Movie City Indie Archive for January, 2007

The Scotch. The milk. The Trixie: The Times

trixie-RANDOLPH_234.jpgThere are many reasons to read the NY Times, but there aren’t enough profiles like this these days: “It is 5:01 p.m. and Joyce Randolph, a k a Trixie Norton, is holding forth in the downstairs bar at Sardi’s, sipping her… Dewar’s and milk.,” writes Glenn Collins. “‘I think it does your stomach good,’ she is saying. ‘The Scotch. The milk.'” … She is strong of voice and precise of diction at 82, given to addressing people as “Dear.” How sweet it is, then, to hang out with Miss Randolph in one of her favorite haunts where the honeymoon is never over. For his 16 years at Sardi’s, José Estevez, the perpetually amenable barkeep, has looked on as new customers [greet Randolph]… She is always available to smile and pose with them in a camera-phone flash. “I talk to everyone,” she said. “You can’t be hoity.” … “I am the last one left,” Miss Randolph said a bit later, without drama. “Even the girl who held the stopwatch, Joan Reichman Canale, is gone.” [More at the link.]

S07: Transcribing Hartley, Araki, Jenkins, Green

Hal Hartley, Gregg Araki, Tamara Jenkins and David Gordon Green comprised a sturdy Sundance roundtable; At GreenCine, Craig Philips transcribes more than 5,500 words. Hartley: “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a development situation. It’s always: Write the script and then come to the table with the script. These are my friends and we want to make this film. I guess I mean I’ve never been 4677.jpgpaid to develop a script. That sounds like such a civilized thing.” Green: “I guess development to me is like flirting with a girl; you have to give yourself a lot of opportunities to turn around and go the other way, or you can hook up. You get in a room with producers, financiers, actors, you kind of all look at each other, assess each other, size each other up, see if it works. If it does, take the next step. Some of them, I’ll write, get producers attached, and then I’ll get to the casting and all of a sudden the studio or whoever I’m working with will say, “Eh, we see a different cast.” I’ll say, I don’t like that idea, then go away and close up that project, open up another one. So I’ve got a number of experiences in… not going all the way.” Are they “in it for the money”?Hartley: Well, to be perfectly honest, I am in it for the money. I mean, I consider myself an artist, too, and try to be true to that, but I do have a family to take care of. Why should I do this for nothing? I’ve learned a lot about doing business; I just do it in a particular way. I’m much more interested in talking to business people than I am talking to philanthropists. I don’t want to be a charity case. It’s important because, in the early days of your career, you get a lot of people talking about support. “We supported you.” Right, you didn’t program the film on television and make money – you were supporting me, that wasn’t business. Right. So, you have to be careful about that. But, yeah, I’m a professional filmmaker; that means I get paid for what I do. No reason to be ashamed of admitting that.” Green: “I think everything is fun. I even like going to the corporate meetings and pitching it. Getting everybody excited, that’s kind of fun. The only thing I don’t like is when you have to make the credits for your movie and everybody starts crying because they wanted their name in a specific place. I actually had to appeal to my union so that the title of my movie could come after my name. There’s so many weird politics about it; everybody gets really possessive about credits. I don’t think we should even have credits – the title sequence should just be cool parts of the movie, and they should take out the titles.” [Much, much more at the link.]

Sundance on Ice (Thursday-Friday)

Egyptian waitlist

Egyptian theater waitlist.

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The price of Sundance love: Dargis' Sundance reality

Multi-Oscar-nommed Little Miss Sunshine and Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy were favorites of Sundance 2006; to highlight the divide, in NY Times, Manohla Dargis does the fiscal comparison-contrast. “The two films had their premiere the same day, within a half-hour of each other: Old Joy played in a 150-seat house, and Little Miss Sunshine, OldJoy_l_74.jpgin a packed 1,270-seat theater. People who actually saw Old Joy, a low-fi story about two friends on a weekend trip in the Oregon woods, seemed to love it, but, like many Sundance films, it left the festival without a buyer.” Later, “it was picked up by the small New York distributor Kino International for what Gary Palmucci, the head of its theatrical sales, called the “low five figures.” Film Forum in New York, a key house for movies like this, was offered only the fall-prestige slot of 20 September. Old Joy “did spectacularly well at Film Forum, bringing in more than $29,000 the first week. It earned more than $21,000 the second week, but by then was competing with new studio-division arrivals… Mr. Palmucci estimated that by the end of its nearly six-month theatrical run Old Joy will have played in almost every major market in the country. Kino can’t afford to buy full-page ads in big-city newspapers but did run a few small ones. It also spent about $40,000 to blow the film up from 16mm to 35mm; $24,000 on 22 prints; $6,500 on 200 trailers; $4,000 on 50,000 postcards and about $3,000 on Web advertisements. Kino also bought posters and radio spots, and hired outside publicists. It has been a heroic effort, but the postcards, the trailers and all the glowing reviews have not been enough to make the film a hit for the distributor. As I write, Old Joy has pulled in less than $200,000.” The theatrical gross for LMS? says the recent DVD release earned $59,599,618.

David Lynch: Dancing dwarf. No. No? No.

David Lynch is not only on the road to peddle Inland Empire, he’s also got a slim volume to sell, “Catching the Big Fish,” about transcendental meditation and inspiration.lynch_our_235.jpgSeattle Times’ Mark Rahner shares the coffee and the bliss with the 61-year-old director. “One lady told me … she went away partway through the film sleeping and dreaming, and she said she really wanted to tell me about the dream she had, because it was probably being fed by the film in some ways, and I didn’t have time to get it from her, but she said it was quite something.” Want to know what’s missing? “What’s missing?” Dancing dwarf. “No.” No? “No.” Cups of coffee per day? “Well, I always said 20. I don’t know if it’s quite 20. But it’s between 10 and 20.”

Quentin does what Quentin does: in the third person

209323737_d1158fca9f_m.jpgGrindhouse gets the Sunday NYTimes treatment from Whitney Joiner, who speaks to directorial duo Robert Rodriguez about Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino about Death Proof. Much lurid detail about the 1970s exploitation tribute, plus a de rigeur Tarantino quote. The theatrical versions will have missing reels, in a tribute to the chopped-up prints of the crappy movies that the director of Jackie Brown loves and collects. “My whole thing is to play with the audience,” Tarantino tells the Times. “I guarantee you, when it pops up ‘Missing Reel,’ the entire theater is going to scream. They might very well be screaming my name: ‘Quentin, you bastard! We hate you!” In the piece, Tarantino avers that the movie has “some of the best dialouge I’ve ever written in my life”; he sent it to Bob Dylan, who he thought might “appreciate the wordplay,” but hasn’t heard back. [My own encounter with Q3 was during interviews for Jackie Brown, when Tarantino told me, “All this time there was all these articles, what’s Quentin doing, what’s Quentin doing, when’s Quentin gonna do something else? Well, Quentin was writing, okay? Quentin was doing what Quentin does, all right?”]

Silent movies: Sundance conversation

All sorts of serendipity can happen at a film festival like Sundance; one of the most spirited unexpected conversations I’ve had here is with Sk8 Life co-screenwriter Elan Mastai, talking about improvisation and the fiction film at the Vancouver-shot fiction/skate performance pic’s release party: there’s no audio on this clip, but I like it this way.

It's a sin: confessing Sundance midfest

369243099_1d82f12546.jpgMore than a couple of Sundance sins got committed yesterday: For one, I saw Once twice; who sees a movie twice at a film festival when there’s so much else possibly to see and do? But the simple beauty of John Carney‘s romantic musical was even more powerful a second time around—I can’t resist the pun “Once singular sensation®”—and it was truly heartening to see the fillum with a public audience, rather than at a presser for journos as I did on the first go. I wasn’t esthetically wrong, I wasn’t unduly sentimental: the bliss remained; deepened, even. If the reaction from the earlier screenings was anything like last night’s standing ovations and general glow about the Prospector Square, Once is in the running for an Audience Favorite. Bonus: At the Q&A afterwards, the stars of the film, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová [pictured] played two songs. I’d blown off meeting a charming shorts director and the film’s lead actress to see Once again, but it was the right choice, maybe not precisely a sin against cin-e-mah. Earlier, a filmmaker whose movie I’d criticized caught sight of my festival badge and introduced himself. I quickly looked down at his badge: Oh-oh. Is it so wrong that Brett Morgen of The Chicago 10 and I went for an off-the-record conversation over coffee to compare our notes? I liked that hour’s give-and-take more than the movie, but I also have a better understanding of Morgen’s hopes for getting a message of criticial resistance to younger viewers and certain intentions that I didn’t quite get when I saw the pic on opening night. Late, late in the evening, packing for a move-of-house necessitated a fit of swag triage, which must always be followed by a steaming shower. Maybe any of the sins washed away as well.

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Swag the dog: Crass? Brilliant? You decide (Black Snake Moan)

BS Moan 1 This is the rear of the Black Snake Moan promotional hat; after you see the back side, you may think it’s both crass and brilliant, as a handful of people think of the movie itself. Reports Anthony Breznican at USATODAY: “Even the poster trumpets Black Snake Moan as an homage to the sexploitation thrillers of the 70s, with Ricci posed seductively and wrapped in chains, while Jackson towers over her. [Writer-director Craig] Brewer, who made his name at Sundance in the same theater two years ago with Hustle & Flow, said he laid out multiple chains for Ricci to choose from. He imitated her posing with different links. “She picked up a padlock and said, ‘Oh yeah, this is it. I could see this on a runway.'” [At the jump, the front side of the leering swag.]

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S07 Fortune cookie #7-Jo Rowling's cupboards

Popular success must be a fine thing: most times I think of “Harry Potter” I also think of J. K. Rowling in a teashop in chilly Scotland and scrunching her toes in her trainers against the damp and coming up with that freight train of adolescent dread. She’s always claimed to have written the ending first. (Some plans are better laid than others, something you’re reminded every day at Sundance.) This quote comes from a 2001 BBC special. “JKR [laying in her pile of notes]: This is the thing that I was very dubious about what's inside that counts.jpgshowing you, and I don’t really know why because what does this give away? [It’s a big folder] But this is the Final Chapter of book Seven. Um … [laughs] which I’m still dubious about showing you, I don’t know what I feel like, the camera’s gonna be able to see through the folder. So this is it, and I’m not opening it for obvious reasons. This is really where I wrap everything up, it’s the Epilogue, and I basically say what happens to everyone after they leave school — those who survive, because there are deaths, more deaths, coming. It was a way of saying to myself, Well, “you will get here, you will get to book Seven, one day. And … then you’ll need this!” So I’d just like to remind all the children I know who come round my house and start sneaking into cupboards that it’s not there, anymore. I don’t keep it at home any more for very very very obvious reasons. So there it is.”

Awaiting Waitress: a friend recollects

Read it and weep: Reid Rosefelt recalls the late Adrienne Shelley, whose Sundance triumph, Waitress, also sold for big money to Fox Searchlight. “For many years, Adrienne Shelly was my best friend. She was the one I turned to when my love life went awry—which was often—and I played the same role for her. We emailed and talked Wait-4689.jpgpretty much every day and saw each other every weekend, for F&B hot dogs and a movie at the Chelsea Cineplex. Our relationship was never romantic, though. Even though I had a big crush on her when I saw her in The Unbelievable Truth and Trust, it was different when I met the actual person. She wasn’t for me and I wasn’t for her. I quickly settled into playing the role of heterosexual gay best friend in her life, and as we all know from the movies, the gay best friend knows things that lovers never do…” Shelley acted in Rosefelt’s short, Tiger: His Fall & Rise, which he concedes, “The problem with Tiger wasn’t that it was silly; the problem with Tiger was that it was awful.” But there is this reward: “[T]he film will stand the test of time as a documentary on her poor eating habits. Many people were disgusted by the way she ate, but I’m a big slob myself and the way she nudged the food onto her fork with her finger just made me feel more comfortable. The truth is that I loved the way Adrienne ate so much that I had her eat all the way through Tiger: Chinese food, sub sandwiches, hamburgers, meat loaf, you name it… [T]he truth is it gave me boundless joy to see her talking with her mouth full. I loved Adrienne a lot, but I can’t remember loving her more than when she had a giant burger in her trap. Choose your bliss; that was mine. I will be paying off that damned film for the rest of my life, but I’m extremely proud I had the opportunity to record her eating that burger for posterity. This is my contribution to film history.” [The rest, at the link, is a must-read.]

S07 Fortune cookie #6-Martin Luther King

what's inside that counts.jpgWhile trying to find a way into writing about a half-dozen vital documentaries with social awareness—including Cocalero and White Light/Black Rain, the day after An Inconvenient Truth, Deliver Us From Evil, Iraq in Fragments, Jesus Camp and My Country, My Country constituted an incredibly strong selection of Best Documentary Feature nominees, this quotation from Martin Luther King fell out of my notebook: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” These filmmakers know this, too, and demonstrate that knowledge through their actions.

To The Nines: John August gives it away


Screenwriter and debuting director John August puts a few pertinent pages of his Sundance premiere up at his estimable, entertaining blog. There’s more here.

S07 reviews: Once

BOY MEETS GIRL: HOW HARD CAN THAT BE? Sometimes a movie leaves you with such a warm feeling, you just want to point people in the general direction of its reflected light, and not write about it, not describe modest virtues in a way that oversells genuine heart and soul. Once, a grand, effortless Irish musical povera (shot in two weeks on DV for 100,000 euros), written and directed by John Carney, scene 63 guy+girl at piano 1 .jpgwho was for several years in the fine band The Frames with star-composer Glen Hansard, is one of those movies. I saw it first thing Thursday morning and kept putting off writing about it… my eyes have welled up happily every time the fillum comes up with someone else who’s seen it, adores it, loves it, too. Carney + Co. also work with some very sophisticated insights about the representation of music on film and also how one walks, talks, lives, breathes, stumbles, fumbles, triumphs, while trying to fashion any form of art. Hansard is the lanky, ginger-bearded “Guy” busking in a Dublin square who meets the “Girl,” a slightly goofy, younger Czech émigré (Markéta Irglová) with an uncertain command of English. Carney introduces them with a simple shot that’s breathtakingly right: we are watching Hansard play for a bit and then the camera pulls back, revealing Irglová’s shoulder. Our POV becomes hers. The narrative strategy, built more around small misunderstandings and the making of songs, is similar. (Naked lyrics are quickly clothed in melody.) Layers peel away, their preconceptions of each other (and ours of them) fall away, and Hansard’s music, as urgent and lovely as ever, grows in collaboration with someone who turns out not only to be a classical pianist, but a good lyricist and a fine singer. The Girl is not just a girl; they have talent to share. Let’s make music together, all right? The most masterful stroke is this: Concert scenes in movies bear a simple ontological quandary. Live music is live music, and simply shooting a scene of a live gig with adequate or even innovative coverage is a representation of the live show, and not innately cinematic in itself. And, of course, the Dionysian element of the live performer enacting fantasy a few feet or yards away is meaningless on screen, lacking their human presence. A secondary insight is having songs play almost always to their conclusion, rather than cutting them into snippets of catchy hooks as many music-heavy movies do. There are so many things I’ve personally considered about how to depict the life of an artist, any form of artist, but especially musicians, without pretension or preciousness that these long-time mates have solved, and more than that, have made a wonderful, heartfelt movie. The music under the final scenes reprises a song we’ve seen the pair record; it’s heartbreaking on several levels, largely because Carney’s canny at how a song grows and thrives, as well as being a true king of Dublin. Once is more than just the best movie I’ve seen at Sundance so far, and I hope to have many occasions to write more about it later. Now pass me that feckin’ tissue, wouldja? Fair play.

Putting the EW in Ewwwwwwww

Oh, Lord, this press release just came sailing over the transom: Entertainment Weekly (which likes to be called EW, which I presume they expect to be pronounced E-W) touts their Sundance bloggers: Billy Baldwin, Elle Fanning, Rainn Wilson and Tara Reid. Blogs Wilson, who acts Catalogin New Line topper Bob Shaye‘s The Last Mimzy, which screens for free on Tuesday night: “Hello everyone on the internet and in the world of entertainment. It’s me, Rainn Wilson, international superstar… promoting myself as un-official [sic] “spokesman of a generation” and gynecologist to the stars… I’m here because of the greatest movie ever made, The [L]ast Mimzy… I am actually raped by Dakota Fanning in this film. It was very disturbing and is causing quite an uproar in the blogosphere… So anyhoo, check out the family sci-fi epic adventure, The Last Mimzy and you will see my thighs. Good-bye.” Tara Reid: “HI its Tara Reid and i’m in Sundance its freezing here but alot of fun and alot of work my movie premieres tonight and i’m really excited.” Baldwin? “What can I tell ya… I don’t know what bothers me more about Sundance: all of the free shit that they give to the rich and famous who don’t need it, or the way that I behave when thrown into the den of swag. I can sit here and pretend that I’m above it all, but in reality, after being given free iPods and Razr telephones, jewelry and vacations, if my grandmother–may she rest in peace–stood between me and the last Philips flat screen television, I’d lay her out right on her ass for that bad boy. I hired a publicist to come here with me because I had two films…. She wound up becoming my swag mule, schlepping the hoards up and down Main Street so that I didn’t look like the gluttonous whore that I am in front of the throngs of media and paparazzi.” [Apparently Carrot Top was not available to serve.]

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