Movie City Indie Archive for April, 2005

Indie jones: George "No More Star Wars" Lucas can't quit

Don’t want to read the rest of this article for sooooo many reasons: “Making his first appearance at a fan convention in 18 years, [George] Lucas told an Indianapolis crowd Saturday that he’s making plans for two TV series that would continue the sci-fi epic.” [aka Star Wars] … Yet Variety persists, noting the places Lucas might place opportunistic, branded, no-need-to-be-imaginative television programming, continuing a life’s work that he said would end with his upcoming Sith: “Cartoon Network would be the logical home for a 3-D “Star Wars” animated skein, given the net’s work with Lucasfilm on the “Clone Wars” series of shorts. However, a cabler like Sci Fi might also be interested given the probably high quality of the animation and the chance to be in business with Lucas.”

Aussie film: As important as the olive oil industry will become

A remodeled, Bazzified movie Palace opens Down Under: The foyer of South Yarra’s Cinema Como used to have about as much personality as a railway station waiting room. Not any more. The new-look Como… is unrecognisable—think bordello meets Gilbert and Sullivan…” The Age profiles Antonio Zeccola, head of the Palace Cinema chain, “which includes the Como and 15 other theatres across Australia… Zeccola also runs distributing arm Palace Films and is a keen investor in the Australian film industry… Zeccola laments the worldwide domination of Hollywood and believes the… Government must do more to support the local film industry, not just with funding, but with appropriate tax incentives. I sincerely would love to see a stronger Australian film industry, because I believe that it’s as important as the wine industry has become, as the olive oil industry will become… It’s an export industry.” Zeccola’s invested in Ana Kokkinos’ The Book of Revelation and Geoffrey Wright’s new Macbeth, as part of up to $A10 million in Australian films in the next 18 months or so. The Age quotes Zeccola, I’m extremely confident that the Australian films of the next couple of years will show what wonderful talent we have here. It’s a sin that someone like Ana Kokkinos has to wait four to five years before making her next film. It’s immoral.

Boredom, not whoredom? Variety protests

In Monday’s Variety, the not-precisely-young Derek Elley weighs in on the 2005 Cannes slate: “Do Palme d’Or competitors Michael Haneke, Jim Jarmusch, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan still represent the cutting edge of artistic achievement, as they did a decade or more ago? An affirmative answer is inevitably clouded by the reality that, outside a small audience constituency in France, their following Stateside and elsewhere is largely driven by middle-aged critical cliques rather than broader arthouse auds.”

What CameraPlanet are you from?: from the Observer & a reply

New York Observer’s Jake Brooks untangles one more spatty, bitter, litigious Manhattan indie collapse: “It must feel like déjà vu for Stephen Carlis. His former company, the Shooting Gallery, which he co-founded with Larry Meistrich, met its ignominious—and litigious—demise in the wake of the dot-com bust. Now Mr. Carlis finds himself on the brink of another legal struggle as his former employer, Steven Rosenbaum, the head of CameraPlanet—which closed its doors in December 2004—readies a civil lawsuit against him… Mr. Rosenbaum is also pursuing criminal action through the D.A.’s office. Among other financial improprieties, Mr. Rosenbaum alleges… Mr. Carlis… was using his relationships with filmmakers and producers to divert potential production projections… into third-party companies.. In legal terms, he was a faithless employee who breached his fiduciary duty… To say the least, Mr. Carlis sees matters differently… “This is probably one the sickest things anybody’s ever done. I really did a lot of wonderful things for this man. I befriended him. He told dozens of people that I saved his business after 9/11. Without me, he would have been out of business.” [Peter Gilbert, who directed one of the company’s visible results, With All Deliberate Speed (with the Discovery Channel’s “Discovery Doc” series), says a thing or two, including that he’s not been paid for making that doc.] [Mr. Brooks’ article states that “Mr. Gilbert was never paid by CameraPlanet for Speed.” In Comments, “” offers this in turn: Peter Gilbert was paid his fees, his expenses, and in fact in some cases his expenses were paid twice. This is easily documented [by] cancelled checks. The issue was that Carlis had said—in writing—that Gilbert was ‘foregoing his fees’ to help cover the production[‘]s enormous overages. And Peter claimed that his emails with Discovery had given him permission to spend these overages. In the end, the only party not paid on With All Deliberate Speed was CameraPlanet (because Discovery paid Gilbert out of fees earned by other on-budget, well managed projects). This is call[ed] cross-collateralizing expenses. If anyone wants to check with Discovery, they’ll find that Mr. Gilbert has been paid the entirety of his fees and expenses.“]

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How the human tribe leads life: watching one of the year's best films

A lovely appreciation in the FT of Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo‘s dour, brilliant, hypnotic and magisterial documentary The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, about children and the war in Chechnya, which has played Sundance, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Chicago and Thessaloniki. Writes Peter Aspden: “I would garland it with… superlatives, just so that some courageous independent distributor would plunder a few fruity adjectives to use in a promotional poster, but frankly it is near pointless…” The “On Culture” columnist saw her film a couple of days after viewing The Interpreter: “How absurd to expect us to be moved by [Kidman and Penn] huffing through bomb blasts, phony accents and improbable… twists, when the truth of war can be conveyed so simply… by the face of a child…” Aspden ponders that gulf between the two movies: “Why have we become so disrespectful of an art form, that we choose, en masse, to consume only its most vulgar products?” He concludes with words from Honkasalo: I don’t care for truths, but when I’m not asleep or dreaming, I wish to know how the human tribe leads life, shapes history and expresses will. Europe is full of people who need grace to cope with a righteous rage that turns against them. Life is no court of justice; justice does not prevail, life does. [The article is online only for subscribers.]

House of Worth: Terrence Davies can't get the pounds

The jaw-droppingly gifted Scottish director Terrence Davies, who made Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes, The Neon Bible and House of Mirth sees another project detonate for lack of English finance. Scotland on Sunday reports, “It is one of Scottish literature’s great masterpieces, while he is one of Britain’s most acclaimed film directors. ‘Sunset Song’ and.. Davies looked like a dream combination, but plans for a film of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon classic [of troubled rural life] have collapsed because of a complete lack of interest in England.” Scottish and international money was interest, but he was ashcanned by the BBC and Channel 4 as well as the UK Film Council. Of its £7m budget two years ago, Scottish Screen had awarded the project £500,000 of lottery money. Producer Bob Last says that “It was a film that was still very distinctively Terry’s vision, but reached out to bigger audiences both in the UK and globally.” … Celia Stevenson of Scottish Screen said: “I don’t think there’s any difficulty in getting a good Scottish novel made into television. I think there’s possibly more of a difficulty getting one made into a film. But I have absolutely no idea why.”

Red Bank, NJ's arthouse bank: how SPE & others help it thrive

The Asbury Park Press celebrates an arthouse with powerful pals: “The Red Bank Art Cinema, 36 White St., opened 10 years ago this month, with a strict policy of only art, independent and foreign film programming…. Many of the movies come from Sony Pictures Classics, whose faith in the Red Bank theater has been almost heroic. Tom Bernard, co-president of the company and a Middletown resident, has made sure his company’s films play at the arts cinema, occasionally only a week or two after their New York openings… “Our movies have done tremendous business… the highest in the state,” Bernard said. “[It’s] part of an elite group nationwide. The outreach marketing that Clearview has done and its commitment to the art policy is the most important element in the theater’s success.”

Brian Grazer on "three names" and Ron F'ing Howard

The indieness of the not-so-idle rich: Newsweek buffs up the rep of Ron Howard, eliciting this comic comment from producer Brian Grazer, It’s a bummer that it doesn’t compute the way it should… There are many directors who get fussed over a lot more than Ron and who have had significantly less impact. But he’s just such a no-fuss guy. He doesn’t wear all black clothes. He’s not Paul Thomas Anderson—he doesn’t have three names. Maybe he should.

Ebert on The Marriage of Maria Braun

In “The Great Movies,” Roger Ebert rues the loss of Fassbinder: “The Marriage of Maria Braun was made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in 1979, near the end of a career so short and dazzling that it still seems incredible he did so much and died so young. Fassbinder made at least 30 features, or many more if you count his television productions, including the 15-hour miniseries “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” and he did it all between 1969 and his death at age 37 in 1982…. Fassbinder’s world was one in which sex, ego and money drove his characters to cruelty, sadism and self-destruction. It is never difficult to discover what they want, or puzzling to see how they go about it.” [More at the link.]

Subverting the censors: Islamic filmmakers

In the Guardian, Tariq Ali has a brisk survey of how Islamic filmmakers have always had to battle the censors, making them better artists: “It is as difficult to define or classify Islamic cinema as it would be a Christian, Jewish or Buddhist one. The language of cinema has always been universal. Interpretations vary. Censors had different priorities: in 1950s Hollywood a married couple could not share a double bed and had to be clothed. In South Asia, the censor’s scissors clipped out kisses from western films.” {More at the link.]

Time Out for Korine & Bruce Robinson

Time Out London reports on a few cool projects aborning: Harmony Korine is getting finance from designer agnès b to shoot Mr. Lonely in Iceland come June. Withnail & I‘s nutter, Bruce Robinson, returns to the form of the mighty debauch, prepping Hunter S. Thompson‘s The Rum Diary, to star Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Nick Nolte and Josh Hartnett.

Pauline Kael once said…

In Slate, taking Sydney Pollack to task for his low-key style, Bryan Curtis breaks out the Paulette nuke: Pollack’s later work rarely betrays the notion that his leading men have been given any direction at all. How else to account for Redford’s All-American gauziness in ‘Out of Africa’—he “looks as if he’d been blow-dried away,” quipped Pauline Kael. Meanwhile, in the SF Chronicle, a nice Jeff Selvin prorile of Greil Marcus puts us in the know that “Marcus has established himself as the thinking man’s rock critic, the Pauline Kael of pop.”

Pascal's wager: what's Sony betting on?

Amy Pascal, who’s said a few blunt things in the past about the quality of contemporary movies, talks to the FT about the non-formula for making movies at Sony: ” will probably live to regret this, but putting together a slate of movies is really an opportunistic thing. As a company we make 20-24 movies a year that we hope will make money. You try to have 4 or 5 in summertime that you think will be big and will be as entertainment-oriented as you can. You have 4 or 5 movies in November and December that are more family friendly. One of them will be more Oscar-oriented and adult, and you fill in the blanks for the rest of the year. That’s pretty much the deal. And then smart journalists ask you about the theory. It’s all crap. What you do is make movies that will make money…” In spite of her passion for the 21st-century imagery of Spider-Man, she does not rate any film produced after 1975 among her 10 favourites—which include Last Tango In Paris, All About Eve and Shampoo…. “It’s no longer domestic versus international, it’s just the world. You absolutely cannot make money on a movie that only works domestically.. You read a script and say, ‘This could make money.’ You just make movies you like. You think I don’t?”

This little Figgis went to market

Digi-flaneur Mike Figgis brings his ‘Coma’ doc to the Cannes market, per Variety. “Documentary recounts what happened when Figgis invited 20 aspiring filmmakers to attend a weeklong master class in Slovenia and then challenged them to shoot a feature film from scratch. The movie wasn’t finished, but the conflicts and tensions provided rich material for the doc.”

Von Manderlay

The Danish coming attractions trailer for Lars Trier’s Cannes-bound Manderlay has only half-a-dozen iterations of a certain, specific N-word.

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