Film Fatale Archive for January, 2007

The Deadly Power of Hair: J-Horror

From JoBlo via Cinematical:
For too long, the pasty-faced ghost girls of Asian horror have terrorized us by hanging lank hair in their faces. They send sent their castoff locks through the plumbing, clogging sinks and bathtubs. And we say, Use some product, girls. Flip it. Iron it. Get a nice blunt cut, some soft layers – they’ll bring out your delicate features and frame your face…
Now nothing can prepare us for deadly power of EXTE: HAIR EXTENSIONS

Once a long-haired girl, always a long-haired girl. And her hair extentions are angry.
EXTE! Snarling Japanese cinema projectors Feb. 17.
JoBlo – Scott Carmichael
Thanks to Scott Carmichael for the updated link to the film site — go there to view out the EXTE trailer (Windows Media, 512K) and what appears to be a music video tie-in (Scrunchy tie-in–you don’t want to frazzle the extensions, girlfriend) (512K).

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Sundance: Weightless Women, Magic Men in Black & White

Sundance 2007: Magic Men, Weightless Women, Drawn in Black and White


This report appeared in the Observer (UK) in a slightly different form – read the original here.

Director/screenwriter Deborah Kampmeier
USA. 2006. 98 min. 35mm.
Dakota Fanning, Robin Wright Penn, David Morse, Piper Laurie, Afemo Omilami.
No distributor information/release date as of Jan. 28
Dir/scr: Craig Brewer
USA. 2006. 118 min. 35mm. Paramount Vantage (In theaters Feb. 23, 2007: Official website)
Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Cothran.

Another year, another programme of great films – little wonder Hollywood’s big shots were stalking chilly Utah in search of the next big thing to fill cinemas (from me – Justine Elias — the original report appears in the London Observer – Jan. 28, 2007. You can read the original, shorter version in print or online.
Independent cinema fans once came to snowy Park City, Utah, in search of obscure films and renegade directors such like Quentin Tarantino or Jim Jarmusch. But in recent years, indie films have gained profile and box-office stature. Now Hollywood suits flock to the festival looking for crowd-pleasers like Little Miss Sunshine, a Sundance hit last year that went on to earn $92m worldwide and four Oscar nominations. Coming into the festival, the movies that got the most attention weren’t light — but they were nearly weightless.
As in tossed around, carried off, like naughty white ladies of HOUNDDOG and BLACK SNAKE MOAN, two overcooked portraits of the American South (Weather forecast: Humid sultriness, lurid lightning. Conditions will deteriorate).

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Meet The Kid Who Could Paint That (When She Was 4)

Meet the moppet Miró, the kinder Kandinski.
You will — one of the more engaging documentaries at the 2007 Sundance Festival is MY KID COULD PAINT THAT, director Amir Bar-Lev‘s look at the controversy over child artist Marla Olmstead, whom some gallery owners called a prodigy, and whose abstract work some critics compared to Paul Klee and Juan Miró.
Sony Pictures Classics announced this week that it had acquired the rigths to the film for $2 million, and festival reviews – including this one from the Hollywood Reporter – are enthusiastic.
Remarkably, the director asked the Olmsteads to participate in the film, and they agreed — even after the authenticity of their daughter’s work had been challenged in a Feb. 2005 installment of 60 Minutes. Over the course of filming, writes the New York Times, “”Mr. Bar-Lev begins to have misgivings and finds his role as family familiar and advocate morphing into something darker. The movie is a transparent rendering of the journalistic process, and the picture is none too pretty.”
When Bar-Lev started work, the young artist was already a sensation — she’d had her first solo show, sold several paintings, and a Birmingham, NY area reporter had broken the story.
By October, 2004, Gaby Wood of The Observer (UK) became one of the first international print journalists to visit Marla Olmstead en-suite — at the studio of gallery owner Anthony Brunelli.

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Academy Awards 2007: Short-Shrifted

I spent about ten minutes reading through the nominations and being shocked. Then I had to go. No DREAMGIRLS for Best Picture….I don’t get it. [Major analysis in next day Los Angeles Times.]
Come back in a decade, thirtyish actors. Quota’s been filled. No room for:
Christian Bale, THE PRESTIGE, as a magician whose sleight of hand makes his own life disappear. (Edward Norton, another of this year’s screen magicians in THE ILLUSIONIST is apparently too young, and too prolific with his subtle, strong performances to score enough votes–the same goes for Matt Damon (THE DEPARTED) and Derek Luke (CATCH A FIRE), who convinced me that there had to be a second, South African actor, an older man, and not the same Derek Luke, American kid, whom I’d seen in BIKER BOYZ a couple of years ago. How cool for Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s outstanding in both THE DEPARTED and THE BLOOD DIAMOND, to be nominated.) But bad for…
Adam Beach, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, as the most traumatized of the Iwo Jima Marines, the man who’s destroyed as much bigotry as by what he saw during and after he served in WWII.
Michael Sheen, THE QUEEN, as a youthful, scheming/sly politician named Tony Blair – a man who seems to have a little crush on a mysterious older woman: the ruler of Great Britain.
Also missed:
Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE, who continues to explore uncharted territory as an actress, in the role (roles?) of a lifetime in David Lynch’s psychological thriller.
Bill Nighy, the English sex god of un certain age in NOTES ON A SCANDAL, as the husband and father and the one character who says what’s the audience’s mind: “What the hell were you thinking?”
Best Pictures, Not In English
Unfortunately for these foreign-language film entries, there were 61 submissions and at least a dozen titles that’ll be more memorable than the Best Picture nominees. Keep an eye out for:
TEN CANOES, Australia (Palm Pictures)
BLACK BOOK, The Netherlands (Sony Pictures Classics)
VOLVER, Spain. (Sony Pictures Classics)
It’s going to win, isn’t it? And I still won’t like the vague voidyness of the script. But I did love the way film’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu cracked the best joke in California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face to start off his Golden Globe acceptance speech (“I swear I have my papers in order, Governor” before waxing eloquent about movies, communication, bridging differences in language through film.

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Slamdance 1: Lost and Found and Kevin Bacon

A haunting, rigorous exploration of youth in exile — for good reason — from their families, from the communities that raised them, and saddest of all, from faith
Born in Brazil to members of the Children of God evangelical Christian cult, director/writer/interviewer) Noah Thompson — one of eleven siblings – left at the age of 21. Several of his younger siblings have since followed. The story begins with begins with contrasting memories: disturbing, then horrifying news footage (c. 1990s) of the cult leader’s exposure as a pedophile, and Thompson’s own rigidly cheerful snapshots and home movies–despite the being raised in a regimented commune where fathers and mothers–young, attractive, fresh faced hippies– went fishing, flirtily, for more followers, and nannies watched over the kids. When Thompson reminds his mother of the “flirty fishing,” and that that he and other children had sex with some of those young-ish nannies, the voice on the other end of the line gets a little nervous. “I hope you’re not going to make me look like a slut,” she says.
Pity that mother for being drawn into an uncomfortable conversation with a camera and audiotape running. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be a great many people with her on the line, hoping to dissaude the filmmaker not from making the movie. Or maybe it was the audience’s communal sorrow at Thompson’s next remark: he was only trying to make some sense of his isolated/early-sexualized/accelerated childhood by speaking to other ex-Children of God who’d been raised as he was. What follows isn’t a hit piece but a filmmaker’s coming of age. As he locates his spiritual siblings – scattered now from Manhattan to Texas to Costa Rica to Brazil – he becomes a compelling figure before the camera, a compassionate listener with reluctant subjects who, paradoxically, seem to have been waiting all their lives to speak.
What they say is heartbreaking. “Look at how cute we were,” remarks one young woman, who with her brother, suffered unspeakable treatment by the cult’s leaders. “No wonder we got abused.”
The cult once bended toward the rapey, criminal enterprise delusions of its leader–but the followers — now calling themselves The Family International are now merely an isolationist religious cult.
HBO will be airing Children of God: Lost and Found “at a later date,” according to the film’s publicist.

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Thelma Adams: The Suspense Builds on BABEL

Thelma Adams, via the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, in the Huffington Post, writes:
“The suspense builds in BABEL and we watch, intently, on the edge of our seats, like motorists crawling past an auto wreck.
Slapping our foreheads, we ask: How stupid can these people be? (Spoiler alert: Pretty stupid.)”

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Abroad: Where The Female Directors Are

In her Risky Business column for the Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson notes that twelve of the 61 directors in the foreign-language film category are female. “Check their resumes, and many of them are veterans who have been churning out films for years,” writes Thompson “Around the world, somehow, women find it a lot easier to make movies than they do here in the U.S. The feminist movement in this country has come and gone, leaving many women striving to make their way in the workplace, yet in Hollywood the state of support for women directors remains woeful. Even when someone brilliant comes along like Karen Moncrieff, who wrote and directed the 2002 Sundance hit BLUE CAR and this year’s just-released THE DEAD GIRL it’s hard to summon up much optimism for her future.”
It’s true, of course, that there are far fewer working female directors than their are male ones. And as Thompson writes, “Even the most talented women, who usually establish themselves with low-budget indie fare, somehow wind up directing movies for television, lame romantic comedies or studio family films that no self-respecting male would touch.”
What she doesn’t mention is that the foreign language submissions, many of them, benefit from arts subsidies, tax breaks and direct funding. And some foreign language entries are similar in scope, tone and story to U.S indie dramas.

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First German-Made Hitler Comedy: Not Funny

The advance buzz about MEIN FUHRER: THE TRULY TRUEST TRUTH ABOUT ADOLF HITLER, which opens in Germany Thursday [Jan. 14], has been almost uniformly negative, with German critics and commentators proclaiming the film naïve, bizarre, vulgar and — most damning of all — not funny,” writes the New York Times. Perhaps it was inevitable that the first German-made film comedy about Hitler would get a mixed reception in Germany — a country still haunted, six decades after the fall of the Third Reich, by the mystery of how this strange madman once held it in thrall.”
This movie is wrong in so many ways.
What’s even more wrong is that Germans haven’t had a chance to see MR. SHOW WITH BOB AND DAVID, especially this 1998 sketch called “Hitlers” (from show 401), which dispenses in two minutes, the idea of what to do, comically, with Hitler.

In this sketch, a takeoff of THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, clones of Adolph Hitler are created by the thousands–emerging from the laboratory full-grown and sent forth not to do evil, but to live as servants, performing menial tasks (cleaning, child-minding) for the relatives of Holocaust victims. In no time, they’re like part of the furniture–shut into closets when they’re not needed.
But they’re treated humanely, these old men, even given an evening off: there they are at a clone honky-tonk, drowning their sorrows and complaining about their lot in life. “It’s impossible to get a date,” one sighs. “Once they find out you’re Hitler, it’s over. Forget it.” (Listen to the country and western tune on the jukebox: it took me a while to notice that the lyrics-“Ja, ja…schnell, schnell…”-are an approximation of the classic cowpoke song, “Git along, git along….Little dogey”

WGA Finds Decembrist Movies Revolting

The Writers Guild of America Announced its nominations for 2007 and Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly notices something strange about the list: no December releases. What’s up with that? He thinks it’s because WGA members don’t receive DVDs –they’re supposed to see films in theaters or at guild events.
The nominees include
Original Screenplay
BABEL, Written by Guillermo Arriaga. (Paramount Vantage)
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, Written by Michael Arndt (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE QUEEN, Written by Peter Morgan (Miramax Films)
STRANGER THAN FICTION, Written by Zach Helm,. (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
UNITED 93, Written by Paul Greengrass (Universal Pictures)
Adapted Screenplay
BORATCultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer, Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony HineS & Todd Phillips, Based on a Character Created by Sacha Baron Cohen (Twentieth Century Fox)
Screenplay by William Monahan, Based on the Motion Picture Infernal Affairs, Written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong (Warner Bros. Pictures)
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna, Based on the Novel by Lauren Weisberger. (Twentieth Century Fox)
LITTLE CHILDREN, Screenplay by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta, Based on the Novel by Tom Perrotta. (New Line Cinema)
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, Screenplay by Jason Reitman, Based on the Novel by Christopher Buckley. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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’24′ Season Premiere: I Feel Bad About Saddam Hussein’s Neck


24-hour man Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) returns to defend the world from yet another apocalypse in Fox’s madly addictive suspense serial.
Jack’s mood on Day Six: aggrieved but unbroken. The nation’s: aggrieved and freaked out–the USA is under attack–again.
Naturally, the hero’s no worse for wear after twenty months in an Asian prison (at the end of season five, Jack Bauer and his cellphone voice were subject to extraordinary rendtion — by Chinese, not US, government agents — due to his role in a Season 4 attack on China’s consulate in Los Angeles. Without giving to much away: the first four hours of ’24’ echo both ROAD TO GUANTANAMO and the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein — right up to the final, most gruesome HD video and cellphone images. (Time to feel bad about someone’s neck? Not your own, anyway.)
Writes Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe: “24” perfectly captures the mood of America, so poised between global eruption and political farce. The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley also succumbs to the Fox network’s real-time drama

Along with constitutional rights, the show dives into questions of detention camps, torture, vigilantism, working with terrorists, and suicide bombing. It’s button-pushing at its most provocative. Even the opening shots of Jack fresh from 20 months in a Chinese prison have controversial echoes, as they sample the images of a bearded and bedraggled Saddam Hussein just after his capture. Also Sunday night, we see Jack torturing a guy while a huge American flag hangs behind them. That’ll get your heart going. But, much as I am compelled to watch “24,” and admire its craft, I find that I can’t take it seriously”

Yeah, yeah: Mobile-phone service is miraculously clear, CTU and enemy surveillance powers are godlike, and who knew that every President and key federal operative has mission-critical child, ex-lover or sibling who’s sleeping with a someone who might be a traitor.(“Are you sure you haven’t told another living soul about this. Perfect. Tell me where you are-I’ll be right over there to get you.“). Who knew that the American people would elect a second African-American president in a single decade– and the new guy’s so confident about his prospects that he dares to wear facial hair, a modified Fu Manchu,: a slim, sexy goatee.
Hilarious.. And essential TV.
Fox, Sunday, Jan. 14, 8-10pm, continues Monday Jan. 15 8-10pm.

Paul Verhoeven's Little BLACK BOOK


Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch master of action (ROBOCOP) and erotic thrillers (BASIC INSTINCT), returned to the Netherlands to make a WWII action-adventure movie. BLACK BOOK won’t be out till early March, but it’s already been hailed as his best movie in twenty years. (It’s a Golden Globe nominee and a likely nominee for a foreign language film Academy Award) The heroine, a Dutch/Jewish chanteuse (Carice Van Houten, in a riotously unself-conscious performance) avenges her families’ betrayal at the hands of WWII collaborators. Joining the resistance, she finds love, lies and brutality on both sides.
“It’s a much more personal story for me than the films I made in the US,” Verhoeven tells the UK Telegraph. “It has the resonance of youth. I was seven years old when the war ended, and the emotional resonance of being occupied is something you take with you your whole life.”

Tower of BABEL: Words Fail, Voids Remain


Babel‘s Rinku Kikuchi : Words Fail, Voids Remain
The smart young film critics of Reverse Shot get mad — feisty mad — at “Eleven Offenses of 2006” — 11 movies that have been over-praised. These writers – who include Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times — insist that they are not “trying to be contrarian” – but when they cite their twentysomething ages and bark like this, I imagine a pack of Scrappy Doos nipping at the heels of Armond White‘s wise and lordly Scooby. (Marmaduke?)
Darn it, these kids are cute with their sharp teeth.
And some of these eleven titles ought to be smacked down — as DP wrote — “with the smugness of the average bright film student”. Smacked hard because they’re the same caring, drastically competent studio freight that comes out every fall, bearing a worthy message, all but demanding critical respect and major awards.
Or smacked hard because they’re needlessly pretentious, fractured and convoluted, like BABEL and THE FOUNTAIN. (After the jump)
I cannot agree with Michael Koresky‘s outraged reading of BABEL — he’s way off base when he attacks the absurdity of one character. Of course the film is winning awards and rounding out lists of nominations — BABEL has little something for every critic and award voter – and not too much nothing for everyone else. No one can say that BABEL isn’t a reflection of some aspect of life – or another, more cohesive film. With the film’s title, aren’t the filmmakers giving us a clue to the arrow they’ve shot in the air? (Genesis 11:7 “Bajemos a confundir su idioma, para que ya no se entiendan entre ellos mismos” — ie “Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
What Koresky doesn’t realize is that the deaf-mute Japanese teenager portrayed so feelingly by Rinku Kikuchi— the girl who, in “a desperate bid for connection, flashes her privates in cafeterias, puts her dentist’s hand on her vagina, and, in her ultimate humiliation, strips naked in front of a much older police detective” is a completely authentic and believable character– merely because she is in a movie.
How dare anyone object to what one movie character does, if the film is enjoyed, praised and wins awards?

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Oscar Mysteries of the Mayans

apocalypto1a.jpg Who were the ancient Mayans?
Why did their empire fall?
Within the next ten days, we’ll know the answer to an even bigger question: will APOCALYPTO defy expectations and earn any Academy Award nominations?
Mel Gibson’s heart-removing historical adventure movieis up for just one award so far this season -– a Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe for best foreign language film. (The HFPA gives out its prizes on Jan. 15.)
The various guilds, though, have been properly awed by APOCALYPTO’s visual splendor — the captives’ journey into the dying Mayan metropolis is spectacular. Director of photography Terry Semler has been nominated for an A.S.C award. The evocative hair and makeup — including those otherworldly, PREDATOR meets SHOWGIRLS headdresses on the villains — Best Makeup? (It’s on the Academy’s award shortlist
What do you think: Is there any hope for some violent Mayan mime and dance number during number during the Oscar broadcast? )

Or will this man be the last to rock a radical hairstyle on the red carpet? In 2002, THOTH, the Central Park/street performer from Sarah Kernochan’s Oscar winning short subject documentary (2001), agressively entertainmed the arriving nominees from A BEAUTIFUL MIND and MOULIN ROUGE. Most of them looked quite alarmed. When his name – the film’s name – was announced, I’m pretty sure he bounded onto the stage, fiddle in hand, with the audience still wondering who the hell he was. Thoth will live forever in Chuck Workman montages.

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Sacha Baron Cohen Speaks!

talladega_nights_150.jpg NPR’s Terry Gross talked to Sacha Baron Cohen this week about life before and after BORAT — the film’s two Golden Globe nominations, the difficulty of making future films when he and his characters are now so popular and recognized in the U.S. Though there’s little talk about the lawsuits filed by people saying they were duped or hurt by appearing in the film, Gross and Baron Cohen do talk about the way that his characters get at the thinly veiled bigotry, anti-Semitism, and homophobia of the people he meets.
There’s one very interesting question from Gross about the difference between Baron Cohen, who’s Jewish, playing a character (Borat) who says horrible, ridiculous anti-Semitic things, and Baron Cohen, who is straight, playing the character Bruno, the flamboyantly gay fashion reporter for Austrian TV.
“Well, I’m not gay,” says Baron Cohen. “But I have had a another man’s testicles lying on my chest, so make of that what you will.” Referring, of course, to the the prolonged naked wrestling scene between Borat and his producer. He also points out that the fey, foreign Bruno is often treated cruelly both in and out of the fashion world. “It seems like homophobia is the last taboo.”
Listen to the entire interview at NPR’s website for Fresh Air, Gross’s weekday interview program.

Popwatch:'s Shiny Web Redesign

I am blinded – blinded! – by the sleek silver elegance and warmed by sunlit accents of Entertainment Weekly’s redesign.
Bookmark’s Popwatch blog (the writers include Gary Susman, Scott Brown and Whitney Pastorek) and the direct link to movie news.

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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