Movie City Indie Archive for March, 2005

Ducking Harvey

Tom Carson throws words at “Open Wide: How Hollywood Box Office Became a National Obsession” in May’s The Atlantic Monthly: “Today’s 800-pound Daffy—the heir to Samuel Goldwyn’s mighty quacking—is Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, since he clearly won’t rest until his company’s Oscars are numerous enough to do battle with the emperor Qin Shihuang’s terra-cotta army. But the Bugs side of movies is the subject of Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing’s first-rate “Open Wide”… It is published, let us note, by Miramax Books, which may or may not irritate the rival studios being scrutinized, but does remind us that Harvey is sentimental enough to think that having an eponymous print division confers classiness. In contrast, Rupert Murdoch probably has to pinch himself on most days even to remember he owns HarperCollins.”

Toasting AOLTimeWarnerNewLineFineLineHBOica

At a post-party for the premiere of The Ballad of Jack and Rose, the Observer’s Jake Brooks fills a few cocktail napkins with indie go-tos going to Bob Berney’s move to AOLTimeWarnerNewLineFineLineHBOica, building a case that “smaller-budget films… will not be the new company’s entire diet, like it was at Newmarket, which means more elbow room for independent film companies operating exclusively in that sphere. “There’s definitely one less company that’s chasing after films that are in [the] $1-$5 million range,” said Ryan Werner, the head of distribution at Wellspring. “There are not that many companies now, and as we try to grow, obviously, yes, the less competition the better.” [Bingham] Ray, who founded the now-defunct October Films in 1990, agrees. He foresees a marked change in the marketplace and is now optimistic about starting a new independent venture. “I don’t think the same could be said a year ago at this time.”

Bowles'd over

Chris Vognar‘s late SXSW report from the Dallas Morning News sets the scene for a set by one Eamonn Bowles: “The Martinets rip through a blistering set Saturday night at the Lava Lounge, led by animated singer-guitarist Eamonn Bowles. Sporting black jeans and a puffy white shirt with pink frills, the 49-year-old Mr. Bowles whips out a few Pete Townshend guitar windmills, drops to a knee and engages his three bandmates in playful banter about who has the most garish clothes… Happy, and very busy. You see, Mr. Bowles – veteran of the ’70s New York punk scene, front man for a respected indie band – is also president of Texas-based Magnolia Pictures. He pulled double duty at South by Southwest this year, as a film executive with a hot documentary (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and as a caustic rocker who attracts a particularly movie-savvy crowd… Bassist Dave Rick used to play for indie icon band Yo La Tengo… Guitarist Daniel Rey produced a little punk band called the Ramones. These are just two of the bands that influenced the Martinets’ hard-driving sound. “It’s definitely a New York City, 1979 kind of thing,” says Mr. Bowles.” (Nice snap, too.) More at the link.

Aping Oop

Iowa novelist and filmmaker Max Allan Collins debuts a 3 1/2-year labor at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival: “Muscatine novelist and filmmaker Max Allan Collins has completed a documentary on a subject sure to interest many Iowans – cartoonist Vincent T. Hamlin and his famous comic strip “Alley Oop.” Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop, the Des Moines Register reports, considers how the ” dinosaur-laden strip has been credited with inspiring everything from The Flintstones to Jurassic Park. … “The documentary is chock-full of pop art images—there’s a lot of eye candy,” Collins said.” [There was a glitch in clearing rights to the 1950s novelty song, “Alley Oop,” so Collins riffed.] Ever the resourceful one, Collins called in a friend from California and they wrote a similar sounding song called “Alley Oop Rides Again” that has the same groove.”

Kicking and squeaming: the Times on Sin City

The Times engages in a little chatty thumbsucking over the content of Frank Miller’s Sin City, while indulging the paper’s persistent fixation on the doings of the duo Weinstein: Of course, not every film noir piece shows the heads of five prostitutes mounted on a wall, or a dog eating the legs of a still-live boy, or a man ripping out the genitals of another man, or—but never mind.

Malaysian sensaysh in SF

Malaysia’s Star gives the local angle on 6 Malaysian movies slated in next month’s 48th San Francisco International Film Festival. “The organisers said the festival this year has a special focus on Malaysia, a multi-cultural society where the development of digital video and the growing sophistication of a new, cine-literate generation in the past three years has seen the emergence of an independent film movement. SFIFF’s executive director Roxanne Messina Captor’s quoted: “Filmmakers are taking risks and using the medium to speak out about the social issues that affect their country and the world at large, such as economic collapse in Argentina and the Enron corporation, political corruption in Peru and Denmark, the rise of US neo-conservatism and Islamic fundamentalism.”  

Edwardsville, Illinois: many weekends with friends attending movies and sipping sodas

The Telegraph of Alton, Illinois celebrates the relighting of a huge theater marquee: “Three switches were thrown to light up a piece of Edwardsville history that had been freeze-framed for 20 years. The lighting of the Wildey Theater marquee on North Main Street attracted more than 50 people… Many turned out to pay their respects to a building that brought back memories of growing up in the community and simpler times. Some laughed, telling stories of sneaking in to the theater… or being tossed out of the building by “Mrs. Duffy.” “Oh, my God, does this bring back memories,” said Sharon Deppe of Edwardsville. The Edwardsville High School graduate said she spent many weekends with friends attending movies and sipping sodas. “They should’ve kept the ticket booth… Deppe spoke fondly of Verna Duffy, known to theatergoers of the day as “Mrs. Duffy.” Deppe described the late Duffy as “tough and strict.” Duffy managed the Wildey for many years and was manning the building the night it closed its doors… Before the official lighting ceremony, old silent film reels were projected on a window outside the building to the north of the marquee. The building was built in 1909, and the theater closed its doors in 1984.” No mention of what they’re showing behind the bright lights…

Cuban, libre

In Wired’s profile of billionaire Landmark Theatres/Dallas Mavericks/Magnolia Pictures/HDNet owner Mark Cuban, the writer gets at one of the key financial maneuvers yet to be hatched for the future of “digital cinema.” “‘One model that seems very attractive is for studios to divert the money they would otherwise expect to spend on prints,’ says Charles Swartz, executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC. They could then use this money to pay for equipment and installation in theaters that commit to showing digital fare. If the studios balk, another funding scenario gathering acceptance splits the financial burden among many parties. ‘Money from investment banks or Wall Street could find its way to entities that will purchase the equipment and install it in theaters,’ Swartz says. These new third-party entities could provide an array of services, from encoding and encrypting movies to packaging and delivery—essentially becoming a new middleman.”

Larry Clark: How'd you find me?

New York’s David Amsden talks to photographer-filmmaker-parent terrible on the eve of a major retrospective at Manhattan’s International Center of Photography: “At its rawest and best, Clark’s work reveals a ‘Lord of the Flies’ vision of being young in America—parentless kids fending for themselves, doing what they can to deny their own existences—one that’s often a few steps ahead of the news cycle… “I don’t want to toot my own horn, because that’s stupid, but I’m just saying that I got there early… When I did ‘Tulsa,’ people thought that drugs couldn’t be happening with crew-cut kids in Oklahoma. Look now! Meth is the scourge of the Southwest! And when ‘Kids’ came out, they said it was all about Larry, that it was the fantasies of an old man. Then suddenly the news was filled with school shootings, sex, AIDS—all the headlines were what you saw in the movie!” Then, without pause: “Wait a second. Why am I even talking about this? How’d you find me? I fucking hate talking about my work.”

Six Degrees of Denigration: "Rebels on the Backlot"

In Seattle Weekly, Tim Appelo cuts to the chafe: Indefatigable foreign correspondent turned New York Times Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman is one of the finest showbiz reporters on earth, and one of the worst writers. She’s a heat-seeking news missile, capable of penetrating the hardened bunkers of the industry’s Saddam-like liars and bringing lively truths to light. But you’d have to turn to Quentin Tarantino to find a famous person more incompetent at handling the basics of English prose.

Gore Tex art

AP reports from down Austin way on the making of Frank Miller’s Sin City: “Working together, the co-directors paid obsessive attention to capturing the Sin City of the page, frame by frame.”We were working with my drawings up on one camera where we would superimpose the real image and adjust it until it matched my compositions,” says Miller… Shooting without film made for a very different experience for Nick Stahl… “They didn’t cut ever, which was weird… In one sense it was great because it does kind of free you up. You don’t have to think, ‘Do I have time for this or that?’ You just have to do it. For that reason, you had to come very prepared. It was a little exhausting.”

Christmas in March

Porky’s Redux is not yet upon us, but Bob Clark is on the remake trail: the veteran schlockmeister’s early Canadian slasher pic Black Christmas is getting a retread. Maclean’s reports that Toronto’s Copperheart Entertainment, co-producers of the Academy Award-winning animated short Ryan are going downmarket with former “X-Files” producers James Wong and Glen Morgan writing, with Morgan directing in the fall in Vancouver.

I have finally figured out how to read your reviews

An Ebert reader writes to The Answer Man: I have finally figured out how to read your reviews. A review isn’t about what it says; it’s about how it goes about saying it: If you are stimulated to eloquence by the movie, then the movie is a must-see. It doesn’t matter if you rate it well or poorly; it is the fact that you reacted strongly to the movie, and worked hard at clarity, that tells me what I need to know. If the review looks like it “wrote itself,” then you enjoyed the film and I may or may not like it based on personal preference. If the review seems to lack punch, or seems confused, then I know the film was a stinker no matter which way you look at it, and should be avoided for mental health reasons. –Ron Wodaski, Cloudcroft, N.M.
A. By following these rules, one would not always see good movies, but one would usually see interesting ones.

Nick Broomfield goes formal

The Guardian caucuses several filmmakers about the legacy of Dogme 95, including Kristian Levring, Mike Figgis, Harmony Korine, Bernard Rose, Dan Myrick, Thomas Vinterberg and Nick Broomfield: “With documentaries there are already a set of very strict rules in place: original sound, no restaging, minimal lighting, no cutaways. In a sense, Dogme rules are much more lenient and slightly inconsistent. They didn’t, for example, specify non-actors, or no scripted dialogue—that would have been interesting. But it’s neither here nor there whether a camera is handheld or on a tripod. Dogme’s great benefit was that it focused attention on the grammar of making films.”

Confederacy of onces

The Reporter considers literary properties taking a bumpy ride to the screen, focusing on Confederacy of Dunces, the rights to which have reverted to Paramount. Co-writer-producer Scott Kramer “hopes to lock in a new financing deal soon and says the key players—[Steven] Soderbergh, [David Gordon] Green, [Drew] Barrymore and Mos Def—remain attached. But his office answering machine sounds sadly prophetic in declaring, “If you are calling regarding Confederacy of Dunces, that project is now on indefinite hold.”

Movie City Indie

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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