Movie City Indie Archive for December, 2006

Sundance Film Fest adds glitter, glamour to Utah ski resort

O, this cannot wait until 2007: MC Indie‘s first Sundance dispatch comes from Park City resident Kurt Repanshek of Travel Arts Syndicate, who reminds us that “Sundance Film Fest adds glitter, glamour to Utah ski resort.” “Celebrity spotting takes precedence over powder skiing come mid-January when the tony mountain town of Park City morphs from a ski destination into a glitzy Hollywood backdrop, often with a snowstorm or two and the A-list from central casting. Here comes Sting and his entourage, complete with a mountain of luggage holding everything and anything he might need on the slopes. There goes Emilio sundance07_arcadefire.jpgEstevez ducking into a ski shop to get his board waxed. Val Kilmer was here just a minute ago, and Jennifer Aniston is looking as chic as ever despite the biting weather and relentless tabloid pursuit. Heck, even Al Gore picked Sundance a year ago to debut his acclaimed film on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth. Yes, Park City definitely will be the place to be from Jan. 18-28 when the Sundance Film Festival again transforms this nook of the Wasatch Range into a three-ring circus. You’ll have your black-garbed industry types armed with millions of dollars in contracts looking for a sleeper project, the satchel-clutching, Starbucks-addled media and the celebrities who flit about town, usually in big, black and more-often-than-not, stretched rigs.” [More deeply ringing cliches are available at the link, sadly, to be repeated in the hours ahead in variously reheated form by supposedly more seasoned writers.]

Nanni states: why we love Moretti

sonsroomlrg.jpgI’ve feared for years going back to watch Nanni Moretti‘s The Son’s Room, which I love dearly and don’t want to be disappointed by on another go. But Signor Moretti never disappoints in his public profile, from being a premier Roman film exhibitor to this short, sharp shock, per the BBC. “Award-winning Italian director Nanni Moretti has stepped down as artistic director of the Turin Film Festival, two days after accepting the job.” Moretti “resigned after learning his appointment was opposed by some festival organisers.” “There has been talk of organizing two competing festivals in the same city, someone suggested a lack of ethics and some have even said that I would be an instrument for politicians to strangle the festival’s independence,” Moretti wrote. “With great pain I give up the job and leave you to your method problems, procedural disputes, personal grudges.” The Beeb contextualizes: “The annual November festival, now in its 25th year, is facing increased comp[e]tition from the newly inaugurated Rome Film Festival, which takes place in October. “The nomination of Moretti positions the Festival of Turin on the same level as that of Venice and Rome and this is an important point of departure,” Sandro Cosazza, President of Turin’s National Museum of Cinema, said when the appointment was first announced last week. “For this we are grateful to Moretti to have accepted the challenge.”

Forbidden civics: 2006's final error message

“Are you mistaking? What’s wrong about here? You are seeking for trouble.seek_213570.jpg (Sorry, that section of the site is inaccessible from the web.) Why are you lossing temper? You said the net is unbreakable, why it’s broken? All ill-fated jinxes have come. (Don’t be upset. Sometimes this happens on the Internet. It’s not bad luck.) All fanciness are posted outside. I’ll throw all the stuffs away, see how you get out. (Don’t worry, it’s easy to get back on track. Perhaps you can find what you wanted here.) I don’t mean to play on you this time, really can’t help. (Sometimes directories are closed for surfing. It’s not your fault.) How come in such period of time? Do it just over there, really trouble maker… (It only takes a second to go back to the home page, friend.)”

Hail Mary: lacking the very density of materiality

Random bloggotry: Chongqing reflects upon Godard’s Hail Mary: “This was one of the first art films I’ve seen in a long time, and it was horrible. It was so bad. hail_mary_02.jpgShot of moon, of waves, of contemplating a [R]ubik’s cube. I am tired of Godard’s Brechtian inauthenticity. It is weird when I think that Spike Lee is more Godard than Godard nowadays. Manny Farber said Godard was like a zoo of animals. Godard is more like a man who has thought he has launched himself into new ground and new territories, but does not realize he still sits absentmindedly at the table of high-modernism. Godard speaks to museums and old French novels. There is a reason Godard could never relate to the third world in his films. He is so rooted in his Frenchness that everything he attempted to absorb from outside the borders of himself ended up being cardboard parodies that lacked the very density of materiality.”

Kino-fist defined in 90 seconds

“The film is like a battleground; love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word: emotion,” kinofist sammy.jpgSam Fuller said in Godard’s Pierrot le fou, and he meant it. Here’s the incredible, indelible opening ninety seconds of his 1964 The Naked Kiss. (You’ll never look at a bald prostitute the same way again.) At the YouTube link, check out the “Children’s Song” scene, too. [Via ScreenGrab.]

Would you like to talk about Lolita?

Would you like to talk about Lolita?Well, no. I said everything I wanted to say about the book in the Afterword appended to its American and British editions.” Did you find it hard to write the script of Lolita? “The hardest part was taking the plunge—deciding to undertake the task. In 1959 I was invited to Hollywood by coke_sucker_2308.jpgHarris and Kubrick, but after several consultations with them I decided I did not want to do it. A year later, in Lugano, I received a telegram from them urging me to reconsider my decision. In the meantime a kind of script had somehow taken shape in my imagination so that actually I was glad they had repeated their offer. I traveled once more to Hollywood and there, under the jacarandas, worked for six months on the thing. Turning one’s novel into a movie script is rather like making a series of sketches for a painting that has long ago been finished and framed. I composed new scenes and speeches in an effort to safeguard a Lolita acceptable to me. I knew that if I did not write the script somebody else would, and I also knew that at best the end product in such cases is less of a blend than a collision of interpretations. I have not yet seen the picture. It may turn out to be a lovely morning mist as perceived through mosquito netting, or it may turn out to be the swerves of a scenic drive as felt by the horizontal passenger of an ambulance. From my seven or eight sessions with Kubrick during the writing of the script I derived the impression that he was an artist, and it is on this impression that I base my hopes of seeing a plausible Lolita on June 13th in New York.” [Vladimir Nabokov, 1962.]

By the blurbling brook: listening to crickets

heineblurb_720.jpg Blurbs away! Variety’s Timothy Gray selects favorite flavors in 2006 cricket-hype. In his annual tradition of collecting “these blurbs, one begins to ponder cosmic matters. Such as: “Who exactly qualifies for recognition as a film critic?” Some blurbmeisters do not come from the world of reviewing. For example… Larry King, You, Me and Dupree—”Owen Wilson has to be one of the greatest comedic actors of all time.” … And what exactly is “praise”? Studios apparently were convinced that these comments were surefire audience lures[:] Sam Adams, Los Angeles Times, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning—”There’s hardly a body part that isn’t mangled or lopped off, ground up or sliced through.” … The Dove Foundation, Barnyard, “You have to see it to believe it.” … Pete Hammond, Maxim, Beerfest—”The party film of the summer. You’ll laugh your Heineken off!” “Of course, one of the jobs of blurbmeisters is to recognize great films[:] Anthony Kaufman, Indiewire, Climates—”Masterpiece!” [;] CineScene, Zen Noir—”A genuine masterpiece.” [;] Andrew O’Hehir,, Flannel Pajamas—”A spiny and dispassionate little masterpiece.”

Rules of the Game's positive negative

Rules of the Game taught me the rules of the game,” Kevin Thomas quotes Robert Altman in a dispatch detailing the recent 35mm digital restoration of Jean Renoir‘s 1939 masterpiece (the prior Criterion DVD edition was only cleaned up for video). rulesofgame-terrace.jpg Thomas also quotes Renoir as saying his rationale for making pictures was to make “audiences feel a little less lonely.” Showing at the NuArt in Los Angeles and opening Friday at Chicago’s Music Box, the negative of Rules of the Game was destroyed by bombs during World War II. The two men who first reconstructed the film “labored three years to incorporate the trimmed footage, found untouched in a warehouse, with the best portions of the few copies of the soon-banned film that survived the war. They managed to reconstitute the film with less than a minute missing. Only now has it become possible to see Rules of the Game as it looked upon its July 7, 1939, Paris debut. That’s because Criterion[‘s Janus] Films has undertaken a complete digital restoration of a fine-grain master print located in Paris after a painstaking search… While Roger Ebert has expressed puzzlement that “this magical and elusive work” always seems to place second to Citizen Kane on best-films lists, Bertrand Tavernier, a major contemporary French director whose work reflects a deep knowledge and appreciation of world cinema, has said that he would “give the whole of Citizen Kane” for a shot like that of the guests arriving at the chateau “like in a Robert Altman film, with people talking, overlapping within the shot, and a wonderful depth of focus.” Indeed, for critic J. Hoberman Rules of the Game is “a movie that Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Mike Leigh, to name three, are always trying to remake.” *

Mark Urman: No one ever died over a movie crisis

“Hollywood is dead, or at least in a coma,” writes Gregg Goldstein at Hollywood Reporter on the holiday hiatus. But there are exceptions. urmanlives_325.jpg “ThinkFilm US theatrical head Mark Urman… is the nervous dad of young drivers, [and] leaves his cell phone on all night, leaving him victim to text messages from a nervous director at 3:30 in the morning. “When someone gives you their film, it’s like their child. There are very few boundaries, and notion of protocol flies out the window. No one thinks, ‘Should I be calling someone when they’re having an appendectomy? … I’m not a surgeon and I don’t save lives. No one ever died over a movie crisis.”

Graf of the week: Manohla on Mann

Reportedly, NY Times doesn’t let its crickets write recommendations unless they’re the principal reviewer, but with year-end lists, anyone curious about what Manohla Dargis thought of Miami Vice can find out in her best-of-year citations: “Michael Mann doesn’t always receive the critical respect he deserves, partly because he likes to make genre films; maybe if he had hired Jack Nicholson to run around with Crockett and Tubbs ManMann_2315.jpg he might have at least seduced the audience. Glorious entertainment, Miami Vice is a gorgeous, shimmering object, and it made me think more about how new technologies are irrevocably changing our sense of what movies look like than any film I’ve seen this year. Partly shot using a Viper FilmStream camera, the film shows us a world that seems to stretch on forever, without the standard sense of graphical perspective. When Crockett and Tubbs stand on a Miami roof, it’s as if the world were visible in its entirety, as if all our familiar time-and-space coordinates had dropped away, because they have.” BONUS dialogue from Vice: Detective Gina Calabrese’s Harry Callahan-style drop-dead: “That’s not what happens. What will happen is… what will happen is I will put a round at twenty-seven hundred feet per second into the medulla at the base of your brain. And you will be dead from the neck down before your body knows it. Your finger won’t even twitch. Only you get dead. So tell me, sport, do you believe that?”

Second sight: getting Déjà Vu


TOO MUCH COULD BE SAID about the parlous state of contemporary movie reviewing, but two crickets take the cake for 2006, with Christoph Huber and Mark Peranson‘s dense, knowing, estimable auteurist analysis of Tony Scott’s grossly underrated Déjà Vu in Cinema Scope 29. Zowie! Zoinks! “Regularly dismissed by critics as an ADD action hack director, Tony Scott’s sixth collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer has a title that can be taken as a provocation: Déjà Vu seems to invite glib puns about the recurrence of heated fast cuts and heavily filtered celluloid, of slick surfaces and pretzel plot twists wrapped around eye-popping explosions. Yes it delivers, but never mind that the director, for all his constant flash and stylishness, has long moved on from mere action work towards ambivalent psychological thrillers, employing an expressionist visual style corresponding to heightened emotions: his themes and structures [that] cry out for old-school auteurist appreciation. Maybe the comparative restraint and metaphysical bent of Scott’s masterpiece, a surveillance-era post-Hitchcock concoction that dares to begin with a nine-minute bravura sequence of dialogue-free “pure cinema,” will help viewers see past the prejudices—though the incomprehension that greeted the magnificent, if meddlesome biopic-atomizer Domino a year ago, makes it doubtful… [The] case of the fantastic machine used for investigation in Déjà Vu that turns (even more top-secret) surveillance footage to a window back in time for plot purposes, [is vital yet] clearly is foremost present as an equivalent of The Movies—it’s even named Snow White. Pointedly, Tony extends the idea to the visual media shaping contemporary experience, TV and internet broadcasts. The ridiculous quasi-science banter “explaining” Snow White expressly stresses the analogy: space (like time) may be folded in on itself, but it sure is flat, like a screen. And in a Tony Scott film, no screen is as great as the Jumbotron… Yet size serves to emphasize here: the growing romantic attachment of the loner Carlin as he follows the footage of a dead woman’s life, while discussions about the nature and ethics of movies, themselves windows to the past, ensue among agents and scientists, with the huge image presiding over the room. And of course the looming size of the screen approximates the condition of present-day viewing: a similar intrusion on privacy, as envisioned in Rear Window (1954), was a first-hand, cozy neighbourhood affair. Over 50 years later,Déjà Vureframes it to fit the current era of second-hand, Jumbotron “reality.”

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Factory profile: I wouldn’t want to confuse a pretty woman with a waitress

The ever-crafty Weinsteinco’s newest news about the status of Edie-bio Factory Girl emits from the Sunday Styles section of NY Times, where Mickey Rapkin has a tipple with not-dethroned director IMG_8520.jpgGeorge Hickenlooper. “As late as last week, he was still shooting new scenes… Despite news media reports that Mr. Hickenlooper had been taken off the project (not true) and that Bob Dylan was upset with how he is portrayed (true), the only opinion that matters now belongs to the executive producer, Harvey Weinstein. He has decided to release Factory Girl in Los Angeles on Friday, in time, barely, for the Oscars. “He wants a nomination for Sienna,” Mr. Hickenlooper said Wednesday… Mr. Hickenlooper, 41, had taken a break from editing to stop at the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He was dressed in standard Los Angeles auteur gear (leather blazer, oversize plastic frames, goatee). “I really need a drink,” he said, looking around for assistance. “I wouldn’t want to confuse a pretty woman with a waitress.” He ordered one cabernet and then another… “We’re all starved for intimacy and we’re looking for something to fill that void,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “You could take the names Edie and Andy off of this and it would still be compelling.” Hickenlooper offers reasons for the film’s hiccuppy existence behind the headlines: “The film was over budget at the start, so scenes were cut. Shooting wrapped in February, but when the rough cut was first viewed in August, it was clear that there were holes. They had to wait for Ms. Miller’s calendar to open up. Three days of planned shoots in New York stretched to five. And when Mr. Weinstein suggested extra scenes to flesh out the friendship between Ms. Sedgwick and Warhol, two days in Connecticut were added.” …. “I’d love another three months to edit,” Mr. Hickenlooper said, “but Harvey believes — and I agree — that the film has momentum.”

The Dead Girl breathes: Karen Moncrieff

TDG_BM_-12.jpgI like this writer-director: “I understand making an unrelenting film may make some people feel like ‘Life’s difficult enough, I don’t want to see a movie that’s going to make me that uncomfortable for that amount of time… I feel like I’m making films for people who are like me, who like to go to movies and be shaken up,literally taken by the throat and shaken up for an hour and a half. And moved and forced to look at things that are ugly, forced to contemplate the darkest moments any of us can imagine.” Karen Moncrieff tells LA Times’ Mark Olsen about making her forceful, focused new $4 million-budgeted film, which is divided into five vignettes and stars Toni Collette, Giovanni Ribisi, Rose Byrne, Brittany Murphy, Mary Beth Hurt, James Franco, Marcia Gay Harden, Kerry Washington and Nick Searcy. [It’s often possible to assemble a cast this powerful when the roles are many, small, and forceful, making lesser demands on the actors’ time.] Olsen writes that The Dead Girl “has a relentless consistency from story to story, a somber, death-stained look at lives in stasis, in desperate need of new directions, though it is leavened by slight slivers of hope.” Alluding to troubles at Miramax when her first feature, The Blue Car, was ill-released in 2003—”the seemingly waning support of a then-floundering distributor” is how Olsen phrases it—the piece details how Moncrieff’s pregnancy and the interest of First Look’s Henry Winterstern, and Lakeshore Entertainment’s Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi affected the production. [Rosenberg enthuses.] “Somebody asked me if it would be better if the movie was uplifting,” Moncrieff recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, to me this is uplifting.’ To me what’s depressing is to see lies on-screen, to see lives sugar-coated, a fake version of life as I know it or I feel it. Anything less than that and I’d feel like I hadn’t done my job. There are other people who are much better at shining a light on what’s funny or what’s sweet. Maybe my calling is to feel deeply some aspects of human pain and grief. Maybe I’m working something out in my work, but it’s what I’m attracted to. People making choices, struggling to do better and change, to me is uplifting.”


Four eeg special

Who said Hollywood is where you can die of encouragement?

She did.

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