Movie City Indie Archive for October, 2005

R. Lee Ermey: "Less is better is the stupidest effing saying I've ever heard"

EW reports in the November 4 issue on Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Origin and gets an earful from Full Metal Jacket‘s R. Lee Ermey, who’s also given a nod up top of Jarhead.
Ermey, 61, talks acting: “The ‘less is better’ that all actors have heard is fucking wrong… That’s the stupidest fucking saying I’ve ever heard, ‘less is better.’ It’s the insecure directors who say shit like that. I’m the kind of actor who needs to be let go. I never heard that from Stanley Kubrick, ‘less is better.’ … I’m not afraid to go the extra mile… If it doesn’t work, I’ll back it down. Just.” There is a talking “motivational” figure, available on Ermey’s own web ranch (below), and nicely described here. Reportedly, there’s much scaldification to sear the ears. “Motivation and confidence is the key to success. Now drop down and give me 25 and wipe that shit-eating grin off your face. Ooorrrahh, semper fi, do or die, hold them high at eighth and I. Let me hear your war cry scumbag,” are among the lovelies when you yank that chain. And along with the doll, there’s acres of merch at Ermey’s loud website.

Saw II seen from down under

Australia’s Age celebrates a local success that’s overseas: “Saw II, made by Melbourne masters of horror Leigh Whannell and James Wan, scared up the big bucks at the North American box office over the Halloween weekend…”
“While critics have called the fright flick grisly and nauseating even for the horror movie genre, it still hauled in more viewers than any other movie in the US last weekend…. Whannell and Wan, both graduates of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s media arts course, were struggling to make a living in Melbourne before US film company Evolution Entertainment agreed to shoot SAW in Los Angeles. Whannell, who wrote and starred in SAW, and Wan, who directed it, made the decision of their lives when Evolution offered them a deal.” Of the original $1m production, The Age reports, “Instead of taking an upfront payment, the 28-year-olds opted to take a cut of the profits of SAW, including merchandising… It made them millionaires.” (Wan’s an exec prod on the sequel; Whannel polished the director’s original script, which was repurposed from something he had already written.)

Tsunami follies: a baker's dozen of Thai digital shorts

Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee reports on a program of Tsunami Digital Short Films, “shown in two programmes last week at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, glaringly lack is this ability to connect with the audience in any meaningful way. They feel detached, even removed from the real event.
“Each filmmaker – most of them young and upcoming, and not a single one from the tsunami-struck areas – had total freedom to do whatever they wanted in their under-20 minute piece. Each was welcome to make a personal movie from personal memories. But in light of such devastating tragedy, does that mean they can blithely bypass the collective memory of the rest of the nation? … For example, a short called After Shock plunges headlong into the ecstasy of post-December 26 sensation, ending with a scene of a man masturbating in a boat, his body caked with mud and blood and maybe something else. Thunska Pansittiworakul, who directed the part, is Thailand’s most radical provocateur; but I doubt if his brand of raw, risk-taking, politically incorrect movies is a jarring note here. Likewise with Santi Taepanich’s Tits and Bums, the most enjoyable slice in the cake. The movie, also outstanding because it’s the only one that doesn’t include a single shot of the sea, is a hilarious spoof of a karaoke video featuring a sexy model in a cleavage-friendly costume.” In an effort to find drama through fictitious, even experimental means, some filmmakers in this ensemble, talented as they surely are, have forgotten that reality, naked as it is, is the endless source of true, touching and relevant stories. [More frivolity at the link.]

Jarhead's Mendes: visual imagery has become a trademark

Reuters’ Bob Tourtellotte enjoys a moment with Sam Mendes, simplifying the stage veteran’s approach to filmmaking: “When troops finally advanced into Kuwait, they found charred bodies, smoke-filled skies and black oil raining down from sabotaged wells. “Weird, surreal images all in this empty space,” Mendes called them.
“Visual imagery has become a trademark of Mendes’ films,” Tourtellotte reveals. “His fans will remember the falling rose petals of [American Beauty] and the incessant rain in [The Road to Perdition]. Mendes captures the Marines’ wartime isolation through a film bleaching process that makes colors seem bland and blurs images on the edge of the main action.” [More of that sort of technical stuff at the link.]

Winning and losing in Toledo: Twist of Faith strikes back

Toledo Blade columnist Russ Lemmon reports that about 700 people went to seeTwist of Faith at the a three-night, one-show-per-night stand at the University of Toledo after the documentary about alleged sexual abuses by a local priest wasn’t booked by commercial venues. “At the Maumee Indoor Theater, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith attracted 687 for its 14-day run in August. The Star Wars film ranks No. 7 on the theater’s list of top box-office draws this year. Raise your hand if you’re still buying the “business decision” reason for the theater rejecting a week-long screening of Twist of Faith.” (The U of T grossed over $5,000 from the booking.)

Pestering, um, postering at the Jarhead premiere

The Reeler has another red carpet moment, calling out Sam Mendes‘ graphic acumen: “What I… cannot figure out for the life of me is what is up with Jarhead‘s poster… Think what you want of American Beauty, but its poster is up there with Pulp Fiction as [one of] the most indelible posters of the 1990s. Now we have Jarhead, starring quintessential poster boys Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal, with its Full Metal Jacket ripoff subbing a dogtag for a helmet and a colloquial tagline connoting “war” with “suck.”
Mendes did not have anything to do with this, did he? “Actually, yeah, I did… What? You don’t like it?” Well, no. If it is between a naked woman in rose petals and a dogtag, the woman wins out 10 times out of 10. We have got to get back, you know– “Back to the sex?” OK, if you say so. “All right,” he [said, shrugging]. “Well, maybe for the next movie.”

Gagiography: David Carr sounds Harvey's trumpets

In the NY Times, David Carr insures the Weinsteins will continue to break bread with him, carving hymns on the side of Mount Grey Lady: “Harvey Weinstein is a singular force, a brawny, monomaniacal figure who has chewed his way through many industry conventions on his way to becoming the rogue king of the movie business. He is a complicated man: a rustic and an auteur, a ruffian and an aesthete. He has battled almost every partner he ever had. But now he confronts a truly majestic opponent: himself. To draw investors, he has agreed to a whole set of restrictions. The brothers will receive small salaries and no bonuses this time around. The company’s investment in any individual movie is capped at $40 million. And with no $700 million annuity from Disney, the Weinsteins, who own 51% of the company, will squeeze every nickel twice before they spend it.”

Where Harvey will get his gloss: L'Oreal p.r.'s

As Weinsteinco soldiers up, the Bros. also put on their pretty face, with a press release about their union with L’Oreal Paris. “This first ever, long-term partnership between a motion picture company and a major cosmetic brand is being established to further the natural association between the worlds of film and beauty.” Cue: Golden Globes and Oscar ceremonies.
Junket duty is indicated as well: “In addition, L’Oreal’s expert makeup and hair teams will support all promotion of Weinstein Company films.” Scream and skin cream again: “As part of the partnership, L’Oreal will be the official exclusive beauty sponsor of all of The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films’ US theatrical premieres over the next two years, beginning in January 2006.”

Little Picturehouse on the Prairie: here comes Altman's Home Companion

Who’s old is new again: Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion goes Berney’s way, with TimeWarner’s Picturehouse acquiring all North American rights. PR’s Berney, “With his signature style, Robert Altman has crafted a hilarious and endearing film… ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ is a masterfully-acted ensemble piece that captures the humor and heart of Garrison Keillor’s radio show with great cinematic flair. Fans are in for a real treat when they see Meryl Streep and the cast belt out their favorite songs.” (Oh-oh.)

Inspiring The Weather Man: Steve did not participate in that

Producer Todd Black talks up his house screenwriter Steve Conrad to SF Chronicle’s Hugh Hart, articulating the depths of The Weather Man, the first of three Conrad-Black movies out of the chute. “Steve was with a bunch of friends and his brother in Fort Lauderdale and there was a local weatherman walking across the street… A couple of kids in the car said, ‘Let’s throw a drink at this guy and keep on driving.’ They thought it was funny.
Steve did not participate in that, but he found the image of a weatherman being hit with liquid very funny and always remembered that. Steve likes to think of pain and humor as being one and the same thing.”

Trafficking Syriana: Gaghan talks out of neo-con school

Syriana writer-director Stephen Gaghan riffs with LA Times’ Rachel Abramowtiz in her tick-tock about new political pics: “During his research… Seymour M. Hersh introduced Gaghan to Richard Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who is considered one of the neocon architects of the war in Iraq. It was weeks before the American invasion, and the screenwriter had just returned from Damascus, where he heard [predictions of] what a quagmire the war would be. “I’m in Perle’s kitchen. He’s passing out favors in the Bush administration. He’s dispensing wisdom and making me a cappuccino from this $3,000 cappuccino machine. He’s really smart, really clever, and I’m having a great time. I feel really lucky. I [say], ‘Mr. Perle, I have just one question. Who’s going to run Iraq?’ He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, we’re not going into that. Who says we’re going into Iraq?’ “I said, ‘Really, if we went in, who’s going to run the country?’ He said, ‘It’s a shame we haven’t done a better job of supporting Ahmad Chalabi…’ I said, ‘Listen, Chalabi hasn’t been in Iraq since 1959…. He lives in Paris. If he goes back there, they’re going to reject him like a bad organ transplant…. He looked at me like ‘Who let you in here?’ He stared daggers at me for about a minute.”… The doorbell rang. “He said, ‘Excellent. I’ll introduce you to Bibi on the way out.’
“It was Benjamin Netanyahu, dropping by with 9 Uzi-wielding Mossad agents.” As Perle ushered Gaghan out, Perle’s wheaten terrier puppy, Reagan, [jumped] around and, as Gaghan describes it, “pawing the crotch of Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu just stands there and shakes with rage. So I pulled the dog away from him and said, ‘Now, now, Reagan, not on former heads of state,’ and they just held the door open and let me out.”

Quel fromage: more from epicure Depardieu

“Like many men,” he says with a grin, lighting up a cigarette, “I’m always a sex symbol in my own mind, but it’s great to be told so now and then, especially when you eat too much and have big love handles like me,” Gerard Depardieu concedes to Nigel Farndale of The Age. “But the love handles are a price he’s happy to pay, for Depardieu is a gourmand. Not only does he love to eat – he’s been known to consume four entire roast chickens at one sitting – but he is also a formidable cook who will produce a whole roast pig for a casual lunch…
“So seriously does Depardieu take winemaking that he describes himself as acteur-vigneron (actor-winemaker) on his passport. He owns more than a dozen vineyards around the world, from the Loire, Bordeaux and Languedoc to Sicily, Algeria, Morocco and Argentina, and helps with the harvest at [some]. “I love being hands-on, getting on the tractor. When you make wine you need to know how everything works.” It’s a “profitable sideline for him; he produces 1m bottles a year from his vineyard in Anjou alone. Is it true he talks to his wine? “I talk to my wine like I talk to my food when I am cooking. I am in communion with it. Totally absorbed.”

He's so rude about Billy Wilder: a defense at 100

Novelist Jonathan Coe has been a Billy Wilder obsessive for years, and opens a nimble consideration of critical contumely still directed toward the writer-director like this: “Recently a friend came round to my house and was examining the bookshelves, as friends so often do. He came to the part where most of my books about cinema are loosely gathered together, and seemed to be staring at it for an inordinately long time. Something was obviously bothering him. “Where is it?” he asked… “Do you keep it somewhere else?”I didn’t even have to ask what he was talking about. David Thomson‘s ‘Biographical Dictionary of Film’ is, as everybody will tell you, indispensable. Far more than just a reference book, it is also [a]… passionate, opinionated work of literature. Everybody in this country who loves film seems to have a copy. Everybody except me, that is. And when my friend asked me why not, there was only one truthful answer I could give: “Because he’s so rude about Billy Wilder.”

All the king's minions: guessing at King's Men's one-year delay

In the Guardian, John Patterson guesses at why All the King’s Men was delayed from Christmas 2005 to 2006. The scribe doesn’t believe they ran out of editing time: “Consider the political atmosphere the remake would have dropped into in mid-December: indictments gagging the White House and Congress, the super-rich soaking the poor, abject failure in New Orleans, inflation on the rise, a dejected electorate, Iraq, wall-to-wall corruption. The film might have been almost too perfect for its political moment, at least in the eyes of its backers, who, like all studios, have too much business pending at the Republican-controlled FCC to risk giving partisan offence. Better to delay it a year, when the mid-term elections will be behind us, than to earn the enmity of the nastiest pay-back outfit in modern American politics. It’s only a theory, and possibly a paranoid fantasy, but in these bleak times I’m ready to believe almost anything.” [Note: as a foreign-owned concern, Sony cannot own broadcast properties.]

Kurt Vonnegut: the huge illiterate population can sure as hell watch a movie

In a Forbes special on communication, Kurt Vonnegut ventures about how to tell a story today: “All of the arts, with the exception of architecture, are practical jokes, making people respond emotionally and at no risk to themselves, because things aren’t really happening… What I do, which is becoming more and more impractical I think, is make people respond to idiosyncratic arrangements of 26 phonetic symbols and ten Arabic numbers in horizontal lines on a page. And there was a time when this was a form of home entertainment, and so it was worthwhile for people to learn how to read. But reading it is actually quite difficult… But ink on paper is no way to tell a story anymore. Film and movies are the best way to tell a story today… Because of our terrible high schools, we have a huge illiterate population, but they can sure as hell watch a movie.”

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