Movie City Indie Archive for May, 2006

DVD 5-4-3-2-1: Winter Passing, Funny Games, Duma, Modern Romance, The New World

coo world.jpgFive new and recent DVD releases, from Adam Rapp, Michael Haneke, Carroll Ballard, Albert Brooks and Terrence Malick: Winter Passing, Funny Games, Duma, Modern Romance and a consideration of The New World.

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Manhattan Tales: the WTC trailer (im Deutsch)

asian_qaeda48507.jpgVia Filmmaker, UIP’s German trailer for Oliver Stone‘s World Trade Center, in which the Son of New York demonstrates that he intends to own 9/11. Of course, there are other things to wonder about beyond the lyrical rendering of the shadow outline of a plummeting jet across the face of a boldly-colored hotel at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. Namely, the Asian Man in the Kolchak-the-Night-Stalker hat and Hawaiian shirt! What coverup has kept us from knowing what part he played in the terrible events of that day? Rotten atmosphere casting or another reason to feel the fear? Tell us, Oliver. Tell us. A rough translation of the German slogan, “An diesem tag sah die welt das grauen swei manner sahen etwas anderes”: “You’ll Believe a Man Can Cry.”

Groupthink: how Robert Greenwald sees his distrib model

smiley632834570.gifActivist director Robert Greenwald is optimistic about social change as his doc WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price opens in the UK, he tells the Telegraph’s Marc Lee. Most notable are his observations about his grassroots distribution model: “The film has achieved what it has [in leading WAL-MART to announce potential changes], says Greenwald, because of its connection to a growing social movement, one that its mould-breaking distribution tapped into. “That took a huge amount of effort… And it is not a model to make money. We had 750,000 people at 8,000 screenings, but they didn’t pay nine or 10 dollars each to see the film: a church bought one copy and showed it to 300 people, a student dorm bought one copy and had 50 people see it. However, from the point of view of reaching people, it is absolutely great. Would I have preferred to see it go straight to TV? No, I wouldn’t. When people see the film in a group, their mindset is different. There’s going to be discussion afterwards, and, in some cases, they are going to take action.” Reviewing the pic in the FT, Martin Hoyle writes: “Greenwald’s method is to let the interviewees talk. Far from a bunch of disgruntled ex-workers (or Wal-Mart’s imaginative term “associates”), the flood of speakers ranges from small-town family firms bulldozed out of business by the leviathan, to Wal-Mart managers of 17 years’ standing…

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Baghdad Rorschach: Army decides HBO's E.R. too graphic

The NY Times’ Edward Wyatt reports on a flip-flop by Army brass over Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill‘s HBO doc, Baghdad E.R., shot over two months at the 86th Combat Support Hospital,baghdader08758.jpg“where the filmmakers were given broad access to follow doctors, nurses, medics and others as they treated soldiers wounded by roadside bombs and in combat. As one nurse, Specialist Saidet Lanier, says in the film: “This is hard-core, raw, uncut trauma. Day after day, every day.” A Monday night screening at the National Museum of American History in Washington will go on without the presence of a number of higher-ups who originally intended to attend.” Even more important figures are cited, with Wyatt noting that “concerns about the content of the film, which includes footage of wounded soldiers undergoing surgery, an amputation and in some cases dying, have also been raised by the wives of top Army officers…” HBO doc boss Sheila Nevins, however, understands imagery: “Anything showing the grim realities of war is, in a sense, anti-war… In that way, the film is a sort of Rorschach test. You see in it what you bring to it.” [Baghdad E.R. premieres May 21; preview it here.]

Above the Southland: picturing a "terrorist"'s Tales

southland57328.jpgFrame-grabbing a futuristic Southland skyscape, taken from the Southland Tales website, which, closer to an eventual release of allegedly Homeland-grounded director Richard Kelly‘s second feature, may someday be coherent enough to grow into an enigma. Cool music, tho. [See entry below about the Cannes-bound problems Kelly claims.]

9/11, United 93 and hot sauce: a pilot takes a taste

Pilot and Salon columnist Patrick Smith writes about United 93‘s relative technical accuracy and notes something that’s in frame for the barest amount of time: “United 93 succeeds where almost every other movie fails. For the record, I counted about 15 minor gaffes, ranging from poorly rendered air traffic control lingo to an errant shot of an Airbus A320 standing in as the United 757. tinytabasco2345.jpgBut the reconstructions are, if not flawlessly spot-on, close enough to keep a known pedant like me from listing the bloopers here. Even the background chatter between pilots and air traffic controllers is, in many instances, taken verbatim from actual ATC recordings. The overall lack of miscues is doubtless owed to the use of actual controllers and air crew staff as cast members.. The most touching bit of realism may be the moment when, preparing to eat his breakfast in the cockpit, first officer LeRoy Homer, played by commercial pilot Gary Commock, removes a bottle of hot sauce from his flight kit. I smiled at that, familiar with the popularity of those little red bottles among fliers—a requisite flight bag item no less crucial than maps, charts and manuals.”

Hollywood thoughts: Barham by the Nile

selznick_3412.jpgDavid O. Selznick, out for a walk one night with Ben Hecht in the cinema-is-dead early 1950s, is reputed to have said, “Hollywood’s like Egypt, full of crumbling pyramids. It’ll never come back. It’ll just keep on crumbling until finally the wind blows the last studio prop across the sands.” (Attributed to Douglas T. Miller and Marion Nowak’s 1977 “The Fifties: The Way We Really Were.”)

Anthony Lane loved it: M:i:III

psh1230548976.jpgIn the current New Yorker, Anthony Lane‘s genteel shrill focuses solely on Mission: Impossible III, with a side note on William Shawn at the movies. Speaking of co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lane puts some inside baseball down the middle: “To be honest, I prefer the Hoffman of M:i:III to the Oscar winner of Capote. The role of Owen Davian, though underwritten, is more of a piece and less of a turn than his chirruping Truman Capote. Say what you like about Davian; he may sell dirty bombs to Middle Eastern regimes and torture an American female agent, but at least he doesn’t drag William Shawn along to watch.” Ouch! Give that man a saucer of warm milk!

Banking on indie? Cross that New Bridge when you get there

$1234i770.jpgNikki Finke at LA Weekly’s Deadline Hollywood has a few notes about a new “indie” film fund: “Merrill Lynch’s Global Asset Based Finance Group and Rizvi Traverse Management have formed New Bridge Film Capital, a Los Angeles-based film financing company to provide gap capital to independent producers…” Writes finke: ” These are the same two companies that poured $100 million into ICM to finance an expansion of the talent agency’s business.” ICM’s Jeff Berg has been a Rizvi advisor in the past, she reports, as well as that “Rizvi’s money management company and Merrill Lynch each ponied up $20 mil…. New Bridge will be run by two showbiz veterans: the executive director will be Diane Stidham, formerly exec director of the global investment bank ABN Amro, and the director will be Danny Mandel, formerly of local Union Bank.” Many revenue streams make for an expected river, she suggests: “In this day and age, with so many film revenue streams, there’s much better clarity on anticipated returns from indie films,” an insider explained. “As a consequence, New Bridge will be aimed at the independent market and its most promising films where recent performance is very high.”

Silent Whit Stillman: I have never met a billionaire I didn't like

Whit Stillman, last on screen with Last Days of Disco [pictured] and last heard from for an unproduced Western and an adaptation of the novel “Red Azalea,” gets a little bit of Sterling anatomizing the snail’s pace of his writing-directing career to the Guardian: “My idea for the new millennium had been to use competing scripts, with their differing deadlines and urgencies, to create the stop-start pattern I found so helpful in my day-job period.” A script set in the Jamaican music scene chloe_last_days_bk.jpg “would alternate with other ideas to be kept under wraps. Finally, just in the last few weeks, that script has seemed to take its proper form – heartfelt apologies to any producer I rushed a draft to last winter. Any script with a date prior to May 12 2006 – please discard. So I now have a project to take to Cannes, and large or small parts of others in the trunk. But I will still be keeping my eyes open for the right day job. The other evening in Mayfair, I passed a high-end yacht brokerage – they were having a glass of champagne with clients – and that seemed like very good work for a slow screenwriter. Cannes itself has its share of enormous yachts – someone must be helping the very rich buy, sell or charter them.” A career shift? “And, based there, one wouldn’t have to look for accommodation when the festival rolls around. When I go next week I’ll look into it. I have never met a billionaire I didn’t like.”

Celebrating In America: "What does living mean?"

iamericanasdfkj.jpgMichael Eigen‘s new book “Lust,” after his “Estacy” and “Rage,” is another slim, unsettling commonplace book of the psychological and the literary, much in the style of Adam Philip’s slim, epigrammatic expulsions like “Monogamy” and “Going Sane.” Late in the book, Eigen has a celebratory passage about Jim Sheridan‘s last great fillum: “The movie In America has one sex scene, a beautiful sex scene,” Eigen writes. “The husband/father, blindfolded, chases his children, two daughters. A game they love. He thinks of his dead son and forces himself to go on, although there is a hole in his being… His wife notes that he does not chase her, he does not find her… Lust9568090.jpgThe play of desire and its lack, making up for its lack… The atmosphere heightens. Sexual arousal hinges on layers of unconscious meaning. Blind chase, energy, a vulnerable desperation running through childhood quickens desire. She sends her daughters to get ice cream at the nearby store called Heaven. They know what she means. Her husband is the last to know. While he blindly chases, she disrobes… [T]he heavens storm. Lightning, pouring rain, thunderous sound… The movie sets the challenge of linking life with death, the impossible with the real. Can one grown into living? Can one survive life—the shock of death? How? … What does living mean?” [“Lust,” Michael Eigen, Wesleyan, $16.]

Homeland Tales: Southland director grounded from Cannes travel for "terrorist" suspicions? [UPDATED]

“What the hell?” shouldn’t trip off the tongue so readily, so often. With the headlines this morning about the government allegedly getting telco cooperation to spy on tens of millions of American citizens’ phone calls, this from SF Chronicle’s Daily Dish is an astonishment. Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, about to debut his soph feature, Southland Tales at Cannes is on the no-fly list. donnied-flag234.jpg Canny promo or topical paranoia? Kelly will likely miss Cannes “because his passport is being reviewed by the U.S. government. Homeland Security is investigating 31-year-old Kelly, reportedly because there is a James Kelly on the terrorist watch list… Kelly has contacted a U.S. senator and has recruited his mother to hunt out documents to help him prove his American citizenship. The Virginia-born writer-director fears the issue could be connected to the plot of his new movie, which is in part about security measures taken by the U.S. government following Sept. 11… “The paranoid conspiracy freak inside me is starting to think this has something to do with the film.” UPDATE: The Guardian has a bit more this morning: “Sources suggest that the film-maker has been confused with another man, “James Kelly”, who is on the terrorist watch list. Kelly’s full name is James Richard Kelly. “Born in Virginia, the son of a NASA technician… [h]is latest picture, Southland Tales, is set in a dystopian Los Angeles paralysed by economic and environmental collapse… [T]he film is implicitly concerned with security measures taken by the US government after the events of September 11, 2001.”

New releases: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Mission: Impossible III, Interkosmos, Mountain Patrol: Kekexili, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont


This week: capsules for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, M:I III, The Proposition, Interkosmos, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, and Mountain Patrol: Kekexili.

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Hollywood thoughts: Richard E. Grant

babygrant234587.jpgOn the eve of the US release of Wah-Wah, a small sample of writer-director Richard E. Grant‘s take on Hollywood, to Sally Vincent in the Guardian: “Hollywood… is on what they call a shit-tide, meaning a tide where stuff comes in and goes out very quickly. People come in, get a part in something, get in a magazine, then they go away and you never hear of them again. The sun shines, the level of paranoia is bottomless and everybody you meet has an agenda. And that’s it. Showbusiness, 24 hours a day. If you’re doing well, you’re a target, nobody’s interested in you except how you can be of use to them. And you can’t engage with anyone, you can only engage with their agenda. It is all,” he ended enigmatically, “very anti-sex.”

Winstone swears good like an Englishman should: Ray knows how to swear

winstone watson proposition4.jpgBrit acting great Ray Winstone is pretty special in The Proposition; in the UK, he’s promoting one of the most swearful UK pics ever made, Channel 4’s All in the Game, a role as a soccer manager that the Observer’s Lynn Barber calls “terrifying.” Screenwriter Tony Grounds, says Barber, “portrays the very worst side[s]… not bad behaviour by the fans, but by the management, agents and players, who are all up to their necks in dodgy deals, bungs and betting scams. Grounds says it is not based on any particular club or individual but it certainly has an insider feel.” There’s another feeling Barber has: “All in the Game is remarkable for having the highest expletive count of any film I have ever seen. I asked Winstone if all the fucks and fuckings were in the script, and Grounds intervened: ‘Ray’s very good—he plays every word as written. But we had a meeting with the Channel 4 producer about a week before we started shooting and he had the script and there were about a thousand stickers in it—blue, yellow, green, pink—and I said “What’s all that?”, and he said, green is fucking, yellow is cunt, blue is racial abuse or whatever, and he said, “We should have a cunt reduction.” But it’s part of the culture, part of the natural flow of the language. And Ray knows how to swear.'”

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