Movie City Indie Archive for August, 2005

Good Night, And Good Luck.

Watch the trailer for George Clooney‘s Good Night, And Good Luck., a portrait of 1950s journalists Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly of CBS-TV, as they dissected the smears of alcoholic, serial fabricator Congressman Joe McCarthy. If the movie crackles half this much…

Constant Africa: indelible fiction and nonfiction

The Constant Gardener, a melancholy romance and thriller set in contemporary Africa opens today; Andrew Niccol’s heady satire of gunrunning on that continent, Lord of War opens in September, but still the most haunting piece of work about commerce in Africa this year, Darwin’s Nightmare, is terrifying nonfiction, a movie I’ve tried to shake but can’t. In The Age, Philippa Hawker visits with filmmaker Hubert Sauper as the movie makes its Antipodean debut. “People know that there is a crisis in Africa, [he] says. They don’t need to be told – at least, not in those terms. “If all they see is some specialist saying that Africa is starving, viewers will fall asleep.” But… his new [Tanzania-set] documentary, won’t let its viewers slumber: it’s a haunting, devastating film, a provocation and, in its own way, a revelation. It is the story of a predatory fish and its place in a system that consumes rather than sustains – but, says Austrian-born Sauper, it could equally have been about coffee, or bananas, or oil. The fish, however, is a particularly potent metaphor. At Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake, a few Nile perch were added to the fish population in the 1960s. Gradually, the carnivorous creature with huge jaws took over, killing other species. These predators had a similarly destructive effect beyond the lake, as Sauper shows.” The director, Hawker describes, stays close to the figures involved in the trade, working without voiceover and the distancing of “expert” testimony. “What he shows is simple, but also horribly complicated. It’s a film about people and consequences…. And, while it deals with terrible realities, it’s a film without either scapegoats or saviours, heroes or villains. Sauper isn’t interested in those kinds of definitions. “When I select my characters, I ask myself: do I like this person? Do I want to spend a part of my life with them?” … It’s also too easy to find a nice guy trying to make a difference. “There’s a tendency in American documentaries to do this, and it’s bullshit. It makes you comfortable, instead of aware.” [More of Sauper’s terrible truths at the link.]

Shooting where there's weather: massive infrastructure problems

The Reporter reports on Katrina’s effect on Louisiana production, a reminder of why, historically, filmmakers hied west to California: consistent weather. “Louisiana, which has been aggressively courting film productions, was hosting at least 3 TV and film shoots in the state as the monster storm, which had threatened to hit land as a fearsome Category 5, approached. The Governor’s Office of Film and Television — located in Harahan, outside of New Orleans — was not answering calls Monday. When New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation over the weekend, Element Films suspended production on its comedy The Last Time,”starring Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser, and immediately left… A Warners spokesperson said The Reaping hopes to return to New Orleans on Wednesday and resume filming Thursday, even though the production suffered what was said to be minor set damage. But that may prove challenging because, as one source on the production said, “Flights, electricity, manpower, car rental — there are going to be massive infrastructure problems.” [New Orleans-based filmmaker David Gordon Green reportedly has relocated to Austin for the duration.]

Terrence Malick and The New one

From Mumbai, New Kerala’s Nitin Sethi reports on Mr. Malick’s new one, Tree of Life. India’s Percept Picture Company would executive produce with a January start, and Colin Farrell starring with “2 major Hollywood stars in the leads.” Working from Malick’s script, it would be shot by Emmanual Lubezki.”

Lighting Harvey's Fuse?

The lowest-rated of 60 cable channels tracked by Neilsen, a music video channel called Fuse, may be getting eyed by the Weinsteins, reports Broadcasting & Cable. “Ex-Miramax Pictures chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein may reach their goal of getting into the cable television business by [trying to buy] Fuse. The brothers are reportedly in talks with [business partner] Cablevision about purchasing the channel and [shifting] �the programming into a mix of “lifestyle” shows and movies, aimed at a more broad audience� than the 18-34 demographic Fuse targets… The network could probably be had for about $450 million.”

Almodovar journals: haphazard and not particularly orderly

Pedro Almodovar is keeping a chatty diary on the making of his new movie, Volver, with pics: “These are all spontaneous and spur-of-the moment photos taken while we prepared to film. They are like a domestic “making of”, without any pretensions. Next time we’ll have photos of the actual shooting. I’ll take them myself since, in case you haven’t noticed, this is all part of a haphazard and not particularly orderly director’s diary.”

Tattling on Tykwer: collaborator peeps on Tom

Ed Blank of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a local playwright fill in Tom Tykwer’s projects: Former Pittsburgher Thom Thomas, a veteran of the Pittburgh Civic Light Opera reports that he and Tykwer will collaborate on 2NDS, which the writer self-describes as “a quite ingenious thriller about twins.” Two years ago, he wrote a screenplay of Paul Auster’s novel, “Mr. Vertigo,” which the producers dangled at Tykwer. Relates the chatty playwright: “Earlier this year Tom called and said he’d be in L.A. and wanted to meet with me. I assumed it was about the same script. But instead he said there was a different script — one he had written but that he said wasn’t jelling at all. I read it and told him what I thought was wrong with it, and he suggested we co-write it.” Of another project, the writer says it went through 3 directors and three casts, but, as Blank relates, “The producer pulled out, and then he died.” Meanwhile, Thomas’ latest play, “A Moon to Dance By” world preemed at Indiana’s New Harmony Theatre.

Me and You and Everyone who's slumping: summer 2005 indie b.o.

Crain’s New York Business offers an indie slump stats piece, to line up with all the other “slump” journalism: “Over the last 12 months there have only been a very, very small number of films that we’ve been excited about,” says Ted Mundorff, VP of film and head film buyer at the art house chain Landmark Theatres, where box-office grosses this summer are down 10%… “We keep turning over more and more films hoping they’ll catch on, but they don’t.” … Still, industry insiders insist that the summer won’t be a total flop. IFC Films’ Me and You and Everyone We Know was made for under $1 million and is expected to gross close to $5 million. In August, ThinkFilm’s The Aristocrats, a documentary about a dirty joke, raked in $100,000 its first weekend at just one theater.”

Meghan, Thursday

Online viewing tip: New York photographer-illustrator Jorge Colombo continues his experimental shorts with a sweet, simple study-in-motion Meghan, Thursday. Most of Colombo’s films are shot with a digital stills camera, and run precisely one minute with looped soundtracks made with GarageBand.

Effing artists scare their parent companies: John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus

Yet another report on the winding road John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus has taken to exposing a foot of film. One of the performers remarks, “Most people get self-conscious being naked in front of other people, but we’re really concerned with the story, what’s going on within these characters… The fact that we’re naked having sex in front of each other, it’s just a variable that’s very easy to deal with. It wasn’t so easy for potential financial backers to deal with, though. Mitchell says he initially approached about 50 to 60 investors, with little luck. Even envelope-pushing HBO, which filmed parts of the audition process, eventually backed away from the project. “Regular financing companies were scared because they have parent companies… A lot of investors said they were interested, but they didn’t trust their guts.”

American boss: Bret Easton Ellis

In LA Weekly, Brendan Bernhard profiles LA novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis, who talks about his new book, “Lunar Park,” and jokes about writers’ vanity: “I remember I was talking to my assistant pretty much every other day from L.A…. And he’d gotten a galley of the book, so I asked him, ‘So what do you think?’ He’d started it, and he sent me some e-mails saying, ‘I’m loving this book. I think it’s your best book, I really love it.’ And then the e-mails stopped. And we had a couple of conversations, and he didn’t bring the book up anymore. And I said, ‘Lookit, Cole, what’s going on? Did you like the book or not?’ And he said, ‘I really loved it up to a certain point, and then I thought it began to totally fall apart, and then it came in for a save at the end and it kind of all worked.’ And then I got furious, and I said, ‘I don’t pay you for your f-cking opinions. Shut up! Why did you tell me that? You’re fired!’ ”

A screenwriter's life: I'm your friend, Eddie.

War of the Worlds screenwriter Josh Friedman‘s blog, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” is quickly becoming the Rude Pundit of screenwriter’s journals. The swears come furiously, especially in the memorable “Snakes on a Motherf-king Plane.” From Wednesday: “If any of you have checked me out on IMDB you’ll note that I wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay to Keanu Reeves’s most famous movie Chain Reaction. I’ve only got a shared story credit now but it began as a spec script sold by yours truly some months after making his first $20,000 on the previously discussed serial killer movie. I got paid pretty well but I was still living in the attic and driving my mother’s Honda. In the future I’ll write about selling this script but all you need to know right now is this: There is ONE line in the movie left over from my spec. “I’m your friend, Eddie.” [More of Friedman’s backstory, plus swears, at the link.]

Gross Gardenering: Larry talks to Fernando Constantly

Fernando Meirelles doesn’t seem to give the same interview twice; Larry Gross parlays the nous from LA Weekly: “I like films that you have to work with while you are watching them, that demand an active audience, like Memento or 21 Grams or Last Year at Marienbad. Actually, organizing things in a chronological order is just one way to organize things. I can also organize according to colors, numbers, emotions. I mean there’s so many ways to organize things, why do you have to put them in chronological order?”

Looped: Ebert remembers Chicago's darkened movie palaces

In the Sun-Times “The New Downtown” series, Roger Ebert recalls past glories: “Just for the sake of nostalgia, let me name the theaters I remember: the Chicago, State-Lake, Oriental, Roosevelt, United Artists, Woods, McVickers, Clark, Monroe, Michael Todd, Cinestage, World Playhouse, Loop, Bismarck Palace and, oh, a place called the Shangri-La that materialized out of a Chinese restaurant, showed some porn and disappeared.” [Optimism at the link.]

Black-and-white in the dark: Besson's Angel A

What Luc did on his summer vac: Besson shot a black-and-white feature without telling anyone, called Angel A, a romantic comedy written by lead Jamel Debbouze, reports Cineuropa. The cast includes Gilbert Melki and Sara Forestier.

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