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. 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: 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. 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. 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:
Lists, 12/31.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. 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. 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.
Weekend shorts.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. 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:
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. 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.
December 29, 2005
Lists. iW, IW and more.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." "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."
Shorts, 12/29.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:
December 28, 2005
Lists, 12/28."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. 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. 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.
Lists. 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.
Lists. SFBG.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.
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 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.
Munich, 12/27.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."
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.
December 26, 2005
Vincent Schiavelli, 1948 - 2005.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.
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. 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?"
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. 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." 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).
Shorts, 12/26."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. 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. 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:
Argentina Brunetti, 1907 - 2005.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.
December 24, 2005
Merry, happy, etc.
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:
Midnight Eye. J-Horror."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." Jaspar Sharp reviews Dennis Meikle's The Ring Companion; "a more thorough tome one couldn't wish for." Film reviews:
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."
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. 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)
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."
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). 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."
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." 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  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. 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:
December 20, 2005
Docs, 12/20.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.
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." 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.
Berlinale. Competition lineup, round 1."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:
Lists, 12/20.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.
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.
Lists, 12/19.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.
Shorts, 12/19.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. 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. "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:
Cineaste. Winter 05.Catching up with what's online from winter issue of Cineaste: 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."
December 18, 2005
GC article roundup.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. 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.
Lists, 12/18.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."
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:
Weekend shorts.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. 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:
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. "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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
December 15, 2005
Lists, 12/15.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."
Shorts, 12/15.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:
December 14, 2005
The papers and the bloggers."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.
Lists, 12/14.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."
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: 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. 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:
Lists, 12/13.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." 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.
December 12, 2005
Shorts, 12/12.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:
Lists, 12/12.As with yesterday's lists entry, this one'll be updated throughout the day as those lists keep rolling on out. 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.
December 11, 2005
Firecracker. 13."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:
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. 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:
Odds, ends and a rumor.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 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.
December 10, 2005
Richard Pryor, 1940 - 2005.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.
Weekend shorts.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." 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. 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:
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.
December 9, 2005
Brokeback Mountain."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: "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."
Munich.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.
December 8, 2005
Shorts, 12/8.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:
Sight & Sound. 01/06.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:
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. 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. 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.
Lists, 12/7.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.
Fests and events, 12/7.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.
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."
Slamdance. Lineup.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."
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.
December 5, 2005
Shorts, 12/5.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:
White Christmas?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: "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.
December 4, 2005
Sunday papers and weeklies.Barney Rosset. More. And more. And more. 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 (
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:
December 3, 2005
Godard at 75.75 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.
European Film Awards. Winners.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:
Weekend shorts.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." "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:
Lists 05. 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.
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: 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: [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:
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...