Film Fatale Archive for November, 2006

The Year's Best Film Scores: 'Last King,' 'Breaking & Entering'

Jude Law in Breaking and Entering
In the Times of London Nov. 26, Rob Nash looks at some of the more intriguing film scores of 2006, nothing that “the widespread practice in the industry of hiring a composer just three months before a film is finished does not make things easy” to evoke time and place and mood.
Nash’s picks for the most successful movie music of fall?
Composer: Gabriel Yared, who worked with director Anthony Minghella on THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and COLD MOUNTAIN.
Director: Anthony Minghella
” A thoughtful, cohesive score that adeptly sets the mood of dissociation and disquiet as Debussian piano figures blend into Underworld-ian pulsating loops.”
Listen up: Yared scored Germany’s 2007 Academy Award submission, the Cold War drama THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
That music in your head and your bed? His theme from BETTY BLUE.
Composer: David Julyan
Christopher Nolan “didn’t want a score that reflected the period,” says Julyan “The mood we created was much more about the sense of anticipation of magic.
Credits: After working Nolan on his debut feature film FOLLOWING, Julyan did the music for MEMENTO and INSOMNIA.
Listen up: He also did the creepy subterranean undertones for THE DESCENT.
Composer: Alex Heffes (TOUCHING THE VOID)
Director Kevin McDonald “wanted to show the vision that Amin had,” says Heffes. “So rather than portray Africa as mud huts and tribal music, we wanted the soundtrack to be a bit funky, a bit groovy, a bit 1970s.”
The team tracked down Kampala recording artists from the era and had them record a country and western song, as it might have been covered in a hotel lounge. Because the story begins Scotland, and because Amin, a veteran of a Scots army division, had a strong affinity for all things Scottish, the music has High- and Lowland echoes. “The collision of East Africa and northern Europe sounds weird and encapsulates the fanatical love of Scotland of a dictator who sent Ugandans there to learn the bagpipes so that he could have a piping band.”

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Bollywood Cinema Observed

The UK Observer’s glossy magazine is all about India this week, with a lavishly illustrated profile of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan (NEVER SAY GOODBYE) and an essay on the international cinema by Amit Chaudhuri, on why he loves and loathes Hindi films.

One element that’s big–really big–in Hindi film is fate. No matter how light and pop-ish the music may sound, the characters are swept along by the relentless pull of destiny. “Unlike Hollywood, Hindi film is not an innocent genre – it knows that the notion that we control our destiny is a myth. This isn’t just the wisdom of the ancients; it’s a realism quite different from anything in Hollywood. This doesn’t mean Hindi cinema is fatalistic – its exuberance is indispensable to its conviction that life is an unrecognisable rather than categorisable thing.
Time reveals this to us gradually as individuals, and the way Bollywood reveals it to its audience is through a series of devices: for example coincidences, doubles, brothers separated at birth. These devices make the Hindi film embarrassing but also, at its best, very moving; sometimes they make it embarrassing and moving at once.”

The Russian Spy, A Filmmaker's 'Disbelief'

When the story broke last Sunday that the onetime KGB man, later a prominent critic of the Russian government, had been poisoned the day he’d eaten lunch in a London sushi restaurant, there’d been the inevitable references to James Bond and John LeCarre. As in, Who knew the Cold War was still on? Let’s show a clip of CASINO ROYALE.

Then the family of Alexander Litvinenko released this photograph.

Outside of a London hospital this week, friends and family of the Russian ex-spy gathered before reporters to deliver an extraordinary statement: a dying man’s defiant goodbye– and his accusation that he was being murdered on the orders of his former boss, Russian premier Vladmir Putin. Litvinenko, a 42 year old former KGB officer who defected in 2000 and became a British citizen, succumbed to radiation poisoning on Nov. 23.

Standing beside Litvinenko’s grieving father, Walter, and translating for him, was filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov (SPRINGING LENIN, LUBOV AND OTHER NIGHTMARES, CHILDREN’S STORIES: CHECHNIA).

Nekrasov wrote of their final conversation for the Times of London.

One of Litvinenko’s most dangerous accusations involved the Putin regime’s involvement of a deadly 1999 Moscow apartment building bombing.

disbelief-1.jpg(Look on CNN and the BBC. The date was Sept. 9, 1999) Nekrasov’s 2004 documentary DISBELIEF, which played at Sundance in 2004, explored the frustrating and risky attempts to uncover the truth.

Russian authorities quickly blamed the attack on Chechen separatists–so quickly that some suspected it was a ruse by Russian hardliners to justify further military action against the rebellious (and mineral-rich) state of Chechnya (The FSB Blows up Russia, Litvinenko’s book, accuses the Russian security services of causing a series of apartment block explosions in Moscow in 1999 that helped to propel Putin into the presidency.

Nekrasov’s 2004 documentary DISBELIEF, which played at Sundance in 2004, explored the frustrating and risky attempts to uncover the truth.

Here’s another story about DISBELIEF from a film magazine called Kinokultura and the notes from a 2005 Russian film festival in Pittsburgh.
The film’s website is at

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"A Great Year For Actresses"–Really?

Has 2006 really been a great year for actresses?
Christopher Goodwin of the Times of London thinks so. There are so many great leading parts for women this year.” he writes, above and beyond the the frequently mention big names like Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN), Penelope Cruz (VOLVER) and Meryl Streep (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA), “that other favorites may end up competing in the best supporting category.
And who are these women? He names Kate Winslet as an adulterous housewife in LITTLE CHILDREN, Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick in FACTORY GIRL, Beyonce Knowles in DREAMGIRLS, Nicole Kidman, who plays Diane Arbus in FUR, Annette Bening from RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, Abigail Breslin, the little girl from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and even Julie Christie who has a relatively small role as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in AWAY FROM HER.
What’s notable about these roles, writes Goodwin, is how well written they are. “The perennial criticism of the major Hollywood studios — for not creating good parts for women, and for not making films that women (and I don’t mean teenage girls) want to see — is still valid. In 2005, for example, women were not the protagonists of any of the films nominated for best picture. Reese Witherspoon won best actress Oscar for playing June Carter Cash, the endlessly supportive wife of WALK THE LINE’s real subject, Johnny Cash. And the only actress over 50 to win an Oscar in either acting category in the past two decades is Judi Dench, best supporting actress for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in 1999.”
“It’s Hollywood’s fault,” says Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish director of VOLVER, who knows a thing or two about creating great roles for women. “In other countries, we encourage diversity and want to tell stories about all kinds of women. In the past decade, you can count the number of Hollywood dramas that have revolved around women. The studios have forgotten that women are fascinating, more than just mannequins.”
Goodwin also gets into the profitability of these films, which appeal to an underserved market. “Producer Laura Bickford (TRAFFIC, FUR) believes that, lamentable as the studios’ neglect of the female audience is, it may be the main reason we are now seeing so many terrific films starring women. “As the studios have become more intensely focused on male-oriented blockbusters, it has opened up a huge area for the independents to exploit. Clearly, the studios have underestimated the potential buying power of the adult — non-teenage — female audience. .. And the thing about the baby-boom female audience is that if the price is right, it is very lucrative.” The Devil Wears Prada, for instance, which was targeted strongly at older women, has taken $125m at the US box office, much the same as Mission: Impossible III, which cost five times as much to make. You do the maths.”

Casino Royale's Five Card Stud

CASINO ROYALE deals a new James Bond in Daniel Craig, and a better secret agent movie than the series has delivered in many years.
As Sarah Lyall writes in the New York Times, “Now even the meanest-spirited, most Sean Connery-nostalgic critics in Britain seem to have been charmed out of their bad attitudes by Mr. Craig’s performance as a gritty, steely James Bond in the latest Bond film, “Casino Royale.” Contrary to their predictions, they say, the 38-year-old Mr. Craig is not too blond, too wimpy, too dough-faced or too lightweight for the part.”

James Bond Movie Songs: Listen & Learn

On the radio this past weekend, I heard an NPR feature about some of the best and worst attempts at James Bond theme songs. Commentator Andy Trudeau, who usually checks in at Academy Award time to listen to the Oscar-nominated film scores, pointed out some of oddities of the audio portion of the Bond franchise. [CASINO ROYALE‘s song, “You Know My Name,” is performed by Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. Unlike most Bond theme songs, movie’s title doesn’t appear in the lyrics.]
NPR’s site will let you listen to the story and four of the songs — including Tom Jones’ hip-shaking “Thunderball.”
Pity the lyricists who had to fit some of the longer, stranger titles (A VIEW TO A KILL, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS) Okay, don’t pity A-ha, the Swedish synth-pop group who did the song for the latter film. Trudeau reads the lyrics and they’re like refrigerator magnet randomness.
I’m fond of Lulu’s song THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. Too much information.

Love is required whenever he’s hired,
It comes just before the kill.
No-one can catch him, no hit man can match him
For his million dollar skill
His eye may be on you or me.
Who will he bang?
We shall see. Oh yeah!

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Scandalous Bill Nighy, Now on Broadway

No British film would be complete these days without Bill Nighy in in the cast. After portraying the newspaper editor we all wished we worked for in STATE OF PLAY (BBCAmerica), the 56 year old character actor’s career seemed to suddenly skyrocket. He was the aging rocker in LOVE, ACTUALLY, the vampire patriarch in UNDERWORLD, the shifty government attache in THE CONSTANT GARDNER, and the unloved stepdad in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
“It’s like I won a competition this year, and this is the prize,” Mr. Nighy tells the New York Times, shortly before the opening of a new David Hare play on Broadway. “To go to work every day with three of the greatest actresses currently operating in the world is identifiable as a pretty good gig. I think these are very specific stories, women who need a significantly older man, and happily they sometimes think of me,” he said of the players who, to his consternation, have helped transform him into what he called the “thinking woman’s crumpet.”

When Frat Guys Go Wild: 2 Sue, 1 Says "It Was Fun"


BORAT’S bear has not sued the producers. Yet.
Funny, those RV-rocking South Carolina fraternity brothers seemed so eager to discuss women, minorities and the long-ago South.
But being in BORAT bites, say the two out of the three garrulous, beer-drinking So they’re suing the film’s producers, 20th Century Fox, for fraud and misappropriation of their likenesses, claiming that they signed the release to appear in the film when they were drunk. They are seeking unspecified damages.
Though the lawsuit doesn’t identify the aggrieved parties, FHM has an interview with one of the three, David Corcoran, a Chi Psi brother who says he didn’t know who Borat was until a friend looked him up on the internet. “My first thought was, ‘What if my mom finds out?'” (That’s all in November FHM with Jeri Ryan on the cover. The issue’s theme is, apparently, boobs.).
ABC News Radio also spoke to Corcoran, in a story dated Nov. 10. ABC’s item notes, “Corcoran’s recollection largely coincides with the plaintiffs’ account” of how they were talent-spotted and signed up by the BORAT producers.

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PBS Prime Suspect, Helen Mirren Takes a Final Bow

Helen Mirren, whose supremely controlled performance in THE QUEEN is one of the year’s best, reigned over the the small screen this year, too: she won an an Emmy and a BAFTA for her lead role in HBO’S ELIZABETH I.
She’s even better in the final installment of PBS’ police procedural PRIME SUSPECT (PBS, Sunday Nov. 12 and 19, check local listings for airtime). In THE FINAL ACT, she plays – for the seventh time in fifteen years — DSI Jane Tennison, an iconic TV character. Tennison’s career as a top investigator started badly: she campaigned for high-profile murder case and only got the assignment after a popular male detective dropped dead on the job. Her career with Scotland Yard ends ugly, too. At the start of THE FINAL ACT, she’s an alcoholic who downs half a bottle of vodka before blacking out at night, and drinks the other half for breakfast.
I wrote about her in the current issue of the Boston Phoenix. Troy Patterson of Slate writes a review that I wish I had, so I’ll have to quote him:
“In one of Mirren’s many striking scenes, Tennison is at her father’s house, drinking alone, and she opens a box containing the hat she wore as a 17-year-old bobby. She caresses it, pulls it on, smoothes her hair, fits the brim just right, juts her chin with just pride, and beams—and then her eyes fill up fast with an impossible weight. A second later, still at her dad’s, she drop the needle on an LP, and the room fills up with Dusty Springfield’s “Stay Awhile,” and Jane Tennison dances by herself, twirling even as the record skips, and the song’s still playing when she crawls into bed to pass out. The scene is heartbreaking: This is Jane’s lone moment of freedom.”
Here’s a link to a review of PRIME SUSPECT: THE FINAL ACT by New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley who writes: “For all her flaws and brusque schoolmarmish cool, Tennison has a special sensitivity to victims, a repressed compassion that fuels her zeal to see justice done.”
PBS’s official site for Prime Suspect with plot summaries, cast information and a history of the series.

Jackass 3: A Fox News Exclusive

Normally I don’t laugh at the suffering of strangers.
Actually, that’s not true. I laughed uncontrollably at this deep, serious Fox News report about waterboarding — not at the procedure itself, which is sick — but at the network’s JACKASS approach to covering US crimes. Instead investigating allegations of US torture in Iraq, Fox News made its own reporter submit to being manhandled by a trio of masked men, then sit down in the studio to tell us how scared he felt. He sounded kind of excited, like he was up for a TASER’ing, or maybe a wrassle down with some DEA drug-sniffing dogs.

This is about as effective and revelatory as sending the local weatherman into a TV station’s flooded parking lot to tell us that it’s raining real hard.

I may have to watch it again. Or at least search for a TASER demo on YouTube.

Jamie Dornan: Marie Antoinette's Beloved Six Pack Abs


Jamie Dornan and his torso with Kirsten Dunst in a scene from ‘Marie Antoinette
Love it or hate it, MARIE ANTOINETTE is this year’s cinematic textile and design showcase. I can’t decide if Sofia Coppola’s directing style — arresting visuals and music and reactive, rather than active central characters — makes for a strong film. After seeing Marie Antoinette, I felt as though I’d been to a decadent party where I didn’t know a soul. I couldn’t remember much more than the music and the fashion.
Like last year’s MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, MARIE ANTOINETTE is a sumptuous looking film, one that looks and sounds like a sweetened historical dream. It’s also the frontrunner for every art, costume and design award nomination.
The New York Times Thursday Styles section found something else to admire: the casting of model Jamie Dornan in the role of the French queen’s “enigmatic Swedish lover,” Count Axel Fersen.

NYT Fashion Pictorial: The Skinny Tie Is Back


Photo by FINLAY MACKAY, New York Times: Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat. I think that’s the film’s director, Larry Cohen, bicycling alongside the car. The floppy eared goats go uncredited.
Thursday Styles recently us that moustaches are making a comeback. Examples: the fuzz faces of MY NAME IS EARL actor Jason Lee, SUPERSIZE ME director Morgan Spurlock, and Sacha Baron Cohen as BORAT.
Now the New York Times Magazine has an imaginative photo pictorial by Finlay Mackay demonstrating the enduring allure of a man in a blue-gray suit and a skinny tie.

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Remembering Adrienne Shelly

Adriennne Shelly, the indpendent film actress, director and writer best known for her leading roles in the Hal Hartley films TRUST and the THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH, was found dead in her New York City office on Wednesday evening, her agent said. She was forty years old. Shelly is survived by her husband, Andy Ostroy and their three year old daughter Sophie.
Anthony Kaufman of Indiewire, who’d interviewed Shelly at several festivals, has a tribute to her on his blog. Several people have posted their remembrances of working with her–reading that, you get a sense of how well loved she was in the New York indie film scene
According to the New York Post, Shelly had recently learned that her feature film WAITRESS, which she’d written and directed, had been accepted by Sundance Film Festival. Earlier this year, she’d acted in FACTOTUM, directed by Matt Dillon.
She wrote, directed and starred in the movie SUDDEN MANHATTAN (1997). Her second feature film, I’LL TAKE YOU THERE, won her best director award at the 2000 U.S. Comedy Festival.

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Meet The International Voice-Over Superstars

The faces of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are known the world over. Their voices aren’t. In many countries, their films are are dubbed rather than subtitled — and there’s an elite class of voice-over actors in Europe and Asia who handle the starring roles. The Guardian has interviews with several of them — I wish they’d included audio clips so we could hear how the Angelina Jolie of France sounds.
Sometimes the international voice-casting is pitch perfect. When THE TERMINATOR first came out, the first chance I had to see it was in Germany–in German. I was sure that the distinctive voice of the Terminator belonged to the same guy who played CONAN THE BARBARIAN–but when I had the chance to ask, years later, James Cameron was pretty sure that Arnold Schwarzennegger hadn’t had been available to dub his own role in his native tongue.

The dubbing of the smaller roles, though, was bizarre: the police station banter between Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield was performed as if it were a scene in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Twisted.

Off-Broadway Debut For "The Evil Dead: The Musical"

The New York Times raves, “Sure, the show is idiotic, but that’s the point.
It’s cheaper ($26) but wetter expensive to sit in the Splatter Section, where the theatre seats are covered in plastic and the audience gets covered in fake blood.
Evil Dead: The Musical is on now at New World Stages, 340 West 50 Street, (212) 239-6200.

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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