich.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:40 AM | Comments (2)

Munich, 12/27.

Muenchen I need to start checking rogerebert.com more often. Cinematical's Karina Longworth points to Roger Ebert's Christmas Day interview with Steven Spielberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. Her own comments questioning "this so-called controversy" sparked by Munich draw an angry (but civil) response Steven Awalt, who runs a Spielberg fan site. Whether the current flurry of words constitutes a controversy or not is a question about as foggy and perhaps as ultimately trivial as trying to sort out whether this far-flung, wide-ranging discussion is really about the film or the events it's inspired by or even simply (and if so, pitifully) reaffirming old stances. Regardless, as you may have noticed, I'm personally anticipating Munich more than any other film this season (it opens here in Germany on January 26).

"He has been attacked on three fronts, for being anti-Israeli, being anti-Palestinian, and being neither - which is, those critics say, the sin of 'moral equivalency.'" Ebert, introducing the interview, pretty well maps the tight spot Spielberg's willfully put himself in with Munich (and here's Ebert's review). The confidence with which Spielberg responds to each criticism is a clear sign that, though it may have been a quick shoot, whatever he's gone through that's led him to decide to make Munich in the first place has not been quick at all: "From the day I became morally and politically conscious of the importance of the state of Israel and its necessity to exist, I have believed that not just Israel, but the rest of the world, needs Israel to exist."

As for "moral equivalency," this is one of the hardest yet most necessary arguments to make: "Understanding does not require approval. Understanding is not the same as inaction. Understanding is a very muscular act."

After Ebert and Spielberg hang up, Spielberg calls back with a few comments on rogerebert.com editor Jim Emerson's refutation of attacks on the film by Jack Engelhard and David Brooks. Frankly, the first hardly seems worth a response, but the second appeared, of course, in the New York Times, and for those of us not doing the TimesSelect thing, Emerson's point-counterpoint breakdown is especially interesting. His bottom line: "Engelhard and Brooks would like to throw up the phony 'moral equivalency' penalty flag and stop the deadly game right there. To them, it's so easy: 1) just find the essence of undiluted evil in the world; 2) then, anything you do to eliminate it is unquestionably and unambiguously good."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:26 AM

Lists, 12/27.

So there will be a "Movie Club" at Slate this year, either the last or the last hosted by David Edelstein, who's leaving Slate for New York. Looks like a sharp group, too, whose conversation will likely be less rowdy than last year's brawl: Scott Foundas (LA Weekly; click his name for his Village Voice "Take 7" ballot), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader; "Take 7") and AO Scott (New York Times). Those who caught Edelstein's top ten on NPR last week won't find too many surprises in his current list, though he has expanded it to 20.

Lost

"In this past year we have managed to watch and review over 3,500 DVD releases, and trying to pick our favorite 20 from that pool was a difficult task." But the staff at DVD Talk have not only managed to pull it off (and pull a few surprises as well; Lost: The Complete First Season comes in at #1), they've compiled fifteen lists in all. I've already mentioned three: undistributed films, anime and DVD Savant's choices. The others:

Wajda: Three War Films

  • Svet Atanasov writes up ten foreign releases; #1: Criterion's package of three war films by Andrzej Wajda.

  • Criterion nabs the #1 spot on the docs list as well; Randy Miller III likes what they've done for Hoop Dreams.

  • Preston Jones compiles the indies list, placing Murderball at the top.

  • Mainstream Hollywood? Aaron Beierle might have wanted to surprise you, but just can't in a year that saw Serenity out on DVD just in time to make the list.

  • The Twilight Zone (The Definitive Edition) tops das Monkey's TV DVDs.

  • G Noel Gross puts High Tension at the top of his "Best Schlock 2005" list.

  • Bill Gibron selects a "Top 10 Obscure Outsider Homemade Movies on DVD That You Probably Never Heard Of in 2005"; #1: Plaga Zombie: Mutant Zone.

  • Some people like to watch sports. Like Holly Ordway.

  • The porn list has been renamed; Don Houston and Goldenmuse choose 20 adult DVD's with Goldenmuse adding ten more "Ladies Choice" titles.

  • DVD Talk calls spruced-up re-releases "double-dips" and lists the best and worst of them: "[I]t's worth mentioning that Warner Brothers is responsible for four of the Top 10 best double-dips and none of the disappointments, while Universal is to blame for five of the disappointments, and none of the best double-dips. Congratulations and jeers go out accordingly."

  • Josh Zyber's best packaging list is a fun one to look at.

  • And this is always a fun one: Stuart Galbraith IV's "Top 10 DVDs (Probably) Not on Any Other Top 10 List in 2005."

Updates: Salon's Heather Havrilesky on the best and worst TV of the year.

In the Guardian, Terry Jones presents his awards, "And first is the Gary Glitter Cup for Self-Restraint, to Tony Blair.... Over the past two years, Tony has seen all his Iraq policies turn into unmitigated disasters.... Tony must be finding it difficult to sleep. Yet he is able to get up in the morning unassisted!"

Another update: Dave Kehr posts "the list of the latest 25 films to be named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:54 AM

December 26, 2005

Vincent Schiavelli, 1948 - 2005.

Vincent Schiavelli
Vincent Schiavelli, the droopy-eyed character actor who appeared in scores of movies, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [photo] and Ghost, died Monday at his home in Sicily. He was 57.

The AP's Marta Falconi.

In 1997 the magazine Vanity Fair chose him as one of the best character actors in the US. In recent years he returned to live in his family's native village, Polizzi Generosa in Sicily. The village's mayor, Salvatore Glorioso, described Schiavelli as "a great friend, a great chef and a great talker".

The BBC.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:45 PM

Munich, 12/26.

Today we're running David D'Arcy's contribution to the ongoing debate over Steven Spielberg's Munich in which he considers both the film and critical reaction to it before expanding the discussion even further by turning to his interview with Avi Mograbi, whose documentary, Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, takes in both the ancient Jewish story of Masada and the recent Palestinian intifadas.

Striking Back In Slate, Aaron J Klein, author of Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response, a book cited in several of the pieces I'm pointing to here, including David D'Arcy's, sorts through the many differences between what's known of the facts of that response and the film, which of course, Spielberg clearly notes is not intended as history, but rather, "inspired by real events."

Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "I want to emphasize that Munich has the internal coherence of a work of art. Its politics are inseparable from its narrative themes, its characterizations, even its performances. This is a point that the film's enemies - the usual gang of hacks, sophists and hirelings - have done their best to ignore."

Jordan Elgrably, artistic director of the Levantine Cultural Center, at Alternet: "And where are we? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no closer to a solution: The military occupation of Palestinian territories is in its 38th year; the settlement movement continues apace; and all the international peace initiatives have failed.... Perhaps the recently elected Amir Peretz, who now helms the Labor Party, can lead the way.... Well into his career, after having been lionized by Hollywood, with a litany of awards too long to list, Steven Spielberg has finally made his masterpiece."

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "An unsparingly brutal look at two peoples all but drowning in a sea of their own blood, Munich is by far the toughest film of the director's career and the most anguished. Mr Spielberg has been pummeling audiences with his virtuosity for nearly as long as he has been making movies; now, he tenders an invitation to a discussion." Today, Edward Rothstein scoffs at the "injustice theory" at the heart of the film, arguing that it's always applied as an explanation for the origins of left-wing terrorism, never right-wing terrorism, and what's more, counter-terrorism actually works. In other words, cycle, schmycle. Yikes.

Filmbrain: "It's a shame that the polarization is strictly political, for the film's faults have little to do with Spielberg's so-called liberal viewpoint. Munich is a dumbed-down, condescending, wishy-washy take on a serious subject that is more about Spielberg's moral egotism than anything else."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "It is that desperation [for peace], that palpable sense of urgency about the need for that message right now, that is simultaneously a strength of Munich and a source of drawbacks."

Rick Groen in the Globe and Mail: "Bouncing about from one flawed movie to another, Steven Spielberg has lost his way of late, and Munich finds him more disoriented than ever."

Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "In the Spielberg filmography, "Munich" may go down as something along the order of Hitchcock's Topaz, another chilly, well-made, historically based suspense drama, made as a response to the madness of the world situation."

James Rocchi at Cinematical: "Spielberg doesn't attain greatness here, but the attempt is fascinating to watch."

Jim Tudor at Twitch: "[T]he film works not only as a realistic assassination tale and a political allegory for today's world, but also as perhaps the most definitively 'Spielberg' film in years."

Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "Even if all the parts are terrific, might the whole not have been better with fewer of them?"

Posted by dwhudson at 5:30 AM

Lists, 12/26.

This excellent list will come in handy: Sujewa Ekanayake's "10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2006." On a broader, more mainstream but no less interesting scale, the Guardian's Xan Brooks looks ahead as well.

Cincinnati CityBeat The Cincinnati CityBeat looks back on the year with Rodger Pille penning the cover story: "While in some ways it's nice to see Capote and Good Night intelligently depict reporters with consciences and codes of ethics, there is an inherent problem: These 2005 films depict historic journalists. Where are the torchbearers for modern media? Where are the reporter good guys in contemporary films? The problem might well be that they're harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa." Also: Steven Rosen on The Squid and the Whale and Steve Ramos on Munich.

Tim R goes all out with a top ten (#1: King Kong) and several honorable mentions, five best directors, five actors and five actresses, five supporting actors and five supporting actresses and more five bests in several categories.

At the Critics' Top 10 Lists project, 184 have already been gathered and tabulated and A History of Violence is the clear favorite of the moment. More fun with numbers: the most "Critically Acclaimed" films of 2001 through 2004 and, for those same year, the "Passion Index."

It was a year of "Important Subjects," David M Halbfinger reminds us in the New York Times: "In little and large ways, and with decidedly mixed results, filmmakers took on terrorism, the Middle East conflict, American militarism, the oil and pharmaceutical industries, Wal-Mart, gay marriage, birth control, sexual harassment and more." And Sharon Waxman: "As the number of people going to the movies shrank in 2005, so did some of the studios making them."

"Almost everywhere you looked, uncertainty reigned," writes John Horn in the Los Angeles Times: "As the year draws to a close, here are 10 lessons the film business learned the hard way."

Google Edward Jay Epstein in Slate: "According to my crystal ball, the further migration of Hollywood—even with its sticky celebrity culture—into home entertainment will be greatly accelerated in 2006 by the following five events..." #1 is very interesting.

Sukhdev Sandhu opens his survey in the Telegraph with, "The most important trend of 2005 was the rise and rise of the DVD." You may be surprised by his choice for the "Worst experience of the year."

Chris Ryall picks up where he left off his month-by-month review of the year at Movie Poop Shoot, taking it from July on through to this very moment.

The Alternative Film Guide takes note of the films singled out by the Utah Film Critics Society.

And now, the fun part. Dawn Taylor's top ten in an alternate universe. The LOL line for me: "Charlize Theron is impressive as the beautiful woman who helps Valentine escape from the oppressive Federation with help from a kindly, magical Negro named Jubal (Morgan Freeman)."

Thomas Mennecke rounds up the "File-Sharing Winners and Losers of 2005" for Slyck. The definition's relatively loose and encompasses BitTorrent and Steve Jobs (winners) and the RIAA and Sony-BMG (losers). Slashdotters discuss.

PC World: "The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years." #1: Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (1979).

Posted by dwhudson at 5:25 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 12/26.

The Bishop's Wife "One wonders how America would look today if Hollywood had romanticized trains, streetcars and bustling city streets with same fervor as it did speedy cars and rambling single-family homes," writes Ode editor Jay Walljasper at Alternet in a comparison of two Christmas classics. "[W]hile Miracle on 34th Street was jubilant in its embrace of the suburban dream, The Bishop's Wife celebrated the energy and humanity of old urban neighborhoods and lamented their downfall."

"Along with Anger's Scorpio Rising and Warhol's Chelsea Girls, Mike Kuchar's Sins of the Fleshapoids remains one of the most influential films of the 60s American Underground," writes Other Cinema, introducing its DVD (with a trailer, too). At Stop Smiling, Michael Joshua Rowin opens his long and hefty interview with Kuchar by noting, "Possessed by vivid imagination and ribald taste, [Mike and George Kuchar] were instrumental in giving rise to intentional camp cinema, and did so well before Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures and Susan Sontag's 'Notes on Camp.'"

Summer holidays are for beach reading, winter holidays for clamping down. For recommendations, see two stimulating posts from Zach Campbell and Matt Clayfield.

Guy Maddin is currently working on two projects and he tells Todd at Twitch what he can about them.

Angel-A Benny Crick offers an early impression of Luc Besson's Angel A, noting that his "commercial trump card is his male star: Jamel Debbouze, the diminutive 30-year old Moroccan-born stage and TV funnyman who is one of France's most popular (and best-paid) entertainers... Besson turns mid-summer Paris into the film's third main character, as Thierry Arbogast's lush photography gives the script a timeless, fable-like quality." Also: Mike Goodridge on Chen Kaige's The Promise.

"[E]vangelicals as a group are becoming more sophisticated in their interaction with popular culture," theology prof Robert Johnston tells John Leland in a great piece that points to a wide range of Christian film criticism online and off.

Also in the New York Times: Michael Moore and Spike Lee aren't the only filmmakers working on capturing aspects of the aftermath of Katrina, reports Nancy Ramsey.

After many years, Flickhead revisits The Concert for Bangladesh: "Regardless of the present climate of conservative Christianity that's been a nagging concern in newspapers and magazines, I doubt if contemporary popular music shares such strong ties to spirituality as demonstrated on that stage thirty-five years ago - by artists once regarded as heathens by the mainstream, no less."

For the Orange County Weekly, Cole Akers talks with B Ruby Rich about the buzzed-up reception of Brokeback Mountain and the film's distant relationship to the New Queer Cinema of the 90s (and even greater distance to Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys. In the Nation, Stuart Klawans notes that despite that "obvious precedent," "Brokeback Mountain has unmistakably established a new screen archetype. This is no small achievement."

In the Telegraph, Sheila Johnston talks with Albert Brooks about Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.

Tale of Cinema Adam Hartzell on Tale of Cinema: "Although not my favorite Hong [Sang-soo] film (I still go back and forth between The Power of Kangwon Province and Turning Gate), this film will still satisfy any Hong fan and annoy any Hong detractor." Also at Koreanfilm.org: Kyu Hyun Kim on undergrad filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin's The Unforgiven, winner of the FIPRESCI, NETPAC and other awards at the 2005 Pusan Film Festival.

Charlie Prince at Cinema Strikes Back: "Johnnie To's latest film, Election, promised from Day One to be a new gold standard in the genre. Thus the expectations for the film were impossibly high, and certainly it is not the reinvention of cinema. Nevertheless, I recommend the film heartily, with the caveat... that it assumes a significant familiarity with the Triad film genre."

Gary Dretzka talks with Margaret Brown about Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt and its prospects for Movie City News.

Cinematical's Karina Longworth: "The New World is the best puppy-love soap opera I've ever seen." More from Manohla Dargis in the NYT, Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times and Dave Kehr: "The overwhelming impression I had was of a director drowning in a sea of 'coverage' and struggling to coax a narrative out of largely random material."

Also in the LAT:

  • Ching-Ching Li on what six Chinese retirees are up to: "Strapping an old projector and rusty cases of film reels on the back of a motorbike, they've been traveling rugged country roads to bring the magic of cinema to remote villages untouched by the marvels of the big screen."

Prawda

AO Scott: "Imagine my surprise... when Casanova turned out to be not a bewigged and brocaded white elephant, but rather a lively, sly and altogether charming farce."

More reviews in the NYT: Scott on Rumor Has It, Stephen Holden on The Intruder, Nathan Lee on The Ringer and Dargis on Wolf Creek.

Steve Erickson in Gay City News: "The greatest achievement of Caché is turning an ordinary part of cinema's grammar - the establishing shot - into an image of horror." More from Christopher Campbell at Cinematical, AO Scott in the NYT and Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat.

James Brookfield at WSWS: "Though a work of fiction, Syriana gives a truer picture of life in the Middle East - as well as in the political and financial centers of the US - than the sum total of all the broadcast news in the United States since the start of the 'war on terror.'"

Peter Martin at Twitch: "Borderline racist and ragingly misogynistic, Memoirs of a Geisha is guilty of the greatest cinematic sin of all: boredom." More from NP Thompson in the Northwest Asian Weekly.

Zelig Comeback Kids in the Hollywood Reporter: Tatiana Siegel on Woody Allen and Anne Thompson on Shirley MacLaine.

David Puttnam in the New Statesman: "I have recently been making a series of programmes for BBC Radio 4 about the changing political role of British cinema. I focus on three films from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s."

What's it take to make a remake? It's more complicated that you might think. Gabriel Snyder explains in Slate. Also: Chris Suellentrop on Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie: "If it's not the best movie adaptation of all time - GoldenEye fans object whenever this claim is made about another game - then it's the game that comes closest to evoking the feelings and sensations you get while watching the movie."

P2P for free in France? Not exactly. Thomas Crampton reports in the International Herald Tribune on "amendments [tagged] onto an anti-piracy law that would establish a so-called global license fee that - once paid - would permit Internet users to download unlimited digital music and films from the Internet for personal use." Via Ditherati. Slashdotters discuss.

A year ago, Paul Boutin, assessing the next generation DVD wars in Slate, wrote, "edium at a time when we're discovering the joys of broadband connections, downloadable video, and hard drives big enough to hold a small movie library. If Sony, Toshiba, and the movie studios go to war, they might find that by the time it's over, we won't care about shiny silver disks at all." That scenario may be playing out right now, as Ken Belson reports in the NYT.

The Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series picks up again on January 2.

Online viewing tip. "Impressions of SPOTS and City Gaze" (viewable IRL during the Berlinale, too, if you're coming over); via Joni Taylor at Rhizome.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:11 AM | Comments (2)

Argentina Brunetti, 1907 - 2005.

Argentina Brunetti
Argentina Brunetti, a character actress who played the worried wife of Mr. Martini in the classic film It's a Wonderful Life has died. She was 98.... Brunetti starred in dozens of films and television shows over a career spanning more than 50 years.

The AP.

As Kim Voynar points out, it was just December 5 when Brunetti commented on Cinematical's list of best Christmas movies.

See ArgentinaBrunetti.com for, among other things, photos of Argentina Brunetti posing with... everybody.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:06 AM

December 24, 2005

Merry, happy, etc.

Interview 1972

As Warhol might have said, he loved everything Pop, and Christmas is the most Pop thing there is. Christmas is at once materialistic and universal, kitsch and democratic, yet containing an image of a more decent collective life.... He believed in the American Christmas, just as he believed in Elvis and Marilyn. He knew a collective dream when he saw one.

Jonathan Jones in the Guardian.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:02 AM | Comments (5)

Cinema Scope. 25.

Cinema Scope 25 The new issue of Cinema Scope opens with editor Mark Peranson's interview with Joe Dante. The topic, of course, is Homecoming, and at Movie City Indie, Ray Pride points directly to the hot spot, ignited when Peranson brings up Michael Moore. Dante: "The right wing has marginalized him to the point where his movie - which is a beacon of truth - has been completely discredited in America." A rousing rant then crescendos.

Before carrying on with Cinema Scope, though, a related note about a sad and ugly conflict that has flared up between the great documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles and Michael Wilson, director of Michael Moore Hates America. As Aaron Dobbs explains, it was sparked by an interview with Maysles for the Gothamist in which he says, had he known what Wilson was up to, "I never would have participated in that kind of a film." Wilson is fighting back with this clip, which is just nuts since it shows Maysles attempting to remain polite as he's clearly thrown completely off guard at having been tricked into lending his name, time and authority to project whose politics he's obviously going to disagree with.

Well. More interviews in the new Cinema Scope:

  • Stefan Grissemann with Philippe Garrel, "an artist condemned to splendid isolation on the very fringes of personal filmmaking, a director on the outside of everything: a lone master working on the backside of fame, fashion, and the film industry."

Heart, Beating in the Dark

The features:

Die Grosse Stille In the "Spotlight" this issue are "Undistributed Films": Andrew Tracy on Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence, Shelly Kraicer on Liu Jiayin's Oxhide, Michael Sicinski on Hong Sang-soo's Tale of Cinema, Martin Tsai on Laurent Cantet's Vers le sud and Nayman on Takeshis'.

Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Winter Clearance" edition of his "Global Discoveries on DVD" column begins with thoughts on a book rather than a silver disc, the Library of America's Agee: Film Writing and Selected Journalism.

Reviews: John Anderson on C.R.A.Z.Y. ("it's sweet. It's redemptive") and Robert Koehler: "It's always been important to know this about Terrence Malick, but never more so than before watching The New World: he's a birder.... This is only part of the reason why The New World feels, from the first frame, like the film he's been working up to making for the many years of his long, strange, protracted career."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:52 AM

Midnight Eye. J-Horror.

Tales of Terror from Tokyo "Ah, yes, 'J-Horror'," writes Nicholas Rucka in the new issue of Midnight Eye devoted to just that, "everyone knows its tropes by now: vengeful ghosts, long stringy black hair, impossible physical gymnastics, meowing little ghost boys, cursed videos (or cell phones or computers), old rotted buildings and corpses, moldy books and newspapers, elliptical storylines (or a total abandonment of logic), creepy sound design, and creepy cinematography. Then there're the bizarrely happy endings and, lest we forget, the saccharine pop songs." Everyone knows all this so well, in fact, he wonders if it's over. Not quite, he decides. After a historical run-down, he offers an idea or two on how it might be renewed.

Alex Zahlten and Kimihiko Kimata present another chapter in that history: "The shift from bloody spectacle to intense atmospheric tension based on showing less was initiated by a barely-known director originating from Japan's straight-to-video world, usually called V-Cinema. Norio Tsuruta not only turned the horror methodology around by 180 degrees, but also established extremely successful and resilient storylines and iconography, influencing all the big names in Japanese horror film today (yes, all!), and ultimately leading to the worldwide J-horror boom and spate of American remakes." The guy's worth an interview, then, don't you think? They do, too.

Round-Up #20 focuses on Nobuo Nakagawa (1905 - 1984), a filmmaker whose rep is currently being revived. Jason Gray and Tom Mes: "Both in and out of Japan, much of Nakagawa's reputation rests on the atmospheric and very stylish horror films he churned out for the short-lived Shintoho studios in the late 1950s and early 1960s... Here are eight of his lesser-known works, that demonstrate the enormous versatility."

The Ring Companion.jpg Jaspar Sharp reviews Dennis Meikle's The Ring Companion; "a more thorough tome one couldn't wish for."

Film reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 7:07 AM

Lists, 12/24.

Lists, 12/24 Here we roll into the canon round. The results of the Village Voice's "Take 7" are up and the New York Times critics have made their lists. "It is impossible to predict which of the many fine movies released in 2005 will still claim our attention 10 years - or even 10 weeks - from now," writes the NYT's AO Scott, but all these titles and numbers are early contributions towards deciding just that. Though Scott's list isn't numbered, there is a best here, The Best of Youth, "an intellectual as well as an emotional feast, with dozens of superb performances." Then "20 second-best movies of 2005" follow the top ten.

"Was this a good year for the movies or what?" asks Manohla Dargis, whose list is even less list-like than Scott's. Before taking on that critic's duty, in fact, she addresses what the year will truly be remembered for, the "paradigm shift, encompassing how movies are produced - the new technologies, the complex financial deals - and how they are consumed.... Whatever you think of the state of the art and the health of the industry, there is no denying that the experience of moviegoing has changed as radically as our perception of what the movies mean to our lives." Specific movies do get mentioned and mentioned best in the accompanying audio slide show.

Stephen Holden's top ten and his ten runners-up are listed alphabetically, but like Manohla Dargis, he pays particular attention to Brokeback Mountain in that audio slide show.

That A History of Violence would come out on top in the Voice poll is hardly a surprise, but that its score would separate it so decisively from #2, 2046, is. There'll be more to say about all this when the essays and commentary appears on the site on Tuesday, but another clear winner should be mentioned: Heath Ledger, for his performance in Brokeback; the supporting performance category shows a much tighter race. One more to note: look at those docs.

Video Watchdog's DVD of the year? King Kong. Seven smartly annotated lists from the mag's editors and contributors. Good reading - and watching.

Geoffrey Kleinman at DVD Talk: "DVD continued to experience explosive growth in 2005, but despite that fact a number of phenomenal films never got picked up for either theatrical or DVD distribution." His list of "the best films you've haven't been able to see this year" includes The Puffy Chair, I Am a Sex Addict and Police Beat.

Also: DVD Savant (aka Glenn Erickson) picks the ten "most impressive" DVDs of the year. His #1: Danger: Diabolik. Several honorable mentions follow. And the Anime Talk team chooses its top ten. #1: Samurai 7.

Grady Hendrix presents "Kaiju Shakedown's List of the Best of Asian Film in 2005," beginning with: "Best Movie: Korean Madness. It's short, it's funny, it's like Kamikaze Girls meets Hana & Alice with better choreography than Rent, The Producers and Perhaps Love all put together. You can go watch it here."

The Guardian launches a "2005 in review" special.

Ingmar Bergman's Saraband tops Jeffrey M Anderson's year-end list at Combustible Celluloid.

Father Geek's got 25 at AICN.

In the Korea Herald, Yang Sung-jin has an upbeat survey of national and international returns for Korean films. Via HanCinema.

Cinematical selects the "Worst Movies" and "Best Acting Ensembles" of 2005.

Nick Rombes: "Farewell, 2005. In many ways, you were as important as 1895, when the Lumière brothers projected film for the first time for a public audience.... The paradox is that, having been given what we want, we are left with virtually nothing."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:52 AM | Comments (2)

December 22, 2005

Lists, 12/22.

Gus Van Sant's Last Days tops Peter Keough's top ten in the Boston Phoenix.

"The Constant Gardener and Pride and Prejudice lead nominations at the London Film Critics' Circle awards," reports the BBC.

Down to the Bone Aaron Dobbs at indieWIRE: "Actress Vera Farmiga from Down to the Bone, Me and You and Everyone We Know star/writer/director Miranda July and Junebug director Phil Morrison have all been successful artists in one form or another for years, but it was their work in 2005 that transformed them into stars of the independent film world."

Jeffrey Overstreet: "Fifteen performances from 2005 that made a difference."

Girish's ten favorite older films seen for the first time this year. The Cinemarati thread is still growing along this line, too.

What the people want: Anne Thompson finds the top movies searched for on Yahoo! this year.

For the Guardian, Sophie Heawood asks artists, architects, singers, and yes, filmmakers, about the highs and lows of the year. Plus: a film quiz. (25/30)

Posted by dwhudson at 5:33 AM

Shorts, 12/22.

Bill Gibron in PopMatters on holiday memories in black and white: "Before the Rankin-Bass art of Animagic, before Hermey the elf wanted to be a dentist, before Yukon Cornelius licked his first pick axe or the Heat Miser battled his snow-bearing brother, the children of Chicago were gazing in pie-eyed wonderment at a couple of creative Christmas cards rendered in delicious 'one frame at a time' movie movement mastery."

TV in Chicago

And this is lovely: "For us, the holidays were masterpieces in monochrome: barren trees pitched against gloriously overcast gray skies; drifts of dream-like snow blanketing the steel skyscrapers of downtown like a warm winter's throw."

Le Lion Devenu Vieux Related online viewing tip. "Ladislas Starewitch is often credited with inventing stop motion animation as we know it, though so are several other people." DVblog offers a one-minute clip from Le Lion Devenu Vieux, 1932.

Going back even further. "To me, there's something sad and wistful and eerie about watching thousands of the long-gone marching backward from the grave, no longer dust, often directly addressing the camera, smiling and staring at us." Gerald Peary in the Boston Phoenix on Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon. (More.)

Review-wise, the day belongs to Munich and A New World. It's certainly no surprise that Armond White considers the former a masterpiece; but precisely because he's done so much thinking about the way Spielberg makes movies, he is again worth a read: "Most action films never require us to think beyond the gears clicking in a killer's head; Munich achieves multileveled postmodern analysis by paralleling Avner's killing mission to the recent cinematic history of political distrust."

Munich The LA Weekly's Ella Taylor begins her review by relating her brief and indirect brush with Middle East intrigue. Even as indirect as it is, the reality of it sets off a little flutter: "That same frisson at being let in on a grand secret conspiracy is what makes Steven Spielberg's Munich a riveting thriller - and also what works against Spielberg's liberal-peacenik qualms about vengeance in general and government-sponsored counterterrorism in particular." More from Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper and and Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix.

Back in the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz saves the word "masterpiece" for the second sentence (White whips it out in his subtitle). Over the course of four films in almost as many decades, Terrence Malick has forged "a powerfully modern style that could be called epic naturalism, a style that appreciates the physicality of existence - the moment-to-moment visceral intensity cherished by Walt Whitman - while acknowledging human life's impermanence, then further acknowledging that the life of a person, a nation or even a species is insignificant compared to the life of the earth."

The New World In the LAW, Scott Foundas appreciates the beauty of the film, the mourning for a lost Eden that runs throughout Malick's work and that, in this one, "the Eden in question is literally America, and the locust in her wheat field is none other than the imperialist invader.... So I wish The New World were better."

"The Matador is undeniably clever, and I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy a lot of it. But it has no consistent view of its main characters, tries to dance around the delicious but disturbing fact that one of them kills other human beings for a living, and is basically (like most buddy movies) a quasi-gay love story wearing a not-so-convincing disguise." Also covered in Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon: Caché.

"[O]ne of the weirdest strains of kung fu promises instant mastery, at the price of surrendering one's self to possession by a spirit. Known as spirit boxing (shenquan or shenda), it played a pivotal role in the early 20th century conflict known as the Boxer Rebellion." Jean Lukitsh at Kung Fu Cinema, via Cinema Strikes Back.

Josh Rosenblatt reviews Criterion's 60s swordplay classics collection, films "that used the aesthetic and technical language of the swordplay films to expose and attack the culture that had lionized them." Also in the Austin Chronicle, Louis Black on the new edition of Alain Silver's The Samurai Film, but especially on Hanzo the Razor.

At indieWIRE, ML Liu recalls that Woody Allen event at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

In the Guardian, Ronald Bergan remembers Annette Stroyberg, 1936 - 2005.

Online listening tip. Spread the Good Word: Boris Karloff narrates How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Via filmtagebuch.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:22 AM

December 21, 2005

Lists, 12/21.

"It may not go down as a great year for movies, but 2005 has certainly been a great year for movies worth talking about," writes Noel Murray, introducing his "Top Ten," the "Next Five," his "Performance of the Year" (Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line), the "Overrated" and "Underrated," a "Future Film That Time Forgot," and of course, the "Worst of the Year." This is the template followed in the AV Club's "Year in Film 2005" special followed by Keith Phipps (#1: A History of Violence), Nathan Rabin (saluting Uwe Boll), Tasha Robinson (nope, Keith, she says, A History of Violence is "Overrated") and Scott Tobias ("Underrated": Pretty Persuasion).

The White Diamond What a year Werner Herzog's had. "[I]n case you're wondering, Richard Schickel and I don't consult each other in compiling our Ten Best lists," writes Richard Corliss for Time. "That we both chose Herzog documentaries were not conspiracy but coincidence - and, I think, a fitting tribute to a filmmaker of the purest craft, and of his acute understanding that the most thrilling adventures are those that illuminate man’s quest both to tame nature and become one with it." Corliss goes for The White Diamond, Schickel for Grizzly Man.

No other film blog has zoomed from zero to a hundred as quickly and as inexorably this year as Cinematical. When I sat beside Karina Longworth on a panel at SXSW in March, I had no idea she was quietly brewing a new drug. The team of contributors isn't just the fastest draw with a feed and a smirk, they're also sharp as hell. Karina's real coup is to allow each of their distinct personalities to pierce through the persistent info-fog. Now Karina and Ryan Stewart have written up Cinematical's top ten. The top of the tops: Match Point.

The Phoenix Film Critics go for... Cinderella Man?

Update: The Toronto Film Critics go with David Cronenberg and A History of Violence. More accolades for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Catherine Keener, Paul Giamatti and Werner Herzog.

Update #2: "J Robert Parks' Top 10 Moviegoing Experiences of 2005."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:46 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 12/21.

"Can we say goodbye now to terror porn?" asks Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer. "I think that the recent Showtime series Sleeper Cell demonstrates it's come at last to a dead end." Definition, please? "In its fictional manifestations, it tends to combine an inverse pornographic structure - arousal and incitement leading, usually, to (anti-)climax, terrorist interruptus - with actual porn-like sexual interludes, apparently designed to make up for the failure of the plot (or plotters) to deliver the goods." Predecessors: "nuke porn" and "serial-killer porn." Honorable mentions: Downfall ("Nazi porn") and: "I haven't seen it, but there's one detail I noticed in the advance reviews, a climactic moment in the story of terrorism and counterterrorism that suggests a resort to terror-porn cliché."

Munich The "it" is Munich, which Andrew Sarris reviews: "It's overlong, psychologically unfocused, thematically devious and curiously anachronistic in its crypto-pacifism.... I think that Mr Spielberg is presumptuous to preach peace and nonviolence to Israelis and the rest of us in the contemporary Munich, when the first Munich [1938] inexorably produced the Holocaust." What?! Laying the Holocaust at Chamberlain's feet? Now this crypto-pacifist has heard everything.

In Die Zeit (and in German), Helmut Zischler files a long report from the set. And more Munich: Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly and Matthew Wilder in the City Pages: "Spielberg has forgotten more about moviemaking than just about any other filmmaker has ever known, and he has evolved to a level of skill so advanced that he can throw away dazzling set pieces that Peter Jackson would kill to achieve on the best day of his life."

Also: David Schimke talks with Neil Jordan about Breakfast on Pluto, which Jessica Winter finds "studiously quirky." More from Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic.

Caché Leading the Reverse Shot round on Caché at indieWIRE, Michael Joshua Rowin notes that Michael Haneke's early films tended to fall in to the high modernist "shock the bourgeois" trap, but: "Starting from Code Unknown in 2000, however, Haneke's work has progressed by leaps and bounds.... The uncannily prescient Caché now represents the high watermark of Haneke's current phase."

The Village Voice devotes a section to Caché, starting with Michael Atkinson's review: "The form of this unholy experience is so sublimely conceived that Haneke can rope in post-colonialist atrocity (specifically, the Paris drowning-massacre of protesting Algerians in 1961) and contemporary injustices (ever-present on Anne and Georges's plasma TV), and make it all seem of a piece with the central issues of seeing-but-not-seeing, of bobo complacence in fragile balance with Frantz Fanon's 'wretched of the earth.'" Also, a quick piece on "self-reflexive cinema - the inscrutable POV, the renegade 'I.'"

And David Ng talks with Haneke: "It's not sadistic to portray suffering - it's everywhere in the world."

Also in the Voice:

L'Intrus

  • Jessica Winter listens to Claire Denis: "I was so impressed that [Jean-Luc Nancy] could express a physical feeling in a metaphor, and that really gave me the freedom in the film to mix what is real and what is imaginary without a border between them, to treat them on the same level." Dennis Lim: "Her latest feature, The Intruder, is a decisive breakthrough - her most poetic and primal film to date, as thrilling as it is initially baffling."

  • The New World will likely go unseen by many during its theatrical run, but among cinephiles, it may turn out to be the most divisive film of the year. J Hoberman stakes his ground: "As an epic, it's monumentally slight." Winter has a kinda fun sidebar. Related: Tim R ponders the fact that Terrence Malick is still editing the picture.

  • Atkinson on Wolf Creek, "unimaginative, light on the grue and heavy on the faux-serious desperation." More from Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

  • Ed Park on The White Countess, "something of a lacquered dud." For Stephen Holden in the New York Times, it "never develops any narrative stamina." More from Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. Related: NPR's Michele Norris talks with Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave.

  • Laura Sinagra: "Rumor had it this was gonna be a stinker, and it is."

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Fionnuala Halliga in Screen Daily on Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: "Instead of finding comedy in India - he largely bottles out of the Pakistan part - [Albert] Brooks brings his own schtick to the Subcontinent in a film which starts out strongly but, like its lead character, loses all sense of direction somewhere around the Taj Mahal."

John DeFore reviews V for Vendetta for the Hollywood Reporter: "Happily, it almost is entirely free of the hollow pomposity that marred the Wachowskis' last two Matrix films."

Julie Tamaki reports on Carmike Cinemas' big decision: "In a big boost for digital cinema, the nation's third-largest theater chain has agreed to install thousands of systems over the next two years." Also in the Los Angeles Times: Elaine Dutka gathers a slew of initial impressions of Munich and Susan King profiles Andy Serkis.

Is Woody Allen settling comfortably into his existentialist schtick, or what? Of course, the interviewers - in this case, Emma Brockes - can't resist asking the same questions. The very title of this piece in the Guardian: "Q: Is life, essentially, comic or tragic? A: Without any question, tragic. There are oases of comedy within it. But, when it's all over, the news is bad." Also: Gwladys Fouché reports that Jean-Claude Brisseau has been found guilty "of conducting casting couch-type auditions between 1999 and 2001, while preparing for his feature Choses Secrètes (Secret Things)" and will spend a year in jail and pay a fine of 15K euros, plus 7.5K euros to each of two actors.

How weird is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Who are these people to have, in relatively few years, created the third-most watched awards show on TV? Sharon Waxman peeks behind the curtain to find glasses of wine being flung, buttocks grabbed and, sadly, even suicide.

Also in the New York Times:

American Hardcore

Jane Austen was out to "subvert the stilted and pat nature of all the weepy, sentimentalized 18th century novels that had come before her. And most important, to undercut and deflate at nearly every turn the idea - heck, the mere suggestion - of 'romance' in all its most hackneyed forms." Which is why, argues Gina Fattore in Salon, the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is so very, very wrong.

Casanova Dennis Harvey in the SFBG: "Casanova is the kind of strenuously farcical 'romp' that frisks and preens about like an ox under the delusion that it's a show pony." More from Jessica Winter in the Voice.

Ed Champion: "What makes Syriana a fantastic film, one I definitely plan to see again, is that, without really beating us over the head with didacticism too much... the film demands that we shift out of our traditional perspective and begin considering some of the global and economic connections that are kept under the radar."

Ryan Stewart at Cinematical on Memoirs of a Geisha: "The longer the film goes on, the more obvious its arcs become and the more we begin to feel that we've settled in for an experience that the movie is not really prepared to provide."

Even for things magazine, there's no getting around King Kong.

Adam Balz at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "The Wayward Cloud is a comedic tragedy, a musical bathed in silence."

Jason Morehead: "I'm not the first to say it, and I won't be the last, but the thing that ultimately strikes me about Tarkovsky is his dogged belief in cinema's unique ability to convey real, absolute Truth, and that as a filmmaker, it was his duty to plumb the depths of the human soul to find that Truth."

Scott Green turns in another epic anime overview at AICN.

"The future arrived last night..." writes Steve Rosenbaum. "In my living room. I saw it. Rocketboom. Full Screen. On my Flatscreen TV. On my Tivo."

Just look at those bloggers! IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks snaps 'em.

Online browsing tip. One page at a time, TaschenKino is posting photo-comic-like shots from old Chinese martial arts films. Via filmtagebuch.

Film Geek Online viewing tip #1. This could be you: the trailer for Film Geek.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical and Quint at AICN.

Online viewing tip #3. Tomek Baginski's The Cathedral. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tips, round 1. The Guardian's Kate Stables has seven.

Online viewing tips, round 2. 12 Death Cab for Cutie videos - though you can't see them just yet, they'll be there at the site. The AP reports.

Online viewing tips, round 3. Excerpts from the PBS series, Art:21. Via DVblog.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:28 AM | Comments (3)

December 20, 2005

Docs, 12/20.

The Aristocrats Though they may not have been as controversial or as impassioned as last year's round, what with the presidential campaign and all, documentaries have none the less had a very good 2005, writes Jonny Leahan at indieWIRE. He quotes Mark Urman, head of US theatrical for THINKFilm, which released Murderball and The Aristocrats this year: "More docs than ever were released theatrically, and more of them did well. Even though the vast majority still remain in a limited-audience ghetto, the same could be said for most indie films, and unlike low-budget fiction fare and foreign language films, docs have gained ground while the other varieties of alternative film have lost ground in the marketplace."

Meanwhile, Morgan Spurlock posts a bit about his upcoming film based on Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science: "For me, the film is not going to be so much an attack on one political party, but rather how empirical evidence and faith in science seem to be secondary when it comes to pushing political agendas. Should be pretty amazing and the possibilities of smart folks we could talk to on all sides of certain issues really intrigues me."

Boyd van Hoeij interviews The Art of Flight director Davin Anders Hutchins at the newly redesigned site for Kamera. Also: More from the recent International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.

Lynne Walker in the Independent on In Search of Mozart, "fresh, direct and communicative, bringing Mozart vividly alive, even for those who think they already know everything about him."

At WSWS, Richard Phillips interviews Gallipoli: The Front Line Experience director Tolga Ornëk.

Online viewing tip. TurnHere. Via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie and Chuck Tryon.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:23 PM

Munich, 12/20.

In a piece for Salon called "The War on Munich," Michelle Goldberg follows the debate so far. And the movie hasn't even opened: "Political critics are berating the movie for suggesting that the violence wracking the Middle East is a cycle that both sides have a part in perpetuating. Spielberg, ironically, is accused of being insufficiently Manichaean, and the charge threatens to ossify into conventional wisdom before the movie's audience can get to theaters to see how misguided it is."

Munich Patrick Goldstein tackles a different angle for the Los Angeles Times, starting with the mum vs "Boom!" PR campaign: "Bloggers have attacked Universal and [publicist Martin] Levy for saying one thing and doing another, while criticizing Time for assigning the story to [Richard] Schickel, who, as the magazine disclosed in its story, made a documentary that Spielberg produced and financed through DreamWorks." Then, "The real mistake Spielberg's team made by putting a veil of secrecy around the film was creating unrealistically high expectations."

J Hoberman has no fewer than three Munich-related or at least semi-related pieces in the Village Voice this week. In his actual review, he writes, "The film is sluggish and repetitive, yet it exerts a certain clinical fascination.... More than politics, it's predicated on Spielberg's faith in the redemptive nature of Hollywood entertainment." And then there's this: "Munich's final shot of the New York skyline makes it abundantly clear that, once more, Steven Spielberg is pondering 9-11." And so are other filmmakers, as Hoberman points out in another quick note.

Also, in case you missed it below, an online listening tip. David Edelstein chats for about 20 minutes about the year in movies and unveils his top ten, with Munich in the #1 slot.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:03 PM

Berlinale. Competition lineup, round 1.

Berlinale "Six of the nine films selected so far will have their world premieres in Berlin," reads the press release, and the first low rumbles of anticipation I've been feeling for weeks are now much louder, much rumblier. These nine represent about a third of the Competition program for the 56th Berlin International Film Festival, February 9 through 19. Including those screening out of competition, there'll be 26 in all. But first, the nine:

Houellebecq: Elementary Particles

Posted by dwhudson at 8:20 AM

Lists, 12/20.

Pioneer Theater Critics get to wave their lists around in the spotlight at the end of each year, but why not also hear from those who've invested a bit more in finding good movies. The five-year-old Pioneer Theater in NYC, for example. A blogging arthouse? Good idea (e.g., the Enzian Theater at indieWIRE); and once an arthouse gets blogging, a year-in-review entry is all but inevitable.

But the Pioneer's steers clear of press release-speak and is, in fact, a collection of entries. Alex Daoundakis, "one of our most discerning and critical moviegoers," selects three of his favorite horror films, Jeffrey the Projectionist presents a top ten of the second half of 2005 (#1: A Night to Dismember) and the programmer writes up the highlights of each month.

Meanwhile. For Variety, Ian Mohr rounds up the titles and names pegged by critics' organizations in Las Vegas, Dallas-Ft Worth and San Diego. And you know what that means: Time to check the Awards Scoreboard at Movie City News; and while you're there, ten new top tens have been added to that scoreboard.

A fresh idea, and actually a pretty good one, from Matt Zoller Seitz: for the Star-Ledger (that's Newark), a list not of the best TV shows, but of the best individual episodes.

Update: At the Oscar Igloo (yes, Oscar Igloo), Johnatan Alba looks ahead to the potential statuette collectors in early 2007. Via Movie City News.

Another update: David Edelstein's top ten appears first on NPR rather than Slate. Nice thing about it is, of course, you can listen to him explain why Munich is his #1 film of the year.

Update #3: At Cinemarati, jeff_v is "forever catching up with the canon," and so, lists ten not-new-at-all films he's caught this year. The Cinemarati (and really, Cinemarati readers are cinemarati, too) leap right in and several excellent lists follow.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 AM

December 19, 2005

United.

If you're inclined to think that a strong and unified Europe, acting as a counterweight to the world's single remaining superpower, is essential to global stability, especially if that superpower has been run by neoconservative idealogues for several years running now, you've got a couple of options. You can write a boring article (as I have all too often), sing a song, make a movie, paint a painting.

United We Stand

Or, far better, you can hijack the very language and methods, the look and feel of that superpower's most potent cultural export, Hollywood, as artists 0100101110101101.ORG have done so brilliantly with United We Stand, currently on view at the Postmasters gallery in New York, online and in the streets of Berlin, Brussels and Barcelona.

Via Anthony Kaufman, who has a full introduction to the work, concluding, "if the project gains enough momentum, who knows, maybe Ewan and Penelope will actually get the film greenlit. I, for one, would pay to see it."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:24 PM

Lists, 12/19.

RES: Thumbsucker and Miranda July When I saw the email, I so wanted to point to the RES 2005 Staff Picks but didn't know how. Anne Thompson knows how.

Independent arts critics weigh in briefly on 2005. And no one seems to be evaluating the year as often as David Thomson. Probably because editors keep asking him to pick another angle and have another go. Today: "[M]ore or less, the scale and gravity of the so-called "independent" film (the one made outside the banking system and the cheerful attitudes of Hollywood) has become the mainstream movie."

Kristopher Tapley tops his ten with Last Days; heading up his list of worsts is Transamerica.

At Cinemarati: Nathaniel R's "Highlights from the Year in Movie Hair" and Dan Jardine's "Favourite Shots of 2005."

Update: The AP movie critics, David Germain and Christy Lemire, make their choices. Topping Germain's: Dear Frankie; Lemire's: The Squid and the Whale.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:47 AM

Shorts, 12/19.

The New World Filmbrain: "[W]hat is most surprising about Terrence Malick's latest film (his fourth in thirty-two years), is that though it depicts one of the most lethal cases of culture clash, it is ultimately more a tragic love story steeped in the consequences of misunderstanding than it is an indictment of the crimes of our forefathers.... The New World is the true masterpiece this holiday season."

Talking to Stephanie Bunbury of the Age, Tilda Swinton has elicited frosty responses from Jason Morehead and Jeffrey Overstreet. Related: Laura Miller's longish profile of Philip Pullman in the New Yorker is titled "Far From Narnia."

For the Los Angeles Times, Richard Schickel reviews Matthew Modine's Full Metal Jacket Diary, Taschen's The Stanley Kubrick Archives and Rainer Crone's Stanley Kubrick Drama & Shadows: Photographs 1945-1950 and comes away with this observation, among others:

The essence of film directing is to make the performers appear utterly naturalistic, uncalculating. One way of doing that is to print the first or second take before actors have settled into their roles. The other way is to get them so befuddled and exhausted that thought and artifice are drained from them, and they're freely, but persuasively, doing anything that might end the agony.

In the latest installment of the paper's series on Scientology, Claire Hoffman and Kim Christensen examine the organization's courting of Tom Cruise.

Raging Bull Danish filmmaker Per Fly raves about Scorsese's Raging Bull and Sheila Johnston listens: "I love that practical, colourful way of dealing with guilt. You confess, do a penance and get absolution... When you look at Ingmar Bergman's films, the guilt in them is much more melancholy and depressive." Also in the Telegraph, Julian Fellowes's week-long diary.

Dan Williams reports for Reuters that Steven Spielberg has hired Eyal Arad, "who helped mastermind the recent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza" and "one of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top strategists," to market Munich in Israel.

Munich "might be the year's most levelheaded (if not necessarily the most dramatically sturdy) cinematic dissertation on our ongoing war on terror," writes Nick Schager. Also in Slant: Joe McGovern on Caché, Ed Gonzalez on The Intruder and Schager on Fun with Dick and Jane.

2929 Entertainment "I've seen more movement in the last three months than the previous five years." That's Todd Wagner, co-owner, with Mark Cuban, of 2929 Entertainment, nailing it. Again, 2005 will be remembered as the year that alternative means of distribution alongside (rather than instead of) theaters started to become a concrete rather than abstract inevitability. Laura M Holson checks up on a few ventures.

As for 2929's specific "rationale," though, Randall Stross remains skeptical, to put it mildly. To him, it "seems dangerously ungrounded in reality." Commentary: Chuck Tryon. Related: At indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman: "Over the past several months, Picturehouse, The Weinstein Company, and 2929 Entertainment have all made headlines, pronouncements, and even released a few pictures. But in 2006, their true colors - along with their business models, taste and acumen - will be revealed, for better or for worse."

Back in the New York Times:

  • David Carr: "Much was made of how silly it was for Apple to believe people would watch television on a 2.5-inch screen. But consumers have downloaded three million video programs from iTunes since the new video iPod became available in October. What gives?" Related: Matt Clayfield: "New media isn't about narrative integration, but about narrative disintegration and a return to novelty and attraction." Another discovery from our recent past from Nick Rombes: "A version of iPod in 1976? Not exactly, but the basic idea is there." And Scott Kirsner in the Boston Globe: "The iPod's strength, so far, is how easy it is to load it with video downloaded from the iTunes Music Store; as usual, Apple has made simplicity paramount." Exactly. It's not about the viewing experience. It's about accessibility and portability.

  • Tom Zeller looks back briefly at a rotten moment in the early days of DreamWorks when a piece in the Spectator "suggested, among other things, that Jews had created an 'invidious and protective culture' in Hollywood that excluded non-Jews."

The Master and the Margarita

"[W]hat do you think documentaries are supposed to achieve, fundamentally?" asks Nick Davis at Cinemarati.

Logan Hill in New York on Woody Allen and London: "One film could have been a fling. Two, an affair. But three? This is getting serious. How can Woody leave us? Oh, yeah, we dumped him first." Related: André Soares: "If Alfred Hitchcock were to direct a screenplay co-written by Nietzsche and Dostoevsky based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, the result would be something like Woody Allen's latest opus, Match Point." And Tim R's own private Woody retro.

Still going Kongkers:

Rolling Stone: Kong

  • Gavin Edwards interviews Peter Jackson for Rolling Stone.

  • Ed Champion: "The filmmaker who once dared to instill subtext and nuance into disrespectful genres, has been replaced by an overgrown adolescent who has run amuck, a fortysomething toddler whose storytelling abilities have been occluded by a need to fling random computer-generated bodies around and spend countless dollars on special effects."

  • Nigel Andrews, writing in the Financial Times, would disagree: "Three hours of stupendous cinematic self-assurance, fantasy-adventure images to die for, by and with and a script and characters so much cleverer than Christmas entertainment should be that Jackson risks being clapped in chains and exhibited at the next World Fair." Via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

  • Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "This Kong is an epic mixed bag, at best one-third to one-half a good movie."

  • Mark Kermode in the Observer: The "claim that British performer Andy Serkis's sterling work bringing the CGI star of King Kong to life is something less than 'acting', and more akin to mere technological monkeying around" is "foolish."

  • "low iq canadian" at Cinemarati: "[L]et's give credit where credit's due: Kong #2 contributed to the widely-hailed 2005 remake in significant and largely unacknowledged ways."

  • At Video WatchBlog, has Tim Lucas found the lost sequel?

  • Sharon Waxman cautiously notes in the NYT that Kong "could be on track to be the blockbuster hit that Universal badly needs it to be. But it appears likely that achieving that will take more time than usual."

Also in the NYP, Armond White on The Family Stone as a socio-political barometer far more complex that it might seem at first glance; and Jennifer Merin interviews Ang Lee.

In a light-hearted piece for the Observer, Adam Mars-Jones measures Brokeback Mountain against past landmark films with gay themes. Related: Charles Karel Bouley II in the Advocate: "[T]he media has all but compared [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] to war heroes for their portrayal of two closeted cowboys in a story of unrequited love and personal deception. Say it with me: poppycock." Via lylee at Cinemarati.

Also in the Observer, Rachel Cooke lunches with Mel Brooks, whose "approach to dining is as wilfully anarchic as his humor." Nonetheless, it has, of course, been a very hard year. Related: Nathan Lane tells the Independent's David Usborne how grateful he is to Brooks.

The Reeler leaves indieWIRE for Movie City News.

Punishment Park Steven Boone: "Punishment Park is a full-on convulsion of rage and paranoia from a year that saw massive anitwar protests in San Francisco and DC, the US-backed invasion of Laos, a Harris poll that put opposition to the Vietnam war at 60% and the publication of the Pentagon Papers. This movie wants blood."

Speaking of blood. Sean Axmaker's latest "Digital Delirium" column for Static Multimedia rounds up gore on DVD that "would make even the Grinch a little squeamish."

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay surveys the twelve projects selected for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, 2006.

At Movie Poop Shoot, DK Holm comments on Mike Russell's "Screening Rats": "I can only echo Marlowe in Conrad's Heart of Darkness: 'The horror. The horror. Exterminate the brutes!'"

Armin Müller Stahl turned 75 over the weekend. Deutsche Welle tips its hat in English.

Online fiddling around tips. Xeni Jardin collects a bunch at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tip. "Lazy Sunday," SNL's ode to Narnia. Via Waxy.org: Links.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:14 AM

Cineaste. Winter 05.

Catching up with what's online from winter issue of Cineaste:

Cineaste: Winter 05 Christopher Sharrett: "An adept student of psychology, [Michael] Haneke produces in Hidden a work that rescues the belief of the personal as political from overused banality—doing so through a microcosmic representation of the political unconscious of the colonialist, imperialist mindset."

Thomas Doherty reviews Mark Cotta Vaz's Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C Cooper, Creator of King Kong: "Vaz's lack of critical reserve is understandable. In the case of Hollywood's other 'Coop,' the book jacket cliché - that the man lived a life more exciting and dramatic than any of his films - is an understatement."

Leonard Quart interviews Noah Baumbach: "I found myself as a filmmaker on this film."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:23 AM

December 18, 2005

GC article roundup.

Budd Boetticher It's been about a month since the last roundup (which also happens to have been the first), so it's time for another one. Let's start with that photo. That's the late Budd Boetticher, whose newly restored 1956 cult favorite, Seven Men From Now, is due out on DVD this week. The photo of Boetticher in his office comes from Sean Axmaker's own collection. Sean's done quite a bit of work on Boetticher and we'll be seeing more of it soon. On Friday, we ran highlights from a series of interviews Sean conducted with the underappreciated director between 1988 and 1992. At one point, you'd think Boetticher were directly addressing the current discussion of one subtext of that most American of film genres: "Never before in a motion picture western did you ever see the hero kill the villain and sit down on a rock because he wanted to throw up because he really hated to do it. And I think that's a love affair."

Also new to the main site - just up, as a matter of fact - is a conversation Jonathan Marlow had with Veit Helmer last year. Frankly, months and months ago, we thought we had a sure news hook for this one when it seemed that a slew of films by Wim Wenders was headed to DVD, one of them being The Brothers Skladanowsky (aka A Trick of the Light); Veit played a vital role in realizing that one (he explains in the interview).

So we've held the piece and held the piece but all these previously announced Wenders DVDs are still MIA. Now there's an even better news hook: Azerbaijan Dream, the project Veit's been working on for more than four years now, has just been named one of 12 finalists for the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards. Click on for more.

Teorema An odd coincidence: During the years I was translating screenplays for Veit (and others), I was emailing almost daily with Paulina Borsook, who was hard at work on a book about libertarianism in geek culture. The epically twisted fate of that book, as it turns out, would become a central chapter in my own one and only book, Rewired. Paulina's Cyberselfish did eventually appear from PublicAffairs and remains essential to any understanding of the dotcom madness (and its aftermath) that took hold in the 90s.

So all this time I've been begging and pleading Paulina to write something for GC and, a couple of weeks ago, we finally had the good fortune to run just that. "Movies for Adults" is about why so many films of the 60s and 70s really "were better."

The very next day we ran David D'Arcy's interview with Gianni Amelio, in some ways a companion piece to his fresh dispatch from Tirana. Amelio has insightful and perhaps surprising things to say not only about his own work but also... well, let him say it: "The truth is that neo-realism was an elite phenomenon in Italy."

Look for more from David D'Arcy soon, too.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:40 PM

Lists, 12/18.

A History of Violence Movie City News launches its "2005 Top Tens" chart. Some good news: So far, David Cronenberg's A History of Violence scores highest. On the "List of Critics," you'll find top tens from Roger Ebert and Peter Travers, among others.

Do check Ebert's full list, where he not only explains his #1 choice - "What is wonderful about Crash is that it tells not simple-minded parables, but textured human stories based on paradoxes. Not many films have the possibility of making their viewers better people; anyone seeing it is likely to leave with a little more sympathy for people not like themselves" - but also reflects on each title, including the dozens that didn't make his top ten (they get special jury mentions), best docs, animated films and candidates for his Overlooked Film Festival.

Sujewa Ekanayake puts Caveh Zahedi's I Am a Sex Addict at the top of his 2005 top ten.

It's one of those weeks for the newsweeklies. While Time looks back on 2005 (you'll have heard that Bono, Melinda and Bill Gates have been named "Persons of the Year"; no best-of lists online as yet), Newsweek is already looking ahead to 2006, putting Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou on the cover. Yes, The Da Vinci Code won't open until May, but I guess you can't rev up that PR machine too early. Devin Gordon writes that one.

The Observer's Philip French introduces his top ten: "The welcome tendency in the States has been the return of political cinema to the Hollywood mainstream for the first time since the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam years."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:13 AM

December 17, 2005

Lists, 12/17.

Gabriel Shanks puts out the call for Top Tens to all Cinemarati and those who read them: "It's time to lay all of the cards on the table." And there are responses already, too.

And then there are the Los Angeles Times critics:

The Best of Youth

Three briefs follow as the LAT asks industry reps how things are going. John Horn checks in with Stephen Einhorn, president of New Line Home Video ("the trend is still upward"), Elaine Dutka with Universal vice chairman Marc Shmuger ("Things need to change") and Mary McNamara with screenwriter David Goyer ("we are seeing the death of film itself, which is not a bad thing").

In the New Statesman, David Thomson assesses what went wrong and what went right this year and then offers his suggested Oscar nominees in the five top categories. Why? "In many ways, it is in the power of the Academy to signal the change. If the Oscars were about honesty as much as judgement, we would have nominations that trumpet the arrival of independence." More in Variety on what makes a "Best Picture," via the Carpetbagger.

Except for the sluggish bits in the middle where that Hudson guy blathers on about Miranda July, Steve Rosen's overview of "The Year in (Film) Blogs" for indieWIRE is excellent, packing several vital angles into just a few hundred words. Commentary: Chuck Tryon.

Nick Davis scopes Oscar race.

NP Thompson: "14 moments that spoke to me in Forty Shades of Blue."

Best music DVDs? John Robinson in the Guardian.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:54 PM

Weekend shorts.

The President's Last Bang At Twitch, X translates highlights of a Film 2.0 interview with Im Sang-soo after a couple of paragraphs of succinct background on the director, including news of his new film, The Old Garden (scroll way down). I found this poster, by the way, which I'm assuming is for The President's Last Bang, in a special feature at the Film 2.0 site, "Poster of the Year." And it's not even the one at the top.

"I'm at an age right now where if I don't take risks, I lose respect for myself. And this was an important risk for me to take." The risk is Munich; for the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Abramowitz meets a weary Steven Spielberg: "He's just finished both War of the Worlds and Munich in a blazing 18-month streak, and although he doesn't mention it, just hours earlier sold DreamWorks, the company he founded with David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, to Paramount. It is the end of an era for him; the end of his dream of owning his own studio."

On a related note, Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter: "That DreamWorks couldn't survive as a stand-alone company has everything to do with the words 'studio' and 'independent.'"

For HKFilmArt, Light Sleeper editor Saul Symonds quotes Chris Doyle on the subject of The Departed, Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs: "I find it disappointing, if not depressing, to see someone of the integrity and scholarship of Marty apparently not knowing or caring where the original originates from, which I find insulting to our integrity and efforts, our energy and perseverance." Via Grady Hendrix, whose found a 1962 Bollywood version of King Kong.

Matt Clayfield: "Let's say, just for the sake of the argument, that there are essentially two types of film critics: missionaries and skeptics."

Reverse Shot's cnw: "In anticipation of the critical lambasting of Terrence Malick's exquisite and altogether dazzling The New World, a brief reflection on how some things never change." It's a game, actually. Match the critics and the quotes from the past and project into the near future.

Match Point Also, robbiefreeling: "Riding on approximately seven months of Cannes hype, Woody Allen's Match Point still manages to impress." But then there's Ben at the Whine Colored Sea: "Match Point is fine in theory but a wreck in execution; it's all overheated acting and expository-heavy dialogue."

Manohla Dargis has more thoughts on Brokeback Mountain: "Here, against the backdrop of the great American West, that mythic territory of rugged individualism and the Marlboro Man, is a quietly devastating look at masculinity and its discontents." Related:

  • Rick Moody, whose novel, The Ice Storm, was adapted by Ang Lee, in the Guardian: "[I]t is almost as affecting and classically sound as Romeo and Juliet."

  • Lakshmi Chaudhry at Alternet: "Brokeback Mountain is just the latest iteration of a narrative of tragic love that has gripped the Western imagination ever since troubadours in medieval France began to sing the legend of Tristan and Iseult.... Progress suggests that the gay love stories of the future will look a lot like that other Hollywood staple: the romantic comedy. Coming soon: When Harry Met Harry."

  • For the American Prospect's Noy Thrupkaew, the question of whether or not Brokeback Mountain is "a gay film... smacks of an essentialism ill-suited to the gender-bending that queerness can inspire."

  • James Wolcott rounds up examples of wingnut pundits making asses of themselves. A few centrists, too.

  • Film Journal editor Rick Curnutte: "Lee has crafted one of the best Westerns I've ever seen."

  • The Gilded Moose presents the "2005 Guide to Modern American History As Told Through Anne Hathaway's Hair in Brokeback Mountain." Via Joe Brown at the Culture Blog!, where Aidin Vaziri's found a surprising shot of Sofia Coppola.

Holland Carter on Irreducible: Contemporary Short Form Video at the Bronx Museum of the Arts:

Douglas Gordon

[T]oday's art audience must wonder at the patience that some of those early videos demanded of viewers, with their minimal content spun out for many grainy minutes and hours. It was as if art were saying: this is not Hollywood or television. This is not entertainment (though sometimes it was). This is serious. This is work.

No one would buy that line now.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Roberta Smith on MoMA's Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, "the largest, most object-oriented exhibition in its history devoted to film."

  • Catherine Billey traces the history of the supporting roles the NYT has played in the movies: "The paper has been a presence in pictures at least since 1931, when Groucho Marx, in Monkey Business, tried to cover up his own chicanery with a threatened letter to the editor. Since then, The Times and its reporters have been portrayed as investigators, cultural arbiters, pleasant diversions and, now, even a career dead end."

  • You want to take the kids to the movies. So: Which one? That's a complicated question, as AO Scott explains. Also, The Producers: "[H]ow come the movie feels, in every sense, like a rip-off?" More from Stephanie Zacharek in Salon and Karina Longworth at Cinematical.

  • Scott again: "What if the problem with Hollywood today is that the movies aren't bad enough?" The reasoning: "The storied wrecks of the cinematic past - Showgirls, Heaven's Gate, Duel in the Sun - all exhibit a spark of madness that keeps them alive in memory." With the madness rationalized out by the current system, truly great movies won't get made, either.

  • Sharon Waxman: "With evidence increasing that the American moviegoing habit is in decline, theater owners are undertaking a concerted campaign to bring it back." Commentary: Peter Merholz. Related: In the London Times, Hollywood veteran Budd Schulberg offers his take: "[T]oday's Masters of the Hollywood Universe seem to be very slow to realise that they have met the enemy - and it is them.... Instead of having their own true sense of what will be moving and appealing and meaningful to their audience, the corporate minds that have taken over Hollywood employ all the old, cold techniques of big business marketing." And Joe Queenan in the Guardian: "[A]n element of desperation has crept into the greenlighting process." Hence, all the remakes.

  • More Manohla Dargis: The Family Stone is "a clear attempt to bottle the manic energy and generous spirit of madcap classics like George Cukor's wonderful 1938 Holiday." More from Stephanie Zacharek in Salon and James Rocchi at Cinematical.

  • Stephen Holden on Electric Shadows: "An Asian answer to Cinema Paradiso, this movie is so passionately committed to the notion that favorite films from childhood and adolescence shape our imaginations that it unwittingly portrays an obsession with movies as a kind of pathology."

The Republican War on Science Chris Mooney's bestselling The Republican War on Science (reviewed this week by John Horgan in the NYT) will be the foundation from which Morgan Spurlock builds his next doc, reports the Guardian.

Also: James Meek, who's reported from Iraq for the Guardian, considers Jarhead within the context of the American war film, particularly, interestingly enough, The Deer Hunter. And Justin McCurry reports on Yamato: The Last Battle, a "major Japanese film about the dramatic sinking of a battleship in the second world war has provoked anger among Japan's former enemies because of its sympathetic portrayal of the ship's crew."

Bookish: "Thirty years before Harry Potter, in A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), she sent Ged, also called Sparrowhawk, to a school for wizards in a pre-industrial archipelago of dragons and sorcerers governed by magic, death and the power of language." With Studio Ghibli set to adapt the book, you may be interested in Maya Jaggi's backgrounder on Ursula K LeGuin (related: Steven Shaviro in the Stranger on Fredric Jameson's Archaeologies of the Future). And John Mullan on CS Lewis's appeal to kids.

Speaking of, Carla Blumenkranz argues in the Village Voice that The Chronicles of Narnia is "the closest thing we've got to a source for the current conflation of Christian philosophy and global imperialism. Imagine a re-creation of World War II in Arthurian costumes, and in this version the young Christian soldiers have Santa Claus, the unicorns, and Christ himself fighting on their side."

David Strathairn The Reeler: "Talk about a coup: George Clooney, David Strathairn and Grant Heslov crashed my alma mater New York University [on Thursday], analyzing Good Night, and Good Luck's journalistic implications for a few hundred young aspiring reporters." About that live-TV remake of Network: "I asked who they thought about casting as Howard Beale, and Clooney suggested Michael Caine. And then Abe Vigoda, whom he then impersonated saying, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.'"

James Rocchi interviews Strathairn at Cinematical, where Martha Fischer reviews The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: Tommy Lee Jones "has created a film not unlike himself: rugged, deceptively simple, and unwilling to compromise. That the movie is a success should not be a surprise; what is surprising, however, is the movie’s weakness, and how that weakness is overcome." Also: Quentin Tarantino's Hell Ride is a go. Related: Ray Pride points to a clip of QT being QT.

In the Japan Times, Kaori Shoji is pretty put off by Memoirs of a Geisha, while Philip Brasor remains skeptical even after hearing the stars defend the film. Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog, who also points to similarly critical pieces by Sarah Kaufman in the Washington Post and Jae-Ha Kim in the Chicago Tribune.

Caché Dave Kehr on Caché: "[T]he camera belongs to [Michael] Haneke, who uses it to judge his middle class characters with the same stacked-deck disdain he displayed in his highbrow snuff film, Funny Games, in 1997... If the violence is less explicit in Haneke's later films, it may be because Haneke has learned that Europe's privileged cultural elite is, ironically enough, the primary audience for his work." What would Ryan Wu say to that?

Acquarello's recent reviews: Chantal Akerman's Nathalie Granger and Theo Angelopoulos's Days of '36.

Jeffrey Overstreet: "Coming Soon has good news - David Gordon Green, one of the most interesting young American directors, is at work on a new project called Snow Angels. It'll star Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale."

"Imagine the pressure on a fledgling film director whose dad made Alien and Gladiator, whose uncle made Top Gun and whose two brothers have both been directing for 10 years." In the Independent, Alice Jones meets Jordan Scott. Also: David Thomson chats with his dog about - well, onscreen dogs.

Interviews in the Telegraph: Benjamin Secher with Juliette Binoche and John Hiscock with Sam Mendes.

King Kong:

  • For Nick Davis, it's "a stout, muscly heart of a movie whose rhythmic, colossal beats are echoed by murmurs of plangent nostalgia, both for the original movie and, in an odd way, for itself."

  • For the Independent, Lesley O'Toole interviews Peter Jackson and Anthony Quinn gives the film four out of five stars.

  • Kwame McKenzie sets off quite a discussion at the Times of London: "If I had not been at a premier with my transfixed son I would have been out of the door soon after the wide eyed, homicidal, half dressed, blacker than black natives of Skull Island started cavorting one hour in. I was lucky that my paternal instinct to stay and explain this to my son at the end got the better of me, because the next two hours were fabulous." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

"With its third edition now available, Cinema Retro continues to mine the films of the 60s and 70s," writes Ray Young at Flickhead. "In this issue the central feature is author/filmmaker Mike Siegel's extensive and heartfelt tribute to Sam Peckinpah."

Dennis Cozzalio introduces "Professor Brainerd's Christmas Vacation Quiz." Sample question: "Michelle Yeoh or Ziyi Zhang?"

The UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Bijan and Soraya Amin Foundation have unveiled the schedule for the 16th annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema, January 13 through February 11.

Navel On a related note, Antonia Carver in Bidoun: "Mohammad Shirvani's first feature film [Nahf (Navel] is an intimate diary that mixes real life and screen life with experimental abandon. Welcome to Big Brother, Iranian style."

CNET's John Borland reports on "one of the biggest steps yet in the film industry's slow move to replace film reels and whirring projectors with arrays of satellite receivers, servers and digital files."

You know you've got a good thing going when you've got competition like the William Shatner DVD Club. Via Kim Voynar at Cinematical. Also: Peter Jackson's next project will be an adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones.

Online listening tip. Terry Gross interviews Tommy Lee Jones. They come from very different worlds.

Online viewing tip #1. The cute trailer for Berlin & Beyond: New Films from Germany, Austria & Switzerland, a series running at the Castro in San Francisco, January 12 through 18. Looks like a nicely representative lineup, too.

Online viewing tip #2. Jason Morehead: "Why do I find it so appropriate that the new trailer for V For Vendetta arrives on the same day that I read that Bush authorized the NSA to spy on American citizens without warrants."

Dead Daughters Online viewing tips. Trailers via Twitch: The Pit and the Pendulum, a short executive produced by Ray Harryhausen, a fresher version of the trailer for Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (note that the site has gone all pomo self-reflexive, too), the trailer for Alatriste with Viggo Mortensen and... well, let Todd introduce it: "Enter Russian production Master i Margarita, based on the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. This thing could easily have been a 70s era Canadian camp horror production. Throw in a screaming Margot Kidder or Andrea Martin and you're right there. And yes, that does mean that there are breasts in the trailer, so this is your 'not work safe' warning."

Todd's also collected five teasers for the Russian horror film, Dead Daughters.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:37 PM

December 16, 2005

Printables for the weekend.

Before tuning into the buzz again over the weekend, I thought I'd point to a few more leisurely reads.

Jimmy Dean Prepares "The voice of not-life was more seductive and consoling; its sweetness attracted him. He placed the gun in his mouth long before he ever saw it done in a movie. In this respect, art anticipated art." Granta offers a sample chapter of Sam Toperoff's Jimmy Dean Prepares.

Hannah Eaves emails: "With all this Kong talk, it's time to re-read Karen Joy Fowler's Nebula award-winning What I Didn't See. It's a great story about the vague sexual threat of gorillas in the jungle."

Jon Lebowsky writes, "Back in the 90s, when I was associate editor of the 'zine version of boing boing, I wrote an appreciation of 50s science fiction/horror films called 'Monsters from the Id,' basically a top ten list with a bit of context." He's updated it a bit, and there it runs.

If you like a few graphics with your text, Mike Russell's latest installment of CulturePulp, "The Screening Rats," is good, creepy fun. And if you've got even more time, make your way through the archive.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:56 PM

Tirana Dispatch. 1.

David D'Arcy, who has covered festivals for us ranging from Haifa and New York to Karlovy Vary and Toronto, sends word from another where he's headed up the fiction film jury.

Tirana International Film Festival The third Tirana International Film Festival ended last Sunday with an awards ceremony at the Millennium II Theater in a park behind the capital's dusty National Gallery. In my first visit to Albania, I spent a week in Tirana, as president of the fiction film jury, but the screenings combined documentaries and animation films. All the films in competition were shorts.

Also on the bill was a feature by Nick Broomfield, one by Ken Loach (who also made a brief visit) and some Albanian features, which I'll discuss in a later installment.

Every city has a film festival these days, so why not Tirana? (Albania made plenty of films during the communist period that extended from the end of World War II to the early 1990s. Back in 1977, I saw The Mountain Girl, a Chinese-inspired adaptation of a dogmatic ballet, at an Albania film festival in Paris, run by surly Albanians from a Franco-Albanian Fraternity Association, who responded to my question about visiting the country someday with the warning that I wouldn't be allowed in if I wanted to "make propaganda." The remains of the studio where that film was shot stand on the outskirts of town - a private film school now shares the grounds with Tirana's film sets. More about that later.)

Visiting Albania is like walking into someone else's movie. If you haven't seen Albanian films, and if you haven't been to Albania, the dominant moving images that you're likely to have of the place could come from Lamerica, Gianni Amelio's drama about the desperate waves of exodus from an impoverished country in the years following the collapse of communism. Albanians resent that film with near-unanimity, although rumors that the author Ismail Kadaré threatened to kill Amelio over his depictions of poor and light-fingered folk are said to be ungrounded.

Like it or not, there are visions from Lamerica that still ring true. Amelio's picture of the place was of an empty expanse, where people walked aimlessly in all directions - not charged particles, as you would expect of a European capital, but numbed particles.

Tirana: 3rd Edition That was years ago, and Albania has changed - for the better, everyone kept assuring me - although the streetscape can evoke a blend of Magritte and De Chirico. A construction boom of apartments and commercial buildings seems to be threatening to fill up whatever empty space has value. (The coastline nearby is filling up even faster.) A parallel illegal building boom to house immigrants on the outside of town is extending sprawl as far as the eye can see. The roads, which are anything but empty, are filled with cars, and filled with holes, some of them so deep that traffic stands still. On my way to Mother Teresa Airport (yes, she was Albanian), I noticed a Porsche dealership and wondered where those cars could be driven. Maybe it's just about being able to buy one.

The city is, to put it mildly, a work in progress, a project that's now in the hands of Mayor Edi Rama, a six foot seven former painter who was named "Mayor of Europe" by his peers in 2004. Part of Rama's beautification strategy for Tirana has been to open up gated neighborhoods once reserved for the nomenklatura and to persuade property owners to paint their buildings in bright colors. You can read a gushing adoration of Rama by Jane Kramer in the New Yorker (it seems to be the only information on Albania that any Americans outside the country have read) but, as with everything in this country, the beautification campaign is hit or miss, and the right wingers who oppose everything that Rama does (the mayor is now the head of his country's socialist party) have proclaimed a hit on his political career. Let's just say he has his hands full.

Knowing any of this information wasn't necessary at the film festival, which showed short films from around the world to an audience that grew over the course of the week. The only region that seemed to be under-represented in the program was North America. I never got an explanation for that.

Despite some projection imperfections in the digital presentation, plenty of films among the more than 200 screened were worth considering for prizes. The first prize that the three juries in the festival agreed on was Before I Go, by Heiko Hahn of Germany, a short drama about a husband struggling to care for his wife who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. I can't remember where I have seen the balance of love and frustration achieved so well, nor have I seen any other film negotiate its way so adroitly through the ugliness and tenderness of such an ordeal. In feature length, such a film's emotional powers risks being weakened, yet I'm sure this director has a fine feature inside him.

Among other prizes, a special notice went to an Albanian film, Snowdrops, by Robert Budina, which also dealt with illness, death and loss. Once again, the acting had an emotional truth to it that seems to come when a film isn't expected to make any money. I didn't get a sense that this film compromised on anything. With actors like these and a director who knows how to use them, maybe there's hope for Albanian cinema.

La Guerra degli Italiani Hope for Italian cinema was in evidence, too. Thanks to Instituto Luce, the Italian distributor, I sampled a series called "Novecento" of works drawn from archival film from the 1920s to the 1950s. One section that I saw drew on color footage from 1942 to 1945 of the Allied invasion of Italy. What a revelation, and the voice-over with strong pro-Italian sympathies was better than a laugh track. A series of these documentaries is now available on DVD. Don't miss it.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:57 AM

December 15, 2005

Lists, 12/15.

The Whole Equation Dana Stevens, contributing to Slate's best books list: "Though it technically came out in late 2004, I spent the first two months of this year struggling with David Thomson's The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. But it was a passionate, engaging struggle, like an argument with a brilliant, impossible friend."

Girish: "So, here goes, in alphabetical order by filmmaker." That would mean leading off with Andrew Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha.

Jeffrey Wells: "I can't do a Ten Best of '05 of list - the number has to be fourteen. And I had to include 27 films on the 'Pretty Damn Good' roster, and I had to make a special mention of Terrence Malick's stunningly see-worthy shortfaller, The New World."

Instead of a string of titles, David Lowery lists a few "favorite filmgoing experiences of the year."

MS Smith: "[T]here were two films that meant more to me than the others, that altered the way I watch and think about the cinema. The first is Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin féminin; the other is Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love."

The Guardian's Xan Brooks picks out the highlights of the year in the UK, one for each month.

At Twitch, logboy logs the winners of the British Comedy Awards.

Anne Thompson's running a poll: "What is the best holiday movie?"

Updates: It's good to check Fimoculous now and then these days. Rex really goes all out this time of year, his little Christmas gift to each and every one of us. A few film-related lists I'd overlooked so far: Stephen King's got a top ten. Really. In Entertainment Weekly: "Many of this year's best movies were really depressing. Below is my admittedly eccentric list of the year's best; a B in parentheses stands for Bummer." His #1: The Squid and the Whale. (B)

Then there are Movie Mistakes's "Best mistakes of 2005"; a Sith goof tops the list and it just so happens that the film is Rolling Stone's Peter Travers's favorite DVD. He picks 25 in all. More best DVDs: editors and customers at Amazon and, at About.com, Dave White's "Top 10 Classic Rock DVDs of 2005."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:23 AM

Shorts, 12/15.

LA Weekly: Kong and Woody Ideas are in the air. Both the New York Observer and LA Weekly wonder on their covers, What if that were Woody Allen up there at the top of the world instead of Naomi Watts? In the NYO's "Power Geezers" issue, the crowds that gathered to hear him speak at Lincoln Center a couple of weeks ago have Suzy Hansen recalling a time "when it was Woody's New York and we just lived in it. For New Yorkers of a certain age - and I'm 28 - he is still our director, the Jewish Male of All Jewish Males, an important and orienting force for nascent American shiksas everywhere."

The LAW's Scott Foundas also has a long talk with Allen, who, despite attempts to ignore what anyone else thinks, readily admits that Match Point "is indeed a better film than most of the films I've made before - just by coincidence, by happy luck." But for Ella Taylor, it's "a perfectly presentable, entirely unremarkable domestic melodrama parked queasily between opera and realism, two irreconcilable forms if ever there were."

Then Foundas delivers the lump of coal in the LAW's "Holiday Films" cover package: "King Kong isn't terrible, but it’s something that none of [Peter] Jackson's previous movies ever was - it's enervating." Also, Joshuah Bearman: "It was only in 1855 that a live gorilla was first seen by Western eyes, and no specimen arrived in the United States until 1902. Wild stories circulated about sex rites in Gabon, and orangutans raping tribeswomen in their Borneo villages." And Ron Stringer on his "first big, aching movie-star crush."

At Cinemarati, Filmbrain finds Kong "a loving and loyal tribute to the original, and a great adventure film to boot."

More Kong:

American Cinematographer

  • Simon Gray talks with Andrew Lesnie for American Cinematographer.

  • Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "[I]ts sense of intimacy is what really sticks with you."

  • In Slate, Meghan O'Rourke considers how Jackson's updated the sticky sexual politics of the story.

  • Jim Tudor at Twitch: "It is the theatrical must-see movie of the year, hands down."

  • Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene: "If ever a movie expressed the devil's deal an entertainer makes with his audience, [Jackson's] Kong is it."

Back to the LAW. Foundas admires Tommy Lee Jones's "altogether impressive big-screen directing debut," The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. More:

  • In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis finds it "less an act of revisionism than one of reconsideration. As in most westerns, as in John Ford's Searchers and Cormac McCarthy's Crossing, the journey here is as spiritual as it is physical, as much inwardly directed as outward bound."

  • For Andrew O'Hehir in Salon, if the film "has some languid patches, it's also a work of uncommon maturity and remarkable poetry. More actors, I suspect, should wait 35 years before directing their first feature. Hell, more directors should too." O'Hehir also interviews Jones.

  • In the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas and Susan King.

Taylor in the LAW on Caché: "I have my reservations about Haneke, who, like that other finger-wagging parson Godard, can be an awful scold when it comes to the middle classes he so palpably despises."

Also, Foundas on The Producers: "I wouldn't put it past [Mel] Brooks that this whole thing might be one big, elaborate prank whose punch line is still to come."

At AICN, Quint runs quick reviews from three readers who've caught test screenings for Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. By the way, as noted below, Radiohead was indeed approached about doing the soundtrack but passed.

Vue Weekly: Capote Josef Braun interviews Philip Seymour Hoffman for Vue Weekly. Also: Paul Matwychuk on Robert Greenwald's Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and Brian Gibson on Lost Embrace.

Chuck Stephens: "[T]he ever-escalating creepinesses in [Kiyoshi] Kurosawa's Pulse seems less attuned to the nuances of Ring's lethal videotape paradigm than to the sorts of surrealist interior decorations you might find in a film by David Lynch, if not to an altogether non-site-specific sense of Japan as a Cronenbergian dead zone, where existential isolation has attained a critical mass that not even death can dissipate." More from Johnny Ray Huston: "Pulse is one of the greatest movies about loneliness and melancholy ever made."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Cheryl Eddy on Down to the Bone and, briefly, Michelle Devereaux on The Producers.

Brian Darr caught the Bruce Conner retrospective in San Francisco: "It's exciting to see new material from this great filmmaker, even if it (like last year's Luke) is rooted in projects started decades ago. In the q-and-a Conner intimated that he doesn't need to continue making the fast-paced films he's famous for when so many others are doing it for him."

For Cinematical, Robert Newton interviews Transamerica writer and director, Duncan Tucker.

Writing in Screen Daily, Patrick Z McGavin finds The New World "more accessible and emotionally resonant than Malick's previous work, the World War Two feature The Thin Red Line."

Histoire(s) du cinema Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema is finally headed to DVD - in France. Todd has details at Twitch. Also: Hal Hartley will soon begin shooting Fay Grimm, the sequel to Henry Fool he talked about back in April with Hannah Eaves.

Brokeback Mountain:

  • NP Thompson: "The insight - to say nothing of the courage - of this film makes it a masterpiece. Or close enough."

  • Michael Musto in the Voice: "At the premiere, when the film tried too hard to tug at our faygeleh-loving heartstrings, I thought, 'At last we have a gay romance as banal as the straight ones. We've finally arrived!'"

  • John Walsh offers a brief history of gay movies in the Independent.

  • Robert W Welkos and Elaine Dutka in the LAT: "[T]here's one important landmark the film has yet to reach - roping in a mass audience." Also, Susan King profiles Michelle Williams.

  • Rob Nelson in the City Pages: "[I]it doesn't fail to hit straight men where they live." Also, King Kong.

  • David Letterman: "Top Ten Signs You're a Gay Cowboy," via Gabriel at Modern Fabulosity.

Amen: Looker's got an entry on Anthony Lane entitled simply, "Somebody Stop This Man!"

Back to the New York Times:

Once in a Lifetime A new production of Moss Hart and George S Kaufman's Once in a Lifetime, basically about actors racing from Broadway to Hollywood, chasing opportunities heralded by the advent of sound in the movies, opens in London tomorrow. The Guardian runs a piece Londoners will find in their programs by David Thomson, a fun bit of Hollywood history. Also: Ryan Gilbey meets Nathan Lane.

Stop Smiling runs a pack of brief DVD reviews. More from the Austin Chronicle.

The BBC reports on the opening of Chen Kaige's The Promise in China.

Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei talk with Ron Hogan about his new book, The Stewardess is Flying the Plane for the Gothamist.

At the Berlinale site, Panorama director Wieland Speck talks about the upcoming retrospective dedicated to the fest's gay and lesbian Teddy Award.

Brian Brooks looks ahead to the Palm Springs International Film Festival (January 5 through 16) at indieWIRE.

PodART at Fine Art in Space is "the first group exhibition of video art intended to be viewed and sold solely on the iPod." Via Cult of Mac by way of Cinema Minima.

Pixar The Reeler hits MoMA's Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition.

Online viewing tip #1. The Hidden Massacre. Via Marc Wells, who interviews director Sigfrido Ranucci for the WSWS: "There are hundreds of private viewings in associations, clubs, halls. It's been shown even on the walls of a shopping mall in Rome during shopping hours."

Online viewing tip #2. X's collection of Korean music videos at Twitch.

Online masochism tip. Gabriel at Modern Fabulosity: "What do four of 2006's biggest blockbusters-in-waiting - The Da Vinci Code, Poseidon, Miami Vice, and Mission Impossible: 3 - have in common? Two things: first, they all recently released their first trailers. Second, all the trailers look like ass." Couldn't have put it better. See for yourself.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005

The papers and the bloggers.

The Carpetbagger and The Envelope "Having perused the [New York Times and Los Angeles Times's] glitzy new Carpetbagger and Envelope sites," writes Gary Dretzka at Movie City News, "I wonder: If one or both of the Times had been as thorough in their reporting of the White House, Pentagon, CIA and the last two presidential races - as is their coverage of entirely meaningless Oscar and Golden Globe campaigns - would the incumbent President have been cocky enough to employ false premises to invade Iraq?"

It's a good line and it packs an emotional punch, though its apples-and-oranges logic is questionable. There's a lot to snicker along with in Dretzka's entertaining rant, but in the end, the argument isn't really all that clear, even when he takes another shot at it in the but-seriously-folks sidebar. Perhaps if we strip it down...

First: "There's something unseemly about reading snarky blogchat in the New York Times..." Wait, wait, wait. The Carpetbagger is not in the New York Times. It is a blog on the NYT site, and by now, just about anyone with an email address, especially anyone who still reads newspapers, knows how to tell the difference. They also know occasional flurries of editorial sloppiness will sweep through a blog now and then and understand that that's simply the nature of writing on the fly, the price for the thrill of speed.

Second: "Although the folks at the Academy would disagree, the Oscars have become little more than an infomercial for the Hollywood brand..." True, true. Does this mean they're off limits to the NYT and the LAT? More to the point, as long as there isn't a discernible increase in Oscar coverage in the actual papers (and maybe there is; I don't know), and all papers, not just this estimable pair, realize that they're going to have to start experimenting with paperless means of publishing, why not experiment first with a beat as lightweight yet undeniably popular as the Oscars? Why not get the hang of it before, say, having Paul Krugman blog from Davos? (See, ultimately, this is what I'd like to see more papers doing, which is why Dretzka's shooting at their first trial balloons set off alarms.)

The third point is a more serious charge: these experiments are being paid for by the very companies whose products are supposedly under review, or at least being blogchatted about. It's an old problem with roots in old media and it persists and permeates all the way through to the tiniest personal site running Google ads. Across the board, the old answer remains the same, too: it's still up to the writers and editors to maintain editorial integrity. As we all know, mileage has varied considerably over many, many years.

The fourth point (turning to the sidebar now, where Dretzka addresses the question, "So, why is someone who writes for a website as obsessed with the Oscars as is Movie City News taking potshots at the NYT and LAT?") seems a little labored and calls for more evidence. In short, the papers get loads more access than MCN or any of the rest of us, and they're not using it responsibly. That is, they're not being critical enough, and in fact, "they're playing the game exactly as the studios and Academy would want them to." That'll soon turn into more access for them and less for us.

I dunno. Maybe. But I think Dretzka should take into account the overtly non-serious nature and mission of these sites (and in the case of the Carpetbagger, even the tone) and keep in mind that readers will pass the ultimate verdict. If they sense they're being spoon-fed studio PR, they'll head for the alternatives they know are out there. That's new media.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:02 PM | Comments (4)

Lists, 12/14.

The Wayward Cloud Matt Clayfield's "Year in Review" encompasses new films (eight in alphabetical order and three honorable mentions), old films, a bit of TV, a vlog and more than a few good reads. Matt's "new" films were new to him this year, and they're added in the spirit in which Darren Hughes has made his lists of ten best "New" and "Older Films I Saw for the First Time in 2005": "Of the ten best new films I saw this year, eight were festival screenings, and, of those, only two (Caché and Tristram Shandy) have a reasonable chance of making it to a theater here in Knoxville," writes Darren. "I mention that in passing as a reminder of how these year-end best lists are shaped by distribution and by the brand of popular American film criticism that still ghettoizes the vast majority of world cinema into a single, convenient category, 'Foreign Language Film.'"

Editor Nick James: "Brokeback Mountain came out top when Sight & Sound asked 30 or so of our key anglophone contributors to list the five 'most remarkable or intriguing' films seen by them in 2005 (it was, by the way, one of my own five choices)." 14 bests in all, introduced by bits of commentary from some of the contributors, including this from B Ruby Rich: "2005 is a terrific vintage. Finally, the cinematic world is awakening from the state of shock and denial [of] a post-9/11 universe. It's also beginning to shake off some of the confusions of the medium's mutations and get back to basics." Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

James Rocchi's annotated list of film books at Cinematical is one of those "gift ideas" sort of lists, but it's a nice browse.

Update: Speaking of books, the Voice picks 25. A few pages over, Michael Atkinson on Theo Angelopoulos's Landscape in the Mist: "The best European film of the 1980s? The greatest Balkan film ever made? The most eagerly awaited and long overdue DVD release of 2005? Yes, yes, and yes."

Update: Canada's Top Ten. The panel.

Update: Jeffrey Overstreet's "Most Disappointing Movies of 2005."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:04 AM

December 13, 2005

Shorts, 12/13.

A brief reminder: "Lists" entries are currently going up just once a day to be updated throughout the day. You may not see that in the feed, so... anyway:

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Justin Stewart opens the Reverse Shot round at indieWIRE on The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: "The qualified triumph here, in my opinion, owes in most part to [Tommy Lee] Jones's sneaky, sensitive, and finally empathetic lead performance, his best since Lonesome Dove." More from Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice, where he addresses precisely that association.

For Reverse Shot's clarencecarter, The New World "is largely unlike any recent films (it's probably closest to Malick's own The Thin Red Line, even though it doesn't feel much like that either), existing instead on its own plane, with its own thoughts and rules, somehow avoids hermeticism and is instead rather welcoming (mostly), and staggeringly emotional, it remains in a class by itself."

Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect: "[A]fter the first thirty minutes, I was wishing desperately for a whiteboard so I could diagram the multiple spheres of influence, the shifting alliances, the intersecting histories... Can someone tell me what the hell is going on here? No. That is Syriana's greatest strength, and will likely become its most-criticized trait." Related: Roger Ebert runs the oft-cited "Corruption" speech Tim Blake Nelson's character delivers.

More from Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic: "At the end we feel that we didn't know we wanted this film and are glad that our unconscious wish was granted." And at the TNR site, Lee Siegel on Homecoming.

Larry McMurtry: Lonesome Dove In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein talks with Larry McMurtry about the eight years he and Diana Ossana spent trying to get Brokeback Mountain made. Related: For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein interviews Ang Lee; also: Jim Carrey and Felicity Huffman.

AO Scott: "In his gargantuan, mightily entertaining remake, King Kong, Peter Jackson tries to pay homage to the original even as he labors to surpass it. The sheer audacious novelty of the first King Kong is not something that can be replicated, but in throwing every available imaginative and technological resource into the effort, Mr Jackson comes pretty close." Also in the New York Times: Dave Kehr on new DVDs, including a director's cut that's actually an improvement, the Ross McElwee collection and a new Chabrol release.

Meanwhile, Ray Pride has a little fun with Kehr. Or is that simply "Kehr," the "ongoing parody of what happens to some writers who go online without the protection of an old-media copy desk"? But seriously now, responds The Reeler.

David Edelstein finds King Kong "sometimes dumb and often clunky and always pretty cornball, but just about irresistible." Also in Slate, Edward Jay Epstein on what works and what doesn't when it comes to CGI and Adam L Penenberg: "As it tries to become a major power in the video world, Apple will face far greater obstacles than it did in the music biz."

In this week's Village Voice, J Hoberman reviews both King Kong ("Destined for box-office glory, Jackson's Kong can afford to revel in its tawdry Depression origins") and The Producers (it "has mutated into a story of self-actualization"; more, furiously more from Rob Vaux at Flipside Movie Emporium), but perhaps most interestingly, he's come up with a short piece linking the two: "Each in its way concerns a quest to become the biggest thing on the Great White Way, and each evokes a moment when New York City might have imagined itself the center of the entertainment universe."

Also:

The Grace Lee Project

Kong needs to be three hours long, argues Wade Bowen at Cinema Strikes Back.

Kong gives David Thomson an opportunity to consider what makes for family entertainment these days and he takes that opportunity all over the place in the Independent.

Zoe Williams to Narnia critics in the Guardian: "The Bible is a narrative blueprint for a lot of western culture - if everything referencing it is dodgy then the nativity is dodgy, a lot of Shakespeare is dodgy, some of The Archers is dodgy, everything is dodgy. To what do we object, then?"

For the Gothamist, Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei interview Max Makowski, whose One Last Dance is set to premiere at Sundance.

Railroad Man Fellini, Antonioni, Rossellini, Pasolini, Visconti, Bertolucci, de Sica. Put Pietro Germi's name on that list, argues Edward Lamberti. Also in Kamera, Antonio Pasolini reports on a recent mini-festival of Norwegian films in London.

For the Al-Ahram Weekly, Hani Mustafa briefly recounts the recent history of Iranian cinema before placing two Iranian films that screened at the Cairo Film Festival in its context. Both A Border for Life and Gilaneh take measure of the impact of the Iran-Iraq War. Via signandsight.

In Le Monde diplomatique, Kenneth Brown looks back on the Haifa International Film Festival and focuses on its Palestinian Cinema Day.

Up-n-coming:

Earthsea

The Carpetbagger (you know, the NYT's David Carr) chats with Rachel Weisz.

Alice Taylor in Wonderland: "Rocky Horror costumes... Can you believe you can buy them in a bag now?" Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

AICN's Moriarity confirms that cinematographer Adrian Biddle (Aliens, V for Vendetta), has died of a heart attack. In other Grim news, Borys Kit for Reuters: Producer Robert Newmyer, 1956 - 2005.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:14 PM

Lists, 12/13.

Brokeback Mountain The Hollywood Foreign Press site seems overloaded at the moment, but again, Movie City News probably has a more immediately legible list anyway. So the nominations for the Golden Globes are out and Brokeback Mountain leads with seven. Reactions: David Poland (and a slew of readers), Cinematical's Karina Longworth, Aaron Dobbs and Gabriel Shanks.

Movie City News, whose Awards Scoreboard is taking shaping and will soon be getting pretty interesting, also has the list of Washington Area Film Critics Awards winners. They've gone for Munich and Spielberg.

Dennis Harvey for Variety: "Adding to a critics-society consensus, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle today handed major nods to Brokeback Mountain - echoing kudos already announced by the LA, New York and Boston bodies."

Slant Big Update here: Slant unveils its "2005: Year in Film" special, essentially a sharp introduction noting that "socio-politically-minded Big Idea films were all the rage," followed by two annotated top tens from Ed Gonzalez and Nick Schager. They may well have you wishing they were programming your local cinema. Though they diverge considerably, "when it came to pure artistry, no work - mainstream, independent, or foreign - was equal to Terrence Malick's The New World, Slant Magazine's unanimous 2005 Film of the Year."

Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't be noted in passing that, since it's their job to weigh potential box office impact, the trades are less enthusiastic about that one. Reviews: Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety's Todd McCarthy.

Another Update: The IFC News team (i.e., Andrea Meyer, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore) unleash their top tens - with intros. There's a surprising amount of overlap, actually; must be a harmonious office.

Update #3: Filmmaker's Matthew Ross reacts to the lists and awards announced so far with a list of his own, writing, "I'm very surprised and considerably disappointed that King Kong has pretty much gotten the shaft. If this isn't pure cinema, what is?" Guess his #1.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:24 AM

December 12, 2005

Shorts, 12/12.

V for Vendetta Somehow, Matt Dentler managed to not only survive Harry Knowles's 7th Butt-Numb-A-Thon but also introduce one of the films and blog all the way, pix included. Highlights seem to have been "a beautiful print of Richard Brooks's 1966 western, The Professionals" and V for Vendetta, "scheduled to screen at the Berlin Film Festival in February." David Lowery was there, too, and would definitely agree.

Aaron Hillis capped off his weekend by taking in the "Best/Worst Films of 2005" panel: Glenn Kenny, Stephen Holden, Thelma Adams and Armond White, "whose illogical and occasionally hypocritical musings made this trek to the Upper West Side worth every stinky subway minute." Update: The Reeler turns in a full report: "And really, if you were dropping by for a steel-cage match, you had to know White would be your go-to guy. For whatever reason, the brittle, contrarian bitchiness that stifles his columns resurfaced Sunday as optimism - and you cannot say that it was there in the Press the whole time."

For the New Yorker, Caitlin Flanagan turns the making of Mary Poppins into a sweeping epic: the spectacular 1964 premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the devastated writer, PL Travers, the rise of the nanny in the US, the works.

Doug Ireland responds to David Leavitt's recent piece in Slate: "Many of the most interesting gay films are being made on a shoestring by young, unknown directors - and get their biggest audiences thanks to those gay film festivals. Leavitt should frequent such festivals a bit more before issuing idiotic generalities suggesting that gay filmmakers and scenarists can't rise above clichés."

David M Halbfinger: "A continent removed from the scrutiny of scarred New Yorkers, Oliver Stone's film about 9/11 rescue workers is deep into its second month of principal photography. And crew members working round the clock are dressing one of the most sensitive movie sets imaginable." Related, and via Movie City News, Desson Thompson in the Washington Post: "The sudden flurry of studio pictures on this topic comes in part from the time it takes to pull together major productions (about two to five years) but perhaps also from a general consensus in Hollywood that the nation's mourning period is over."

Also in the New York Times: Jessica Seigel on The Chronicles of Narnia: "One side dismisses the hidden Jesus figure as silly or trivial, while the other insists the lion is Jesus in a story meant to proselytize. They're both wrong." And Sharon Waxman tells the story of the Paramount-DreamWorks deal.

For Anthony Kaufman, The Power of Nightmares "is arguably the most important movie of the year."

Chuck Tryon sorts through his initial thoughts on Syriana.

Roger Ebert interviews Ang Lee for the Chicago Sun-Times. Via MCN.

At Koreanfilm.org, Tom Giammarco looks back at "Korea's first science fiction animation," Golden Iron Man (1968).

More King Kong:

King Kong

  • Ryan Stewart at Cinematical: "Peter Jackson shows himself to be at once a peerless conjurer of cinematic dreams and a born publicity man who knows how to oil the tracks before his show rolls into town."

  • Slant's Jeremiah Kipp: "To attempt to fix something that isn't broken in the first place is a fool's errand. Jackson, who proved long before his astonishing Lord of the Rings that he is one of the master fantasists of contemporary cinema, is no fool; but his very love and nostalgia for this beast is what kills the movie."

  • Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "A movie about the movies, and specifically an exploitation picture about exploitation pictures, Jackson's Kong is also a witty comment on the darkness at the heart of adventure stories, a bazillion-dollar spectacle that reserves the right to question the morality of spectacles, and, mostly, a tender love story about a melancholy girl and her tragically misunderstood monkey."

  • Clive DL Wynne in the New York Times: "What is it about watching young women being ravished by oversized middle-aged gorillas that presses so many buttons...?"

  • The Observer's Philip French reviews both Kong and Narnia. Also: Gaby Wood profiles Jack Black, as does Sammy Richman in the Independent.

A quick note for those in the San Francisco Bay Area: Aristide and the Endless Revolution's at the Roxie.

Online browsing tip. Film London's Match Point movie map. Via The Filter.

Online listening tips. Tune into DVD Talk Radio to listen to Joss Whedon talk about the Serenity DVD, Firefly and Buffy's future and to Leonard Matlin talking about the next round of "Walt Disney Treasures Collection" releases, Miyazaki and Song of the South.

Online viewing tip #1. Beddazled! presents the trailer for Queen of Blood, with Dennis Hopper.

Online viewing tip #2. The Colbert Report recommends Brokeback Mountain. Via Salon's "Video Dog."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:08 AM

Lists, 12/12.

As with yesterday's lists entry, this one'll be updated throughout the day as those lists keep rolling on out.

New York: Best of 2005 Ken Tucker places A History of Violence at the top of New York's list, names Viggo Mortensen best actor and Michelle Williams best actress. "Art-House" movies get a mini-list of their own, with Rize on top of it. The list runs over over three pages, encompassing such categories as "Best NYV-Made Documentary Your Teenager Should Be Required to Watch" (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till) and "Most Beautiful Sex Scene" (Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi in 2046). Also: Jada Yuan hands the "Industry Award" to James Schamus and David Linde of Focus Features.

At Movie Poop Shoot, Chris Ryall revisits the highs and lows of 2005, month by month. This first part runs from January through June.

Gabriel at Modern Fabulosity finds the Boston Film Critics Awards at Movie City News: Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Reese Witherspoon. Related: Nick Davis on Boston, the movies and the list.

Update: So the National Board of Review has come through with a list after all, picking Good Night, and Good Luck as best film and honorably mentioning nine others. Karina Longworth's got the full list at Cinematical. The Reeler laughs, The Reeler cries. Nick Davis just laughs.

Update: The New York Film Critics Circle has posted its list of awards. If you don't feel like reading sentences and paragraphs, Movie City News already worked up the list as a, well, list. At any rate, once again, it's Ang Lee and Brokeback Mountain.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:01 AM

December 11, 2005

Firecracker. 13.

Kekexili "Everyone else does one, so why can't we? Yes, Firecracker Magazine has opted to inflict its own version of the ubiquitous end-of-year poll, with the Firecracker Top Ten of 2005." Top ten East Asian films, of course, this being Firecracker, and leading off with Lu Chuan's Mountain Patrol (Kekexili), which Ziad Semann reviews.

Also in this issue:

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 1:50 PM | Comments (2)

Lists, 12/11.

Yet another update: Movie City News notes that the New York Film Critics Online have released their list with The Squid and the Whale at the top.

Another update: The American Film Institute chooses its top ten films (and top ten TV shows). Via indieWIRE.

Update: The Broadcast Film Critics Association has released its list of nominees, and Anne Thompson's got it. Brokeback Mountain leads with eight, followed by Crash with six.

Gegen die Wand Leading with Fatih Akin's Head-On, Newsweek's David Ansen places four foreign films on his "2005's Top 10 Movies" list - five, if you count Canadian David Cronenberg's A History of Violence at #10.

Also:

And there are fresh reviews, presumably by Ansen: Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Kong & Narnia, The New World ("magnificent, frustrating"), Brokeback Mountain, Mrs Henderson Presents and The Family Stone.

Peter Aspden selects the best DVDs of 2005 for the Financial Times. Via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:13 AM

Odds, ends and a rumor.

Ang Lee Nick Davis is among the quickest and the best at breaking down the list released yesterday by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Just skimming from the top, they've named Brokeback Mountain Best Picture and Ang Lee Best Director. Runners up in those categories: A History of Violence and David Cronenberg. Philip Seymour Hoffman scores Best Actor for Capote, Vera Farmiga Best Actress for Down to the Bone. But really, go read Nick.

Now then, acquarello: "[I]t's time to close out my 2005 Journal with my Senses of Cinema submission for their annual World Poll of 'Favorite Film Things' for the year." Ten films, five honorable mentions. At the top: Nicolas Klotz's La Blessure (The Wound).

Chuck Olsen: Soundtrack Chuck Olsen is a happy man this weekend, and for good reason. "[W]hat might be one of the best music videos of the year" is the pullquote from Robert Mackey's piece in the New York Times on vloggers, the twist being, as Mackey explains, that Chuck's entry on catching The Soundtrack of Our Lives at a "sucky-ass club" is not a music video per se. Even better.

And finally for now, I'm going to be ridiculously irresponsible (but you know, life is short) and pass along an unsubstantiated rumor: Radiohead may be this close to signing on to do a new score for Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. Even if that turns out not to be true, in some parallel universe, that film is screening and it sounds lovely.

Update: A letdown from adriaan at ateaseweb: "Radiohead were indeed approached to record the music for Richard Linklater's film, but the band are not doing it, because Radiohead are recording their new album." Via Todd at Twitch.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 AM

December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor, 1940 - 2005.

Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor, the caustic yet perceptive actor-comedian who lived dangerously close to the edge both on stage and off, died Saturday. He was 65.... Pryor once marveled "that I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."

Jeremiah Marquez for the AP.

Normally, nothing dates so fast as stand-up, but a quarter of a century after its cinema release, Richard Pryor - Live In Concert still retains its power to shock and startle. Indeed, far from playing like a quaint period piece, this landmark performance still feels dangerous and avant-garde.

William Cook in the Guardian, 2004.

Updates through 12/17 follow...

Most every comedian under 50 has been influenced by Pryor, and not just the black ones. Watching and listening to them, it's as if Pryor's shadow always hovers nearby, revealing itself to varying degrees in inflection, pacing, body language, choice of material.

[...]

What is most wonderful and most missed about the humor of Richard Pryor is his simultaneous rage and vulnerability - that sense of being mad as hell yet still yearning for and believing in acceptance and reconciliation, whether he was riffing about black folks, white folks, women, politics, black male macho or drug addiction.

[...]

He was an antidote to Richard Nixon, the Moral Majority, the decline of mass movements for social change. Richard Pryor kept it real, and then some.

[...]

Watching him, we are terrified, exhilarated and provoked. His art, as the best of art does, resonates long after the tape has finished playing, long after his voice and image have faded away.

Jill Nelson, Salon, 1998.

Updates, 12/11: Dennis Cozzalio; Mel Watkins in the New York Times; Lynell George in the Los Angeles Times; Richard Zoglin in Time.

Updates, 12/12: Roger Ebert (who also passes along a story from Cynthia Dagnal Myron), Taylor Carik in Flak, Desson Thompson in the Washington Post and Duncan Campbell in the Guardian and Guy Flatley's 1977 interview.

Updates, 12/13:Jesse McKinley gathers memories from several comedians for the New York Times; Dana Cook collects earlier stories from a wide variety of celebs for Salon; David Edelstein at Slate: "Pryor the artist used Pryor the man as a character, and there's no telling how much the latter acted up to make kindling for the former. God, I wish he'd found a middle ground - a design for creating and living."

Update, 12/14: Earl Ofari Hutchinson at Alternet: "He was the artist that didn't just live on the edge, but sharpened the racial edge in his art."

Update, 12/16: Sam Anderson introduces six clips from Live on Sunset Strip: "So, on the Monday after his death, I went out to buy all the Pryor stand-up I could find. This turned out to be approximately none. New Yorkers seemed to have collectively obeyed their Pryor-hoarding urge about 24 hours before I did. The shelves had been picked clean. It was a touching (though frustrating) homage."

Update, 12/17: Edward Rhymes at the Black Commentator: "Rich made it clear, he made it real and his humor made it bearable." Via wood s lot.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:19 PM

Weekend shorts.

Stephen Gaghan In the first part of his interview with Syriana writer-director Stephen Gaghan for Cinematical, James Rocchi got him going on politics: "Chaos is good for the energy business. And that's the first thing they'll tell you... I'm absolutely certain that until it's really dire, nothing's going to change." In the second part, Rocchi steers him away from geopolitics for second, but Gaghan swerves back: "A guy in a cave in Afghanistan can bring down the World Trade Centers. Small. World. We're all connected in ways we just don't understand."

Related: Jim Tudor, writing at Twitch, finds the film "about as clear as the oil it's obsessed with." And, worried that Gaghan's getting overexposed (on top of the zillion interviews, e.g., NPR's, he's also blogging at the Huffington Post), The Reeler offers him a bit of advice: "[S]ave some vitriol for your Oscar speech."

At Slate, Michael Kinsley has an intriguing little piece that moves from the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to HBO's shows about Hollywood and is actually about the way civilizations are remembered.

At sister site, BlueCine, Craig Phillips reviews The X List: Movies That Turn Us On, a collection with contributions by the likes of Carrie Rickey, Charles Taylor, Dave Kehr, Sheila Benson and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Craig: "I don't usually as a rule say this - not even on an adult-oriented site such as this one - but I'll say it now: the book could use more porn."

Emmanuelle Siân Stott takes on the "Filmmakers on film" duties for the Telegraph this week: "[Festival director Annie] Griffin is an unusual woman. Her first choice of film for this page was Emmanuelle, the soft-porn flick from 1974.... 'I think it's a great film,' she says.... But before we meet, Griffin has changed her mind and gone to the opposite extreme, choosing instead to talk about the hit comedy Groundhog Day... 'Yes, the film is funny, but it's also so profound about depression.'"

Also, David Gritten talks with Ang Lee and, on the same page, Mark Monahan follows up with "Gay love stories to remember."

Reed Johnson: "From the sagebrush classics of John Ford and Howard Hawks to the blood-drenched sentimentality of Sam Peckinpah and the revisionist westerns of the Vietnam War era, many Hollywood versions of the Old (and New) West have probed men's most ambivalent and closely guarded feelings about each other: envy and hero worship; rivalry and comradeship; hate and, on occasion, love, or something close to it."

Also in the Los Angeles Times,Susan King chats with Judi Dench, profiles Joe Biggins and previews the series, A Century Ago: The Films of 1905.

Tindersticks: Trouble Every Day Darren Hughes: "Five Films That Should Not Be Fast-Forwarded Through (No Matter How Badly You Might Want To)."

Chris Barsanti sorts through a "rough weekend at the movies."

Chris Rock is out as Oscar host, reports Sharon Waxman, who adds that among the candidates under consideration are Billy Crystal (a nightmare scenario), Whoopi Goldberg (zzzzz) and Steve Martin (if I were in charge, I would point the Academy to the second half of the show he hosted and then hire him up). Also: DreamWorks goes to Viacom (and its studio, Paramount) for maybe as much as $1.6 billion. More from Claudia Eller and Sallie Hofmeister in the Los Angeles Times.

Also in the New York Times:

  • Lorne Manly: "Yes, in an age of hundreds of cable channels, video games and other distractions, the domestic box office so far this year is down about 6 percent from the same time period in 2004, and off from 2003 and 2002 levels. But the money flowing into the coffers of movie studios is greater than ever." In a hurry? Head straight to the charts.

  • AO Scott on The Power of Nightmares: "At times [Adam] Curtis seems to believe too literally in the notion that neoconservatism and radical Islam are mirror images of each other, creating odd impressions of equivalence and fudging over problems of definition."

  • And: "[I]n casting about for new sources of fear, Marebito achieves its own level of mediocrity." More from Steve Erickson at Gay City News: "Both intriguing and goofy, Marebito suggests a potentially promising new direction for J-horror."

  • Manohla Dargis: "[Rob] Marshall can't rescue the film from its embarrassing screenplay or its awkward Chinese-Japanese-Hollywood culture klatch, but Memoirs of a Geisha is one of those bad Hollywood films that by virtue of their production values nonetheless afford a few dividends, in this case, fabulous clothes and three eminently watchable female leads." Related: Stephanie Zacharek at Salon; Andy Klein in LA CityBeat; Jeffrey M Anderson; Slate's David Edelstein finds "it skips lightly over the surface of its rich material, more preoccupied with making pretty pictures than dipping below the surface."

  • Also, Mrs Henderson Presents: "[T]his is principally the Bob and Judi show, complete with boisterous fights, silly pantomime... and a rich helping of sentimentalism that might make you gag if it were spooned up by less practiced con artists." More from Stephanie Zacharek in Salon, Jim Tudor at Twitch and Jette Kernion at Cinematical.

  • Patricia E Bauer on The Ringer: "Peter Farrelly argues that America needs to understand the inherent humanity of people with intellectual disabilities, and that includes seeing them make jokes, engage in hijinks and dance close to Full Monty-style in the shower."

  • Christian Moerk talks about The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada with Tommy Lee Jones: "Thank you for understanding that it's not 'political'... It's a study in social contrasts."

The Producers The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt on The Producers: "[Nathan] Lane and [Matthew] Broderick have played these roles 300-and-something times, and it shows.... Neither actor has rethought his performance for the screen."

More from Variety's Todd McCarthy, who also reviews Munich: "Beautifully made pic will spur newsy media coverage and possible consternation on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, but members of the general public will be glancing at their watches rather than having epiphanies about world peace."

More from Reverse Shot's robbiefreeling: "[W]hat's most remarkable is a symbiosis even stranger than the much-discussed, underappreciated Kubrick/Spielberg connection: Kushner/Spielberg.... Munich, as expected, is a force to be reckoned with... yet at this point I'm still reckoning."

Signandsight summarizes reactions in the German papers (in English) to Harold Pinter's Nobel speech.

Matthew Clayfield on what he's learned in film school: there's a real bias out there towards strictly narrative cinema.

Nick Rombes: "Filmmakers like Soderbergh - who openly speculate about new uses for new media - continue [a] tradition of creating popular works through experimental means."

Filmbrain: "Rare is the film that is either so imaginative, so surreal, or simply so bizarre that it defies easy description. Kankuro Kudo's twisted road flick, Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrimsis most definitely one of them."

King Kong roundup:

King Kong

Also in the Guardian: John Patterson: "Homecoming comes on like Roger Corman's Syriana. And as often happens with Cormanesque ventures, the cheesy, no-budget entry often kicks the well-funded studio equivalent's ass." More from Stephen Macy. And Oliver Burkeman interviews Will Ferrell.

Ben Dickenson outlines a brief history of politically progressive movies from Hollywood from, oh, Reagan or so on. Also in the Independent: Chris Sullivan gets a few great stories from cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Elaine Lipworth interviews Sarah Jessica Parker.

Thinking of going on tour with your film? Read Paul Harill's notes.

Orlando Bloom Celebs campaign to raise awareness of global warming-related issues. Via Treehugger.

Online browsing tip. Jim Gasperini's stereo photography, wiggled so that you don't need glasses to experience the 3D effect. Via Worship the Glitch by way of reBlog.

Online viewing tip #1. That Sofia Coppola must have some pretty fine playlists on her iPod. AOL is hosting the teaser for her Marie Antoinette.

Online viewing tip #2. The trailer for Spike Lee's Inside Man. What a cast.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Jason Morehead picks out some of the best music videos Coudal Partners have been pointing to lately.

Online viewing tips, round 2. DVblog selects three "exhilarating chunks of early movie making from the Library of Congress online collection of variety stage motion pictures and posts impressions from the Bill Viola show at the James Cohen Gallery.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:57 PM

Narnia and the "family film."

Meghan O'Rourke: "Judging the Narnia books solely by their Christianity is an impoverished way of reading them. It is a reflection more of our polarized moment... The real genius of Narnia is the way Lewis built, out of a hodgepodge of literary traditions and predecessors, a patchwork world of unconventional characters who understand and instruct children without seeking to domesticate or indoctrinate them. The result is indelible, and anything but strictly allegorical." Also in Slate: Liesl Schillinger goes off in pursuit of Turkish Delight.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "If the lukewarm were still being spewed out, this might have meant trouble for Narnia.... [but] since we live in a culture in which even religion is judged by its economic power, I expect the picture to be welcomed for its middlingness."

For AO Scott, writing in the New York Times, "the spirit of the book is very much intact." More (a lot more) from Phoebe Kate Foster at PopMatters.

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "Unselfconscious and subtly expressive, [Georgie] Henley [as Lucy] gives one of the most astonishing child performances I've seen in years - maybe since Drew Barrymore's in E.T.."

Jim Tudor at Twitch: "[S]low pacing, under-developed characters, and obvious special effects make this two hour and fifteen minute 'epic' feel much longer than even [Peter] Jackson's longest LOTR extended edition film."

At Cinematical, Martha Fischer rounds up more reviews and there's quite a conversation going on over at Jeffrey Overstreet's Look Closer Journal.

When the Guardian's Polly Toynbee lashed out at Lewis, the book and the movie on Monday, she "ruffled plenty of feathers," notes Andrew Dickson. As penance, she's asked to nominate her favorite children's films, and the readers follow up with their own.

Also, Peter Bradshaw on the "family film":

Dumbo

But what is more important is the sadness that the best family films can conjure up: real lump-in-the-throat sadness that more "adult" films are very chary about provoking. The great cartoons of Disney are irresistibly sweet, and yet their status as animation licenses some extraordinarily daring emotional moments such as, say, Dumbo being separated from his mother. This scene is almost unbearably sad, and targeted brutally at an audience who are more vulnerable than anyone.

[...]

The last five or six years have seen a wave of gasp-inducingly clever animations, and yet many wonder if their sophistication, their hyper-alert repudiation of naff, has not reduced some of the emotional impact. Maybe.

Xan Brooks then picks his top 50 family films of all time, from The Wizard of Oz (#1) to School of Rock (#50). Comments from Andrew Stanton, Nick Park and Peter Yates follow.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:14 AM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2005

Brokeback Mountain.

Annie Proulx: Close Range "Is Brokeback Mountain, as it's been touted, Hollywood's first gay love story?" asks novelist David Leavitt in Slate. "The answer - in a very positive sense, I think - is yes to the love story, no to the gay." David Ehrenstein is having none of it, ripping into both Leavitt's essay and the film: "It has fallen to us (not by choice) to reinvent the world. And we have. Why not continue to do so then? Why look to straight hand-me-downs for guidance?"

Well. Meanwhile, back at Slate, David Edelstein (don't confuse 'em, not that you would), who segues into takes on Breakfast on Pluto, Transamerica and Rent.

Stephen Holden: "This moving and majestic film would be a landmark if only because it is the first Hollywood movie to unmask the homoerotic strain in American culture that Leslie Fiedler discerned in his notorious 1948 Partisan Review essay, 'Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey.'" What's more, Heath Ledger's is "a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn."

Kenneth Turan: "Taking time, not being in a hurry, lends credibility to a destination everyone but the protagonists know is coming." Also in the Los Angeles Times: Steven Barrie-Anthony meets Annie Proulx:

Annie Proulx

"Put yourself in my place," the author says. "An elderly, white, straight female, trying to write about two 19-year-old gay kids in 1963. What kind of imaginative leap do you think was necessary? Profound, extreme, large. To get into those guys' heads and actions took a lot of 16-hour days, and never thinking about anything else and living a zombie life. That's what I had to do. I really needed an exorcist to get rid of those characters. And they roared back when I saw the film."

Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "Brokeback Mountain takes great pains to be a compassionate love story; but the filmmaking itself, self-consciously restrained and desiccated, is inert and inexpressive... it's a closeted movie."

The Reeler has far more than the usual blog entry, nabbing quotes from Ang Lee, screenwriter Diana Ossana and producer James Schamus, and emphasizing: "Ang Lee has not made a movie about men and men, or men and women - he has made a movie about souls."

Karina Longworth at Cinematical: "It's not particularly politically provocative, and it's flawed for sure, but in its subtle elevation of a single romance to the stuff of literal life and death, Brokeback Mountain makes every bleeding heart film (from the justly-commended Good, to the Constantly over-praised bad) in a year chock full of them look comparatively burlesque."

Steve Erickson: "I fear that it's turning into this year's equivalent to Sideways: a very good film that's so over-praised one practically has to apologize for liking it or look like a shill."

For Jim Tudor, writing at Twitch, this "may be [Lee's] career masterpiece."

Anhoni Patel for KQED's Scene and Unseen: "This movie just about broke my heart."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:42 PM | Comments (3)

Munich.

Muenchen Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, is so deeply and thoroughly incensed by Munich you can't help but hope for an equally vehement counter-argument, running in, say, the Guardian, just so we can hold the two up next to each other and admire the symmetry. [Update: This was a free read yesterday; now it's available to subscribers only, which means I can't go back and re-read it, either. Sorry.]

Wieseltier rails first against Spielberg: "Why should I admire somebody for his ability to manipulate me? In other realms of life, this talent is known as demagoguery." But as for Munich, "its tedium is finally owed to the fact that, for all its vanity about its own courage, the film is afraid of itself." The real culprit, then, must be screenwriter Tony Kushner, who is "not an anti-Semite, nor a self-hating Jew, nor any of those other insults that burnish his notion of himself as an American Jewish dissident (he is one of those people who never speaks, but only speaks out). He is just a perfectly doctrinaire progressive."

For the New York Times, David M Halbfinger talks about the film with Ehud Danoch, the Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, whose reaction is, naturally, more diplomatic: "The attempt to balance between victims of terror and those who killed them, the attempt to balance between a government sworn to defend its people and a terrorist organization identified by the world as a terrorist organization, is to make light of the issue."

And there's more from Calev Ben-David, who, in the Jerusalem Post, takes his old friend "Steven" to task for not "having consulted, or at least taken into account, the concerns of the surviving family members of the victims." In a similar vein is Jochen Arntz's long profile of Ankie Spitzer in yesterday's Berliner Zeitung (and in German). She lost her husband, André, a trainer, in the rain of gunfire between the terrorists and the German police at the airport in Fürstenfeldbruck and is furious that she wasn't contacted during the making of the film.

Halbfinger notes: "Screenings that began this week in Washington and Israel have generated no official Palestinian response." There has been some unofficial response, however. In a somewhat clunky attempt at mixing humor and propaganda, Mas'ood Cajee at alt.muslim, for example, puts forward a list of "ten films - all based on true stories - that are just waiting for Spielberg's magic." Example: "6. Hebron: A story of tragedy and torn loyalties. In 1994, Brooklyn Jewish doctor Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Hebron, killing 29. Palestinian American Mazen Khalili (Tom Hanks) is a State Department official assigned to investigate the massacre who is also in search of his roots. Leah Rabinowitz (Meg Ryan) is a Jewish American journalist who discovers a dark family secret that will change her life forever."

There's no doubt that Spielberg wants this movie to be talked about. For one thing, as Ben-David points out, the parallels between Israel's reaction to Munich and the US's to 9/11 are hardly subtle. Whether the conversation heads in directions he'd like it to, though, is another matter.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:25 AM | Comments (4)

December 8, 2005

Shorts, 12/8.

The Power of Nightmares So it seems that The Power of Nightmares, the doc we felt was so important we interviewed Adam Curtis twice this summer, is going to see a theatrical release after all, however limited - though you can still, of course, legally download it for free. For Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, "this is the movie (or should be) that will make both Michael Moore and Judy Miller sit bolt upright, clap themselves on the forehead and proclaim, 'Now I get it!'... It's the kind of breathtaking, connect-the-dots, cultural-historical analysis you may associate (depending on taste) with Marx or Hayek, with Greil Marcus or Camille Paglia."

J Hoberman cautions, though: "Curtis is certainly on target in addressing the role of necessary fiction in clouding our minds. But go forewarned that The Power of Nightmares also demonstrates what it proposes to demystify."

Also, in Ken Jacobs's Ontic Antics, "The original narrative [of Laurel and Hardy's 1929 Berth Marks] isn't deconstructed, it's detonated."

And also in the Village Voice:

Film as a Subversive Art

Rumble Fish The cinetrix re-views Coppola's The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. This is a great entry, just the sort of thing I wish the 'trix had more time for (though I certainly understand).

NP Thompson turns in a fine appreciation of John Simon at the New York Press: "The irony... is that writers (and bloggers) who benefit, likely without realizing it, from Simon's path-blazing, pre-eminent debunking of crap are some of his most vocal critics. It seems almost foolish to have to point out that Simon's reviews were politically incorrect well before the tide began to turn against PC, yet his detractors, who remain determinedly stuck on autopilot, could use a little nudging."

Dennis Harvey in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The centerpiece of Other Cinema's Sid Davis program at Artists' Television Access this weekend is Todd Southern's newish documentary SidVision, which pays awed (and earnest) tribute to the man who, long since retired, at age 90 still takes a certain pride in his lingering mantle as social-guidance cinema's 'King of Calamity.'"

Also: Johnny Ray Huston: "At his best, documentarian Nic Hill works a bit like a visual version of DJ Shadow." And Cheryl Eddy previews upcoming offerings in the ongoing The Films of 1939 series at the Bridge Theatre.

Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production. Also at indieWIRE: Brian Brooks hears the first murmurs of Rotterdam programming.

Meanwhile, in Berlin: "The German-French director Dominik Moll will be the president of the jury for the prize 'Dialogue en Perspective' at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival."

It was great fun reading Manohla Dargis and AO Scott's daily reports from Cannes this summer; the whole exercise came very close to blogging though it wasn't quite there, either. Now the New York Times has a real blog, Carpetbagger, covering the awards season (which provides a convenient exit strategy if one'll be needed), and written with finesse and modesty by David Carr (though, it seems, posted by "matt" and "jim"), who had, up to now, been covering the magazine business (which is why I've been reading him for years). You can even subscribe to the feed.

The rest is a politics and movies mash-up:

The Guardian: Harold Pinter
  • Sarah Lyall: "The playwright Harold Pinter turned his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Wednesday into a furious howl of outrage against American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but had also 'supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship' in the last 50 years." The Guardian runs the full text of the speech.

  • Dave Kehr on new DVDs.

  • James Brooke: "Unhappy that North Koreans are replacing Nazis and cold war Soviets as all-purpose bad guys in electronic battle games, the Korea Media Rating Board, appointed by the president of South Korea, is putting out the word to foreign game makers: check with us before you pay for a translation."

In the Hollywood Reporter, Jonathan Landreth offers a brief history of Chinese cinema (e.g., a quick reminder of just who generations one through five actually were) and assesses the industry's current expansion - and the piracy problem.

"Ever since I was a young boy, Sophocles was my hero. Ancient Greek drama has always taught me about the struggle against a grand destiny, unyielding courage, irony and brutality." That's Park Chan-wook talking to Kathimerini's Panagiotis Panagopoulos; via Cinema Strikes Back.

Tom Yum Goong At Twitch, Todd's found a way to review Tom Yum Goong, the next Thai action flick with Tony Jaa.

For Pitchfork, Matthew Solarski and Amy Phillips report "that the members of Underworld are collaborating in an interesting way with Anthony Minghella on the soundtrack to his upcoming Breaking and Entering," notes Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay.

Michael Koresky heads up the Reverse Shot team's three-pronged response to Brokeback Mountain: "What's most lovely here is that, unlike all the chatter surrounding the film's journey from production to festival to eventual release, Ang Lee lets the story speak for itself."

Related: John Detrixhe talks with Annie Proulx for Bookslut. Via Movie City Indie. And! Along with Anthony Lane's review, the New Yorker finally posts Proulx's original story, which ran in 1997.

And more reviews: Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where Johnny Ray Huston interviews Ang Lee, Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly and Armond White in the NYP.

Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly: "[I]f Narnia according to Adamson is more a democratic war on crypto-fascist totalitarianism than a holy war against the non-Christian barbarian, I for one won't be filing a complaint." More from Matt Zoller Seitz in the NYP. Related: Daniel Robert Epstein talks with Andrew Adamson for SuicideGirls; to Rob Marshall, too, by the way. As does Jennifer Merin in the NYP.

David Lowery reviews Syriana, "a contagiously angry picture." More from Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly, Cindy Fuchs in the Philadelphia City Paper, David Ng in the City Pages, Dennis Harvey in the SFBG and Godfrey Cheshire in the Independent Weekly, where David Fellerath interviews writer-director Stephen Gaghan. Related: Former CIA officer Robert Baer himself chats about the film and his book, See No Evil on All Things Considered.

For David Thomson, writing in the Independent, Match Point is "maybe the most cool, astringent and disturbing film Woody Allen has ever made."

50s animation Amid Amidi on "The Appeal of Fifties Animation Design." Via Coudal Partners.

Flickhead comes down hard on Ron Hogan's The Stewardess is Flying the Plane. Related: Bob Sassone interviews Ron for Cinematical; so does the Cinecultist.

Steve Oney profiles the Defamer, aka Mark Lisanti, for Los Angeles Magazine.

How does he love Le Samouraï? Girish lists the ways.

Terri Sutton in the City Pages: "As you might expect from a film that quotes Plato's parable of the cave at length, The Conformist is a work of ideas."

In the Boston Phoenix, Gerald Peary recommends his favorite comedy of the year, The Talent Given Us.

Ray Pride points to Corrente's excellent interview with Homecoming screenwriter Sam Hamm. With apologies to friends in Los Angeles, I can't help but snip this bit here:

I live in SF because LA is a company town, and I prefer to hang out with civilians.... One of my industry buddies got fired off a movie project, and first heard about it from his elementary-school-age son, who was in the same carpool as a studio executive's kid. "My dad says your dad is about to get shitcanned" - Jeez. That's why I don't live in LA.

Related: The Los Angeles Times's Patrick Goldstein talks with Joe Dante.

Austin Chronicle: Townes Van Zandt Gotta love a story that opens with coffee and migas at a "neighborhood Tex-Mex-eria." I'm melting. Anyway: Anne S Lewis talks at length with Margaret Brown about her doc, Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt for the Austin Chronicle: "My only agenda was to do something that I felt emotionally represented what Townes brought to people, as well as what he did to his family." Also:

Syberberg Hans-Jürgen Syberberg turns 70 today and Peter W Jansen has a piece in the Tagesspiegel (and in German) marking the occasion. Via filmz.de.

French director Claude Miller is president of Europa Cinemas, a transcontinental network of theaters supporting European film. The Hungarian magazine Magyar Narancs talks with him about the state the things and, while I certainly can't read Hungarian, Perlentaucher's "Magazinrundschau" translates the relevant bits into German, which signandsight then translates into English. "European film makers occasionally discuss why it is that around 80 percent of all films shown in Europe's cinemas come from the USA," says Miller, who then points to the resurgence of Korean cinema as an example of what can be done with a little governmental intervention.

Sakis Kontos at Cineuropa: "In a period when the world box office revenues have dropped significantly and state subsidies are deemed insufficient Czech filmmakers are preparing three of the country's most expensive films ever."

What are Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt up to, submitting an incomplete film to the MPAA for a rating, wonders Eugene Hernandez.

The Tribe: An Unorthodox, Unauthorized History of the Jewish People and the Barbie Doll ... in About 15 Minutes premieres at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on Saturday before it screens at Sundance. For the San Francisco Chronicle, Heather Maddan talks to filmmaker (and Webby awards founder) Tiffany Shlain.

The Reeler inaugurates the "Business Digest." If you dread following the industry but feel you should, that's the way to go.

"The $20 million in American DVD rentals that the film earned is about nine times its theatrical box office in this country. What happened?" asks Matt Feeney in Slate. "Layer Cake is a phenomenon that we're likely to see more of in the future, the word-of-mouth DVD hit." Also: It's getting harder to create a villain in Hollywood these days without offending someone, notes Edward Jay Epstein, so at least "for politico-thrillers, the safest remaining characters are lily-white, impeccably dressed American corporate executives."

Dennis Cozzalio's daughter plays with Shawnee Smith's daughter. That gives their conversation a quality far and away from the usual junket junk.

Hollywood is Talking launches and graciously, right off the bat, points to another: Peggy Archer's Totally Unauthorized.

Bogart "[O]n-screen smoking is back up to the levels of the 1950s," reports Jamie Wilson in the Guardian. Commentary: Peter Bradshaw.

Online extra credit tip. Visualizing Ideology: Labor vs Capital in the Age of Silent Film. Via wood s lot.

Online listening tip #1. Mark Jordan Legan watches a lot of truly bad movies and loves it. He explains at Slate.

Online listening tip #2. Cyndi Greening and Mike Curtis discuss indie production and distribution.

Online viewing tip. Salon has launched Video Dog, a Screenhead-like blog of short clips, only with a greater emphasis on politics. Even though I tend to bumble through each day with a greater emphasis on politics myself, no source of audio-visual diversion amazes as consistently as Screenhead. Still, give the Dog time to learn a few tricks and we'll see.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:54 AM

Sight & Sound. 01/06.

Sight and Sound The highlight of the new issue of Sight & Sound is surely editor Nick James's interview with Raúl Ruiz, some of which appears in print - there's room for all of it online. What a stimulating talker. Plucking just one quote is tough, but I do like this: "A friend told me that my films were notes in the book I am reading during the shoot."

Roger Clarke writes the cover story on Brokeback Mountain: "The New Queer Cinema hipsters never did deliver a simple and true gay love story, or one as honeyed and bitter as this."

"The open expanse of Kazakhstan, spanning a vast area between Russia, China and the Caspian Sea, is larger than all of western Europe put together, and yet it is a country that rarely registers on the western cultural or travelling trail." That does set the stage, doesn't it. James Bell reports from the Eurasia International Film Festival, where he witnessed, among other things, a "churlish" Theo Angelopoulos and The Nomad, a Kazakh historical epic Harvey Weinstein will be bringing to the US next year.

Reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 12:54 AM

December 7, 2005

Tech, 12/7.

As the year-end list-making begins in earnest over the next days and weeks, there'll also be talk of overall trends. Let's hope we don't waste too much time on the question of whether or not there really was a Great Slump of 2005. We've pretty much hashed that one over. Instead, let's hope that there's talk in the pantheon of punditry about some of the amazing technical landmarks of the year; after all, though some may be related to declining theatrical attendance, these are going to have farther-reaching impact.

The Screen BRAINTRUSTdv gets it and recently sent out the following questions related to just one of the many goings on:

How will the new video iPod change video content in cyberspace? What does it suggest or promise as a cultural model? How will it affect independent media makers and corporate media providers? Is the video iPod good or bad for cinema - or is the term "cinema" no longer applicable in such a context?

Ten mind-nudging responses so far. You will recognize at least half their names. A must-read that begins with Lev Manovich: "Fall 2005 will be remembered as a milestone in the history of media." Exactly.

The Wheel In the New York Times, Saul Hansell reports on NBC Universal's deal with Apple; yesterday, I noticed that, while all its other shows were accessible in the iTunes Music Store, there were "too many connections" when I tried to take a look at the US version of The Office. Makes sense; a half-hour comedy seems perfect for this channel at the moment.

With Bubble set for a simultaneous release in theaters, on DVD and hi-def TV on January 27, Xeni Jardin talks with Steven Soderbergh about the future of cinema for Wired: "It will be a while before bigger movies go out in all formats; in five years, everything will." Also: "[Y]ou're going to see name filmmakers self-distributing." And possibly releasing varying versions of their own films as well.

Scott Kirsner's taken extensive notes on Google's plans for Google Video.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:04 PM

Lists, 12/7.

Dualist Twitch's X has the Korean Critics' Choice Awards. It's a top ten and there's no particular order, but Lee Myung-se's Duelist is not only on that list but has picked up two extra awards as well.

The National Board of Review, whose list has been postponed a week, is in a sorry state. Cinematical's Karina Longworth explains. For more detail, see Roger Friedman; via Movie City News.

On Saturday, Anne Thompson put the upcoming list in its place: "The NBR delivers a small publicity charge for the movies that are on it and makes a group of Oscar publicists feel like they've done their job. The New York and LA Critics mean a lot, and the Golden Globes and SAG and other guild awards have an impact. This is just a very early, and usually NY-indie-oriented, list."

Aaron Dobbs selects and annotates seven examples of "brilliant screenwriting."

Film Threat's "Frigid 50: The Coldest People in Hollywood 2005." Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical.

For the City Pages, Mike Mosedale picks six winter movies.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:44 PM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 12/7.

Hitchcock/Truffaut The Village Voice's big surprise this week is not that they're running two pieces on the Essential Hitchcock series at Film Forum (December 9 through January 12) but that none other than Atom Egoyan has written one of them: "No other director has ever put his audience in the direct line of fetishistic pursuit, made them want to see something so badly that it can tear apart all reason and sensibility."

The other is basically a sidebar, but Michael Atkinson's collection of "fave points of immersion" is quite tasty.

Meanwhile, at his own site, Guy Flatley not only adds his own notes to the program, he also points to 70s-era interviews he conducted with Hitch and more than a few of his stars.

Back in the Voice, Jorge Morales previews the Spanish Cinema Now series at the Walter Reade.

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez has the Sundance shorts lineup.

Arthur Magazine posts info on the December 11 and 12 screenings of films by Joseph Cornell in LA.

If you're in NYC, Filmbrain has a juicy-looking Sunday event for you.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has more NYC weekend plans.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:39 PM

King Kong.

Like most reviewers so far, Rumsey Taylor at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, cuts King Kong into the first third and the final two-thirds. It's these last two hours that are wowing most, but Taylor's more interested in poking under the hood of the roller-coaster ride: "The film's greatest potential is as a parable for American imperialism."

King Kong

Dave Kehr's verdict seems to be an anomaly so far. But that's why we love him, yes? "As the old saying runs, everyone kills the thing he loves. And while Peter Jackson hasn't quite snuffed out the life in King Kong - the movie, he says, that inspired him to become a filmmaker - he's definitely reduced its oxygen supply."

James Horn reports on the world premiere in New York. For the Los Angeles Times, actually. The European premiere, by the way, is tonight in Berlin.

The trades are predicting King-sized returns: Todd McCarthy in Variety, Mike Goodridge in Screen Daily and Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter.

AICN readers send in their reviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:31 PM

Slamdance. Lineup.

Slamdance Slamdance has announced its lineup, which you can read in a white-on-black press release or in a slightly parsed gray-on-white version at indieWIRE. The pullquote from prez and co-founder Peter Baxter: "If you want to see true independent film Slamdance is the place to be."

Posted by dwhudson at 10:32 AM

Odd couplings.

There's a vague and ultimately thwarted attempt at pitting The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe against Brokeback Mountain in both this week's Village Voice and today's Salon. It doesn't really work for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious is that these are very different sorts of movies intended for very different sorts of audiences. Which is not to say they're automatically mutually exclusive, either. I, for one, a secular lefty who's enjoyed reading CS Lewis's series over the years with both my kids, am looking forward to both films. What's more, this thin overlap may extend to the very edges of the supposed constituencies for both films, in other words (and I wonder if initially overlooking this is a New York thing): there are a lot of gay Christians, too, as Anthony Kaufman - credit given where credit's due - points out in a followup blog entry to his Voice article.

Narnia / Brokeback

The second and actually more crucial reason is that neither "side" is looking for a fight - pretty refreshing, really. For Salon, Scott Lamb asks around and discovers that "there's a concerted effort - on both sides - to avoid turning Brokeback Mountain into a political battle." And when Kaufman talks to some of the people promoting Narnia for his Voice piece, some of them turn out to be pretty sympathetic characters. Barbara Nicolosi, head of Act One, a Los Angeles-based Christian screenwriting program, for example, whose students include The Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson. Think back to that August interview with Derrickson in Christianity Today; this is a guy you could have a beer with, enjoy having a beer with (regardless of what you think of his movie); he's no Pat Robertson, and neither is Nicolosi.

J Hoberman, who, as a kid wrote his "first and only fan letter" to Lewis, knows which comparisons actually work: "Robust, engrossing, and surprisingly restrained in saving most of its effects for the grand finale, the first Chronicles of Narnia installment eschews Harry Potter's satanic subtext and The Lord of the Rings' Wagnerian cosmology."

Still, "Just how Christian are The Chronicles of Narnia?" asks Laura Miller in Salon. She notes that one Christian scholar's answer is basically, Not very. John Goldthwaite:

[W]henever a professed Christian feels he must create some wholly other world to explore the meaning of his religion, he is flirting with bad faith. When he fills that world with the make-believes of other religions, he is playing at polytheism. When he further sets sorceresses to rule over it, and werewolves, incubuses and wraiths, he is dabbling in Manichaean dualism, the idea that standing opposed to God's good creation is another, separate and equal, or nearly equal, creation given over to evil.

Then, Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "As a Christian primer, it's terrible. As a story, it's timeless." And David Lowery wonders if Andrew Adamson has been "too intent on letting the overriding vision be Lewis's, rather than his own."

Meanwhile, Brokeback Mountain may seem daring to, say, Drudge, but certainly not to Dave Kehr: "[Ang] Lee has yet to take a real chance with a film, and Brokeback Mountain, despite its superficial courting of controversy, is no exception."

More juxtapositions: Caryn James in the New York Times on two of the most talked about new production companies: "Each company insists it is apolitical, which is true in the strictest sense; they don't support candidates. But in the broader, everything-is-political sense, the more liberal Participant and the more conservative Walden are pushing and pulling the social fabric and the landscape of filmmaking."

And David Poland places his first impressions of King Kong on the same page with his initial thoughts on Munich: "[W]ithout being unnecessarily glib, the central themes for Kong himself and Eric Bana's Avner are shockingly similar."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

December 5, 2005

Shorts, 12/5.

Favela Rising The team behind Favela Rising (do watch that trailer) is blogging.

Jamie Stuart, who made those great reports from the New York Film Festival this year, describes his unlikely transformation from analog illustrator to digital enthusiast. A terrific story at Movie City News.

Just a few samples of the fine reads Ray Pride's been pointing to at Movie City Indie:

  • King of Zembla's fantastic interview with Joe Dante: "[Screenwriter] Sam [Hamm] and I look at [Homecoming] as kind of an act of patriotism, actually."

  • Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times on the state of the Western: "Hollywood screenwriters have grown up more quickly than White House speechwriters. They know that the question behind many wars today, behind those crusades to build or rebuild lands, or to reform failed nations, is not 'Which side is good and which is bad?' but 'Whose self-interest, masquerading as virtue, do you prefer?'" Related: Strand Releasing's Marcus Hu applauds Brokeback Mountain at indieWIRE.

  • Lim Li Min talks to Chen Kaige for ThaiDay: "I feel that we are at a turning point in Chinese film history."

Which samurai film is right for you? Brian Darr offers a guide.

La Ceremonie Campaspe and Flickhead discuss Chabrol's La Cérémonie.

"If they held Sunday school at Hogwarts, that's where you might find the Narnia kids." Cinematical's Ryan Stewart gives the film a "passing grade."

More of Time's Munich cover package appears online: Richard Schickel's interview with Spielberg; an Olympics 72 timeline; and Lisa Beyer: "About the events in Munich on Sept 5, 1972, there is considerable clarity. The story of the reprisal missions, on the other hand, has been befogged by mystery."

At AICN, Sheldrake transcribes Douglas McGrath's long, onstage interview with Woody Allen in which we learn what's been going on with some of these recent films: "I didn't want my life to be just a complete - robot to filmmaking. And I found that if I did long masters, no coverage and worked it properly, I could still get my work done each day and still have a fairly - reasonable day, a fairly short day, and accomplish the film on schedule, and everybody would see the action, because I would stage it." Possible Match Point spoilers.

Armond White pans Mel Watkins's Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry: "An emblematic figure in 1930s Hollywood, Perry played the quintessential lazy, foolish American Negro."

At the Washington Jewish Film Festival (through December 11), Chuck Tryon catches Ten Days in Gaza, "utterly compelling viewing, both in terms of portraying the experiences of the settlers and in terms of illustrating the degree to which the media participated in sensationalizing these events."

Joe Leydon's "2005 Film Quiz" in the New York Daily News.

Via Nettime, Tilman Baumgaertel on The Scene.

"As an era of ordering TV shows at the push of a button gets underway, new challenges are clouding the landscape in the year ahead: What business models are going to work and who is going to get paid what?" writes Richard Siklos in the New York Times. Related: John Rogers explains his "4th Generation Media Theory" and how it "will evolve as the nature of 'where I download stuff' and 'where I watch stuff' converges." Also: CNET's Marguerite Reardon.

Online listening tip. The first episode of Ricky Gervais's new podcast is up at the Guardian site.

Online viewing tip. Tron-era digital effects demo reels. Via Waxy.org.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:42 AM | Comments (4)

White Christmas?

King Kong Sujewa Ekanayake rounds up links to several ongoing discussions of race and King Kong, a few of them pretty feisty. Particularly at Daily Kos, long-festering anger at Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy suddenly surges to the surface.

Then Polly Toynbee goes on the attack in the Guardian: "[H]ere in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right." Along the way, she, too, takes a swipe at New Zealand's blockbusting forerunner: "Tolkien hated Narnia: the two dons may have shared the same love of unquestioning feudal power, with worlds of obedient plebs and inferior folk eager to bend at the knee to any passing superior white persons - even children; both their fantasy worlds and their Christianity assumes that rigid hierarchy of power - lord of lords, king of kings, prince of peace to be worshipped and adored."


Update, 12/7: Ed Champion takes on Toynbee, point by point.


Related, by the way: Narnia reviews hit the trades: Variety's Todd McCarthy, Screen Daily's Fionnuala Halligan and the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. Profiles of Walden Media's Philip Anschutz: Claudia Eller in the Los Angeles Times and, via Movie City News, Simon Haupt in the Globe and Mail. Worth noting in this last one:

Tilda Swinton

"I think there's a rather dishonourable tradition in Hollywood in giving, particularly children, the idea that evil characters are dark," suggested the British actress Tilda Swinton, who plays the White Witch. "She doesn't look Jewish... [or] like an Arab, and I figured it was extremely irresponsible to do anything other than make her look like the ultimate white supremacist, which is what she is, and as Aryan as possible. Because apart from being a fantasy film, it's also an historical film. These are Second World War children, and their father's fighting fascism, and I thought she should look like a Nazi so I actually threw [in] a Nazi salute."


Update: Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, has been loudly lambasting CS Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia lately. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson takes on the charges one by one: Sexism ("none is easier to refute"); Racism (Narnia is "a happily inclusive world"); Violence ("Lewis was no pacifist. But neither was he a war lover"); "Death is better than life" (No, "Lewis's theme is, 'Heaven is better than life'"); Lovelessness ("Of all Pullman's charges," this one "is the least persuasive of all"). Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

Also: Two thumbs up from Jeffrey Wells, one for Kong and one for Narnia.


Now that things are really getting knotty, let's turn to Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "[G]iven how pitifully this soulless hunk of exoticized garbage announces its white man's burden, a better name for it might have been Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's Memoirs of a Geisha. Like some white hunter discovering a lost kingdom after having made his way through a tropical rain forest (somewhere there's a picture of the film's awe-struck crew peering through a bonsai tree), [Rob] Marshall pumps the cultural signifiers a Japanese director might take for granted with wide-eyed pomp and circumstance."

Happy holidays.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:17 AM

December 4, 2005

Sunday papers and weeklies.

Barney Rosset. More. And more. And more.

Evergreen Review Reader Where's the biography of this man? That's the book I want to read. Not that it'd be an easy one to write. As Village Voice film critic Ed Halter tells Paul Cullum, "[W]hen you start getting into Barney's world, it's this labyrinth that you never get out of. He's so utterly connected to so many important things in 20th-century culture that it just doesn't stop. You could go on forever."

The name droppage in Cullum's piece alone is dizzying, but the primary figures are Rosset and 29-year-old filmmaker James Fotopoulos, who, having been introduced by Halter (all three are from the Chicago area; nope: Ed Halter's not after all), are in the process of resurrecting film projects by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter. That's the gist, but there's much, much more to the rich story Cullum has to tell.


Update: A must-read if you're at all intrigued by Cullum's story: Ray Pride's 2003 profile of James Fotopoulos. Seriously.


Also in the New York Times:

  • In John Clark's piece on how the 1004 American and 936 international features submitted to Sundance get whittled down to a program of 120 (not to mention crunching down 4311 shorts), there's a lot of talk about the "machine" and even an accompanying chart that makes it all seem very mechanical. Not at all. "You become very emotionally elastic if you watch as many films as we do,' said [Caroline] Libresco, a filmmaker and five-year veteran of Sundance who coordinates the world cinema section."

  • AO Scott on our current fascination with mid-20th century America: "[T]he Eisenhower and Kennedy years lie just over the horizon of living memory, and therefore are likely to exert a particular fascination. Characters like Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Edward R Murrow and Truman Capote are at once tantalizingly close and intriguingly remote."

  • "[M]ovies are just one model for games to emulate," notes John Leland, but it's a compelling one and one that, as Leland notes, Spielberg's been plugging lately: "The medium will come of age, he said, 'when somebody confesses that they cried at Level 17.'"

  • Rob Walker on Extreme Makeover: "[T]hese are the American families who are stuck in tough neighborhoods, whose children die in Iraq, who have no health care, who are swindled by contractors or who are so close to the edge that a lost job is a financial catastrophe... At the hour's end, there appears to be no problem that the miracle of sponsored entertainment cannot solve."

  • Peter Steinfels on the religious debates Narnia is stirring.

  • Ron Silver, who seems to have forgotten Republican objections to Clinton's limited military engagements, tells Deborah Solomon, "The Democratic Party is becoming the tool of an extreme domestic leftist insurgency led by the Michael Moores and the Cindy Sheehans and other neoreactionary, neoisolationist Americans."

  • Margy Rochlin on how Larry David has brought 80-year-old comic Shelley Berman back into the spotlight.

  • Lynn Hirschberg talks shopping and clothes with Scarlett Johansson.

  • Roberta Smith on the new star of the art world, SpongeBob SquarePants.

  • The Times announces that David Carr will be blogging awards season starting on Tuesday.

Time: Spielberg So much for the quiet marketing campaign for Munich. Spielberg's on the cover of Time and Richard Schickel writes the story. At the moment, only subscribers can read it, but the fact of the story is almost more important than the story itself, even if Schickel does announce right off that Munich "is a very good movie."

In the Washington Post, Joshua Klein writes up Crime and Dissonance, a collection of fresh renderings of Ennio Morricone's "lesser-known works, music he wrote for seldom-seen slasher films and cult freakouts from the 60s and 70s." Also: Ann Hornaday profiles Robert Redford and you'll find a variety of best-of-05 lists in this week's Book World.

For the San Francisco Chronicle, Ron Dicker talks with Michelle Yeoh about Memoirs of a Geisha.

In the Observer, Henry Porter argues the case for a closer adherence to narrative, Sean O'Hagan interviews novelist Irvine Welsh and Stephanie Merritt presents an A to Z guide to Narnia.

"Then came Shaolin Temple, a 1982 film that was the first Hong Kong kung fu flick to be shot at the temple. Its star was a then-unknown martial artist called Jet Li," writes Ching-Ching Ni in the Los Angeles Times. Since then, the Temple has been, well, a booming business.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:25 AM | Comments (2)

December 3, 2005

Godard at 75.

For Ever Godard 75 is evidently not a nice round number. I didn't search all that hard, but it does seem at first glance that, with the exception of a few wire reports, Jean-Luc Godard's 75th birthday is going to slip by in France and Switzerland without the portraits or think pieces I would have expected in, say, Libération, Le Monde or the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In Germany, though, the Frankfurter Rundschau ran an overview today by Daniel Kothenschulte, but it's die taz that really came through on Friday with Diedrich Diedrichsen placing Notre Musique in the context of the oeuvre.

The film's finally made it to this neighboring country, you see. A single print, playing in a single Berlin theater. It had, all things considered, a decent run in the US, where it's also since been released on DVD. This situation might shed a little light on Europe's supposed relative cultural sophistication. And this is, in part, what Diedrichsen addresses, though he's primarily concerned with why a new film from Godard is no longer the event it once was.

But I should point to something in English. Let's go with the For Ever Godard site, Issues 14 and 15 of Senses of Cinema, Glen Norton's mammoth collection of links and that wonderfully perceptive yet entirely accessible piece by the late George Fasel.

Update, 12/4: Though it wraps today, let's pull this up from the comments and email: Back to Zero is a festival and symposium marking Godard's 75th at Indiana U. Speakers have included Joan Hawkins, James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:18 PM | Comments (2)

European Film Awards. Winners.

Hidden The European Film Academy has posted the list of winners. It was Michael Haneke's night. He won European Director 2005, Caché (Hidden) is European Film 2005 and has won the Prix Fipresci (Critics' Award) and Daniel Auteuil is European Actor 2005.

Also:

See the site for more.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:16 PM

Weekend shorts.

The New World Reverse Shot's robbiefreeling: "Most surprising about The New World is that it's first and foremost a character piece; all of Malick's usual philosophical concerns... are implicit and intact, yet unlike Malick's other protagonists, Pocahontas becomes less of an abstraction, even as she is dealt with, by John Smith and Malick simultaneously, as Other." The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson outlines the challenges New Line Cinema will face marketing the film.

Jonathan Rosenbaum on Marilyn Monroe in the Chicago Reader: "The difficulty some people have discerning Monroe's intelligence as an actress seems rooted in the ideology of a repressive era, when superfeminine women weren't supposed to be smart. They often fail to see past the sexist cliches she used as armor, satirically and otherwise, fail to notice that she was also positing a utopian view of sex, one that was relatively guilt free and blissfully pleasure oriented - something entirely new for that period."

Who says movies have no impact on the real world? In an eyebrow-raising piece for the New Republic, James Forsyth argues that US moviegoers are responsible for the return, after decades on the back benches, of the "posh" British political leader.

Recently, Armond White has been giving in to a "tendency to attack a film based on its critical and audience reception, rather than the film itself," writes Filmbrain at Cinemarati, and pleads: "Armond - stop getting all verklempt about the reaction of your peers, and go back to doing what you do best - comparing War of the Worlds to Weekend, explaining why Torque is a better film than Cowards Bend the Knee, etc."

Christ Stopped at Eboli "Together with Michelangelo Antonioni, Francesco Rosi is arguably the greatest living Italian director," writes Positif editor Michel Ciment in the Guardian. It's a terrific assessment, describing how "his filmography tells the history of his country in the 20th century," relating the biography and touching on the influence of Visconti and Rossellini, and of course, his own influence on countless filmmakers since.

Also:

  • Alison Lurie lists the ways CS Lewis has upset many readers, despite enthralling many others, with his Chronicles of Narnia - as well as the ways he might be excused. "[S]ometimes anachronism can be magical, if only temporarily."

  • Richard Eyre: "John Carey argued in his scorching polemic What Good Are the Arts? that all claims of the "value" of art are implausible, unprovable, childish and self-deceiving claptrap. Against his argument - much of it irrefutable - I would hold up as evidence Hamlet in Bucharest."

  • John Patterson: "For all their hatred of Hollywood as Sodom-by-the-sea, religious weirdoes can't keep their hands off the movies they affect to despise. And it only gets worse when they find one they love."

Michael Martin interviews John Malkovich for Nerve: "I'm not sure what addicted to sex means. I would think that's pretty normal." Also: "I would say probably the sexiest film I ever did was Dangerous Liaisons. There's very little nudity in it, and no real explicit sex, but people tell me that it's quite an erotic film."

Eugene Hernandez introduces indieWIRE's list of "companies and people involved in selling movies to distributors," complete with track records and contact info for each. Also: Brandon Judell listens to producer-turned-festival director Despina Mouzaki talk about her first year with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Joe Dante is "the first horror director to take the bits of media flotsam and jetsam that have been drifting around - the flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base, the talking-head cable shows, the internment camps, the Ohio and Florida recounts, the 'Mission Accomplished' banners - and make something electrifying out of them," writes Grady Hendrix in a review of Homecoming for Slate.

David Greven considers the work of Guillermo Del Toro at 24 Lies a Second: "Examined individually, each of his films seems deeply flawed and even failed. Yet when taken together - arranged and assembled as a vast quilt of images - they achieve a nightmarish splendor that demands recognition."

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Markus Jacob, "introduces a film by Argentine director David Mauras, Who Killed Walter Benjamin?, which investigates the question of Walter Benjamin's suicide," notes signandsight; Jacob's article is in German, but that summary's in English and laced with a couple of links you might want to follow.

Julianne Moore Nick Davis at Film Experience: "If Julianne Moore Is God, and today is Julianne Moore's 45th birthday, then, by the transitive property, today is God's birthday. December is nothing if not replete with holy births."

Noy Thrupkaew in the American Prospect: "Pulse is a nasty thing - incomprehensible, dated, elliptical, and repetitive in the extreme. It’s also terrifying, for the same reasons."

Adam Hartzell reviews Cho Chang-ho's The Peter Pan Formula, one of the films in the World Competition at Sundance 06. Also at Koreanfilm.org, Darcy Paquet on a low-budget martial arts film that works - and works well - without special effects: Geochilmaru: The Showdown.

Wendell Jamieson on the NYC of The Dark Corner, Kiss of Death and Where the Sidewalk Ends: "It is a proto-New York, a heightened New York, a super-New Yorky New York, a city of supreme alienation, overcrowded sidewalks, pitch-black menace, thick accents, way too many cigarettes, packed bars that always have one empty table, exaggerated street noise, and skyscrapers that exist solely to have characters pushed off them."

Also in the New York Times, reviews:

Also in the LAT: Carina Chocano is unmoved by Breakfast on Pluto, Robert W Welkos hears Fun With Dick & Jane might actually be pretty good, Book Review reviewers pick the best of 2005 and Richard Cromelin: "[Bill] Hicks was one of the rare links to the time when comedy was a weapon and the comedian the scourge of the status quo."

And also in the NYP: Matt Zoller Seitz on the The Ice Harvest: "[I]t's hard to recall a recent Christmas-themed Hollywood film that pulls such a surprising, defiantly non-mainstream bait and switch."

Anthology at 35 Anthony Kaufman: "'Altoids in the Tin: Celebrating Anthology Film Archives' 35th Anniversary.' What could be a surer [sign] of the utter collapse of the East Village's soul?"

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Joe Garofoli tells the story behind Ironweed Film Club, the first politically progressive DVD-of-the-month club (full disclosure: GreenCine is a partner).

Jeffrey Overstreet add his list of "Top Five Spiritually Significant Films" to Darren Hughes and David Lowery's.

André Soares remembers Keith Andes, 1920 - 2005.

At WSWS, Stefan Steinberg reviews a few features screened at the recent festivals in Cottbus and Neubrandenburg.

Scott Macaulay posts an intro to Caveh Zahedi's I Am a Sex Addict that ran in a special edition of Filmmaker handed out at the Gotham Awards. Scott also points to Ryan Katz's "must-read" Think Secret piece on Apple's VOD plans - short version: they're moving fast - and Scott's got an online viewing tip, too: "Only [Spike] Jonze could make a Gap ad that, until the last shot, might just as well be a piece of anti-globalization agit-prop."

Tim Tom Online viewing tip #2. Romain Segaud and Christel Pougeoise's Tim Tom. Via Screenhead, also pointing to Midnight Matinee's production of Jerry Lewis's The Day the Clown Cried.

Online viewing tip #3. Ian Inaba's True Lies. Via Eugene Hernandez.

Online viewing tip #4. Mark Lewis introduces Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. Via the cinetrix.

Online viewing tips #5 through #14 and #15 through #19, all one page. With "Holidazed," AtomFilms collects ten seasonal shorts and tosses in JibJab's "Dismail," five furious greetings.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:12 PM | Comments (3)

Lists 05. Artforum.

Artforum Five lists of films run in Artforum's "Best of 2005" issue; two are online, and they're both the sort of list we probably won't see a whole lot of as the list-making season begins. Yes, Brokeback Mountain tops artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien's, but he's also got an item like Stan Douglas's Inconsolable Memories on there as well.

Curator Chrissie Iles leads with a project that doesn't seem to have been completed yet, "Destricted": "For this series of short films, Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla, Larry Clark, Mike Figgis, Sam Taylor-Wood and Gaspar Noé have - or soon will have - created (at the behest of Neville Wakefield, Mel Agace and Andrew Hale) some of the sexiest moments in recent cinema. Strictly for adults."

Also online are Dennis Cooper and Susie Ibarra's music top tens and the #1's of eleven art top tens, each from an artist or curator.

Definitely of note as well is Hal Foster's piece on how he was struck twice this year by two very different sorts of double exposure that lead him to conclude that "one narrative, perhaps the grandest of all... continues unabated, even unabashed: the narrative of modernization."

Carol Armstrong on The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult (at the Metropolitan through the end of the year): "[I]t taps deep into photography's dark heart. Any photograph is a trick, after all."

And then, two reports on local scenes: Matt Saunders in Berlin and Midori Matsui in Tokyo.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:10 AM

December 2, 2005

The Brits and the blockbusters.

So the UK papers are the first carry reviews if the season's big ones. Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

Chronicles of Narnia

This must be the first Hollywood picture in ages to feature baddies - wolves, in fact - who speak with American accents. When Peter, already acting like a would-be Henry V, brings down his sword on one of them, he seems to be sticking up two fingers to "the special relationship"... [T]his is a film that exults in its Englishness.

[...]

Tolkien famously faulted Lewis for mixing up characters from Christian, medieval and even folkoric eras. [Director Andrew] Adamson, a pastichist at heart, smashes and grabs elements - fortunately, good ones - from Creature Comforts, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gives the film five out of five stars, calling it "a triumph":

It is gorgeous to look at, superbly cast, wittily directed and funny and exciting by turns.... I can't see how it could be done better. Perhaps Mel Gibson would have preferred Aslan to be whipped with barbed wire for 30 minutes before the main event, but Adamson handles it with finesse.

In the Independent, Stephen Applebaum has a fine chat with Adamson. And in the Times, Sean Macaulay discovers that evangelicals in the US are taking the movie very, very seriously.

Then, the Telegraph's John Hiscock on Peter Jackson's King Kong:

King Kong

[It] could legitimately be described as the most thrilling B-movie of all time. But, while the special effects and visual stunts make for some spellbinding moments (the digitally created Kong, in particular, is a marvel), the film lacks the cohesion and character development needed to make it a totally satisfying experience.

[...]

[I]t is 70 minutes before Kong makes his first appearance - but an impressive entrance it is... It's then that the film takes off... Hokey and clichéd in parts, thrilling and dramatic at other times, King Kong is reminiscent of both Jurassic Park and Titanic. And like those two record-setting epics, it is certain to be a huge hit.

The Times runs a brief extract from Peter Jackson's declaration of love for the original. Also, Giles Hattersley interviews Jackson and Kevin Maher plays the video game.

Geoffrey Macnab evidently hasn't seen King Kong yet, but he's got a lengthy backgrounder in the Independent. Also, a bit on Capote.

Also in the Telegraph:

Also in the Guardian:

Update: Cinematical's Karina Longworth has found another British Kong review: Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:24 AM

December 1, 2005

Who's zoomin' who?

Update: The Reeler robs us all of our righteous indignation by actually checking with Magnolia head Eamonn Bowles and discovering that the lift is all above board. Dimension asked to use the shot; Magnolia said yes. Kind of a letdown, isn't it. Below, the entry as it was before real journalism took all the fun out of it... (The question does remain, though: Why would Magnolia's own publicist actively encourage the Weinsteins-as-plagiarizers meme?)


Cinematical's Karina Longworth got the email. So did I. I'll bet Todd at Twitch gets it, too. Maybe AICN, too, and a few others.

There's no doubt that something fishy's going on here. Do a little compare-n-contrast between the trailer for the Weinstein Co's remake of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse and the trailer for the original. To make this shot for the remake...

Pulse 06

... you take the plane from the original...

Pulse 02

... and superimpose it over your building (which, of course, is actually Kurosawa's building)...

Pulse 06

... doing away with the fireball of the original...

Pulse 02-fire

... but not bothering about the occasional lifting of exactly the same frames. The original...

Pulse 02

... the remake...

Pulse 06

So. This brings up several questions. First, this clearly goes beyond Tarantino-esque homage and ventures into either VJ-like sampling of the original or outright cost-cutting rip-off. Probably the latter.

But another question is, Why is the Jonathan Karina thanks in her entry so anxious to get this out to the film blogs? Because he works for Special Ops Media, whose clients include Magnolia Pictures, who, in turn, are handling the theatrical release of Kurosawa's original? Naturally. But what's in it for Special Ops? The hits we're now giving the official site for that release.

Now, here's the funny thing: Minutes after Jonathan's email arrived, I got one from Christina. She works for Deep Focus; they do PR for the Weinsteins. Her email sez, "You are now infected with the official PULSE website." The URL? Not http://www.pulsefilm.com/, but instead, http://www.aoltrack.com/r/d3faa0e29e5d6b713ab90cb83df11698/. They're always asking us to use the tracking URLs rather than the "official" ones because they want to measure how much traffic each of the film blogs are sending their way.

When email from these publicists began arriving some time back, I did indeed make use of some of the "assets" and so on (pix, posters, clips), but soon realized we were being played like cheap virtual flutes. And stopped.

This, though, is getting into new territory. Reps for one film are now going to try to rally us against another. Not that I hold a candle of hope for an American remake of a Kurosawa film, but play along with me a moment and imagine where this could go. It's far-fetched now, but just imagine a trailer leaked to a competitor who in turn tweaks it, leaks it and spreads the word. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that this is what's going on here. But I'm also not saying it couldn't go on in the future. Once a disparaging rumor about any particular film gets rolling, it's going to be very, very hard to stop, even if that rumor turns out not to be true.

We're going to have to be more vigilant about considering our sources.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:06 PM | Comments (8)

Shorts, 12/1.

No Irish, No Dogs, No Blacks "The decline just keeps declining," Penelope Spheeris tells the SuicideGirls' Daniel Robert Epstein. What she's saying, essentially, is that our culture has evolved in such a way that co-opters can absorb the brunt of a movement like punk in the late 70s before it can begin to gather critical mass. At any rate, she's planning an adaptation of No Irish, No Dogs, No Blacks with Johnny Rotten, who wants, yes, Justin Timberlake to play him.

"[Y]ou created an open field for black filmmakers," Lee Siegel tells Spike Lee, who replies, "Yeah, but it morphed into something else. But no, you can't put Barbershop on me." Also in Slate, Grady Hendrix: "The 'apocalypse on a shoestring' aesthetic has become the hallmark of the Left Behind series."

"The purpose of this weblog is to talk about and to encourage the practice of making high-quality films at a low-cost and/or with small-labor systems. A good term for this practice is 'Self-Reliant Filmmaking,'" Paul Harrill (more) in his first post to the new blog of the same name - just the day before yesterday, actually.

At Twitch, X had a list of nominees for Korea's Blue Dragon Awards; and now, s/he's highlighted the winners. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance took Best Film; check X for more.

Little Man

Andrew O'Hehir ends up reviewing three "heart-rending, sob-inducing social documentaries" for his "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon. "As far as I know, this is an accident." They are Little Man: "It's a brave and beautifully made film, but Jesus is it tough to watch." The Boys of Baraka, "reminding us that the so-called richest nation in the world remains plagued by the worst and most chronic disease known to humanity: poverty." And 39 Pounds of Love, with its "undertones of accidental profundity."

Peter Keough has a bit more on Boys in the Boston Phoenix, but what he really wants you to catch if you can is Darwin's Nightmare.

Jared Rapfogel at Stop Smiling: "Made at the height of [Kenji Mizoguchi's] powers, Ugetsu is perhaps the greatest of cinematic ghost stories, one of the most haunting, heartbreaking, and exquisite of films."

Behind-the-scenes and making-of stories are so often so alike, a nifty anecdote helps, and David M Halbfinger's got one to open with. The movie at hand is Emilio Estevez's Bobby, set on the night Robert F Kennedy was assassinated. Then there's the cast: Estevez, Martin Sheen, Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, William H Macy, Harry Belafonte, Sharon Stone, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Hunt, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Nick Cannon, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher, Freddy Rodríguez and Christian Slater, "none of whom are receiving anything like a normal fee."

Exist Also in the New York Times: Nathan Lee reviews Exist: Not a Protest Film, about "the personal and political struggles of young radical activists. By dramatizing their lives with candor, sympathy and a healthy strain of skepticism, the director, Esther Bell, offers an antidote to the whimsy and solipsism endemic to much of what passes for independent filmmaking." And the editors select the "10 Best Books of 2005."

Amitabh Bachchan fell ill on Sunday but is now in stable condition, reports the BBC. "Fans, Bollywood stars and several industrialist friends have been thronging the Mumbai hospital where Bachchan is recuperating."

Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect on Good Night, and Good Luck: "[George] Clooney's film finds the cool in the mainstream 50s, an epoch hitherto defined by its utter absence of cool."

The centerpiece of the new issue of LA Weekly is a section saluting "the rebels, the loners, the dreamers and the stoners of LA indie rock," but of course, there are films to see to as well. "Neil Jordan has more technical skill and imagination in his little finger than [Duncan] Tucker does in his entire being," and yet Ella Taylor is more moved by Transamerica than Breakfast on Pluto. (More on Transamerica from Karina Longworth at Cinematical.) Also: Robert Abele on Showtime's Sleeper Cell and Homecoming. More on that one, too, from Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper.

Mike Russell has a good long talk with Judd Apatow for In Focus.

You already have your suspicions about Memoirs of Geisha, but maybe you can't put your finger on why, exactly. Ryan Wu can.

Richard Burnett meets Tab Hunter. Also in Vue Weekly: Josef Braun on Pickpocket (more from Jim Ridley in the Nashville Scene), I Am Cuba and King Kong.

Stoned "The critics have less power than they imagine." Take that! Stephen Woolley responds to reviews of his Stoned. Also in the Guardian: Lily White, burlesque performer, on Mrs Henderson Presents.

Dave Kehr: "I can't let the day go by without noting the passing of Wendie Jo Sperber..." More from Dennis Cozzalio and Stephen Macy.

Dennis McLellan remembers Marc Lawrence, 1910 - 2005. Also in the Los Angeles Times: Susan King meets Joan Plowright and Mary McNamara hears Vera Farmiga outline what all she owes to Down to the Bone.

Online browsing tip. Films in America: 1929 - 1969, drawings by Lady Lucy, via Ben Slater.

Online viewing tip. Bob Dylan and John Lennon in a taxi in 1966. According to Coudal Partners. I can't see it myself: "Currently, the playback feature of Google Video isn't available in your country."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:19 PM

Fests and events, 12/1.

Ride Lonesome Ride Lonesome: The Films of Budd Boetticher unreels at the Harvard Film Archive December 2 through 13. Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix: "It's as if he wanted to encapsulate, in a series of small films that flew far beneath the radar of the serious cultural commentators of their day, all the potential of the Western as a tragic and elegiac discourse on the absurdity and brevity of life."

In the LA Weekly, FX Feeney previews Technicolor's 90th Anniversary: A Tribute to Dye Transfer Printing (December 2 through 11 at the American Cinematheque). "They give off a perpetually fresh, powerful glow of fantasy, nostalgia and charm... What's undying about these wonderful films is their robust optimism." Also: Scott Foundas reviews the films to be screened on Sunday as part of The Most Typical Avant-Garde: Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles: Program VII: Women Filmmakers II.

The 21st Israel Film Festival runs through December 15 in LA and, in the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas singles out the opening film for a brief review, Eyal Halfon's What a Wonderful Place.

Launching on Monday and continuing the first Monday of each month thereafter: The Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series.

Stefan Steinberg reviews a slew of docs recently screened at festivals in Cottbus and Neubrandenburg for the WSWS.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:39 AM

Capital City. (TX)

Austin Chronicle "Austin has played a pivotal role in the influx of Japanese pop-cultural eye candy during the past decade," writes Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle. "What used to be called Japanimation is now the single most popular form of episodic entertainment in the country among the key 8-38 age demographic.... Locally, this has everything to do with a now defunct outfit called Monster Island Studios, which, as a satellite of Houston-based animé giant AD Vision."

Most fun sentence: "It always comes as a shock to discover that longtime Austin actor Ed Neal, along with having one of the lengthiest track records in horror-movie-character-actor history, a huge collection of Polish film one-sheets, the passing acquaintance of one Liza Minnelli, and a blinding white Caddie parked in front of his house with a rip in the upholstery caused by Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister roughhousing a topless dancer one late, late night, long, long ago, is also one of the most accomplished animé voice talents in the country."

In a sidebar, Savlov recommends five series in which you can hear actors from Austin. And he even offers a slew of online viewing tips: ADV's trailers.

Also:

Meanwhile, Blake at Cinema Strikes Back: "The Alamo Drafthouse has acquired a huge stash of rare Italian trailers. What better way to put these to use than with their Trailerthon 4: The Italian Connection!" Saturday, December 3, in Austin.

And this is as good a time as any to mention that, once again, I'll be taking part in a panel on film blogs at SXSW in March. See you there?

Posted by dwhudson at 10:55 AM

Woody at 70.

Woody Allen Woody Allen turns 70 today and just after midnight last night, which would have been late afternoon or early evening for most of you reading, 3sat launched a series of Allen's films that'll be broadcast over the next couple of days with Georg Stefan Troller's relaxed profile and interview. To see him and to listen to him, and he's looking and sounding pretty sharp for 70, is to be reminded how often profiles in print are tweaked according to the writer's expectations. Which are, naturally, that Woody Allen is at least something like the characters he's portrayed in his own films, characters which, after all, he's created himself and with whom he often shares a few of life's plot points. But as he answers questions with stone-cold sobriety, utterly untainted by any romantic notion whatsoever, you realize - again - that he's actually a whole lot smarter than anyone he's ever played.

At any rate, it's a shame round-number birthday profiles aren't a tradition in US papers. It would have been nice to see something in the New York Times. Regardless, turning elsewhere, first, the UK:

  • David Thomson in the Independent: "He retains a wistful notion that men (and women) with knowledge, reason, sensitivity and responsibility might yet be revealed as the inescapable core of society. In other words - and in the context of American film, this is shocking - he presents characters like ourselves."

  • The Guardian goes for a travel piece, and why not. From New York, Donald Hiscock writes, "to pound the streets of the city in the footsteps of Woody Allen is thoroughly recommended."

  • The Times doesn't mention the birthday but does report that Woody'll be shooting a third film in London.

The German-language papers go with the big overviews:

Update: The Reeler picks select quotes from reports on the discussion with Woody Allen that preceded a screening of Match Point at the Walter Reade on Monday.

Update, 12/2: Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Two points: 1) If he stopped making movies right now, he'd be remembered as one of the greatest screen comedians and one of the greatest writer-directors in American cinema history. 2) He's not stopping." Thanks, Craig!

Posted by dwhudson at 5:46 AM | Comments (5)

British Indies.

The Constant Gardener The Constant Gardener leads the pack of winners at the British Independent Film Awards, picking up Best Film, Best Actor (Ralph Fiennes) and Best Actress (Rachel Weisz). A few other notables:

Update: Keith Miller in the Times Literary Supplement on The Constant Gardener.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:02 AM

Gothams.

IndieWIRE's Brian Brooks has a quick report on the Gotham Awards winners. Even quicker:

Updates: You are there! The Reeler (1, 2) and Anthony Kaufman. And at the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore. On a different (and contrary) note, Aaron Dobbs.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:33 AM