Movie City Indie Archive for October, 2006

Atomic energy: Egoyan instructs

Atom Egoyan‘s directed opera, shorts and multimedia on top of his feature work: now those who can direct, decide to teach for three years, reports the CBC. ego_234_7.jpg “Canadian film director Atom Egoyan sees his three-year teaching stint at the University of Toronto as a way of extending his creativity into a new form.” The course, which began in September, won’t be “Atom Egoyan 101,” yet “his own films and a reading list will form part of the course material and he plans a series of artistic labs, where he and his students will work through the process of artistic creation. “It’s not a traditional course… We will look at how works translate from one medium to another, which is my area of interest.” His dilettantism is purposeful. “”I think for me the peak of it came around 1998 when I was nominated for the Academy Award for The Sweet Hereafter, but I was doing a premiere of a new opera in London, and at the same time I was doing this experimental chamber piece and there was this surprise that someone who’s riding the crest of the commercial film world would be interested in these other mediums… I just find that baffling because it’s what nourishes what I do.” Egoyan’s post at U of T? “The dean’s distinguished visitor in theatre, film, music and visual studies.” Working with the ideas of 20 year olds, Egoyan says, means that “The discussions of how images affect our lives are as acute as ever.”

Indie's been away: Oregon's Bend Film Festival


A travel day after a weekend as a judge at the third edition of the Bend Film Festival in Oregon; more images and a few notes and more Indie after I’m back. [PHOTO: Tower Theatre, Wall Street, Bend, Oregon.]

Infamous (2006, 1/2 *)

THE DEADLY INFAMOUS, SPITEFUL AND SUPERIOR, would be second best standing out in a field by itself. What a rotten, rotten movie, with the even more rotten fortune to follow the austere fictionalization of Truman Capote’s research of “In Cold Blood” that was Bennett Miller, Dan Futterman and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote. tobers_638.jpgInfamous reeks of curdled cosmopolitanism, with the co-writer of Bullets over Broadway taking a succession of eccentric potshots at his protagonist. McGrath’s got a callous, jaded eye for the complicated writer and a patrician disdain for the motley on parade in his fourth feature. (Call it “Bullets over Holcomb.”)
The almost unspeakably homely Toby Jones, a 39-year-old British stage actor, playwright and monologist with a crumpled resemblance to Capote, best remembered as the voice of “Dobby the House Elf” in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, has hooded eyes like an ancient pug with a nasal whine instead of a bronchial wheeze, follows Hoffman at a great distance, caricaturing Capote as a petulant bore who couldn’t charm his own mother. This is the awful burlesque everyone feared Capote would be. It’s like a clumsily homophobic “Saturday Night Live” sketch, presenting Capote as little more than a shallow, delusional skit figure.
But that’s just the cup of piss for some: Curmudgeonly critical elder, expatriate Englishman David Thomson, is already on record purporting greatness for this disaster: “In Capote, the achievement… is to show that Capote was a shit, a devious glory-seeker and a fine writer who got his own way all the time. That film says he was ruined by his success, but… Hoffman’s Capote is too tough and too self-centered to be brought down by his own moral failure… [T]his is a staggering advance in which Capote the social shit and Truman the crushed soul are equally apparent… Understand in advance that the leading arbiters of culture will tell you it’s the same thing warmed up, a story you know, a curiosity even. It’s none of those. We do not write off this year’s “Hamlet” because we enjoyed last year’s.” I will tell you this: we write off this year’s Capote because it is merely a bad movie.

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Recent DVD releases: Spirit of the Beehive, Lady Vengeance, Hard Candy

spirit-beehive-140.jpg Eight hundred words are not necessary to tell you the truest thing I know about Spanish film critic-turned-director Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive (1973, ****) (Criterion, $40): this is one of the greatest movies I know. With only three features in 33 years, Erice is hardly prolific, but his work is lyrical, meditative and haunting, with 1983’s The South, 1992’s The Quince Tree Sun, and his 1973 debut, Spirit of the Beehive.
Spirit of the Beehive is a dream, and a dream about movies (not cinema), and about cinema, about glimpses of dreams, a glimpse of Franco-era rural Spain seen through the large, dark eyes of a child. Erice was asked to make a Frankenstein movie but lacked the money to do it right, so in its place, came up with something filled with the necessary poetry of indigence. It’s 1940. In a rural village, a pair of beautiful, forcefully curious, willful sisters, Ana and Isabel (Ana Torrent and Isabel Tellería) are in the audience for a traveling show of a dubbed version of James Whale’s Frankenstein. Little Ana has one question: Why did he have to die? The movie is strange to them, but so is the world of harsh nature around them. They live on a handsome estate. (The family’s rituals have a distant, downfall parallel in the discoveries of the privileged children of Fanny and Alexander.) Their distracted, older father (Fernando Fernán Gómez) keeps bees, falls asleep while writing. Their distant, equally dreamy mother (Teresa Gimpera), writes love letters. Isabel teases Ana that a remote barn, seen from a hilltop across a gorgeous plane of landscape, is where the monster lives, if you believe in him. Ana, a quiet, black-eyed voyeur, races the miles to get there, searching in vain. And one day a fugitive arrives, an injured criminal. She tends to him, his hunger and his need for warmth. And again, death arrives. Where is the monster? What is the monster? Why is he not loved?

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C***spotting: Irvine Welsh lingos pics and profanity

At Bookslut, Tony DuShane talks movies, guns and naughty words with Irvine Welsh as he tub-thumps “The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs”: “What did it feel like when you saw [“Trainspotting”] adapted for the big screen?Welsh: “It was quite a strange feeling. I mean, I’d seen it on stage first, but to see it in the cinema was kind of a weird thing. I was in the film myself. I had a part in it, so I was on set most of the time when it was being filmed, but I purposely tried not to look at any of the rushes. I just wanted to see it in the cinema, and at the cinema where it was playing, in the name of)_325.jpgI invited some friends, people that were quite critical… people who were quite attached to the book and would be quite gobby if they didn’t like the film. But they were all blown away and all really exhilarated by it. It was a great feeling for me to see it come off like that. It could’ve been a shit film. It could’ve been done badly. But I don’t think that Danny Boyle would make a mess of it because he’s such a great director. I mean at that time he’d just done Shallow Grave so he was on fire, like. I was actually surprised at how strong the film was and how great the characters were. It captured the spirit of the whole thing, yeah?” Mr. DuShane asks after a passage from page 250 of the new book: “‘It’s more offensive to use the word cunt, than to buy a handgun…’ Would you like to comment on that?” Welsh: “Yeah, it’s weird, you know, you can buy a handgun, but when you go down to the South and there’s people walking around in restaurants with handguns in their holsters and stuff like that, and I think, well, if I get drunk, I don’t want to bump into this guy or fall across him. This is crazy, this is absolutely crazy. Yet if you say the word, “cunt,” you’re going to be ostracized, and you think, why is there this big taboo with words? Why not taboo on handguns? That would make more sense. More people would be alive, you know what I mean. I’ve called a few people cunts and none of them have died. But if I shot them with a handgun, yeah, different thing.”

Idiocracy: Mike Judge's script

_11372825640.jpgVia Shawn Levy‘s
Mad About Movies blog
, a link to the script to the deep-sixed Idiocracy. Earlier: a three-star review here. A quick glance suggests what was seen in a handful of cities is very close to the gloomy comedy on the page.

The Departed (2006, ****)

FINALLY AND AT LAST MARTIN SCORSESE GIVES A SHIT about his indispensable moviemaking talent rather than the Oscars. The Departed is a departure from the muck of Gangs of New York and the moroseness of The Aviator, a welcome return to vulgar, vivid, thedeparted34557.jpgvisceral elegance for the 63-year-old director, and his serene, bloody confidence on the contemporary mean streets of Boston matches the exuberance he’s wrought in contemporary Manhattan settings. It’s the first picture of his I’ve fully admired since Goodfellas, a while back in the last century. Several of the major surprises in The Departed draw upon the sleek Hong Kong movie, Infernal Affairs (2002), and if you haven’t seen that film, it’s best to know as little as possible about the story’s twists and turns for full enjoyment.
But simply sketched, Scorsese takes on both cops and hoods in the duplicity-ridden plot. Irish Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) runs Boston’s largest organized crime ring, and the Massachusetts State Police are determined to take him down from the inside. Southie rookie Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) has to prove his bonafides to get into Costello’s crew while his double, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), is on the “right” side of the law, finding a spot in the state police’s Special Investigations Unit, and in charge of one of the sections assigned to topple Costello. But as we know from the first scenes, with Scorsese glorying in criminal bestiality from the get-go, the malefic Costello has groomed Colin since childhood. Scorsese understands beautifully, both in casting and performance, what each of his actors can do. Among the tremendous performances are, of course, Nicholson, who ranges from the most deliciously precise of line readings to the most manic of threats; Damon, charming and plausible in his darkest behavior; Di Caprio, capturing unanticipated terrors in his deep-cover character; Alec Baldwin, hilarious as Colin’s deadpan boss; Ray Winstone as Costello’s enforcer; Mark Wahlberg, note-perfect, as a commanding, fearlessly witty leader of another investigative team (“If you had an idea what we do, we would not be good at what we do. We would be cunts. Are you calling us cunts?”); and Vera Farmiga, of the extra large, blue, blue windows to the soul, as a therapist who winds up treating both Colin and Billy, unbeknownst to any of the trio. Scorsese boldly holds on her large sparking eyes of endless quickness and keenness in a way other directors might fear.

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Contrary Cuban mavblogs YouTube and Google

Mark Cuban has a few hundred words on YouTube and Google at his Blog Maverick [all typos, etc., remain Cuban’s own]: “Would Google be crazy to buy Youtube. No doubt about it. 06040802.jpgMoronic would be an understatement of a lifetime. Would Google be stupid to do a deal with Youtube. Not at all. Would Youtube be smart to do a deal with Google. Thats a different answer. If Google went to Youtube, like they did Myspace and said they would pay them a minimum of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exchange for letting Google sell text and video ads on Youtube, as long as there were performance requirements it would make perfect sense for Google… Of course Google would build in protections against getting sued into oblivian. Their many lawyers will take care of that…

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Swimming through cold molasses: Lynch on (off) film

davidringtones21-4.jpgDavid Lynch reasserts himself as a DV star to the NYFF press conference, as reported by The Reeler: “Lynch responded to Richard Pena’s inquiry if he ever saw himself returning to shooting film. “Never,” he said, as devastatingly clear and emphatic as a severed limb. “For me, film is completely dead. We love film, and the quality is so beautiful, and the lure and all that’s gone before it is so beautiful. But film gets dirty and film breaks and scratches and the color drifts. The equipment is very, very large and heavy. It’s like swimming through cold molasses. Digital is the future and it’s getting better everyday… I kind of fell in love with the digital look in early tests of digital-to-film… I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I really believe in the story, but as I said before, I really believe in a story that holds abstractions, or can slip this way and that.”

At least Harold Pinter likes it: Coppola on Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola could easily be a character in one of her own films,” writes Sean O’Hagan in a lengthy profile in the Observer, capturing the 35-marie.jpgyear-old director’s affect in a few words, “a day-dreamy, slightly disconnected but immaculately stylish waif who seems all at sea in a world of extraordinary privilege…. If her vagueness and her sulkily beautiful Mediterranean face combine to make the 35-year-old Coppola seem like a slightly out-to-lunch teenager, I suspect this may be a way of keeping the world at bay. And keeping control… Lady Antonia Fraser, who has become friends with Coppola since the director purchased the rights to her… biography, can’t see what all the fuss is about either. ‘I love it… it doesn’t deviate from the story, but nor does it copy the book slavishly. It’s Sofia’s vision of Marie Antoinette… I enjoyed it enormously and so did Harold [Pinter].’ This is indeed the case. ‘He liked the film. He wrote me a sweet letter,’ says Coppola, smiling. ‘ That meant a lot. I mean, he’s so honest. I don’t think he’d write a letter if he didn’t mean it. It’s like, if it turns out that nobody else likes it, I can still say, “Well, at least Harold Pinter did”.’ And the source of a Sofia esthetic? “Well, um, when I was growing up, it was Godard, Truffaut, the French New Wave. The style was so cool to me.’ So, your own aesthetic is essentially about style rather than, say, story or drama? ‘Um, I guess. I mean, I’ve always been drawn to individuals really, people with their own distinctive but identifiable style that no one else has. That’s all I try to do, find my own distinctive way of doing things.”

Why you don't trust a grab-asstic piece of amphibian shit: Ermey disinters Kubrick

Because they’re gonna say crazy, crazy things years after you’re dead: Promoting his role as “a sexually perverted homicidal maniac” in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, R. Lee Ermey confides in Radar Online’s Jebediah Reed that Stanley Kubrick was a miserable weakling: “Stanley called me up all the time. He’d call at three o’clock3aacacfc08e70.jpg in the morning and say, “Oh, it’s 10 o’clock over here.”… “Yeah, well, it’s three o-fucking-clock in the morning here, Stanley. Oh well.” He called me about two weeks before he died… We had a long conversation about Eyes Wide Shut. He told me it was a piece of shit and that he was disgusted with it and that the critics were going to have him for lunch. He said Cruise and Kidman had their way with him—exactly the words he used. He was kind of a shy little timid guy. He wasn’t real forceful. That’s why he didn’t appreciate working with big, high-powered actors. They would have their way with him, he would lose control, and his movie would turn to shit.”

De-evolving the future: Google-Borg gorging on YouTube?

Via the Globe and Mail, the Wall Street Journal’s reporting “Google Inc. is in talks to acquire the on-line video site YouTube Inc. for about $1.6 billion. “Such a deal would represent one of the fastest creations of wealth in Internet history. YouTube was founded just last year in a Silicon Valley garage. youtubegrab_32.jpgThe startup claims to already account for 60% of all videos watched on-line. The site attracts nearly 20 million unique visitors each month… The Journal cited a single, unidentified source it said is familiar with the matter. It said discussions remain at a “sensitive stage” and could break off at any time. The rumour was first circulated by Michael Arrington, editor of a blog called TechCrunch. Google, the world’s largest search engine, has… a large war chest of nearly $10-billion in cash.” Newsweek considers whether it’s worth a billion here: “Warner Music…. digital-strategy exec Alex Zubillaga says he felt something like sympathy during a recent dealmaking visit to the firm’s Silicon Valley headquarters. YouTube’s 60 employees—who share a grand total of 10 landline phones—are so crammed into small offices over a pizzeria in downtown San Mateo that Zubillaga says, “I almost felt bad for them.”

Revenge of Jedi Daddy: Lucas thinks smaller

George Lucas started saying it back in April and now he’s saying it in Variety: the tentpole era of the studios that he ushered in is over. Reports David S. Cohen: “George yodapop.jpgLucas has a message for studios that are cutting their slates and shifting toward big-budget tentpoles and franchises: You’ve got it all wrong…. [S]mall films and Web distribution are the future.” Lucasfilm is quitting the movies, to put his money where his mouth is. “We don’t want to make movies. We’re about to get into television. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, we’ve moved away from the feature film thing because it’s too expensive and it’s too risky. I think the secret to the future is quantity…” Lucas “gave $175 million — $100 million toward the endowment, $75 million for buildings — to his alma mater. But he said that kind of money is too much to put into a film.” For the dosh it takes and produces to make and market a massive movie, “For that same $200 million, I can make 50-60 two-hour movies. That’s 120 hours as opposed to two hours. In the future market, that’s where it’s going to land, because it’s going to be all pay-per-view and downloadable. You’ve got to really have a brand. You’ve got to have a site that has enough material on it to attract people.” [More cherrypicking vision things at the link.]

Out on a Lim: losing VOICE

printcover.jpgHere’s a New York Film Festival centerpiece for ya: Village Voice Media film editor Dennis Lim got the boot from the Village LACEY, erm, VOICE, reports The Reeler. “Lim’s departure follows months of meddlesome corporate squabbles that reportedly slashed his budget by half and had him so frustrated he was walking around the Toronto Film Festival intimating that he “was trying to get fired.” (He did not answer his office phone this morning.) Further word indicates that J. Hoberman is safe (if not especially pleased) for the time being, and that New Times will attempt to rebuild the Voice’s film section around his name.”At indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman opines thusly: [A]fter Ridgeway and Schanberg and Christgau got the axe, a half dozen other senior editors were forced out, and the national syndicate of arts reviewers moved in,” Kaufman opines, “it was inevitable that longtime Village Voice film critic-editor Dennis Lim would be next on the chopping block of New Times management.” [More of the apocalyptic politicklish of how this could and will likely affect the exposure of indie and non-US pictures in Mannahatta at his link.]

"Go to Danville to see `Jackass 2': a theater owner's lament

“The “closed” sign went up a few weeks ago on the flashy neon marquee outside the Lorraine Theatre,” in Hoopeston, Illinois, reports the ChiTrib’s Bob Secter. “But the 84-year-old movie palace on Main Street hasn’t played its last picture show. Business isn’t bad. It’s the movies that are wretched. “Both theaters in Hoopeston are closed … because of such poor film choices available,” explains a recording on the Lorraine’s customer hot line. “Go to Danville to see `Jackass 2.'” … Lorraine owner Greg Boardman “put his two screens here on hiatus rather than sell tickets to the gross-out lorraine_new.jpgand freak-out fare he said Hollywood distributors have made available in recent weeks. Boardman said he’d rather show nothing than such recent offerings as Beerfest, The Covenant or the Jackass sequel… “There’s just so much lousy material out there–people vomiting on the screen,” explained Boardman, 52, a local boy who now lives in California and uses the Internet to run the Lorraine from there. “I have one of the finest sound systems in the world, and I don’t want to waste it on such drivel.” When the town got its holiday from Hollywood, the manager of the Lorraine did too: two weeks off, with pay.” While he’s going to reopen with Open Season and Invincible, “he intends to shut down again if the quality of available films goes soft… There are plenty of action movies, the better to show off the rippling eight-channel digital sound system, a top-of-the-line feature rarely found even in big cities.” There’s a lot more heartening heartland detail at the link. The Lorraine Theatre website is here.

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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