Movie City Indie Archive for July, 2007

[LOOK] Jem Cohen's Little Flags (2000)


On Tuesday night, Filmmaker magazine and the IFC Film Center in NYC are presenting “An Evening with Jem Cohen,” featuring the maker of Chain, Benjamin Smoke, and Lost Book Found as well as the New York premiere of his documentary Building a Broken Mousetrap, “a portrait of the Dutch band The Ex, which Cohen describes as “Concert film. City film. Protest film.” With a stylistically unique but ultimately humanistic approach, Cohen has been documenting artists, musicians and urban culture for more than twenty years.” At New York magazine, Bilge Ebiri previews, along with Cohen’s 2000 short, Little Flags. When Cohen “shot footage of a rah-rah military parade in lower Manhattan sometime in the early nineties, it’s more than likely he didn’t quite know what he had,” Ebiri writes. “When he finally edited it together, complete with a remixed Fugazi score, to make this short… in 2000, he probably still didn’t quite know what he had. But today, watching Cohen’s six-minute opus is an almost unbearably disturbing experience. From the World Trade Center towers looming in the background, to the errant bits of paper drifting through the air, to the spectators’ … matching ‘Fuck Saddam’ T-shirts… to the young woman sitting forlornly on the ground, seemingly overwhelmed, to the little American flags of the title that gradually become refuse, Cohen manages to say more about the desperate times we’re living in than pretty much any other film of recent vintage, narrative, documentary, or otherwise.” Cohen will talk about the work at the IFC Center’s “Dialogue on Film” July 24, at 7:30pm.

Kicking off the 2007 Sundance Composers' Lab

As the 2007 Sundance Composers’ Lab is set to begin, the six musicians chosen have been announced; the full press release is at the jump. “Today, Sundance Institute announced the six musicians selected for the 10th Annual Sundance Institute Composers Lab, which runs from July 24 thru August 9 in Sundance, Utah. This year’s Composers Lab Fellows are Jeremy Flower, Derrick Hodge, Shahzad Ali Ismaily, Enis Rotthoff, Gingger Shankar, and Jeff Toyne. During this two-week intensive lab, Fellows participate in workshops and creative exercises under the guidance of the industry’s leading film composers and film music professionals. The Composers Lab Fellows also collaborate with filmmakers from the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and the Sundance Institute Documentary Program to explore the process of writing music for film and to create accompanying scores for scenes shot during the Feature Film Program’s Directors Lab and those workshopped through the Documentary Program’s Edit and Storytelling Lab.”

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On embargoes, cricketeering and spoilage: a roundup

On the same weekend as the Chicago Tribune’s film critic Michael Wilmington tucks it in after 14 years (after a recent demotion or dimunition in duties), there have been other conversations about changes in the reviewing scene, including an overview by Salt Lake Tribune movie cricket Sean P. Means about how embargoes on review dates affect his job; the New York Times’ public editor Clark Hoyt finds defenses for that paper’s review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” several days before the publisher’s release date, and Village Voice writer Nathan Lee weighs in wittily on spoilers on the Times op-ed page. Means alludes to the recent fracases about why some established writers are offered opportunities younger, or newer rivals do not get. “[A]n embargo is a tinycricket.gifbig sledgehammer being held over my head by a movie studio – and the ever-present threat that it will strike me down,” Means writes, while mentioning the Baltimore Sun-New York Times decisions to review “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” before its official pub date. Times public editor writes, “Rick Lyman, the books and theatre editor, said, “Our feeling is that once a book is offered up for sale at any public, retail outlet, and we purchase a copy legally and openly, we are free to review it.”I’ve heard suspicions when The Times has reviewed previous books before their official release dates that the newspaper has some bookstore somewhere wired to slip it copies ahead of time. Lyman said that isn’t the case. He said “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was purchased at a chain store in Manhattan’s Chelsea district by an employee of The New York Times Company who was shopping for something else and saw the book for sale. The Times has purchased other news making books ahead of their release dates at other stores in New York and other cities.” Hoyt asserts, “I think it’s important to remember that there was never a contract or an agreement between The Times and Rowling or her publisher. The publisher set the release date unilaterally as part of the brilliant marketing campaign that has propelled the entire Harry Potter phenomenon. Neither The Times nor any other newspaper had an obligation to help enforce the release date. If anything, Kakutani’s favorable review and the controversy around its timing has just created more buzz and anticipation – if more is possible – on the eve of the schumacher_oeuvre_578.jpglaunch of what is sure to be this year’s best seller.” But back to Means and the world of the movie cricket. While there is a gentleman’s agreement between most publicists and journalists about what runs where and when, in order to insure future access, Means writes that “movie critics like [himself don’t] have a contract with movie studios. But the studios do have the power over what movies they screen, and to whom… The weapon the studios have to keep critics in line is the threat that embargo breakers would not get invited to future screenings… There is a caste system in all this. National critics, like Roger Ebert or anyone at The New York Times, may get to see a major film before a regional critic (like me). On the other hand, I and my counterpart at the Deseret Morning News, Jeff Vice, because of the size of our readership, often get invited to screenings while other Utah critics are shut out. As with so much in modern life, though, the Internet is changing the rules of the game.” More Potter byplay follows, in the form of the gun-jumping caste_system_3780.jpgon the latest Potter movie, but Means concludes, “Some studios are cracking down hard on embargo breakers, particularly those critics who primarily publish online. It’s all a power game – both the critics and the studios want to control the flow of information, and each group needs the other to get what it wants.” Less insider-baseball is Village Voicer Nathan Lee’s revelation of a cricket’s inner vandal in a consideration on the Times’ op-ed page about a reviewers’ responsiblities regarding spoilers: “As the final volume of J. K. Rowling’s series goes on sale and Potter-mania goes through the roof, I wonder what would happen if some budding book critic, one of those lucky few to mistakenly receive an early copy in the mail, entered a bookstore… and spoiled the most anticipated finale in the history of anticipation with a shout: “Harry Potter dies!” My guess is he’d be instantly killed.” Lee notes he doesn’t know the real ending of the book. “Personally, I couldn’t care less about the fate of the neurotic boy wizard. Professionally — as a film critic who might be assigned to review the movie version someday — I hope he croaks.

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Post-buyout, former ChiTribber Wilmington reclaims old haunts

wilminghunt_61234.JPG.jpgFrom the Daily Page, the internet component of Madison’s Isthmus alt-weekly, this bulletin in cricket news: “We direct your attention this week to , for the return of the prodigal son. Featured there as of Friday morning is a DVD column by former Isthmus film reviewer Mike Wilmington [left]. Wilmington wrote for us from 1980 until about 11 years ago. He came to us upon the demise of the old Press Connection, and continued to contribute while also writing for High Times magazine, Playgirl, L.A. Weekly and the L.A. Times, among others. We were embargoed from running his material when he joined the Chicago Tribune as staff reviewer over a decade ago. Separated from the Tribune through their recent employee buyout, he is now free to embellish our content again. He does so on The Daily Page in the form of a column covering newly released DVDs. If you remember Wilmington , you will eagerly read his comments on the many new and classic films released on DVD each week. If you’ve never read him, you will enjoy his encyclopedic and insightful film commentary.”

Michael Moore on copyright, communal experience and piracy

In a Sunday afternoon barrage of questions and a handful of answers during an online chat at the Crooks & Liars website, Michael Moore again introduces, but does not fully explain his feelings about copyright and piracy. In fact, he only muddies the waters, while some later commenters in the thicket of replies do bring up some of the issues about eternal corporate control of copyright, which in its beginnings, was of much, much smaller duration. “As for downloading, I made this movie to be seen in a movie theater. If i wanted to make TV or internet movies for a small screen to be watched alone, that’s what I’d do. but i want them seen on the big screen. and you should see it with 200 other people in the theater. From all reports, it’s a powerful experience to see Sicko that way. Having said all that, I am in total disagreement with the copyright laws in this country and I believe that people should be able to share information and art..” A later query: “[W]ho do you think is behind placing a digital copy of the film on the net, and was this done to hurt grosses to make your film look like a failure?” Moore replies, “I think the answer to who was behind it is pretty clear. This is the MASTER digital copy that’s out there. Only people who had big bucks to pay someone off to obtain this could make that happen. I’ve read estimates that its been downloaded anywhere between 2 million and 20 million times around the world. Nonetheless, it is now in the top five grossing docs of all time and the Weinstein Company continue to put it in more and more theaters every weekend. I also believe that those who see it online tell others to go see it, and they do, so in the end it probably doesn’t hurt that much. But that was the intent. To try and kill the film. We will find out who paid to have this done.”

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David Bordwell on "watching movies very, very slowly"

children-of-our-time-3-500.jpgIn an engaging entry, David Bordwell writes about about the history of how scholars view celluloid artifacts: “Before DVD and consumer videotape, how could you study films closely? If you had money, you could buy 8mm or 16mm prints of the few titles available in those formats. If you belonged to a library or ran a film club, you could book 16mm prints and screen them over and over. Or you could ask to view the films at a film archive. I started going to film archives in the late 1960s, when they were generally more concerned with preserving and showing films than with letting researchers have access. Over the 1970s and 1980s this situation changed, partly because several archivists grew hospitable to the growing field of academic film studies. At first archives found it easier to screen films for researchers in projection rooms, but eventually many let visitors watch the films on stand-alone viewers. That way the researcher could stop, go forward and back, and take notes.” [More technical stuff with illustrations at the link; a good read, even if the image above (which is bookended in the entry with antoher shot) takes the day.]

Pastor Becky reminds us: Harry Potter is the devil!

“And while I’m on the subject, let me say something about Harry Potter: Warlocks are enemies of God. And I don’t care what kind of hero they are, they’re an enemy of God. And had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death! You don’t make heroes out of warlocks!” Pastor Becky says. Do see Jesus Camp. “The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow moonlit lane…”

Maidstone: the ultimate indie that broke Norman Mailer's bank

Mr. Mailer really gets into a fight. It’s real and the result is painful. In honor of the series of Mailer’s four pics playing New York City this week.

Filmmaker summer issue: 25 faces to watch

summer2007-230.jpgSeveral patches of the summer issue of Filmmaker magazine are up, including the annual “25 faces to watch” survey. If you buy the magazine, the full contents include my Q&A with Goran Dukic, director of Wristcutters: A Love Story, but the site offers up conversations about Charles Ferguson’s Iraq doc, No End In Sight and Werner Herzog on Rescue Dawn.

Checks Cashed

Checks cashed

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Director Jem Cohen vs. Billionaire Mayor Mike: Why does NYC want to prevent "amateur" film and video?

Anthony Kaufman blogs filmmaker Jem Cohen’s plainitive plaint [ALL CAPS is in THE ORIGINAL] against the onerous restrictions about to be set by the New York Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting: “Being a street photographer often means standing in a random location and waiting: for the right activity, the right light, the break in the traffic; the countless other unpredictable factors that need to fall into place to make a shot worthwhile… The fact is that we simply CANNOT predict where, when, and how long we are going to film or photograph; we CANNOT afford expensive liability insurance policies; we occasionally NEED to work with other people or to use tripods to support our gear. (The regulations would, for example, effectively rule out a great deal of time-lapse photography which depends on tripods and cannot possibly be done with time limitations of 10 to 30 minutes, as well as the use of large format still cameras and long lenses)… If these regulations go through, it would invite if not require police to harass or shut down both professional artists and amateurs.” PAGING the ACLU… PAGING the ACLU.

From Europudding to organic films auds want to see?

In Variety, Ali Jaafar considers the Euro-auteurs who are finding followings: “The term “Euro pudding” referred to a flood of films from the 1960s and ’70s like The Cassandra Crossing… and The Fifth Musketeer, combining a melange of international talents such as a German actress, French actor and Italian director in hopes of luring coin (and audiences) from each country. The result was, more often than not, a mish-mash of competing accents and confused artistic vision.” Jafaar says the latest generation is making a more organic kind of pudding. “Filmmakers like the Teuton-Turkish Fatih Akin and French-Algerian Rachid Bouchareb are making films that tackle the growing interconnectivity of European society.Their transborder films are much more personal — and the result is that the films are both artistically and financially more successsful… These new Europeans are in many ways the future of the European film industry, says Hengameh Panahi, co-topper of Dreamachine, the new international sales company combining Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams and Jeremy Thomas’ Hanway Films. “Distributors don’t care about masterpieces anymore. They want to make a living,” says Paneh. “These second-generation and exiled directors, who may have belonged to a different culture but have grown up in Europe, are not elitist. They’re telling real stories that appeal to everyone.”

Paste, caution

No, you tell her

Or, Brush Rinse Man Woman.

Cricketeering 101: Ebert E-nterviews For "Your Movie Sucks"

Lil Ebert_.jpgtinycricket.gifScott Butki shoots Roger Ebert an email about the cricketal basix: “How do you decide what to review? Or, put another way, how do you choose what not to review? As you’ve noted, you may not be the person to review… a story aimed at girls.” Ebert: “Before my illness I reviewed more or less as many films as I could, period. There is really no such thing as the ‘right person,’ since everybody is the right person to write his or her review.”

Block quote: Little Children (2006) by Tom Perrotta and Todd Field

Little_Children_4.jpgPutting voice into That Voice.

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