Movie City Indie Archive for August, 2005

Bloggery: the travels of Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker writer-director Mike Mills was a charming interviewee the other day, and so’s his blog, with photos and observations from the luxury hotel death march, in which your correspondent finds himself described as “the guy in Chicago”: “The blur of kind humans continues for days: There was Ruth the DJ from Minneapolis – Is she my mom? Can I go to her house and play with her border collie and maybe she’d cook dinner? The DJ in Denver who didn’t look 68 at all, the girl in Chicago who took a picture of me sitting on Lou, the man in SF who thought Lou’s role was subversively feminine, the guy in Denver who said the film was Romantic (as in Romantic literature) because Romanticism is based in loss, the radio station that didn’t seem to care about their phone ringing loudly while we were on air, the guy in Chicago that knows Chris Ware! Can I know Chris Ware if I live in Chicago? And Ira Glass too?” [Travelogue videos are linked at the site, too.]

Terry Gilliam on grim architecture

Terry Gilliam tells New York’s Logan Hill about looking up in New York: “Brazil was inspired by fascist German and fascist American architecture—Rockefeller Center. For Fisher King, I started thinking in those terms: a nice steel-and-glass photogenic place with no soul, but full of life and jest and joy and beauty and color. And what I like about [the film] is, it did seem to enchant people about New York—the story of the woman who walks home afterwards twenty blocks in the wrong direction, the fact that they waltz in Grand Central station. I put a line in the movie when Jeffrey’s hanging off the building—he says, “Nobody ever looks up in New York.” Architects do the ground floor with a lot of elaboration, then nothing till they get to the top, then they have the crown: It’s like they’re showing off to God. We deserve to see that, too.”

Like Ali G.: How Fernando Meirelles learned his craft

Constant Gardener director Fernando Meirelles gives a decent overview of his career to the Reporter’s Anne Thompson: “I learned to shoot doing commercials. We started out doing experimental videos. For 10 years, we did different comedy shows on TV, comedy with journalism, we pretended to be doing docs or news of the week. I was a cameraman, director and host. It was fake journalism, like Ali G. After that, we were invited to do commercials with the characters we had in our shows. We were getting married [and] having kids who wanted to eat. Then, for 10 years we were only doing commercials. I’ve done 800-900 commercials, five to six a month. After 10 years, I was bored… Did you shoot “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener” in the same way? It was just a matter of locations. We shot them the same way, mixing 35 and 16, mixing some classic sequences with some more urgent. What we learned on “City of God” was to shoot freestyle. Instead of setting up the camera and the lights and bringing the actors in so that they perform for the camera for each angle, we create a general flat light and bring in the actors who perform. I don’t give them marks or ask them to move. The camera is there like a documentary trying to get what is happening. I don’t interfere. So I never break the scene, I always run from the top to the end, and I ask the actors to not be aware of the camera. They never know when we’re doing a close-up. The camera goes to a wide shot and a close-up all in the same shot. They got used to it after a while.”

Did I ever want to build an automobile?: Pennebaker at 80

David D’Arcy has a swell interview with D.A.Pennebaker over at Greencine on the doc-maker’s 80th birthday.
Did you ever want to make dramatic features? I didn’t understand how they were made. It was like, did I ever want to build an automobile? Sure I did, but it has no meaning for me. When I saw Francis Thompson’s film, N.Y., N.Y. (1957), which he made by himself with a hand-wound city special, I said, “Shit, I can do that.” I’m a graduate engineer from Yale University, for Chrissakes, I’ve got to be able to do that. That set me off doing it, because the idea was that I could do it all by myself. I knew I couldn’t do features by myself because you had to have it written, you had to have actors, and I was a loner, so those things were not part of my life at all.


Four Eyed Monsters: DIY eyes wide open

At indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez collates email and blog entries from Four Eyed Monsters co-everythings Arin Crumley and Susan Buice as they describe what it’s like to be left out in the open with a gentle, imaginative, inventive (and sometimes winsome and often adorable) independent, DIY Amelie-of-digital-video after more than a year of filmmaking and festival appearances at Slamdance, SxSW, Gen Arts and the Chicago Underground Film Festival with no distribution deal in sight and a pretty pile of credit card bills. “In the meetings we’ve presented our marketing plans and had a quick discussion about our bigger picture ideas of promoting our movie in innovative ways,”
Hernandez quotes Crumley. The pair prepared “materials to present to the rest of the company like a trailer, an edited preview of our free online content that will be used to promote the movie, a pitch video that explains our ideas on how the release could be successful, and a traditional press kit.” Bryan Wendorf of Chicago Underground Film Festival [Disclosure: I directed CUFF’s 2005 trailers] told me he was amazed at how the pair, whose alter egos meet via the fictitious “” had used MySpace in order to find copacetic crowds for the Chicago showings. “Most of Susan’s MySpacers are guys and Arin’s are girls,” Wendorf added. Hernandez reports that “Buice and Crumley recently met in Los Angeles with the CEO and the marketing director at… Apparently the meeting went quite well, but as of Friday they weren’t quite ready to announce how they might work with the website on a release of their film… An obvious option for the pair is self-distribution. As Buice explained… “Even though we’d rather be making movies we are willing to establish our own mini-distribution company, it would just be kind of pathetic though because then the only distribution offer we would have ever received would be the offer we gave ourselves.”

Oman, it's the newest thing: filmmaking in Muscat

Visvas Paul D. Karra of the Times of Oman reports from Muscat on a new film industry: “Even as Oman’s first feature film, Al Boum, is taking its first tentative steps into the record books of the Sultanate’s film history [there’s another first]: Oman’s first bilingual (Arabic and Malayalam) commercial film…. [Producer-director] Gulab Prem Kumar might be the ubiquitous next door neighbour if you walk past him on the street, but this man is all set to walk into the history books pretty soon. [He’s] all excited about this bilingual project, which he says, will be ready for release in Oman in 2006, subject to ministry approval…. The script for this film has already been submitted to the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and the Ministry of Information for their approval…. The bilingual film’s storyline is a general subject, a very good family drama, says Prem Kumar. “I will be roping in big artistes from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in India for the Malayalam version while the Arabic version will have Omani artistes on the same sets,” Prem Kumar informed.”

Fingering Saw II

The MPAA rejected teaser posters for Saw II that included a set of dismembered fingers. Middle finger intact, here’s what the censors say falls within the boundaries of community taste. Oh, that’s much better.

Sumner of our discontent: did the NY Times just call Redstone OLD?

In a mostly patronizing mishmash of a tick-tock about cable newcomer Current, the NY Times’ Alessandra Stanley indulges a sub-Anthony Lane cultural sideswipe or two before coming to a pleasing full-on crash of a last graf: “…Current is for-profit public-access television, an attempt to add grass-roots diversity to a television universe that is ever more controlled by a few media conglomerates. Current is easily mocked, but it is at least one youth-oriented cable network that does not dance to the tune of the 82-year-old Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom.”

You can't out-exorcist The Exorcist: on Emily Rose

Edward Douglas from ComingSoon asks Exorcism of Emily Rose writer-director Scott Derrickson about inevitable comparisons: “I am a big fan of that picture, but I think if you’re going to make an exorcism movie of any kind, you have a certain burden to carry… The subject matter is profoundly compelling, and I think that everybody knows it is a real phenomenon out in the world whether you believe there’s anything spiritual to it or not. It happens. People get exorcisms. There are lots of stories of cases, and that fact alone makes it interesting. What I wanted to do was approach the subject matter in a less exploitive way, because you can’t out-exorcist The Exorcist. You have to almost go under it… To really frighten a contemporary audience you just can’t do that with special effects and sound and camera tricks. [There] are manipulative tricks of the trade that were implemented that were extraordinary at the time, but now that same sort of approach has been used in a million different horror films… My intention was for the effectiveness of the horror elements and the exorcism itself to be rooted in the reality of these real characters, portrayed by great actors, and for the phenomenon that you watch to be very counterintuitive, but not over the top… What we’re trying to do is make a movie that’s a little bit more of an exploration of what does [an exorcism] really look like, what’s the range of possibilities there and what can it mean?”

Ebert's cheetahs: racing Duma

Roger Ebert reports that Duma gets one more last chance in Chicago, as it’s held over for a third week. “Why penguins and not cheetahs?” [Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan] Fellman asked me a week ago. The studio found that audence exit surveys showed adults liked [Duma] even more than children (for whom its strong narrative might seem slow compared to the nonstop noise and action of video games.” [While previewed for reviewers in 35mm, the 5 Chicago-area theaters where the movie is held over are showing Duma only in digital projection.]

Taking plans from Nigel: the FT likes Miranda July

Rubbishing the Guardian’s prickly-puss, the Financial Times’ Nigel Andrews air-kisses mild modest Miranda: “It is completely unfair to make a film such as Me and You and Everyone We Know. Hollywood and the high-budget tripe industry toil night and day to produce a Bewitched or an Unleashed: the first a big-screen sitcom stuffed with whimsy and Nicole Kidman, the second a barking-mad action thriller starring Jet Li as a human attack dog. Then the video-artist-turned-filmmaker, Miranda July, strolls in… and world-releases her no-frills, no-stars, almost no-budget movie about absolutely nothing… If this film were any more enchanting, it would have to be quarantined. Moguls whose movies are powerless to enchant, even to charm, would not want their impotence derided by its insouciance… [It proves] there is a subtly beating pulse of wit, sadness, compassion and gentle satire even in the land of Bush and Bruckheimer.”

A Masterpiece, and Then Some: The Conformist and George Fasel

Couple weeks ago, the 67-year-old George Fasel, keeper of the compulsively readable “A GIrl and a Gun” website wrote about Bertolucci’s best movie; Wednesday, he passed away. The entire piece, the next-to-last he posted, is worth reading. Here’s a little: “Let us put aside for a moment that The Conformist (1970) is the most magnificently photographed, scored, choreographed, and costumed film made–ever, anywhere–because while those are not insignificant achievements, there is more to this work by Bernardo Bertolucci, who finished it when he was just short of 30.� It is also the most evocative and stirring political movie of the post-World War II era, a framing of the emptiness and deindividualization which was the goal of fascism and how that experience played out in one particular life.� I first saw it more than 30 years ago and was deeply moved and impressed; this time around, I was floored with admiration and astonishment… In every scene, the camera slips about into unlikely places, then quickly emerges into conventional setups, then again edges around a corner and sneaks a look from a revealing angle, but does it all on the fly.� Nobody moves a camera like Bertolucci, and nobody moves one for him like Vittorio [Storaro], the greatest color cinemtographer of our age.�.. The Conformist is not meant to be summarized verbally, and cannot be: it is a succession of images, often staggering: long vistas, camera moving a ground level parting fallen leaves as it progresses, huge rooms empty except for one person (again, the visualization of fascism), views from outside in through windows, and the reverse.� Nor are these simply compositions.�.. I don’t know of a picture which handled atmospherics better after The Conformist until Wong Kar-Wai came along with In the Mood for Love, also placed in the hands of a genius DP, Chris Doyle.� Sadly, I have the impression from hearsay that the film has dropped into the deepest circle of distribution hell.� To say this is a pity is like saying that it would be unfortunate if all the scores and recordings of The Marriage of Figaro or The Magic Flute were somehow lost or destroyed…” [More at the link, including memorials to Mr. Fasel, whose words will be missed.]

Surfacing the scratch: Chaos producers pony up to challenge Ebert

The producer and director of a scabrous-seeming slaughter item ponied up a rumored $14,000 for a full-page rejoinder to Roger Ebert’s zero-star review; at the top of the front page and across page 4 of the newspaper (and at the link), the Sun-Times offers Ebert’s reply, which takes up an entire page of its own. Excerpts: “Your film does “work,” and as filmmakers you have undeniable skills and gifts. The question is, did you put them to a defensible purpose? I believed you did not… I left saddened and disgusted. Michael Mirasol, a fellow critic, asked me why I even wrote a review, and I answered: “It will get about the audience it would have gotten anyway, but it deserves to be dealt with and replied to.” Yes, you got a good review from the Daily Herald, but every other major critic who has seen the movie shares my view…. The line “why do we need this s–t” was not original with me; I quoted it from Ed Gonzalez at [], who did not use any dashes in his version. I find it ironic that the makers of “Chaos” would scold me for using “coarse” language and “resorting to expletives.” … If Chaos has a message, it is that evil reigns and will triumph. I don’t believe so… You use the material without pity, to look unblinkingly at a monster and his victims. The monster is given no responsibility, no motive, no context, no depth. Like a shark, he exists to kill… What I miss in your film is any sense of hope. Sometimes it is all that keeps us going… As the Greeks understood tragedy, it exists not to bury us in death and dismay, but to help us to deal with it, to accept it as a part of life, to learn about our own humanity from it… Your answer, that the world is evil and therefore it is your responsibility to reflect it, is no answer at all, but a surrender.
Roger Ebert”

Blockbuster fatigue: Spielberg explains

Steven Spielberg explains epic-fatigue toTom Shone of the Guardian: “Times have changed… It’s like when the first 747 landed at Los Angeles international airport: everybody thought flying through the sky was the most greatest marvel they had ever seen – floating through the air, seemingly in slow motion. Today we never even look at 747s. They’re a dime a dozen, and it’s that way with the blockbuster. If there was one blockbuster every 3 years, it meant a lot more than when you have a blockbuster every 3 weeks. It’s the job of each of these studios to market these movies as the must-see movie of the year, so they go after blockbuster status by creating a grand illusion. Sometimes they’ve got a real engine behind that grand illusion, meaning the movie is damned good and the audience will say they got their money’s worth. Other times the audience comes on the promise of seeing something they’ve never ever seen before and it becomes just another sci-fi action yarn, and they feel disappointed.”

Peter Bradshaw sez pshaw: You and Me and Everyone blows

In the Guardian, lead cricket Peter Bradshaw says no July for him: “You will need a very high quirk-ceiling and strong fey-tolerance levels to handle this fey, quirky… comedy… It’s got some funny lines, which partly mitigate its strong whiff of passive-aggressive cutesiness. It feels as if watching this will earn you credits on an American college degree course in emotional correctness… There are a couple of Ghost World-y teen girls who flirt with a fat guy. July gets some laughs at the expense of the art world, but the whole thing reeks of the goatee-wearing, mocha-drinking, vinyl-appreciating indie smugness that permeates a certain type of American cinema.” [Bradshaw does not offer further examples.]

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