Film Essent Archive for October, 2008


Poor Michele Bachmann. Her inflammatory statements on this Hardball episode, in which she blithely labeled “leftist, liberal views” as un-American and called for a media investigation into whether members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America” (has she ever even heard of the McCarthy Era? Probably she thinks it was a high point of our nation’s political history), are coming back to bite her in the ass and may end up getting her booted out of Congress by her own constituency. Now she claims her comments were “misunderstood.” Oh, I don’t think so, Michele. I think your comments were heard loud and clear.
In case you’re one of the 23 people with any interest in politics who haven’t seen this video, the link is above. At one point, after she prattles on at some length about Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers, host Chris Matthews asks her whether she believes Obama may have anti-American views, to which she replies, “Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.” She goes on to equate liberal, leftist views as being un-American and ends by suggesting the media should investigate Congress to determine which members of Congress hold “un-American” views. The first time I saw this video, I nearly choked on my coffee; I’ve watched it three times now (just to torture myself, I guess) and just can’t stomach watching it again. It makes my blood boil.

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Color Blind

Last night I was listening to NPR while I was driving along, and they had a thing on about Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for President of the United States, way back in 1972. Listening to recordings of Chisholm speak, I was powerfully struck by her passion, the clear way in which she presented her points, the tenacity with which she went after the brass ring, and the courage with which she put herself out there as a candidate for the presidency as a woman and an African American, all those years ago.
But what particularly struck me was her saying, in an interview, that she didn’t believe that her race was really such a big issue in 1972, that surely we’d come far enough along as a country by that point that race didn’t matter. I don’t know if the programmers at NPR intended the contrast, but on the program immediately following Chisholm, they were in Logan, West Virginia, talking to voters in that predominantly Democratic town about whether they were voting for Obama or McCain, and while there were quite a few smart-sounding folks who were talking about issues, there were also the requisite racists talking about “the coloreds” and even one guy sounding off about how black people don’t have “what it takes” to lead the country. Oy.
In 1972, Shirley Chisholm believed race was no longer an issue in a race for the presidency. And here we are in 2008, with Obama’s race still very much an issue for a lot of voters. I’m proud of the Democratic party. When it got down to the convention, we had a woman and a black man competing for their party’s nomination. It was a stirring, historic moment, but the fight’s not over yet. We’ve got a long way to go.
But I hope that Shirley Chisholm, wherever she is in the afterlife, saw the massive crowd in St. Louis gathering to hear their next president speak, and smiled.

Femme Films of the Week

Femme film Picks of the Week:
Happy-Go-Lucky ****
Rachel Getting Married ****
And the rest …
The Secret Life of Bees **
Nights at Rodanthe
The Duchess *
The Women
The Family That Preys
Trouble the Water (limited)***
… I’ve not seen Nights at Rodanthe, The Women, or The Family that Preys, so no recommendations on those.


A Bumpy Road

Rumor has it, apparently, that John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which was supposed to open November 14, may get pushed off to 2009. Which would be a bummer, but to be honest, I’d rather see the film done well than rushed and done poorly. I finally got around to reading the book over this past weekend, and wow, is it good. Bleak and horribly depressing, and it makes me wonder what kinds of dark thoughts haunt McCarthy late at night when he’s caught in the throes of writerly insomnia in the clutches of what Michael Chabon called “the midnight disease” in Wonder Boys. It’s a stark and horrific read, but absolutely compelling; I couldn’t put it down all weekend.
One of the commenters over on Fataculture said of “The Road” that nothing happens in it. And much as people lashed out at him for saying something so banal, on a certain level, he’s right, in that it’s not the easiest concept to translate into the visual medium of a film. It’s a guy and his young son, in world that’s been post-Apocalyptic for several years, and McCarthy’s vision of this world is bleak in the extreme. The world burned pretty much to a crisp. Everything destroyed. Hardly any animals still alive. No food growing or able to grow, and the existing pre-disaster food supplies long since plundered. Everything covered in ash. Ash on the ground, in the air, in the rivers, in the snowfall. And a few human survivors struggling not to starve to death. The entire story is just this guy and his son and their occasional encounters with those who would hurt them.
Hillcoat directed The Proposition, one of the best films of 2005, and one of the very few Westerns I would willingly watch multiple times. The guy knows dramatic tension, so I would expect that the narrative storyline will be compressed with an emphasis on the dramatic high points, which is fine to keep the story flowing, but I really hope that he holds onto the use of symbolism that’s woven throughout the story, and keeps his focus on the relationship between the father and son. “They were each other’s world entire.” That’s what the story is about, this man and this boy and how their relationship with each other allows them to cling to hope even in the face of almost unimaginable destruction and infinitessimal odds of surviving. And if it takes until 2009 for Hillcoat to get it ride, it will be worth waiting for.
Oh, and side note for the music geeks: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (not surprisingly, but I’m dorkily ecstatic about it) are doing the music. I would see this film even if I didn’t care about the story, just to hear that.

What's the Point of W?

Went to the screening of W last night, and I feel kinda “meh” about the film. Brolin does a nice enough Dubya impersonation, there’s nothing wrong with any of the acting, per se, but I walked away from it wondering what exactly Stone’s point was in making the film. There was a lot of grumbling amongst the Seattle crowd as folks were filing out of the theater about the film; it seemed a lot of folks came expecting to see an SNL-ish lampooning of Dubya, and while the film does have those moments (the best of which come straight out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak, as part of the massive public record of Dubya’s gaffs), its intent isn’t to satirize, or mock, I don’t think, so much as it is to explore the whys and wherefores of the political ambitions of a man whose driving ambition in earlier life seemed to not be much beyond living off Poppy’s money and drinking a lot.
Stone does delve into the father-son relationship between Bush Sr and Bush (just don’t call me Junior) Jr, and his rivalry with younger brother Jeb. Stone beats the “you’re a disappointment to me, son” drum rather heavily, and maybe Dubya’s relationship with dad really is the driving force behind his presidency. I mean, I’d honestly never considered that Bush Sr might be pissed about Dubya running for governor of Texas at the same time Jeb ran for governor of Florida, because it was taking the limelight from Jeb. Nor did I consider, really, that Bush might be upset about Dubya running for (and winning) the presidency, not because he didn’t want his son to surpass him, but because he didn’t want the disappointing brother to usurp the younger brother who he considered to have more promise.
Stone shows Bush largely as a puppet controlled by Rove and Cheney, but also as a man driven by his own ambition to one-up the old man, and I suppose you could argue that he didn’t really need to show what happened after Iraq because we all know what’s happened after Iraq. I just left the film feeling uncertain as to what exactly Stone was trying to say about this president. It’s not edgy enough to be a real critique of Iraq, not in the sense that No End in Sight was a critique of Iraq; it’s not enough of a skewering to satisfy the liberals who loathe Bush, nor illuminating enough in a positive way to satisfy the conservatives who still support him. What exactly was Stone’s point in making the film? I’m not sure I know.


Betty White Calls Sarah Palin a "Crazy Bitch"

I so want to be Betty White when I grow up …

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What the Hell Does Film Essent Mean, Anyhow?

Why Film Essent? “Essent” is the term used by Ralph Manheim in his 1959 translation of Martin Heidegger’s “An Introduction to Metaphysics.” Essent, as used by Manheim, is a translation of the term “seine” as used by Heidegger in his writings; it basically means “existants,” or “things that are.” Film Essent is where I talk about any and all “things that are” film-related — with a little politics, philosophy and occasional food porn thrown in for good measure.

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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