Movie City Indie Archive for February, 2007

Raiding Nader: on An Unreasonable Man

AusChron’s Shawn Badgley counts votes with An Unreasonable Man directors Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan. Mantel: “Ralph had nothing to do with the movie except for being interviewed and yes, upon my demand, telling me people who might have the guts to be interviewed about opposing him.” Skrovan: nader_123467.jpg“Hagiography? This isn’t Bill Clinton’s ‘The Man From Hope.’ In the first minute of the film, we have people screaming at Ralph that he’s “wicked” and should leave the country… If you think Ralph’s image is restored, it’s not because he sat for a portrait through a soft-focused lens. We hit him over the head with a bag of rocks, and he apparently stood up to it. Based on his comments at recent screenings, Ralph agreed to cooperate because he knew that telling the history of his early years and how a bunch of young people came to Washington with no power and managed to change things might possibly inspire a new generation to do the same.” Mantel: “And if you hear anything about his personal life, please let us know: We’re still digging.”

Forbidden masterpiece: Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story


It’s soooooo illegal to show Todd Haynes‘ heartbreaking little masterpiece, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, but if you’re lucky, the entire 43 minutes of this amazing artifact may still be up at Google Video at the link.


Indie returns Friday

Sheer, Peninsula

Things we saved from the fire: Cannes' Chacun Son Cinema

Well, that makes more sense. When Cannes 2007 first mooted their super-auteur omnibus, reports were that the two-to-three minute shorts by directors previously honored by Cannes would be destroyed after a single showing. Today’s news, per Chris Tilly at Time Out London is that the winsome minis will be shown on French TV simultaneously. cannes_2007_logo.jpgCan le web be far behind? “A handful of the world’s most internationally acclaimed directors have been commissioned… Walter Salles, Ken Loach, Roman Polanski, Nanni Moretti and the like have been asked to shoot three minute shorts which will then be compiled to create Chacun Son Cinema [To each his own cinema], a feature that will be screened simultaneously at the festival and on French television on May 20. The 35 directors: Theo Angelopoulos, Olivier Assayas, Bille August, Jane Campion, Youssef Chahine, Chen Kaige, Michael Cimino, Ethan and Joel Coen, David Cronenberg, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Manoel De Oliveira, Raymond Depardon, Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Aki Kaurismaki, Abbas Kiarostami, Takeshi Kitano, Andrei Konchalovsky, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Roman Polanski, Raoul Ruiz, Walter Salles, Elia Suleiman, Tsai Ming Liang, Gus Van Sant, Lars Trier, Wim Wenders, Wong Kar-Wai and Zhang Yimou. Festival director Gilles Jacob‘s statement from the Festival de Cannes website is below. “Times change. Then they return to their starting point, enriched by their own metamorphoses. When, more than a year go, we asked ourselves how to celebrate the 60th Festival de Cannes, we were sure at least of one thing: no return to the past, deadly commemoration or blissful self-congratulation, nothing which makes the future even more intimidating.

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Patience of Bob: Altman observes?

303461625_3be6caa024_m.jpgWhile it closed after only one night on Broadway, the Reporter’s Gregg Goldstein has a sterling note from the Robert Altman memorial tribute: Nashville writer Joan “Tewkesbury and [Tim] Robbins noted that the homage would have been the perfect Altman project. “It’s called ‘The Memorial,’ and we are making the film as we speak,” Robbins said. “There are cameras everywhere with subplots, subterfuge, whispered conversations and backstage preening. He’s going to find us out, and God will laugh.”

Killer deal: THINK THINKfilm

killered.jpgVariety THINKs Killer, reporting that Manhattan movie mavens THINKFilm and Killer Films are combining their indie cred (and credit lines) “in a bid to stay competitive with their specialty-pic peers.” Dade Hayes reports on an announcement that the pact “will effectively give Think a production-development arm and Killer a finance and distribution arm. The pact, which takes effect immediately, is not a merger but a partnership that both sides bill as thinkfilm_644.jpgcomplementary and game-changing. “Since our inception we have aimed to collaborate with people who share our taste and our approach,” Killer topper Christine Vachon said in a statement. “We believe that the Think team and the Killer family couldn’t be more like-minded and compatible.” Mark Urman, Think’s theatrical topper added in his statement that Killer has “the most amazing track record and depth of experience, yet have managed to retain the joy and enthusiasm of absolute beginners.” (John Wells is expected to continue his Killer overhead deal.)

When blogs attack: was 300 booed at Berlin?

AJ Schnack has an entertaining, completist survey of the tempest-in-an-HTML surrounding blog-borne talk of alleged booing of 300 at its premiere. How do rumors start in the modern age? “High profile film appears at 300_snyder_544895.jpgmajor European film festival, reports soon circulate the film is roundly booed, followed by further reports that question whether the booing was universal or was conducted by a small, yet vocal, minority of members of the press… So here we have Cinematical’s Erik Davis filing a somewhat breathless report… that Zack Snyder’s upcoming theatrical version of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 [inspired by the] Battle of Thermopylae, between the vast Persian army and a small number of well-trained Spartan warriors) had received a “chorus of boos” in Berlin… The problem? Some pretty big critics and film writers [disagreed].” They liked 300, including Variety’s Todd McCarthy, who called it “blustery, bombastic, visually arresting.” Anne Thompson at the Reporter calls it a “hugely entertaining, over-the-top action adventure.” Schnack cites a raft of reviews, then notes that “Davis’ initial post… initially failed to note that the screening in question was a press screening… In response, Davis first dismissed any previous positive reviews… But later, expressed concern and confusion over the vitriolic response: “Wow, never in my life have I received so many hurtful comments after a review… What I said happened at the screening, happened at the screening. Yes, it was my fault for not specficially stating it was a press screening early on—but I did add it in later—frankly, I had a deadline and another movie to catch and was asked to write the story up real fast.” Reported GreenCine: “(F)or every cheerer at the press screening there was at least one booer, and the battle was on as the credits rolled.” Wait, there was cheering at the screening too? And the cheering press was battling against the booing press during the end credits? Well, where is that in Davis’ reporting?” [More entertaining and informative give-and-take at the link.]

Mamet on "Bambi vs. Godzilla"

David Mamet collates his recent screeds apropos of Hollywood in the volume, “Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business”; Bloomberg’s movie cricket, Rick Warner, has a kindly chat at Bloomberg HQ. “I don’t hate the fuckin' david mamet.gifmovie business. I’m fascinated by the movie business. It’s the only absolutely essential intersection in the history of mankind between art and commerce. You could paint the picture and sell it or not. You can put on plays in your backyard. But you have to have a distribution process for movies.” And movies, Mamet insists, should have as little fuckin’ dialogue as possible. “If you’ve got a lot of dialogue in a movie, instead of camera angles and shots, you’re doing something wrong because the audience understands the information much quicker when they’re watching the shots… It’s hard enough to do it for 10 seconds in a commercial, but it’s even harder for a two hour film.” and of the “Simpsons” salesman who seems based on Glengarry Glen Ross”‘ Shelley Levine Mamet observes, “Jackie Gleason once said ‘The Flintstones’ was just ‘The Honeymooners’ in disguise. He said it was the greatest honor of his life that they thought enough of him to demean his image.”

John Schneider's Indie® revolution begins in the trunk of my '69 Charger

“Dukes of Hazzard” co-star John Schneider is miffed about the ways of the media, and he wants to change their wicked ways with Collier & Co. Hot Pursuit!, starring Schneider as J.R. Collier, a race car driver who has decided to quit racing and start his own used car sales company. Goes the PR: “Like Bo Duke would do, Schneider is promoting the film “by literally taking the movie theater-to-theater in the collier_2354ogo.giftrunk of my orange ’69 Dodge Charger.” Twenty-five prints of the movie will be shown at 25 theaters every two weeks, and Schneider hopes to have played 300 screens by mid-September. “I’ve got to get everyone to see it so we can change Hollywood for the better,” says Schneider. “We’re taking it across the country because everyone involved believes in it passionately. We want to make more movies like this and this is how we’re going to get started. We’re distributing this movie ourselves, we don’t have a big budget like the big studios,” says Schneider, “The big brass told me the family demographic was a waste of time. I don’t believe that. I think that the audience who watched ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ are still there and they are starved for a good, clean adventure comedy that the whole family can watch. I think the audience that watched ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ is… starved for a good, clean adventure/comedy that the whole family can watch.” Schneider says his moviemaking is in reaction to the 2005 WB Dukes of Hazzard. “They totally missed the mark because of the cussing, sex and pot smoking. I’m not a prude,” says Schneider, “it’s possible to keep the audience entertained without potty humor and hard-core violence. It’s just harder to do and not as chic.”

Cache and carry: Howard remakes Haneke?

While Michael Haneke‘s American remake of his own Funny Games, starring Tim Roth, Michael Pitt and Naomi Watts (co-producing again after The Painted Veil) for Warner Independent, holds creepy allure, with rumors that he won’t hold back on any of what make the earlier film so horrifying, news of Ron Howard‘s (The Da Vinci Code) expressed desire to have his way with Haneke’s Cache is less toothsome. Report Diane Garrett and Steven Zeitchik in Variety, scarybloodman09.jpgGrace is Gone prodco Plum Pictures has pulled Hidden out for the mogul, adding that the “Universal version, to be set in the U.S., is expected to amp up the suspense and consequences.” One of the better examinations of the original comes from Robin Wood in Artforum: “Haneke’s dominant concern is with the bourgeoisie—its inner tensions, its perpetual uneasiness, its guilt, the despair that underlies and disturbs its complacency… Haneke is perhaps the most pessimistic of all great filmmakers. But insofar as there are positive values embodied in his films they are expressed, albeit tentatively, through the children… This recurring and developing motif receives perhaps its most remarkable enactment in the final shot of Cache (during which, sensing the imminence of the end credits, half the audience typically gets up and leaves, missing the film’s ultimate and crucial revelation, registered characteristically in distant long shot).” Wood says something of Haneke hardly ever said of Howard: “Every Haneke film represents a challenge to the spectator; his films demand the closest, most alert attention and repeated viewings (I began to feel confident that I had understood Cache somewhere around the third or fourth)… Many dislike Haneke’s films. They are too dark, too depressing, too cruel. Even at their close there is seldom cause for optimism and the future remains uncertain.”

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Know your Senator: Baltimore requests

gollummarqueesite1.jpgCould another one bite the dust? “The recently restored 900-seat Senator Theatre in Baltimore has been foreclosed upon and may be auctioned if they do not come up with $109,000 by February 21. As of tonight (2/19), they’re up to $92,500, but they still have $16,500 to go by 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. The Senator is independently run, not part of a chain, and it shows both first-run and classic films. Please consider making a donation to help them meet their goal,” they write. Go to the link for the latest, including the possibility of donations via PayPal.

[TRAILER] Barely legal: Simpsons at 18


A teaser and three full trailers so far: how many in-jokes and cross-references can one movie unearth from 18 years of series episodes? The Simpsons Movie: Homer wept.

Idi Amin haha: Last King a hit in Kampala

LKOS_23017.jpgThe Scotsman’s Rob Crilly reports on The Last King of Scotland‘s debut in Kampala: it’s a hit. “Memories and tears came for… Ugandans invited to watch the film, which tells the [fictional] story of a young Scottish doctor who finds himself at the centre of the dictator’s brutal regime. Some had warned it might open old wounds in a country riven by civil war and tribal rivalry… The film’s Scottish star James McAvoy and director Kevin Macdonald said they were delighted at the reaction [as they] flew into Kampala for an emotional first screening in Africa… Macdonald admitted to nerves at returning to the country where the film was shot: “We were waiting with trepidation to see the result at the screening.” … McAvoy, wearing a kilt, described the audience reaction. “There were a lot of tears,” he said “The film could always have been viewed as another film about the white man in Africa – although in this case the white man is a bastard. But they seemed to understand this was a multi-faceted portrayal of a complicated man like Amin.” [For an eccentric glimpse of what the movie meant in Uganda and the local movie biz, here’s an interview with
Sidney Mukasa, a marketing manager for the local Cineplex Cinema

Coma baby lives: New Line's Shaye daze

A few days before the release of Number 23, another New Line release getting surly early reviews, NYTimes’ Sharon Waxman‘s fed an exclusive by New Line, number2.jpgwith founder-topper Robert Shaye describing the distraction of having been in a medical coma for six weeks in 2005, stricken with a lethal form of pneumonia similar to what killed Jim Henson; directing kiddiepic The Last Mimzy in the past year, and getting into litigious spitball with Lord of Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson. The 67-year-old executive was out for six weeks, “in a coma in a New York City hospital, fending off death from a sudden infection… over many months quietly made his way back to health… Mr. Shaye’s illness, the seriousness of which was not disclosed to the public before now, apparently derailed the studio for a portion of 2005 and affected the slate in 2006. And last year he took time to direct his own movie… “After last year I will take a more considered approach to the green-light process… I will act as more of an adversary, or critic, of the decisions advocated by others.. It’s difficult to explain, but I have a clarity of thought… which was one of the gifts” of his illness… I certainly appreciate the normal functioning of life a lot more.” Waxman points out that Shaye’s temper still gets the best of him, especially in the spat over profits with Jackson. “Mr. Shaye said that he made the statement “in a moment of emotion” but did not regret it.”

Samouraï rising: Peter Webber's teen dream

lesamourai12.jpgPeter Webber remembers exactly where he was when he first saw Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï. He was 17, had bunked off games, and had headed straight for his favourite hang-out, the Electric cinema in Notting Hill. then a squalid fleapit, rather than the chi-chi picture house it is today. “I had managed to sign on for football and rugby, both of which I hated,” he says. “The school playing fields were a bus ride away, so I’d just catch a different bus and spend the afternoon at the Electric. The rugby people thought I was playing football, and vice versa. I did get caught…. But by then I’d seen a lot of strange European films from the 1960s and ’70s.” The movie that made the greatest impact, “like pop music,” on the young brain of the director of The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Hannibal Rising was Jean-Pierre Melville‘s 1967 hitman thriller, Le Samouraï. “I’d heard a bit about Melville because, being a very pretentious teenager, I had got into the French New Wave filmmakers and had read that Melville was one of their forebears, as well as being a link between New Wave French cinema and American film noir. And what I loved about Le Samouraï was how abstract it was. Hardly anything happens. It is very still, very pure.” [Webber describes the film at the link; it’s available on Criterion DVD.]

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