Movie City Indie Archive for December, 2005

Ebert and Spielberg go P2P on Munich

… and Spielberg speaks on free speech, citing himself in the third person: “Some of my critics are asking how Spielberg, this Hollywood liberal who makes dinosaur movies, can say anything serious about this subject that baffles so many smart people. What they’re basically saying is, ‘You disagree with us in a big public way, and we want you to shut up, and we want this movie to go back in the can.’ That’s a nefarious attempt to make people plug up their ears. That’s not Jewish, it’s not democratic, and it’s bad for everyone — especially in a democratic society.”
[Production still from a passerby found here.]

Sundance-bound: Nick Cave's Proposition

Rouge has published two extracts from Nick Cave’s shooting script for The Proposition, “John Hillcoat’s drama about Australia’s violent colonial history. proposition_pearce.jpg“The plot concerns the proposition given (in the first extract) by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) to Charlie (Guy Pearce): to free his young brother, Mikey (Richard Wilson), from jail and pardon him of crimes, Charlie must find and kill his older brother, the vicious Arthur (Danny Huston). The second extract, from later in the film, is a scene involving Charlie’s uneasy reintegration into Arthur’s gang.” [Cave also wrote an unproduced “Gladiator II”; he talks about it, his music and screenwriting careers here.]

Stephen Gaghan: execute it so well they have to make it

Over at Written By, Stephen Gaghan‘s ire remains on fire as he talks about the personal reasons Traffic and Syriana had to be written. “What is it about us that we need war on an abstraction to define ourselves? And why are the details of actual life such a potent defense against that abstraction?
“To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson: All politics is personal. To quote Robert Caro, Johnson’s biographer, “Absolute power doesn’t corrupt absolutely; it reveals absolutely.” We hold a mirror up to ourselves and find our political institutions in the reflection. We are our government. We are what is done in our name. So what kind of government are we? If our self-interest is borne out in our personal ambition and we wish the world to be shaped in that image, then what is the shape of the world? And what is the shape of us? … “You realize they will never make that movie. That movie will never get made. It’s too political; people don’t go to films they can see on the news. You can’t show the War on Terror to be wrong or, worse, absurd and tragic. There’s no clear-cut antagonist. No hero. No victory. No life-lesson to go home with. Too much is left unanswered. Politics is personal? The limits of self-interest? Where are the easy answers? … Well, as a filmmaker friend of mine said, “Isn’t the goal always to write something unmakeable, but then execute it so well they have to make it?” [Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, several letters to the editor examine the factuality of an op-ed that attacked Syriana‘s factuality.

Is the 4 Star Theatre (the last US Chinese theater) doomed?

At Asia Pacific Arts, Brian Hu offers a personal reminscence of the 4 Star Theatre in San Francisco, the nation’s last Chinese movie theater, as its legal woes are mounting. “When I moved to the… Bay Area five years ago, the 4 Star Theatre in the Richmond District became one of the real pleasures for a young film lover… As the only remaining theater in the United States playing new Hong Kong films, the 4 Star represented a universe of filmgoing that existed in Asian-American communities before I was old enough to know who Wong Fei-hong or Asia the Invincible were.
“Attending 4 Star screenings of new and classic Hong Kong cinema showed me that while my many friends and family preferred their Asian cinema on bootlegged VHS and VCD, there was still a stronghold of fans—Asian and non-Asian alike—who made it a principle to see Hong Kong films on the big screen with a group of fellow cinemagoers… The 4 Star is facing eviction from the Canaan Lutheran Church, which purchased the property in 2001 and has waited for the 4 Star’s lease to run out so they can move in. Frank and Lida Lee, owners of the 4 Star, are suing the church, claiming that such an eviction violates a city ordinance which prohibits theaters from getting shut down because cinemas bring business into the surrounding area. Neighborhood businesses have petitioned, expressing their support for the 4 Star… I respect the Canaan Lutheran Church and I wish them luck in finding another piece of property in San Francisco. But to convert the 4 Star into a place of worship is counterproductive: the community has been worshipping the movie gods there for a century now, and it has no intention of stopping.” [History and lots of cinephilic feeling at the link.]

Dante's warpath: Homecoming keeps coming

Joe Dante continues to ignite the lumps of coal in everybody’s political stocking, talking at length with Mark Peranson, editor of Canada’s invaluable Cinema Scope magazine about his politically-charged zombie parable, Homecoming. Peranson observes, Some people are saying, “Oh, Michael Moore cost us the election.” “Which is bullshit. First of all, who knows who won the election? … You’re going to sit around and actually tell me that these people won the election in Ohio ? Where the guy who’s in charge, and the people who make the machines said, “We’re going to deliver the election to George Bush.” The thing that’s amazing to me, and the thing where this movie came from, is that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what a fucking mess we’re in and what we’ve done to the image of this country around the world… It’s been happening steadily for the past four years. And nobody made a peep about it… The New York Times and all these people, they actually abetted the lies… that went into the making and selling of this war. And now that they see that the guy is a little weak, they’re kicking him with the toe of their foot to make sure that he doesn’t bite back…. It gets cowardly, and it’s sick, and I think nobody’s done anything about it. And this pitiful zombie movie, this fucking B-movie is the only thing that anybody’s done about this issue? That killed 2000 Americans and untold amounts of Iraqis? It’s sick, it’s fucking sick.”
DC homecoming.jpg
Dante concedes that George A. Romero‘s Land of the Dead broaches similar material, but “if you’re going code the message to that point, which is the way we’ve all done it… that’s fine, but, you know, it’s not going to reach an audience like a movie that’s overt… and this movie is not exactly subtle, the one I made… It’s really obvious what it’s about and what’s going on. And it seems to me that you have to be. Somebody has to start making this kind of movie, this kind of statement. And everybody is afraid to do it. It’s not commercial, and people are going to be upset. Good, let them be upset. Why aren’t people upset? Everyday people go through their normal lives and they go ahead and they pick up the mail and they take a bath, they walk the dog, and they do all this stuff and every minute they’re doing it somebody’s dying in this war, and for nothing. To establish what, a religious theocracy in Iraq ? It doesn’t seem to me quite worth it… I’m angry. I’m not the only one, I’m just the one who got to make the movie. But I represent a lot of people who don’t like the fact that the country that they grew up in is saying “Fuck you!” to the rest of the world, you know, without asking me. I didn’t tell anybody that it was okay. Nobody asked me if we should go to war.”

French ticklers?: legalizing file sharing in Paris

An odd note from the International Herald Tribune: “A nearly empty midnight session of the French National Assembly voted to add amendments to an antipiracy law that would allow peer-to-peer sharing of films and music over the Internet, a move that would legalize here what is considered piracy nearly everywhere else in the world.” But, Thomas Crampton writes, The amendments face a tough time later in the legislative process, since the government, which holds a majority of seats, said it opposed the move. The small group of late-night lawmakers in the assembly, the lower house of Parliament, tacked on amendments that would establish a global license fee of 7 euros ($8.40) a month… That would permit Internet users to download unlimited digital music and films from the Internet for personal use…”We are trying to bring the law up to date with reality,” said Patrick Bloche, a Socialist representing Paris, who was a co-author of the amendments. “It is wrong to describe the eight million French people who have downloaded music from the Internet as delinquents.” [More of the politics and finances at the link.]

Secret cinema: Besson's latest materializes

Screen International’s Benny Crick reviews Luc Besson‘s first pic in six years, Angel-A, shot with the same speed and secrecy this past summer as Munich, with slightly different results. “The French film industry’s best-kept secret of 2005, the offbeat romance was shot on the sly in Paris last summer… from a script that Besson wrote a decade ago, then put aside. Taking the familiar boy-meets-girl (in Paris) plot, Besson overlays it with a supernatural premise: that the girl is a female angel sent down to Earth to help a sympathetic sleazebag… Released in France on Dec 21 without press or preview screenings—although with a good deal of last minute media promos—it remains to be seen how Besson’s core youth audience will take to the film…
“Returning to the black and white of his 1983 debut [Le derniere combat], Besson turns mid-summer Paris into the film’s third main character, as Thierry Arbogast’s lush photography gives the script a timeless, fable-like quality…. The recurring leitmotif of Paris bridges also recalls an earlier and more insanely ambitious Paris-set boy-meets-girl tale, Leos Carax’s Les Amants Du Pont Neuf.” [The trailer’s up at the Angel-A website; click on bande annonce.]

But hey, it worked: self-DVDing Monday Night at the Rock 'N Bowl

Over at Chicago’s Sharkforum group art blog, I’ve got an easygoing chat with Genevieve Coleman, who’s putting her likeable rockumentary Monday Night at the Rock ‘N Bowl on DVD because no one else would. She’s got the right attitude: “We had no money to begin with, no money at all, I mean barely enough to buy a tape that costs ten bucks, so there is no way I could have started shooting if I had been rolling film. But more than that, it would have been really difficult, logistically, to shoot in a place with 36 lanes of bowling going on, loud music, running around non-stop, fluorescent lighting, with a film camera.
“The smaller video cameras really made it possible to just roll tape, and don’t stop until they lock the doors that night, in an affordable and easily obtainable way, you know, borrowing a camera from friends every Monday. But hey, it worked.”

Ledeing into The New World: John Patterson's sweet swoon

One viewing wasn’t enough for me to sort out Terrence Malick‘s The New World, but I really, really want to see it again after reading John Patterson‘s marvelous lede to his essay in the Guardian. (I’m ready to switch to his blend of coffee.) “The finest American movie of the year—the finest, indeed, of many a year—is Terrence Malick’s fourth feature, The New World. It takes America’s first mythic story—the encounter between Jamestown pioneer Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and the Indian maiden Pocahontas (an astonishing performance by 14-year-old newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher) in 1607—and renders it both ancient and modern. The script was originally written during the early 1970s—the era of Vietnam and the American Indian Movement’s occupation of the Wounded Knee battlefield—and the movie feels like a time capsule of sorts, having gestated in the director’s head for three decades, a message composed in the depths of one terrible war, and reverberating now in the mire of another.”
“It is also an attempt to render onto film the concepts invoked in the famous final page of “The Great Gatsby”: “a fresh green breast of the new world … for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” [More ♥ at the link.]

Vocal criticism: the 7th Village VOICE crickets poll

While Jim Hoberman‘s summary and comments from other crickets won’t be up until Tuesday, the top 144 movies of 2005, according to a roster of critics, including yr. correspondent, is up at the VOICE site. Top 5? A History of Violence, 2046, Kings and Queen, Grizzly Man and The World.” 139 more at the link… [My ballot, which would be different on any given day, is here.]

3.5 Eyed Monsters: a sloth blog

Filmmakers Arin Crumley and Susan Buice blog a video paean to how life gets in the way of Episode 4 of their ongoing saga of trying to get Four Eyed Monsters out into the world.
lazy susan.jpg
I do not have the ambition to do these. I have been trying to do this, like, I’ve sat down to do the editing, I’ve looked at the interviews—It’s like licking pavement… I mean, why aren’t you cutting Episode 4? What’s your fucking problem? What’s your excuse? The duo are battling, but their taste in music remains cool.

Pandora's Pillbox: bobbing for Christmas

Diary of a lost estate: someone in Santa Monica’s put the late Louise Brooks’ Medicare card up on eBay.
Pandora's Pillbox.jpg

New World pictures: Malick goes Kubrick

new world or k_jpg.jpg

Variety’s Dave McNary and Gabriel Snyder report at least one perfectionist remains hard at it this holiday season, with Terrence Malick making major tweaks in The New World.

“Just days before its Christmas bow at two venues in Los Angeles and one in [NYC], director Malick has been trimming his historical drama from the 149-minute version shown to critics and advance screening auds. Newer version is said to include 15-20 minutes of tweaks and trims, but has no major chunks cut out. New Line will release the longer version this weekend, will show it at awards screenings and has sent out DVD screeners of it to such voting groups as members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. New Line execs will see a shorter version soon and decide then which version will go out when the film expands late next month—around the announcement of Academy Award nominations on Jan. 31… New Line distribution and marketing topper Rolf Mittweg [says] the studio will make a decision on the exact release pattern of the new version once Malick delivers the new cut….”It’s all part of the process of working with Terrence Malick,” Mittweg added. “He simply wants The New World to be the best possible film that it can be.” …Malick is famous for tweaking his films until the last minute.”

Turnhere internet television: Filmmakerz n the 'hood

Turnhere is a new website (still in beta) compiling short videos about neighborhoods around the world. As the co. pr’s, Turnhere is “seeking professional and independent filmmakers, [which] it pays for their work and creativity, to participate in an ambitious initiative which is chronicling life in American neighborhoods across the country through 2-5 minute short films made specifically for the Internet.” Their bold claim? “TurnHere is essentially making the largest documentary on American culture ever made. Films should be artful and high-concept, focusing on the people, culture, history, local businesses and political landscapes across America…
“The site is highly viral, as each film has [its] own unique URL which can be forwarded via email.” Austin, Texas is the setting of the sample they suggest; the short from my still-gentrifying Chicago neighborhood is emblematic to the point of parody, such as this shot of a young woman in an AC/DC t-shirt, wearing oversized sunglasses and dog-ears, striding in front of a U-Haul trailer on a leafy side street.

Kenneth Branagh: Charity case?

Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, writes Variety’s Adam Dawtrey, was not greenlit with the expectation that Mr. Branagh’s work could make a profit. “You might think a $27 million movie of [it], updated to the First World War, wouldn’t stand much chance of making a profit… The producers… want to make absolutely certain it doesn’t… The Mozart movie, conceived and directed by Kenneth Branagh with a libretto by Stephen Fry, is being bankrolled by a grant from the Peter Moores Foundation. As a charity, it’s not allowed to make profits.” But Producers-like, did they examine Branagh’s filmmography and find a history of failure? Dawtrey jokes that possibility away in his opening graf.
Deeper in, he explains, “The film has been set up to ensure that any upside flows to the distributors, rather than to the foundation… Sales agent Celluloid Dreams is offering buyers an unusual deal—the better the film performs, the bigger their share of the backend. Once the distrib recoups its minimum guarantee and [other] costs, overages are initially split 50/50 with the production company, rising to 90/10 in favor of the distrib. “In my 20 years of experience as a producer, it’s the first time I’ve seen a film financed that way,” says the pic’s French producer Pierre-Olivier Bardet. In this way, the foundation hopes to recoup some of the production cost without actually slipping into the black.” $25 million of the budget comes comes from the Littlewoods retail and gambling concern, and “the charitable intent of Sir Peter Moores, the 73-year-old Liverpool-based patron of the arts… is to bring opera to the masses. Over the years, his foundation has funded roughly 50 recordings of operas in English.”

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

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