Movie City Indie Archive for July, 2006

Taking MPAA shots: has This Film is Not Yet Rated inoculated its interviewees?

So how on earth did Kevin Smith get that R rating on a single pass from the notoriously dodgy and inconsistent MPAA, considering that they warn us that it’s filled with “pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material”? (As Smith put it to me, “When the dust settled, I was just like… Are they fucking nuts? Did they see the same movie?”) egoyan_dick740_2.jpgKirby Dick has suggested that the filmmakers he interviewed for This Film Is Not Yet Rated could be inoculated from future ratings battles with a press-shy MPAA. Smith was notably harsh toward ratings board chair Joan Graves in Dick’s pic; other frank interviewees include John Waters, Matt Stone, Kimberly Peirce, Atom Egoyan [pictured], Darren Aronofsky, Mary Harron and distributor Bingham Ray. Over at Filmmaker, Anthony Kaufman gets Dick to expand on this notion. As for his own future dealings with the board, the filmmaker says “I think there is a clever construction of the film: since it is about the MPAA, I think it’s very unlikely that they would come after me or IFC because they’re already portrayed negatively in the film and they would be portrayed in the press even more negatively. The amount of publicity around the film would double. The MPAA is very savvy in the way that it’s dealt with its public relations… If I submit a film for a rating, I’m certain some of them might harbor those feelings towards me. But on the other hand, I think, myself, and all the filmmakers who appear in the film, we’re inoculated in a way, because the press will pay attention, particularly, if my film goes in front of the rating board. The last thing that the MPAA wants to do is bring attention to the process. It wants to operate under the radar as much as possible. I don’t think they’d cut me any breaks, but I don’t think they’d be exceedingly harsh on my films.” There’s valuable material about the film’s application of Fair Use in the interview, and in a piece on the film’s post-production, Elina Shatkin describes another rights issue. “The third act also contains the film’s most clever visual trick. Dick recorded his initial phone conversation with Joan Graves, chair of the MPAA’s ratings board. For subsequent conversations, Graves did not give her consent to have her side of the conversation recorded. Dick’s side of the calls were filmed, however, so Dick had voiceover actors re-enact Graves’ side of the calls. The final image is a split-screen, with the actual video footage of Dick talking on the phone on one side and a Waking Life-style animated version of “Joan Graves” on the other.”

This Screaming Girl Has Suddenly Realized That the Body Lying Under the Blanket Is That of Her Mother: Weegee's noir genius

Weegee, the great tabloid photographer… took a remarkable picture of Veronica Lake. The legendary movie star and pinup model is shot from behind, so only her fur-coat-covered back and weegee-veronica lake.jpgneatly coiffed hair can be seen. The picture’s real focus is a group of fans staring at her, their faces unsmiling, and more than a little menacing, writes Adam Cohen in a passable NY Times thumbsucker on the occasion of the ICP’s “Unknown Weegee”exhibition. “Weegee’s classic film-noir style is represented in black-and-white pictures of blanket-draped corpses on sidewalks, and more elegantly chilling fare, like the picture of a fashionable young woman covering her face with black-gloved hands, entitled “Irma Twiss Epstein, Nurse Accused of Killing Baby.” While Cohen is most intrigued by “crowd shots… that capture people on the street gazing too intently at celebrities, accidents and crime scenes.” But he also has fun littering his piece with Weegee’s tabloid titles: “This Screaming Girl Has Suddenly Realized That the Body Lying Under the Blanket Is That of Her Mother”; “Mrs. Anna Sheehan … Accused as Murderess”; “Cop Who Looks Like Gary Cooper Books Blind Man for Murder”; “Woman Signing Autographs in Car”; “Ermine-Wrapped Patron Caught in Gambling Den”; and “Virginia Ornmark, Gun Girl.” [Extended citations of Neil Postman’s pessimism at the link.]

He's such a clean old man: M. Night and Hard Day's

Still haven’t read Michael Bamberger‘s mash note to the M. Night magic,
The Man Who Heard Voices, Or, How M Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale,” but here’s another quotation that’s a real comic conniption: Night's Hard Day's38127.jpg“Describing the director’s sense of purpose as he wrote the script for Lady in the Water, Bamberger says Shyamalan felt that: “If it came together, it would be like Dylan and Clapton and Springsteen and Eminem and Kanye West and Miles Davis and Bonnie Raitt and Joan Armatrading and Jerry Garcia and every musician you’ve ever loved joining George Harrison and belting out the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night at the same time.” [Come together, right now.]

Men behaving gladly: prankish Lady in the Water, puckish Kevin Smith

Over at Movie City News, you’ll find my take on Lady in the Water; I’ll post some thoughts about Chris Doyle‘s cinematography later. Plus: over 6,500 words with Kevin Smith on the release of Clerks II, clerks2c.jpgconducted a few weeks before the recent kerfuffle begun by that noted, timeless lover of film and its possibilities, JoelTime to go!Siegel. Our garrulous conversation contains profanity, natch; explicit sexual language and third act spoilers, as well as Smith’s insights into the Weinstein Company’s alliance with MGM. “Harvey calls up and goes, “I’ve got good news, man. We can do this MGM deal and we’ll see a massive pay cable sale that we were never going to see on this movie.” I was like, “Does that make you happy?” ‘Cos me, I don’t give a fuck. I don’t watch movies on HBO or any of those things anymore. I buy DVDs. I was like, “Does it make you happy?” He’s like, “Yeah, it means more backend.” I was like, “Fine, good for you.” And we hung up and then I thought about it. I was like, wait a second, MGM might be signatories to the MPAA. So I called him back. I was like, “Harvey, is MGM a signatory to the MPAA?” And he’s like, “I dunno. We’ll have to look into that.” I was like, “Aw fuck, it’s coming.” And what was coming —and he never flat out said, “You must get an R”—but he said, ds_359001.jpg“I’m telling you Kevin, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table for an unrated film. This pay cable deal yields a lot…. So me and Mosier started really biting our fingernails, ‘cos it was like, fuck, sooner or later, this is going to go from a friendly persuasion to him going like, “I looked at your contract and you have to deliver an R.” … The MPAA is never that helpful in terms of the things they find problematic. They don’t tell you, “If you cut four seconds of this, we’ll give you an R.” They would say something like, “You might want to look at the donkey show.” Well, what part of the donkey show? Y’know? It’s like nine minutes! … clerks2b.jpgFinally we could delay it no longer, we’re going to have to have this MPAA screening. So we submitted it to the MPAA, and I had my arguments ready to go, like all the movies I could cite, which they don’t want you to cite in the appeals process, but I would fuckin’ blurt ’em out anyway. All the movies that have gotten an R. Bachelor Party had a donkey show, they got an R. In Brokeback Mountain, fuckin’ Heath Ledger spits in his hand, that got an R. Why can’t we have the donkey dude spit in his hand in our movie? I was ready for the holy war of all time. The massive fuckin’ jihad against the MPAA.” [So much more at the link.]

Mann talks to Hiscock: Michael and John on Vice

John Hiscock gets some grit from Michael Mann in the Telegraph: “The 63-year-old writer, director and producer… freely acknowledges that he demands total control over his films, and his perfectionism is legendary: crubbstockett731.jpgit is said that on the set of Miami Vice he made one actor walk through a doorway 17 times before he was satisfied. “Sometimes I go longer than 17 takes… It’s about getting what you really need and not wasting time on stuff that doesn’t count; I spend time on things that do count and don’t stop until I get them. When I go out to make a movie, I go out to make a movie. That involves producing it, directing it, writing it and if I am not writing it, I’m rewriting it. I operate the cameras a lot, too. It’s all the same function – making a movie.”

Albert Maysles greying the Gardens

At indieWIRE, Johnny Leahan has a crackerjack chat with Albert Maysles as a sequel to Grey Gardens is released in New York City. “[T]hat is often a question people ask about your documentaries: Are you exploiting your subject? “Well, there are two things that you ought to avoid… exploiting and being so protective that you’re overdoing the project and don’t allow the person to really come through. So you have to be very discreet… I mean, reality shows. glasses.jpgWho needs all that profanity? Come on. There’s a film that I’m doing now [In Transit] about people on trains. And it’s not just interviewing a person – it’s going to be in half a dozen different countries, different cultures. I met a woman at the train that was pulling out of Pittsburgh and I stopped filming her because she was getting nervous… I find out that the reason she was on the train was that when she was three years old, her parents broke up in an ugly divorce. Her father got custodianship, and she would never see her mother again. Why is she on the train? The night before, she got a call from a woman in Philadelphia. “Get on the next train, I’ll be waiting here at the station.” So that’s when I got off the train with her and filmed the encounter. It turns out the mother finally puts her head over her daughter’s shoulder, cries, and says she’s gorgeous.”

Giving quote: Lee Daniels on a real person

As astringent quotes go this week, producer-turned-director Lee Daniels (Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman tops anything out of the mouth of M. Night Shyamalan or Kevin Smith. shadowpoxer2355_56.jpgReports Lola Ogunnaike in the New York Times, with his directorial debut, Shadowboxer, Daniels’ “decision to cast Mo’Nique, the proudly plus-size comedian, was met with raised eyebrows all around. Her character, a crack addict, was originally written for an anorexic white woman in her early 20’s who dates a handsome young doctor. Casting Mo’Nique, he said, prompted the film’s writer to remove his name from the credits. Mr. Daniels remained unrepentant. “My sister was an obese crack addict… She had a chicken wing in one hand and crack pipe in the other, and she had the finest white men lined up waiting for her. This is a real person to me.”

The cricket ticket: Joel Siegel evokes a Kael tale; ALSO: Foundas' Clerks II ejection (wiith love to come)

On the occasion of “Good Morning America!” class clown Joel Siegel‘s epic fissy-hit and heated exit after taking v., v. seriously a bit of bawd about a donkey show at a screening of Kevin Smith‘s Clerks II, pauline_235.jpgpublicist-turned-blogger Reid Rosefelt shares a couple of cricket anecdotes. “On Opie and Anthony’s radio show, Siegel was defiant. He adamantly refused to say that his action was unprofessional. He said he wished more critics would walk out of films.” Writes Reid, “Not only don’t I think critics should raise a fuss at a screening, tinycricket.gifI think they have to watch the whole thing. Films often get better as they go along. One should never make a judgment until you see it all… Watching bad movies is very taxing, but that’s the film critic’s job.” A story about NY Post’s late Archer Winsten and a coughing fit is accompanied by a Pauline Kael tale. She “was famous among publicists for her sighing. If something happened in a film not up to her critical standards, you could hear that familiar oooohh of disgust from the last row. Whenever we had a budget, we dealt with this by giving Pauline her own screening…” [Punchline at the link.] MEANWHILE, LA Weekly’s Scott Foundas has an open letter to the pride of New Jersey: “Tiffs between critics and the subjects of their criticism are nothing new: 30-odd years ago, the actress Sylvia Miles dumped a plate of spaghetti on the head of then–New York magazine theater critic John Simon after enduring one of his famously harsh and personal missives,” Foundas writes for a spot of history before his own experience. “[I]magine my surprise when I took my seat at a press screening of Clerks II last Monday morning, only to be tapped on the shoulder by a publicist and kindly, albeit firmly, asked to leave… After some further reflection on your part, and a few diplomatic words of intervention by our mutual friend “Fiji” John Pierson, we kissed and made up—in a strictly heterosexual way, of course—and, by Tuesday morning, I was finally sitting down to watch Clerks II. But perhaps you’ve guessed, Kevin, that I still entered that screening room with considerable trepidation, not for fear of ejection (this time, I was the only one there), but because it’s true that I haven’t cared for your last couple of pictures, and I wondered if a sequel to the no-budget gem that first put you on the map would mark a return to form or merely prove that you really can’t go home again…” [A little more excerpted below.]

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Snakes and crickets: establishing the food chain

Variety reports crickets won’t even get standby for Snakes on a Plane. Dave McNary writes: “Taking the route employed by many genre films, New Line has decided to avoid any potentially buzz-killing pre-release reviews… “Snakes,” which has developed a surprisingly high interest level on the Internet in the past year, will launch without press screenings prior to its first late-evening showings on Aug. 17. The pic, starring Samuel L. Jackson, will open at 2,500-plus [screens]… “Understanding that [fans] would be the driving force behind the film, we decided early on they should be the first to see it,” McNary quotes New Line. “They will have the opportunity on Thursday evening, Aug. 17, at 10 p.m. shows across the country. We are not planning any advance media or promotional screenings prior to that.”

Winter Soldier's latest warm reception

winter-soldier-poster_w235.jpgThe powerful post-Vietnam doc Winter Soldier, a raw 1972 assembly of testimony from soldiers about the facts of the acts of war they’d seen, has won a prize for video rediscovery, the Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards in Bologna, Italy. Winter Soldier was released this summer by the vital Milestone/Milliarium Zero label, which, they write, is “proud to share the Best Rediscovery Award for its very first release.” Cites the jury, “For the best rediscoveries, we want to single out three Finnish melodramas from the 30s and 40s directed by Teuvo Tulio, released by the Finnish Film Archive-an example of remarkable films made over 60 years ago and never before seen abroad-as well as the resurrections of exceptional, collectively made documentaries which are also precious documents: Winter Soldier from Milestone Video in the U.S. and Les Groupes Medvedkine from Editions Montparnasse in France.” [Complete list and jury follows.]

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Lurks II: when Caro Met Smith again

kevin-smith-sm.jpgChiTrib’s pop blogger, Marc Caro, gets Kevin Smith to talk about his relationship with reviews and movie crickets, and, of course, with Marc Caro. Producer’s rep and author John Pierson “recalls that after Clerks came out, losecaro_234.jpg[he] bought a laminator. “He would save all his reviews and laminate them,” Pierson says. Makes sense. Newsprint turns yellow, after all. Now, of course, everything’s online, so when Pierson asked him the other day whether he still uses the laminator, he was surprised that Smith answered in the affirmative. “I said, ‘Are you telling me you laminate [stuff] you print out on your own printer?’ ” Pierson recalls. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘That’s sick.'” The day that Smith’s inside-joke-filled farce Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came out in 2001, he actually posted on his Web site a rundown of every single review in the country—the star rating (if there was one) and his own comment. When he got to “1 1/2 stars, Chicago Tribune,” he wrote, “Lose my e-mail, Caro.” Almost three years later, when I e-mailed him for comment for a news story I was writing—as I occasionally used to do before my review—he responded by asking if I’d first take back my Jay and Silent Bob review. My response was that now he knew that my positive reviews, such as of Chasing Amy, weren’t just snow jobs. No dice. No comment.”

Robin Wood on Claire Denis: come with me and we'll play a game

Elder cricket Robin Wood makes a rare apparition in Film International, contributing an essay on the work of Claire Denis, in a piece called “Only (Dis)Connect; and Never Relaxez-Vous.” Here’s Wood’s keen, apt way of describing how her films work: “It is a part of her great distinction that her films (and especially I Can’t Sleep, arguably her masterpiece to date) demand intense and continuous mental activity from the spectator: 2245a.jpg we are not to miss a single detail or to pass over a gesture or facial expression, even if it is shown in long shot within an ensemble, with no ‘helpful’ underlining and no ‘spelling out’ in dialogue. It is the particular distinction of Denis’ cinema that sets it apart from—almost, indeed, in opposition to—the work of many of our most celebrated ‘arthouse’ directors: Bergman, for example, or Fellini or Antonioni. Their films are rooted in autobiography—not necessarily in any literal sense, but in terms of personal introspection—whereas Denis left autobiography behind with Chocolat, and even that film is notable for its poise and critical distance, its objectivity. Where Bergman or Fellini seems to be saying to us ‘Come with me and I’ll tell you my secrets, share my experiences—how I feel about things, my thoughts about existence’, precise_3457.jpgDenis issues a very different invitation to the spectator: ‘Come with me and we’ll play a game, albeit a serious one. Let’s see how much you can notice in what I decide to show you, how you interpret what you see and hear, what connections you can make, how much can be explained and how much remains mysterious and uncertain, as so much in our lives remains unclear. I’ll allow you a certain leeway of interpretation, because I don’t always understand everything myself, not even my own creations, though I’ll be as precise as possible…’ [Via GreenCine.]

When Caveh [Zahedi] met Bruce (Conner) (who didn't meet Louise [Brooks])

This frame grab makes me intensely happy, and artist/experimental filmmaking great Bruce Conner has to be the coolest 72-year-old of the week: Conner still makes art (often under a variety of pseudonyms and heteronyms) and Caveh Zahedi reports on the briefest of conner by zahedi35_56.jpgencounters (with a snip of video) from Conner introducing a show of Pabst’s Pandora’s Box: “[T]he main reason I went was because experimental film legend Bruce Conner was introducing the film… When I was in college, I spent two full days at Anthology Film Archives in New York watching their entire library of canonical experimental films… [T]hey were showing the entire library to a film scholar who was writing a book… and they let me sit in… It was just me and this guy in a darkened room for two days, watching one experimental classic after another.” Along withJoseph Cornell‘s Rose Hobart, Zahedi was struck by Conner’s Report. “Both of these films sent me in a whole new direction in my filmmaking. Along with the work of Godard and, later, Ed Pincus, these were probably my biggest cinematic influences…” In the tiny clip [pictured], Conner talks about he and Brooks being from Wichita and “the story of their almost meeting.” Stills from Conner’s terrific work and more information here; Kristine McKenna‘s loving 1990 LA Times profile, “”Bruce Conner in the Cultural Breach,” offers this vital passage: “Conner’s last burst of intense art activity came in 1978 when he became involved in the San Francisco punk scene as a staff photographer for fanzine Search and Destroy. A corrosive aesthetic of outraged idealism that Conner had anticipated by decades, punk was tailor-made to his sensibility, and he spent most of 1978 at a punk club called the Mabuhay. “I lost a lot of brain cells at the Mabuhay… During that year I had a press card so I got in free, and I’d go four or five nights a week. What are you gonna do listening to hours of incomprehensible rock ‘n’ roll but drink? I became an alcoholic, and it took me a few years to deal with that. Many of the punk pictures look carefully composed, but but drink_95623.jpg I didn’t futz around with the images after I shot them, and if they didn’t work out perfectly I threw them away… A lot of people seem to feel that these photographs have nothing to do with the rest of my work, but if I hadn’t done the collages and assemblage I never could’ve spontaneously composed these photographs as I did. But, people’s reluctance to accept this work as fine art is very much in keeping with art world thinking. Being an artist is like being a medieval craftsman… you’re expected to do one thing only, and many artists function like someone producing a line of cars.

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An Oscar Darkly: disqualifying Linklater's chances?

notify_teh_management2134.jpgFilmForce has posted the opening 24 minutes of Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly along with other stuff about the movie; if memory serves, any excerpt over eight minutes online disqualifies a picture from Oscar consideration. Who’s got the goods on this future crime?

Scoring at 80: maestro Morricone rooks a journo

In the Guardian, Will Hodgkinson can’t tell if Ennio Morricone is having him on in a crisp little interview: cleftreb.gif“Morricone remains prolific. He spends most days writing at his Rome apartment. He takes a month off each summer but ends up composing anyway, working for an hour or so every morning. “When I do have free time my concern is: will I ever be able to write again? But this is normal. There is a tenor singer I knew who used to wake up every morning convinced he no longer had a voice. So I keep going because the function fuels the organ; the work creates the work.” … It’s taken a while for me to realise that this haughty old man, this Caesar of film music, is having a sly laugh at the expense of the rather earnest foreign journalist. I ask him if he has any unrealised ambitions. He almost smiles. “Of course. I would like to be the chess world champion. But perhaps I will have to wait until I’m reborn for that.”

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