Film Fatale Archive for February, 2007


Amazing Grace
Dir. Michael Apted
2006. Ioan Gruffud, Michael Gambon, Youssou N’Dour.

Michael Apted’s stirring if conventional bio-pic of 18th-century British abolitionist William Wilberforce offers rum, funneled into anti-slavery PM William Pitt the Younger (Benedict Cumberbatch) and sugar, in the form of the hero’s adoring wife, Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai). This is polite England, so Middle Passage horrors remain veiled: slave turned memoirist Oloudah Equiano a/k/a “Gustavus” (Youssou N’Dour) is silenced until the end credits. As Wilberforce, Ioan Gruffudd (The Fantastic Four, TV’s Horatio Hornblower) conveys the charisma of a ‘faced-on-faith hero. Just how he outmaneuvers his enemies becomes a cynical surprise, especially in a drama financed by fundamentalist Christian tycoon Philip Anschutz of Walden Media. Don’t seek answers here as to where God is when mankind fails, on a tremendous scale, to love his fellow man. That’s for other films to deal with. Better ones, like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. (Or worse: BILLY JACK.) For now–for a portrait of a righteous man who gave his all to help others, there’s Wilberforce, exacting moral justice without going berserk.
Justine Elias
The Boston Phoenix
Feb. 21, 2007

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Foreign Language: PAN & Scan the Oscar Nominees

In the New York Times, Caryn James looks at the global politics of the films nominated foreign language category — which must have been a relief from musing for 1000 words about Anna Nicole Smith’s fame or speculating harshly about why Angelina Jolie appeared to be “haughty” at the Golden Globes (it turned out that Jolie’s mother was terminally ill; maybe she didn’t feel like parroting the usual red carpet conversation.)
The Boston Herald‘s film critic and entertainment reporter Stephen Schaefer reminds Oscar pool voters that Academy members can vote in this category only if they sign an affadavit certifying that they’ve seen five nominated films. ”With a voting pool that could number in the hundreds – out of a approximately 5,800 voting members – this makes predicting the winner a wild card.”

Oscar Maestros: Lyricist Ray Evans, 3-Time Winner, Dies At 92

Hollywood lyricist Ray Evans – a four time Academy Award winner for songs like Mona Lisa and Que Sera, Sera, died Feb. 15 at the age of 92. With songwriting partner Jay Livingston, who wrote the music, he was one of film’s most prolific songwriters.
Their Academy Awards wins:
“Buttons and Bows” from THE PALEFACE.
“Mona Lisa” from CAPTAIN CAREY, USA.
“Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH”

Judge Smacks Borat's Frat Boys Out of Court

borat250.jpg From the Hollywood Reporter Esq via Defamer:
A Los Angeles judge has thrown out of court a claim by two South Carolina fraternity brothers that they were duped into appearing in BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN. The Hollywood Reporter (Esq.) is first with the legal lowdown, while Defamer breaks with the best joke, suspects that the judge must have Sacha Baron Cohen’s Golden Globe speech “secretly memorized.”
On March 6, the unnamed fraternity brothers’ comedy stylings (“Never let a woman control you! Never!”) and those of so many other soon-to-be disappointed litigants can be yours to own — as in, owned, bitch! — for just $19.95. (Oh, look. What a coincidence. The Fox Store is open now to receive pre-orders)
Until then, enjoy David Poland’s chat with Borat co screenwriters Anthony Hynes and Peter Baynham, who share a Best Screenplay nomination with Baron Cohen.

Land of the LOST IN TRANSLATION: Sleestak Memories

Thank you, Sid & Marty Kroft, for so damaging the psyches of the people at The Rued Morgue that they’ve created this touching tribute to all things Sleestak.
But don’t we all, sometimes, feel like Enoch (Enik?) — the Sleestak from the future, trapped in a violent, unfamiliar world among his primitive, violent hissing ancestors, with no one to speak to but a stupid archaelogist, his adolescent son and pubescent daughter who favored obviously fake blonde pigtails?
What was Chaka’s problem, though? Why couldn’t he talk? Was he from some sort of Neanderthal who couldn’t speak, or was he so excited and spastic all that he couldn’t get the words out?
Why did Enik the Sleestak have to slowly re-state his sorry situation every time he ran into the Marshalls? You could practically hear the sigh of boredom each time he said, “I am like you, Dr. Marshall, trapped here because I passed through a time doorway.” Blank faces, every time.
Poor Enik, Sleestak from the future. He was like George Sanders in a lizard suit and a disco vest.
Even in the Land of the Lost where he might have been killed by dinosaurs or the primitive Sleestaks, Enik probably died of ennui.
(Or he ended up, in some other dimension or lifetime, as a character in SAUL OF THE MOLE MEN, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim series. (The little mole boy’s anxiety over losing his testicles and becoming intersex, followed by psycho-dramatic, psychedelic visit to Puberty Gulch, all set to a Jackson 5-ish tune: Indescribable)


Law & Order/Adrienne Shelly: Oh No They Didn't

Oh no they didn’t.
But you knew they would. NBC’s LAW & ORDER has indeed based an upcoming episode on the murder of director/writer/actress Adrienne Shelly.
Her alleged killer, 19 year old Diego Pillco, goes on trial later this year.
John Freeman Gill of the New York Times visited the set while the show was in production, spoke to producer Dick Wolf, director Jean de Segonzac and cast members.

“The story had all the earmarks of drama and sensationalism that make a successful “Law & Order” episode, and Dick Wolf, the creator of the show and its sister series, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” was hardly the only one to take notice. The morning the faked-suicide story broke, three people, including Mr. Wolf’s barber and the counterman who poured his coffee at Dean & DeLuca, brought the story to his attention as material for a new episode.
“It just screams it,” said Mr. Wolf, who reads a half-dozen newspapers a day, in part to stimulate story ideas.”

Here’s the rest of story; the episode airs Friday at 10pm on NBC.

Milla Jovovich: Verhoeven's Russian Queen of Crime


Milla Jovovich and Wes Bentley in The Claim (2000): Thomas Hardy in the Old West

Jeremy Kay of Screen International, reporting from Berlin, has news that’s sure to make fanguys brains completely explode.
Paul Verhoeven (BLACK BOOK) is ramping up production on his long-gestating tsarist
Russian crime romp The Winter Queen, now called Azazel. Shooting is set to begin this summer in St Petersberg and London after Peter Hoffman’s Los Angeles-based Seven Arts Pictures finalised
pay-or-play deals for Verhoeven and Milla Jovovich (RESIDENT EVIL). Jovovich’s official website,, has more information on the author, the novel and its sequels. (Via MillaJ, here’s the review of The Winter Queen from the New York Times)
Kay reports that Verhoeven’s long-time co-screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, who co-wrote BLACK BOOK, adapted the screenplay for the forthcoming film from the Russian novel “The Winter Queen,” by Boris Akuninn. The story is set in the late 1800s in St. Petersburg and London, and the main characters, according to Verhoeven, are a “charming…diabolical and seductive woman” and a “handsome, gifted and very lucky young detective.”
[Shoutout to Hollywood Bitchslap‘s Peter Sobcynski: it’s like they reached into your mind and created a film just for you, isn’t it?]
And before anyone gets snotty about Jovovich, the sci fi/horror/action heroine, making like Christian Bale and carrying a historical suspense film — recall that she did, not all that long ago, give an impressive performance in THE CLAIM, Michael Winterbottom’s take on The Mayor of Casterbridge, set in the late 1800s in the American West. (Frank Cottrell Boyce adapted Thomas Hardy’s novel)
Not only did Jovovich hold her own opposite critic’s darlings/character actors Peter Mullan, Nastassja Kinski and Sarah Polley, she did right by her character — a saloon and brothel keeper — in a way the author could never have foreseen– giving her a resilience and dignity even beyond what was written in Cottrell Boyce’s thoughtful screenplay.

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WSJ: San Francisco Armory Zoned For V. Indie (NC-17) Film

In San Franscisco’s Mission District, where real estate prices are as steep as the hills, who in the film and TV industry can afford to rent a creepy, derelict old building left vacant when the National Guard moved to better quarters?
Only the enterprising adults of the specialty adult direct-to-web video.
Peter Acworth of convinced City Hall agree to sell him the State Armory and Arsenal building which looks like a Moorish castle — for $14.5 million. The Wall Street Journal online has the story on the community reaction and the Kink company’s efforts at community outreach: cleaning graffiti, fixing windows and offering internships in film/video production.
Reporter Vauhini Vara got this choice quote from a city planner as to why the city “didn’t notice the wordly about NC-17 films.”
“Frankly, I kind of missed that,” he says.
Another city planner says,”The planning code…is not really worried with moral propriety.”
You know how we can tell that that this company’s on the level, just like an ordinary film production company? Because the story (available for free if you register for a two week trial) says internship rather than paid internship. If you intern on a indie/art film, you don’t get paid. If you’re a production assistant on an adult film: you should expect to be paid. If not at the end of the day, at the end of the shoot. In cash.

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Oscar Nominated Short Doc: RECYCLED LIFE

Spotlight on Oscar Nominated Short Doc
Director: Leslie Iwerks
Producer: Mike Glad
Running Time: 38 minutes.
From Reuters via TV Guide:
Watch for RECYCLED LIFE, the short documentary that Leslie Iwerks made with producer Mike Glad at the Academy Awards on Feb. 23 — it’s one of the finer socially concerned nonfiction films you’ll see this year. The director’s surname, Iwerks, is familiar to film buffs, but I don’t think we’ll see her– or her Oscar nominated documentary — get much airtime on Entertainment Tonight: her movie’s concerned with trash and death, and lacks celebrities and easy uplifting endings.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Director Leslie Iwerks doubts any of her fellow Oscar nominees had spiders in their trousers while filming, nor would they find dead babies, animal carcasses, bubbling gases and an unbearable stench on location.
But that was the reality of working in Central America’s largest garbage dump for four years to make “Recycled Life,” nominated for best documentary short.
The dump in Guatemala City is a giant crater where thousands, including children, eke out a living by recycling garbage and foraging for food. Whole families have subsisted on the dump, generation after generation, for the last 60 years.

One of the people featured in the film, Hanley Danning, died January 18 in an automobile accident in Guatemala City. (An obituary runs today in the Boston Globe.) Danning, a native of Yarmouth, Maine and a 1992 graduate of Bowdoin College, visited Guatemala in 1997 to learn Spanish. She decided to stay on to help those scavenging for food in the Guatemala City dump.
If RECYCLED LIFE wins the Oscar in its category, Iwerks will be the third generation in her family to win an Academy Award. Her grandfather was Oscar-winning animator Ub Iwerks (credited with bringing Mickey Mouse to life in the Disney cartoons), and her father, Don Iwerks, won a lifetime Academy Award for his contribution to motion picture science and technology.
“Iwerks has made a posthumous tribute to Denning and put it on the DVD along with the 38-minute documentary. A portion of the proceeds with go to Denning’s organization, Safe Passage (”

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DAKOTA DARKNESS: Reluctant farmgirl Jess (Kristen Stewart) — who has seen neither AMITYVILLE HORROR nor OKLAHOMA! — prepares to barn dance with the unquiet dead in THE MESSSENGERS.
The Messengers
Directed by Danny and Oxide Pang.
Movie website at Sony Pictures (Reviewed at Loews Boston Common Cinema, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007 for the Boston Phoenix: Print edition February 7, 2007)
Twin directors Danny and Oxide Pang, who explored the supernatural downside of cornea transplants in The Eye, unearth the ghosts of the Northern Plains states with stylish but mostly unfrightening results in their first non-Asian horror movie, The Messengers. Imagine Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma done as an ominous, tuneless, pastoral spookshow. In place of corn as high as an elephant’s eye, substitute a patch of droopy sunflowers grown as low as an elephant’s shin. Even a bumper crop yields a harvest of trouble for the Solomons, the broke Chicago family turned Dakota homesteaders, and for the film’s poorly hidden invaders, who must crouch in tilled fields and girl-don’t-go-in-there barns till harvest time
As clueless, handsome farmer dad (Dylan McDermott) sits astride his tractor, idly stoning crows, and oblivious farm mom (Penelope Ann Miller) scrubs black mold off the walls, a strangers emerge from the golden haze: a snooping banker (“The X-Files”‘ William B. Davis, channelling Former U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft) and a virile, shotgun-toting hired man (John Corbett, hilarious channelling Pore Jud Fry).
Only the dark-dreaming teenage heroine, Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her silent, oddly unclingy toddler brother (Evan and Theodore Turner) perceive threat amid the falling shadows. Soon grey-limbed apparitions are lurking in linens, muddying the dug cellar, fiddling with doorknobs– if you think they’re not approaching, the fibre in your ears and the hair on the back of your neck indicate otherwise: Eerie.
The Pangs (or maybe the screenwriters) are door-slammers too, smash-cutting to the next day, the next week, the next month—yet the family’s still marooned on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre estate as if hoping to meet Leatherface’s ghost.
Just as Oklahoma’s tomboy/virgin Laurey made a beeline for the local sociopath, then had to be rescued by Curley, Jess – a nubile rebel yell in a Sweet and Toxic T-shirt – is raring to confront ghouls but not the real, knee-high source of her anxiety. Not even the obvious juju jolts, which get sillier as the movie goes on, will steer Jess (or her peers, the PG-13 target audience) away from the down staircase, where – wouldn’t you know it? – the lights are out and everybody’s home.
[After the jump, marketing notes. SPOILER ALERT]

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WONDER-Whedon News @ Cinematical

Cinematical’s Erik Davis relays big news regarding Joss Whedon and Warner Bros. WONDER WOMAN — fans of the lasso-swinging superheroine ought to fly over and take a look.
Go to Cinematical‘s main page and look for Erik’s blog.
And here’s a long interview with Whedon at GeekMonthly— he discusses the launch of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic books, and the other projects he’s working on. Worth a read.

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THE DEPARTED: The Letter-X Rated Version

With THE DEPARTED – nominated for five Academy Awards — is back in movie theaters, the Miami Herald’s film critic Rene Rodriguez took the time to obsesses about Boston gangster drama. In Rene’s blog Reeling, he writes that director Martin Scorsese, in homage to SCARFACE (1932) put the the sign, design and letter X throughout the film — and he’s got the screengrabs to prove it.
How sharp and tense each image is–gorgeous if you follow the actors’ eyelines – or the direction they are moving – you can see how the X’s help to guide your eye and make each frame balance.
As has been discussed at length elsewhere, the film is based on the screenplays of the three Hong Kong-made INFERNAL AFFAIRS crime dramas written by Andrew Lau. Journalist turned novelist turned screenwriter William Monahan spoke to the Associated Press about his Oscar-nominated screenplay, the possible sequel and dialogue that was cut from the film

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Quote Unquotesee all »

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