Movie City Indie Archive for May, 2005

Linking the Lynchian metaverse intarweb

Online viewing tip: a few trusty posters have rounded up a hot, steamy cornucopia of friendly links of what they call “David Lynch Trailers (Misc. Oddities).” It’s a Wiki world, after all… (Also, don’t forget The Black Lodge.)

Me and You and why is Miranda July This Way?

In her ongoing blog about the travels of her wonderful new movie, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, Miranda July remains otherworldly and dear. This is a small snip of her hop-skip back to Cannes when she found she shared the Camera d’or award: “[We] heard our names and we walked up to the podium. The prize was given by Abbas Kiarostami, the head of the jury, and, oddly enough, Milla [Jovovich]. When I was 12 I deeply wanted a subscription to Seventeen magazine, but I was too embarrassed to ask for this because I knew my father would frown upon it. I was torn between wanting it and wanting to prove that I was not a silly, materialistic girl. Eventually I got the subscription and Milla was on the cover of the first issue. So you can imagine my surprise, to see it was she, ushering me in to this new world. Maybe she will always be the gatekeeper for each new world I enter.

Pauline Kael once said…

The Philly Inquirer, quoting an article by Todd S. Purdum in the NY Times, reminds us that the late New Yorkerette didn’t like The Sound of Music: “Pauline Kael, the reigning film critic of her era, denounced it as “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat.” In the May 24 Wall Street Journal, Leon de Winter cited an evergreen: “The entire Dutch cabinet is in a state of disbelief, like Pauline Kael, the New York Times film critic, who remarked after Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in 1972: “How can that be? No one I know voted for Nixon.”” (De Winter is described as an adjunct fellow of the conservative Hudson Institute.) Writing at Cinematical about Ernst Lubitsch‘s Ninotchka, soon to appear on DVD, Ryan Stewart cites this Kaeloid: “I’m reminded of something Pauline Kael once said: When there is no respect on either side, commerce is a dirty word.”

Excellent criticism involves contextualizing

Theater writer Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, the Official Daily of the National Film Critics’ Association, contemplates the strangling of criticism: “To a great many artists, the emasculation of the critic is something to be cheered. At a recent panel at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival… the managing director of the Arena Stage in Washington,told attendees that regional theaters should concentrate on “reducing the influence” of the local critic. This could be done, he implied, by creating a community of audience members and subscribers who trusted their arts organization — and each other — so much that the view of “that one guy” would mean little or nothing to them. This, Shields said, was the only way a theater could create a climate conducive to artistic risk-taking… That’s a very healthy idea — contrary to popular opinion, most critics don’t crave exclusivity. But user reviews are just that — user reviews. Excellent criticism involves contextualizing… There’s no diminishment in the public appetite for explanation — the cultural world out there only gets ever more bewildering.”

Foreign's not porno: Don Roos and the Times

Old corrections are good corrections: from the Sunday, May 15, New York Times, found while doing laundry. “Because of a transcription error, an article last Sunday in Summer Movies, Part 2 of this section, about the director Don Roos rendered a word incorrectly in his comment about the use of onscreen titles in his film ”Happy Endings.” He said, ”I love foreign films, which have a lot of signage in them” — not ”porno films.”

Future now: Sheffield's Warp Films

Warp, the record label and producers of Chris Cunningham‘s Rubber Johnny due on DVD in June, tell the Telegraph what they’re all about: Amid all the stories of doom and gloom usually written about the state of the British film industry, the impact made by Warp Films, a tiny three-person operation based in Sheffield, provides some hope for its future. The first ever film they produced, a 10-minute short by satirist Chris Morris about a man walking his dog in the middle of a mental breakdown, won a Bafta in 2003. Their first feature, Dead Man’s Shoes, a revenge thriller cut through with black humour, was seen as a return to form for its director Shane Meadows. Yet the company’s background is not in film at all but in the field of electronic music…. Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell started Warp at the height of the acid house craze in 1989. The label shared its name with the record store they ran in Sheffield. From the start, Warp released music that challenged the perceptions of dance music as mindless… The move into film wasn’t so much a leap into the unknown but, says Beckett, “a natural follow-on from the connections we’d already made with people in that field”. [More at the link, including news of developing a new feature with Lynne Ramsay.]

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Bomb the esthetics: style over substance

26 year-old Adam Bhala Lough, director of Gotham-set graffiti opera Bomb the System talks to Gothamist about style ‘n’ substance: “A lot of people are put off with someone who tries to experiment, or they immediately think “style over substance.” But you know what? My taste falls in line with style over substance. I’m more interested in movies like David Lynch’s Lost Highway or Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels—movies that are visually striking.” Your biggest film influences? Darren Aronofsky, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch, and Jim Jarmusch.”

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Thumbsucker: Longest Yard prompts Ebertian meditation

In a 3-star review, the co-host of “Ebert & Roeper” considers, to thumb or not to thumb? while giving away some trade secrets: “3 weeks ago I saw The Longest Yard, and before I left for [Cannes], I did an advance taping… on which I gave a muted thumbs-up to Richard Roeper’s scornful thumbs-down… Now 3 weeks have passed and I have seen 25 films at Cannes, most of them attempts at greatness, and I sit here staring at the computer screen and realizing with dread that the time has come for me to write a review justifying that vertical thumb… I said what I sincerely believed at the time. I believed it as one might believe in a good cup of coffee; welcome while you are drinking it, even completely absorbing, but not much discussed three weeks later. Indeed after my immersion in the films of Cannes, I can hardly bring myself to return to The Longest Yard at all, since it represents such a limited idea of what a movie can be and what movies are for… There is a sense in which attacking this movie is like kicking a dog for not being better at calculus… I often practice a generic approach to film criticism, in which the starting point for a review is the question of what a movie sets out to achieve. The Longest Yard more or less achieves what most of the people attending it will expect. [But] I have just come from 12 days at Cannes during which several times each day I was reminded that movies can enrich our lives, instead of just helping us get through them.”

Andrew Sarris: the extended remix

On Film Comment’s website, Kent Jones reflects on the legacy of accidental auteurist Andrew Sarris in a piece longer than the one in June’s paper-‘n’-ink issue. A snippet: “Sarris was always bracingly honest about his prejudices, and his greatest was for the avant-garde. “Live and let live has been my motto,” he wrote of his reluctance to attack non-narrative films in print, “and since most American avant-garde film artists have tended to be as poor as church mice, it seemed unduly cruel to heap abuse atop neglect.” I will never forget the hair-raising moment when he took fellow Voice writer Jim Hoberman to task in print for “freaking out on the arthouse acid below 14th Street.” In retrospect, while I can’t abide the notion that narrative is the only package in which moving images should be wrapped, I have to commend and even envy Sarris for his candor—most of his colleagues would have hidden behind layers of rationalization or obfuscation.” [Much more at the link.]

The loviest Yard: Burt vs. Ingmar

Ah, everybody’s a critic. Syracuse Post-Standard sports columnist Bud Poliquin defends an unlikely auteur against the arrows of a certain 69-year-old mouthy macho face-case: “In the current edition of Esquire magazine, Burt Reynolds is quoted as saying, “I’d rather be shot in the leg than watch an Ingmar Bergman picture,” an opinion to which he is certainly entitled. But it does inspire one to imagine which body part Bergman would choose to mutilate—and how he’d do it—before ever agreeing to endure [the remake of] The Longest Yard. My guess, and it’s just that, is that the old Swede might prefer to pour some burning charcoal into his skivvies and then take a seat upon a rusty spike.”

Hal Hartley: 300,000 DVDs to make the cabbage back

Peter Keough talks to Hal Hartley while fretting in the Boston Phoenix about what ‘indie’ means on a George Lucas planet: Hartley “had long been annoyed by ads using classic rock-and-roll songs… “I heard the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ playing over a Nike commercial… There seemed something wrong about that. Overhearing people’s casual conversations with each other, I notice how everyone’s saying the same things. People give the impression that they’re expressing themselves individually, but they’re all talking like some character on a popular sit-com. We feel like we’re being flattered all the time for being original, but in fact we’re all just buying into the same things.” … Hartley decided to do something he had never done before —distribute his new movie himself. “When we finished the ilm, we realized we had something that was considerably outside the mainstream, and somewhere along the line, the boundary between producing a movie and distributing it dissolved. We’re not making a ton of money. I’m happy we just finished the New York run and the theater made money. We’ll have to sell something like 300,000 to make our money back. I don’t think that’s very likely.”

Doc filmmakers have a lot more freedom: Barbara Kopple

Barbara Kopple talks about her newest, the co-directed Bearing Witness, about five female war correspondents, in a Q&A with Rob Nelson in City Pages: “Most people in this country have never experienced war firsthand. And the mainstream media rarely if ever attempts to show them what it might be like. So sometimes it’s up to documentary filmmakers to try to answer or at least expose the important questions—because we have a lot more freedom. The trade-off is that it’s harder to get the work seen: You have to find someone to distribute it, you have to do grassroots organizing to get the word out. It’s never easy. But if you have a film that really says something, you figure out other strategies. Look at Outfoxed, for example: That film sold something like 100,000 copies on DVD with the help of You just have to make the film and then get it out any way you can… I just try to tell the best story I can. I make each film as if it could be my last–so I’d better do it well.”

Grind in mind; Tarantino and Rodriguez jumpstart Weinsteinco

Outlining the upcoming releases and productions of the tentatively named Weinsteinco, the “godfathers” of Miramax put a quick package together, Gregg Kilday reports in the Reporter: “Tarantino and Rodriguez will each write and direct a 60-minute horror film, and the two films will be packaged under the title Grind House, which is planned for a spring 2006 release through the Weinstein Co. It also will include its own trailers, bonus materials and added extras from other filmmakers that will be packaged together between the two horror flicks in a tribute to the old, big-city movie houses like those on New York’s 42nd Street that earned the moniker grindhouses for programing genre pictures back to back.”

Happy man: David Cronenberg

A late Cannes snap by Macleans’ Brian D. Johnson: “The premiere of A History of Violence, Canadian David Cronenberg‘s Hollywood-financed thriller. The audience has been on its feet, clapping and cheering, for 5 minutes. Cronenberg blows them kisses with arms outstretched. He hugs his stars, Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and William Hurt, while his wife, Carolyn, working with a professional camera, captures it all on video. Finally, Cronenberg gives her a passionate embrace… Taking the camera, he holds it aloft in a triumphant salute and executes a slow pan around the room, like a rock star offering up the microphone to the crowd. Earlier he had turned tables on photographers by shooting back with his own Nikon… The idea of filming his own standing ovation, he swears, was unpremeditated: “I was running out of things to do,” he says. “At that point, I would have done backflips if could.” [There’s more in the piece on both Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, who brought his Where the Truth Lies to town.]

Sith: Not a fun, popcorn-and-Coke flick?

In Benton, Arkansas, Benton Courier news editor Richard Duke asserts that “politics” have no place in a “flick,” and in fact, George Lucas is sullying the memory of Duke’s father: “Maybe this is what the left needs to get over the past two elections. The sad part is that I and many other people want to watch Star Wars because of the escapism it provides. It is one of the only memories I have with my father, who died when I was 7… He took me to the Plaza Twin in Jonesboro one Sunday night to see the space opera, and I will forever remember the experience. There are millions more like us—people who don’t want our politics questioned when we go to a fun, popcorn-and-Coke flick… [Lucas] doesn’t even realize that he is basically mocking a large number of people who have supported his films by sitting them down and saying, “Here is my movie, and by the way, you are dumb sheep led to slaughter…” .. I’ll probably go and enjoy the heck out of it, but can I be absolutely sure of it? Well, of course not. Only a Sith Lord—or a red-state redneck with no culture or logic—deals in absolutes.”

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