Reeler Archive for March, 2006

Reeler Link Dump: Westward Ho Edition

Circumstances beyond its control have forced The Reeler to retreat to California for the next week, possibly two. While I expect to continue portions of my coverage from out west, odds are I will not be able to make the transcontinental commute to catch the Gen Art Film Festival or–gasp!–the Scary Movie 4 premiere April 10.
But at least I am always good for binging on wreckage surveyed from afar. To wit:
–The Reporter’s Gregg Goldstein offers a sweeping view of DIY distribution options available to independent filmmakers, with examples like New York’s Kristian Fraga (Anytown, USA) and Susan Buice and Arin Crumley (Four-Eyed Monsters) showing at least two of the many ways to skin this particular cat. That is, before it rears back to life, claws their hearts out and ever-so-mischievously sets their negatives on fire.
–According to Page Six, George Clooney’s publicist developed opposable thumbs functional enough the type out a plan for sabatoging the celebrity-sighting hotspot Gawker Stalker:

Flood their Web site with bogus sightings. Get your clients to get 10 friends to text in fake sightings of any number of stars. A couple hundred conflicting sightings and this Web site is worthless. No need to try to create new laws to restrict free speech. Just make them useless. That’s the fun of it. And then sit back and enjoy the ride. Thanks, George.

Great idea! Almost as brilliant as giving your enemy free publicity in the New York Post! And the Associated Press! And IMDB! Gawker responded a few hours ago by placing a bounty on Clooney’s head: Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s 12 DVD’s go to the first stalker to send a clear photo of the Oscar winner–“and if you can get a picture of him giving the finger, we’ll even throw in a copy of Solaris.” Another publicist, another job well done.
–Only at Lincoln Center could Polish and African cinema somehow overlap, and that is exactly what is happening in April and May: The Film Society will host a virtually complete retrospective of the late Krzysztof Kieslowski’s work from April 5-23, while the 13th annual African Film Festival fires up for a month starting April 20.
–In other “festival” news, The Times’s Laurel Graeber has the scoop on the New York International Children’s Film Festival, which is now a year-round fixture at IFC Center and is on the verge of going national. Founder Eric Beckman calls it “art house for kids,” while rumor has it theater boss John Vanco has promised to introduce a film in a clown suit if Beckman can help him hit April’s attendance quota.
–Sure, it is relatively old news, but just say it out loud: Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Manohla Dargis. Fuck. Yes.

Sundance Films Finally Set For Brooklyn Vacation

Just when I was wondering if that whole Sundance/BAM collaboration announced last January was ever going to result in, you know, actual screenings, BAM unveiled the selections and events that will finally land in Brooklyn starting May 12. And I have to say: It looks good–and even better if you are one of the anointed few with an invitation to the opening night screening of Fox Searchlight $10 million baby Little Miss Sunshine. Not that it is the same unless festival director Geoff Gilmore shows up for a stirring introduction, but still.
A few of the local kids in the mix include:
–Hilary Brougher, who will not only be screening her Waldo Salt Screenplay Award-winning Stephanie Daley, but also chat with producer Ted Hope about developing the film with the Sundance labs;
–Carter Smith, whose Bugcrush shared this year’s Short Film Jury Prize;
–Byron Hurt, whose documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture earned accolades for its treatment of sexism and homophobia in hip-hop, not to mention honorable mention for featuring the 2006 festival’s longest title;
–Jennie Livingston, the beloved Brooklynite whose short doc Through the Ice chronicles a local man’s wintry death through the recollections of eyewitnesses;
–So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray, whose tiny masterpiece In Between Days will be acquired for distribution during the festival if there is any justice in the world;
–and Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, whose The Trials of Darryl Hunt is the film I never forgave myself for missing in Park City and whom I am grateful (as you should be) to see get a hometown audience.
Bálint Kenyeres’s stunning Before Dawn is also slated to screen with Bugcrush and Through the Ice in the shorts program; the one-take jaw-dropper was probably the best thing I saw over those 10 days and is the only film in the program I would call a “must-see.” If I did that kind of thing, which I do not.
Anyway, full film program notes follow after the jump.

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Screening Gotham–Craigslist Edition: March 31-April 2, 2006

A few of this weekend’s worthwhile cinematic happenings around New York, as discovered on a random bump around Craigslist (and heavy on the sic):
Join other Cinephiles for a great film and a discussion!

Thank You For Smoking and a Discussion

Friday, March 31, 2006 at 7:00PM

Short notice, but worth it!

This film has great buzz, one the new ‘major’ indies, that has been released in the larger theaters-

We will be seeing the 7:40pm show.

Hope to see you there,


See the full event details, including location, at

Dead Director Comes to Life at Big Apple Convention

Tickets are available at the door for $15 per day or $40 for a 3 day pass. Advance tickets are available at and through Ticketmaster.

Legendary horror film director/producer George A. Romero will be hosting a rare live Q&A session and signing autographs at the upcoming Big Apple Comic Book, Toy, Horror & Sci-Fi Expo. …

Over 30 celebrity guests will be appearing all weekend, including Elvira Mistress of the Dark; Ken Foree (The Devil’s Rejects, Dawn of the Dead); Gary Howard Klar, Gaylen Ross and David Emge (Dawn of the Dead); Eugene Clark (Land of the Dead) Corin Nemec: (Parker Louis, Stargate SG-1); Jerri Manthey: (Survivor : the Australian Outback); Margot Kidder (Superman the Movie); Brande Roderick (Baywatch); Bill Daily (I Dream of Jeanie); Karen Lynn Gorney (Saturday Night Fever) Charlene Tilton (Dallas); Jane Weidlin (Guitarist of the Go-Go’s , The Surreal Life); Paul Orndorff WWE Hall of Fame Wrestler “Mr. Wonderful”; Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca, Star Wars), Chanel Ryan (FHM Model); Jasmine St. Claire ECW Wrestling and starring in the upcoming Lion’s Gate Film “Dorm Daze 2“.

For Comic Book Fans, critically acclaimed creator Frank Miller (Sin City, Batman, Robocop) will be interviewing famed artist Neal Adams (Batman, X-Men). …, T.Beale and Complacent Nation invite you to:

Spaghetti Western

Friday, March 31st. – 9pm ’till sunup


Starting with a big screening of The Good The Bad The Ugly with remixed Ennio Morricone soundtrack by Jimmy Jackson and Nine90. Our favorite outlaw flic is re-awakened with new original music mixed with the full dialogue of the film. We will also be serving spaghetti (free!), drinks and other intoxicants along with the film. Starting at 9pm sharp.

Followed by music to move you in our two rooms of sound featuring:

+ Matty Dreadless [Bedlam Sound, UK/France] spinning jungle/ragga for her first gig in the US

+ Shortbus [Switchcraft Recordings, Oakland CA] spinning techstep and drum and bass

+ Criterion [Broklynbeats/Pure Fire] spinning broken/splatterbeat …

Explore our dark corners and cozies nooks featuring new climbable sculpture by Thomas Beale, the Frontier Porch and Love Shack built by Danyell [Nine90] and Bunny, live screen printing by Antimart, new murals by CaiRobot and RenegadeVirus, chill in the TeePee lounge for a smoke and spaghetti western films including Once Upon a Time in the West, a First Full of Dollars and a Eight and a Half (close enough).

You must RSVP to get the location information and directions. RSVP at:

Only $5 buckaroos before 11:15pm $10 after

Free drinks for dandy buccaneers and randy cowgirls.

Come one come all to the free screening from the Award Winning Producer of Trading Places and The Rose, Aaron Russo’s America: From Freedom to Fascim.

A FREE PUBLIC EVENT AND ADVANCED SCREENING About Liberty and The “Capstone” First Amendment Right To Petition. Hosted by The We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education.

The highly anticipated documentary About the Fight for

Freedom INSIDE America!

The Battle for Liberty & our Constitution THEY don’t want You To Know About.



Long Island Expressway Exit 52, North side of LIE entrance on Commack Road Phone: (631) 462-6952 for exact address

I have personaly seen this movie at the screening in Portland, OR and give it five stars you won’t want to miss this one. A TRUE WAKE-UP CALL!

'Confidential'-ly Yours: Zwigoff, Clowes Next Up For Makor

Makor sends word that Terry Zwigoff and Dan Clowes are confirmed to drop by April 16 for a sneak preview and discussion of their latest collaboration, Art School Confidential. This is one that grew on me at Sundance, then grew off me and is now remembered chiefly for fresh-faced Max Minghella submitting to Jim Broadbent’s outrageously dark scenery chewing. Oh, and John Malkovich not being John Malkovich for a change. I guess I need to see it again myself.
Anyway, Broadbent’s wasted psychosis alone would be worth the price of admission, but when you add a droll, deadpan pair like Zwigoff and Clowes to the mix? All bets are off. Buy now to beat the comics geeks.

Tip the Bulls: 'Brick' Breaks Through

One thing that can be said about a quixotic is that for all his delusion and drama, a very real vision motivates his work. This is the paradox driving Rian Johnson’s Brick, a high-school-detective noir inflated with conceits, characters and convolutions that defy the slightest glint of rational belief: A hard-boiled teenage gumshoe. A sinister, suburban heroin overlord. Fistfights twice-removed from comic books. A dead ex-girlfriend in the middle of it all.

Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, left) picks The Brain (Matt O’Leary) in Rian Johnson’s high-school noir, Brick (Photos: Focus Features)

Fortunately for Johnson (and for us), however, film is not a rational medium, and Brick not only tilts at windmills but smashes them. It is the type of film that owes everything it has to antecedents like Dashiell Hammett novels, B-noirs and even Chinatown, yet thanks each of them by recasting their archetypes as kids. And if Brick evolves as the cult stand-by I think it will become, we are basically talking about destabilizing myths for an entire generation. Does it confuse? Occasionally. Does it explain? Sort of. Does it apologize? Fuck no.
Moreover, does Brick entertain? Does it emphasize precision–the exactitude of its language and imagery–over the genre conventions that influenced it? Does it risk its legitimacy and its director’s reputation in the name of single-minded innovation? Yes, yes and yes. I already whistled its praises once during last year’s CMJ Film Fest: Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan, a brooding high-school loner whose ex-girlfriend goes missing before going murdered. He enlists his myopic chum The Brain (Matt O’Leary) in decoding the places and names instrumental to discovering her killer, but nothing is quite that straightforward: Ulterior and anterior motives implicate femme fatale Laura (Nora Zehetner), wife-beatered tough guy Tugger (Noah Fleiss) and cane-wielding drug dealer The Pin (a brilliantly droll Lukas Haas), while assistant vice principal Trueman (Richard Roundtree) negotiates conditions for Brendan to come and go as a suspect himself.
Johnson piles plots on subplots and jams in more jargon per square inch than a truck driver. “I’m not heeling you to hook you,” Brendan tells Laura at one point, basically meaning he is not playing hard-to-get to seduce her (a two-page glossary appends the press notes). At least one colleague of mine insisted she may have appreciated the film more had it been “written in English,” but the dialogue is essential to Brick‘s parallel noir universe. Obviously it sounds different, but particularly in the context of Johnson’s wide-lensed camera, it explodes inside the frame and pulls identity from inertia.

(L-R) Tugger (Noah Fleiss), The Pin (Lukas Haas) and a vintage poultry pitcher share a philosophical moment

The eight years Johnson spent raising funds for Brick served as the testing ground for the film’s visual momentum. “My cinematographer Steve Yedlin is one of my best friends since film school,” he told me during a recent visit to New York. “He was the first person to read the script. While we were being frustrated by trying to find money for all those years, we were also talking about the movie and sitting down and planning it. We knew shot for shot what were going for when we showed up to the set because we had all those years to talk about it. And we needed it; we had a 20-day shooting schedule, so we needed to know exactly how we were going to do it when we sat down to do it.”
And while most independent filmmakers plan, it takes an especially smart, confident filmmaker to craft. That ethos suffuses Brick; it is challenging art, but eminently watchable challenging art. “I remember one lunch,” Gordon-Levitt told The Reeler. “No one really talked about this while we were making the movie, but at one lunch, someone brought it up to Rian: ‘So what’s going to happen with this movie when we’re done with it?’ And Rian said, ‘I don’t know. I just want to make a really good movie. ‘ And the extraordinary thing is that I believed him. Because everybody says that, but they’re lying. They actually have their Oscar speech written in the back pocket. But Rian really, really was somehow able to just ignore all the labelmakers and all the kind of trendwatchers and just do what he believed in and make a movie that he would love for himself. And it’s really hard to do, and it’s very rare to find.”
As far as box-office prospects go, Focus Features was equally intelligent to pick up a film that not only deserves re-viewing but kind of demands it. Johnson observed that teenagers appreciate Brick because of its disinclination to bow at the altar of that other crusty genre, the teen movie. I predict the Weinsteins will maneuver their own revisionist noir, Lucky Number Slevin, into best screenplay Oscar consideration before Focus can snag a nod for Brick, but maybe that is for the best. At any rate, brilliance endures. This Johnson kid is not going anywhere.

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'Guilty' is Charged: Author Targets Yari and Lumet in Copyright Case

Trouble seems to love Bob Yari, the real estate mogul-turned-jilted producer who notoriously filed suit over his credit (or lack thereof) on the Oscar-winner Crash. A new ensnarement has him playing defendant, however, facing allegations that his latest film, Find Me Guilty, represents a “blatant and wholesale theft” of a Newark journalist’s 1992 book.
According to a press release, former Star Ledger reporter Robert Rudolph claims the film is an “unauthorized adaptation” of his Lucchese trial chronicle, The Boys From New Jersey: How the Mob Beat the Feds. But while Rudolph’s protests ironically mirror a Yari-esque level of outrage, this guy absolutely has the market cornered on shrill, strident bitchiness:

Named in the suit, which alleges copyright infringement, misappropriation and unjust enrichment, are the film’s noted Executive Producer, Robert Yari, its legendary Director, Sidney Lumet, screenwriters Robert McCrea and T.J. Mancini, and others. Rudolph charges the defendants with “blatant and wholesale theft” of a book that he “extensively researched, independently wrote, properly copyrighted and published to widespread acclaim.” The book remains in print some fourteen years after its original publication. The film opened on March 17th to excellent reviews but weak box office sales.

So let’s see: Not only does Rudolph reduce the “noted” Bob Yari and the “legendary” Sidney Lumet to garden-variety rip-off artists (much of Guilty‘s script was, in fact, based on court transcripts), but he also impugns their work’s value and staying power like a middle-aged wife taking a drunken swing at her husband. And then there is the crystalline logic alleging “unjust enrichment” from a film that has “weak box office sales.” But whatever–like Yari’s suit against Cathy Schulman and Paul Haggis, it is the prinicple that matters here.
And as perversions of justice go, any film reviewed well enough to get Vin Diesel the green light for a big-budget, three-picture, dead- on-arrival language elephant ride deserves some kind of cosmic retaliation. Do what you have to do, Rudolph.

Soderbergh, Ramis, Kong Confirmed For 'Tribeca Talks' Series

Today’s big Tribeca announcement graciously spares us any Greengrass platitudes in exchange for the more clinical pleasures of the Tribeca Talks series. While none of the discussions or panels scheduled for 2006 bear the pulse-accelerating potential of past festivals (remember the Martin Scorsese/Jay Cocks/Richard Price panel on New York cinema in ’02?), you cannot possibly fuck up a mockumentary chat featuring Michael McKean, Lewis Lapham, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban.
Other events include Lisa Robinson querying T-Bone Burnett about cornering the market on hick-music soundtracks, Harold Ramis discussing his influence on the comedy of rebellion, and a self-explanatory evaluation of “The Biology of King Kong.” Perhaps best of all, Steven Sodebergh and his 2929 Entertainment colleague Todd Wagner will go toe-to-toe with MPAA kingpin Dan Glickman over the vialbility of movie downloads. I will save you a seat in the Soderbergh/Wagner cheering section.
Of course, the full list of panels can be found after the jump.

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Boldface Barney: Times Gets Nowhere Fast at MoMA

Thank God for The Times’s Boldface column, without which the outside world would never have known what transpired at Tuesday’s Drawing Restraint 9 premiere at MoMA. Were it not for one of Campbell Robertson’s fearless stringers, we would have missed out on John Cameron Mitchell and Cynthia Rowley sightings, we could not envision Björk in a kimono and we would not have felt this close to the ever-cryptic Matthew Barney:

“It makes for a very well-lubricated communication,” said MATTHEW BARNEY at the premiere of his new film, Drawing Restraint 9, at the Museum of Modern Art. …

(Björk) and Mr. Barney, who have a child, are both in the film.

“I think that’s for me worth a lot in a situation like this,” Mr. Barney said, “because these films aren’t dialogue-driven, the story doesn’t fall into place in a traditional way.” …

Had he considered moving on from petroleum jelly to other substances? Say, a condiment?

“Mayonnaise is nice,” he said, with the air of someone who had given it some thought. “But it rots quickly.”

A digressive report from Tuesday’s Beastie Boys event curiously overlaps The Boldface/Barney Experience, but the general sense of unbridled absurdity masquerading as high art comes through loud and clear. You can thank them later.
UPDATE: Your kimono dreams come alive at indieWIRE, where party-hound Brian Brooks has the scoop behind his hard-won pics of Barney and Björk.

You Knew It Was Coming: Greengrass to Open Tribeca with 'United 93'

Don’t look now, but Paul Greengrass is preparing “the DNA of our times” to open the Tribeca Film Festival. The real-time 9/11 film United 93, neé Flight 93, will premiere downtown April 25, and if you have not yet viewed the trailer (“From Paul Greengrass, director of Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy,” natch), you just cannot know what kind of misbegotten treat you are in for.
“But STV, you asshole,” you say. “You have not even seen the film!” True, but I have had to listen to this clown Greengrass soup up the drama of 9/11 to sell his movie for the last seven months, and so far, it looks like a History Channel reenactment: Flight attendants saying they “want to get home to see my babies”; scary, swarthy Muslims; military men barking into headsets; and all the other usual suspects.
And now Greengrass himself is back to leading the publicity charge:

“The events of 9/11 had a massive effect on me, like everyone, and I wanted to use my position as a filmmaker to contribute something so they are not casually forgotten,” stated Greengrass. “United 93 tells one story of that morning and I hope that by showing the film at Tribeca, whose roots and inspiration grew in response to the devastation of 9/11, we will be reminded of the courage of all those on board and also the thousands of men and women who confronted similarly unimaginable scenarios in New York and Washington. By honoring the families who lost those they loved, I hope we can ensure that their sacrifice is remembered and hopefully seek wisdom in the future.”

Yeah, well, check it out, Paul: We have a 16-acre hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to be. And while we all appreciate you “using your position as a filmmaker” to jog our memories, nobody around here–especially in Tribeca–has “casually forgotten” much of anything about 9/11. Please, for once, let your film roll and just… stop… talking.
UPDATE: Cinematical’s Martha Fischer writes that TFF organizers are playing it verrrrrrrry safe with United 93‘s premiere:

Instead of a traditional red carpet arrival ceremony, complete with a glamorous party following the opening event, the screening will be private, open only to the families of victims, first responders, and festival staff. Press will be accommodated in an overflow room, but will not be allowed into the actual theater. The screening itself will be followed by what is being called a “low-key conversation dinner,” again with limited attendance. In addition, out of respect for the those affected by the events of 9/11, the opening will not be held in the Tribeca (the neighborhood that is home to Ground Zero); negotiations are currently underway to hold it at [a] landmark theater in midtown Manhattan.


‘Awesome’: Three Rappers, 61 Cameras and a Garden Party For the Ages

Admittedly, I am not what you would call a Beastie Boys enthusiast. I am not even a casual fan. The depth of my Beasties appreciation runs shallow at best: I like the “Sabotage” video as much as the next guy; “Fight For Your Right” annoys me; the hip-hop clown thing is endearing; and I tend to just take their (many) devotees’ word for it that the trio is rooted in prodigious creative genius. Fine.
I do watch a lot of movies, however, which is why I feel comfortable assessing the Beastie Boys’ Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! as possibly the greatest concert film ever made. A second viewing at last night’s New York premiere confirmed my first impression, and the standing-room-only audience attending the Museum of the Moving Image-hosted event seemed to share at least some of that judgment. Not that it came out when the Beasties themselves–“Mike D” Diamond, Adam “Adrock” Horovitz and Adam “MCA” Yauch–joined the crowd for the requisite post-screening chat.
“How do you stay in such great shape?” a viewer asked.
“As members of a basketball team, we have a very strong work ethic,” Horovitz said.
“We have a workout tape we’re gonna be selling,” Yauch said.
Diamond spoke up. “Actually, the team, I think, has a poor work ethic, and I think everybody needs to talk about that before we get into next season,” he said. “You guys talk about how you want freedom on the court. Show me the stats.”
“Also, we rub ourselves down with monkey piss a lot,” Yauch said.
That the Beastie Boys never actually got around to discussing how good their film is kind of helps define Awesome‘s transcendent appeal. The movie represents the raucous bastard offspring of goofball stunt and technical experiment; only a band that takes its mission as seriously as the Beasties do could conceive a film this determined to not take itself seriously. And only the Beastie Boys–whose interactive relationship with their fans manifests itself in multi-angle DVD’s and do-it-yourself remixes–would count on concertgoers to hold them to their own expressionistic standards.
Awesome‘s central gimmick is old news: The band gave 50 fans 50 cameras to record the entirety of its Oct. 9, 2004, concert at Madison Square Garden. “You can rock out, you can do whatever you want,” a producer advises the camerapeople at the beginning of the film. “Just keep shooting. … In 20 years, you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Awesome; I fuckin’ shot that.’ ” The Beasties combined the crowd footage with that of a small backstage crew, and Yauch went to work.
“There were 61 different angles that we were cutting from,” said Yauch, whose other alias, Nathanial Hörnblowér, claims directing credit. “It was all loaded into Final Cut and stacked and we were cutting from that. It was a pretty crazy job. The way we started out was there were actually theee different editors who went at it, and they had 20 cameras each, and they each did a cut. We were kind of looking it over and picked some parts that worked. We did a cut from that, and Neal (Usatin, supervising editor) and I stated cutting on top of that, and then spent about a year working on it. It was a good starting place, because it’s pretty hard to start with just, like, a blank canvas and start cutting from nothing when you have that much material.”

Beastie Boy Adam Yauch with Public Enemy frontman Chuck D at Tuesday’s premiere of Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! (Photo: STV)

In the end, Yauch continued, Awesome comprises 6,632 cuts–an average of one for every 19 frames. It screens like a pixilated light show, drowning in color and kinesis, putting the “ADD” back in “addled.” Meanwhile, the rich, refined sound defies the visuals’ bootleg ethos. As occasionally challenging as this blend is to watch, it makes for revelatory viewing. No band since Talking Heads has preserved (or even established) such visceral identity while relinquishing this much aesthetic control.
But in downplaying posterity for the sake of experience, Awesome sets itself up as the anti-Stop Making Sense, the anti-Last Waltz, the anti-Woodstock, the anti-Gimme Shelter. Depeche Mode 101 trails a handful of fans on their journey to a landmark emotional event in their lives–DM’s 1988 show at the Rose Bowl–but Pennebaker’s film captures a sense of a moment more than any real sense of community. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party evokes moment and community as sort of a hollow auteur wet dream, with no less a force than Michel Gondry doing little more than pointing and shooting Chappelle’s swan song to swagger.
By placing them in the context of a genuine community (and if you have ever been to a sold-out show at the Garden, it is about as communal an atmosphere as 20,000 strangers are likely to find) Awesome de-mystifies its subjects. A man carts his running camera into the bathroom, while another tapes a concessionaire air-guitarring her way through the opening riff of “Sabotage.” One hapless woman turns her device on her relatively idle section, imploring, “Come on, get excited! We’ll be on the DVD.” Boyfriends shout lyrics in girlfriends’ ears, dances mimic each other. The most powerful stage presence, in fact, belongs to the Beasties’ DJ Mix Master Mike, whose showcases contribute the virtuosic complement to Yauch’s crude explosion of style.
That said, for all I lack in Beastie Boys knowledge, their film’s reflection of unhinged New York musical tradition is unmistakeable. “That’s the thing with growing up in New York City,” Diamond said Tuesday night. “I think at the time we grew up, it was like hip-hop was evolving, there were incredible punk rock shows, hip-hop shows, reggae shows. Everything was in New York City. And then at the same time, I think even when we started playing shows ourselves–opening up for Run-DMC and LL Cool J and all these bands on tour–we learned so much from them. Being able to study that and everything, that was like…”
Horovitz gestured into the audience, “For me personally, I don’t know if I’d be doing this if my brother never played me Jimmy Spicer’s Super Rhymes,” he said.
“I can name some shows,” Yauch said. “Like when Funky Four Plus One came Downtown?”
“Oh, yeah,” Diamond said.
“That was definitely a big deal,” Yauch continued. “Slits, PIL, Clash.”
“Gang of Four,” Horovitz said, nodding.
But are the Beastie Boys a continuation of that spirit? That is for their fans to debate, although I should not be so quick to pass the buck–especially considering Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That‘s influence, its magic and my slow assimilation into their ranks. For once, at least for me, the Beastie Boys are a sight and sound to behold.


Limited Time Offer: Clooney's Gift Bag on the Block Until Midnight

Heeding the call of noted humanist cinephile Anthony Kaufman, megastar George Clooney recently agreed to auction off his glamour-stuffed Oscar gift bag to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And while I could only crank out about $72.50 in blood plasma for my own bid’s sake, you high-rolling Reeler loyalists still have five hours to get in on the action.
The bag’s reserve has been met, and at last glance, $30,200 was the amount to beat. This may not be “the ruby slippers of our time,” but there is a bottle of wine in there somewhere, so not all is lost should you decide to go for it. And you will be helping so many people that it will be almost as if you never stiffed the housecleaner on last week’s tip. Hey–it is your conscience.

'Keane,' Shaven: Soderbergh Trims Kerrigan Gem For DVD

This is interesting: The Washington Post reports (via Cinematical) that the recent DVD release of Lodge Kerrigan’s masterful Keane contains an alternate edit of the film by its executive producer Steven Soderbergh.
The Oscar-winner, to whom Kerrigan evidently sent his own cut before locking picture in 2004, “loved the film and told [Kerrigan] so, but I also sent him this version to look at, in case it jogged anything (it didn’t). In any case, we agreed it was an interesting (to us) example of how editing affects intent. Or something.”
The Post’s Michael O’Sullivan continues:

Despite being 15 minutes shorter than the already lean, 94-minute theatrical version, Soderbergh’s cut belies the cliche of the producer breathing down the director’s neck to make the film more “accessible.” Though the sequence of events has been pretty radically reshuffled — it’s a measure of the film’s open-ended, character-driven narrative that no sense is particularly lost or gained — neither version caters to what you might call multiplex tastes.

Rather, the changes affect subtler things such as pacing, style and mood — in short, the poetry — of what is already a very poetic piece. Soderbergh’s version, for instance, waits nearly a half-hour before revealing the nature of William’s search, while Kerrigan’s film introduces the character’s quest (perhaps delusional, as we discover) in the film’s first minutes.

I guess this is the part where I should say that you can ask Kerrigan all about it this spring at the Pioneer Theater, where The Reeler will be launching its “Reeler Presents” screening series May 20. Kerrigan will be on hand for a talk-show style Q&A and podcast with my colleagues Lawrence Levi (Looker, The Film Snob’s Dictionary) and Karina Longworth (Cinematical). More details will follow here, but if I am allowed to assign homework beforehand, I think this new edit might be Priority A.

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Chen Kaige Coming to Tribeca; Weinsteins Go Into Hiding

Good news for long-suffering fans of Chen Kaige: Not only is the Chinese director’s eagerly awaited film The Promise slated for its New York premiere at Tribeca, but The Reeler hears that Kaige himself is headed to town for a festival Q&A May 1.
This can only end in tears for The Weinstein Company, which famously traded intercontinental blows with Kaige a few months ago before unceremoniously dumping his movie like a bad lunch on Canal Street. Expect Chen and his entourage of 1,000 berobed, sword-slinging “publicists” to make an appearance at Weinstein HQ for one final comeuppance. Regrettably, however, tickets for Bloodmatch: Chen v. Harvey will be sold separately, so shop early.

'Drawing Restraint 9': Yawn at Matthew Barney in Person

Knowing how excited all of you get at the pairing of Björk and Vaseline, artist/filmmaker Matthew Barney dumped 100 pounds of the former and 25 tons of the latter into the watch-if-you-dare conceptual sprawl of his latest film, Drawing Restraint 9. And while IFC has declined my request to cover tonight’s premiere at MoMA (I sat through the fucking thing; the least they could do is give me a glass of wine), we are all invited to spend $10 to catch Barney at the film’s opening Wednesday at IFC Center.
Barney is slated to drop by for the 6:40 and 9:30 shows, both of which are rumored to end with some ritual involving the artist and a kiddie pool full of truffle butter. That is all I know, however, so please do report back with specifics should you decide to check it out.

'The Devil and Daniel Johnston': Madness in the Key of Genius

Early in the new documentary based on his life, the musician and artist Daniel Johnston can be heard on tape matter-of-factly declaring, “I’m a manic depressive with grand illusions.” The Devil and Daniel Johnston teems with such epiphanies, yet few echo with this one’s dueling sense of entitlement and vulnerability–a sort of motto for the delusion that has attended so many of modern culture’s greatest minds.
And make no mistake: Director Jeff Feuerzeig’s exquisite portrait of Johnston absolutely addresses a great mind.

Daniel Johnston at home, c. 2004 (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

“Obviously his music and his art had a profound, deep effect on me, and I think it’s very moving,” Feuerzeig told The Reeler Monday afternoon. “His songs of unrequited love just bring you to tears, and I think he’s a singular artist. But that’s not the reason I made the film. I believe it’s a great story to tell, and I think he had an incredible journey, and I think it’s very inspirational to go on that journey with him. And I think we can learn a lot about madness and creativity and perhaps genius from going on this journey with this artist who, as we now have seen, documented his entire life.”
Indeed, the film anchors itself in decades of personal history that Johnston recorded on audio cassettes, 8 mm film, video, notepads, scrap paper, you name it. Benign rebellion against a religious upbringing in West Virginia threads into romantic obsession in Ohio, which gives way to the twist of fate that lands Johnston in Austin, Texas. The city would become his adopted home and the center of a creative surge that defined his legacy in the late 1980s.
But the prodigious scale of his output only reflected the pace at which he sought to outrun the devil–that eternally cosmic foil whose haunting came to symbolize the source of Johnston’s mental decline. He was institutionalized, medicated, sprung by a surrogate family of Austin artists whom he threatened as easily as he loved. Feuerzeig channels their expansive memories into his narrative; Glass Eye vocalist Kathy McCarty’s modest insights bounce off the myth-making of Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes, at whose concert Johnston once consumed a brain-exploding dose of acid from which neither friends nor viewers are sure he ever recovered. (It is worth noting that Feuerzeig humorously depicts Haynes submitting to an interview and a dentist’s drill simultaneously; the singer seems only slightly more comfortable answering questions about Johnston.)
Feuerzeig’s interweaving of those present-day conversations with Johnston’s archives showcases splendid technique. The jump cuts of a slide show clear years of background in seconds. Close-up cassette playbacks reveal illustrations and comments splattered over tape labels. “(Daniel) is medicated,” Feuerzeig said. “He wasn’t able to host his own film, which I think makes the film so much better. He’s not able to host his own film like R. Crumb, or like Isaac Mizrahi in Unzipped or like Mark Borchardt in American Movie. Those are all good movies, but those people were able to host their own films. Daniel cannot do that. His contemporary interviews are useless. There’s nothing to be learned from them.”

That said, The Devil and Daniel Johnston also flirts with the limited scope of hagiography, from which few–if any–personal documentaries have ever emerged uncompromised. In the moments the film overplays its subject’s legend–his experience stalking MTV, for example–the calculated power of Johnston’s brilliance comes off as the spoils of destiny and myth. On the other hand, as Feuerzeig makes explicitly clear, the very real illness on display in Johnston’s life resembles none of the romantic, idealized danger that informs the popular conception of The Insane Artist. At his most emotionally destructive, he fires his devoted manager and signs a doomed contract with Atlantic Records; at his most physically destructive, Johnston and his father survive a plane crash of his own making.
Both episodes are devastating, as is an extended section revisiting Johnston’s journey to New York in the late ’80s. His goal on that trip was “to become famous,” the film tells us–to spring from the squalid urban stage, out of the self-aware fringe and into a consciousness more attuned to his music’s fluid pop undercurrent. His chaos was spirited and spiritual, a duality best demonstrated in an audiotaped interlude with police who plan to arrest him for drawing thousands of Christian fish on the inside of the Statue of Liberty. When he goes missing at one point, his devoted acolytes in Sonic Youth find him wandering the wastelands of New Jersey; their instinct is not to seek more institutional help, but rather to return him to Austin. For all of his striving and ambition, Johnston’s appeal could not survive the superior will of his madness.
And for Feuerzeig, who found the magic in both over a 20-year love affair with Johnston’s work, the time was finally right to explore that dynamic in depth. “No one ever thought he would live,” Feuerzeig said. “He was in and out of the hospital and had so many brushes with death, and not only did he live, but he was still creating. I thought that was incredible, and I thought that now his life had an Act III, where he got to see thousands of people all over the world appreciating this music and art that he created when he was so young. And I wanted to celebrate that period of time when he made those tapes. Those are the tapes that people keep covering. Those are the songs.”
As for Johnston’s artwork–alternately crude, hallucinatory and elegant ink-on-paper designs that sell for upwards of $2,000 each–Chelsea’s Clementine Gallery features a thorough showing through April 15. Think of it as a serendipitous double feature: one town, two venues and a pair artists near the top of their games.

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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