Movie City Indie Archive for October, 2005

Having nun of it: Chloe Sevigny on cool, boys, bunnies, Bunny Boy and babies

Chloe Sevigny dithers sweetly, bluntly with Oliver Burkeman over at the Grauniad: “I can’t make a single decision myself,” Sevigny says, with a directness that disarms, though it turns out she’s moved on to different matters. “My mom’s in town today. I need to buy…shades. But there are a thousand different kinds. Really – there are too many options in the world. Can’t we just have two different kinds of shades, and that’s it?
Chloe56.jpg I’m a 30-year-old woman. You’d think I’d be able to make a decision on my own. But it’s just overwhelming.” At the link: babies, boyfriends, The Brown Bunny and a cool swipe at Jay McInerney, Sevigny’s original It-ographer.
AND OVER AT THE AUSTRALIAN, Sevigny tells Georgina Safe a tail of Gummo‘s Bunny Boy: “My favourite thing from Gummo is the rabbit ears that Bunny Boy wore…. I made them on my sewing machine, I fashioned them from pale pink felt, but unfortunately on the first day of shooting it rained and they just fell apart. Felt doesn’t deal with rain. But I still have them at home.”

Authority-exuding quirkiness: Wells blurbs film snob-crib squibs

Jeff Wells is first on the block to blurb the February 2006 release of the David Kamp-Steven Daly crib, “The Film Snob*s Dictionary.” A few notes: “Film Snobs are mostly fringe types also, but a certain number can be found among journalists and critics,” Wells inscribes. “Naturally, I exclude myself. I have this delusional idea that I’m an anti-snob, man-of-the-people type. The truth is that I know my stuff and feel no empathy for lowbrow ignorance…”
Wells quotes the introduction: “The Film Snob fairly revels, in fact, in the notion that The Public Is Stupid and Ineducable, which is what sets him apart from the more benevolent Film Buff—the effervescent, Scorsese-style enthusiast who delights in introducing novitiates to The Bicycle Thief and Powell-Pressburger films.” Wells reminisces about early career insecurities, saying he found his way past them “partly out of a realization that certain elite critics lived on the planet Neptune. I came to realize that although they knew what they knew and had a brilliant way of saying it, their views weren’t any better than mine… although my respect for the elites and worshipping their prose all those years… had a cumulative effect.” Wells excerpts 8 entries from the slim tome, adding, “If it were my book I would have mentioned other Neptuners (B. Ruby Rich, Jim Hoberman, Ray Pride, Armond White, Robert Koehler, Emanuel Levy)—each of whom, it could be argued, are fascinating in their authority-exuding quirkiness. There’s certainly no slight in saying these people should have been included. Film Snobbery is an excusable neurotic outgrowth of being an extra-passionate Film Buff, and every Neptuner I’ve mentioned in this [graf] is a fine writer and respected scholar, so let’s not have any arched backs.” [The column lacks entry permalinks; search for “Snob Aesthetics” on this page.]

Night and day-and-date: Shyamalan sees dead grosses

Manoj Shyamalan has a twist beginning to foreshortening the theatrical and DVD release windows at the Showeast trade show on Disney’s Orlando home turn: “It’s greed… It’s heartless and soulless and disrespectful. And of course, cable companies are behind it, and Internet companies. They need their product. But they have to wait their turn. Wait for the thing to finish its life…. If you inspire audiences, theaters will be packed,” M. Night told Daily Variety. “That’s when the collective soul is talking. Great movies connect everybody. That’s when humanity grows. What is art? Conveying that we are not alone.”
Movies are the definitive art form of our lives…We have been seduced by the DVD and what will sell the DVD. It has been the worst year in cinema for quality.” The Reeler has a few barks of snark about M. Night’s own bouts of re-DVDism.

Nashville, Agnès B. and Harmony Korine: Mr. Lonely But you know you only used to get juiced in it

In Nashville Scene’s autumn best-of issue, Jim Ridley chronicles an initiative called O’Salvation!: “It was not local news when filmmaker Harmony Korine, then based in Nashville, formed a production company [in 2004] with the French fashion designer Agnès B. It was international news… The designer has backed major talents such as Claire Denis, Gaspar Noé and Patrice Chereau. Now O’Salvation! is putting its resources behind Korine and Nashville writer-directors James Clauer [prankster, associate producer, location scout and second unit director of Gummo] and Brent Stewart—potentially the most exciting development on the city’s film scene since Robert Altman shot here 30 years ago. Clauer’s… Aluminum Fowl is a category-defying marvel: a semi-documentary about black Louisiana cockfighters, shot in a lyrical yet earthy style that suggests Terrence Malick working in tandem with Les Blank. It’s haunting, funny and otherworldly… Stewart’s locally filmed Blackberry Winter is a post-apocalyptic mood piece, strikingly shot in high-contrast black-and-white…
Meanwhile, Korine is overseas in pre-production on Mister Lonely, a film he reportedly co-wrote with his brother Avi … If people really want to see Nashville become a destination and a home for world-class filmmaking, show these guys some of the love Craig Brewer’s getting from Memphis these days.” [Image: Sister Berlin (of the Red Army), 2002, Harmony Korine, via galerie du jour — Agnès B. ]

Saw II: the genesis

How many more ways are there to market a horror sequel? Perhaps an animated comic to provide some brutish backstory?

Inside his Bubble: Soderbergh's lo-fi process

Steven Soderbergh talks production process with the Independent’s Nicola Christie as Bubble debuts at the London Film Festival. She notes that he takes on as many roles as he can, especially as his own DoP: “There are many cinematographers who are much better than I am, but it would be very difficult for me now to step back and insert another person between me and the image,” he says… With Bubble, Soderbergh also edited at the end of each day. “We had the footage in my hotel room, on my computer, so we’d watch what we shot that day. I could edit scenes and then go out and shoot it differently the next day. It was amazing.”
Soderbergh, she writes, belives that digital technology will allow a filmmaker like himself to cut the studios out of the game. “You’ll see [name] film-makers self-distributing their own films. That’s where this is going to go. If I can go to the bank and get money to make the movie, and in 2 to 4 years’ time the digital changeover has happened in the US and all the theatres are digitally projecting, I’ll just go right to the theatres and make a deal with them. I’m certainly going to pursue that… You can work so quickly with these cameras; they’re lighter, more portable. The time between having an idea and seeing it expressed has collapsed, and that’s great.”

160 minutes, how can you measure the life of Jean Vigo?

Elbert Ventura has a keen appreciation of the succinct oeuvre of Jean Vigo at New Republic Online: “Standing on the cusp of silent and sound cinema, [Vigo’s] movies feel appropriately disconnected from the art’s current. So fully do they embody their maker’s anarchic spirit that they resist classification, mingling prose and poetry, realism and surrealism, banality and transcendence.
His centenary this year has occasioned a new wave of revivals. But no matter how often we revisit them, the movies never seem to assume a more tangible form. Like the mist that envelops many of his images, they remain ethereal and ungraspable. 160 minutes, give or take, were all it took for Vigo to articulate a conception of the medium that is as inspirational as it is inimitable. Its elusiveness may explain why Vigo’s cinema seems the object of cultish devotion rather than mainstream assimilation. Writing in the Nation in 1947, James Agee conceded that both Zero for Conduct and L’Atalante,
which had just then received a stateside release, were “far too specialized.” But Agee couldn’t restrain himself. In a two-part article, he rhapsodized about Vigo’s expansion of the movies’ formal vocabulary. “It is as if he had invented the wheel.”

IMDB at 15: the origin saga

Chris Kaltenbach of Baltimore Sun reports on the origins of the Internet Movie Database: “Col Needham once watched… Alien 14 times in 14 days. In 1990, he watched 1,100 movies. That same year, he founded what would eventually become the [IMDB]… As of last week, when celebrated its 15th anniversary, the site contained information on 471,378 film titles and nearly 1.2 million people, including stars, directors, key grips and best boys. Company officials point out that about 30 million unique users call up the site on their computer screens every month.” [More blah-blah at the link.]

Toledo gets Twist of Faith, finally

Kirby Dick‘s Oscar-nominated documentary, Twist of Faith, about Tony Comes, a Toledo firefighter who alleges he was sexually molested by a priest while he was a student at a local Catholic high school, finally gets a run in Comes’ hometown—at the University of Toledo. Locally, reports the Blade, it “was shown once at the Maumee Indoor Theater in June for an invitation-only crowd… The Maumee theater, however, never showed the critically acclaimed film again, prompting complaints of censorship. Theater representatives said the decision to not show the movie was based entirely on financial reasons.”
Toledo Blade quotes UT assistant film prof Tammy Kinsey: “The history of motion pictures is filled with examples of theaters, distributors, or towns engaging in this indirect censorship by preventing access. [There is] a clear historical precedent as a means of blocking the screening of a film.”

New Times: Hoberman on VVoice Film at 50

Marking its 50th anniversary in the same week the Village Voice stable (including LA Weekly) is set to be acquired by the New Times alt-weekly conglom if the Justice Dept. approves, J. Hoberman chronicles his long love for the Greenwich Village weekly’s film section. Hoberman recalls how the Teenage Jim was taken with Jonas Mekas’ “Movie Journal” and Andrew Sarris’ “Films in Focus,” but he writes that the attendant fortune in the mid-1960s was ”to have revival dumps like the Bleecker Street, the New Yorker, and the Thalia—not to mention the 42nd Street grind houses and the Museum of Modern Art…”
“The French call adolescence the ‘age of film-going,’ ” I would write in that same Village Voice some 20 years later. “And it may be that the movies you discover then set your taste forever.” It will be many eons before the collected writings of Mekas and Sarris are enshrined between the Library of America’s glossy black covers…” Hoberman recalls the careers of Mekas and Sarris, as well as later writers like Amy Taubin, Michael Atkinson, Georgia Brown, Stuart Byron, Katherine Dieckmann, Terry Curtis Fox, Tad Gallagher, Dennis Lim, William Paul, B. Ruby Rich, Jonathan Rosenbaum, P. Adams Sitney, Elliott Stein, Jessica Winter, Manohla Dargis, David Edelstein, and Carrie Rickey for the Voice’s five decades of Voice-iness. “It was precisely because the Voice was so site specific, so committed to film culture as it was being made and experienced in New York City, that its coverage not only engaged the Teenage Me but cineastes all over the country and even the world. There’s been an erosion of space and an imposition of format, but I’d like to believe that this readership is still there and that the commitment remains.”

Crickets go bad at National Board of Review?

Mystery deepens, as Variety’s Ian Mohr reports on the doings of the enigmatic, 96-year-old National Board of Review: “When the kudos season kicks off each year with the National Board of Review’s awards, many in the biz find themselves asking [who they are]… A group of former NBR members says the org is… a “private club rather than a public charity.” A complaint, Mohr reports. has been filed by former members with New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer… “Dissidents further charge NBR prexy Annie Schulhof with having a conflict of interest by owning a production shingle, and with giving preferential treatment to friends and family… The NBR is the first widely recognized awards body to weigh in with its yearly list in early December.
“The complaint involves director governance issues, bylaw improprieties, conflict of interest on the part of the president of the board of directors, partisanship toward certain studios regarding awards and gala fees and awards vote manipulation — none of which constitute ethical standards for a not-for-profit corporation,” said Susan Nielsen, a former board member…. Taking on the charge that Schulhof should not be in her position because she owns a production shingle, [a rep] asserted, “Ms. Schulhof’s company has not produced anything yet.”

August expectations: John likes Clooney's writing

Over at screenwriter John August’s online journal, there’s only good words for George Clooney and Grant Heslov‘s screenwriting.
“I liked it a lot, not only for its strong performances, but also its complete disregard for anything approaching traditional narrative structure. The screenplay… is full of good dialogue — much of it apparently drawn from transcripts. What it doesn’t have are other Syd Field essentials, such as character arcs, reversals, and clear motivations. Stripped of such niceties as backstory and personal lives, the characters are left only with The Issue: challenging Joseph McCarthy and his destructive campaign against supposed Communists. Much like The Crucible can be read as an allegory about McCarthyism, Clooney’s movie draws parallels with the current between the media and the government (replace “Communist” with “terrorist”…). But to the script’s credit, it works without this “meta” aspect. Execution matters, and it in this case, it’s executed terrifically well.” [A couple more notes at the link on his swell blog.]

A Yank abroad: the advantages of foreign film schools

The Reporter’s Christina MacDonald surveys schools where US film students are taking it on the road:” With top-notch facilities and high-profile instructors, institutions around the globe are attracting American students…. After attending the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television for two years, Jonathan Wald packed his bags… to attend the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. His decision was based on one simple fact: At the Australian institution, Wald could devote all of his time to perfecting his craft. “At UCLA, for most of the time you’re there, your fellow directing students serve as crew members for your films, so you’ve got directors who are acting as gaffers, assistant directors, designers and sound recordists… At AFTRS, students were very clearly differentiated: The directors directed, the writers wrote, and the designers designed.” … In sharp contrast with most U.S. universities, most charge little or nothing in the way of tuition. [And] as the movie business becomes increasingly international, studying abroad can help make young filmmakers more comfortable with other nations and cultures [which] can only help later in their careers.” MacDonald cites Germany’s independent-minded Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie Berlin, which ccepts fewer than 50 students a year, including only 12 potential directors. “Professors include Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and auteur director Werner Herzog, and with the exception of its screenwriting class, which costs €1,200 ($1,447) a year, the DFFB does not charge tuition.” [More gazetteering at the link.]

Through the Mills: Mike animates the inanimate

Pascal Wyse of the Grauniad winds up the writer-director of Thumbsucker and lets him go. Wyse leaves for a moment, returning to find Mills taking a snap of her bubbly.
“It reminds me of the way the camera slides off people and on to everyday objects… ‘That drifting thing is my life view,’ Mills tells her. ‘I do it a lot. I am intrigued by inanimate objects. They’re a piece of history, someone’s statement and ideas of life. If this was your room, the stuff on your table would be telling me as much about you as you. As someone who grew up in a house where there wasn’t a lot of talking, I’m used to just looking at the world. And in general I often feel like I just don’t understand what’s happening. That everybody else does, but I don’t quite get it. That camera technique I often call ‘the alien that landed – and doesn’t know what’s important’… It’s the can’t live with, can’t live without thing… The huge vulnerable-making machine that love is.” [More creativity at the link.]

Smoking with Jack: get high and look at the sky

Jack Nicholson invites LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein atop Mulholland for a smoke and a yak about The Passenger, the long-unavailable Micheangelo Antonioni picture the actor owns. “Nicholson has vivid memories about the making of the film, especially the weeks he spent in the desert, three days away from the nearest city. “I’ve never been that far from civilization, before or since,” he told me the other day, sitting in the living room of his house… “We lived in thatched huts out in an oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert. It wasn’t unusual to have these huge sandstorms where everything would be covered with this fine pink sand. I can still see Michelangelo walking in the sand, with the wind blowing, picking out shots that he wanted to get.”passenger1.jpg…”It only takes a day to get used to the flies on your nose,” he said, lighting the first of 3 cigarettes he has carefully lined up on a coffee table. “The Italian crew was serious about eating, so we’d have good food every night, get high and look up at the sky. The first night felt very eerie, because it was so quiet. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the most vivid filmmaking adventure I’ve ever had.” It’s a sign of Nicholson’s affection for Antonioni that the actor, who [didn’t do] interviews when he was up for an Academy Award for About Schmidt, [and of Goldstein’s affection for himself that he recounts this fact] spent 90 minutes recounting his friendship with the legendary filmmaker. As Nicholson put it, “He’s been like a father figure to me. I worked with him because I wanted to be a film director and I thought I could learn from a master. He’s one of the few people I know that I ever really listened to.”

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