Movie City Indie Archive for May, 2005

Hawksing His Girl Friday

Howard Hawks’ fast-talking comedy classic, His Girl Friday, is in public domain, and now you can download it for free.

Troma aroma

BackStage checks the bottom of the indie barrel for a casting notice for LloydToxic AvengerKaufman‘s new feature, Poultrygeist!: “A fast food restaurant is plagued by an army of bloodthirsty chicken zombies and the employees must save the day. Shooting July/Aug. in NYC.”

Not Embedded in traditional distribution: Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins is finding new ways to get his work in consumers’ hands, telling the LA Times’ Elaine Dutka about Netflix distribbing the DVD of Embedded: “Was the play great? I have no idea,” Robbins said. “But the experience was electric and important to audiences, and I wanted to document that moment. I knew this wouldn’t be a slam dunk, but fortunately the landscape is shifting. Netflix, with its sophisticated database, is an important piece of the puzzle… I have faith in the system and I work in it… I’m not the person who will decry it. No matter what the right wing says, Hollywood is run on profit, not politics—like any business. It’s too simplistic a world view to say that Hollywood does anything in lock step. At the same time, I’m aware that certain product is more suitable for alternative delivery systems and I’m trying to tap into that.”

At least Caryn James isn't sarcastic

Surveying the trend of documentaries being more interesting than fiction features, cultural gatekeeper and arbiter of acceptable visual style Caryn James works light-hearted snark into her piece in the Times: “Digital technology has made filmmaking so cheap and easy that now almost anyone can point a camera at a difficult father or a wicked stepmother and call it a movie.” She’s not interested in most of the stuff she sees, however: “Even the most successful political documentaries are not likely to approach the box office numbers of Michael Moore’s artful, entertaining Fahrenheit 9/11 which was propelled by election-year frenzy. But that hasn’t stopped less creative filmmakers from trying, and being overpraised for their modest efforts. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room has a topical subject, a lucidly told story, and no more flair than a cheap documentary on cable television.” She likes Herzog, however: “There are still documentaries transformed by an artist’s vision,” singling out the soon-to-be-released Grizzly Man.

Digital India (and Singapore)

From India’s Financial Express, Nivedita Mookerji reports on the digital transition in that coutnry: “In another 5 years, India may see a total transition to digital… Delivery of digital content through satellite distribution network holds the key… Networked digital cinema offers new revenue streams to exhibitors, reduced delivery cost and improved piracy protection to distributors, and preserved image and sound integrity to producer… While Hughes [Escorts, a digital provider,] has already signed on 250 theatres for networked distribution of digital films, it plans to sign 500 by August and another 1,000 by the end of this year.” Rather than junking distribution infrastructure as would be the case in North America, Mookerji points out, in India, it would be creating a system where there is now none. “Significant beneficiaries of networked distribution would be theatres in smaller towns… Around 30 countries are learnt to have begun the transition to digital cinema, and Singapore is even spearheading a digital exchange initiative. Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) aims to pitch Singapore as the global node where all forms of digital content are processed, managed and distributed…”

Color me Punch Drunk

In Senses of Cinema, writer Cubie King does a stalwart job of decoding color in Punch Drunk Love, illustrating points with stills. He winds up intoxicated himself: “One can’t help but draw comparisons between Punch Drunk Love and the 1927 [silent] masterpiece< i>Sunrise (F.W. Murnau). Both are romance films, both have leading men who are in constant struggle with their environments, and both end with the world (and the film) back in harmony with itself. But, more important, both films take important steps in forwarding a cinematic language based less on dialogue (Murnau had no choice) and more on how a story can be told replete with image and sound, “Cinema to be cinema.”

African film rebirth: not so fast

Reuters reports some glitches in increasing local auds for African films: “A tiny fraction of Africans visit the cinema and Hollywood glamour is pointless if the industry fails to build a local audience by taking distinctly African films to people… in townships, slums and villages… “We need to make films that speak to black people, not some nebulous international audience,” said Mark Dornford-May, director of award-winning South African film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha. “And we need to find alternatives to shopping mall cinemas in smart suburbs.” The director’s film, “a remake of Georges Bizet’s 19th century opera set in a tough South African township and translated into the African tongue-clicking language Xhosa [premiered] at a community center in Khayelitsha” and “was screened in townships across the country at less than a third of the price of a normal cinema ticket. In South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse that is driving its much-vaunted movie revival, the sprawling black townships on the edge of the big cities have virtually no cinemas.” Transportation to the “posher suburbs, whose vast shopping malls are home to almost all the country’s movie theaters are poor” as well. A local entrepreneur, 25-year-old Ryan Thwaits “was tired of battling tiny, mostly white, audiences and decided to create his own cinemas by converting township shacks. Thwaits lured 11,000 cinemagoers a month to watch Hollywood action and romantic comedy mixed with local films… “The community loved it,” said Thwaits, who aims to roll out 10 more shack cinemas in the townships surrounding Cape Town by the end of the year.”

S. Korea: You can't compete against Hollywood without bigger markets

The Reporter dissects the stats on one of Asia’s most interesting markets, South Korea: “While Korean films have been booming for nearly six years, exploding budgets and intense competition have made profitability increasingly elusive. Without exports, the Korean movie industry would have lost more than $20 million in 2004. “You have to look at Asia for survival—you need the bigger market,” says Esther Koo, VP at Hong Kong’s Applause Pictures, which has, since its inception in 2000, focused on building up the film business throughout the region. “Look at what happened to Hong Kong a few years ago; the same thing could happen to Korea. You can’t compete against Hollywood without bigger markets.”

Disturbing a Shallow Grave

Danny Boyle‘s let the rights go to a Chinese remake of his debut pic, Shallow Grave: “If you are going to remake Shallow Grave you would make it in Shanghai… What a brilliant place to do it—it’s bursting with capitalist frenzy. We made Shallow Grave at a time in Britain when everyone was sick of the corruption of the Tories. Shallow Grave was really a very cynical look at what that obsession with money did to people… Now there is an explosion in Shanghai and it seems really worthwhile to remake the film. This is a case where the idea for the remake is an even better one than the original.”

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Japan today: how movies get there

Japan Today has a diverse survey of how movies are released in, um, Japan today. “Japan is the second biggest market in the world for Hollywood movies,” they report, while explaining things like the later release of movies in their market: “There are fewer theaters in Japan (despite the increase in multiplex cinemas) and because time is needed to generate buzz…. “To put it into perspective, there are only 3,000 screens in Japan. In the U.S., there are 10 times that,” says [the] chairman of Warner Entertainment Japan Inc, which has been No. 1 in grosses and market share in Japan for the past four years. “That being said, we release most of our big-budget ‘tentpole’ pictures within a couple of weeks of the U.S. release.” … Unlike the U.S., where there are many “peak” times of the year to open a movie, there are really only three important seasons in Japan — Golden Week, summer and New Year. If distributors hope to have a blockbuster, they have to slot it into one of those. That’s why Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith,” which opened in 40 countries on May 19, won’t open here until July 9.” Teenagers, the report continues, make up less than 10% of the Japanese moviegoing audience; explanations of how and why movie titles are changed and how Japanese subtitling works are among the other interesting bits.

And then there were none: Last Cannesblogging from NY Times

Clicking on the tail end of the NY Times’ Cannesblog offers this from Mr. Scott that almost doesn’t tempt exploration: “Like Ms. Dargis I was disheartened by that Hollywood Reporter article [by Anne Thompson], which seemed almost intended to perpetuate the situation it pretends to describe. If you assume that American audiences aren’t interested in certain kinds of movies, and therefore don’t release or write about those kinds of movies, then your assumption will of course appear to be proven right.” If you read further, further down, to ‘Ms. Dargis” original post several items below, as she links to MCN and a couple other joints, ire, well, ire=fire. It’s an old-fashioned passion match.

Going Aristocratic: Penn Jillette, getting started

THINKFilm’s releasing Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette‘s The Aristocrats on July 29, and they’ve sent a letter from Jillette to journalists, who offers a few first notes. “A higher percentage of people who’ve seen our movie liked it than the percentage of people who liked Lord of the Rings. One reason is that Lord of the Rings sucks and our movie is good… Think of the most disgusting images you can. Think of the worst scatological and nonconsensual sex you can. Imagine children. Imagine young children. Imagine children that are related to each other. Children who are related to you. Imagine animals. Young endangered animals who are related to each other… Nope, you’re not even close. The movie has over 100 professionals. They are much more disgusting than you can ever be, that’s because they’re professionals… The taboo language is not even the main thrust; the main thrust is a movie with no nudity, no violence and no conflict… It’s very political because it’s not political at all… Michael Moore and Mel Gibson are the same person, except for a few sit-ups. Moore thought his cheesy political blooper reel was going to tell people how to vote. Mel thought that his little gay SM movie about his imaginary friend was going to help him get to heaven. George W. Bush is president and there’s still no god. You failed boys. Someone should have told Mike that the bad guys are smarter than him and someone should have told Mel that the 3 Stooges were Jewish. Both those filthy rich losers wanted everyone to see their movies. Moore wanted the Republicans to be shocked by how bad they were and see the light shining out of his fat ass. Mel went for straight off the rack proselytizing. They both just got even richer.” Before attaching Frank Rich’s encomium from the NY Times, Jillette seems to shrug, “I’m already richer than I should be… I want to make people laugh and love life and love watching all my friends making each other laugh.” [The link above is from a South Park version of the joke, and it is very, very raw.]

Scenes from a career: Bergman archive to go online

Long-lived Ingmar Bergman gets a longer lease on creative life in September when his archives start to go online. The site hosts only a trailer now, but the “electronic publication of assorted artifacts of the great Swedish film director will be launched on September 1st.”

Cafe Cannes: Wells, Wenders and an interesting face

Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells finishes his meanders on the Croisette with a vision of a French journo: A wafer-thin and very beautiful brunette woman who does interviews for French TV sat next to me in the van on the way back. She was dressed in a sheer white dress and smelled like jasmine mixed with musk.
He reports as well that he and Wim Wenders had words about this coffee cup [photo credit: Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere] and more: Don’t Come Knocking “is deeply aggravating. I was sitting there trying to decide when to leave. I wanted to see enough so I couldn’t be accused of missing most of it. I knew I was stuck there for a good 90 minutes or so, but I damn sure wasn’t going to sit through all 122 minutes’ worth… [The film] doesn’t have his mood or visual signature or stylistic consistency. It has an unfocused easygoing mood that feels way, way off. The script is sloppy and raggedy-assed…” Wells asks Wenders about this quotation from Manohla Dargis: “Like other artists and intellectuals from abroad, Mr. Wenders seems to have fallen for an America that mostly exists on Hollywood back lots and in rock ‘n’ roll lyrics, which probably explains why the romance has lasted so long.” To this Wenders responded, “I have traveled around this country and gotten to know it better than any film critic I’ve ever met. I don’t think [Dargis] has ever been to Butte, Montana.” I can’t write any more about this, but I had a swell time at the press luncheon and enjoyed speaking to Wenders and Shepard and costars Sarah Polley, Gabriel Mann and Fairuza Balk (who said I had “an interesting face,” which made me feel funny for some reason.) “

Cities as narrative: what early films tell us

Filmmaker Patrick Keiller, whose marvelous London and Robinson in Space are loving landscape studies of latterday England, muses on ‘motion’ pictures in the Guardian: “Much of what has happened to cities since 1900 can be seen in terms of technological transformation. In the UK, most of us live longer and are wealthier and more mobile than our predecessors, but the built environment, largely unimproved by automation, appears problematic… Films of the early 1900s offer glimpses of comparable landscapes: there are three Mitchell and Kenyon films that together make up a seven-minute tram ride through the centre of Nottingham, a continuous virtual cityscape more extensive than any I can recall elsewhere in UK cinema. What do these films mean for us? One can imagine the symbiosis of electric tram and cine-camera as a harbinger (like the “dragon sandstrewer” in ‘Ulysses,’ or the tram that knocked down Gaud�) of modernity, of fragmentation, after whose passing nothing was ever the same again. Film space was itself fragmented during the political, economic and artistic turmoil of the years around 1910—but film space was always virtual space, and early films seem to have become, suddenly, very topical: documents of a transformation of the kind we are living through today. They also exemplify what seems to me the most enduring attraction of the cinema, which is that it offers a way to visit other times, other worlds. Cities are increasingly seen as processes structured in time. In films we can explore the spaces of the past in order to anticipate the spaces of the future.”

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