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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Film Critics Vote For Men With Guns, Lady With Crown


Boston film critics go gangster, Los Angeles’ like hell in the Pacific, the New York online critics bowed to a Queen. New York’s – after five ballots — went for UNITED 93.
Here are the four movies that the major critics’ groups went for (See David Polands chart for full details.)
UNITED 93: New York, Washington, D.C.
THE QUEEN: N.Y. Online

But there’s one movie that that film critics agree on: ARMY OF SHADOWS. Made in 1969 but released in the U.S. only this year, this is a dark, uncompromising WWII thriller about the exploits of a band of French resistance fighters in German-occupied Paris. Director Jean-Pierre Melville died in 1973 at the age of 1955, but many of his films are available on DVD and VHS through Rialto Pictures. Army of Shadows is booked at Manhattan’s Film Forum from Dec. 29-Jan. 11 and moves to Symphony Space in January for the Thalia Film Classics series; check the Rialto website to see which other cities will get it.)


I heard a few Boston critics wondering whether ARMY OF SHADOWS should be up for a special award or a foreign language film award.The New York Film Critics Circle decided it ought to be viewed as 2006 foreign film.
There was also some support for LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.

Most surprising result, to me: That Judi Dench came second a few Best Actress polls to Helen Mirren. She’s great in NOTES ON A SCANDAL. She’s always great. But the film relies so much on her main character’s frosty voice-over narration that her performance doesn’t resonate as strongly Penelope Cruz‘s warm, graceful embodiment of a woman in trouble in VOLVER. NOTES ON A SCANDAL was screened in Boston just four days before the critics voted. Maybe the early autumn wave of Penelope-and-Almodovar love had receded by then.
Where did the Best Picture love go?
BABEL (Paramount Vantage)
“A genuine masterpiece. The best film of 2006.” (Rex Reed, The New York Observer)
“Deserves an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.” (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)
“An unqualified triumph from Alexander Gonzalez Innaritu.” (Pete Hammond, Maxim)
DREAMGIRLS (Dreamgirls/Paramount)
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (Dreamworks). Ahem…Adam Beach. Remember him?
“Stands with the best movies of this young century and the old one that preceded it: It’s passionate, honest, unflinching, gripping, and it pays respects. The flag raising on Iwo might have indeed become a pseudo-event as it was processed for goals, but there was nothing pseudo about the courage of the men who did it.” (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post.)
“It is one of the year’s best films and perhaps the finest modern film about World War II.” (Claudia Puig, USA Today)

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon