Film Fatale Archive for September, 2006

Hot Scot James McEvoy

James McEvoy was the man to meet at the recent Toronto Film Festival. As the star of five upcoming films, he’s the new go-to guy of British film.
Best known to American filmgoers as the faun from THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE and the hero’s younger brother in WIMBLEDON, this Scots-born actor is more than a match for Forest Whitaker in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Here’s an interview with the 27 year old Glaswegian in the Sunday Telegraph that reveals where he’ll turn up next.


Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan Sells Itself

By the time BORAT breaks big in U.S. theaters on Nov. 3, the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan will be the biggest joke in movies–or maybe the second biggest. Ugly Americans come off far worse than Sacha Baron Cohen‘s sabre-sharp portrait of a post-Soviet journalist touring the West.
Even so, the country’s humorless government has struck back with a PR and tourism TV ad campaign designed to paint Kazakhstan as modern, beautiful, progressive land of men, women, and horses. Horses–who of course have the right to vote in this glorious nation. All the campaign lacks is a truly memorable slogan. Something like, “Kazakhstan: Come for the culture and natural beauty, Stay for the human rights violations.”

NYC's Celluloid Skyline


Mia Farrow, with Roman Polanski and the crew looming behind her. From a New York Magazine photo essay about cinema shot on the streets of New York. Read the text by Logan Hill.
Architect James Sanders wrote one of my favorite film books of recent years, a love letter to New York City and the city as seen in cinema dreams, called CELLULOID SKYLINE. Filled with photos and highly readable film scholarship, it’s one of the best books about the metropolist that’s inspired everything from romantic fables to futuristic doom.
Now Sanders has edited SCENES FROM THE CITY: FILMMAKING IN NEW YORK FROM 1966-2006, which will have movie fans tracking down the locations where Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and others made their signature movies.

A Grown-Up Bible-Belter Forgives 'Jesus Camp'

The season’s hot documentary film is JESUS CAMP, a look at a Pentecostalist retreat for children where there’s no room for s’mores–kids get a heavy dose of threats, hellfire and George Bush-worship.
Before you have nightmares about Christ-crazed kindergarteners declaring a Holy War on unbelievers, read this review of the film in Radar Online. “if there is a rising army of evangelical zealots,” writes onetime Christian camper Paige Ferrari. “There’s an equally large army of ex-Jesus Campers who burned out, rebelled, or simply left the fold because band camp sounded more appealing.

Evangelical Christian retreats have been around a long time. Where they used to condemn Dungeons and Dragons and disco, now they equate Harry Potter with Satan. For some kids, they instill a profound feeling of belonging and faith. For others, they’re just an experience to later rebel against.

Can Super 8 Filmmaking Survive?

Before even the youngest filmmakers made their kindergarden debut works on near-professional quality digital cameras, future movie maniacs tried out their skills on sturdy Super 8 cameras. Now the Guardian reports that an era in amateur movie making is coming to an end: Kodak is closing the Lausanne factory that processes 8mm film.
Though three-minute film reels, editing gear, projectors and restored Super 8 cameras sell like mad, fans of the format will have few places to get their work processsed. (A Kansas outfit called Dwayne’s Photo can handle 8mm, says the Guardian.)

Trailer Good (Little Children), Trailer Bad (The Guardian)

Check out Devin Gordon’s Newsweek/MSNBC show and tell piece about movie trailers, good and bad–the ones that tell you all but the very ending (hello there, Kevin Costner in THE GUARDIAN) and those that intrigue (LITTLE CHILDREN) without dropping in a line of dialogue. THE GUARDIAN reveals every plot twist in this waterborne TOP GUN actioner — and maybe that’s how TOP GUN nostalgists want it.
The highbrow literary adaptation LITTLE CHILDREN has but little dialogue, yet it conveys a powerful mood. With attractive leads eyeing each other up–with desire, with suspicion–and the sound of an oncoming train, this picture perfect suburban setting seems strangely ominious. Interesting what else is suggested: anxiety over the innocence and safety of children (the implicit neglect of the solitary little girl pictured toward the beginning of the trailer–that entire unsavory plotline, a big one, is not mentioned. Probably because it’s disgusting. Perhaps it’s enough to tag LITTLE CHILDREN as the work of “the director of IN THE BEDROOM — aka “Granola DEATH WISH — to indicate that somebody’s going to end up in the casualty ward. Or worse.

Most creepy, in this season of scary movies, is the preview for THE GRUDGE 2. Yes, it’s a sequel to a remake of a Japanese chiller: Familiar stuff. But this clip from Trailer Park manages to unsettle with unpredictable sound effects and an offbeat rhythm. As Gordon writes, all the expected shocks arrive — but they’re half a beat before or after you expect them.


Uwe Boll Boxes Boys, Fears Chick Critics

As expected, bad movie director Uwe Boll (HOUSE OF THE DEAD) boxed four male movie critics — novice fighters all — to ignominious defeat in a Vancouver, BC publicity stunt.
“They all showed some balls getting into the ring with me,” said Boll, inadvertently revealing the real point of the whole event: Getting a close-up look at other guys’ balls. (Female critics were not permitted to smack the shit out of the video-game wrecker, no matter how much they slight his tiny oeuvre.

'Bridge on the River Kwai' Composer Dies

Sir Malcolm Arnold wrote 132 film scores, but you probably know this one best: his music for THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI.
Arnold, called a “rogue genius,” suffered from schizophrenia and alcoholism, died this week at the age at age 84. In addition to his Oscar-winning score for David Lean’s BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, he composed the music for WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (1961), SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (1959), INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS (1958), and HOBSON’S CHOICE (1954).


The "CIA Wants You" Theatrical Trailer

Salon’s got a report on a surprising new theatrical trailer — a recruiting advert— produced by the Central Intelligence Agency. Moviegoers have seen plenty of military recruiting ads (the Army of One campaign, which made military service look like the ultimate fitness workout) and that cheesy with the dead-eyed dragonslayer turning into a U.S. Marine
The C.I.A. ad, says Salon’s Stewart Lee Allen, is the agency’s “first purely pop moment…a 30-second whiz-bang short that urges ‘people of integrity and patriotism‘ who have a taste for ‘ambiguity’ to join the agency in making the world a safer place.'”
Language ability in Arabic, Pashto, Farsi is a plus.

A cool, adventure themed ad like this one is sure to play in front of action-thrillers like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, but I wonder: how would it play in front of a movie like the upcoming birth-of-the-CIA drama THE GOOD SHEPHERD (“Get out while you still have a soul”–Yikes!). Or a dark, complex movie about US inelligence breakdowns like SYRIANA? (Or, God forbid, in front of UNITED 93?

That “taste for ambiguity” would leave somebody eating crow.

Andy Warhol Gets the PBS/Ken Burns Treatment

warhol_pbs.jpgAmerican Masters series has covered many of the giants of filmmaking — John Ford, Preston Sturges, William Wyler, to name a few– but this week’s entry on Andy Warhol is a surprise. The two part documentary by Ken Burns gives strong emphasis to Warhol’s film work and the influence he’s still having on filmmakers.

Part two, which airs Sept. 22 in most cities, has most of the film clips. But what’s the title of that movie in which a young man has that faraway yet familiar look on his face?
“Writhing in ecstasy” as the Boston Phoenix so delicately describes it.

Oh, that’s just a 1963 underground favorite called BLOW JOB. Not that PBS dares to ID the 16mm clip, lest the public-TV haters stamp off an avalanche of tsk-tsk’ing letters to the FCC.

Cult Favorite 'Withnail & I' Turns 20 Years Old

The producers hated how it turned out, and at the first screening, nobody laughed. But twenty years after it was made, WITHNAIL & I remains a cult favorite, a much-quoted, dark and savage comedy of the end of youth. Boozy, boyish, boy-loving, and bitter, Withnail & I “struck a chord with anyone out of synch” with the Thatcher years’ get-rich ethos. It still holds up, particularly if you’re young and moody.
The Independent takes a loving look at the movie, its stars and its elusive writer director, Bruce Robinson.

Take British GQ's Movie Villain Challenge

British GQ comes up with some of the better movie knowledge quizzes. Google the James Bond one of a couple of years ago — the one they gave to Pierce Brosnan — it’s excellent.
This month, the slick men’s mag challenges readers on their knowlege of cinema’s baddest bad guys. But you’ve got to work fast — each level is timed.

Toronto: Translated into British English

My festival wrapup, translated into British English, written for the Observer.
And Gaby Wood has done a cool profile in the Observer’s Sunday magazine of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was a delight in STRANGER THAN FICTION and superb in SHERRYBABY.

Toronto: 'Bella' is the People's Choice

Congratulations to Mexican-born, Texas-educated, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Alejandro Monteverde, whose feature debut BELLA won the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award. As part of the Contemporary World Cinema programme, Bella didn’t arrive at the fest with huge advance buzz, but this modest, warmly observed two-hander about a washed up soccer star (Eduardo Verastegui) and a lonely, pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) might just have stuff to be a breakout indie hit.

Read the full article »

Queenan Reads Eszterhaz: "I'm a Dancer!"

Only Joe Queenan could make me want to read Joe Eszterhas‘ self-basting screed THE DEVIL’S GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD (subtitled “The Screenwriter as God!”). Queenan, in a New York Times book review, gives a sampling of the big E’s “incandescent” prose:

“Don’t let your urine rise to your head.”
“Michael Ovitz was the Anti-Christ.”
“Check your crotch before a meeting.”

Should you dare go further and check Eszterhasz’ crotch, the book details his alleged affair with Sharon Stone, which he’s been bragging about for the last 15 years, as well as all his ridicule for people like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. None of *them* ever had an affair with Sharon Stone or wrote a script about a female welder who moonlighted as an exotic dancer. So there!

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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