Movie City Indie Archive for July, 2005

"Bollyworld": I spent a whole evening in a bar in Thimpu

In a dismissive review of Raminder Kaur and Ajay J Sinha’s “Bollyworld” in the Sunday Deccan Herald, M Bhaktavatsala runs off the rails as he concludes, “Incidentally, the book that claims to discuss global influences in Indian cinema ignores the most powerfully sustained manifestation of it. Indian film music has been global almost from the beginning. Today it is a craze that finds a responsive chord in the remotest parts of the world. It has driven many, like the Sri Lankans, to learn the language to understand the songs. I spent a whole evening in a bar in Thimpu listening to the Bhutanese singing old Hindi songs and asking me to translate them. But, I suppose, the subject is not abstruse enough for the editors of this book or perhaps it is too much to be fitted into an article. This is an altogether mixed bag of a book.”

Bob Altman: I just do not understand that

Peter Kaufman of the WashPost pries out a laconic Altman gem: “Altman, 80, spent two decades making industrial films and toiling on TV series, which ingrained habits of efficiency. Not for him the icy perfectionism of a Stanley Kubrick, who would insist on scores of takes for the simplest scene. “I just do not understand that,” Altman says in his flat Missouri drawl. “Never did. Didn’t at the time. Still don’t.”

Jonas Mekas: linear on one level and totally unlinear on another

Over at 3am, Richard Marshall interviews filmmaking avant-garde-father Jonas Mekas, with this Mekas A before any Qs: “My movies are very linear. My movies are not jumping around. Let’s face it. Time goes, my life continues, my friends are all around me, it’s part of my life, people that I meet everyday and then I film my life. My friends. My films are horizontal. There is past, there is present. Of course I deal always with the present moment and life is continuing. There is no jumping around. Only when you make a film where you write a script or you have it in your head, an idea that you proceed to illustrate can you jump around. And whether it be connected with Hitchcock or Jarmusch that’s how it is. But in real life film, I am the one who is connecting. But what I filmed yesterday might have no connection with what I might be shooting today. But it’s the same person. The same strings that are connecting them all. So it might look like they’re jumping but I have to do something with all of them. I’m the string. So they’re linear on one level and totally unlinear on another.” [A dozen or so more lengthy exchanges at the link.]

Reframer: Sunday LA Times logs blog

In the Sunday LA Times’ Calendar, Rachel Abramowitz writes a long takeout on Defamer’s Mark Lisanti, luxuriating in “hip, edgy” words like “flick”: “It’s almost exactly like crack addiction,” says the affable 31-year-old from his command station, a Sony computer in his home office — a modest Los Feliz apartment. He doesn’t have air conditioning or any pictures on the wall of his office save for a black-and-white publicity still of Ralph Macchio in the forgotten 1980s flick Crossroads. He does, however, have a site meter on his computer that shows him how many page views he’s getting… “I check it all the time. Any given hour if you ask me how many page views I’ve had in the last hour, I could probably tell you. That’s how our performance is benchmarked, so it turns us into crack-addicted McMonkeys.” … According to Technorati… Defamer was recently the 69th most popular blog out of an estimated 14 million blogs worldwide.” Straining to make Lisanti seem—slightly icky?—Abramowitz writes: He’s wearing a T-shirt and jeans and the slightly grubby sheen of someone who’s just spent the entire day inside blogging… In his short career… Lisanti has posted about 3,800 items — about 12 a day, not including weekends. He says that if an item lies in his inbox, or his consciousness, for more than 6 hours, then it’s usually too old to get on the blog. “Who’s going to want to hear about 6 hours ago?” he posits, much like in another era when Hamlet asked “to be or not to be?” [More heavy lifting at the link.]

Will I be able to get through Customs?: Vinterberg on McCarthyism

vinterbergST280705_100x110.jpg The Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan chats up Thomas Vinterberg on the eve of Dear Wendy‘s UK release: “Variety’s Todd McCarthy… slammed it as “anti-American”. “Oh, yeah,” sighs the Danish Vinterberg, “he bombed it. I’m angry, because the label is going to stick. Unfortunately, he represents a lot of people, the older part of our target audience anyway. They’re tired, they’re embarrassed by their country but they don’t want to hear it, it’s like having a disabled brother; you don’t want other people to point it out.” On working from Trier’s script: “People said: ‘It will be bad for your image. People will think you’re Lars von Trier’s right hand.'” He went ahead and doesn’t regret the experiment, though it has “finalised” their collaboration. Finalised? He smiles. “Like I don’t want to do it again… Do you think this will affect my career in the States? … Do you think I will be able to get through Customs?”

Inside baseball in an elevator: Ebert on Rosenbaum on The World

Ending his 3-star review of Jia Zhangke‘s The World, an exploration of time and space in a suburban Beijing theme park, Roger Ebert tells a personal tale: “After the screening, I rode down on the elevator with the great film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. “I’ve seen it five times… It’s one of my favorite films. I still don’t understand the ending.” I was not only afraid to ask him what he didn’t understand about the ending, I was afraid to ask him what he thought the ending was. In a sense, The World is about a story that never really begins.” [Notably, Ebert does not use the word “simulacrum.” Not once.]

Braining Einstein: Errol Morris on objectivity and drama

Errol Morris updates USA Today while promoting his DVD collection: “Morris bristles at charges that Fog of War and Fahrenheit 9/11 aren’t documentaries because they reflect the filmmaker’s point of view. “Why should a film, and how could a film, be 100% objective—and what does that even mean?” After 25 years of directing documentaries and commercials, Morris is ready to try drama.” [Writer Thomas K. Arnold makes no mention of 1991’s misfire, The Dark Wind.] “He says he’s looking at a fictionalized version of the story that Albert Einstein’s brain was taken from Princeton Hospital in 1955. “Not surprisingly, I find a lot of dramas I’m attracted to are based on true stories.”

State of the Union: behind the NY projectionists' union's concessions

The Reeler’s getting in the trenches of the disagreement about unions and New York’s new IFC Center, discovering there’s more to the story, and that it might be unfair to single out IFC in light of other, prior machinations: “The Reeler spoke today with union president Michael Goucher, who explained an arrangement that might make the IFC Center standoff look downright equitable by comparison.”We have with certain individual theaters within a chain of theaters [an agreement that] they have the right to have managers operate, provided they meet certain criteria… In the cases where it is contractually agreed, they must be managers. Once we agree to let that happen, we have no control over what the criteria are—the circumstances or whatever. As far as we’re concerned, it is based on a negotiated agreement, and the negotiated agreement is what determines what we will not do and what we will do.” What does this mean? “In other words, Regal, Loews and AMC do not have any obligation to use union projectionists—and there is no guarantee that they are.” Goucher unreels further: “”The reason this was acceded to in New York City is because at one time, some of these companies were going bankrupt… We got hoodwinked, because those bankruptcies were all absolute phony bankruptcies, and they were meant to make the price of the company attractive to a new buyer.” … “Bottom line? Sayles–and not just a few other powerful New Yorkers–might be writing a lot more letters before this is all said and done.” [More of the nitty and gritty at the link.]

Hot today, Chile tomorrow: another geek odyssey

LA Times’ Lorenza Muñoz works to make geek chic in a profile of the almost too good to be true 22-year-old Chilean director Nicolas Lopez: “Standing at a chubby 5 feet 6 and emanating a manic, geeky charm… Lopez is… an unlikely lightning rod. He has shaken Chile’s film industry by importing American-style marketing and publicity tactics to promote his films. He has popularized genre films in an industry more accustomed to sober dramas. His horror movies and teen comedies have been breakout hits at the box office, hitting a nerve among the country’s youth. Only 22 and still living with his parents, Lopez is unabashed about his passion to “make movies not films.” … To some, Lopez “is the epitome of everything they loathe about globalization and the United States: instant gratification, cynicism, commercialism and vulgarity. His movies, his critics say, are all blood, gore and no substance.” Muñoz quotes Chilean novelist and director Alberto Fuguet, “He is a symbol of the Latin American of the future… He is alienated, hip, ultra Internet savvy, raised on trashy culture and yet he is local.” Lopez’s first cinematic influence? Back to the Future 2. “I want to make auteur cinema — MTV style,” he said. … “If you are fat, high school is hard,” he said. “If you are fat with [breasts] like me, it’s even harder.” His first feature, “Promedio Rojo,” was dubbed by Lopez’s hero Harry Knowles as “a geek masterpiece of comedic insanity.” … “This industry has been led by geeks,” he said gesticulating wildly over his pizza. “I mean, look at Spielberg — he is the biggest geek. The people who have been on the outside have always been able to tell the best stories. We are the ones who have had problems with girls, wore glasses and are fat.” [More enabling at the link.]

Only Fincher

What David Fincher does when he can’t get a feature going: here’s a link to his latest video for Nine Inch Nails, working with Digital Domain. (Via Filmmaker.)

"Remain Calm": catching the Sundance Junebug

Bizreport reports on another source of indie cash: “Maybe it was only a matter of time before they took on Hollywood. Ethan D. Leder and Mark P. Clein… in their 40s, have already sold a financial company for $483 million in cash and created a pharmaceutical distribution firm that was bought for $160 million after a short existence. Now they run United BioSource Corp. , a Bethesda company with more than $150 million in venture backing that is trying to revolutionize the drug testing industry…” They also “financed an independent movie, Junebug, that was a hit at the Sundance Film Festiva , got picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and debuts in New York and Los Angeles next week. The movie was written by Angus MacLachlan, a childhood friend of Clein’s. Clein and Leder, along with a New York investor, put up just under $2 million to shoot the quirky family drama… While Clein and Leder say the movie industry is more hobby than profession, they have set up a firm, Remain Calm Pictures, to finance more films.”

Heralding Hark's latest: Seven Swords preems

Malaysia’s New Straits Times talks to Tsui Hark about his latest venture into period martial arts: “As director, Tsui said that by the time he finished [post-production], he would have seen the movie more than 1,000 times and knew every single frame, every blink of an actor’s eye and exactly what came next. But when it comes to watching the… premiere, it is still a fresh experience for him… “You need to distance yourself from it all before the movie actually airs… Because the more you look at it, the more you would want to remake it! However, no matter how many times you make changes, there will still be room for more. I try to keep things in moderation because if you change too much, then the end result would not be what you originally intended it to be. I stay away after wrapping up filming and do something completely different, like watch other movies or write a new script, just to cleanse my memory.” Next? A comedy.

The Facts That My Mind Skipped: Ed Koch on Toback, I mean, Audiard

The 80-year-old former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, still reviews movies: here’s part of his notice for Jacques Audiard‘s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. “As the doors opened and the theater emptied out, I asked those departing what they thought of the film… I’m glad that I saw this picture. James Toback’s movie can be described as a French film noir. It is gritty, puzzling, unresolved, and interesting. The plot is a mélange of threads representing separate but interlocking stories. They are not directly linked like Robert Altman’s films which usually have a central, dominating theme… The film, set in Paris, is very sensual and includes the handsome and rugged-looking Tom having lots of affairs. When Tom isn’t assisting his father in the business, he spends his time practicing the piano with his Chinese tutor… who doesn’t speak any French. Tom’s ambition is to become a concert pianist as his now deceased mother had been. I liked the plot and the music and especially enjoyed the acting of all the principal figures.”

King Lear: Norman puts money in the Matrix men

Norman Lear, who turned 83 on Wednesday, takes it on the Roadshow, investing $115 million as part of three-person consortium, taking ” 50% of the main film and distribution companies making up Village Roadshow Pictures, which has a long-term co-financing deal with Warners Bros. Pictures and is based on the Warners lot,” writes Variety. “Village Roadshow’s production and distribution partnership with Warner Bros. has turned out a number of high-profile, profitable pics, including the current “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Matrix””The Matrix” trilogy. Upcoming releases include “The Dukes of Hazzard”… CEO Graham Burke said in a statement. “These are our type of guys and together we plan to take Village Roadshow Pictures to new heights.”… Village Roadshow Ltd. predicted a $20 million accounting loss before tax in fiscal 2006 as a result of the restructuring. Whatever the loss, conglom said its board believes the new partnership is “a strategic necessity and financially prudent.”

Appreciating 3 Rooms of Melancholia

The NY Times’ Stephen Holden is on top of his game, reviewing a great doc: “The acrid fog of war is palpable in Pirjo Honkasalo‘s magnificent documentary, The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, one of the saddest films ever made. The movie, which opens today in New York, is evidence that when a director-cinematographer with a poet’s vision photographs the material world, ordinary human faces and landscapes can leave impressions that transcend any words that might describe them… Although tears are shed in The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, the film mostly lets its images speak for themselves. More affecting than any displays of emotion is the prevailing attitude of stoicism and endurance in the face of suffering. The film is a requiem for the living as well as for the dead.”

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