Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2005

It's your Sloss: Cinetic partner ankles

John Sloss‘s sales and finance entity, Cinetic Media, loses partner Micah Green to CAA as an agent. “Move marks another step in CAA’s push to beef up its indie financing ranks over the past year: Agency brought in ICM vet Bart Walker in November… Working with John Sloss since 1997, Green has experience putting together financing on pics, including docu “Murderball” and upcoming comed[y] “Strangers With Candy”… Green also contributed to promo and sales of movies like Mad Hot Ballroom, Napoleon Dynamite, Super Size Me, and Spellbound.

Vinnie whinnies for Vinterberg: doing bad in Denmark

NY Post film editor V.A.Musetto admires handsome provocateur Thomas Vinterberg (but the old dog quickly notes his longing for a comely waitress to assure het bona fides): “Vinterberg — tall, blond and blue-eyed — looks as if he should be in front of the movie camera, not behind it. The cute young waitress at French Roast who served a late breakfast to Vinterberg and Cine File couldn’t take her eyes off him. (Cine File must admit he couldn’t take his eyes off her.)” Vinterberg shrugs at Dear Wendy‘s reception thus far: “All the films done by Danish directors in foreign languages have been totally rejected in Denmark. Films that do good in Denmark only do good in Denmark. Nobody else wants to see them in the world. And the ones that do bad in Denmark, such as mine and Lars von Trier’s — those we can sell in the world.”

Bless you, Sony: How Emily courted religious conservatives

In the WSJ, Kate Kelly sniffs out the $30 million weekend for The Exorcism of Emily Rose:
“The $19 million project is a hit in part because Screen Gems deliberately courted an audience that it might not have counted on for a typical horror [movie]: religious conservatives. [The Sony subsidiary] worked hard to attract a spiritually-oriented audience. It conducted an online poll asking participants if they believed in demonic possession (66% did) and issued a promotional mini-newspaper that reprinted articles from recent years about the Vatican’s views on Satanism and incidences of real-life exorcisms… The studio also courted the Christian media with screenings and interviews with director Scott Derrickson, pointing out that he is a churchgoing Christian. The result: some religious writers recommended the movie in their publications. [Co-writer] Boardman says he knew they had hit home… when he saw the feedback from a prerelease screening audience. The movie got good marks from Catholics, proclaimed agnostics, and even a self-described Wiccan. “We had positive responses to the movie … from a completely disparate group of people…”

In the year 2929: if film is still alive

Newsweek International’s John Ness takes a blurry cellphone snap of the 2929HDNetLandmarkMagnoliaRysher combine: “2929 controls everything related to its own films, from the preproduction notes to the butter on the theater popcorn. The key change is in releasing movies on one “day and date,” meaning… in theaters, on DVD and on cable, as a way to… consolidate ad campaigns, and maximize customer choices in a way that will discourage online piracy. With [Steven Soderbergh’s] Bubble, 2929’s latest movie, expected for release in theaters in January, the whole industry is watching, worried that the 2929 model will overturn the delicate balance of a business now predicated on a first run in theaters, followed later by release in other formats.” [Slightly more at the link.]

And a Variety scribe shall lede them: writing up Toronto

Todd McCarthy gives that little extra in Variety, reaching for a lede to encompass the entire wooly mammoth: This year more than ever, the Toronto Film Festival was reminiscent of the elephant everything thinks they know well when in fact they can only possibly touch a small part of its body. Cute, too, the summa: If you select your choices exceedingly carefully or are as lucky as a gambler on a run, there are enough entries here to theoretically see 30 good films and no bad ones during the course of the fest. On the other hand, with opposite fortune, you could undoubtedly see 30 bad ones. It all depends upon what part of the elephant you grab. (We’ll grab the part a “gambler on the run” grabs, whatever that is.)

Future now: Neil Gaiman on Mirrormask and Beowulf

In the Reporter, the veteran fantasy writer talks about the marvelous $4 million Mirrormask and more money with another director: “In terms of the future of filmmaking, I’ve (been working on the screenplay for) “Beowulf” with [Robert] Zemeckis recently. It was a script that we originally wrote as a live-action film, and suddenly we’re doing it as a motion-capture film. Again, all the rules are turned upside down. There was one scene that I started writing, and I phoned Bob Zemeckis and said, “We’re working on this scene, and we’re worried it might be too expensive, this whole dragon battle.” Bob just said, “There’s nothing you and Roger Avary could possibly write that will cost me more than $1 million a minute to shoot.” It’s suddenly indicating a universe in which everything costs the same, whether it’s a man battling a dragon or a bunch of people having a party.”

Loving the look: on Zhang Yi-yi in 2046

In the Voice, Graham Fuller rhapsodizes at length about one still of Zhang Yiyi from Wong Kar-Wai‘s 2046:
There she stands then, in a spangled black cheongsam, a noirish totem of sexual aloofness, in her room, 2046, at Hong Kong’s Oriental Hotel. Her upper lip is cast in shadow as it separates provocatively from its neighbor. Her neatly coiffed head is cocked slightly to her left at an angle that would seem quizzical if it didn’t seem she knows all the damn answers (in fact, she has none). She has, meanwhile, arrayed herself in insolent contrapposto: Her right hand is spread on her right hip in such a way that it crooks the arm at a 90-degree angle at the elbow; her left hand caresses her abdomen with the scarlet-tipped fingers at 10 o’clock (much too early for bed in mid-’60s Hong Kong). This accentuates not the curve of her back… but the prominence of her bust, which must be pressing painfully against her too tight sheath—a clear mark of masochism. The pose echoes Dietrich’s akimbo stances in The Blue Angel. It’s an advertisement, a challenge, and a taunt… The Zhang still is not a film frame but a production shot. Taken by Wing Shya, the celebrated Hong Kong photographer and graphic artist who works on most of Wong’s movies, it was published in the Voice… and the Times, where it took up a whopping 115 inches of prime real estate on the first page of the August 5 Weekend Arts. It also graced the cover of the July–August issue of Film Comment and is one of 13 images collaged on the U.S. film poster, where it was reproduced in a panoramic version … On the poster, it sits above another image of Bai looking out at the viewer, but this time lying naked in bed and looking suitably vulnerable after her seduction by Chow: The latter image delivers a sadistic lash to the Zhang fancier, but her haughty expression and fetishizing clothes in the top still draw the eye more than her glowing skin in the lower.” [More at the link.]

The Junkman cometh: thinking about Gone in 60 Seconds' H. B. Halicki

Andrew Tracy does some smart looking at the delirious output of the late H. B. Halicki: “To claim that gone in 60 Seconds is all action and no story is to miss the radically reconfigured narrative it tells to perfection: the interaction of two machines, man and vehicle, independent of any reason apart from their functional compatibility.
Halicki’s colourless Pace is the inadvertent symbol of that symbiosis: both investigator and thief, his heists carefully restricted to vehicles insured by the very companies that then hire him to investigate his own crimes, Pace is not between two worlds (as the ad copy would say) but at the heart of a ceaselessly functioning mechanism. Gone’s narrative is a systemic, not a dramatic one. The final chase is not an outburst of defiance; there’s none of the requisite cop-baiting of the good ol’ boy car-chase cycle to follow. Pace’s escape has all the outlaw triumph of an accountant’s tabled report, nothing more than the completion of a process that, we can only assume from the “open” ending, will begin anew with the next commission. Speed leads inescapably back to stasis, to a ceaseless recurrence masked by the spectacle of bodies and machines in motion, by the chimera of conspicuous destruction.” [More smart but not pretentious stuff at the link; from Cinema Scope 24.]

The Passenger: Out of nowhere

In Cinema Scope 24, Robert Koehler previews and reviews the reissue of Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, “that cinematic Rip Van Winkle… 30 years after its controversial premiere in 1975, this anti-adventure, as slippery as an eel, has been let out of its vault for a limited North American theatrical release in late October. There is a story here (which we’ll get to), but the very curiousness of everything associated with the film’s public return—Why so long unseen? How is it that Jack Nicholson actually owns the film? Which version?—is somehow in fidelity to the curiousness of Antonioni’s achievement, which itself is in part the investigation of human phantoms. Only such a mysterious film deserves such mysterious treatment: out of nowhere, sometime in the middle of the 80s, it was gone; now, out of nowhere, it’s back.” [Much more machinating at the link.]

The Family Stone: the most hideous part of the process

As the tubs thump louder for writer-director Thomas Bezucha for The Family Stone, The Reporter’s Martin Grove bellies to the front of the queue with a long conversation. “Writing, Bezucha said, really isn’t something he enjoys: “Writing is just the most hideous part of the process. I always thinking of Collette, who said that the only thing harder than writing is not writing. I put a great deal of store in that. It’s why I would never have given this script away… Directing it was my reward for having written it. The process is that there’s a much longer period of incubation… which becomes this world of 3×5 cards and Post-its. I really don’t like to sit down to any part of writing the script until I have everything figured out — and that’s (… with) Post-its and 3×5 cards. And then there’s a very long treatment that happens. Writing the script is the final stage of the process and writing the script was actually pretty easy.”

Investment Criterion: Lions Gate to buff their Image?

A few weeks after Image Entertainment consumed specialty DVD label Home Vision Entertainment and signed a 10-year exclusive distrib deal with the Criterion Collection, Lions Gate bids for Image; they’re “[mulling] an unsolicited bid from Canadian film producer Lions Gate Entertainment Corp…. North Vancouver-based Lions Gate also said it recently bought 4 million shares — nearly 19 percent of Image Entertainment — in hopes of acquiring the company, saying the merger would benefit both parties….”This acquisition would be consistent with our desire to broaden and deepen our library of filmed entertainment, as well as to add an important musical component, and, as we discussed, to introduce (Image Entertainment) as a new studio label focusing on specialty theatrical content,” co-Chairman and Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer wrote in the letter.’ [Lotsa crunchy numbers at the link.]

Glimpsing Korean film history on DVD

Korea Times’ Joon Sooh reports on an initiative to enshrine Korean film history: “Historical moments in Korean film history, including the first film made after the nation’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the first onscreen kiss, are being presented by the Korea Film Archive in their ongoing DVD series. The government organization, which works to preserve and archive the films of the nation, began the series titled the Korea Film Archive Collection last year. It has released three DVD titles so far: “Hurrah! For Freedom’’ and “Yangsan Province’’ last year and “Hand of Fate’’ this year. “Madame Freedom (Chayubuin)’’ is set to be released in December.”

Hayao Miyazaki: He visibly flinches on his way to the loo

In the Guardian, Xan Brooks gets the rarest of audiences with Miyazaki-san: “Miyazaki taps a cigarette from a silver case. The Disney deal suits him, he explains, because he has stuck to his guns. His refusal to grant merchandising rights means that there is no chance of any Nausicaa happy meals or Spirited Away video games. Furthermore, Disney wields no creative control. There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: “No cuts.” The director chortles. “Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with these demands for cuts.” He smiles. “I defeated him.”

Holy roll 'ems: Monks take over Shaolin pics

From Hong Kong, The Age’s Jonathan Watts reports that monks have the power: “From The Matrix and Kill Bill to Kung Fu Hustle and House of Flying Daggers, the Shaolin monks have had to watch passively as their trademark martial arts have made millions for film studios… But now the monks are striking back with a series of big-budget fight films that will, in true kung fu style, pit their rivals’ strength against them by recruiting top international actors and directors. Abbot Shi Yongxin will serve as executive producer for the first of three features, entitled The Legend of the Monk Warriors of Shaolin Temple, based on a true story of 30 warrior monks who fought 16th-century pirates. Filming will start next year.

Ebert on Toronto: as good as they possibly can be

Is this the perverted hopefulness Errol Morris speaks of? Roger Ebert bespeaks a rebirth of the movies from his privileged position: “At the halfway point of the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, one thing is clear: This is the best autumn movie season in memory. One film after another has been astonishingly good. Critics gathered in the hallways after the Varsity press screenings, talking in hushed tones as if witnesses to a miracle. These are movies for grown-ups. Intelligent, unusual, challenging, thoughtful. We plowed through a summer of the multiplex 2-week wonders, some of them good at what they wanted to do, few of them wanting to do very much. At Telluride, James Mangold, director of Walk the Line, told me: “Nobody wants to make a picture that depends on someone being able to ‘pull it off.'” Now here are all these movies that someone did pull off: Films that aspire to be as good as they possibly can be.” [Names named and notes taken at the link.]

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