Film Essent Archive for March, 2009

Thoughts on SXSW's Opening Night Film, "I Love You, Man"

SXSW 2009 Dispatch: Opening Night

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After a hellish day of flight delays, planes with mechanical problems, luggage not being loaded on the plane in a timely manner, and assorted weather-related issues here in the southwest, I finally made it into Austin tonight five hours or so later than planned.
I got to my hotel room around 10:30 and after longing lookss at both the lovely, deep bathtub and comfortable-looking bed, both of which were giving me “come hither” glances, I sucked down some coffee and mustered up the energy to hike the few blocks over to the big Opening Night party at Buffalo Billiards.

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The Opening Party is, like most fest parties, hot and very crowded, but it’s always a great first fest stop for seeing all the other fest circuit refugees, filmmakers, and talent. Fest regulars at the party tonight included the indieWIRE crew, represented by Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and Eric Kohn ; B-Side’s Chris Holland; Keaton Kail, Ryan Werner and Alison Willmore from IFC, publicists David Magdael and Winston Eammes, former SXSW head Matt Dentler, and new SXSW head honcho Janet Pierson. Also ran into the team from Make Out with Violence, one of my fave films from the Oxford Film Festival.

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I heard Paul Rudd was there tonight, though I think he left before I got there, but I did see Mark Duplass, who has a film in the narrative competition film in the fest, and then a few minutes later was accosted by a friendly, if rather inebriated actor who’s in a short film playing here. He apparently thought that petting my hair was a good way to introduce himself. Fortunately, the film’s director more or less got him under control, so I won’t hold that against him or his film.
Since I missed the opening night film, I shot some flipcam video of several folks talking about both the film and the audience response. Hope to have both that video and another of the Make Out with Violence crew up shortly, once I navigate the mysteries of uploading it to YouTube.
Tomorrow’s my first day of screenings of the films in the narrative competition — three of them, back-to-back (but thankfully all at the Alamo Ritz, so I’ll be able to eat better than my usual fest diet of protein bars and 89,000 shots of espresso (hellllllooooo, milkshakes!) More later from SXSW, stay tuned.

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"Minotaur" Gets Optioned

Mike Jones, who until recently helmed Variety’s The Circuit blog, just had his screenplay for The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, adapted from the novel by Steven Sherrill, optioned by The Gotham Group.
The story is about the mythical half man-half bull working as a short order grill cook, in a world where other mythological creatures also work in a variety of menial jobs and are treated like low-wage minorities. Says Jones, “Since they are all myths, they each have their metaphorical place, in a way. In the Minotaur’s case, he’s the object of all alpha-male aggression, so any stupid ex-jock that sees him wants to push his buttons. So M keeps moving to different jobs to avoid conflict.”
Things get spicy when the Minotaur falls in love with a waitress at his new gig, and she with him. “When the head cook starts pushing him around, M decides to stay,” adds Jones. “And since he’s the Minotaur, he blows his stack. All hell breaks loose.”
Jones notes that his script is very different from the book. “It’s very internal, the book. I really only used the first three chapters, then went to a completely different direction.”
The concept of the film sounds pretty cool to me. The film will be a live-action project, and is currently out to directors. Congrats to Jones on optioning the script; now I just need to pick up the book and read it, so I know what to expect when the movie comes out.

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The Few, the Proud … the Movie Previews?

I’m spending a couple days in Oklahoma City visiting my dad on my way to Austin for SXSW. So tonight we went to see Taken with (more on that later), and when the previews started, we were treated to not one, but two ads for the military — one Air Force Reserves, one Marines. I can’t recall ever seeing military ads during previews for films in Seattle … am I just blocking here? Or is this a regional thing?


Where the Girls Are

Remember the controversial Annie Liebovitz Vanity Fair cover from March 2006? You know, the one with a nude Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley artfully arranged on black velvet, while fully clothed male fashion designer Tom Ford leaned behind Knightley, looking as though he’s whispering naughty nothings in Knightley’s ear. Yes, that one.
In the current issue of Vanity Fair, as a part of a larger piece on comedy’s role during the recession, Liebovitz contributed a photograph of Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd, posed in parody shot of the March 2006 cover, with Rogen, Segal and Hill in nude bodysuits while Rudd plays the role of a leering Tom Ford.
A couple days ago MaryAnn Johanson, Writing for Alliance of Women Film Journalists, raised some interesting points (full disclaimer: the same article includes a mention of a recent Voynaristic column) about how the two photos highlight the difference in the way male versus female nudity is treated by the media.
Specifically, says Johanson, “Well, Vanity Fair has apparently decided that it wasn’t enough to treat women like meat. Now, it’s highlighting Hollywood’s deeply and ridiculously unfair double standard about men’s and women’s bodies with a new “naked” photo shoot.” Johanson has an interesting take, and you should check out what she has to say.
However, you might find it surprising that I’m going to disagree with her — not about Hollywood’s double standard, but about whether these specific photos are, in fact, reflective of it.

Read the full article »


The Collections Biz is Going to be Mighty Rough the Next Few Years …

I’m betting people who work as “debt collectors” are going to be more loathed than lawyers and financial advisors over the next few years, as more and more families are forced to let medical bills and other debts slide to keep a roof over their kids’ heads and food on the table. Not that it’s a job I’d want to have in any circumstance, but I sure wouldn’t want it right now.
Right now Jay and I are both still employed (knock wood) and socking back what we can. We’re planning to grow a “Victory Over the Recession Garden” with the kids over the spring and summer, to save on our grocery bill. We haven’t yet had to tell any bill collectors to “take it out of our ass” yet, but in this economy? No promises.
And so, from Daily Kos … your laugh of the day:

I owe your client money? Mr. Debt Collection Agency Guy for the child delivery doctors office / health insurance whatever.
Of course you can collect it. You can come collect it right now from My Ass.

Read the entire article right here.

SXSW Preview

With so many potentially good films on the slate, what to see?
Spotlight Premieres looks to be one of the more promising categories at SXSW if you aren’t looking to take much of a chance on getting stuck with a bad film. There are quite a few Spotlight films I’d recommend (and several I’m trying to squeeze into my own cramped schedule): Fest opener I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segal looks promising, and fest-goers can get an early peek before it opens on March 20. I missed 500 Days of Summer at Sundance and have been kicking myself ever since; the film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, and reports from Sundance were very positive. Fox Searchlight picked the film up, and it comes out in July, but why wait?
Read the rest of this column …


The Daily Show vs CNBC

Who wins? Please. Not even a contest ….

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Quick Look at AFI Dallas

I just got the press release with the full schedule for the AFI Dallas 2009 International Film Festival, and I have to say, in their third year with this fest the programming team seems to finally be settling down in figuring out just what they want AFI Dallas to be. The lineup is a pretty solid mix of some good films from the fest circuit, especially Sundance, with a nice highlighting of films from Texas filmmakers to give the fest some local flavor and flair.
The fest will open this year with Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom, and the “Dallas Premiere Series,” mostly comprised of strong fest circuit films, includes Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Adam Resurrected, The Burning Plain, Hunger, Lymelife, Moon, Peter and Vandy, Sugar, Valentino: The Last Emperor Lightbulb, which just world premiered at Santa Barbara in January, and Sundance hit 500 Days of Summer. That’s a pretty impressive lineup right there for a smaller regional fest, even one that’s bolstered by being a part of AFI, and kudos to the fest for bringing such a strong slate of fest circuit films to the Dallas market, where they otherwise might not be seen for months, if at all.
I’ll be going to AFI Dallas to do a panel, and plan to catch some good films while I’m there; I always try to make room to see a couple films in the Texas competition. I’m not familiar with anything on that slate, but I’m always hopeful I’ll stumble upon the next great indie filmmaker in regional competitions like this one. The World Cinema slate brings Dallas geekboys and geekboys a chance to see the long-awaited Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, which I just saw at its Santa Barbara world premiere; fans of the Evangelion series will likely be happy with the film, while those not familiar with the series may find it hard to wrap their heads around the vast amount of information presented in a compressed format. Dallas audiences will also get a chance to catch films like Deepa Mehta’s Heaven on Earth, Kassim the Dream, and Sundance hot pick Rudo y Cursi, which is slated for release in May.
Dallas horror fans will also have the opportunity to catch Sundance zombie baby flick Grace, which left me traumatized for several hours after I caught it in Park City. It’s definitely worth catching for serious horror buffs, and even folks like me, who are not necessarily into blood and gore, will likely find enough to intrigue to make it worth their while. To be honest, it’s a pretty ballsy programming decision for a fest in a town like Dallas, but I like that the fest is pushing the envelope and obviously working hard to ensure that AFI Dallas is a film fest worth attending, not just a mediocre regional fest offering whatever scraps they can grab. This is a solid lineup for any fest, and I’m impressed that in three short years the AFI Dallas team has accomplished so much.

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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