January 31, 2006

Austrians in Paris.

Mozart/Haneke Signandsign, which translates many of Perlentaucher's daily summaries of the best articles in the feuilletons in the German-language papers, is worth at least scanning for the bits they've translated of pieces on a production in Paris of Mozart's Don Giovanni directed by none other than Michael Haneke. From Manuel Brug's review in Die Welt, for example: "Of course there's no graveyard, no hell. The stony guest is just a bloody corpse in a wheelchair. Elvira puts a knife in Giovanni, then the maniac cleaners with Mickey Mouse masks (straight out of Benny's Video) dump him out the window."

Perlentaucher points to another one, Peter Hagmann's in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, but sticking with English, signandsight translates all of Dominik Kamalzadeh's interview with Haneke for die taz - the topic here is strictly Caché.

Update, 2/3: Claus Spahn in Die Zeit (and in German); one photo.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:00 PM

Fests and events, 1/31.

Matt Dentler announces six more features to be screened at SXSW:

Heavens Fall

Matt and his team are putting together a program featuring nearly 50 world premieres. And the Music fest's looking none too shabby, either.

In the Guardian, Matthew Tempest reports from the Rotterdam International Film Festival and offers first takes on Jan Svankmajer's Lunacy, Fabienne Berthaud's Frankie, Kornél Mundruczó's Johanna, Lech Kowalski's East of Paradise, Manoel de Oliveira's Magic Mirror, Chantal Richard's Lili and the Baobab, Emily Richardson's Block and Jim Finn's Interkosmos.

More from Rotterdam: Cineuropa interviews nine young directors with films at the fest and Boyd van Hoeij is now blogging full blast at europeanfilms.net.

IndieWIRE gathers all its Sundance coverage onto one handy launching pad of a page. Meanwhile, Anthony Kaufman's "6 Things I Learned at Sundance 2006" are six things worth knowing if you're already planning for 07.

Amy Taubin at Flavorpill: "This the first Sundance where I didn't fall in love with at least one one film."

The Secret Life of Words Perhaps you saw (or more likely, read about) Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life of Words when it screened at Sundance. If so, you'll be doubly interested to hear that it's just won four Goyas, the Spanish counterpart to the Oscars. Those four include best film and best director. Reuters reports and André Soares has the full list at the Alternative Film Guide.

In other awards news, the New York Times ran an AP report on the Screen Actors Guild awards, but the Carpetbagger's entries are far more fun. At any rate, Reese Witherspoon (comment: robbiefreeling at Reverse Shot) and Philip Seymour Hoffman were the big winners.

Also in the NYT: David M Halbfinger wraps Sundance, and he's found a theme: culture clashes.

Sonia Phalnikar has a serious take on this morning's Berlinale press gathering at Deutsche Welle (and in English).

Posted by dwhudson at 12:31 PM

Nam June Paik, 1932 - 2006.

NJP: TV Cello
Nam June Paik, an avant-garde composer, performer and artist widely considered the inventor of video art, died Sunday at his winter home in Miami Beach. He was 73 and also lived in Manhattan.
Roberta Smith, the New York Times.

Paul Schimmel, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, said Paik was "the first artist to realize the potential of television, the idea that it was going to be all around us and change the culture." Despite Paik's fascination with that phenomenon, Schimmel said, "one of the beautiful things he did was to disrupt the sophistication of electronic technology."

Suzanne Muchnic, the Los Angeles Times.

The late Paik Nam-june, a Korean-born celebrated video-artist, will have his wish to be buried in his home country fulfilled. Paik, who died on Sunday at his home in Miami, Florida, will be cremated and his ashes placed in South Korea, the United States and Germany.

Bae Keun-min, the Korea Times.

Update, 2/5: Yoko Ono remembers Nam June Paik at a memorial service in New York on February 3. A short video by Doron Golan.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:36 AM

And the nominees are...

Spiegel Online: Sophie Scholl First, where's Jeff Daniels? Second, the Germans are happy.

And third, here's the full list of Oscar nominees.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:47 AM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2006

Berlinale. Preview.

The annual end-of-January press conference previewing the full program of onscreen and offscreen Berlinale festivities, in full swing this year from February 9 through 19, was a bit jazzier this year. They went for a talk show format, moderated by an actual TV personality from ZDF, one of the festival's primary sponsors, and sat the programmers down in a line of swiveling orange lounge chairs.
Berlinale Programmers

Click to enlarge.

While the moderator joked about keeping the proceedings on schedule (that's him, glancing at his watch), the star of the show, hands down, this year as in every year, was Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick (to the moderator's left, our right). Kosslick's charm offensive can sometimes come off as precisely that, a means of warding off critique, but no, today, he was just plain damn funny, as when he related that one of the supreme benefits of his job are the private talks with the likes of George Clooney, whom he told, "You look good," and who replied, "So do you." In such special moments, Kosslick noted wryly, you know you're making a difference in the world.

But seriously, folks. Our press books span over a hundred-plus dense pages, far too much info to relate even just the highlights of here, but the gist is this: Once again, I wish I could live through those upcoming ten days at least three or four times, once for the Competition, once for the Forum, once for the Panorama and once again to catch a variety of events all over town, some of them associated with other sections or the Talent Campus. For example, Peter Kubelka will be delivering his lecture, "The Edible Metaphor," on Sunday afternoon (February 14); Wim Wenders, Tom Tykwer, Agnieszka Holland and Andres Veiel will be talking about Kieslowski the following Wednesday morning; Peter Cowie will be interviewing International Jury prez Charlotte Rampling on Thursday, and so on and so on.

A couple of final quick notes: The European Film Market is still exploding, now larger by a third over what it was last year; and all up and down that line of orange chairs, you heard the conviction echoed over and again that something very good is going on in the German film scene, something that not only most of the rest of the world but also even most German moveigoers haven't caught onto yet. And these programmers will be doing their darnedest to rectify that situation.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:37 AM

January 29, 2006

The New New World revisited.

You've seen a recent tendency here to round up reviews of films of particular interest into entries of their own, films that seem significant for one reason or another. Mostly, though, that significance doesn't inspire much more than a spate of approving or disapproving reviews and the occasional think piece - good reading, but something very different than what The New World is sparking at the moment: serious discussion throughout a wide-ranging network of blogs. Conversations that last a while, which can be unusual for blogs.

The New World There are no ringleaders or moderators of such blog-to-blog or comment area discussions, but there can be particularly active nodes, and in this case, one is most certainly Matt Zoller Seitz. On Wednesday, he wrote fifth entry on the film at his still-new The House Next Door:

The New World is a new watermark. It is a $50 million epic poem made with Time Warner's money; it is a an American creation myth that recontextualizes our past, present and future as fable, as opera, as verse. It is this era's 2001: A Space Odyssey - a musical-philosophical-pictorial charting of history's slipstream and the individual's role within it.

It is nothing less than a generation-defining event.

And for the fifth time, he's kicked up some meaty commentary, drawing in fellow critics and a filmmaker or two.

In the meantime, his fellow New York Press critic, Armond White, doesn't share quite as much enthusiasm, but he is more or less on the same page: "It is [Terrence] Malick's rebuke to artful cynicism, re-imagining - and re-editing - history with grace."

The New World The Telegraph's Tim Robey: "At the end, you emerge as if from a dream - a sublime and desperately sad one - and a large part of the sadness is that it's over." Some background.

Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "But the trims are targeted only at the restless: Malick's movie is essentially intact, and though run through with misjudgments (the voiceover ellipses from The Thin Red Line are still overused and mawkish) it remains a beatific, fabulously Rousseauian experience."

David Lowery: "The New World is triumph of cinematography and performance, of sound and picture, but it's in the cutting that Malick has truly achieved that lofty poetic function, and it is the cutting one must study to truly get to the heart of the film."

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian: "Malick has a pure, fluent cinematic idiom; his expedition into the past is ambitious and glorious."

Paul Matwychuk in Vue Weekly: "I couldn't wait for Malick to conclude his opening montage and begin telling his story—probably the most legendary, mythic love story in American history. The crazy thing is, though, the montage never really ends."

Donna Bowman in the Nashville Scene: "Cinephiles will be left enraptured by the two new faces of Malick - humane and architectural on display."

In the Times of London, James Christopher reminds us that this "hypnotic piece of art... can be truly appreciated only on a big screen." And Kevin Maher meets Q'Orianka Kilcher.

But Joshua Gibson's having none of it, writing at Fagistan: "I know a lot of people like this movie, and really I can't begrudge that. It's about a kajillion times the film Brokeback Mountain is, and it's nice to see a movie like this being made at all, even it's not that good. But I'm beginning to think I saw an entirely different film than anyone else."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:52 PM | Comments (3)


Bubble Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "Easier to admire than love, Bubble is a fascinating exercise that seems calculated to repel most audiences, which probably suits [Steven] Soderbergh just fine." Also, Mark Olsen: "More than a few will be fascinated to see that Robert Pollard, former leader of the disbanded indie-rock stalwart Guided by Voices, has done his first film music for this quirky drama about the doings in an Ohio doll factory."

Steve Erickson for Gay City News: "Instead of making a film 'about' America's class and culture gaps, [Soderbergh's] willing to place his own difficulty understanding and bridging them at center stage."

Is that a good thing, wonders Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "Soderbergh's movie ambitiously focuses on movie-rare Americans... but never wonders what makes them tick."

Dennis Harvey disagrees in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Bubble isn't perfect. But it does underline how seldom movies really pay attention to the rhythms of truly average American lives. While that might sound like a prescription for pure boredom, Soderbergh's own striking cinematography is one major reason why these terse 73 minutes are anything but."

But from Andrew O'Hehir at Salon, it the film "no better than a C-plus for artistic achievement and a D-minus for audience appeal."

"[T]he director stares at his protagonists with such austere, Bressonian intensity it starts to feel impolite after a while," writes Carina Chicano in the Los Angeles Times. "It is, however, strangely absorbing — and its unadorned naturalism and metronomic editing style go a long way to create a feeling of floaty isolation and disconnect."

Desson Thomson in the Washington Post: "Soderbergh and screenwriter Coleman Hough aren't interested in creating a coy whodunit so much as evoking the deeper, less romantic mysteries of people - and it's riveting."

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert agrees: "The characters are so closely observed and played with such exacting accuracy and conviction that Bubble becomes quietly, inexorably, hypnotic."

Ruthe Stein in the San Francisco Chronicle: "It's so low-scale, it makes his breakthrough Sundance hit sex, lies and videotape look like a Cecil B DeMille production."

Stephen Metcalf in Slate: "So brutal a negation of the popcorn aesthetic is liable to be mistaken for artistic courage."

Jürgen Fauth for World / Independent Film: "Bubble is astonishingly economical and effective melodrama - down to the devastating last line."

Cinematical's Karina Longworth: "Like Steven Soderbergh's best work, Bubble feels like a genre film that can't find its genre."

All in all, for Matt Zoller Seitz, writing in the New York Press, "it's more interesting to talk about than to sit through."

Dylan Hicks in the City Pages: "[T]he film's veneer of elliptical artfulness could be scraped off with felt."

Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "[I]t's odd to see Soderbergh, a tremendously funny guy, so totally suppressing his sense of humor (unless there's a level of deep irony here that I'm missing)."

"And yet the movie is interesting, almost in spite of itself," find the AV Club's Noel Murray.

And, as Monica Mehta reminds us at Alternet, "it might mean big changes in the way Hollywood does business over the next decade - much the way downloaded music has changed the way the music industry operates." Oh, let's not get carried away, cautions Anthony Kaufman in the Voice: "'Collapsing the Distribution Window' - one of The New York Times' 'Year in Ideas' highlights - is not going to live or die on Bubble's success or failure. A micro-budget feature with a nonprofessional cast going out in 25 cities, Bubble has little to do with the future of Hollywood."

The film's sparked a lively conversation at Twitch about the future of distribution; as for the film, there's Canfield's review: "Bubble isn't half baked - it's almost nonexistent. But here's the rub. I lived in a place just like the town in Soderbergh's film. And the non-actors in it are like carbon copies of people I grew up around and hung out with as a young adult."

More on all this from Scott Kirsner at CinemaTech: "While simultaneous release may seem like it endangers the revenues of studios and theater owners, the opposite may be true."

For Cinematical, Ryan Stewart talks to Mark Cuban about those collapsing windows.

Owen Gibson profiles Soderbergh for the Guardian. Soderbergh also talks about the film on Fresh Air.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:48 PM

Shorts, 1/29.

Birth You'll want to have seen Jonathan Glazer's Birth before you read Robert C Cumbow's essay in 24 Lies a Second. But you definitely want to read that essay and Cumbow's take on the question, "Who or what was it?" So: Seen it? Read it. And if not, see the movie, then read that piece.

The other bit of reading you'll definitely want to get around to comes in the form of a compressed PDF file, courtesy of Tom Sutpen at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger...: Calvin Tomkins's 1973 profile of Jonas Mekas for the New Yorker. While you're there, you'll also find an online listening tip.

"Without much fanfare, Michael Almereyda has developed into one of the most intriguing and intellectually rewarding filmmakers at work on the American independent scene." Mark Olsen interviews him for the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas reviews Almereyda's "extraordinary documentary," William Eggleston in the Real World. More from Cheryl Eddy in the SFBG and Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

Newsweek's annual Oscar Roundtable takes a fine turn this year, going exclusively with directors. Five of them: George Clooney, Paul Haggis, Ang Lee, Bennett Miller and Steven Spielberg. Nigel Parry's snapped a cute photo of the group clowning around to accompany the conversation moderated by Sean Smith and David Ansen.

Matt Zoller Seitz interviews Alonso Duralde, the arts and entertainment editor of The Advocate and author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men who has some maybe-surprising things to say about Brokeback Mountain: "Regular folks are seeing it and being moved by it, and that's where its power lies. And while the film certainly doesn't wear an agenda on its sleeve, I'd go so far as to say that Brokeback Mountain has the potential to be the Uncle Tom's Cabin of gay marriage; Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel allowed readers to empathize with the horrors of slavery, and Brokeback will probably be, for many viewers, their first glimpse at the notion that there is a real, human cost to homophobia." Update: Part 2.

Mark Rahner in the Seattle Times: "Still can't wrap your head around the concept of gay cowboys? Got news for you, pardner: You've been watching them all your life."

Gunner Palace director Michael Tucker (at Movie City News, courtesy of International Documentary Magazine) on the absurdities of the MPAA's current ratings system: "Like many of the soldiers in the film, I walked into an Army recruitment station when I was sixteen and was wearing a uniform at seventeen. If young Americans can make decisions like that - and if they can actively be recruited by the military when they are 14 - then surely they are mature enough to see a film about their peers at war."

Batman Begins Mark Fisher in the new issue of ImageTexT: "[I]t is a specific mode of capitalism - post-Fordist finance capital - that is demonised in Batman Begins, not capitalism per se. Yet the film leaves open the possibilitity of agency which Capitalist Realism forecloses." Also: Fisher on "The Shining's Hauntology."

DK Holm at Movie Poop Shoot: "Film Geek is a delightful, sad, witty, scorchingly satirical film about movie buffs and their tendency toward asociality.... And I'm in a position to comment with some intimacy about the film's value for a simple reason: I'm in it."

In the Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov talks to John Roecker, who's "finally unleashing Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, his jaw-droppingly outrageous feature debut, upon a public already up to its pinpoint pupils in black body-bag humor and anxiety."

Tim Lucas investigates "The Strange Case of Dr Jerry and Mr Gillis."

Girish: "So, if you feel like reminiscing: The first film (or scene from a film) that you can remember?" The cinetrix has a different yet not-so-different question: "When did cinematic poetry reveal itself to you in the past year?"

Damage "Magnetically attractive to adolescent women and alternately threatening and validating to neurotic men, [Jeremy] Irons has become one of the most self-consciously, unnervingly erotic male performers in the business," writes Jonathan Kiefer in Maisonneuve. "If he has a niche then it's a strange and disquieting one: the go-to guy for the thinking person's kink."

Sarah Kernochan, who co-directed Marjoe with Howard Smith, in the American Prospect: "Flash forward 30 years. The evangelical sect has grown from this fringe cult to a huge, vibrant mass movement. It is in one's face 24/7. According to a Barna research poll in 2001, four out of ten Americans reported that they consider themselves 'born-agains.'" The DVD's out January 31.

"[A]nyone this cool is bound to be somewhat reluctant to analyze his own work, especially when he loves the gaps between words and the hobbled exchanges between people who speak different languages." And yet, writes Andrew Hultkrans in Artforum's "Diary," onstage for a Q&A in NYC a few days ago, "Jarmusch gamely faces this and more—impassive, Cuban-heeled, deadpan as John Lurie in Stranger Than Paradise."

"[F]or his many biographers, Peckinpah represents the last of the fierce Western individualists, a renegade who preferred to go out in a violent blaze of glory rather than submit to the leveling forces of modern industrial America. Certainly that was a story he told again and again in his films," writes Dave Kehr, reviewing the four new DVD releases from Warner. In the New York Observer, Charles Taylor cuts "small windows into each picture as a view into the director's preoccupations, and as a way of listening in on the echoes that occur from film to film." More from Steve Uhler in the Austin Chronicle.

Back to the New York Times:

  • Jason Zinoman: "Anytime a movie star writes a play, a little skepticism is in order (if the actor is Tim Robbins, make that a lot of skepticism). But Apartment 3A, the gentle new romance by Jeff Daniels, who specializes in portraying morally weak pseudo-intellectual husbands, is no ego trip."

  • "When it came time to meet with network executives, even [David] Mamet, the author of Glengarry Glen Ross, found he had much to learn about salesmanship." Dave Itzkoff tells the story behind The Unit.

  • Ben Brantley: "O the heresy of it! With Zomboid!, his latest work, [Richard] Foreman has resolutely introduced film into his theater, and it looks as if these seemingly antithetical art forms will just have to learn to get along."

  • Elisabetta Povoledo: "When the film Melissa P hit Italian screens late last year, it caused as much of an uproar as the 2003 novel upon which it was based: One Hundred Strokes of the Hairbrush Before Going to Sleep, the allegedly autobiographical account of a promiscuous Sicilian teenager that became an international best seller."

  • John Anderson looks into the process for nominating docs for Oscars and finds it wanting.

  • Coeli Carr previews What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole, the sequel to the first Bleep!?: "Hollywood still seems to be scratching its head over the little hybrid that combined a narrative starring Marlee Matlin, animation and interviews with scientists discussing how quantum physics, molecular biology and neuroscience can affect one's everyday reality."

  • The concert movie is "mounting something of a comeback," reports Marc Weingarten.

  • David M Halbfinger on the 3D Imax extravaganza, Roving Mars. More from Nathan Lee, who also files a "Critic's Choice" column: "The timing couldn't be better - for reasons that couldn't be worse - to take a fresh look at Blue Collar."

At Twitch: Todd on The Call of Cthulhu, "a loving homage to the [HP Lovecraft's] work, a direct adaptation of the original story short as a black and white silent, holding as tightly as possible to the techniques that would have been employed when the story was originally written in 1926. And it works fantastically well."

Melies the Magician Noting the differences between Alfred Clark's The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895) and George Melies's The Haunted Castle (1896), Marco Lanzagorta launches a three-part examination of the history of special effects in horror and sci-fi film.

Also in PopMatters, Simon Wood on why Hollywood chases trends, Bill Gibron on Spalding Gray's Life Interrupted and Amos Posner asks, "Is there such a thing as a female superstar?"

And then, Michael Ward, referencing Thomases Mann and Pynchon, on the strange attraction of Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain: "The Witch Mountain storyline - involving a pair of supernatural, extraterrestrial siblings trying to reunite with their other-worldly community - entwines many powerful narratives, deftly synthesizing, for example, a potent wish-fulfillment fantasy with an almost beatific dream of ascending into the sky, of learning one is not of this Earth and, strangely, embracing this knowledge."

Filmbrain considers the "Orientalization of Myrna Loy" and wonders, "[H]as Hollywood changed much over the years?"

Buster A season of Buster Keaton's films runs at the National Film Theatre in London from February 2 through March 29. In the Telegraph, Philip Horne analyzes a scene in Seven Chances and, in the Independent, David Thomson writes, "the experience is not only comic - it has to do with space, light, movement, duration, time. It is great theatre, but it is music and form, too. These are among the most beautiful films ever made in the silent era."

Cinematical's Kim Voynar talks with Alex Gibney about Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Stop Smiling unveils its January DVD roundup.

The Chronicles of Narnia has turned out to be a huge hit with very long legs. Why aren't we hearing more about that - and its director, Andrew Adamson - wonders Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times. Related: Alison Lurie in the New York Review of Books: "It is no surprise that conservative Christians admire these books. They teach us to accept authority; to love and follow our leaders instinctively, as the children in the Narnia books love and follow Aslan. By implication, they suggest that we should and will admire and fear and obey whatever impressive-looking and powerful male authority figures we come in contact with."

Back to the LAT:

  • Casey Dolan talks to the co-directors of the 28-minute film, God Sleeps in Rwanda.

  • Claudia Eller reports that Warner Bros is having second thoughts about an adaptation of A Million Little Pieces.

  • Greg Braxton: "Increasingly, producers of movies and TV series are bringing the pain to mainstream fare — highlighting sadism, torture, brutality and human suffering — all in the name of entertainment."

Stuart Klawans is both pleased and somewhat frustrated with Why We Fight, writing in the Nation that Eugene Jarecki "can't find a line through this vast and bloody subject - until, remarkably, he does, in the last fifteen minutes or so."

Stanley Kauffmann: "Match Point doesn't even dramatize the truth that people who don't suspect violence in themselves can astonish themselves with violent acts. Allen's finish is just an inferior Somerset Maugham surprise." Also in the New Republic, Christopher Orr on the current paucity of "B+ movies, competent, mid-sized genre films that are formulaic in the good sense" and Noam Scheiber has a bone to pick with Glory Road: "I don't mean to deny Don Haskins his glory. I just think El Paso deserves a share of it."

The White Countess "The White Countess isn't like anything else in the Merchant Ivory canon I've seen; it's a significantly, substantially better work (though also seriously flawed) than the muck for which these filmmakers have often been highly praised," writes NP Thompson, crediting cinematographer Christopher Doyle with spurring director James Ivory "to take a greater number of risks."

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore's been engaging in a bit of "counter-programming," that is, reviewing films currently without distribution in the US that have nothing at all to do with Sundance. For example: Johnnie To's Election, Olivier Marchal's 36 Quai des Orfèvres and Park Kwang-hyun's Welcome to Dongmakgol.

In the Guardian, Ryan Gilbey wonders if Jennifer Aniston will really ever be a movie star (and asks around), as does John Patterson, who also wonders why anyone still goes to movies, while Jason Solomons wonders, "Whatever happened to the 90-minute movie?"

Also: Oliver Burkeman on Grizzly Man (more from Leslie Felperin in the Independent), Andrew Mueller calls for a sequel to Walk the Line, Laura Barton talks with Clive Owen about Derailed, Emma Brockes meets Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Marshall interviews Eric Bana.

The Purple Rose of Cairo For the Observer, Gaby Wood pays a visit to Mia Farrow: "She's been filming The Omen 666 in Prague, she has appeared in a Luc Besson movie, Arthur and the Minimoys, and last year she gave an extremely well received performance on the New York stage in Fran's Bed. As she puts it, 'Things have been chugging along.'" Also: Graham Fuller asks a panel of 'xperts how the Oscar race will pan out. Related: Jason Solomons on award-magnet Focus Features.

Elaine Lipworth meets Reese Witherspoon. Also in the Independent: James Graham on the British rating system.

Felix Vasquez Jr in Film Threat: "While Oliver Stone and many other big wigs in Hollywood prepare their big budget, star studded spectacles tackling that horrible day, in comes September 12th, a heartfelt exploration in to a family's grieving of their daughter."

In the New Statesman, Rachel Dwyer recommends four Bollywood films "you must see."

Freshly forged, the site freshly launched: The Faith and Film Critics Circle.

Science loves you. Invisible Cinema: "The cinephiles already know that seeing movies increases empathy, but now we have the data (extrapolated ever so slightly) to prove it. Mirror Neurons!"

Annalee Newitz for Wired News: "Ostensibly a strategy game like The Sims in which you build up a movie studio, The Movies also contains the world's first dedicated machinima-building tool set." More from Lore Sjöberg.

Online browsing tip #1. The Lydecker Gallery, Dave Kehr's "Film Posters of Distinction."

Breathless Online browsing tip #2. Kinoart.net. Via Sean Spillane, who writes at Bitter Cinema: "I typed in Buñuel, Godard and Jess Franco, and was not disappointed by a long shot."

Online listening tips. At Slate: Mark Jordan Legan picks the best bad gorilla movies and Rita Dove reads "Two for the Montrose Drive-In" at Slate.

Another online listening tip. Milo Miles on Fresh Air, talking about the recent spate of punk-themed DVDs.

Online viewing tip #1. Alain Resnais and Chris Marker's Even Statues Die, via GreyLodge.

Online viewing tip #2. "Part of what I do, is teach storytelling, and recently I've become interested in master plots, or story templates, and how they've been changing in recent years." Hence Richard BF's Five Minute Matrix. Via Matt Clayfield.

More reviews:

Posted by dwhudson at 4:41 PM


Manderlay The IFC Center in New York is wrapping its Lars von Trier retro with Jesper Jargil's The Humiliated, a making-of doc shot on the set of The Idiots and, writing in the Voice, J Hoberman finds it "more powerful than the movie it documents—more successfully Dogmatic and dramatic (almost a 'reality' version of The Blair Witch Project)."

Then it's on to the film at hand: "Where von Trier's 1994 TV miniseries The Kingdom was a mad mix of hospital soap opera, Saturday-morning supernaturalism, and genteel detective story, spiked with gross-out effects and served with a sneer, its 1997 sequel was only more, and consequently less, of the same," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "So too Manderlay, von Trier's disappointing Dogville sequel."

"[W]ho, beyond the gifted Danish filmmaker's ardent cult of admirers, will want to watch it?" asks Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "[M]ake no mistake: this deeply misanthropic, anti-American film insists the United States is ruled by crooks and gangsters and cursed by the legacy of slavery whose poison has seeped to its very core."

"You could say Manderlay deals with American problems," von Trier tells Jennifer Merin in the New York Press. "But that's just the film's surface. The problems aren't only American."

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir finds it "maddening, hilarious, frustrating and invigorating, pretty much from moment to moment." So he writes an "ass-kissy email" von Trier.

"Why can't the Danish director be both a brilliant filmmaker and a loathsome creep?" asks Dana Stevens in Slate. "The answer, of course, is that he can and he is."

Marcy Dermansky for World / Independent Film: "Von Trier has finally lost me."

Ed Gonzalez at Slant: "Von Trier's foresight is uncanny (his hypothetical thesis corresponds with an egregious and avoidable chapter in America's modern history) and his complex understanding of race relations in our country is unmistakable, which is somewhat surprising given how little he understands our gun violence (see - or, rather, don't see - Dear Wendy).

Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer: "It may be that the director has overreached in Manderlay by trying to deal with racial conflicts in an excessively abstract manner. Since his chosen mise-en-scène is already dangerously abstract, he has piled on too many layers of disbelief for an audience to overcome."

The AV Club's Scott Tobias finds the film "loses in power what it lacks in novelty, even though it's more relevant than anything the year is likely to bring."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:30 PM | Comments (2)

From Korea, 1/29.

If You Were Me 2 2006 is already being tallied at Koreanfilm.org. The first review is Adam Hartzell's, on If You Were Me 2, the second omnibus film to be commissioned by uth Korea's National Commission on Human Rights.

Meanwhile, picking up on an oh-so-2005 release, Kyu Hyun Kim: "My reaction to Rules of Dating is similar to one I had to Im Sang-soo's Good Lawyer's Wife. Both films are sexually frank, morally challenging, quite funny and moving at times and driven by great performances by male and female leads. They are also not nearly as well put together or coherent in design as their defenders make it out to be, and neither is as 'progressive' or 'honest' as its filmmakers (in this case screenwriter Go Yun-hui and director Han Jae-rim) probably think it is.

The most sweeping new entry, though, is Thomas Giammarco's "A Brief History of Animation, Part II: 1967 - 1972: The First Wave."

And in the Voice, Michael Atkinson reviews Hong Sang-soo's Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors: "Undramatic, dour, and photographed wholly in long medium shots that suggest Ozu by way of Stranger Than Paradise, Hong's scenario is reincarnated as its emotional antithesis - or as if the narrative had become rewritten by desire and memory."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:28 PM


Tristram Shandy "But matters of geopolitics aside," writes Stuart Klawans in the Nation, having just hesitantly approved of Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, "the question remains: What can you see for fun on Friday night? The best answer I can give is the preposterously funny, perpetually inventive, implausibly successful Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story."

In Dennis Lim's making-of report for the Voice, Michael Winterbottom tells him, "Comedy's always able to be bolder structurally. If something's funny, people don't say it's deconstructive." J Hoberman compares the film to Irma Vep: "[Olivier] Assayas was making a serious comedy about film history; Winterbottom is demonstrating his own cleverness, although the editing shenanigans that intermittently parallel Sterne's narrative strategies are not that far from the 18th-century 'new wave' of Tony Richardson's manic Tom Jones."

AO Scott in the New York Times: "This is not just a movie-within-a-movie, but a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie, something that sounds unbearably arch but that is swift, funny and surprisingly unpretentious."

Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "[I]t may be the most honest kind of adaptation imaginable."

The AV Club's Noel Murray: "[W]hile there's nothing new about the scenes of harried production assistants and indecisive directors, it's comforting to know that playing with expensive toys hasn't changed much over the years." More from Keith Ulrich at Slant.

"It's a riot," says Jürgen Fauth.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:25 PM

Fests and events, 1/29.

Samurai Festival The Nashville Scene's Jim Ridley previews the Samurai Film Festival, running at the Belcourt Theatre through February 7: "The most exciting finds in the samurai series are by lesser-known directors who expand and complicate the genre Kurosawa defined."

Boyd van Hoeij has just arrived in Rotterdam, where the festival's running through February 5, and, at europeanfilms.net, reviews the first four movies he's caught.

The Film Comment Selects lineup looks scrumptious. February 15 through 28, but they're talking about it already at Cinemarati.

In the LA Weekly, David Thomson previews A Tribute to Gavin Lambert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through February 11.

AtomFilms has announced the winners of its Intel Indies Film Contest.

Flickhead points to the seeds of the next Blog-a-Thon: Michael Haneke's Code Unknown, Monday, February 13.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:22 PM

Spain in NYC.

The Spirit of the Beehive As chance would have it, Víctor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive began its run at the Film Forum on the same day that the series Another Spanish Cinema: Film in Catalunya, 1906 - 2006 opened at the Walter Reade.

Of the former, Michael Atkinson writes in the Voice that it "remains arguably the finest and most beautifully wrought first film of the European 70s, a mysterious crucible as elusive, concrete, and visually primal as anything by Herzog, Straub, Olmi, or Denis." More from AO Scott in the New York Times.

As for the series, a quick reminder of Manuel Yáñez Murillo's piece in Film Comment before turning to Jorge Morales in the Voice, who offers a capsule history and ultra-brief takes on half a dozen or so films.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:20 PM

Lists, 1/29.

A History of Violence Believe it or not, not only are there still best-of-05 lists popping up here and there, there are also a few very much worth dipping into. Jason Morehead, for example, lists and writes up his favorite music and movies, and then there are results of the AV Club readers' poll, complete with comments.

Scott Tobias notes that "A History Of Violence was far and away the winner, outpacing the also-rans just as decisively as it did in this year's Village Voice Critics Poll. Why? Watching it for a third time last week, I would speculate that it was the one film in 2006 that functioned perfectly as art and entertainment, a gripping, concise (not to mention action-packed) piece of storytelling that also hauls a lot of thematic baggage."

Vince Keenan picks up the America-in-ten-movies meme.

Fabien Lemercier has the list of César nominations at Cineuropa. The Beat That My Heart Skipped leads with ten.

Director's Guild of America has announced its awards. The big winners: Ang Lee and Werner Herzog.

There's a difference between a great film and a movie you want to watch over and over again. Sometimes, a big difference. Edward Copeland writes up a list of the second kind.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:16 PM

Biz, 1/29.

Mickey Mouse In the wake of Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar, people seem to be talking a lot more about Steve Jobs than about Bob Iger. In Slate, Daniel Gross even goes so far as to write, "By acquiring a company with a charismatic, legendary, youngish CEO, Iger at the very least may have made his own job more difficult. At worst, he may have acquired himself out of a job. It's happened in the past."

We'll see how it pans out, but in Business Week, Peter Burrows and Ronald Grover have a less vulture-like take: "If [Jobs] can bring to Disney the same kind of industry-shaking, boundary-busting energy that has lifted Apple and Pixar sky-high, he could help the staid company become the leading laboratory for media convergence." Slashdotters discuss.

As for the other players, "'John Lasseter is probably the most respected single person in American animation,' said Kevin Koch, president of Animation Guild Local 839, the Hollywood animators' union. 'He's a creative leader without being overbearing or over-controlling.'" For the New York Times, Charles Solomon looks into the role to be played by the man who's done so much to make Pixar great, while Laura M Holson gathers the big numbers and big quotes. And the editors: "For Pixar and Apple, there is only an upside in this deal. The same is true for Disney, especially if it keeps shedding the ways of Mr Eisner's old company and allows itself to become what may turn out to be, in the end, Mr Jobs's company after all."

Similarly, in the Los Angeles Times, Richard Verrier and Dawn C Chmielewski do the Lasseter piece while Claudia Eller, Kim Christensen and Chmielewski offer the overview of implications of the deal as a whole. Eller follows up: Lasseter gets "greenlight" power.

Meanwhile, IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on The Distribution Lab from Withoutabox "that will offer a suite of services to support filmmakers who plan to release their films themselves in various ways, including theatrical, DVD and on demand distribution. As part of the new program, participants will have access to ticketing, catalog management, accounting and online social networking and marketing solutions. A plan to offer DVD fulfillment and download distribution is also in the works."

Back to the NYT: Sharon Waxman on IFC's plans to release 24 films in theaters and on cable simultaneously and Caryn James: "Since the future is a big guess anyway, the Weinsteins might as well make it fresh."

You need to know about Trixie DVD. Sujewa Ekanayake explains it best.

The windfall deals you hear about stars and star directors scoring from studios don't really add up as impressively as they sound, explains Edward Jay Epstein in Slate and, disappointed that West Wing's been cancelled, Andy Bowers asks, "Why not continue the series on iTunes and cable/satellite pay-per-view?"

And while you're at Slate, snicker along with Bryan Curtis: "Art houses, the sanctuaries of cinephiles, have their own peculiar horrors. Despite their noble commitment to the movies, what happens there on a nightly basis is far more absurd than anything that happens in the multiplex."

Posted by dwhudson at 4:14 PM

Sundance. Awards.

Sundance 06 There's been quite a bit of grumbling to be heard from Park City lately, so at least the final night offered a dash of drama: "Two new American independent films swept both jury and audience awards at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival this year, a first in the history of this twenty-two year-old festival recognized as the most important in the United States." All indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez forgot to add is the exclamation mark. But he's got the full story and the full list, leading, of course, with those big winners:

Sundance Insider 10

More winners:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

So. You'd think that'd be that from Park City, but hardly. As I find them, I'll keep adding new reviews to the "Park City Roundup," or, of course, only so long as seems reasonable, and we can all brace ourselves for a week or two of overviews drawn up in the tranquillity of recollection in alt-weekly issues to come.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:54 AM

Slamdance. Awards.

Slamdance "Slamdance may have started out as Sundance's punk-ass little brother, but now, it seems, the little festival that could is getting a little more respectable, whether it likes that fact or not," wrote MaryAnn Johanson at Cinemarati a few days ago. "A carefully cultivated lack of propriety? Whether that's the attitude Slamdance is consciously projecting or merely a welcome side effect of being the thorn in the side of Sundance's oxymoronic conventional counterculture, it has fostered an environment where truly weird, truly angry, truly unusual, truly different filmmaking finds an audience." The evidence she then rolls out makes for a pretty convincing argument, too.

At any rate, to the awards. Over 20 in all; I'll mention a few, but the full list is here.

We Go Way Back

Neo Ned

Posted by dwhudson at 4:07 AM

January 28, 2006

Park City Dispatch. 6.

The range in David D'Arcy's latest dispatch extends from the over-hyped to the under-hyped, from Little Miss Sunshine and The Darwin Awards to So Much So Fast and The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez. A quick note: a server move knocked us out for a while, but the "Park City Roundup of reviews from all over is once again being updated at least daily. Also updated: "Munich, 1/21."

Sundance 06 If you've been paying attention to news of Sundance in the newspapers and the trades, you've probably heard of Little Miss Sunshine, the comedy directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris that's packed in the public. Before it was bought for distribution by Fox Searchlight for more than $10 million, and long before any commercial release, the small film already seemed to be anointed as the breakaway hit, this year's Sideways or this year's Sex, Lies and Videotape - the low-budget product that brings in high-budget profit and launches a thousand imitators.

My reaction is that, if that's the case, it doesn't take much. Little Miss Sunshine has some solid, charming performances, especially from the adorable young Abigail Breslin and Steve Carell, but it's still a cookbook family comedy about overstressed parents, an angry son, a gay uncle recovering from a failed suicide attempt, and a trash-mouthed grandfather, all on a bus to Redondo Beach where homely but sweet Olive, who's seven, will compete against dolled-up peers in a  beauty contest. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing extraordinary either. To quote a line from Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidential, "that's so September 10th."

Little Miss Sunshine This was the hot ticket for Sundance public screenings, but the press was just as eager to see it. Journalists crowded into the press screening at the Yarrow, in a sardine can of a hall. If there was an empty seat, I didn't see it. At other festivals like Berlin or Toronto, this is the kind of crowd that you expect for a major documentary on a serious issue or the premiere of a film by a respected director. Like the public, the press was charmed. Go figure.

Standing outside the Yarrow, I ran into the film editor of a prominent newspaper. In response to my question as to whether he liked the comedy, he said that he didn't, but that didn't matter. His jaw was dropping, having seen just what fluff brings out the crowds these days, crowds in the press that ought to know better.

The Darwin Awards, written and directed by Finn Taylor, was another one. The unverified word before the premiere was that tickets for this farce about stupid people killed in stupid ways were going for $700 on eBay. May be that's true. If so, the buyers are on my Darwin list. Even the aisles were clogged for this one. I guess you could waste your money on something stupider, like a Hummer or just about any restaurant in Park City, but this was still stupid.

The Darwin Awards For those who aren't au courant, the Darwin Awards are prizes given to people who die in the stupidest ways and are thought to be enriching the gene pool by not passing their genes on. The only reason that the makers of this film aren't in consideration for that same prize is that they're still alive.

Think of Jackass, except here you had a cast with David Arquette, Winona Ryder (who's great) and Joseph Fiennes, who Americanizes his voice into the role of a cocksure private detective who's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. You've seen all these hare-brained gambits before in cartoons, except the cartoons were a lot funnier. Maybe this says something about casting, whether it's a stupid Hollywood effects-fest or just a stupid "independent" film. If you have the right people who are thought to appeal to the right audience, you can get anything made. There's nothing to be lost by aiming too low. To be fair, the enraptured audience that stuck around for the wisdom of the filmmaker and cast in the Q&A afterwards didn't seem to mind one bit. You can pity our species, because this has "hit" written all over it.

Some films at Sundance still define the un-hyped.

So Much So Fast, by Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, witnesses the five years following the diagnosis that the once-healthy Steven Heywood has ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease. It's bad enough that the disease seems sure to kill tall handsome Steven in a few years. That's a given, an inevitable outcome since there's no treatment for the degenerative neurological condition. It's even worse that too few people have the disease: research medicine and the pharmaceutical companies (who need big numbers to drive their bottom line) don't mobilize for a treatment, much less a cure.

Heywood's brothers and his family rally, and for a while, we have what looks like a battle being won by willpower, and by an ensemble cast of scientists who are convinced to join the fight by Jamie Heywood, Steven's brother. Jamie takes the lead and forms a foundation to study ALS. At first the money rolls in and supporters join up, taking us back to the idea of "so much so fast," the urgent race to accelerate the slow, deliberate pace of medical research, not just to find a cure, but to save someone whose life is slipping away on camera.

So Much So Fast

Wendy, Alex and Stephen Heywood

Why the family agreed to give this kind of access isn't addressed, yet Asher and Jordan are given what seems like total access to Steven Heywood, the near-perfect son in a near-perfect comfortable family outside Boston. Even perfect families have the grimmest of tragedies. Yet the story isn't grim. Besides the access that documentaries need, there's a warmth to their film that makes it more than an eye on a private turmoil, although just being that eye would have been enough. The warmth stays with you here, even when things fall apart. Steven deteriorates, Jamie's once-steadfast wife leaves him, and the foundation sustained by fevered optimism goes broke. Jamie asks the employees to work for minimum wage. In case you haven't guessed, nobody finds a cure.

Somehow optimism survives. Steven wants to live as long as he can (ALS is one of the diseases at the center of the debate over assisted suicide) largely because of his son, and the hope that he and his wife can have another child. Now that's hope. With no treatment available besides intubation and motorized wheelchairs that arrive after months, Steven's son somehow gives his father a life-sustaining energy - it's real, but even that has its limits.

You expect So Much So Fast to be the story of a triumph over adversity, a hymn to the redemptive power of technology and a case study in the courage of a man facing death. It's all of these, but what we want to believe in gets complicated. As Steven's muscles deteriorate, to the point where his lungs might no longer work, a tube goes in to ensure that he can still breathe. He's kept alive, but communication seems to stop. We never see on screen whether Steven is still alive now.

Another look at a life taken away from a young man is The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, a documentary by the Swiss filmmaker Heidi Specogna. José Antonio Gutierrez was a Guatemalan immigrant and a marine who became the first American to die in the war in Iraq in March 2003. When his body came back, the motivational official story came out from the Bush administration that Gutierrez fought adversity to be an American, and that he died giving something to his country.

From this film we get the real story from those who knew Gutierrez. He was a street orphan from Guatemala City, a casualty of an earlier war between Indian rebels in that poor overcrowded country and an army assisted by the US in its campaign to crush them, whether or not civilians died, and hundreds of thousands did. We're taken from the streets of Guatemala City to the path northward to the US border (quite a few films this year have that border as theme and subject), and to Los Angeles, where José is homeless once again as he looks for work and finds shelter with foster families. Part of why he joins the Marines, a big part, is just to get a green card. We learn that thousands of immigrants are doing the same, putting their lives on the line, and sometimes giving their lives, so that they can remain legally in the US. All this is framed in an atmosphere in which illegal immigrants are almost as unpopular as Osama bin Laden.

The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez

Several people have told me that they think The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is the best film of the festival. It's surely one of the best. Heidi Specogna has reconstructed an inconspicuous life, the kind of life that used to be called "minor," without a single interview with Gutierrez, few records, and the recollections of those who knew him. Her research found plenty of people in Guatemala who would talk. It's striking how many people remember the boy with no family. The cherubic street kid, small for his age, who could see an immediate opportunity in front of him, was also a cheerful, talented young man who wanted to become an architect some day, once he got the documents and the money he needed to enroll somewhere legally. An acquaintance in Los Angeles remembers that he wanted to give something back to the country that was not yet his. Gutierrez certainly learned how to say the right things. He was good at flattering, too.

This tale of the ultimate immigrant gamble - as if gambling with your life to cross the border wasn't enough - is not so new. In World War I, European immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europe were told that if they joined the army, they would become citizens, although the threat of being hunted down and deported those days by the INS or anything like it was negligible. Many joined, and many died.

There is another part of this film that is a glimpse into the sociology of the armed forces, which are often the last chance for those who can't find a job and can't afford an education, and certainly can't get a passport. The military at its lowest level is filled with immigrants, mercenaries fighting America's wars in the hope of becoming American. By the term mercenary, I don't mean ruthless and cold killing for a buck. I'm just suggesting that these cash-poor young men and women are paying a price for citizenship. It can be three years of their lives at war. It can also be their lives.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:58 AM


"Corey could see the title on the cover. He didn't know much about philosophy but he sensed that the book was strictly for deep thinkers. It was Nietzsche, it was Thus Spake Zarathustra." That snippet from David Goodis's Night Squad comes from "Nietzsche and the Meaning of Noir: Movies and the 'Death of God'," an extract from Mark T Conard's The Philosophy of Film Noir running at Metaphilm. Update: Chris Fujiwara reviews Noir for the Boston Globe.

Night Squad Reviews and a reply at Film-Philosophy:

  • "Part technical analysis and part introduction to film psychology," writes Andrew Court, Per Persson's Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery "will be instantly recognisable to those familiar with David Bordwell and Noel Carroll's 1996 Post-Theory. The rhetoric has been updated to exclude the polemical engagement with current theory that made Bordwell and Carroll's anthology so avowedly argumentative. But it remains familiar in its determination to develop a new reading of films, borrowing models from psychology and cognitive science, and departing from standard critical fare."

  • Susan French Overstreet on Irving Singer's Three Philosophical Filmmakers: Hitchcock, Welles and Renoir: "While these three artists operate very differently in the methods they employ to present the essence of the human condition, Singer is able to juxtapose their diverse styles against one another to present a dialogue about the importance of film as art in the last century."

  • Thomas Wartenberg Engaging the Moving Image: "[Noel] Carroll's commitment to piecemeal theorizing proves to be quite productive, for it allows him to take up, in various of the chapters in this volume, issues that have not generally been explored by previous theories of film."

  • Michael Grant on Stanley Cavell's Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life: "It is a way of laying things out that derives from a course of lectures on Moral Perfectionism delivered by Cavell over the last decade and a half, in which the Tuesday lecture concerned certain central texts of moral philosophy, while the Thursday lectures were devoted to masterpieces of what Cavell sees as the Golden Age of American film, with the earliest film dating from 1934, the latest from 1949." Cavell replies. Almost cheerfully.

In the New York Times, Phillip Lopate reviews Marshall Fine's Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented American Independent Film: "[T]he material is riveting, the story moves briskly, and the real triumph lies in its central portrait. Cassavetes comes alive on the page, his restless spirit captured in all its contradictoriness."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:52 AM

Park City Dispatch. 5.

Jonathan Marlow, who's probably just landed in Rotterdam even now, sends one last word from Park City.

Sundance 06 One waits with anticipation for the film that makes the whole expedition worthwhile. Failing that "knock it out of the park" moment, we take what we can get. On the Sundance side, This Film is Not Yet Rated by the ever-reliable Kirby Dick satisfies like few other documentaries in the festival (outside of the oft-mentioned Iraq in Fragments and the just-acquired Wordplay). A compelling topic entertainingly told, the film is certain to get audiences motivated to reform the current ratings system. Granted, the studios have no particular interest in changing the system. While I take issue with a few misstatements (Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's raucous party occurred in San Francisco, not "Tinsletown") and a handful of missing details (I was left wanting a more complete history of the self-imposed self-censorship in Hollywood, starting with full rationale behind the Motion Picture Production Code/Hays Code; at least some mention of Blockbuster and their refusal to stock NC-17 and unrated films; perhaps an interview with the man himself, former MPAA head Jack Valenti), the doc is cunningly constructed for maximum enjoyment. Destined for a television appearance on IFC, it wouldn't be out-of-place on Court TV.

Abduction Meanwhile, on the Slamdance side, another documentary caught me entirely by surprise - Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story. A little-known-in-these-parts story of thirteen (confirmed) Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea (although the actual kidnapped total may be much higher), the filmmakers have exceptional access to the parents of one of the victims as they attempt to pressure the Japanese government to get a definite answer from the Kim Jong Il administration about their daughter's fate. To put it succinctly, this is one of the most emotionally draining docs that I've seen in ages. If someone doesn't acquire this film immediately, I'll have to start a company and do it myself.

Where does that leave us? Still searching for themes? Music documentaries and music performance films are on the rise, selection-wise. In the wake of DiG! two years ago, clearly not all music docs are created equally. On the low end of the spectrum would be the execrable Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, which intersperses fair-to-middling versions of Cohen classics with contemporary interviews with the great poet/songwriter. Audiences would be better served by seeking out the legendary Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr Leonard Cohen (clips of which briefly appear in the former film). Documentary Competition entry American Hardcore does a disservice to its topic, stringing together poorly photographed segments into a largely incomplete history of the genre. The Beastie Boys performance film Awesome! (etc) features a string of hits cut together from dozens of low-end cameras distributed throughout the New York audience. Fans will not be disappointed. THINKFilm has some craft distribution plans ahead for the picture (which I'm not at liberty to mention). I have it on good authority that Jonathan Demme's latest Neil Young picture, Heart of Gold, is among the best that Park City has to offer. Sorry to have missed it. Sorrier still about Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris which, on paper, looks exactly like the sort of film that I would adore, but the lone industry screening conflicted with the Japanther show across town.

The Darwin Awards Finally, in my earlier plug for the adopted-hometown folks, I failed to mention a few other San Francisco titles that surfaced in Utah (and, if I forget any others, please comment below). Sam Green's fantastic short, lot 63, grave C, which screened locally at the YBCA a few months back, fills in the unknowns behind the man who was knifed at a 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont (documented elsewhere in the Maysles Brothers' film Gimme Shelter). Finn Taylor's latest, The Darwin Awards, is likely hilarious (I wasn't able to catch it before departing for Rotterdam) but had the unfortunate distinction of premiering the same day that the death of one of its stars, Chris Penn, was announced. Meanwhile, it isn't only the screenings that connect the Bay Area to Park City. The panels, too, are populated by Californians. I'll mention only one - "The Culture of Moviegoing" - which featured, among others, CFI/MVFF Artistic/Executive Director Mark Fishkin and critic/UC Santa Cruz teacher B Ruby Rich. I've never had an extensive conversation with the latter, but I couldn't agree more with her statements at this discussion. While the so-called "death of cinema" is once again prematurely pronounced by pundits, we see an industry in its usual cycle of change and revision. Besides, I certainly couldn't complain that she mentioned GreenCine by name (and now I'm doing the same).

Off to the Netherlands. It won't be the same without my regular Park City band of misfits - filmmaker/journalist Shannon Gee, filmmaker/journalist Andy Spletzer - and our occasional hangers-on (in the good sense): composer Stephen Thomas Cavit, journalist/sommelier Jay Kuehner and film editor/screenwriter/journalist Hannah Eaves. Without the crew, I guess that will only leave me time for film-going. Plenty to see at that festival, of course, and the batting-average (to revive the opening cliché) should be much better.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:48 AM

Berlinale. Competition complete.

tip: Berlinale Lots of Berlinale news all of a sudden. First, with the addition of Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty and Jafar Panahi's Offside, the Competition is now complete.

The Panorama program, too, is now complete, with 37 features, 14 docs and 23 shorts from 33 countries. The Short Film Jury and Competition have been announced and there'll be a new award for the Best First Feature. The fest runs February 9 through 19.

And: "Films by Roberto Benigni, Neten Chokling, Luis Llosa, Fredi M Murer and Julien Temple highlight this year's Berlinale Special. Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, film director Jürgen Böttcher (as a painter he is also known as Strawalde) and MoMa curator Laurence Kardish are among the winners of this year's Berlinale Cameras, which are awarded to personalities who have contributed to filmmaking in a special way."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:44 AM

FYC. 1.

Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell has recently seen half a dozen films submitted to the Academy in the Foreign Language category. Here, his take on three: Say Good Morning to Dad, On the Other Side and What a Wonderful Place.

Rafael Film Center It's been widely reported, at least here at GreenCine, that the number of countries submitting films this year for consideration in the Oscars category of Best Foreign Language Film set a record: 91. Yet, in a sad twist, as Anthony Kaufmann noted in the New York Times, so far only seven of these films have US distributors - and chances are, few more will be acquired. This news saddens me, since I prefer my films subtitled. The difficulties the US is having in the world presently are due in part to its insularity and the shrinking profile of world cinema in this country only further weakens us where we are weakest. Yet, I am well aware that I live in a part of the US that will bring packed houses to a six-hour epic such as The Best of Youth at the Balboa Theater. So my sadness is more for the rest of my youth throughout the US outside of the film havens that bookend the country - San Francisco and New York.

My appreciation of world cinema is what brought me to rent a car last weekend to attend a sliver of the For Your Consideration series at the wonderful Christopher B Smith Rafael Film Center. For the third year running, the Rafael has brought a considerable selection of the foreign-language films submitted for the Academy's consideration (this year's series is programmed by Assistant Programmer Jennifer Schmidt). The series began with South Africa's entry, Tstotsi (Gavin Hood) and ends with Romania's entry, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu). The trailer for the former is running in select theatres as I type and the latter will see its US release in April in New York, representing two of the afore-mentioned seven. In between those two, the Rafael has brought the submissions from Croatia, Chile, Fiji, Costa Rica, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Columbia, Finland, Spain, Thailand, Iceland, Indonesia, Mexico, Slovenia, Bolivia, Israel and Estonia. I caught films from the latter six.

Before I go any further, it's important to emphasize that the category calls for the "Foreign Language" films. This is the sad fact that Singapore and Eric Khoo learned this year when his film Be With Me was disqualified because Singaporeans have the audacity to make their official language English. Even though the English spoken there has its own pronunciations and Talking Cock flavor, it's too similar and has too much of what the Academy understands to be English to qualify. As much as I think this is an annoying technicality, and a shameful one considering it adversely affects Khoo and a film I've heard good things about, it does help the Academy whittle down the selection of nominees, a selection that is further whittled by the fact that each country is only permitted to submit one entry. Of the 91 submissions, 58 were "eligible," which is still a record.

Say Good Morning to Dad Bolivia found herself disqualified by yet another technicality. Apparently two 35mm prints must arrive at the Academy by a certain date, and Bolivia's entry, Say Good Morning to Dad (Fernando Vargas), didn't make that date. The film traces a narrative backwards over three decades in the town near where Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was killed, Vallegrande. Each set of characters in this film has their own use for Che's image. The local mayor wants to keep the town a tourist attraction, the military wants to hide what happened and the elder women want Che to remain a guardian to watch over them. The film stimulates discussion of what has happened to Che's image as it's been super icon-isized to sell throughout the world. But the film limits its impact by trying to achieve too much impact. What I mean by that is that the film has an overzealous score that attempts to amplify the emotions of the scenes to the point of overriding those scenes. Like Spielberg's need to have his characters spell out what was conveyed visually just moments before in Munich, Vargas has the music overdo what should blossom from the acting. I will submit that I write here ignorant of Latin American film history, and perhaps there is a tradition of musical theater-type scores, perhaps an influence of melodramatic telenovelas, but it results in the film failing to resonate with me, whatever the score.

Interestingly, the other Latin American entry I caught also made a reference to Che. The home of a Cuban family has Che's image mounted on the wall. Thankfully, unlike the World Baseball Classic, Cuba's films are allowed to enter the US. (And more reasons to be thankful: the US rescinded its stupid decision to keep Cuba out of the Classic this time around.) It wasn't Cuba's entry, Viva Cuba (Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti) that I saw, however. It was Mexico's On the Other Side (Gustavo Loza). This film follows three separate children, a boy from Mexico, a boy from Cuba and a girl from Morocco. What connects these children is the disconnect from their fathers. Each has a father who is forced to travel beyond borders in order to find work to provide for their families.

Another criterion is that the language of the film submitted must be primarily in the submitting country's official language. Austria discovered this when submitting the French-language Caché (Michael Haneke) as did Italy when its first submission, Private (Saverio Costanzo) was disqualified, a film that features Hebrew, Arabic and English since it takes place in the Middle East. Unlike Austria, Italy apparently had enough time, or saw enough importance to bother, to submit a second film that met eligibility requirements - Cristina Comencini's The Beast in the Heart. In Mexico's case, it's a good thing the Academy doesn't know much about the differences between Mexican, Cuban, and Castilian Spanish to disqualify their entry since barely a third of the film is spoken in the Mexican variant.

On the Other Side I initially thought On the Other Side was intended for younger audiences, but when the Mexican boy starts liberally peppering his dialogue with the F-word and a lecherous man gets too friendly with the Moroccan girl who has left her village to jump a ship to Spain to retrieve her father, I realized it won't be screening any time soon on Baby Brigade night at the Parkway in Oakland. Each of these children makes a private adult decision to go visit his or her father "On the Other Side" of vast waters. Particularly poignant is the Cuban story with its a breathtaking image of the Cuban boy and his childhood friend racing to the ocean to paddle to the US. Loza chose a shot of a huge sky with the children appearing as an insignificant, yet significant, zero and minus sign rushing towards the pier from the lower left-hand side of the screen. I wish Loza had held this image longer, but even with its brief appearance, it is the image that most stayed with me out of all the films I crammed into my weekend.

From children left behind to men and women doing the leaving in the Israeli film What a Wonderful Place (Eyal Halfon). This film presents glimpses into the lives of the adult migrant workers who have had to leave their families and homelands to survive financially. While considerable time is spent on the story of a Ukrainian woman snuck into Israel as human cargo for prostitution and a Filipino and Filipina nurse who are having difficulty getting pregnant, other migrant workers from other countries such as Thailand are given camera time as well. On the Israeli side, we have a farm owner who brought the Thais over legally, a rancher who becomes frustrated with the Thais constant planting of illegal traps, and an ex-cop whose gambling debt has tied him a noose connected to the hands of the men he used to bust as he works as a money runner and overseer of the prostitutes for a subset of the Israeli mafia. The film criss-crosses between stories throughout, establishing some nice cross empathies. The rancher's disabled father is taken care of by the Filipino nurse who himself has a gambling problem. The rancher, although frustrated with the Thais, is presented as quite understanding of his nurse's plight. The ex-cop protects one Ukrainian prostitute in particular but not in as paternalistic a way as such a relationship is often portrayed. Sans sexual transaction, she saves him from drowning in his sorrow as much as he saves her.

Of the films I saw, What a Wonderful Place seems have the qualities that will appeal most to the middle-brow tastes of the Academy. (It won four Israeli Academy Awards.) Following the intertwining plots that are so popular these days, where different walks of life Crash into each other with a script-assigned randomness, the film also brings up issues currently topical in the US. I wouldn't be surprised if this film were selected as a nominee. Personally, however, I was more affected by the Indonesian and Slovenian entries, which I'll get to in my next report from the series.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:26 AM | Comments (4)

January 25, 2006

Filmmaker. Winter 06.

Filmmaker: Winter 06 With its new Winter issue, Filmmaker also relaunches its site - slicker, cleaner, easier to read, and now with the blog entries appearing right there up front, just a lot more happening, too.

Of immediate interest in the new issue, even for those not following goings on in Park City all that closely, is "Defining Moments," a feature in which over two dozen filmmakers with works screening at Sundance address "the pivotal event from the making of their movies."

If you're a regular reader of the Daily, it's probably because you share a general set of interests, and you'll find many of those interests strewn throughout this issue. Scott Macaulay talks with Richard Linklater about A Scanner Darkly, for example, a film we've been anticipating feverishly around here. (Design note: Now the "How They Did It" sidebar really is a sidebar; nifty.)

Andrew Bujalski - yes, Andrew Bujalski - interviews Caveh Zahedi. The subject at hand, of course, is I Am a Sex Addict, which, as Eugene Hernandez reported recently in indieWIRE, has been picked up by IFC Films. But the two filmmakers talk about Caveh's work as a whole as well, and then there's the sidebar: Caveh's "Self-Distribution: A Manifesto."

Matthew Ross: "Twenty-five years and countless bad movies later, another film has finally captured the magic of Wild Style and updated it for the new millennium." The film is Block Party, and Matthew talks to its director, Michel Gondry.

Matthew Ross also has questions for Eugene Jarecki about Why We Fight. The opener: "I'm pretty obsessive about politics, but your movie still scared the shit out of me." To which Jarecki replies, "In that way I guess it's a bit of a horror film or a tragedy, I suppose." (Euro readers: The film's on Arte this coming Tuesday evening.)

Once again, Matthew Ross: "Bubble does not come off as an experiment or stunt." And yes, he talks with Steven Soderbergh.

Factotum Anthony Kaufman explains why Strangers With Candy and Factotum got dropped by their US distributors. The second story has a happy ending. As Anne Thompson reports in the Hollywood Reporter, it's been picked up by - again - IFC Films.

Mary Glucksman returns with that terrific regular feature, checking in on five indies currently in production.


Posted by dwhudson at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)

Park City Dispatch. 4.

In his latest dispatch, David D'Arcy reviews a trio of docs worth catching if you can: Songbirds, TV Junkie and God Grew Tired of Us. A quick reminder: the "Park City Roundup" of reviews from all over is being updated at least daily.

Sundance 06 Year after year, once I've had my run of dramatic competition films at Sundance, I find myself returning to the documentaries. I find that I'm more likely to discover something here, less likely to watch a formula roll out over the screen.

In the past week, one film that's barely made itself known in the mix is Songbirds, Brian Hill's documentary that's been described as a prison musical, an accurate enough characterization that still falls short. Think of everything from Jailhouse Rock videos to the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars to The Farm. If you haven't been inside, films will flood you with images about prison, a bit like the way gangster movies shape your notion of crime much more than crime does - that is, if crime hasn't happened to you.

This doc of testimony in song from women who are inside Downview prison in Britain first seemed to be a quirky way of approaching the pain of being locked up in country that, according to the Sundance catalog, locks up more of its  citizens than any other nation in Western Europe - they're still way behind the US (and that's not even counting the CIA prisons in Europe).

Songbirds Songbirds is built around songs performed by prisoners. Each song tells the stories of the crime and the broader autobiography that got the singer convicted and imprisoned. Each musical style - like the punishment, as they say - fits the crime, and the crimes do vary. Each is choreographed like a music video. It would be hard enough to make this kind of documentary gambit plausible at all, much less compelling. Yet instead of parody or wish-fulfillment or the "look inside," here you get emotional truth that you wouldn't expect.

There are half a dozen songs here, all original - that's the key word. Hill starts with Mary, "Scary Mary," a punch-scarred career thief whose melodic rap-inspired declamation mocks the remorse required of the convicted criminal with the chorus "I'm Very Sorry"... for slicing your head open and throwing piss at you through the bars.

With other songs about carrying drugs (the upbeat ensemble ska number, "Mule It") or Irish ballads, the refrains are sung over and over again, reminding you of the kinds of events and relationships that end up putting women in jail - abusive parents, rape in childhood, stupid mistakes in adolescence that set your life irrevocably downhill, drugs and laws broken for love. Most of the women here at one time or another did something for a man that got them arrested. Some are in for 18 years, for bringing drugs into Britain. Seeing the film, and listening to the songs - all in the voices of the women prisoners - it's hard to believe that prison accomplishes much for these prisoners, besides giving some of them an opportunity to tell their stories.

Songbirds None was a professional singer before the project was filmed, with lyrics by Simon Armitage and music by Simon Boswell, but the performances, bookend-ed with interviews that tell heartbreaking stories, are the real thing, real as music, real as testimony. A documentary needs to get an audience to sit down and look, which so often means sitting down and looking at something you thought you knew before.

Songbirds achieves that intensification of experience as it moves from character to character singing stories that you've skimmed condescendingly every day in the newspaper, if you've noticed them at all. The stories ring with emotion, so you're focused on what it took to put these women in prison, not on the extensive interviews, trust and musical imagination to turn that testimony into a film.

Don't assume that this is Every-prison. The women don't seem to be treated abusively - who really knows? - and it must have taken major cooperation from the warden and staff to allow the rehearsals and shooting. This approach probably won't work in too many other situations, even if there is a story in every prisoner. But it worked here.

Based on my sampling of people at the festival, only one or two others saw Songbirds. Yet I'm told there's talk of an American remake. Is it a recipe for failure? Keep your fingers crossed.

TV Junkie Another unlikely doc, for its logistics and its story, is TV Junkie. The title alone got me there. It made me think of the ultimate pulp update, when it's really a motivational story, the perennial extreme tale that, in its way, becomes a universal reality check.

Am I wrong, but wasn't it on Fox News that I heard a news analyst (or many of them) say that the most effective way to deal with junkies would be to sentence them to hard labor for endless terms and throw away the key, with no college courses, no television, no basketball? Or did I just hear an "expert" there list drug addicts with all those other delinquents who should get the death penalty? What happens if it's a drug addict whom you know? What if it's someone who works for Fox? Would you be more fair and balanced?

TV Junkie comes out of one man's obsession with videotaping his life that really makes you rethink all those "world-of-images" clichés. Rick Kirkham is the bright-eyed video nut from Oklahoma who tapes everything in his life - from family, to parties, to sex, to all his adventures. He finds the perfect job, TV reporter, and rises to the position of a correspondent for Inside Edition, where he makes a specialty of doing his own stunts like motorcycle jumping and setting himself on fire. He also has a "substance abuse" problem, which seems normal enough for a single guy who makes money and goes to a lot of parties.

He marries a girl from a small town in Texas after he gets her pregnant, sets her and his young son up in a Dallas suburb, and goes back to New York where he works for Fox and smokes crack.

Everything is taped - everything. We see the crack and booze taking Kirkham away from his job and eventually getting him fired. He and his wife fight, they have another child, they reconcile, he smokes more crack, things get worse until she leaves him for good (after a few years with the patience of Job for Kirkham's boyish taping and his addiction) and he finally gets sober. The film ends with a motivational speech to a high school of addicted teens. Sound familiar? Now you've seen it.

TV Junkie is less than two hours, down from 3000 hours of tape, distilled by Michael Cain, Matt Radecki and their team of "screeners" of Kirkham's video autobiography. The toll on Kirkham's family is painful as his kids watch their parents fight, yet Kirkham has a buoyant charm that comes back after the binges. There is real love here, in spite of everything.

We see it all, or do we? After the film's first screening, when the filmmakers reluctantly acknowledged that Kirkham was in the house, he made a motivational appeal to his audience to seek help for addiction. Fair enough. That's his life and his living now.

Kirkham told me after the screening that he also filmed himself scoring drugs on the street in NYC and elsewhere. Now that would be revealing, because it's not just the auto-Oprah generic family coming apart, the novelty of the dog that can stand on its legs and operate a video camera. We don't see it in TV Junkie, which Kirkham said was six hours long before it was cut to this length, 107 minutes.

What happened? Sometimes feature length doesn't serve a story like this. Capturing the Friedmans would probably also have been better served as a story in a much longer format. I guess that's what DVDs are for.

One of the strengths of Sundance is that there is likely to be another documentary to counterbalance the self-obsessive meltdown of TV Junkie. (Be that as it may, you should see this film. I'm sure that the filmmakers would disagree with that characterization of their story as narcissistic, and insist that they had to persuade Kirkham to allow them to put all his pain on the screen.)

God Grew Tired of Us For that counterbalancing fix, see God Grew Tired of Us, the chronicle of a small group from the 27,000 "lost boy" refugees from Sudan who are now settled in the US, in places like Pittsburgh and Syracuse. These boys, now men, are children who watched their parents get killed in their villages, sometimes hacked to death. They then walked 1000 miles to refugee camps in Kenya, where they spent ten years crowded together. Many died of disease there. Just listing their hardships trivializes them. The world's indifference trivializes them even more. The boys then were sent to various American cities, which first seemed like paradise because there were jobs, food and shelter. Soon they become lonely, and worry about losing their families and their culture. Their fears are well-founded.

The Sudanese young men have been through hell, and they are the lucky ones. Who knows how many of their relatives have been killed, how many women raped, how many driven off their land? The numbers are in the millions. Slender and elegant, beatific in their optimism, these are the survivors who were depicted as near-corpses in news coverage. Most of them still radiate with hope, although we see a group that has bought into the US consumer image of designer rap, with flashy cars and jewelry.

Christopher Quinn's film is funny as boys who never knew electricity move into apartments with televisions and telephones, eating airplane food on the way. The food was better in the refugee camp, one says.

You get uneasy watching these friendly adaptable young men; merchants fear them when they enter a store as a group, seeing only their skin, if not another species. Every phone call from abroad brings news of more deaths. Most of their money, and it's not much, goes back to family in Africa.

God Grew Tired of Us is not grand cinema. It makes no such claim. It gives us more time with its subject than we probably will get from any media coverage of the Sudan, unless the genocide there that is barely covered turns into an even grander extermination campaign. Funny that this was not the country we invaded, "liberated." Even if these documentaries take more than a year to make, they're filling gaps in journalism. More about that in a later installment.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:50 AM

Chris Penn, 1965 - 2006.

Chris Penn
Actor Chris Penn, the younger brother of Sean Penn, has been found dead at his home in Santa Monica, California.

The BBC.

I'll always remember him from Reservoir Dogs, of course, but also in Short Cuts (as Jennifer Jason Leigh's husband) and the underrated The Music of Chance, not to mention At Close Range and in his much younger days, All the Right Moves and Footloose - in which he was quite sympathetic and realistic as a rural teen in need of a reawakening. Unlike his brother, he was destined to be a character actor, with his doughy build, but was a pretty darned good one.

Craig Phillips.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:12 AM | Comments (8)

January 24, 2006

The Film Journal. 13.

The Film Journal may be going on hiatus - "hopefully no more than a year," writes editor Rick Curnutte, but there's a fine issue to hold us over before the Journal returns from its new base in Chicago.

The centerpiece of Issue 13 is a six-article retrospective devoted to Richard Fleischer, opening with...


  • This from Zach Campbell: "If it is not too perverse a statement to make regarding the spirit of this collection of articles, I would like to propose something that would be only too obvious in many circles: that Richard Fleischer is not an auteur in any commonly held sense, but instead a metteur-en-scène." The question here: "[H]ow does one deal with the direction of a film (as a craft, as an art) when the director is not a master, not even the driving force behind a film's conception and exhibition?"

  • Michael E Grost examines Fleischer's use of pans in Bodyguard, Follow Me Quietly, Armored Car Robbery and The Narrow Margin.

  • Robert Keser takes a long look at Mandingo, Fleischer's 38th feature, "and arguably his finest": "[T]he film's uncompromising depiction of the moral wreckage caused by the slavery system remains undiminished."

  • Dan Sallitt on Barabbas: "the fusion of [Par] Lagerkvist's philosophically challenged protagonist and [Anthony] Quinn's mumbling, fidgeting puppydog savage is one of the main reasons that Fleischer's version of the story lingers in the memory longer than [Alf] Sjöberg's thoughtful earlier adaptation."

  • Blake Lucas explores the context of These Thousand Hills, which "directs us to a specific gift of this director, which I will call a gift for contextualizing."

  • Michael Worrall wraps the retrospective with an overview of the career: "The overall effect of Fleischer's cinema is to be shaken and moved by the emotional and physical violence that erupts across the screen."

The "Essays" section opens unexpectedly with an excerpt from Aunt Bessie's How to Survive a Day Job While Pursuing the Creative Life, a breezy recollection from the late director, Robert Wise.

Jump cut to Vartan P Messier's revisitation of that heady ground where Baudrillard and The Matrix meet; but the prose isn't nearly as chewy as it might have been, the lines it draws quite easy to follow.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Victoria Oxberry looks into the influences of early 30s American horror films and, by extension, the German Expressionist classics of the 20s on Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Brian Wilson admires Majid Majidi's Baran, an accomplishment more complex that it may seem at first glance. Also: "Brief Notes on Land of the Dead."

Werner Herzog is currently being celebrated right and left, but David Church has problems with Even Dwarfs Started Small: "[I]t cannot avoid negative stereotypes of disability which taint its more positive objectives."

Amar Bakshi on François Truffaut's The Wild Child, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Orson Welles's Citizen Kane and Fritz Lang's Fury: "[I]t seemed to most of these filmmakers, that the very means of overcoming subjugation to institutions of power is embedded in a new mechanism of power - the film."

"No film, however superficial it might appear, is ever ideologically innocent," writes Leon Saunders Calvert in "Ideology and the Modern Historical Epic: How the political concerns in the genre have changed since 11th September 2001."

2005 was, like 1993, one of those years for Steven Spielberg. James Rose considers a scene in the movie that gave him the clout to pull off such feats - Jaws.

"What does it mean when a practitioner, even a master, of one art form (in this case, film) goes out to praise an entirely different art form? I suggest that it can - and in this case, does - signal the creation of a brand new language." Justin Vicari on that voracious reader, Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Andrew Repasky McElhinney claims Murder-Set-Pieces is "the exploitation film of the 9/11 decade" and talks with director Nick Palumbo.


Posted by dwhudson at 2:54 PM

January 23, 2006

Park City Dispatch. 3.

Jonathan Marlow, already bracing himself for Rotterdam (opening on Wednesday), takes stock of this year's Park City experience as a whole.

Sundance 06 When folks go to the effort to appear in the mountains for a festival (or two), they want the films that they see to be remarkable. Compromises will be made in the hope of finding something, anything, to like. The programmers haven't made it easy this time around, unfortunately.

Regardless, from the sublime (such as Bill Basquin's beautifully photographed short Range) to the superficial (Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidential, which incidentally inverts everything good about Ghost World), the Bay Area is relatively well-represented at Sundance. Off the screen, the influence of San Francisco is better acknowledged at the SF360 announcement Monday night, reflecting a partnership between indieWIRE and the San Francisco Film Society (among other like-minded organizations). However, you'll have to travel south along the coast to find the city of choice - Los Angeles, reflected in the opening night picture, Friends with Money. If your idea of entertainment is a few hours with self-absorbed, unlikeable people, this film should suit you. With Park City largely transplanted with Southern Californian sorts for ten days, it figures that the area would be represented largely in (and out) of the makeshift cinemas that temporarily litter this mountain town.

For all of the fuss made about Sundance's "return to independent filmmaking," you still have to venture to the top of Main Street (specifically Treasure Mountain Inn, the site once again for Slamdance) to see such work in action. For instance, Todd Rohal's wonderful debut feature, The Guatemalan Handshake, is more inventive in its first ten minutes than the entire duration of many films (the abysmal Lucky Number Slevin, for instance) at the elder festival. The Call of Cthulhu similarly represents a milestone in no-budget production, obsessively recreating HP Lovecraft's tale in period detail.

Allegro Is it by coincidence, then, that the best work at Sundance arrives from outside our borders? Whether it be Mexico (Carlos Reygadas's stunning sophomore effort Battle in Heaven), Denmark (Allegro, from Reconstruction helmer Christoffer Boe) or Iraq (the latest from Gaza Strip director James Longely, Iraq in Fragments). A coincidence, as well, that all three are represented by the same publicist, Susan Norget?

Not unlike CES, new modes of distribution are a repeated topic of discussion at panels, parties and, in passing, along the street. Whether it be Ironweed's subscription service or IFC's latest offshoot, the tailspin of theatrical revenues (among other issues) has everyone talking about potentially lucrative ways to reach audiences. Not that I can blame them; GreenCine's intentions are identical.

Splitting time between screenings and parties is a necessity in these parts, since the real work is done at both. Whether it's playing chess with NWFF's Michael Seiwerath at the THINKFilm party (with Mix Master Mike spinning "virtual" records in the background), briefly chatting with John Waters at the here!/Outfest Queer Brunch (visiting to promote his new television show) or dining at our home-away-from-home with the Zellner Brothers (who once again have a characteristically confounding short screening at the festival), the real reason for returning to Park City is the assortment of exceptional people that descend on the town for a handful of days. It's an attraction that has brought me to Utah for the past half-dozen years. We'll see if that is enough to get me back again next time.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:24 PM | Comments (1)

Offscreen. Catching up.

As Brian Darr remembers to recount how Peter Kubelka changed the way he watches films back in October and, in a comment, Girish reminds me of Jennifer MacMillan's talk with filmmaker Paul Shepard about his Arnulf Rainer tattoo, I recover, too, another mental note that somehow slipped: Volume 9, Issue 11 of Offscreen is devoted to Austrian avant-garde cinema.

Kubelka: Poetry and Truth

As if that weren't enough to catch up with, Issue 12 has since appeared, "with a 'Spanish' bent."

  • Roberto Curti on the films of Agustín Villaronga and Totaro on, specifically, In a Glass Cage, which has "garnered a notorious semi-underground reputation as one of the most emotionally wrenching psychological horror films ever made."

  • Rist looks back on 2005 as he experienced it in Montreal, and yes, there are lists here.

  • Becky Kaklamanidou recalls the 46th International Film Festival of Thessaloniki.

  • Via a generous batch of films, Daniel Garrett looks back to his home state, Louisiana, before offering a number of wide-ranging reviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:56 AM | Comments (2)

Park City. Roundup.

Sundance 06 You don't have to be in Park City to spend nearly as much time keeping up with all the goings on at Sundance, Slamdance and the rest as anyone actually there. If you're so inclined, you'll be following indieWIRE's firehose of buzz, watching the Cinematical crew's "Roundtable Video" and lots more video at Movie City News, where David Poland writes: "A very smart young lady said today, when I mentioned my disappointment with Friends with Money, 'By the end of the festival, you'll be begging to see something as good as Friends with Money. And she may be right."

Slamdance So here's a roundup of reviews so far, followed by a roundup of roundups. And blogs, of course. Mike D'Angelo and more. I'll be updating this entry as I can throughout the fest, but not necessarily tagging updates as updates. Ach, you'll see. Click it:

Note: Whenever possible, director's names are linked to their interviews in indieWIRE. Also, "review" is defined liberally.

January 22, 2006

Shorts, 1/22.

The Art of The Incredibles The Telegraph's Andrew Murray-Watson: "The board of Pixar Animation Studios, the digital animations company, is set to meet tomorrow to approve the company's $7bn (£3.9bn) takeover by Disney." Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, where he's also pointing to Penn Jillette's radio show.

Steve Rosenbaum is justifiably upset that John Kerry refuses to see his film: "I made Inside The Bubble for you. It's not a whitewashed public relations approved view of the 2004 Election. But it's honest. And it is truthful. And while it's not the last word on why the Democrats lost - I'd suggest that for people trying to figure that out, it's required viewing."

For the Northwest Asian Weekly, NP Thompson previews Weathering the Storm: The Enduring Cinema of Mikio Naruse, at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle through February 26:

Mikio Naruse

The critic Susan Sontag phrased it like this: Naruse "creates an ardently materialist world where the social pressure for money acts like a vise to the head." And indeed, in works such as Late Chrysanthemums (1954) and When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), both of which claustrophobically portray the (mis)fortunes of aging prostitutes and unhappily retired geisha, the endless emphasis on economics is almost overwhelming. Naruse's women, at least in these two films, seldom speak of anything except money, and the director is well attuned to the intricacies of social Darwinism, so much so that the movies have a disturbingly contemporary feel to them, despite the milieu of a defeated, post-World War II Japan in which they take place.

Charles McGrath observes that Michael Winterbottom "thrives on filming the unfilmable, and to make Tristram Shandy he simply dusted off that handiest of postmodern devices: his film is about a film crew making a film of Tristram Shandy.... For once, though, this ancient wheeze actually comes off - in part because this kind of self-reflexiveness really is in the Sterne spirit, and in part because nobody takes the meta-movie idea too seriously. This film is more in the spirit of Abbott and Costello in Hollywood, say, than or Day for Night."

Also in the New York Times:

The Power of Movies

For the Guardian, Stuart Jeffries talks with William Boyd about the differences between writing novels and writing screenplays - and about adaptations: "Boyd quotes approvingly Nabokov's dictum that films should be 'vivacious variants' of the original."

"In 1994, the San Francisco-based filmmaker and artist Dean Snider decided to end his own life, possibly in front of a camera." Rebecca Cleman reviews The Will of Dean Snider. Also at Flickhead: Ray Young on The End of August at the Hotel Ozone: "Now on DVD from Facets, this unpleasant but spellbinding gem may finally find the audience it deserves."

Jon Jost Acquarello on Bell Diamond: "Few filmmakers capture the complex landscape of rural America in all its strong-willed self-determination, insularity, and dispiriting sameness as pointedly and eloquently as Jon Jost."

Writing for the World Socialist Web Site, you can imagine the field day Joanne Laurier has with Fun With Dick and Jane.

Second-life news at Twitch: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Mark Caro's Delicatessen is headed to DVD; Futurama will indeed return.

Rotterdam previews from The Gomorrahizer at Twitch: Hiromasa Hirosue's The Lost Hum, Simon Rumley's The Living and the Dead, Noriko Shibutani's Bambi♥Bone, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's Green Mind, Metal Bats and Ryûichi Hiroki's It's Only Talk.

Nick Davis picks his 2005 top ten.

Is Sarah Silverman truly "anti-Asian"? Sujewa Ekanayake looks into it.

Daniel Robert Epstein SuicideGirls interview roundup: Steven Soderbergh (related: Chuck Tryon comments on Mark Cuban's defense of Bubble's unconventional release), Jeremy Kasten and Bryce Dallas Howard.

William Shatner will be hosting the Golden Groundhog Awards on February 2. Thanks, James!

André Soares remembers Anthony Franciosa, 1928 - 2006.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:51 PM

January 21, 2006

Park City Dispatch. 2.

On Thursday, David D'Arcy sorted through some of the general themes running through this year's edition of the Sundance Film Festival and took closer looks at The Trials of Darryl Hunt and Thank You for Smoking. Today, he considers festival opener Friends with Money, the "porn-athon" Destricted and Alan Berliner's Wide Awake.

Sundance 06 I've been thinking about the opening night film, Friends with Money. You have a lot of time to think when your shuttle bus is in limo-lock behind a Hummer-load of tech execs of the year or studio bureaucrats.

The ensemble cast of Friends with Money, malcontents in over-comforted Los Angeles - with Jennifer Aniston as the odd friend out, who quit a teaching job and now lives hand-to-mouth as a maid - made me think of another film set in LA thirty years ago. This film was Welcome to LA, by Alan Rudolph, and the characters were loners whose paths crossed either in business or by chance. By chance once again, Rudolph, who started out as an assistant to Robert Altman, is on the Sundance jury this year. Back in 1976, Rudolph's story of isolated characters driving to and from empty encounters in sun-baked LA showed disconnected people connecting through sex. Sissy Spacek plays a maid who, innocent enough, also gets her share. Rudolph's characters are charged particles, or as charged as particles can be when you factor in pot, Quaaludes, alcohol and Los Angeles itself. It was aimlessness in a town of intense but hollow ambition.

Welcome to LA If you watch Welcome to LA, I'd bet that it would seem nostalgic now. This was an era before AIDS, the earthquake, the riots. It was when Schwarzenegger was a muscleman who did occasional nude shots. It was an era when you worried about what you didn't get from casual sex, not what you did get.

The setting of Friends with Money is that LA world of charity events, private schools with lots of kids named Max, farmers markets, Spanish-speaking domestic help, house renovations and hybrid cars. Unlike the characters in Welcome to LA, these characters are nothing if not connected - dependent might be a better word, co-dependent might be even better. They're comfortable, in the economic sense, not the psychological sense, and they're intensely competitive as they watch each other age more slowly or have more sex with a spouse more often.

The settings are houses, cars and restaurants - what could be more LA?

It's truly a Cinderella story, although I'm much more interested in the cinders than in the salvation of Jennifer Aniston that does indeed make Friends with Money a fairy tale. Frances McDormand's character sets the grim tone; she's a clothing designer who can't make herself look good, and she shares her anger with anyone around. It's too late for her to buy beauty or happiness with money, but there's nothing else there to buy it with.

Friends with Money

The ensemble is the sit-com staple. We're talking about a film whose star made her reputation on the idiotic TV show, Friends. Yet Aniston's character here is complex, proud but self-mocking, lonely to the point of dragging around three-timing personal trainer Scott Caan (we used to call these guys "heels") and acceding to his demand for his "take" of the pittance that she's paid after he wipes off a shelf or two. She even wears the skimpy French maid's costume that the generous guy buys as a Christmas present for her. She has the you-take-what-you-can-get attitude of someone who knows better.

(There's second ensemble here, too, the Spanish-speaking gardeners, housekeepers, nannies and construction workers who watch this emotional pageant like a mute Greek chorus on minimum wage, incredulous as Mr and Mrs suffer through the day.)

Eventually, Aniston's character is redeemed after she's forced to follow her heart and go for simple things, like a nice guy. If this isn't romance, I don't know what is. But for me, the life that romance lifts her from tells us much more about the real Los Angeles than love does.

Not to put too much of a meta-narrative spin on this, Friends with Money can also be a metaphor for what the independent film scene has become. (House-cleaning could just as easily be another.) At Sundance, you might say, there's plenty of money, but the friends are harder to find. Has the infusion of money made independent films better films? The jury's still out as to whether the infusion of money into Sundance has made this a better experience for those of us who don't have it. Money certainly doesn't make you any more free if you're one of Nicole Holofcener's characters, although the dilemma of how to be happy if you have money is a luxury that most of the world would love to try. We comfort slaves are lucky to have such "problems."

Destricted But where there's money, there's usually art, and there was art at the Library Center in Park City Friday night, January 21. In Destricted, there was sex, too, in the art. (It's funny to think of this, because Utah is a place where authorities are vigilant about the kinds of books that they allow into their libraries, and sometimes fierce about throwing "offensive" books out. Anything that could penetrate the human body was in action on the screen this time.)

With roots protruding from his body, an unidentified man gets intimate with machines - a truck, to be exact - in Hoist, Matthew Barney's contribution to Destricted, a group of short films by six directors doing independent pornography. Each film in Destricted, by such contributors as Sam Taylor-Wood, Richard Prince, Larry Clark, Marina Abramovic and Gaspar Noé, was offered as "cerebral" work that reinvigorates erotic cinema.

Make pornography, the filmmakers were told, "do anything you want, as long as you do it in less than 20 minutes," said Larry Clark, who pairs a novice would-be porn stallion with a forty-ish veteran in Impaled.

Clark's cast for his odd short was assembled from casting calls for male and female porn performers. The males, all first-timers, most of them younger than twenty, were experienced porn watchers (everyman a porn star?) and the women were all in the business, but also very young. Most of the young men not only watched porn, they got it from their parents. Clark, as we know, has a way of getting youth to be candid and compliant. Is it exploitation? You decide. It works once again as his interviewees talk about sex for money on the screen - the men talking about their particular sex preferences and ego needs, and the women talking more about the job as a job. The second half of Impaled is the coupling of Clark's Odd Couple, a pale skinny sullen kid of twenty and a giggling nympho twice his age. Not knowing whether the performers were in on the joke or not makes the joke even better.

The project renews Sundance's mission to push the boundaries of sex and gender in a pro-Bush state where some locals still practice polygamy and Brokeback Mountain was banned in a town nearby.

Sam Taylor-Wood chipped with Onan: Death Valley, failed self-stimulation in a majestic landscape. Destricted elicits the question, "Is pornography better if it's made, not by porn pros, but by artists, especially hot cross-over personalities like Barney and Sam Taylor-Wood?" Another inevitable question follows: "Is cinema better when those artists make it?"

Did the mostly young crowd screaming for more porn know that Harry Reems, hero of Deep Throat, the classic of porn's golden era, is living and selling real estate in Park City? That fact never came up at the screening that I attended.

Sharing the art bill at Sundance are a documentary about Sally Mann and a wry adaptation of Dan Clowes's graphic novel, Art School Confidential, by Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Bad Santa). More about those and other films on art in a later installment.

At the other end of the fashion spectrum from the art stars and the fans who sustain them is Alan Berliner, a filmmaker who's been at Sundance several times with films like Intimate Stranger and The Family Album. I've always liked his work, which has had at its core the rapid-fire succession of still images to make movies that sometimes looked like old-fashioned flip books, sometimes like the torrent of images from within the brain that race ahead of what we would call consciousness. (One of the few inspiring moments of the Destricted porn-athon was Sync, Marco Brambilla's breakneck compilation of porn scenes, a cinematic salute to the idea of the "quickie." Was he trying to out-Berliner Berliner? If so, it was a very nice try.)

Wide Awake Wide Awake tells you what Berliner's film is about. He can't sleep, and this ailment touches everyone he's close to - his mother, his sister, his wife, even his newborn child. Berliner tries everything for his insomnia. We learn that he's been taking sleeping pills in quantities that are far more than what his doctor prescribed. We also learn that physicians who are sleep specialists know far less about sleep than we might think, which doesn't keep them from treating hard cases like Berliner's.

Ultimately our hero decides that he has to be positive, and he accepts that his insomnia gives him more time in which to be productive. Getting to that conclusion takes us through Berliner's creative process of fatigue and energy, and through his family - it's nothing if not a personal film.

But it's more than that. Insomnia isn't AIDS or cancer, so journeying through it with a man who can even have a sense of humor about his affliction doesn't tear us inside out as so many of the disease-of-the-week movies do. As a malady, insomnia is disease-lite. One out of three Americans suffers from it, and Berliner explains that we make all sorts of allowances for an affliction that we're forced to live with. There's a great line that he uses to illustrate this accommodation: "If you boil a frog slowly, the frog never knows there's anything wrong." Remember that. It helps us understand a lot.

There's even more. If this is a film about a Jewish family, and it is, among many other things, since so much of the discussion of insomnia takes place at a table with Berliner and his mother and sister, it's also a story that's a twist on the formula of helping a schlemiel fall in love. In this case, family members are stumbling over each other (or just yelling), trying to help a schlemiel fall asleep, which we learn is harder than love. It's like life, or like the family. Berliner can't slay the dragon. He has to manage the dragon.

As you might have guessed, for a prodigious cinema collagist like Berliner, archival textures are woven, sequenced, overlaid and just piled on. His own filming gives the film a special glow because so much of it happens with night vision, the same kind of technique used to hunt insurgents in Iraq or to observe nocturnal species in their active hours. Berliner himself is an odd twist on the nocturnal species, seen by himself, watching his family watch him. As sick as he is, if insomnia is indeed a sickness, first-person filmmaking is alive and well.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:58 PM | Comments (2)

Munich, 1/21.

Tony Kushner in the Los Angeles Times:

In the last month, the co-creators of Munich have been accused of being apologists for the Palestinians, apologists for Israel, defamers of Palestinians and of Israel, softheaded Hollywood liberals, dupes of the radical left, dupes of the radical right, even of being anti-Semitic or self-loathing, for showing Jews talking about receipts and handling money. We're morally confused, overly complicated, simplistic. We're cowards who refused to take sides. We took a side but, oops! the wrong side.

Updates: 1/28.

And so, he addresses the questions most commonly raised: What about that book the film's based on, why are the Mossad agents troubled and is he out to destroy Israel. His cousin-in-law, "and about 100 other people, suggested that maybe, in the midst of this storm of opinion, I could venture to speak a little for the film." What follows is an absolute must-read. But if you're in a hurry (e.g., racing between screenings in Park City), here's the crux:

Der Spiegel: Spielberg

In the film, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is presented not as a matter of religion versus religion, or sanity versus insanity, or good versus evil or civilization versus barbarism or Judeo-Christian culture versus Muslim culture, but rather as a struggle over territory, over geography, over home.


[W]e believe that one aspect of the struggle against terrorism is the struggle to comprehend terrorism. If you think understanding the enemy is unimportant, well, maybe there's a job in Washington for you.

Meantime. Here in Germany, we're still days away from the film's opening but the feuilletons have already been soaking in it for weeks. You can imagine that there's a plethora of complex reasons for all this interest, given the role of the Holocaust in speeding up the foundation of the state of Israel and the tragically botched handling by the German police of the crisis in 1972 that gives the film its name. And that's just for starters.

I know pointing to items in German is only going to be of interest to a few Daily readers, so I'll keep it short. Filmz.de has quite a collection; in today's papers alone, David Denk talks with Hanns Zischler about working with Spielberg while, also in die taz, Jan Feddersen addresses another German component of the story the film does not: Black September demanded not only the release of 232 Palestinian prisoners but also the release of Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, who were being held in German prison at the time. In the Berliner Zeitung, Jochen Arntz reconstructs events leading up to the early morning of September 5, 1972.

And there's Spielberg on the cover of Der Spiegel. Going by the online TOC, it looks as if 20 or so pages are devoted to the film and related issues. We'll see when it hits newsstands tomorrow. Hopefully, at least a few of those pages will be appearing in English as well.

Update, 1/22: The Observer is claiming that Andrew Anthony's is going to be the only interview Spielberg gives in Britain; we'll see. There aren't a great many revelations here. Reaffirmation, mostly: "I made this movie out of love for both of my countries, USA and Israel.... I tried to avoid making it and yet I feel that my filmography would not have been complete without this story in some fashion being realised on film.... I have to rely on my intuition, and as a filmmaker I had to commit to my feelings that the real Avner was the real deal, and I really in my heart and soul believe he is." And then, this: "I grew up in a world of potential nuclear holocaust. And for some reason I feel that the age of terrorism is more frightening to me than nuclear terror."

More from Edward Copeland.

Updates, 1/25: Spiegel Online is indeed running Christopher Sultan's translation of the cover story; it's not the interview, but it's a solid piece.

A quick run-down of relevant pieces in the German-language papers on the eve of the film's opening here: Adrienne Woltersdorf and Sven von Reden in die taz, Daniel Kothensculte in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Alexandra Stäheli in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Hanns-Georg Rodek and Hanns Zischler in Die Welt. That's just online. The FAZ and Süddeutsche have much more, but only in print.

Spiegel: Munich 72 Updates, 1/26: And now, Spiegel Online is running the interview, too. What's more they've translated an editorial that ran in the weekly's September 11, 1972 issue.

As the film opens in the UK, Ewen MacAskill and Ian Black report in the Guardian on two docs that "undermine some of its central claims. Operation Bayonet, on BBC2 on Tuesday, and Munich: Mossad's Revenge, on Channel 4 tonight, include detailed testimony from retired Mossad agents the broadcasters claim were directly involved in the killings. Their version of events is very different to Spielberg's."

Update, 1/27: Stephen Howe in openDemocracy: "[W]hile Munich may be a soaraway success as a magnet for political controversy, as a film it's as near to total artistic failure as Spielberg has ever come."

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian: "The movie is all about the homeland of Israel-Palestine, but there's no doubt where its emotional homeland is: and that is the United States."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:04 PM

Berlin & Beyond.

Koreanfilm.org contributor Adam Hartzell samples a few German-language offerings in San Francisco.

Berlin & Beyond I don't think I'm all that unique in the expectations I come with to the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival every year, or any festival that focuses on the cinema of any particular country or region. In its 11th installment, bringing San Franciscans an opportunity to see "New Films from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland," I don't expect to be blown away by all of them, if any. Of course, I'm happy to watch great cinema, but I also come simply to recall my time spent with good friends who grew up in some of the cities shown on screen (in my case, Munich and Stuttgart in Germany and Salzburg, Vienna and Villach in Austria) and to be exposed to cultural issues my country's mainstream news media are unwilling to address. I am not so naive to assume that what I see on the screen truly represents these countries and the lives of their citizens, but I come to world cinema for the same reasons I read books, magazines and online newspapers from lands other than my own - to educate myself. All I ask is that the films, in my street critic parlance, don't suck.

Oktoberfest Johannes Brunner's Oktoberfest (Germany, 2005) came closest to not meeting my extremely lenient qualifications. In the intertwined stories meant to represent a dodge-'em car amusement ride of lives bouncing off each other, there are some interesting interactions, but too many of the efforts to push the plot along seem contrived. The film begins on the last day of Oktoberfest and we follow this day in the lives of Germans and Africans working the beer gardens, young women from Hamburg down on holiday, a Japanese couple on honeymoon, three generations of a family running a haunted house ride, a divorced father spending the day with his reluctant older daughter and excited younger son, a young German man playing cat and mouse with security, and Italian tourists. Players in each storyline will intermix at some point in the film. Many of these random trajectories are believable, considering the dizzying mass confusion that such an event allows.

The film is not a celebration of Oktoberfest; instead, it primarily focuses on the pathetic goings on behind all the pretty lights and carnival noise. Oktoberfest the movie definitely leaves you with more reservations about getting reservations to attend Oktoberfest the event. Similarly, I'm reluctant to recommend the film simply because there are too many weak moments, such as the lack of motivation behind the infidelity of the leader of the oompah-pah band in the main beer hall and several love-at-first-sights that seem to happen way too easily. Oktoberfest is a ride better avoided, unless you have your own memories of Oktoberfest you'd like to revisit.

One Day in Europe Next rung up the critical ladder is Hannes Stöhr's Night on Earth-inspired One Day In Europe (Germany/Spain, 2005). Stöhr takes us to four different locales on the final day of the European Soccer Championships. Connecting all our stories are not Jarmusch's taxi cabs, but alternating legitimate and illegitimate insurance claims that require assistance from the local police. An English woman robbed of all her luggage is befriended by a non-English-speaking Russian grandmother in Moscow. A German tourist fakes the loss of his possessions while in Turkey in order to acquire cash from his insurance company and stumbles into the taxi cab of a Turkish citizen who, rather than rush him to the police station, offers to beat the living crap out of the individuals who never mugged the German in the first place. A too-friendly Hungarian will meet a Spanish police officer after naively asking a stranger to take a picture of him standing in front of a major tourist spot in Santiago de Campostela, losing his digital camera and all 500 photos of his pilgrimage in the process.

And finally, French street performers in Berlin fake a mugging so as to attain insurance money to repair their broken down vehicle. Evident of the little effect this film had on me, I had trouble recalling what happened in the final story. (The friend I brought with me reminded me that it worked off the efficiency for which the Berlin police are apparently known, an efficiency this story desired to emulate because it seemed to be the quickest of the four and ended quite abruptly.) Stöhr is obviously serving up his own L'Auberge espagnole in exploring the comic possibilities of the emerging European Union identity. The highlights for me were the first two stories, particularly the second where laughter erupted from the audience when the Turkish cab driver begins speaking not only German, but German of the Schwäbisch dialect, which many linguists argue is the most divergent of German dialects from the mainstream Hochdeutsch taught in schools. As Stöhr commented in the Q&A afterwards, you couldn't make up a character like the real-life Turkish-born actor Erdal Yildiz who played that character. Yildiz indeed learned his German in the Swabian regions and he has appeared in many German television and film productions.

Kebab Connection Speaking of Turkish-Germans, Anno Saul's Kebab Connection (Germany, 2004) was the film I was most excited to see at this year's Berlin & Beyond. Thankfully, this film, co-produced by Fatih Akin (Head-On) lived up to my hopes and was the perfect introduction to German film for the friend who accompanied me. Ingrid Eggers, organizer and co-founder of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, introduced the film as one of the rare comedies playing the festival this year, which brought a laugh from the audience well aware that German films are more known for looking at our shadows than our jesters.

A young Turkish Tarantino named Ibo (Denis Moschitto) directs stylish splatterfest commercials for his Uncle's kebab stand that generate serious traffic after being screened at the local Kino. As his star begins to rise, he discovers that his German girlfriend's belly is beginning to as well. Ibo's father has been lenient about Ibo messing around with German girls, asking only one thing - not to get them pregnant. Having failed that one request, Ibo’s father disowns him. Ibo's indecisiveness about how to resolve all this family and career confusion begins to frustrate his girlfriend and the comedy definitely milks this confusion for all its worth. Cultural inside jokes abound (add to the mix that Ibo's uncle's main competitor is a Greek restaurant across the street), but even if one is hip to neither the Turkish nor the German references, the film has enough universal humor about young adulthood, young parenthood and family politics that even the most apolitical could find the humor in this flick.

Silentium Wanting to see a film based in Salzburg so I could have the pleasure in recognizing sights from that lovely city, I caught another of the rare comedies, Wolfgang Murnberger's Silentium, which we were told was a huge hit in Austria in 2005. This dark comedy takes some definitely cavernous routes to unearth humor, working off the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. We meet the unemployed private investigator Brenner (Josef Hader) just as he becomes unemployed and quickly stumbles into getting hired by the daughter (Maria Köstlinger) of a famous festival promoter. She wants Brenner to find out who murdered her husband. Her husband had accused the archbishop of sexually molesting him when he was younger and the town has been led to believe that her husband committed suicide. Brenner finds much more than he bargained for as he digs deeper and deeper into the goings on of the local diocese and the festival promoter.

For the most part, the film is a laugh riot. The topic allows for some hilarious irreverence involving multiple Catholic icons. Plus, there's an expertly done parody of North by Northwest. But the film loses itself in the resolution of all the secrets hidden in the catacombs of Salzburg's Da Vinci Code. When the puzzle pieces fall into place, the picture is just too outlandish to be believable. Plus, Silentium continues the long tradition of limiting the roles available to actresses of Asian descents, something that has tainted films of otherwise exemplary quality such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. (One thing I learned from Silentium is the German language variant of that schoolyard racist taunt 'Chinese/Japanese.' Perhaps there are English variants I'm not aware of, but the German translation we were given of the final couplet "Dirty knees/Look at these" was replaced with "Owl/Fowl." The person reciting the rhyme uses his fingers to widen his eyes when saying "Owl" and then the person the rhyme is being recited to is bonked on the head when he says "Fowl." Some universals divide more than unite, I guess.) The same old, same old that rears its ugly Western eyes here is a tired cliché if not offensive. I'm not for censorship, so Murnberger can do whatever he wants, but I don't have to like this part of the film. Unfortunately, I can't reveal a more detailed argument about the problems with this aspect of the film because it is part of a crucial twist in the plot. Therefore, I can't deflect dirty knee jerks from calling my comments mere political correctness. Like the confessional ethics of priests, I have my own ethical code of silence when writing about films in a forum bounded by the same decorum as a review.

Netto But enough of disappointment; the best of the bunch I caught was the film awarded Best New Feature at the festival, Robert Thalheim's Netto (Germany, 2004). Netto follows a divorced father, Marcel Werner (Milan Peschel) with impulse control problems exacerbated by his drinking problem. We meet him ordering a Clausthaler at a local Chinese restaurant and his conversation demonstrates how Marcel has difficulty properly discerning social cues, going on and on about his delusional life when it is clear no one at the restaurant is really interested in what he has to say. Although unemployment is a problem affecting everyone in Germany, we can see why this particular man has trouble keeping a job. His son Sebastian (Sebastian Butz) re-enters Marcel's life in an effort to avoid changing schools after his mother moves into the home of her new husband. Sebastian ends up being his father's surrogate father by assisting him in getting the security-related position his father fantasizes about.

Butz's portrayal is impressive and Peschel puts in a quality performance as well. Thalheim makes some nice shot choices, such as Marcel bike-peddling past important sites in Berlin as if staking them out for security preparations. There is a hilarious scene when Marcel acts out his secret service fantasies that Thalheim gives us from a surveillance camera overhead shot that wonderfully underscores the scene. (What's this about the Germans not being funny?) Weaving in and out of the film is the country music of the "Johnny Cash of East Berlin," Peter Tschernig, and it works nicely throughout the film. The only other films I saw up for the Best First Feature award were the aforementioned poor Oktoberfest and a film I saw in Busan, Benjamin Heisenberg's compelling Sleeper (Germany, 2005), so I can't speak for all of them but I find Netto a more than worthy choice.

I was limited in what I could watch over this three-day weekend by a cold or flu or something else I'm self-diagnosing. (On the phone, my father on the phone advised me to "make sure it's not that bird flu.") Particularly disappointing was missing Curt and Robert Siodmak, Edgar G Ulmer and Fred Zinnemann's silent film, People on Sunday (Germany, 1929). And I felt obligated to catch at least some of the Michael Verhoeven films featured since The Nasty Girl was the first film I ever saw with subtitles, catching it back during its initial release in the US at either the Tivoli Theatre or the Hi-Pointe Theatre in St Louis. I now prefer to read my films and Verhoeven can take some of the credit for that. At least I got to see films like Netto and Kebab Connection that will be staying with me longer than this cold, hopefully.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:06 AM | Comments (3)

January 20, 2006

Shorts, 1/20.

Screen Tests: A Diary "Like the best of his still image work (the Disaster series and the big Marilyn and Elvis paintings), Warhol's silent films and some of his early 'talkies' exist in the tension between presence and absence, assertion and denial. Fetishistic in the extreme, they allow the receptive viewer access to the fundamentals of cinematic pleasure. Their surfaces open onto the depths of your psyche." That's Amy Taubin's take now; but she's actually in a few of these films: "I was fascinated by Warhol's work process - how he made himself a still point in the midst of a chaos that fed him even as he kept himself apart from it - but I found the Factory scene as clique-ridden and unpleasant as high school."

Also in the City Pages: Rob Nelson on The Last Waltz and Matthew Wilder on Match Point. More on that one from AO Scott in the New York Times: "You would have to go back to the heady, amoral heyday of Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder to find cynicism so deftly turned into superior entertainment." But then, Jack Stoller: "The central flaw of this film is a theme reminiscent of Crimes and Misdemeanors, that people who do unjust things in a godless universe can get away with it. An important difference is that Crimes and Misdemeanors portrayed this as a bad thing." Update: NP Thompson simply despises Match Point.

Lists definitely worth waiting for: Brian Darr, Dennis Cozzalio and, at Twitch, Dave Canfield.

Japan Journals DK Holm has a massive all-Japanese column up at Movie Poop Shoot, reviewing five Kurosawa films, four samurai films, two "elder sister" exploitation films, the Pinky Violence Collection, a few films by Donald Richie as well as Richie's books A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Film and The Japan Journals: 1947 - 2004 - and Alain Silver's newly revised The Samurai Film. Heavens.

Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper: "Fond of barren landscapes, blackout gags and Sisyphean slopes, [Luc] Moullet is, like the Parisian rebels of May 1968, 'Marxiste, tendence Groucho,' a slapstick anarchist who expresses his hostility to the modern world by refusing to take it seriously."

Girish: "The Passenger is ultimately and clearly a director's movie but I have to say that Jack Nicholson's performance in it is a thing of wonder: it’s scrupulously minimal, completely instinctive, and you could write a small book about its profuse subtleties." Also: "Naruse's Repast (1951) moves me because of the insistent way in which he focuses on the petty details of 'balancing the domestic books' that each day demanded in a household like our own."

Jean Renoir "He may have been one of the great auteurs, but many of his films still have the spontaneity of home movies," writes Geoffrey Macnab in a piece with a sidebar by Leslie Caron. "While critics and fellow film-makers have long revered Renoir and films like La Règle du Jeu and La Grande Illusion nestle high up in many top 10 lists, few of his 40 or so other features are in active circulation." Also in the Independent, Judy Meewezen praises Elizabeth McGovern's performance in the indie thriller, The Truth.

At the newly redesigned site for the LA Weekly, there's a box, top and center, labeled "Foundas vs Ebert." It is, in a way, a mini-blog, linking to all the stops necessary to follow Scott Foundas's response to Roger Ebert's defense of Crash in the wake of Foundas's attack on the film in the latest (last?) round of Slate's "Movie Club." For good measure, the LAW tosses in Foundas's appreciation of Ebert this summer when the Chicago-based critic got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So why would you follow all this? One of the points at hand is the question of how critics best serve their readers. In a sense, both could claim to be "right" since their readerships probably differ considerably; but that doesn't settle it entirely, either, of course.

Brian Brooks unveils the third edition of indieWIRE's "Guide to Acquisitions": "The list is designed, we hope, to give insight to indieWIRE readers, especially emerging filmmakers and producers, who may not be familiar with some of the people behind this fundamental aspect of the film business."

NYP: Brooklyn The New York Press film critics do their bit for the Brooklyn issue. Armond White looks back: "By putting Black Brooklyn on the big screen, [Spike] Lee followed the footsteps of preceding borough ambassadors who won prominence without instituting change."

"[W]hat's happening in Brooklyn is still very much under the radar. It's less a fullblown Renaissance than a percolating scene that has yet to erupt into national view," writes Matt Zoller Seitz. Also: Jennifer Merin interviews Richard Shepard, director of The Matador.

Charles Taylor: "Few recent movies offer the sense of being deeply engaged with the world, or the quiet, enveloping elation, that Mr Hou's Café Lumière does." More from Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader and Scott Tobias in the AV Club. Also in the New York Observer: Andrew Sarris on Fun with Dick and Jane.

Nick Davis resumes picking flicks.

For the Los Angeles Times, Reed Johnson visits the set of Nacho Libre, "a bruising comedy" directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and starring Jack Black, now scarred for life. Literally. Related in a roundabout sort of way: "There's more to Mexican superheroes than masked wrestlers," notes Sean Spillane at Bitter Cinema.

Frayling: Ken Adam When the great production designer Ken Adam sits down to talk with the Telegraph's Mark Monahan about a favorite movie, he chooses Casablanca.

The Bafta nominations are in and, as the Guardian reports, The Constant Gardener is the front-runner, with Brokeback Mountain and Crash close behind.

"When we launched our competition for films shot and edited on home computers - what we termed "laptop movies" - we had very little idea of what we were going to find," writes Guardian film editor Andrew Pulver. Turns out, 140 DVDs came in and the "10-strong final shortlist included some powerful work... But the winner was absolutely clear; it won in a walk... One Night in Powder is the brainchild of Jason Attar and Phil Jones, and is a brilliantly realised film. It's genuinely funny - and if you've sat through as many comedies as I have, you know the real thing as soon as you see it."

Also in the Guardian:

Sterne: Tristram Shandy

On Directing Film Matt Zoller Seitz introduces a new feature, "offerings from the three dozen or so film and TV-related books that I never tire of reading." More than that, though, he comments throughout. First up is a clip from David Mamet's On Directing Film.

Dave Kehr reports on Showtime's cancelation of the broadcast of Takashi Miike's Imprint, which was to have been part of the Masters of Horror series; it does sound pretty gruesome, actually, and will probably do well on DVD.

Also in the New York Times:

Le Pont des Arts

Lucrezia Borgia Neil Jordan's on-again, off-again Borgia is on again. Hannah Eaves interviews the director for PopMatters. Also, Terry Sawyer: "Mind Over Matters: Meta-Bullshit: The Trouble with Sarah Silverman and the Fawning Cult of Meta-Bigotry."

Somewhat related: Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat on The Aristocrats on DVD and the two hours-worth of new stuff: "A perfect example of a bit that is hysterical but was omitted for good reason is Kevin Pollak telling the joke in the persona of Albert Brooks. It's just as funny as the scene in the film where Pollak does the joke as Christopher Walken; but it would have seemed redundant and structurally strange for [Paul] Provenza and [Penn] Jillette to have included two lengthy Pollak impersonation routines, no matter how great they are."

Daniel Robert Epstein's latest interviews at SuicideGirls: Wayne Wang and Melvin Van Peebles. Related: AO Scott in the NYT on How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It): "The story that emerges is a fascinating historical document."

Rick Curnutte: "With whip-smart writing, quirky characters (and actors) and a propulsive, addictingly playful aesthetic, The Land of College Prophets has the potential to be a sleeper cult film in the future. It's the greatest Alex Cox film that Alex Cox never made."

Manderlay Steve Erickson: "As satire, Manderlay hits home in a way that Dancer in the Dark and Dogville never did."

Crashcam Films: Very, very busy, up to all sorts of mischief, reports Marc Savlov. Also in the Austin Chronicle: Spencer Parsons previews the Austin Jewish Film Festival, January 21 through 27, and Raoul Hernandez reviews The Bad Sleep Well.

"I think in every season we've based our A-story - which is the main terrorist story - on plausible scenarios. But just because it's plausible doesn't make it probable." 24 writer Michael Loceff talks to James Surowiecki in Slate.

Grady Hendrix on The Promise: "Chen [Kaige]'s focused on is how things look, and they look gooood."

"Who knew?" At the Culture Blog, Amy Moon passes along an observation from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevius as to who's watching Brokeback Mountain. Related: James Wolcott on conservatives' reactions so far; Mark Steyn, via Jason Morehead; via Gabriel Shanks, Nell Minow in the Chicago Tribune on last year's most homophobic onscreen moments; and Patrick Macias: "This just in: American girls are mining the missing link between gay cowboys and fruity J-pop from the Johnny's jimsho."

101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men Trying to steer clear of the Oscars before they become unavoidable (all too soon now, I'm sure), but this is too good to pass up: David Kronke talks with Alonso Duralde, author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men, about, yes, the Oscars.

Adam Balz at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "The American Astronaut is an experiment in genre-bending. It's a western without any high-noon shootouts, a sci-fi work of art with musical numbers, a drama with exaggerated characters."

Peter Nellhaus: "[W]hile [Derek] Jarman made his film about his own country twenty years ago, The Last of England has resonance for contemporary American viewers."

Producer Ted Hope pitches 1000 Bloody Red Pieces of Sarah to Filmmaker.

Getting their kicks at Noir City: Natalija Vekic at Scene and Unseen and Sara Schieron at Filmshi.com.

Online browsing tip. Famous for 15mb. Via Screenhead.

Skidoo Online listening tip. Harry Nilsson's soundtrack for Otto Preminger's Skidoo at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger...

Online going-deep tip. The Tulse Luper Journey. Thanks, Ed.

Online viewing tip #1. Nathaniel Stern reworks Woody Allen at DVblog.

Online viewing tip #2. A teenaged Jodie Foster sings. Harmonizing with herself. In French. Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip #3. That UK Honda Civic ad; links gathered at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tips. "Top 65 Music Videos of 2005," a different batch from m3 online via Waxy.org.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:25 PM | Comments (4)

Docs, 1/20.

Why We Fight Why We Fight "stands out for its passion, ambition and clarion-call sincerity, even amid the contemporary onslaught of political documentaries," writes Andrew O'Hehir at Salon, leading into his interview with director Eugene Jarecki, who also talks to indieWIRE's Jason Guerrasio and is a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.

"Every documentary-maker today walking the planet at one point or another gets the question about Michael Moore," Jarecki tells The Reeler. But that's ok; Moore has "lifted all the boats," and besides: "There was just kind of a coincidence in the past couple of years, which is that right when the world was becoming far more complicated and the public was sensing that needed to understand it that much more clearly - right at that time, thanks to the forces of corporatism in media, there was a collapse of trust in the source we usually turn to."

Updates: 1/22.

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "[E]ven those of radical political persuasion might find it hard to accept Mr Jarecki's argument that American militarism is, underneath the talk about freedom and democracy, a simple question of dollars."

Why We Fight More in the Los Angeles Times from Susan King and Kevin Crust, who writes, "[T]he last 12 months have been full of revelations that generally add to the film's persuasiveness."

Cinematical's Karina Longworth finds it a "solid, classy film, but its Frontline-esque obsession with 'fairness' (the polar opposite of Fox News' cocksure 'Fair and Balanced' pretense) prevents Jarecki from producing anything particularly intellectually devastating."

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston and AC Thompson recommend After Innocence. More from Laura Barcella at Alternet, where Rory O'Conner writes, "If the lessons of Peru's State of Fear continue to go unheeded, we may all soon be living in the 'United States of Fear.'"

Cinematical's Kim Voynar interviews Rachel Grady, who made The Boys of Baraka with Heidi Ewing.

Update, 1/22: Michael Joshua Rowin in Stop Smiling: "Better now than never but still unable to shake a heavy feeling of inconsequentiality, Eugene Jarecki's documentary Why We Fight arrives one year after the beginning of George W Bush's second term to challenge the pretender-in-chief's foreign imperialism and provide historical context for the systemic militarism that has led to it."

More from Kevin Canfield at Nerve.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:43 PM

From Korea, 1/20.

Running Wild At Twitch, X translates highlights from Film 2.0's interview with Kim Sung-soo. Topic #1: Running Wild.

Paolo Bertolin interviews Cho Chang-ho, director of The Peter Pan Formula, for Koreanfilm.org.

Filmbrain: "With its sepia-toned nostalgic look, The President's Barber is certainly an interesting film, if only to witness director Lim [Chan-sang] unique look at the Park years. However, its awkward mixture of feel-good dramatics and miscalculated attempts at dark comedy result in a film that is neither biting satire nor emotionally involving drama."

Jason Morehead's glad Park Chan-wook will be moving on now: "Whereas Sympathy For Mr Vengeance spirals downwards into despair, drawing ever closer to a tragic conclusion, and Oldboy moves with a laser-like intensity, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance slowly meanders all over the place, with odd tonal shifts and plot turns that make sense but are completely nonsensical."

Brian Darr in San Francisco: "The fourth, and so far, biggest SF Korean-American Film Festival runs February 7 - 12 and will include a special focus on North Korea, including a rare screening of a film made there in 1972, The Flower Girl."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 PM | Comments (1)

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Nathan Rabin: "Like The Aristocrats, Looking succeeds smashingly both as a comedy and as a savvy deconstruction of comedy." Also in the AV Club: Scott Tobias interviews Albert Brooks, who also appears on Fresh Air and talks to Hollywood Bitchslap's Peter Sobczynski (his review).

The LA Weekly's Scott Foundas gets Brooks on the phone ("He is, others have suggested, the most hermitic director since Stanley Kubrick, who was himself said to be a Brooks aficionado."): "The movie's called Looking, not Finding. That's a big difference. It's never claimed in the title that a goal is going to be reached. You know, in the cartoon I did, it was Finding Nemo."

Cue AO Scott in the New York Times: "Mr Brooks likes to deprecate both himself and the work for hire he does in Hollywood, but the difference between Nemo and his own films may not be as great as he pretends."

Updates: 1/22.

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader: "His film is especially welcome now because it frankly admits that most Americans are ignorant about Muslims and have a lot to learn, in contrast with the few other Hollywood movies dealing with Muslims - Syriana, Munich - which seem to suggest that non-Muslim viewers can emerge knowing the score."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Veteran Brooks-watchers will be able to hear the secret melodies and appreciate the way he throws away even the throwaways."

Nope, counters the Oregonian's Mike Russell: "[I]t's hard to figure out who "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is supposed to entertain, much less enlighten."

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek finds the film "timid and unshaped." For the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Crust, it's "not Brooks' funniest film, but it possesses his trademark wry humor and is slyly observant."

Stephen Metcalf in Slate: "But, oh, this premise. It is every bit the albatross it sounds."

Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat: "Despite the title, this may be the safest film Brooks has ever done."

Updates, 1/22: Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect: "There's a way to critique myopia without being myopic, of course."

At World/Independent Film, Marcy Dermansky finds it "a genuine disappointment."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:10 PM | Comments (2)

The New New World.

The New World FX Feeney in the LA Weekly: "Speaking as one who feels Terrence Malick's latest was not just the best film of last year, but one of the greatest I have ever seen, I didn't want him to cut so much as a frame from the version that opened in limited release over Christmas. Happily - if strangely - the new, leaner version, opening nationwide on Friday, is not merely a 'shorter cut,' but a whole new draft of the film."

Max Goldberg disagrees in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The New World really is what it seems: a fascinating failure with brilliant flourishes weighing against strained seriousness and muddled lyricism." Kimberly Chun meets the film's star, Q'Orianka Kilcher, also profiled by John Harlow in the Times of London and interviewed by Cinematical's James Rocchi.

Updates: 1/22.

Via Movie City Indie, Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Malick uses cinema in a way no one else uses it, in a way that no one else has ever used it. Through elliptical and seemingly oblique methods, he forges moments of staggering emotional power."

For the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, even this edited version is "the first necessary film of this young year." More praise from Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times and Anhoni Patel at Scene and Unseen.

Update: Jeffrey Overstreet in Christianity Today: "Ultimately, The New World defines true love as something more than desire, nostalgia, or sexual chemistry. It boldly condones a higher love characterized by selflessness and fidelity, love that shelters, protects, honors, and heals."

Update, 1/21: Dana Stevens in Slate: "It makes sense that Malick never finished his thesis in philosophy at Oxford. In a way, he's still writing it, using his films as scratchpads to work through questions like the one John Smith poses to himself, early in the film: 'What voice is this that speaks within me, guides me toward the best?'"

Update, 1/22: Peter T Chattaway for Canadian Christianity and Joshua Gibson at Fagistan.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:02 PM

Park City. Elsewhere, 1/20.

Sundance, Slamdance and all the other hoopla going on in Park City give us all a breather between the Globes and Oscars to, as Manohla Dargis puts it, "partake in that collective fiction known as the American independent film movement." The crux of her tone-perfect preview of the festival that's become "wildly annoying, but invaluable": "The [studios'] special divisions have been good for American mainstream cinema, but they seem to have been murder on the little guys."

Also in the New York Times: Lorne Manly tells the story behind Awesome! I Fuckin' Shot That!, the Beastie Boys movie shot by 50 fans screening Saturday night at Sundance.

Ok, the online hubs to keep an eye on throughout the fest (besides this one, of course):

The Ground Truth

John Horn: "It's considered the Sundance Film Festival's ticket to stardom. But for any number of its past winners, nabbing the festival's Grand Jury Prize has been more like a kiss of death." Also, Stephen K Wagner interviews festival director Geoff Gilmore.

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Tina Daunt on An Inconvenient Truth, a doc capturing Al Gore's views on global warming, and Kenneth Turan's preview: "The festival invariably ends up both better and worse than anyone anticipated."

Moonshine Anthony Breznican previews ten films screening at Sundance for USA Today. One of them is Moonshine, which has a total budget of "$9,200, including the cost of a Panasonic camera, a PowerBook G4 and website hosting," reports Jason Silverman at Wired News. At Sundance, "a total of 90 movies - including Moonshine and 24 of the 32 works in the Independent Film Competition - will be projected digitally. That's double the number in 2004."

Denis Seguin previews Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated for the Times of London.

Amazon is using the fest as a launching pad of sorts for its foray into online TV, Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher. The AP's Allison Linn reports: "The company plans to record the first show at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, with guests including authors Stephen King and Armistead Maupin, musician Rob Thomas and actress Toni Collette. It will then preview tidbits of that show beginning Tuesday and leading up to the June 1 launch."

For those of us who can't make it to Park City, MaryAnn Johanson suggests a few ways to throw yourself a DIY Sundance: "Don't forget to overcharge yourself for snacks, and consider hiring some hip neighborhood teenagers to come in and snub you."

Posted by dwhudson at 12:52 PM

SF Indie Fest. Lineup.

SF Indie Fest Via Todd at Twitch comes news that the SF Indie Fest (February 2 through 14) has announced its full lineup. Once again, the site is excellent. Select a film title - Filmic Achievement, for example - and just look: Necessary info right at the top, link to the official site, description, and along the side, links to all the other films. Bravo.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:12 AM

Berlinale. Forum, Perspektive, Retrospective.

Berlinale Two more announcements from the Berlinale today. The program for the Forum is complete: 40 films, 21 of them world premieres and 15 of them debuts. 40 is too many to list and link here, but among the filmmakers represented are Chantal Akerman, James Benning, Fujiwara Toshi, Amos Gitai, Cho Chang-ho and on and on.

Also complete is the program for the Perspektive Deutsches Kino and special events for the Retrospective have been announced as well. One stands out. A newly restored version of Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael will be screened at the Volksbühne on February 11, accompanied by music from ensembleKONTRASTE under the direction of Pierre Oser.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:00 AM

January 19, 2006

Park City Dispatch. 1.

Between David D'Arcy and Jonathan Marlow, along Hannah Eaves following the fate of Iraq in Fragments, we should be posting dispatches from Park City just about every day through the festivities. Today, David D'Arcy previews several of the films he's caught so far.

Sundance 06 The Sundance Film Festival has shown amazing staying power. Everything from the Soviet Union to Enron to Miramax has crumbled in the years since I started coming to Park City in January.

Sundance 2006 opens tonight with the comedy Friends with Money by Nicole Holofcener. And every year we're tempted to spot trends - all the more so since a growing number of marketers and studios are watching closely, not just for films, but for anything new that can be sold to the people watching those films.

Independence is not just an attitude (or lack of funds) that filmmakers bring to the making of a movie. It's now a set of preferences found in a certain kind of consumer who buys cars, clothes, computers, food (for humans and dogs), and snowboards. More about that in another installment.

It's too soon for me to suggest what trends are here (if anyone actually cared) so I'll just concentrate on subject matter.

Crossing Arizona

Politics. There are always politics at Sundance, partly because the position of independence presupposes that you have to be independent from something. This year films deal with Iraq, global warming, the complicated figure of Ralph Nader, racism in the courts, the Middle East and corporate power. Panels will surely fill in any gaps. The issue that strikes me as important and different this year is the border between Mexico and the US and the way in which the border has become the locus for our concerns about the much-deplored growing business of human trafficking, but also about crime, drugs, security and the "invasion" that threatens to transform the United States into a country that's not necessarily white and doesn't necessarily speak English. (Take the example of Park City. Everyone serving you in a low-wage job speaks Spanish.) In Crossing Arizona, Joseph Matthew tries to take the complex issue apart - character by character. It's a start.

Sex. At Sundance there always seems to be a quest for the New New Thing in sexual matter. This is the festival that brought us Sex: The Annabelle Chong Story, a portrait of the young woman who set the record for the number of sexual partners in a limited time period. I can't remember the details, but I can remember the lines of men who answered ads in the newspapers for a chance to be part of this historic event which has since been surpassed. Sundance also first screened Larry Clark's Kids, the grimly prophetic look at teenagers and sex. But these are films, and sex isn't just sex, it's performance. I'm looking forward to Destricted, in which different directors try their hands at pornography - from art world players like Matthew Barney and Sam Taylor-Wood to veterans like Larry Clark and Gaspar Noé who'll be mining old veins.

The Night Listener Gender. Not the same as sex, obviously. Look for The Night Listener, a collaboration between Armistead Maupin and Patrick Stettner about longing and deception. Robin Williams, always good, plays a writer for radio, just dropped by his lover, who's drawn to a young boy, a casualty of abuse. But does the boy really exist, or is this just another level of exploitation?  There's also Small Town Gay Bar, produced by Kevin Smith, a story of a bar in the woods of Mississippi near Tupelo that the evangelicals couldn't kill - at least not yet - although a young gay man's death becomes part of the story. In both cases, Williams and Smith helped get these films made, carrying on a tradition of older, more successful independents giving back to a newer generation.

Investigation. Two films catch my fancy. This Film Is Not Yet Rated penetrates the hidden recesses of the MPAA's rating process, and all the pompous child-saving rhetoric that we've endured over the years. Kirby Dick shows that there's no reason why solid investigative journalism can't be funny. When you see who's making these decisions, and you hear the decisions explained by these people, you can't do anything but laugh - or tear your hair out. Also look for Who Killed the Electric Car? Anyone who had a chance seemed to stick a knife into the dream (and the manufactured reality) of a car that could be used every day without causing pollution or making noise. Your corporate friends at work, and the political officials who could have made a difference.

Art. I'm told that the Sundance Film Festival Director Geoff Gilmore has said that films about art submitted to the festival have grown at an alarming rate. And why not? Artists are assumed to be complicated characters and, in a society that has lost respect for just about everyone else, they're still revered. They're also as hot as anything in fashion. The selection here is mixed - By the Ways, A Journey with William Eggleston, a French doc and another of many about the photographer who seems to have caught on hard and fast with independents, the afore-mentioned group-porn Destricted and What Remains, Steven Cantor's portrait of the photographer Sally Mann. There's also Terry Zwigoff's funny Art School Confidential, with a script by graphic novelist Dan Clowes, and The Giant Buddhas, a doc with inside footage of the demolition of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. There are sure to be new docs on the antiquities trade soon, giving the media frenzy now brewing over scandals at the Getty. They'll be lucky to get this kind of access. With so many films submitted and accepted, you have to wonder what they turned down.

There are some staples this year on the Sundance program. One welcome story that rarely worsens from wear is the investigation of the wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, wrongly imprisoned innocent man (although there have also been some women.) We all know that this story is as old as any story gets (remember Jesus Christ?), but in independent film it seems to have begun with The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris's spare emotionless reconstruction of a man's wrongful conviction and death sentence for murder.

The Trials of Darryl Hunt This year the "justice denied" film to watch is The Trials of Darryl Hunt, the chronicle of a black man's trial, conviction and imprisonment for the brutal rape and stabbing murder of a white woman journalist in Winston-Salem North Carolina in 1986.  Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say? Sure, but it reminds us of what seems to be the widening gap between justice and the justice system, and it has the kind of emotional hold on you that fiction aspires to and rarely reaches.

It's emotionally gripping because even though the genre seems to require redemption at the end - with either a live prisoner or a dead body honored for courage and fortitude - this documentary, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, is truly an extreme case. It's been a while since I've come across a case in which law enforcement from top to bottom has been so determined to keep a wrongly convicted man behind bars, and we never really learn why. Perhaps that's another film. But I suspect that it's far from the most extreme. There are plenty of cases that are worse.

There's a can-you-top-this element to the "justice denied" genre. You find yourself incredulous at the corruption and stupidity that seems routine in law enforcement. And then there's the next film takes it to a higher level. In The Trials of Darryl Hunt, the wronged man defies your expectations about the nature of a criminal and keeps defying those expectations at every stage of his mistreatment. Somehow I doubt that we're even being told all that may have happened to him in prison, where guards offered to bring skinheads drugs if they agreed to kill him.

Hunt, who we're told had no family, seems unnaturally calm and gentle, which the jury should have noticed before it put the then-teenager away on the testimony of a prostitute who was well known to have problems telling the difference between fantasy and reality. In this case, rather than line up the usual suspects, they lined up the usual witnesses. A television correspondent tells us that the prosecutor spoke so convincingly that she could have been persuaded of anything. To be fair, it was also the press at the local newspaper that finally brought the government's case down.

As the film moves along, the young defendant/prisoner has the serene grin of a Buddhist monk and the patience of Job, as his lawyers first talk tough, and then break down in tears when the system fails at every level. Is Hunt all there, you wonder. Is it fatalism, or serenity? At one point, when a DNA test shows that Hunt's semen was not in the dead woman's vagina, prosecutors suggest, improbably, that it must then have been in some other orifice. At another point, when a man in prison for another brutal attack in Winston-Salem at the time confesses to the crimes that Hunt is jailed for committing, prosecutors assume that the rape and murder must have been committed by a team that included Hunt. I found myself laughing at the absurdity. Yet the defense lawyers stick with him, knowing that they are his only hope.

I won't give away the ending, which you can surely guess. See it for yourself, and be aware that the reality of the justice system is not the OJ verdict, as shameful as that was, but the imprisonment of innocent men in the face of overwhelming evidence. And remember, too, that this is North Carolina - the real Mayberry. Yet it seems to happen everywhere.

One other film worth seeing: As injustices go, Thank You for Smoking takes a lighter tone, although by sheer coincidence the great city of Winston-Salem figures in this one, too. It's a capital of the tobacco industry, and the hero of this satire practices one of the most-hated of all professions - he's a tobacco lobbyist.

Thank You for Smoking If you've seen the trailers for this film, which seem to be playing everywhere, you know that it's about a lobbyist, which puts a fictional feature in an odd position, given the journalist glare on lobbying right now which could reach pretty close to the President. Normally, an issue is in the newspapers, and then a year later documentaries on that issue turn up at Sundance and at other film festivals. I'm sure that there are a dozens of teams trying to make the film about the evils of Jack Abramoff and the politicians that he and his cronies bribed. (For all I know, they've cleaned local stores out of black hats and trenchcoats for their re-enactment scenes.) I'll leave it to them to figure out how to keep any of those films down to feature length. How about an epic? The cast and the script should be no problem.

But here we're in a situation where the documentaries that I assume are being made are a year or so from being shown, and the feature, Thank You for Smoking is overtaken by events in the news. And when that happens, it's hard to compete with C-SPAN.

Jason Reitman, who directs his own script, can't be blamed for timing or for any other circumstances outside his control (now that really sounds like a lobbyist talking), and the film rings with more than laughs. There's lots of wry truth to it, starting with the volubly appealing frat snake of a protagonist who can smile his way through any kind of lie. He becomes the champion of kids with cancer, noting all the time that no direct link has been made between smoking and the disease. There's plenty of Orwellian double-speak here (although you can get that on the evening news for free) or it may be just that spin, which used to be called lying, has become such a fact of life that we analyze the techniques of spinning the same way we watch figure-skating, judging the argument as a performance rather than evaluating its elements of truth. Gun supporters become "Americans for Safety," or something like that, and a whiskey "institute" has another world-saving title.

There's more than a glimmer of the rogue Jack Abramoff in Nick Naylor, the rakish hero played by Aaron Eckhart. When a starlet of a journalist (Katie Holmes) whom he's slept with exposes his techniques and his unrepentant attitude toward them, he plays it for laughs at first, just like Abramoff used to imitate Marlon Brando in The Godfather. (I kept thinking, imagine what secrets Katie Holmes might get out of Tom Cruise when she sleeps with him.) As you'll see, our hero in Thank You for Smoking also had a glimmer of a conscience. We'll have to wait and see if Abramoff does.

One thing we know is that we'll be seeing more films about corruption in politics - the material is just too good to pass up - although I doubt that independents, because of their youth and inexperience, will be making the best ones. But that's a presumption, not a hard rule - give them a chance. There are plenty of stories. Corruption is the gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:25 AM | Comments (4)

Berlinale. Competition lineup, round 2.

Berlinale The Berlinale has announced 14 more Competition entries; add the nine announced in December, and that makes 23. Just three more to go before the program's complete. The new ones:

Romanzo Criminale

One more European note before spending much of the rest of the day watching the Sundance watchers. In Die Zeit (and in German), Katja Nicodemus and Thomas Assheuer have a long interview with Michael Haneke. A snippet:

Haneke: Austria - I don't know how it is in Germany - is nothing more than a cultural province of America. Volker Schlöndorff wrote in your pages: "In my day, everyone looked to France." France was the focal point. There was Sartre, Camus, the New Wave, and so on. When I was studying, you could turn on the TV after 10 pm and watch a film by Resnais or Bresson. Not anymore. In France, for example, there are DVDs of all the classics with subtitles. If you walk into a DVD store in Austria, you get nothing. There's no market for it. My students have never had the opportunity to be introduced to anything like this.

Zeit: Are you saying that the market is erasing cultural memory?

Haneke: Of course. It's comfortable. Memory is always uncomfortable because it entails effort.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:24 AM

January 18, 2006

GC article roundup. 3.

Since this is the third monthly roundup of articles that have recently appeared at the main site, this can now officially be called a regular feature (and here are roundups 1 and 2).

Munich Two interviews by David D'Arcy have appeared in the past few weeks, and his introductions are always as engaging as the conversations themselves. As Munich opened, David first considered the film and the critical reaction to it before talking with Avi Mograbi about his film, Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, making for an intriguing juxtaposition.

On a related note, by the way, Tony Kushner, quoted at length at the end of that piece, defends the screenplay he co-wrote with Eric Roth for Spielberg's feature in an interview with Peter von Becker of Der Tagesspiegel today; that's in German, of course, but signandsight has a crucial paragraph in English.

If you were wondering why David D'Arcy's Tirana dispatch was numbered "1" when a second never appeared, well, it did, actually. At the main site in the form of an interview with Fatmir Koçi, best known for his award-winning Tirana Year Zero.

Douglas Trumbull Two of our longest pieces in a while come from Sean Axmaker and Jonathan Marlow. Both interviewees have been working for decades and, while neither is known first and foremost as a director, both have directed unconventional and, in their own ways, unforgettable science fiction features. Odd, isn't it. Sean talks with special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbell (Silent Running and Brainstorm), Jonathan with LQ Jones (A Boy & His Dog).

And two seasoned writers each contributed their first piece for us around the turn of the new year: Heather Johnson talks with Judy Irving and Mark Bittner, the director and subject, respectively, of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill; and John Esther speaks with Emily Mortimer about her role in Woody Allen's Match Point.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:38 PM

Sight & Sound. 2/06.

A Bittersweet Life Tristram Shandy may be touted on the cover of the new issue of Sight & Sound, but online, the focus is clearly on Korean cinema. Grady Hendrix opens things up by addressing Western pre- and misconceptions:

The problem is that we've mistaken a discussion about violence for its glorification; we've stepped into the middle of a long-running conversation and thrown in our two cents with no idea of what was said before we entered the room. Korean movies do play rougher than we're used to, but what Park Chan-wook and Kim Ki-duk's recent films represent is only the latest collision between Korean cinema's class-consciousness, anti-authoritarian impulses and a long-standing taste for melodrama.

Speaking of Park, Ali Jaafar speaks to him. Briefly. About the trilogy. And James Bell has a shortish talk with Kim Jee-woon about A Bittersweet Life.

"So the spectator is both subjected to [Michael] Haneke's film and asked to take responsibility for it: he or she is at once the victim of the film and the guilty party." Catherine Wheatley on Caché.


Sight & Sound: February 06

Posted by dwhudson at 2:15 AM | Comments (4)

January 17, 2006

Shorts, 1/17.

Le monde vivant "The wondrously weird creatures who inhabit the films of French director Eugéne Green don't hail from earth as we know it," writes David Ng in the Village Voice. "They're the haloed offspring of two distinct but overlapping realms, the tangibly modern and the deliciously sublime. With three features and a short film, Green has staked out a small but fertile cinematic fiefdom where the spirits of Bresson and Ozu mingle with the eclectic likes of Monteverdi, the New Testament, and the Gap." A series runs at the Anthology Film Archives January 20 through 29.

Another filmmaker, another series (this one at the IFC Center, January 20 through 26), another assessment: Michael Atkinson on Lars von Trier. Also, Joshua Land on How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), a doc on "a remarkable life": Melvin Van Peebles.

Larry Doyle's pitch:

It's about more than an alien invasion, or a big dance contest, although if you're a fan of invading aliens or professional choreography you won't be disappointed. It's also a love story, born of deep space and lived on a underwater dance floor; and it;s about the characters: the hero, the babe, the bad guy, the black guy, the guy who was funny when he was on SNL, and others. More than anything, though, it's about freedom - the idea of freedom, as opposed to any specific exercise of it - and liberty, which is a different word than 'liberal,' and about the special effects, which are more special than ever before, and Crest Whitestrips, which - SPOILER ALERT - save humanity.

Also in the New Yorker: David Denby on Go for Zucker and Why We Fight. More on Zucker from J Hoberman in the Village Voice: "[Director Dani] Levy's project to restore a Jewish dimension to German culture is extremely circumspect in addressing that culture."

Why We Fight More on Why We Fight: Rob Nelson interviews director Eugene Jarecki for the Voice. Good question: "The film argues that the forces now at play in Iraq aren't a few years old or 15, but 50 or 60. Why is that perspective so rare even among progressives in the US?" Hoberman: "Jarecki's film forcefully argues that the much abused word freedom cannot paper over the conflicts between capitalism and democracy." And more from the Reverse Shot team at indieWIRE and Nick Schager at Slant.

David Edelstein's first review in New York begins: "In Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, Albert Brooks makes his alter ego ('Albert Brooks') the butt of every joke, which generates big laughs and progressively smaller returns." Related: "Woody Allen may bestride the world like a colossus, but - the brilliance of Real Life, Modern Romance, and Lost in America notwithstanding - not even the French have shown any interest in Albert Brooks." Why, wonders J Hoberman, before hazarding a guess. Meanwhile, Daniel Robert Epstein interviews Brooks for SuicideGirls.

"On a trip back to Senegal, Sembène was struck by or reminded of the high levels of illiteracy. This convinced him to turn to film rather than literature as a means of communicating with wide layers of the population." At WSWS, Joanne Laurier recounts Ousmane Sembène's story before turning to the 1963 short film, Borom Sarret and the 1966 feature, Black Girl.

Austin Film Society Richard Linklater on the 20th anniversary of the Austin Film Society in indieWIRE: "Looking back over 20 years, I can say I now feel we were meant to be.... Like in so many areas of life, once you remove the profit motive and just want to make something cool happen because life would simply be better or more fun, it's amazing what you can do and who will jump in and help you do it." More (plus pix) from Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar interviews Favela Rising directors Matt Mochary and Jim Zimbalist.

Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated is set to premiere at Sundance and David M Halbfinger has quite a background story on the detective work behind the project, even as he writes, "Mr Dick's one-sided smackdown of a movie wallops the ratings board - the brainchild of Jack Valenti, the longtime head of the Motion Picture Association - every which way but evenhandedly."

Also in the New York Times:

Stormy Weather

"For decades, the Gray Lady eschewed celebrity and the movie biz (very different from film culture)." No more, reports Steven Zeitchik in Variety: "As circulation has begun to tilt toward a national readership, arts coverage also has shifted toward celebrity and pop-culture stories that play outside media power centers."

In Fanzine, a personal take on all three Kongs from Benjamin Strong; you may be surprised by which of the three means the most to him.

Accidental Genius David Thomson has two new pieces in the Independent and one in the NYT. In the first, he revisits HUAC as a way to introduce a recommendation: "To see Force of Evil today is like a cold shower. You can hardly believe the perilous lucidity that is unfolding." In the second, he evaluates the current crop of young male actors. For the NYT Book Review, Thomson writes, "Marshall Fine's Accidental Genius is, really, the first full life of Cassavetes, who died in 1989 at 59 and who is easily offered as a kind of godfather to the independent film movement in America." After an evidently disappointing beginning, "as soon as we get to Shadows, this book jumps to life."

Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic:

Whatever else can be said about it, Schindler's List is masterfully directed. Every scene, every shot has been conceived with an almost angry simplicity, with a passion for truth that discards both the trite and the clever. I know few other films - and I'm remembering Bergman and Bresson and Antonioni, among others - that more authentically elevate form to the level of content. The very making of Schindler's List incises its subject powerfully.

This is woefully untrue of Munich.

Yossi Melman and Steven Hartov, a reporter for Ha'aretz specializing in Israeli intelligence and the editor-in-chief of the Special Operations Report, respectively, have a different concern: "[W]hat we find disturbing is that it is substantially a fiction - which, given Hollywood's influence, may soon be regarded as a definitive account.... [Spielberg's] conduct in this case resembles that of a cub journalist who chooses to run a great story rather than confuse us with the facts."

Also in the Guardian, Jonathan Gibbs: "There must be a novel, somewhere, mustn't there, that is truly unfilmable?... I nominate as the ultimate unfilmable novel the final part of Beckett's Trilogy: The Unnamed." And Lisa Allardice interviews Sam West.

Jürgen Fauth: "Factotum is hilarious, sobering, and inspiring, often at the same time."

Richard Corliss in Time: "Bubble is, in a few ways, Soderbergh's most radical and invigorating experiment yet."

The cinetrix on Mutual Appreciation: "It continues to astonish me how Andrew manages to capture these moments as he lives them. I suspect it stems from his genuine affection for the friends he casts. That may be why there are no traditional villains in his films - Bujalski's eyes and ears are finely attuned to the ardor and self-destructive urges in everyone."

Judith Mayne: Claire Denis Acquarello reviews Judith Mayne's Claire Denis.

Grady Hendrix has news of the next feature from Gu Changwei, whose Peacock "was one of the oddest and best movies of 2005." Also: "Zinda [that Bollywood remake of Oldboy, you may remember] was sufficient punishment for any sins I may have committed in a previous life."

At Twitch, The Gomorrahizer has a bit on each of the three projects Takashi Miike's working on.

The Voice's brief reviews and "Tracking Shots": Matt Singer on Last Holiday and Glory Road; Pete L'Official on Tristan & Isolde; Mark Holcomb on End of the Spear; R Emmet Sweeney on 24 Hours on Craigslist; Ben Kenigsberg on Pizza and Drew Tillman on The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyyam.

At MCN, Gary Dretzka looks over the plethora of new ways to watch stuff.

In Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explains the economics behind "the starlet's dilemma in babeland."

The Fall of Fujimori Online listening tip #1. Pamela Yates, director of State of Fear, and Ellen Perry, director of Fall of Fujimori, on the Leonard Lopate Show. Reviews: Michael Atkinson in the Voice.

Online listening tip #2. Steve Coogan on Fresh Air.

Online connect-the-dots tip. Hitchcock, Zizek and Iran at Subject Barred. Via k-punk.

Online browsing tip. At Cinematical, Adam Finley collects links to four blogs run by DreamWorks animators.

Online browsing, listening and viewing tip. WFMU lists the latest additions to UbuWeb.

Online viewing tip. The trailer for Idlewild, the Outkast movie, via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tips. Video for the Heavy Ammunition Project. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, where Mark Frauenfelder points to Cartoon Modern - because Amid Amidi is featuring the work of Victor Haboush all week long.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:44 PM

Towards Sundance.

Salvage With half a dozen profiles of New Yorkish films and filmmakers heading to Sundance, all gathered conveniently at one address, The Reeler previews Salvage, Half Nelson, Flannel Pajamas, Hold-Up, Man Push Cart and American Hardcore. Update: The Reeler talks with Hilary Brougher (Stephanie Daley).

Logan Hill looks ahead two more features in New York. "Every year at Sundance, there’s at least one racy sex film. This year, you get seven for the price of one in Destricted." The filmmakers: Matthew Barney, Gaspar Noé, Larry Clark, Richard Prince, Sam Taylor Wood and Marina Abramovic.

And: "[W]hat makes James Longley's Iraq in Fragments so powerful - and why it's likely to be one of the most-heralded films at Sundance - is that he spent enough time there for unpredictable ideas to incubate and shot enough footage to explore them." More from Hannah Eaves.

More filmmaker interviews to catch up with at indieWIRE: Christian Frei (The Giant Buddhas), Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) and Jocelyne Saab (Kiss Me Not on the Eyes).

Cyndi Greening is gearing up fast for the fest.

The Salt Lake Tribune launches a special Sundance section. Via Anne Thompson.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:56 AM

Fests and events, 1/17.

Kino wie noch nie Kino wie noch nie is an exhibition "to be perceived as a cinematographic laboratory" at the Generali Foundation in Vienna from January 20 through April 23.

The Berlinale unveils this year's International Jury. With Charlotte Rampling presiding, the other jurors are American artist Matthew Barney (IFC will be distributing Drawing Restraint 9, notes Cinematical's Martha Fischer), Indian producer Yash Chopra, Dutch director Marleen Gorris, Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Korean actress Lee Young-ae, German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl and American producer Fred Roos. Related: Cineuropa reports on the third Berlinale Co-Production Market.

Transmediale06 has announced its Film & Video Program, which runs February 3 through 7 in Berlin, though the Exhibition will remain open through March 19.

The Blowin' Up a Spot Film Festival, "showcasing women of various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds," runs in Austin from April 27 through 30.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:31 AM

Lists, 1/17.

Election The Hong Kong Film Critics Society has named Johnnie To's Election the best film of 2005, reports the Guardian.

At Cinemarati, Campaspe (who has an excellent entry on Luise Rainer at Self-Styled Siren) passes along a challenge: "Pick ten films (and only ten) that you could use to explain the USA to a foreigner who has never been here." Update: Flickhead's list.

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Scott Weinberg has more than just one top ten: "I thought it'd be fun to go the extra mile and bang out nine more lists, partially because I love to write, but mainly because I'm what you call a Pathetic Movie Geek."

Jeffrey M Anderson selects "ten best unheralded productions of 2005" at Mindjack.

Movie City News has the list of the Online Film Critics Society's awards.

Tim Lucas: "The much-anticipated ballot for the Fourth Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards - recognizing outstanding achievement in genre film, video, and journalism during 2005 - is now posted on the Rondo website."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:05 AM


Golden Globe By now, you've heard the names of the big winners of Golden Globe Awards; the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has the full list, naturally, and a numbers breakdown.

The Los Angeles Times is, of course, very excited, placing a big box showcasing its coverage - which is fairly massive - at The Envelope front and center on its homepage.

The Carpetbagger, spotted in Jeffrey Wells's string of impressions and photos, went celeb-spotting and quips away for the New York Times. Sharon Waxman handles the straight-up story, Cathy Horyn ogles the dresses, Alessandra Stanley rates the show as it played on TV and there are two slide shows: 1, 2.

More reportage from Gregg Kilday in the Hollywood Reporter.

The Guardian's Xan Brooks reminds us that "the relationship between the Globes and the Oscars is not quite as simple as it first appears."

So. With all that out of the way, the other stuff: "Did they get that party started right or what?!? Don't answer that." Josh Horowitz posts the lyrics of show's opening tune.

Cinematical staged a virtual party; if you skipped the show or want to relive all the thrills and spills, only this time with running textual commentary, Karina Longworth has gathered all that live blogging into one link pileup.

One joke was pretty good, thinks Jim Emerson at rogerebert.com; two, though, were especially awful.

George Clooney's comments give Alternet's Evan Derkacz hope for the Oscars.

Updates: Edward Copeland; Troy Patterson at Slate; Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog; Anne Thompson at her Risky Biz Blog; and Gabriel Shanks links to a few more spots where live-blogging was going on.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:35 AM

January 15, 2006

Long weekend shorts.

Melvin Van Peebles From January 20 through 26, Film Forum films by and about or in the general neighborhood of Melvin Van Peebles, a fine reason for a fine piece from Greg Tate in the Village Voice: "He continues to be the indomitable, upbeat, energetic workaholic he's always been.... This is especially the case with the new film, a project for which he's yet again done the unthinkable and recorded his audio track first - sound, narration, music, dialogue, the whole megillah - without an investor in sight."

Doug Cummings favorite catch at the Palm Springs International Film Festival this year so far is Alicia Scherson's "magnificent debut film about love and loss in contemporary Santiago," Play.

"As well as providing an extremely rare chance to revisit an example of portmanteau filmmaking that engaged the talents of the directors Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, Alain Resnais, Claude Lelouch and Chris Marker, the Dutch-born documentarist Joris Ivens and the American photographer William Klein, [Loin du Viêt-Nam] offers a reminder of how muted the opposition to the present war in Iraq has been, by comparison with the chorus of anger that eventually helped to undermine the American government's belligerence," writes Richard Williams.

Also in the Guardian:

Museum of Cinema

Munich "I was on the Observer during the later 1960s, as our senior writers vainly warned the West that Palestinian suffering and desperation would become a spreading cancer," writes Neal Ascherson, who does express some frustration with Munich, but: "It's in pride and love that, through this film, [Spielberg] asks what has become of that ancient Israel which invented righteousness and reverence for law and how long a nation can survive which believes it must take because nothing will be given."

Also, Mark Kermode on Capote and In Cold Blood, on journalistic irresponsibility and the horrific banality of most serial killers. And Nick Greenslade reviews Altman on Altman: "The difficulty facing David Thompson in his interviews with Robert Altman is that the Hollywood director's films are notoriously hard to categorize."

In the wake of a screening of Sátántangó, Waggish scopes out a spot for Béla Tarr: "Tarr is too often compared to Tarkovsky, when the two are almost polar opposites, and not just in their view of humanity.... There is a bit of Bresson in the tableaux, but the influence of (late) Carl Dreyer is more apparent in their lack of flash.... But the decentralization of the people from these scenes comes from another source entirely: Antonioni." Via Zach Campbell.

One of the reasons movies are longer these days, suggests Dave Kehr, is the ease with which editing digitally makes it possible to drop all sorts of shots into scenes: "Paradoxically, an increased running time seems to require an increased agitation within scenes - a barrage of often pointless shots that exist, not to convey information, but to physically stimulate the spectator's nerve endings - producing violent, exaggerated rhythms, serving up a psychedelic flood of colors and textures that are often optically exciting but intellectually and emotionally vacant."

Samurai Champloo Mike Hale assures New York Times readers that some anime series are actually pretty good. And Charles Solomon scans Twitch readers' reactions to the news that Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, will be directing Studio Ghibli's adaptation of Ursula K LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea.

Also: To accompany an awards season slide show depicting Ralph Fiennes wearing his trousers rolled (but not necessarily growing old), Lynn Hirschberg talks to the actor about clothes.

Sundance interviews to catch up with at indieWIRE: Andrucha Waddington (The House of Sand) and Joseph Mathew (Crossing Arizona).

Christopher Campbell at Cinematical: "It took me three invites over a few months before I decided to attend a screening for On the Outs, mainly because I expected a cheap, badly acted and preachy little film, and then I only went because it was feeling like a squeaky wheel sounds. Well, it got my oil in the form of respect and praise. Hopefully you won't need me to tell you three times to see it."

Nathan Kosub in Stop Smiling on 2046: "Wong's picture is the perfect counterpoint to Linklater's [Before Sunset]: no two directors so clearly differentiate memory from time, time from memory."

The Matador Ray Pride's roundup at Movie City News: "Match Point, Munich, Caché, Innocence, Runin, and conversations with Marc Levin about The Protocols of Zion and Richard Shepard about the giddy, profane Matador."

Mike Russell: "Okay. So The Matador doesn't work. But I'm actually embarrassed for Hoodwinked."

For Jeffrey Wells, Down to the Bone is "a profoundly honed and life-like low-budgeter about a mom with two kids coping with drug addiction, and Vera Farmiga, who plays this withered young woman like she's not playing her at all, is the absolute shit."

Berlinale press release: "The first films in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino programme are a surprise package of recent German cinema: they include Franka Potente's directorial debut, a silent film, road movies and melodramas taken straight from life, and a documentary film about a distant world that is still so near."

"Despite studio attempts to prevent leaks online this year, and the threat of jail time and steep fines for movie pirates, at least four screeners are on file-sharing networks already." In Slate, Xeni Jardin reveals how those who leaked them might be caught - even though some 'xperts believe the studios still might have trouble arguing a case against them. For accompanying images, see Boing Boing.

McSweeney's 11 "What happens when theory finds itself outwitted by cultural objects themselves?" asks Nick Rombes. "McSweeney's, no 11 (2003; edited by Dave Eggers) includes a DVD whose contents are made up entirely of deleted, extra-deleted, behind the scenes of deleted scenes, and outtakes from the deleted scenes..." For PopMatters, Roger Holland reviews the latest DVDs aimed at kids.

New York's Pioneer Theater might get a bit rowdy next month. Andrew WK will present Andrew WK: Who Knows? on February 3 and 4 and Malcolm McDowell will present Evilenko on February 6.

Online listening tip #1. Werner Herzog is a guest on Fresh Air. Related: Vince Keenan, who found Grizzly Man "the most dense film I've seen in ages," would disapprove, but all the kids are clicking it, so you can't be left in the dark: Grizzly Bear Man, a spoof from Travis and Jonathan.

Online listening tips #2 and #3. On DVD Talk Radio, Geoffrey Kleinman talks with Alex Gibney, director of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Craig Brewer, director of Hustle & Flow.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:12 AM

Bloggish, 1/15.

IndieWIRE has launched a Park City blog, where filmmakers with works screening at Sundance and, hopefully, Slamdance, too, will be checking in. So far, there are nine confirmed contributors.

Sujewa Ekanayake has fired up yet another blog, this one called Art Indie Film Venues USA, where he'll be tracking screenings of true indies coast to coast.

Greenbriar: Phantom

And then there's this incredible online browsing, lingering, let's-get-lost tip from Sean Spillane at Bitter Cinema, just perfect for a long weekend: Greenbriar Picture Shows, "a wonderful new blog that specializes in presenting publicity stills, art and press books." John McElwee calls it "A Site Dedicated to the Great Days of Movie Exhibition." Now more than ever.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:38 AM | Comments (2)

Adaptations, 1/15.

Elementarteilchen Via Todd at Twitch: Europeanfilms.net is hosting the trailer for Elementarteilchen, Oskar Roehler's adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles with Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu and a host of other German stars, set to premiere in competition at the Berlinale.

There's a possible sneak peek at the screenplay for Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, an adaptation of Christopher Priest's novel with Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and David Bowie, at AICN. Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical.

So far, James Ellroy is very pleased indeed with Brian De Palma's adaptation of his novel, The Black Dahlia, reports Matt Zoller Seitz.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:10 AM

January 14, 2006

Shelley Winters, 1920 - 2006.

Life: Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters, who once described her life as a 'rocky road out of the Brooklyn ghetto to one New York apartment, two Oscars, three California houses, four hit plays, five Impressionist paintings, six mink coats and 99 films,' died yesterday. She was 83, although some sources says she was 85.


Tough-talking and oozing sex appeal, Ms Winters was blowzy, vulgar and often pathetically vulnerable in her early films. In movie after movie, she played working-class women who were violently discarded by men who had used them.... Even when she became the dominating force in many of her later movies, Ms Winters often played vulnerable monsters.... Off screen Ms Winters lived with an equal gusto.

Aljean Harmetz in the New York Times.

Updates through 1/17 below.

[W]hat first comes to my mind is the part she played in Pete's Dragon. That was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theatre. I loved it.... Man, she was a nasty piece of work in that movie.

Jeffrey Overstreet.

For some strange reason [her star in Hollywood is] on Vine Street, with Charles Laughton and Melvyn Douglas. I think all the liberal Democrats are on Vine Street. I think the Chamber of Commerce... (laughs) they put us on Vine Street.


99 percent is doing work you love. That's 99 percent of life. The people who can make a living doing what they love are indeed the fortunate of the earth.

Shelley Winters, interviewed by Harry Governick in September, 1992.

Updates: Edward Copeland and Josh R remember notable performances.

And it's good to hear that voice again in Allison Keyes's report for NPR.

Update: Campaspe: "She was an utterly fearless actress... They tried to turn her into a glamor girl, and she didn't give a damn. She wanted to act."

Updates, 1/17: Guy Flatley's 1971 interview and Veronica Horwell in the Guardian.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

Weekend lists.

The Cinemarati countdown is complete. Along with ten best performances and ten best directors, the Cinemarati have put Good Night, and Good Luck at #3 (MaryAnn Johanson explains), A History of Violence at #2 (Brian Darr explains; shimes dissents) and, at #1: Brokeback Mountain.

Brokeback Mountain

Bryant Frazer explains: "It's simply expert, big-hearted filmmaking in the grand tradition." Nick Davis dissents: "Audiences are invited at every turn to project a depth of passion and tragic romance that [Ang] Lee simply never substantiates."

Another list at Hollywood Bitchslap: Greg Ursic's annotated ten is in alphabetical order. Also: Chris Parry talks to Brian Raftery, who's written up Giant Magazine's list of the 50 greatest soundtracks of all time.

Updates: Matt Clayfield: "Unable to come up with any original ideas of my own, I'm stealing this one from Acquarello, whose recent pillow list of one hundred titles, 'like a pillow book entry, describes a temporal point of convergence - the films that are meaningful to me at this juncture - each a memory, a mnemonic, a biography, a resonance... to be taken with a grain of salt.' The same applies to my list."

"Chiming in a few weeks late on some favorite films of last year": Wendy Mitchell.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:56 AM

LAT. Sneaks 2006.

Superman Returns While the New York Times takes one last long look back at 2005, the Los Angeles Times looks ahead to the year already underway. If you've really got a lot of time on your hands this long weekend, you can click through 51 photos in the gallery; other might want to head straight for the 18 shots from the Australian set of Superman Returns, most likely taken when Geoff Boucher was there nabbing quotes for his long piece on the summer hopeful.

After noting that Sony has high, high hopes for The Da Vinci Code, Elena Howe and John Horn list the "plenty of other white-hot movies headed to screens this year." That opens things up for the big annotated lists of 2006 releases sorted by genre: comedy, animation, horror, drama, documentary, thriller, musical, action and adventure.

Elena Howe presents "a look at the genesis of some of the sequels planned for the year," that is, how the original scored at the box office and the logic behind giving it another go.

Susan King is busy in this edition, offering summaries of what we might expect from A Scanner Darkly, The Break Up, Poseidon and Cars, while Elaine Dutka does the same for Eight Below.

Bryce Dallas Howard has three movies coming out this year, so Mimi Avins meets her, presumably over a cup of tea.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:11 AM

NYT. Red Carpet.

The Carpetbagger suddenly has a lot of company as the New York Times runs another walloping weekend package, this one geared toward the Oscars. One nifty idea brings out the best in each of the paper's three critics as they write up "The Unforgettable Moment."

A History of Violence

Also in the NYT this weekend:


Corpse Bride

Meanwhile, in the Book Review (where you'll also find Terrence Rafferty on Julian Barnes's Arthur & George), Scott reviews Louis Sachar's Small Steps, a "follow-up and partial sequel to Holes."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:16 AM

January 13, 2006

Shorts, 1/13.

res: A Scanner Darkly The RES newsletter teases, promising that the January/February issue, out next week, will tell the story of the making of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly.

The January issue of fps, the "Magazine of Animation," is available now, though, which is to say, the handsome preview is free and you may well be tempted to splurge all of 99 cents for the full issue in all its PDF splendor.

Doug Cummings reviews four more films he's seen in Palm Springs, including Richard Dembo's The House of Nina with Agnès Jaoui.

Sujewa Ekanayake has not only enjoyed The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah, he's also noted that Kelley Baker, the Angry Filmmaker, is touring the US and Europe and, inspired by recent events, written up a list of "4 films that were inspired by the war in Sri Lanka."

The Fountain For SuicideGirls, Daniel Robert Epstein interviews Kent Williams, who's illustrated (and somewhat adapted) Darren Aronofsky's screenplay for The Fountain.

Big fans of V for Vendetta: David Poland and Jeffrey Wells. Related: Peter Wilkinson in Rolling Stone on "The Mystery of Larry Wachowski," via Anne Thompson.

X at Twitch: "It took 11 years, but they're finally back: Director Zhang Yimou and Gong Li will work together again."

Zach Campbell: "Cinema has given us the world in a coffee cup (Godard) and an ashtray (Brakhage)."

"These will not be films 'about' something, but films that 'run into' something." The Bernadette Corporation's Pedestrian Cinema, via Greg Allen who assesses the results so far.

Michael Haneke "There's a reason [Michael] Haneke was named best director at Cannes, why Caché got a prominent slot in the most recent New York Film Festival, why at the end of 2005 various critics' groups and the European Film Awards cited Caché as the year's best picture," writes Stuart Klawans in the Nation. "There's also a reason to resist Caché - but to propose it, I'll need to conduct a quick review of Haneke's career."

Related: Benjamin Secher interviews Haneke. Also in the Telegraph: David Gritten visits Peter O'Toole on the set of Venus and Jasper Rees basks in the luxury of the Rex Cinema.

Woody Allen Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader: "Some critics are saying that Match Point is essentially a remake of Allen's 1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors. There's obviously some connection, but having just seen these movies back-to-back, I find the differences more striking than the similarities."

"Arab cinema has yet to acquire a strong sense of identity, both for itself and in the eyes of international audiences," writes Sheila Johnston, though that of course can be taken as a healthy sign of its diversity. Also in the Independent: Robert Sellers talks with Neil Jordan about Breakfast on Pluto.

Jonathan Freedland on Munich: "[L]ook, it says, Israel is not some brute military power, but a country of real, morally conflicted human beings. This is a contribution several doveish Israeli artists - like the novelists Amos Oz and David Grossman - have made to their country before: by revealing Israel's internal dissent, they show their nation in its best light."

Also in the Guardian: Hordes of British comedians are storming the screens, notes Jon Bentham, who wonders if that's a good thing. Relax: it is. And John Patterson looks back and sighs, "The world of the old Katharine Graham Washington Post, and of the New York Times in its Pentagon Papers glory years, is gone forever... Back in 1976, All the President's Men was a eulogy for something that was already passing away, while Network was showing us all the things to come."

Black Gold The indieWIRE Sundance interviews roll on: Nick Francis on his and Marc Francis's Black Gold and Paul Fitzgerald on his Forgiven.

Signandsight translates the Gerhard Midding interview with Patrice Chéreau mentioned yesterday.

For the LA CityBeat's Andy Klein, After Innocence isn't particularly artsy, but it's effective. Also: Criterion's release of Shoot the Piano Player is "first-rate."

Movies are too damn long these days, complains Caryn James. To the reviews in the New York Times:

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye

Brilliant Korea is a series running at the ICA in London from January 20 through 31. Victoria James gets New Statesman readers in the mood.

Berlinale Programs for the Berlinale's Kinderfilmfest and 14plus are set. The site's also featuring an interview with section head Thomas Hailer.

Will the Twin Cities' only repertory theater shut down? Paul Demko looks into it at Culture to Go.

For Slate, Paul Boutin picks out the highlights of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Carroll Ballard will be on hand at the Balboa Theater in San Francisco for two afternoon showings of Duma tomorrow.

Online browsing and viewing tip. Vasulka.org. Via the DVblog.

Online listening tip. Mark Romanek's keynote address at Resfest in LA. Via Ben at the Whine Colored Sea.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:04 AM

Lists, 1/13.

"I'll admit to being drawn to the idea of a Sei Shônagon-styled pillow book as a means of capturing passing thoughts that would otherwise be lost." Acquarello lists one hundred "films that are meaningful to me at this juncture - each a memory, a mnemonic, a biography, a resonance."

Munich More than a list, Erik Childress's "Best and Worst of 2005" at Hollywood Bitchslap is a survey.

Critics of Central Ohio have spoken. Mark Pfeiffer's got the results.

At Gladsome Morning, John has what basically amounts to a top five. But "to compensate for the shorter list, I'd like to offer a list of older films I've seen for the first time, all of which surpass virtually everything new I've seen this year."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:15 AM

January 12, 2006

Shorts, 1/12.

Vue Weekly: Workingman's Death Michael Glawogger's Workingman's Death is subtitled Five Portraits of Work in the 21st Century. "Each episode comes with its own unique, vivid sense of place, of colour, sound and even of smell," writes Carolyn Nikodym, who calls Glawogger for Vue Weekly. He tells her he'll be expanding the Nigeria segment for the DVD, "And with this film, I have the feeling that people are astonished, sometimes, what the world looks like - that they think that I go to extremes. But what I show is not so extreme - the world looks like that a lot of the time. If that’s understood, then I would be happy."

In the new issue of Mute, Stewart Home defends Melvin Van Peebles seminal 1970 Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song from attacks from all quarters, including those close to, well, home: "There are, of course, purists who will bemoan the fact that the BFI are 'recuperating' revolutionary culture... I see the BFI attempting to absorb Sweetback into the institution of art as a progressive step from a proletarian perspective, since it results in the bourgeoisie having to address some of its own contradictions and limits."

Right at Your Door, premiering at Sundance, will present a grand scale catastrophe on a small budget. David M Halbfinger meets accomplished production designer and first-time director Chris Gorak: "In his bleak envisioning of a day in Los Angeles that begins like any other, bombs go off downtown, in Beverly Hills and at the airport; countless people are killed as toxic ash carrying a deadly virus falls like snowflakes; the air becomes unbreathable; thousands are driven from their homes; confusion and misinformation reign; and ordinary citizens are victimized not just by the unseen terrorists but also by their own overwhelmed and unprepared government."

Satantango Also in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis: "In [Béla Tarr's] Sátántangó, life is beautiful and grotesque by turns, and never less than mesmerizing." More from J Hoberman in the Village Voice: "Despair has never been more voluptuously precise. Sátántangó has cast its spell on cineastes as varied as the late Susan Sontag and the rejuvenated Gus Van Sant. If you have a day to devote to it, the same might happen to you."

And Jeannette Catsoulis: "Moving from the breathtaking beauty of the Peruvian Andes to the graceful sweep of coastal Lima, Pamela Yates's harrowing documentary State of Fear chronicles 20 years of terror, brutality and repression." More from Michael Atkinson in the Voice, Scott Tobias in the AV Club and Andrew O'Hehir in Salon.

At Alternet, Onnesha Roychoudhuri talks with Purpose Films co-founder Nick Bicanic about Shadow Company, a doc that explores the alarmingly rapid rise of private military contract employees (mercenaries, more or less) in contemporary warfare.

J Hoberman: "Revisited today, Billy Wilder's 1961 farce One, Two, Three is a Cold War poltergeist, rattling chains in the vanished spook house that was West Berlin." The film "celebrates as it satirizes American cultural imperialism."

Also in the Voice:

When the Sea Rises

"Watch your back around anyone who likes Woody Allen's Match Point," warns Armond White, reviewing it in the NYP right alongside with another murder movie: "Both films pander to simple-minded malevolence, but only Hostel is upfront about it." Related: Rogerebert.com editor Jim Emerson rounds up pro and anti reviews of Hostel. A bit more from Marc Holcomb in the Voice.

Filmbrain: "One of the darkest portraits of American suburban life in the post-WWII boom of the 1950s is Martin Ritt's all-but-forgotten No Down Payment (1957)."

What would you screen for Intro to Film classes, asks the cinetrix.

Sweet Smell of Success Another columnist debuts at PopMatters: Dante A Ciampaglia looks back at "one of the most acerbic [films] to ever come out of Hollywood," Sweet Smell of Success. It's also "one of the most noted films highlighted by filmmakers as being a primary influence on their work. Barry Levinson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Scorsese — they've all referenced or "quoted" the film in their efforts."

Also: Bill Gibron on what actor Giuseppe Andrews has been up to over the past few years: "In order to pass the time and explore his burgeoning interest in filmmaking, Andrews decided to get a camera and cast his fellow trailer park residents in a series of experimental narratives. The results have been nothing short of monumental, the kind of cinematic shockwave that is destined to be ignored by the current pop culture mindset, but praised a few decades from now."

David Poland maps Munich, "sequence by sequence... In the process of doing this, a lot of the detail work becomes clearer."

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price director Robert Greenwald at the Huffington Post: "You would think by now that Lee Scott, the $13-million-a-year failed CEO of Wal-Mart, would know better than to send confidential memos to his employees, many of whom are happy to share them with those fighting Wal-Mart." Via Craig Phillips.

This Divided State "deserves to be a part of the ongoing conversation about politics, popular culture, and polarization," writes Chuck Tryon.

Ed Champion: "I like the idea behind Wolphin, which involves collecting a good deal of film shorts and assorted narratives that don't really have a place outside of their initial small venues. But unfortunately, like almost anything that comes from the McSweeney's Empire, the DVD carries the uncomfortable stamp of films that are just too safe to be innovative." Speaking of, and via Eugene Hernandez, Chris McCoy: "A Selection from George W Bush's Eavesdropping Tapes: Matthew Barney and Björk Place an Ikea Phone Order."

Following Sean "Excerpted in Following Sean, [Ralph Arlyck's 1969 short, Sean] is still a remarkable document nearly 40 years later," writes Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "At the time it made even nonsquares worry about what would happen to the flower children's children when they grew up, and it's not hard to see why." More from Mark T at Scene and Unseen. Also, Glory Road.

Matthew Wilder: "Malick is the first artist in movies who has managed to translate Whitman's ecstasy - the bliss of connectedness to all creatures and things - into sound, music, and images." Also in the City Pages: Caroline Palmer on Ballets Russes, "an invaluable record."

Matt Clayfield: "For me, the film can be more or less situated on the same continuum as films like Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Virgin Suicides, and those of David Gordon Green - it's a slight, quotidian drama, almost fragile, almost breakable - only I don't like any of those films and yet adore Funny Ha Ha. What's the go?" More from John at Gladsome Morning.

The WSWS's David Walsh on Casanova: "The film has significance primarily because one feels that it encourages the audience's own opposition to present ills and injustices, as it laughs at their perpetrators."

Kirill Galetski in Screen Daily: "A solid piece of escapist entertainment, Day Watch, the sequel to Night Watch, again demonstrates how Russia is capable of making special effects-laden fare on a par with Hollywood productions."

Andrew O'Hehir in Salon: "On the Outs is an American moral fable, as familiar as the Horatio Alger stories or Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and our appetite for such tales of salvation and damnation is undiminished."

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Eric D Snider finds Film Geek "an agreeable, occasionally very funny low-budget movie."

Myra Hindley In the Independent, Anthony Barnes talks with Samantha Morton about her next role, "Moors Murderer" Myra Hindley.

Edward Douglas talks to Steven Soderbergh about Ocean's 13 ("Certainly, nobody's asking for this one. I just had another idea and went to everybody, and everybody said 'Fine'") and Che ("[W]e're just now starting to get close, I think, to having the script the way we want"). Via Chris Barsanti.

Martha Fischer: "When he finishes Zodiac (currently filming, with Jake Gyllenhaal) and Benjamin Button (currently in development) for Paramount, David Fincher will continue to hang around the studio, this time directing a screen version of Torso, a graphic novel that details Elliot Ness' post-Capone stint as Cleveland's public safety officer." Also at Cinematical, Karina Longworth's sneak peek at Sex and Death 101, evidently a new project from screenwriter Daniel Waters (Heathers).

Ralph Nader At indieWIRE, Henriette Mantel & Stephen Skrovan talk about their Sundance entry, An Unreasonable Man.

In the Guardian, Jeremy Kay talks with Robin Swicord about adapting Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha.

The Hollywood Reporter's Jeff Bond talks with John Williams who, this year alone, has scored Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, War of the Worlds, Memoirs of a Geisha and Munich.

In the Berliner Zeitung (and in German), Gerhard Midding has a brief talk with Patrice Chéreau about Joseph Conrad. Also via Perlentaucher: In Libération (and in French), Shoah director Claude Lanzmann argues that denying the Holocaust should indeed be a punishable crime.

"Hollywood's search for new mythologies now extends to the Indian subcontinent." Rachel Abramowitz reports in the Los Angeles Times on comics and TV series being cooked up by Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, Shekhar Kapur and Gotham Entertainment.

SF Weekly: The New Roxie "Over three decades, the Roxie has become a mythical institution within the San Francisco film scene," writes Ryan Blitstein in a cover story for the SF Weekly. "The Roxie's mounting debt is portrayed [in the local media] as a badge of honor, not an embarrassment, neglecting the true stories of dozens of struggling independent filmmakers and distributors who count themselves among the theater's horde of angry creditors." Now the New College of California is taking the theater over to run as a nonprofit, but Blitstein doesn't see much in that institutions record that guarantees this'll actually work.

Belinda Acosta calls up Rob Thomas, "creator of one of television's hottest cult dramas, Veronica Mars." Also in the Austin Chronicle, Kate X Messer: "Ultimately, Tab Hunter Confidential is itself a wink, a nod, and a middle-finger salute to the celebrity scandal rags of his heyday."

In the New York Observer, Nicole LaPorte profiles a new generation of managers: "Mostly in their late 20s and 30s, and mostly men, they fashion themselves as canny visionaries who've forsaken the slick polish and perma-grins of the agency world for a homegrown, back-porch approach to the representation business."

Mia Garlick at Creative Commons: "Bay Area Video Coalition, Independent Television Service and the Center for Social Media are hosting an event on Friday February 24, 2006 on the topic of 'What Fair Use Really Means For Independent Filmmakers.'"

Mark Favermann in the Boston Phoenix: "Over the next month, the MFA is presenting a series of nine films documenting the works of important 20th-century architects. Many of these architects are shaping the institutional landscape of Boston."

News from Korea, rerun at HanCinema: Yang Sung-jin on two action films with a social conscience, Running Wild and Holiday, and Park Chung-a on Korean actors running into trouble as they blog.

Back in Vue Weekly:

India Song

Online listening tip. Ed Champion talks to Chris Elliot.

Online zoning out tip. At Twitch, Todd calls it a "placeholder." Still: the site for Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves is up.

Online viewing tip #1. DVblog: "A beautiful remix of the Roundhay Garden Scene, one of the first films ever made, from the vlog Pouringdown."

Online viewing tip #2. Massive Sacha Baron Cohen collection at Look At This..., via Screenhead.

Online viewing tip #3. Current TV's star-studded Survival Guide. Via Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:29 PM

Altman's Honorary Oscar

Robert Altman The Academy (you know very well which one) has announced that Robert Altman will be receiving an honorary Oscar® to "be presented at the 78th Academy Awards® Presentation on March 5, 2006." As Cinematical's Martha Fischer puts it, "It's about damn time."

Edward Copeland agrees and follows up with a list of other potential honorees. Update: Edward Copeland's "Quick takes on Altman works." Nifty reminders.

Ray Pride presents convincing evidence that Altman's definitely the right choice.

The BBC notes that "Altman is one of four film-makers who have been nominated on five occasions but never picked up an award. The others are Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Clarence Brown and King Vidor."

The Carpetbagger recently visited the set of Prairie Home Companion, which see its North American premiere at SXSW in March: "As soon as a scene was set up and the actors were somewhere near their marks, Mr Altman would shout, 'Let's boogie,' and the film would roll."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:32 AM

Lists, 1/12.

Citizen Sarris Introducing his lists in the New York Observer, Andrew Sarris explains why he's, well, basically re-running last year's introduction to last year's lists.

Movie City News has the People's Choice award-winners, of course; David Poland's observations once again open the floodgates of commentary. And via MCN, Time's Richard Corliss on a few of 2005's great performances.

Dave Kehr comments on what actually goes on at these critics groups' voting sessions.

Collin Souter's best and worst at Hollywood Bitchslap.

At the Whine Colored Sea, Ben lists his "favorite 'old' films that I saw for the first time in 2005."

Picking up the Cinemarati countdown watch again with best first features and supporting performances and the big countdown itself: #6: King Kong (Vern explains) and #5: 2046 (lylee explains); #4: Capote (shimes explains; Filmbrain dissents).

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore lists her "favorite cinematic grand gestures, the ones that would look far sillier in real life but that, committed to celluloid, may well be the very thing film was made for."

Matt Zoller Seitz: Five death scenes "that really hit me." Comments ensue.

Walk the Line At least in terms of drawing a crowd, 2005 was a rotten year for women in front of the camera, realizes Sara Vilkomerson as she watches the comers and goers at the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony. Reese Witherspoon may be poised to become a box office draw, but:

Consider the other actresses receiving accolades this award season - Felicity Huffman from Transamerica, Woody Allen's latest muse, Match Point's Scarlett Johansson, A History of Violence's Maria Bello, Memoirs of a Geisha's Ziyi Zhang, Charlize Theron in North Country, perennial Oscar favorites Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench in Proof and Mrs Henderson Presents. The cumulative grosses of all those films, by the end of 2005, was $89,129,354.

Come on! The latest installment in the Harry Potter trilogy took in $101.4 million on its opening weekend alone.

What's more, "mainstream A-list actresses mostly landed with a resounding thud - or not at all - in 2005."

For the Independent, Sophie Morris selects the best period dramas on DVD.

Brian Darr: 20 films he'd like to see screen in the San Francisco Bay Area over the coming year.

Scott Tobias has seven suggestions for anyone looking to make a January flop.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:20 AM

LA Weekly. 0608.

LA Weekly It's not a special issue, but there's so much here, it calls for its own entry. First off, the LA Weekly gives Paul Cullum the space he needs to tell in full evocative detail the disturbing story behind screenwriter Eric Red's freak-out one night a few years ago. Two died and several were injured before Red, who wrote The Hitcher and Near Dark, slashed his own throat with a glass shard. Now he hopes to stage a comeback.

"[T]he loss of liberal self-confidence extends far beyond the Beltway," writes John Powers in the LA Weekly. "Nowhere is this clearer than at the movies, where you can feel liberal filmmakers struggling to find a response to 9/11, Bushism — with its marriage of corporate money to Christian moralizing — and the left's own lack of direction." Hence, his "Official 'On' Guide to the New Liberal Cinema — 2005." A few spoilers, and you won't agree with every word, but no holds are barred. Read it.

Robert Koehler: "All seven features in the UCLA Film and Television Archive's 16th Annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema (which begins Friday, January 13), as well as the strikingly contrasting pair of new Iranian films screening at REDCAT on January 30, were made before the ultra-religious former Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005 — a profound political step backward that already shows signs of ensuring a kind of cultural counterreformation by conservative Islamists, with cinema the most visible and convenient target. If Ahmadinejad has already banned Kenny G, can controversial filmmaker Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Crimson Gold) be far behind?"

Atash "Atash [Thirst] is an odd, grim film that won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award last year, was screened at Cannes, and also took first prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Its plot has gotten the young writer and director an enormous amount of flak." Nancy Updike meets Tawfik Abu Wael.

Margy Rochlin: "Ever since Jessica Sanders's After Innocence debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival, her documentary about the tough, post-prison lives of seven wrongly incarcerated men has played to two kinds of audiences: film festival–goers and, in private screenings, legislators and public-policy makers, who often come away chastened by the searing message onscreen — that most U.S. states treat criminal ex-cons better than innocent ones."

Scott Foundas asks David Cronenberg, "So whose 'history' is it, anyway?" And his answer begins, "It's got three levels. There's the way that you see it in the newspapers, that a suspect had 'a history of violence,' so in that sense it's Tom's. But it's also America's. And then it's also the human species'."

Dark Places, an exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art open through April 22, "features the work of 76 international media artists - ranging from LA-based Jordan Crandall, the Delhi-based RAQS Media Collective and architects Diller + Scofidio — presented in a monster-like architectural armature suspended in the museum's main gallery." Holly Willis looks into the design.

Brendan Bernhard reviews Julian Barnes's Arthur & George, "a rich historical novel riddled with contemporary resonances and tensions all the more powerful for being understated." Arthur, by the way, is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The small screen: Robert Abele on the new season and on Rollergirls; Paul Malcolm recommends new DVDs.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:03 AM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2006

Fests and events, 1/11.

From the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Doug Cummings brings us an anecdote and four succinct reviews.

Das Schreckliche Mädchen

Das Schreckliche Mädchen
(The Nasty Girl)

Berlin and Beyond: New Films from Germany, Austria & Switzerland opens tomorrow and runs through January 18 at the Castro in San Francisco. In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey has an excellent profile of lifetime achievement award recipient Michael Verhoeven.

Also, Max Goldberg: "As long as Noir City is helmed by Anita Monga and Eddie Muller, the genre's devotees can be sure they're in for a glorious couple of weeks at the movies."

At Movie City Indie, Ray Pride collects trailers, sites, bios, whatever's out there related to 17 films premiering at Sundance.

Catching up with the Park City interviews at indieWIRE: Cho Chang-ho (The Peter Pan Formula), Steven Bogner & Julia Reichert (A Lion in the House), Luc Schaedler (Angry Monk), Joey Lauren Adams (Come Early Morning) and Christoffer Boe (Allegro).

Tom Hall previews ten films he's looking forward to catching at Sundance. And Anthony Kaufman presents "a few of my favorite gross, materialistic marketing tactics that continue to chip away at the integrity of the films at the festival."

In the Village Voice, Leslie Camhi previews the New York Jewish Film Festival, running today through January 26. Hoberman picks out Joseph Seiden's The Living Orphan to recommend.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:44 PM

"The Showgirls Blog Orgy"

"Hey wouldn't it be funny if all Showgirls-loving bloggers did their own post about the movie and then synchronized their posts to be released like viruses into the blogosphere at the exact instant in time?" asked Girish in the midst of a discussion of writing about film, blogs, style and so forth that had mushroomed in the comments section of his post on all that - a discussion, too, in which Paul Verhoeven's 1995 film (which might also just as easily be called "Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas's"), for whatever reason, kept popping up.

Showgirls Well, that event has actually come to pass. It was scheduled for today, the 10th anniversary of its release in the Netherlands, and lo, it's really happening. Throughout the ether, they're talking about Showgirls. For Girish himself, the film "reminds me of the movies of Douglas Sirk, especially his voluptuous farewell to Hollywood, Imitation of Life (1959). Here's the key to both films: glorious artifice, and blithe rejection of verisimilitude. They cry out: Down with realism!" Comments follow, but skimming across the blogs:

Updates: Peter Nellhaus at Coffee Coffee and More Coffee: "I may be pushing a bit here, but [Gina] Gershon made me think of Barbara Stanwyck."

For Mubarak Ali at Supposed Aura, Showgirls is an "ingenious, insanely lush, even endearingly earnest satire of an institution (i.e., Hollywood) we all love and love to hate."

Updates, 1/12: Nilblogette: "How is it that certain movies are destroyed by both critics and audiences, only to be lauded years later for the very same reasons? I assume it is because these films are sold to an audience that doesn't want them, and are only later discovered by the one for which the director really made them."

Campaspe at Self-Styled Siren: "The movie is a walking, pecking, flying, gobble-gobbling, ready-for-its-bourbon-bottle-closeup turkey. Sure, it has a certain 90s social relevance. So does Veronica's Closet."

Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule: "Verhoeven is not condemning Las Vegas or Americans for reveling in bad taste. On the contrary, he's reveling in it himself, drawing parallels between himself, as a participant in American show business, and the characters on screen, and he's not making any excuses for anyone's behavior."

Sean at Bitter Cinema: "So, to flog a dead horse, yes sir, you're absolutely right, we are a goddamn mess; and thank you, Paul..."

Posted by dwhudson at 9:44 AM | Comments (8)

Film Comment. Jan/Feb 06.

Film Comment: Jan/Feb 06 Even those sick unto death of lists by now are going to want to give Film Comment's "End-of-Year Critics Poll" a once-over at least. And scan the names of the participants, too. Since there's considerable overlap with voters in the Village Voice "Take 7" poll, it's not terribly surprising that the top three films - in order, A History of Violence, 2046 and Kings and Queen - sit in the same positions and at a comfortable distance from each other, points-wise, on both lists. From there down, the reshuffling begins. Caché, last month's cover subject, scores higher on the FC list, for example. Munich, much higher.

Same page, further down, is a list of the best unreleased films of 2005, with Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times at the top of it.

But onto the online features from the new issue. Exclusively online, in fact, is the uncut version of editor Gavin Smith's interview with Claire Denis, lingering a while in the 70s before moving on up to L'Intrus.

Regular Lovers Regular Lovers needs a distributor, argues Michael Chaiken. Of director Philippe Garrel, he writes, "It's hard to imagine a filmmaker more deserving of major reconsideration by serious students and enthusiasts of film art."

In conjunction with the series, An/Other Spanish Cinema: Film in Catalunya, 1906–2006, running January 27 through February 14 at the Walter Reade, Spanish critic Manuel Yáñez Murillo offers a historical primer.

Another online exclusive: Stefan Grissemann talks with Lars von Trier about Manderlay and the Washington trilogy as a whole, Dear Wendy, Dogme, Dancer in the Dark (he's still pretty ticked at Björk) and two abandoned projects.

Frédéric Bonnaud: "[W]hat's most unforgivable to Battle in Heaven's detractors is the lyricism that is set free in the film. If [Carlos] Reygadas were a true young Marxist, he'd be given a lot more leeway."

Again, only online: Eliza Subotowicz assesses the current state of Polish cinema: "In the communist era, Polish cinema had a mission - to be a filmmaker was to be politically active.... And then, after the fall of communism in 1989, filmmakers suddenly became unnecessary." But then! "Polish cinema turned a corner in the late 90s."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:17 AM

January 10, 2006

Lists, 1/10.

Reverse Shot: Annoyances "How we hated them. So much that we can't stop talking about them." The Reverse Shot team presents its "11 Annoyances of 2005" at indieWIRE. Feathers will be ruffled.

The Cinemarati countdown watch starts with the list of the ten best documentaries and then picks up again at #9: The New World (Ed Gonzalez explains; Gabriel Shanks dissents); #8: The Squid and the Whale (Filmbrain explains); and #7: Grizzly Man (Nick Davis explains).

Movie City News rounds up more awards: Broadcast Film Critics, Chicago and St Louis Gateway critics.

The Reeler schmoozes in that winning way of his at the New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner. Best chat's with Christopher Doyle.

Ben at The Whine-Colored Sea: "I'm mixing things up and rather than doing a top ten with commentary, I'm presenting some of my favorite movie moments from 2005."

Michael Leary's top ten, via Jeffrey Overstreet.

More fine lists via Girish: Joshua Gibson at Fagistan and Tim at Obsolete Vernacular.

In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein presents his "2005 Studio Report Card, which offers three grades: first for box-office performance, second for film quality, third for overall."

The nominees for the Internet Movie Poster Awards are up. Via Coudal Partners.

MTV's Kurt Loder likes that Crash. Via the IFC Blog.

Guy Flatley looks ahead to the remakes of 2006.

Boing Boing: "DRM keeps Spielberg's Munich out of award-voters' hands." The awards in question here are the BAFTAs.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:52 AM

Shorts, 1/10.

24 "The depraved heroes of 24 are the Himmlers of Hollywood" is the title the Guardian has given Slavoj Zizek's piece on the show about to enter its fifth season. It's a grabber, but it's not a flippant or careless one. By way of Hannah Arendt, Zizek examines Heinrich Himmler's dilemma, namely, "how to get people do the dirty work without turning them into monsters." In the case of 24, that dirty work is, of course, torture that closely parallels, as we're reading about these days, torture in formerly secret prisons around the world as part of US counter-terrorist activities. For Zizek, Dick Cheney and others' public plea for the necessity of torture represents a crucial turning point. "This is 24's real problem: not the content itself but the fact that we are being told openly about it. And that is a sad indication of a deep change in our ethical and political standards."

Related: Stuart Wood reports at Cinema Blend that Kiefer Sutherland would very much like to see the series become a movies. A series of movies, actually. Also via Martha Fischer at Cinematical: Garth Franklin's summary of a Variety story at Dark Horizons: Philip Kaufman is set to direct Oren Moverman's adaptation of Nicholas Ray's memoir, I Was Interrupted. And: Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are is back on track.

When Girish posted an entry on writing about film last week, he probably didn't foresee the discussion extending beyond 120 comments. Of course, that discussion has also branched off in a couple of directions, but now, Girish refocuses, this time on the actual "nuts and bolts" of the writing process.

Ivan's Childhood "Ingmar Bergman would later write that his discovery of Ivan's Childhood was 'like a miracle' and that 'Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.' As Tarkovsky began work on what would become his second feature, Andrei Rublev, his standing was at its high-water mark in Moscow. He would never enjoy such a position again in his homeland." Kamera's running an excerpt from Sean Martin's Pocket Essential Tarkovsky. Also: Antonio Pasolini on 13 (Tzameti).

Lone Scherfig (Italian For Beginners) will be shooting a satire set in the Danish Film School during the 70s, reports Annika Pham at Cineuropa.

In other European film news, Peter Kiefer reports on the effect left-leaning Italian filmmakers' attacks on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may be having and, also for Reuters, Scott Roxborough: "A German cannibal is taking legal action to stop the release of the horror film Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story, which he claims is based on his life."

For the cinetrix, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story "is wild, wooly, clock-winding nonsense of the highest order, and perhaps the first film that will ever profit from being watched on DVD rather in the theatre - just imagine all the digressive extras!"

Stanley Kauffmann appreciates Brokeback Mountain: "In the diary that Emma Thompson kept while making Sense and Sensibility, she wrote: 'I am constantly astounded by Ang [Lee] - his taste is consummate. It sometimes takes a while to work out exactly what he wants but it's always something subtler.' It seems highly likely that [Heath] Ledger and [Jake] Gyllenhaal could say the same.... Where his mind and imagination will take Lee next I do not yet know, but I certainly want to follow." Also in the New Republic, Lee Siegel on the past and future of television.

Dave Kehr picks out the week's most interesting DVD releases for the New York Times.

With two major missteps and lots of little ones, Blockbuster sealed its doom, argues Edward Jay Epstein in Slate. Also, Dana Stevens asks, "What happened to Heather Graham's career?

CNET's Daniel Terdiman: "Blu-ray, HD DVD players: clunky, unimpressive."

Stop Smiling runs a snippet from James Hughes's interview with Vince Vaughn.

DK Holm binges on Walt Disney Treasures for Movie Poop Shoot.

Looker digs up the moment Paul Verhoeven went wrong.

Mademoiselle Striptease Online browsing tip. Movie posters and lobby cards at de Lijst, via filmtagebuch.

Online listening tip. Frank Stasio interviews John Sayles on Talk of the Nation.

Online viewing tip #1. DVblog: "Couple of collaborations between artist & filmmaker Monkmus and turntablist Kid Koala found on the generously-stocked-with-goodies video page of the Ninja Tune site, these tracks are pure aural & visual delight."

Online viewing tip #2. The Clerks II teaser. Via Ed Champion, who writes, "It's just possible that Kevin Smith is up to something more than just revisiting a hot property."

Online viewing tip #3. Gabriel Shanks: "At Captain Video!, classic music videos from the 1980's are deconstructed for your knee-slapping amusement."

Online viewing tip #4. Maybe. Grady Hendrix has found "a 20 minute re-edited parody video of The Promise, entitled The Bloody Case That Started From a Steamed Bun lives. I can't get it to work, but that shouldn't be a problem for the more technically savvy among you - and I know you're out there."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:15 AM

Fests and events, 1/10.

"Could there be a better way of inaugurating a film festival than a lush, restored classic by Frank Borzage?" Doug Cummings, who was sorely missed, is back - with the first entry in a diary chronicling the goings on as he sees them at the Palm Springs International Festival.

Rotterdam "The International Film Festival Rotterdam has selected fourteen films for the VPRO Tiger Awards Competition of its 35th edition which will start January 25," announces a press release today. "The Competition line up counts nine world premieres, three international premieres and two European premieres." The short films lineup - 28 for the Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films 2006 and 16 for the Prix UIP Rotterdam - was unveiled last week.

More than half the program for the 21st Panorama of the Berlinale is now set. It'll open with Daniel Burman's Derecho de familia (Family Law) and include films by Neil Jordan, Andres Veiel, Michel Gondry, Udi Aloni, Sabu, Barbara Hammer, Marc Forster, Mary Harron, John Hillcoat and Buddhadep Dasgupta, among others. Meanwhile, Twitch's X reports that Lee Young-Ae, Lady Vengeance herself, will serve on the International Jury.

Panels, forums, workshops at Sundance. Cyndi Greening's got 'em.

Several of the bands playing on the soundtrack for Kat Candler's jumping off bridges, which'll see its world premiere at SXSW in March, will also be playing in the SXSW Music Festival.

Antonio Pasolini interviews Discovering Latin America film and culture director Yos Rivas for Kamera.

There'll be a special screening of Joe Pacheco's As Smart As They Are: The Author Project at 826NYC on Thursday.

Veit Helmer's Behind the Couch, a doc about casting in Hollywood, premieres in Berlin on Sunday at the Arsenal.

A series of "race films" made between 1910 and 1940 screens at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore in February. Via Sujewa Ekanayake.

Harper's posts and entry from its February 2004 issue: selected responses from children to the Chicago International Children's Film Festival's question, "What new and interesting things did you learn from seeing these films?"

Posted by dwhudson at 7:38 AM

January 9, 2006

Lists, 1/9.

They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, already maintaining a list of "The 1000 Greatest Films," is currently working on a list to be called "The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films." In the meantime, they've got an "Unlucky 13 favourite films of 2005" list at the top of their homepage and 13 rediscoveries of the year as well.

Popcorn Picnic

Chris Shadoian imagines a top ten standoff with a happy ending in Popcorn Picnic at Flak.

"Movies come loaded these days, more like a cart than a gun." Anthony Lane looks back on 2005 in the New Yorker.

Cinemarati countdown watch: #12: Caché (acquarello argues the case - in the comments that follow as well); #11: Syriana (low iq canadian explains; Ed Gonzalez dissents); #10: Tropical Malady (jeff_v explains: "Apichatpong has created one of the most bold and visionary films of the decade, and also one of the more confounding"); and the year's ten best screenplays.


Movie City News has the National Society of Film Critics award-winners (the voting was evidently rather dramatic, as Susan King reports in the Los Angeles Times; Cinematical's Martha Fischer finds more drama; commentary: Chris Barsanti) and has updated the top ten scoreboard.

Anne Thompson lists her favorite Hollywood novels.

Dazzledent and Klenzrite are two of the ten imaginary brands New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott recalls appearing in movies a few decades ago.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:51 AM

Shorts, 1/9.

Terrence Malick "Matt Zoller Seitz has written the best review (plus some) of The New World I've read yet," writes David Lowery. "I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking about Resnais while watching it." Matt will no doubt be pleased to hear David say so. He's been defending that review in comments for a week now and yesterday opened the discussion further with a reply to a slew of Terrence Malick's critics gleefully rounded up by Edward Copeland:

The New World is all about fighting over the right to claim authorship, not just of a story, but individual lives, and the lives of villages, tribes and nations, and an entire continent. And [Erik Childress] describes the distancing effect of the characters' inner thoughts as if it's a bad thing, an unpleasant byproduct of directorial incompetence, rather than as what it actually is, a conscious artistic choice.

Steven Spielberg Next contentious director: "Spielberg is not a particularly intelligent or wise individual, but he is an exceptionally driven and egotistical one," argues John Mark Butterworth for Spero News. "We are seeing his midlife crisis playing out in his films. They aren't great. They aren't horrible. They mark time, but they aren't accomplishing what he wants. He wants to be the greatest filmmaker of all time, but he keeps coming up short." Those are the polite things he has to say; he loses me way before this point but doesn't turn ridiculous until he calls Spielberg "a moral ignoramus whose dilemmas are between his appetite for adulation and his wish to appear thoughtful." Variations of this argument are slung at Spielberg over and again, but I've yet to be convinced that he's any more or less concerned with his ego than most other film directors or that it takes precedence over the films themselves. Anyway: via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Matt Clayfield: "A couple of us have been downloading some really lo-fi versions of Godard's post-May '68 films - British Sounds, Pravda, Vladimir et Rosa, etc. - and the prospect of viewing them, given their reputation as a rarely seen series of difficult and ugly, not to mention boring, Marxist-Leninist tracts, is at once both exciting and intimidating." More from Zach Campbell.

IndieWIRE is already deep into its Sundance and Slamdance coverage, interviewing the filmmakers on their way to Park City: So Much So Fast directors Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan and Flannel Pajamas director Jeff Lipsky. And Cyndi Greening has a bit more on that one.

Two docs, two pieces in Newsweek: Ginny Power gets the story behind Ralph Arlyck's Following Sean and Sarah Childress talks with Richard Gibson about his debut film, the fifteen-minute A Message From Fallujah.

State of Fear "So does Peru's war on terror offer any lessons to the United States?" asks Alan Riding. "The American directors of two documentaries being shown at Film Forum in New York this month believe it does: at the very least, they say, the Peruvian experience is a cautionary tale because of the price paid by Peru's fragile democracy in crushing terrorism." The docs: Pamela Yates's State of Fear: The Truth About Terrorism and Ellen Perry's The Fall of Fujimori. More on the first from Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Also in the New York Times:

Gaby Wood has a good profile of Jeff Skoll and Participant Productions, whose "express purpose is to make movies that will help to change the world." Also in the Observer: Sean O'Hagan compares and contrasts Walk the Line and Get Rich or Die Tryin' and Jason Solomons chats briefly with an old friend, Emily Mortimer.

David Thomson recounts the story of Michael Caine in the Independent.

Whiskey Todd at Twitch on Seven Swords: "The film has a lot going for it and is certainly stronger than much of [Tsui] Hark's more recent work. That said it is positively begging for a re-edit." Also, Nick Sigley: "Whiskey may well be the very first Transcendental comedy!"

Matt Dentler: "In Sunday's Austin American-Statesman, Chris Garcia profiles the Austin Film Society on the eve of its 20th Anniversary week of celebration."

Alexandra A Seno interviews William Chang, Wong Kar-wai's art director, for the International Herald-Tribune. Also via Movie City Indie, Evan Bevins in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel: "Director Steven Soderbergh will reunite with the local cast he assembled for the movie Bubble as the film opens at the Smoot Theatre Thursday night."

Via MCN, Andrew Hartman reports at MovieMusicals.net that Tim Burton will direct an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and yes, Johnny Depp will star.

Robert W Welkos in the Los Angeles Times: "Now that Brokeback Mountain is drawing acclaim and audiences, some in Hollywood are pushing to get new gay- and lesbian-themed projects off the drawing board and into production." Related, sort of: Logan Hill in New York and Ed Gonzalez in Slant on That Man: Peter Berlin.

Peter Sobczynski interviews Eli Roth for Hollywood Bitchslap.

Daniel Robert Epstein SuicideGirls interview roundup: Lynn Hershman Leeson, Neil Jordan and The Libertine director Laurence Dunmore.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:37 AM

January 8, 2006

Firecracker. 14.

"The annual Metro Manila Film Festival-Philippines is a film festival like no other," writes Erika Franklin in the new issue of Firecracker. "Quite simply, for two weeks, during the busy Christmas period (a time when most Filipinos and their many extended families are busy eating their way through a dizzying array of festive delights) all cinemas in the Metro Manila area suspend their regular programme to exclusively show Filipino movies." And the number of indies screened, she notes, is on the rise.

2 Midnight Eye books Nick North reviews Tom Mes's Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto and Mes and Jasper Sharp's The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film.

Franklin interviews This Charming Girl director Lee Yoon-ki.


Posted by dwhudson at 5:41 AM

January 7, 2006

Weekend lists.

Chris Barsanti runs his annotated top ten, honorable mentions and such. His comments in full on his #1, The Constant Gardener:

Ralph Fiennes: The Constant Gardener

Blasted or ignored by many critics for its desire to gobsmack the audience with some good old-fashioned liberal guilt (which apparently we're too enlightened for these days), Fernando Merielles's gorgeous, caustic adaptation of John Le Carre's thriller about pharmaceuticals doing evil in sub-Saharan Africa is a righteously furious roof-raiser wrapped in the guise of a murder mystery. What sadly makes the film stand out, however, is its ability (hardly ever seen in Hollywood) to treat the continent, in all its chaotic beauty, as simply a place where people have to live, work and die much as they do anywhere else in the world; Africa as neither simply a safari postcard or blighted horror story.

Cinemarati countdown watch: #16: Kung Fu Hustle; #15: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; #14: Pride and Prejudice; #13: Sin Cityand the best undistributed films of 2005 - six, plus honorable mentions - and cinematography, another top ten.

Adam Dawtrey in Variety: "Memoirs of a Geisha was the most nominated movie in the longlists for the British Academy Film Awards, closely followed by Brokeback Mountain, The Constant Gardener and Good Night, and Good Luck." Via Martha Fischer at Cinematical, where she notes, "Sadly, things can only get worse for both Munich, which was late in getting screeners out and is on only two lists (for best director and adapted screenplay) and The New World, which failed to receive a single mention."

David Poland breaks down the Sundance catalog into the top ten he's most looking forward to, 23 more he's also looking forward to and "22 titles that have my interest, but about which I have some reservations."

Matt Zoller Seitz writes up the films on his list of the "5 Greatest Uses of Contrapuntal Narration." Preceded by an explanation and several definitions.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:57 PM

Weekend shorts.

Clara Bow Violet Glaze debuts a column on the classics at PopMatters: "Why is [Louise] Brooks a still-immortalized cult figure and [Clara] Bow not? Maybe there's something about Brooks' persona as cool, amoral, gender-ambiguous jazz baby with a keen intelligence shining behind her dark eyes that's got more staying power than Bow, the little Brooklyn spitfire full of terrier enthusiasm and effortless charm." Related: Bow in her own words at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

The original King Kong "might never have gotten made if not for the success of its scandalous predecessor." In the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Erish tells the long, engaging story of Ingagi, how it got made, how it played, how it impacted the ongoing Hays Office crackdown and: "While it's true that Ingagi contains many entertaining moments, they are overwhelmed by the suggestions of black women mating with gorillas, among the ugliest, most disturbing concepts in movie history."

Tim Lucas writes an ode to Horrors of the Screen, which "appears to have been the earliest fanzine to insist on the need for more serious writing and reportage about the genre - something attempted previously only by Calvin T Beck's one-shot enterprise of 1959, The Journal of Frankenstein."

Guardian Review: John Fowles The Guardian's Review runs excerpts from John Fowles's Journals, the first written during the filming of The French Lieutenant's Woman: "There was trouble with the proposal scene, and one day Karel [Reisz] rang me up to see if I could help - he felt it was too curt and quick. 'Harold [Pinter] says he'll do anything, but he simply can't write a happy scene.'"

Also, Alex Cox writes against the grain: "Ingmar Bergman began his long directorial career as something of a radical, even a surrealist. He has done some amazing, ground-breaking work. But, like all directors with long, distinguished careers, he has produced some stinkers too. Which brings us to Fanny and Alexander, which he made in 1982."

And John Patterson: "[W]hen it comes to the [drill instructor] sequences, [Sam] Mendes throws up his arms [in Jarhead] and admits he cannot improve upon Full Metal Jacket, whose sergeant, unforgettably played by real-life former USMC drill instructor Lee Ermey, is to DIs what Goodfellas is to gangster movies: definitive, the gold standard."

Todd at Twitch on Johnnie To and his latest: "Despite having frequently promised myself that the next disappointment would be the last I keep coming back, film after film. Why? In the hopes that one day he'd put all the pieces together, that he'd find some content to fill out the form, believing that when that day came he'd turn out a masterpiece. Election is that film."

Filmbrain is unmoved by Marathon.

Flickhead discovers an obscure Czech sci-fi oddity: The End of August at the Hotel Ozone.

Lissa Rudder: Andrew Bujalski It's about time Andrew Bujalski got his profile in the New York Times. Fitting, somehow, that Village Voice film editor Dennis Lim has written it: "Compared to Richard Linklater's earnest philosophers or Noah Baumbach's poised wiseacres, Mr Bujalski's sheepish drifters are mortifyingly tongue-tied. But their verbal tics, taken together, could stand as a fumbling generation's poignant cri de coeur: 'I guess,' 'I mean,' 'I'm sorry,' 'I don't know.'" Related: NYT regular Nathan Lee reviews Mutual Appreciation for Slate, finding it "more than a new twist on the romantic comedy, more than a pitch-perfect period piece about the period we're all living in."

Also in the NYT:

Bamboozled Ylan Q Mui reports in the Washington Post on Wal-Mart's apology for directing "potential buyers of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes DVDs to also consider purchasing DVDs with African American themes. The world's largest retailer said in a statement that it was 'heartsick' over the racially offensive grouping and that the site was linking 'seemingly random combinations of titles.'" David Ehrenstein: "Well isn't that special? Imagine a corporation has a 'heart' that is 'sick.' It's also, like so much of this culture, racist to its very core." More from Paul Schmelzer.

Because I met Jürgen Fauth and Marcy Dermansky here in Berlin about a week ago and because the topic came up, I have to point to Matt Zoller Seitz's entry that begins, "I was heartened to learn that About.com movie critic Jurgen Fauth put Revenge of the Sith on his Top 10 list, in the number one spot, no less. He even encouraged people to revisit his original review - the most thoughtful, non-condescending piece of writing done on this movie by any critic anywhere. What stones."

For Film & Video, Bryant Frazer interviews cinematographer Robert Elswit, who's "become the go-to guy for socially conscious drama — on both Syriana and the monochromatic Good Night, and Good Luck, he balances you-are-there realism with crisp, rich imagery."

Showgirls, yay or nay? Head to Girish's place where advocates and denunciators are planning a showdown for Wednesday. Flickhead. I'd hate to have to break down and actually watch that movie, but it looks like there may be no way around it.

WKW Calendar Susanne Weber's designed this month's Wong Kar-wai calendar; my favorite so far.

Online listening tip. NPR on Favela Rising.

Online browsing and viewing tip. The site for Cam Archer's Wild Tigers I Have Known, an official Sundance selection, is quite a piece of work itself, but it also features a trailer and a music video.

Online viewing tip #1. DVblog hosts a short and clips from other work by Isaac Julien.

Online viewing tip #2. "Gimmicky as all hell, but pretty cool nonetheless." Twitch's Todd points to The Horror Channel, where you can watch all of Night Watch - only very, very fast.

Online viewing tip #3. At independentfilm.com, Corey Boutilier talks with the Crook brothers about Salvage, another Sundance selection.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:35 PM

Tech and biz, 1/7.

IPTV For the New York Times, John Markoff reports from Las Vegas: "At the International Consumer Electronics Show here this week, a future dominated by Internet Protocol TV, or IPTV, seemed possible, maybe even inevitable." In short, we should soon be watching what we want when we want to without having to get our hands on any sort of hard copy first. Meanwhile, David Pogue is blogging from CES.

Chris Gaither in the Los Angeles Times: "The Google Video Store, launching with 5,000 titles, is the first major challenge to the early lead that Apple Computer Inc has in the emerging market for online video. It also could help realize the dreams of futurists who have long envisioned the Internet as a creative commons that upends the business models of traditional media."

This is, of course, the best part of Google's press release: "Additional highlights of Google's video collection will include.... Feature Length Independent Films from GreenCine.com. Including works by legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda (Zemsta), documentary filmmaker Ted Bonnitt (Mau Mau Sex Sex) and independent actor/director Caveh Zahedi (In the Bathtub of the World)."

Paul Boutin blogged the hell out of Larry Page's keynote at engadget, where there's all sorts of CES coverage going on.

Paul Bond in the Hollywood Reporter: "Not to be outdone, Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel at CES showed off Yahoo! Go, which also will do many things, not the least of which will be to let consumers easily view some of the coolest Internet content on their TV screens."

Dubbing it the "Year of Video" at CES, Scott Kirsner rounds up impressions at CinemaTech.

Waterborne Anne Thompson posts a press release: "Waterborne, which debuted to rave reviews and won an Audience Award at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival, will be among the first independent feature films to be available on the Google Video Store for the new 'download-to-own,' distribution model."

Cinematical's Karina Longworth points to Ben Fritz's report in Variety on Morgan Freeman and Intel's Clickstar.

On a related note, David Lowery offers extensive commentary and linkage on Sujewa Ekanayake's "The New US Indie Film Frontier: DIY Distribution." Also related: Sujewa on "How to come up with $7300 for your '07 feature."

Macworld's Peter Cohen reports that GUBA, a subscription-based "multimedia search technology that culls content from the Usenet," now supports RSS and QuickTime tagging.

Meantime, the DVD is holding up just fine as a format, argues Gary Dretzka at Movie City News.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:14 PM

January 6, 2006

Lists, 1/6.

Chicago Reader: 2005 Jonathan Rosenbaum's list goes to 15 this year, and five of those are ties. At the top: The World: "Not just the best film of 2005, Jia Zhang-ke's feature was better, or at least more important, than my first choices for 2004 (The Big Red One) and 2003 (25th Hour and Crimson Gold). Those earlier masterpieces lack its vital and complex vision of what the whole planet is like at the moment." And: "My annual FW Murnau award, given to the film that did the most to alter my sense of film history, goes to the wonderful, radical 1966 Jacques Rivette documentary Jean Renoir, the Boss: A Portrait of Michel Simon by Jean Renoir, or A Portrait of Jean Renoir by Michel Simon, or The Direction of Actors: Dialogue. Unlike most of what I saw in 2005, it was blissfully free of compromise."

Also in the Chicago Reader, JR Jones: "It's a sign of the times - moviegoing, a middle-class entertainment for more than a century, is becoming too expensive for the middle class.... Last year's drop in attendance is particularly dispiriting because so many good movies came and went without finding an audience, from big-studio rollouts like Cinderella Man to art-house secrets like Lila Says." Jones's #1: Junebug. PDF download alert by way of Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

"[F]ive years into the new millennium the filmic art form is looking pretty good." Bill Gibron introduces three juicy lists at PopMatters: "The Best Film, TV and DVDs of 2005." 20 each.

At the top of Dan Jardine's list: 2046.

Another nice break from seeing the same titles over and over: Flickhead's "Ten reasons why I love the movies."

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein surveys the best and worst DVDs, including: "Best Commentary Track: My favorite this year (from a fairly crowded field) was on Fox's disc of Zak Penn's Incident at Loch Ness, whose huge number of hidden features fell into two categories - stuff that was real and stuff that maintained the mockumentary's pretense of being real."

In Slate, Judd Apatow, Noah Baumbach and others look back on the year's most notable cultural events.

Brian Darr picks up his preview of 2006, looking ahead to what'll be screening in cinematheques and alternative venues in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:39 AM | Comments (4)

Shorts, 1/6.

Sommer vorm Balkon One of the best German directors to remain virtually unknown in the US is Andreas Dresen, whose latest, Summer in Berlin, premiered in the district where it takes place last night. The papers have been raving, pretty much across the board; signandsight translates Christoph Dieckmann's take in Die Zeit.

Press release: "The Berlinale Forum revives its Midnight Screenings with nine classic genre films from the fifties and sixties by the Japanese master director Nakagawa Nobuo."

"What is the message of The Promise?" Jonathan Landreth asks Chen Kaige at Monsters and Critics. Via the Alternative Film Guide.

Much has been made in the US press of the four or five or six percent drop in attendance, what the causes are, what to do about it, and above all, whether or not that sliver of a percentage is really significant. Well, get this. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Marcus Theurer is reporting that in Germany, a market not to be sneezed at, attendance is down 20.4 percent. Via filmz.de.

Marc Lee listens to George A Romero tell a few stories about his favorite film (including the one about meeting Michael Powell):

The Tales of Hoffmann

I used to go downtown and rent the movie. In those days, you had to go rent a projector and then rent a 16mm print in order to see a movie at home. It was a big deal: you had to save up.

Whenever I went to the store and the movie wasn't there, Marty had it. And whenever he went and it wasn't there, I had it. So, when we finally met - only about 10 years ago - we had this amazing thing in common.

And we looked at each other and said, "You son of a bitch! It was you who had The Tales of Hoffmann out when I wanted it!"

Also in the Telegraph, the editors write: "Hollywood's $85m adaptation of the bestselling novel Memoirs of a Geisha is ruffling Japanese feathers because the lead role is being played by Ziyi Zhang, who is Chinese. She talks about the controversy to David Gritten." Not really. The issue is barely touched at all. Anyway, John Hiscock has a pleasant talk with Woody Allen.

Richard Goldstein in the Nation: "The suspension of sexual categories, tentative as it may be, makes King Kong more ambitious than Brokeback Mountain, though it's hardly as accomplished a work of art. But the most notable thing is the way both films see the world. It's a brutal, unforgiving place in which love outside the norm struggles to be something more than a self-destructive gesture." In a similar yet lighter vein, and via Movie City News, William Keck in USA Today.

"Some recent film viewing on 'occupation' and 'liberation' in some sense or another," begins Zach Campbell.

La Vie des morts Aquarello: "Even from his first feature film La Vie des morts, Arnaud Desplechin was already establishing a quintessentially dynamic framework for his recurring themes on surrogacy, human idiosyncrasies, and the ephemeral nature of desire."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "To come across Classe Tous Risques is like discovering a bottle of marvelous French wine you didn't remember you had, opening it and finding it every bit as delicious as its reputation promised. That's how good this classic fatalistic French gangster film is." Also: Stephen Hunter on who's missed the memo.

Theoretically, if you're in Seattle, you could head to the Northwest Film Forum and pick up Charles Mudede's suggestion for a double feature: "In both films, the forces that challenge the soul (of a country in I Am Cuba, of a man in I Am a Sex Addict) are overcome, history comes to a standstill, and the future falls onto a bed of roses." Also in the Stranger, Adam Bregman on Hostel: "Director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) is clearly trying to out-extreme many of his contemporaries in the art-house snuff-film racket. But he doesn't even succeed at that - we've already seen those sliced up body parts and busted skulls in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Gaspar Noé's Irreversible." More from Nathan Lee in the New York Times, Jan Stuart in the LAT and Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap.

"Life as a budding Nipponophile was tough" when Jonathan Ross was young, "in those days before the internet, satellite TV - before even VCRs." Now, the only difficulty is keeping up. So he's headed off on a whirlwind tour and will be presenting Asian Invasion this month on BBC4. Also in the Guardian: Howard Feinstein interviews Heath Ledger.

Andrew Roberts revisits "the lost world of the British 'second feature' that was once as integral a part of the cinema bill as the newsreel and the cartoon short. This form of movie gave career breaks to Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Laurence Harvey, Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee, and directorial impetus to Richard Lester, Ken Hughes and even Joseph Losey."

Also in the Independent:

Look at Me

The Reeler: "Running from May 11 - 20, 2006, the Creative Latitude: Sundance Institute at BAM series will bring upwards of 12 narrative and documentary features and six short films to be chosen from this month's festival. Throw in a script reading or two, a live director's commentary from a Sundance alum, panel discussions and a concert featuring work from the Institute's film music program, and you could almost have Park City East." So The Reeler chats up Steve Buscemi and Robert Redford. Related: Eugene Hernandez in indieWIRE and Redford on The Leonard Lopate Show.

Saul Hansell: "Two ascending Internet giants, Google and Yahoo, are to make plain today that they intend to move aggressively beyond the Internet browser and onto the television screen." And the reviews in the NYT: AO Scott on Fateless and Dana Stevens on I'm Taraneh, 15.

Online viewing tip. Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith talk Clerks 2. Via Mark Beall at Cinematical.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:28 AM

January 5, 2006

Lists, 1/5.

Robert Koehler not only has three lists posted at Movie City News - films that screened in LA; elsewhere in US; elsewhere in the world - he also puts out a call to critics not to fall into the trap that audiences have: "A passivity is overtaking filmgoing everywhere, and it must be stopped. I mean by this a thinking that expects only a film world that exists in advertising and promotion, and assumes the non-existence of any world beyond advertising."

LA Weekly: Zeitlist Just about all the sections of the "Zeitlist" issue of the LA Weekly are worth at least dipping into, but of course, I'll zero in on the film lists, starting with Ella Taylor's, leading with A History of Violence. Scott Foundas notes that Cronenberg's title "could have been applied just as easily to Michael Haneke's Caché or Steven Spielberg's Munich. Collectively, those films comprise as scintillating a trio as one could hope to find about how the atrocities of the past inevitably cycle back to the present, how a nation’s sins press heavy on the hearts and minds of men, and how the emotional and moral weight of taking another human life has scarcely lessened since Cain delivered that fatal blow to Abel."

Robert Abele spotlights "10 Great Small Performances": "[T]hese performers knew how to make a moment or two into something beautifully more." And Paul Malcolm selects 10 top DVDs.

In the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz and Armond White unveil their top tens, Seitz without comment, but White with, e.g., his numbers 1 and 2: "Spielberg's jackpot year recalls Jean-Luc Godard's 1968 US release of both La Chinoise and Weekend. It's a handy comparison since Spielberg also paralleled a political drama with an apocalyptic fantasy." JLG would love it, wouldn't he. Meanwhile, MZS saves his top TV picks for the Star-Ledger.

The Austin Chronicle is an all-list issue this week as well. Film critics Marjorie Baumgarten, Steve Davis, Kimberley Jones and Marc Savlov blurb their choices and then return further down on the same page with "near misses," the over- and underrated, "acting kudos" and more.

Vue Weekly: 2005 The Vue Weekly critics list theirs:

A lot of the films you're seeing on these top tens have wound up on NP Thompson's "Worst" list. His #1 "Best": The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

Cinemarati countdown watch: #19: Oldboy. Gabriel Shanks: "[I]ndelible iconography and minimalist mystery play out with an elegant grandeur usually reserved for opera or Greek tragedy." Nathaniel R dissents. #18: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Dan Meyer: "In this ambitious dissertation, [Shane] Black apologizes for the crimes perpetrated upon his genre by forgers, pays reparations, and then takes deserved credit for all the rest." Update: #17: 3-Iron: Dan Jardine explains; Brian Darr dissents.

San Diego Reader: 2005 Duncan Shepherd in the San Diego Reader: "The best piece of filmmaking I saw in 2005 was quite literally a piece of a film, more exactly a third of a film, the episode entitled The Hand in the three-part anthology film, Eros. Wong Kar-wai's superbly sustained bout of amorous longing, right around forty minutes in duration, seems especially rare and precious at the end of a Christmas season in which the average movie, if you added and divided, probably ran two hours and twenty-two minutes."

The Screen Actors Guild unveils its nominations.

Matt Savelloni presents his "Print to Screen Awards" at Movie Poop Shoot.

Kelefa Sanneh raises the age-old question, Why all the lists?, in the New York Times; particular emphasis on music.

MTV's Karl Heitmueller suggests a few ways multiplexes might save themselves in 2006. Via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

Online listening tip. Leonard Lopate, Lisa Schwartzbaum and Gene Seymour talk about their favorites and the year in general on WNYC.

Update: Dave McNary for Variety: "The Directors Guild of America, favoring moderate-scale dramas for its best director nominations, has selected Bennett Miller for Capote, Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain, George Clooney for Good Night, and Good Luck, Steven Spielberg for Munich and Paul Haggis for Crash."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:38 AM

Shorts, 1/5.

Alex Karpovsky Another film critic who's forged a rep in print takes the leap: Matt Zoller Seitz launched his blog, The House Next Door, on New Year's Day. That's not him in that shot, by the way. It's Alex Karpovsky, whose film, The Hole Story, deserves a distributor, argues MZS in yesterday's entry.

In the New York Press, MZS writes, "Miramax is dead, but the Miramax Oscar-baiting costume picture lives on, courtesy of Casanova." Fortunately, he's also got special screenings to recommend: Barry Lyndon at MoMA and Hiroshima Mon Amour at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Also, Armond White: "In The Matador, [director Richard] Shepard's cleverness almost works; it comes close to articulating the modern moral quandaries that drive his ambitious, if reckless, indie filmmaking." And Jennifer Merin talks with Andrew Adamson about directing The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

VC Andrews: Rain Jason Guerrasio checks in on five indies in production for indieWIRE: Justin Theroux's Dedication, James Boinski's Legit, Steven Hahn and Francis Hsueh's Party, Craig DiBona's Rain and Greg Morgan's The Substance of Things Hoped For.

So it looks like Jon Stewart will be hosting the Oscars this year. Steve Pond decided that "three sources familiar with the process" were good enough and went with the story at the Envelope, the Los Angeles Times awards blog, and now other outlets are confirming it. A gadzillion ugly comments trail Pond's entry, by the way.

"I'm not suggesting that Eli Roth, with his topless Euro-babes and horrific scenes of violence, is trying to sneak in a political message while he's rocking and shocking the mostly young and mostly male horror audience," writes Andrew O'Hehir in his "Beyond the Multiplex" column for Salon. "Or anyway, I wouldn't be suggesting it if he hadn't pretty much told me he was." Also: Fateless.

"Not unlike a film, a piece of writing about a film has embedded and embodied in it the writer's choices of form and style that are fused inseparably with its content." Girish responds to a few thoughts on thoughts on what film criticism should be from Adrian Martin in the current issue of Cineaste and then asks, "Has your approach to writing changed over the last few years?"

L'Ivresse du pouvoir Flickhead's got shots of Claude Chabrol and Isabelle Huppert on the set of L'Ivresse du pouvoir, currently in post-production.

Grady Hendrix has news of new films from Takashi Miike and, possibly, also from Stanley Kwan, Gordon Chan ("now there's a name from the mid-90s"), Herman Yau, Fruit Chan and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

The answers, including Dennis Cozzalio's own, roll in in the wake of "Prof. Brainerd's Christmas Vacation Quiz."

Caryn James: "With teasers for the summer's big franchise movies now trickling out, the oddest, most inadvertently funny so far is for Mission: Impossible III."

Also in the New York Times:

Match Point A Match Point package in the Boston Phoenix: Gerald Peary pulls some quotes from Woody Allen's Cannes session and Gary Susman chats with Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and writes the review.

Godfrey Cheshire revisits the Brokeback Mountain phenom in the Independent Weekly: "How does a movie suddenly combust like this?"

For Spiegel Online, Michael Scott Moore reports on Rendezvous With Death, the doc that argues that Cuba was behind the Kennedy assassination.

Online browsing tip. Portable Gallery, "art, film & music for the PSP." Via Coudal Partners.

Online viewing tip. An ad for Heineken. Via Arjan Writes.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:12 AM | Comments (2)

January 4, 2006

Lists, 1/4, part 2.

Didn't want these buried down there...

Howl's Moving Castle The Cinemarati have begun their countdown towards "our consensus #1," beginning at #20: Howl's Moving Castle. Shay Casey explains the decision and MaryAnn Johanson respectfully dissents. Should be a fun ten days as they'll also be naming "our winners in a variety of creative categories, recognizing the best actors, directors, screenwriters, and others who shared their talents with us in 2005."

Gabriel Shanks comments on the nominations from the Producers and Writers Guilds of America: "This is excellent news for Capote; it solidifies Dan Futterman's screenplay chances and moves the film into the possibitilites for Best Picture. Today completely sucks, however, for Munich and King Kong."

Top tens from Roy Anker and Peter Chattaway of Books & Culture, via Jeffrey Overstreet.

Flavorpill inaugurates its "F-List," a "snapshot of emergent cultural happenings, both offline and on." Ok? Ok. Lisa Rosman picks the film directors.

At Cinematical, Erik Davis blurbs seven films he's looking forward to this year.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:31 PM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 1/4.

Wong Kar-wai Wong Kar-wai will preside over the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival, the 59th, which runs from May 17 through 28. Wong's statement in the Cannes press release:

Each city has its own language. In Cannes, it is the language of dreams. Yet it is difficult to judge one's dream much less compare it to another.

There is an old Chinese saying: One can never expect the wind, but should always keep one's window open.

Along with my fellow jurors, I look forward to sharing the dreams created by some of the most gifted talents in contemporary cinema. And our goal will be to keep our windows open as wide as possible.

Saturday, January 14: SF Indie Fest's Benefit/Launch Party.

A highlight of the new season at the Vancouver International Film Centre: The complete Masters of Horror series.

Asian Cinevisions is a new series of screenings at MoMA.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:06 PM

Lists, 1/4.

Kings and Queen The Reverse Shot team worked up a voting system and the results are in at indieWIRE. At the top of the ten is Kings and Queen.

In a few brisk paragraphs, Anthony Kaufman wraps up 2005 and points to the promising highlights of 2006.

James Russell lists the 21 releases of 2005 he liked - in alphabetical order, from Batman Begins through Wolf Creek.

In the City Pages...

Mysterious Skin

Grady Hendrix looks ahead to several Asian films due in 2006 - and points to Mark Schilling's top ten in the Japan Times.

Film Journal editor Rick Curnutte has a top ten, a second ten and a handful of other bests.

Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap: "The Worst Films of 2005 - An Uwe Boll-free List."

Posted by dwhudson at 7:19 AM | Comments (2)

Shorts, 1/4.

Trecartin: Entertainment "When the choice between lingering in front of a video projector or hitting a half-dozen other galleries is increasingly a cinch, the jolting energy, nerve, and intricacy of twenty-four-year-old Ryan Trecartin's work in the medium comes as no small shock," writes Dennis Cooper in Artforum, nothing that Trecartin "share[s] a penchant for full-frontal gayness and a love of extravagance with the movie directors his work most immediately brings to mind: Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, and early John Waters." Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker. In December 2004, Joe Swanberg interviewed Trecartin for FilmBrats.

"It was once relayed to me that the exclamation mark in the title of the movie Zizek! said it all," begins Craig in an entry at theoria you should take with you as a map should you decide to follow all his linkage: "It turns out that this year's MLA conference was pretty unspectacular. No big controversies. No one has found any really silly paper titles... The real action, it appears, only began after the fact. That is, once the 'bloggers' returned home to their computers. And, it turns out, Zizek! is the controversy this year." Via wood s lot.

The Wall Street Journal won't notice, but the WSWS's David Walsh is tearing up its editorial on Munich: "The newspaper's editors called on Bret Stephens, former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post (which named warmonger Paul Wolfowitz 'Man of the Year' in 2003) and now a member of the Journal's editorial board, to write their comment." Related: Ryan Wu: "If Steven Soderbergh had directed Munich..."

"Film history is still full of surprises." Dave Kehr on the early work of Cecil B DeMille.

A Scanner Darkly Cinematical's Robert Newton points to The Dude's review of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly at Movies Online.

J Hoberman: "Fateless will be inevitably compared to Schindler's List and especially The Pianist; while no single scene is as harrowing as the strongest moments in either of those movies, it's more sustained than either.... This isn't a movie that I'd have thought possible; it's an auspicious opening for the new year."

Also in the Village Voice:

So is Stephen Metcalf Slate's official replacement for David Edelstein. He doesn't say in his fine review of Match Point: "In the London of the hyper-rich, Allen gives us the last window his Coney Island nose can push up against, now that he himself is a cultural icon with a mansion (recently sold) on the Upper East Side." More from Johnny Ray Huston in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Waging a Living Also in the SFBG, Cheryl Eddy on Duma and Ihsan Amanatullah: Waging a Living will only appear on a few screens for a few weeks but deserves a residency at every theater in the country, where it can reach those who'll recognize aspects of their lives onscreen and haunt those who won't."

Online listening tip. Terri Gross interviews Tony Kushner on Fresh Air.

Online viewing tip. Improv Everywhere's Suicide Jumper at DVblog.

Online viewing tips. Classic Trailers. Via Bitter Cinema.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:04 AM

January 3, 2006

Lists, 1/3.

Chain "For the past eight years, indieWIRE's editors and contributors have put together a list of the best films we saw that didn't get US distribution," writes Anthony Kaufman, and this year, of course, is not to be an exception. "With DVD, VOD and all manner of new distribution outlets for movies (including indieWIRE's own Undiscovered Gems film series), fewer worthy American indies fall through the cracks these days than ever before. But the economics of distribution is still a treacherous journey for filmmakers, and hopefully our list can make a difference for these worthy features."

Ray Pride picks ten best, twenty more, five docs, plus a whole more again, then the list of films he's looking forward to seeing in 2006, followed by more top fives: cinematography and all sorts of performances. If you're feeling the urge to check an overview of the top ten action, again, see the charts at Movie City News and Criticstop10.net.

Filmbrain offers a third list: "Ten Great Discoveries."

The Cinecultist posts her top ten and honorable mentions.

Before unveiling his "TV honor roll" in the Kansas City Star, Aaron Barnhart writes, "The Staircase as television's finest achievement of 2005."

Posted by dwhudson at 6:45 AM

Shorts, 1/3.

El: Buñuel What a way to start 2006! Sean Spillane's Bitter Cinema suddenly returns, and how: thoughts on Buñuel's Ensayo de un crimen, a Buñuel photoset, pointers to great obsessors' obsessions and an amusing snippet from Donald Fagen's early 80s interview with Ennio Morricone. Yes, that Donald Fagen.

For Issue 22 of Artkrush, devoted to film and video, Paul Laster talks with Chrissie Iles about the upcoming Whitney Biennial: "The current situation shows an even more diverse approach to the moving image, as artists appropriate and reclaim the white walls of the galleries. Within this diversity, a nostalgia for a cinema that appeared to be vanishing has been replaced by a desire to make cinema, and an unprecedented number of artists are making serious films, with a passion for, and knowledge of, film history that is complex and deep."

Girish has an excellent entry on Sam Fuller, specifically, House of Bamboo.

The cinetrix watches and listens as Terrence Malick shifts viewers' alignment in The New World.

The National Film Theatre's Michael Caine retrospective runs through to the end of the month; in the Guardian, Zoe Williams asks him about it:

Michael Caine

I think it's a threat. They're saying, "We're doing this for you, now you'd better die." Whenever anyone asks me to do something about my life's work, I keep saying, "Please, I haven't finished yet. Can you give me another year?" At least with this, it's ordered in an interesting way, it's not chronological. In a lifetime achievement award, you just have to watch yourself grow old in 45 minutes.

More Sundancing from Cyndi Greening.

Alan Riding talks with Imre Kertész about Fateless: "The notion of a 'beautiful' Holocaust movie may seem as strange as the homesickness that Mr Kertész recalled feeling for camp life when he returned to Budapest in July 1945." Also in the New York Times, Dave Kehr on new DVDs: "The new year begins with two comedies of caddishness."

Jim Emerson on Paradise Now: "What would those who are criticizing Steven Spielberg's film for 'moral equivalency' have to say about this one?"

Gregg Goldstein in the Hollywood Reporter: "Many filmmakers now contend that getting an indie film made or seen today without stars is harder than ever before."

Once again: Attendance is down, but revenues are up. Claudia Eller and James Bates report. Also in the Los Angeles Times, John Horn and Scott Collins talk to moviegoers about what they love and what they hate about the experience.

Slate, too, carries on exploring the economics of the movie business. Variety's Gabriel Snyder explains where weekend box office estimates come from and Edward Jay Epstein describes the three businesses movie theaters are in simultaneously.

For Wired News, Seán Captain reports on studios' hopes that digital projection will help them track down pirates.

Saul Hansell reports in the NYT on Vongo, the Starz Entertainment Group's new video-on-demand service.

Online listening tips. Recent guests on DVD Talk Radio: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill director Judy Irving; and Joss Whedon.

Groundhog 202 Online viewing tips, round 1. Pennsylvanians having plushy fun: Groundhog 202.

Online viewing tips, round 2. The trailer for Arthur En Vrai! Le Dessin Anime and, also via Twitch, a new trailer for 5-25-77.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:42 AM

January 2, 2006

SXSW. 1st peek at lineup.

The King The SXSW site is offering a first peek at the film festival lineup, announcing four premieres, ranging from the world kind to the regional kind:

"The complete film festival lineup will be unveiled in early February," reads the notice. "The films will join an already announced Kris Kristofferson Retrospective, a restored print of Eagle Pennell's influential The Whole Shootin' Match, competition features, shorts, special screenings, and more!"

Update: Two more films have popped up on the site: Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion and, as part of the Round Midnight program, Banlieue 13.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:37 AM

Lists, 1/2.

Agree or disagree with the reviews (and with so many varied voices, you're likely to do both often), you have to admire the always impeccable design decisions at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, particularly when it comes to their specials. The latest: "2005 in review." And the lists: Matt Bailey (a bit of TV, a bit of Clair Denis), Beth Gilligan (wild this year about Preston Sturges), Leo Goldsmith (lists, notes and moments, including, "Sitting behind Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and three red-robed Tibetan monks at a screening of War of the Worlds"), Chiranjit Goswami ("Fatigue aside, TIFF rejuvenated my enthusiasm for movies"), Jenny Jediny (mini-essays on ten films, five of them French), Ian Johnston ("film experience of the year": Heimat II) and Rumsey Taylor (a page devoted to Gates of Heaven).

Boise Weekly Ten bests, ten worsts from Cole Smithey in the Boise Weekly.

"Whom can you trust?" asks Eric Childress at Hollywood Bitchslap: "It's the question Criticwatch has been asking from the beginning and it's the one we will be asking until the end of the Quote Whores as we know them. The countdown is on again for the Whores of the Year, a race that went down to the wire producing another Top 10 list and another year of disgrace. Remember these names. And when you think of them - think less. They certainly do when it comes to film."

Also: Peter Sobczynski and Jason Whyte's top tens.

Though he's unimpressed by them, Chuch Tryon does point to the Washington Post critics' top tens - Ann Hornaday, Stephen Hunter and Desson Thomson. More importantly, he contributes his own. If you've been reading Chuck, you won't be surprised to see that about half of them are docs.

The best films Peter Nellhaus saw in 2005 aren't listed but grouped - new, old, DVD, theater and so on - on a page where The Passenger and Mr and Mrs Smith coexist peacefully.

Aaron W Graham goes for Homecoming; via Dennis Cozzalio, who is too kind. Thanks, Dennis. Somehow, too, I missed Andy Klein, topping his ten in the LA CityBeat with Batman Begins. The Cincinnati CityBeat critics list 'em, too.

Gabriel Shanks: top ten, runners-up, worsts and honorable mentions.

Jeffrey Overstreet writes up his top ten, then lists another ten.

At Movie City News, Gary Dretzka selects his top ten DVDs.

Thomas Groh's 2005.

After Dark Film Festival director Adam Lopez picks ten top sci-fi, horror and fantasy films. Also at Twitch, X begins a review of the year in Korean TV dramas. Related: Darcy Paquet at Koreanfilm.org: "The beginning of this year's winter vacation has seen an unusually large number of big films hit theaters. Therefore there's been quite a slugfest at the box office."

Round-ups in the Boston Globe: Ty Burr and Wesley Morris, via They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

Patrick Goldstein presents the Los Angeles Times' "annual look at the bad behavior, bizarre moments and other dubious achievements from 2005 that make show business the capital of self-involved entitlement in America." Also, James Bates's predictions for the new year.

Brian Darr looks ahead to the year in film in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Parts 1 and 2.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:33 AM

Shorts, 1/2.

Sundance 06 "Over the course of the next week, I'll be blogging a great deal about the films of Sundance 2006." She's not kidding. Cyndi Greening has posted four robust entries since, each a thematic rounding-up of previews: war, music, art and language.

For acquarello, Catherine Lupton's Chris Marker: Memories of the Future helps clarify the "indefinable kinship" he's felt toward Marker's films. The review crescendos here: "Integrating the contextual re-evaluation that came with the personal history of A Grin Without a Cat into his recurring preoccupations of cultural legacy and collective consciousness, Sans soleil can be seen, not as a departure from his militant, film collective works, but as a logical evolution towards reconciling the failure of the social revolution with his own memory of its once seemingly unstoppable progression."

"Yoon Jong-bin emerged as the most celebrated young director at the 10th Pusan International Film Festival. His debut feature The Unforgiven received accolades from press and audiences alike, and ended up collecting no fewer than four awards, namely a special mention from the official jury, the FIPRESCI award, the NETPAC award and the PSB Public Prize." Paolo Bertolin has a short interview with him at Koreanfilm.org, where Kyu Hyun Kim reviews Won Sin-yeon's The Wig.

Philip French in the Observer:

Live and Become

Radu Mihaileanu, a Jewish filmmaker who fled his oppressive native Romania via Israel in 1980 to work in France, draws on his complicated emotional history (his communist father changed the family name to obscure the provocative racial affiliation) in taking the deception in the other direction. The central character of Live and Become passes himself off as a Jew or, rather, is propelled by his Ethiopian mother into 20 painful years as an impostor.

In the Independent, David Thomson considers what was on Spielberg's mind as he made Munich: "[M]ovies glorifying the action of a moment do not convey the grim calculation of history, whereby one squalid act leads to another, until moral superiority is mere rhetoric."

Peter Edidin: "[Vincent] Schiavelli's career is a reminder that film, however adept it has become at bending or inventing reality, is still ruled by the close-up - what the film theorist Bela Balazs called the 'language of the face.'"

Also in the New York Times, Alan Riding on Casanova's "reconstructed 18th-century score" and John Rockwell's preview of the Dance on Camera Festival (Walter Reade, January 4 through 7, 10, 13 and 14).

And briefly: Edidin on Typecasting, Mark Simonson's tracking of the "use (and misuse) of period typography in movies," Charles McGrath on the communal pleasures of talking back at the screen and Christian Moerk on Art Within Labs, a workshop devoted to screenplays that, as the site puts it, "are culturally relative and explore hope and truth from a Christian perspective."

Peter Sobczynski interviews Syriana writer-director Stephen Gaghan for Hollywood Bitchslap.

In New York, Adam Sterbergh meets Forest Whitaker.

Daniel Robert Epstein interviews Junebug director Phil Morrison for SuicideGirls.

Steven Wells in the Guardian: "As Kyle Bishop, lecturer in English at Southern Utah University and self-proclaimed expert on the 'zombie renaissance,' puts it, 'The zombies haven't got any scarier, it's just in the past four or five years the landscape they stalk has started to look horribly familiar. During Hurricane Katrina, the news looked uncannily like a zombie movie set.'"

John Canemaker: Winsor McCay Tim Lucas compares a newly revised and expanded edition of John Canemaker's Winsor McCay: His Life and Art with the 1987 version.

All in one fell swoop, Time's Joe Klein watches Munich, Syriana, Paradise Now, "and, for kicks, a DVD dash through the fourth season of the television series 24." His findings: "The moral necessity to confront the terrorists is clear. But the war is going to be fought on their terms, not ours, and we are bound to be diminished - stained, perhaps irrevocably - by it."

In TV Guide, Joss Whedon joshes about the future of TV. Via Jason Morehead.

Online browsing tip. The Movie Card Website. Via Coudal Partners.

Online browsing and viewing tip. The Marx Brothers - Night at the Opera Treasury. Via DVblog.

Online viewing tip #1. Nacho Vigalondo's Choque. Via Coudal Partners and Twitch.

Online viewing tip #2. Hall of Deleted Images. Via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:18 AM