Reeler Archive for April, 2006

Let's Take This Outside: The Reeler Crashes Tropfest@Tribeca

In keeping with the robust sense of community that the Tribeca Film Festival has established this week in New York, I pretty much invited myself to Friday night’s Tropfest@Tribeca reception at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. And sure–I admit to being a little cynical about Tropfest when it was announced last fall. But the fact of the matter is that the short film program–adapted from the wildly popular Australian series of the same name–was easily one of the festival’s best events so far.

The lights go down on the Tribeca’s outdoor screening venue on the Hudson (Photos: STV)

More than 5,000 people attended Friday’s free outdoor screening at the World Financial Center, where the films were well-made and as long as you brought a blanket, the riverside atmosphere was hard to beat. The Daily Show’s Ed Helms hosted (prompting a quiet chorus of, “He’s so much funnier on TV” among the crowd), while celebrity judges including Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon, Darren Aronofsky and Famke Janssen (whom I am proud to have recognized this time around) handed out the first-place hardware to Matthew Bonifacio’s drama The Watering Hole.
The judges met up at the Tribeca Grand reception beforehand, joined by Watts’s boyfriend Liev Schreiber (below), Melvin Van Peebles and Tropfest founder John Polson, who started the festival in 1993 when he needed a means of exhibiting his own short film. He has since established himself in Hollywood (he directed Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro in Hide and Seek); moreover, he has parlayed the event’s success into an Australian cultural touchstone–in 2006, upwards of 150,000 people attended Tropfest screenings in six cities around the country.
“There’s a lot of talent out there that we don’t know about,” Polson told me. “Just a lot of people with a lot of ideas and a lot of raw talent. And the great thing about Tropfest in Australia–and I hope here–is that it’s a level playing field. You can spend $50 on your movie or $150,000. It really doesn’t matter to us. It’s not going to get in or not get in based on that. It’s really about, ‘How good is your idea?’ and, ‘How well did you execute it?’ We’ve got a lot of examples of films that cost $500 winning and people going on and getting careers out of it. It’s really a backlash, I suppose, in some ways, against film schools and institutions. It’s a way of saying: Look, sure those those places have a place, but sometimes breaking the rules is a good thing, too. And sometimes coming from a lot of backgrounds or taking a different route to being a filmmaker can be a great thing.”

I asked Watts and fellow Aussie actress Gia Carides about their own experiences with Tropfest. “Gia was at the very first one, weren’t you?’
“Yeah, I was,” Carides said. “I was a judge.”
“It was at a little café in Sydney called the Tropicana,” Watts continued, “where we would all frequently go for our coffees and focaccias. John Polson made a short film, and how many others were there?”
“Half a dozen, maybe?” Carides said.
“About half a dozen of his mates,” Watts said. “He had friends and locals; he said, ‘Let’s all make a short film.’ And so they had a coffee shop that was less than a third of the size of this room. He had the first one and everyone loved it. And it was in the spirit of, ‘Let’s share our work.’ A couple of hundred people attended at this tiny café in a groovy, sort of hip part of Sydney.” Watts paused, then slumped a bit. “I didn’t see that one; in fact, I’m embarrassed to say that this is my first Tropfest ever.
“Are you serious?” Carides asked, stunned.
Watts shrugged. “I’m serious!”
I would have told Watts to join the crowd, but 30 minutes later, she did. And hopefully there are more where this one came from.
For a little more… conventional Tropfest coverage, check out my other recap over on The Huffington Post.

Heartbreaking News From Seitz's House Next Door

This is sad, stunning news that I heard Friday but have not had a chance to note or even try get my head around until now: Local critic and filmmaker Matt Zoller Seitz’s wife Jennifer Dawson passed away suddenly April 28. She was 35. Alan Sepinwall has more information on Seitz’s blog The House Next Door.
Words always fail me in the face of this kind of tragedy, but my deepest condolences go to Matt and his children Hannah and James. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
(Photo of Jennifer Dawson and Matt Zoller Seitz: Brooklyn Schoolyard)

Deal Day in NYC: Tribeca Sells its First; Universal Goes Gray

Wow, that was fast: The first sale of Peter Scarlet’s “retail, not wholesale” Tribeca Film Festival went down Thursday, with Strand Releasing picking up the French drama Backstage (right). The film, which premiered Wednesday, looks at the intersecting lives of a pop star (Emmanuelle Seigner) and an obsessive young fan (Islid Le Besco). “We loved the performances of the two lead actresses,” said Strand co-president Marcus Hu in an e-mail to The Reeler. “The film deals with the obsessive relationship the public has with celebrity culture and Backstage is a perfect film to address that.” Hu added that Strand plans on a fall release.
And I guess it also bears mentioning that Universal handed over the cash this week for the distribution rights to James Gray’s still-in-production We Own the Night. As noted here a while back, former Gray players Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix reteamed with the director for the story of New York cops who are forced to defend themselves and their families against the Russian mob. The distribution deal also reunites Gray with Universal production president Jon Gordon, who worked with the filmmaker on his last Wahlberg/Phoenix collaboration, The Yards. The world just gets smaller and smaller, doesn’t it?

Post Gossips Spend Fun, Fact-Filled Day at the Movies

The Post’s gossip apparatus is all about New York cinema today, with Liz Smith leading the way with hottttt casting updates from the streets. Evidently Samantha Morton is out as Pride and Glory‘s Abby Tierney; the Colin Farrell-Nick Nolte cop vehicle will instead welcome “the beautiful daughter of stage legend Rosemary Harris – Jennifer Ehle. You may remember her from 1999’s Sunshine.” Or… not. Smith also reports that Robert Duvall will replace Christopher Walken in We Own the Night, which may have been true, like, four months ago–before Duvall, Joaquin Phoenix and Eva Mendes were locked into James Gray’s police-vs-Russian mob drama. Maybe if Smith went out more she would have a better read on these things.
You know, like her colleague Cindy Adams, whose first-rate reporting and masterful incomplete sentences reveal the “news” that film production in the city is soaring:

Hugh Grant sings and dances in Music and Lyrics By, the thing he’s making with Drew Barrymore and the guy who played Ray Romano’s brother in the series. … So, with more trailers around than there are Starbucks, any locals complaining? You bet your MetroCard. Those who are inconvenienced. Can’t reach certain streets, can’t use favorite parking spots. But, they’re told, the city in general benefits. People use their delis, workers get employed. Etc., etc., and yadda yadda. And then there’s those who are sniffing about Mission: Impossible III anchoring this downtowny New Yorky film festival when not one foot, not one frame, was shot uptown, crosstown or anywhere in this town.

There, there, Cindy, no need to get sniffy. After all, she did have the privilege of attending Vanity Fair’s annual Tribeca Film Festival party, from which Page Six scored what were probably the only real scoops of the night:

Pretty blond former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson was the star attraction at Wednesday night’s Vanity Fair party for the Tribeca Film Festival in the State Supreme Court Building on Centre Street. Just a few hours earlier, Karl Rove (who is derisively referred to as President Bush’s brain) testified in Washington before a grand jury investigating how she was “outed” as a CIA agent in 2003. … Also there was Mickey Rourke, who’s looking forward to making a movie that will be directed jointly by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. One will helm the first half, the other the second half.

Stop the presses! Mickey Rourke? A Tarantino-Rodriguez collaboration? Do tell!
Oh, wait.


'Stadium Story' Survives Bumpy, Brilliant Ride on West Side

I know I have been a little scarce around these parts; the day the subway offers wi-fi will be the day my productivity soars while theater-hopping around Manhattan. That said, I thought I’d refer you back over to The Huffington Post, where I’ve documented A Stadium Story‘s Tribeca premiere (at the AMC Theaters on 34th Street, natch) in all of its loud, turbulent glory.
To wit:

Viewers applauded anti-stadium leader John Raskin’s first appearance and hissed at the introduction of deputy mayor and pro-stadium godhead Dan Doctoroff. Union boss (Jim) Mahoney greeted at least one of Raskin’s allegations — that union protestors were paid to lobby Albany the day of the deciding vote — with a throaty cry of “Bullshit!”

Consider this link your jump to the rest of the piece.

The Doc is In As Tribeca Heads Into First Weekend

Two full days into the Tribeca Film Festival, my gut instinct (and the word on the street) tells me that this year’s documentaries are going to outrank their narrative peers by at least a couple of weight classes. I have yet to even check out buzz-hoarding titles like The Bridge and The War Tapes, but when I find myself recommending docs on something like a four-to-zero basis, my bad knee says that is a sign.

Jonestown director Stanley Nelson at his film’s April 26 premiere (Photo: STV)

But most people seem to agree it is a good sign. “This festival, I gotta say, this thing has come of age,” said director Marc Levin, whose own docs have earned festival accolades for years and who sits on a decidedly formidable International Documentary Competition jury. “It’s fantastic that documentaries have risen to a place at major festivals where they are a major focus of discussion, and people want to be involved in it. It’s great that they have such a high-powered jury. I’ve certainly looked at the list of films; I thought United 93 would be, ‘OK, if I can survive that…’ But I looked at the list and there’s Jonestown and The Bridge–there’s some amazing stuff.”
Indeed. In the meantime, NY, NY Documentary Competition juror (and esteemed New York Magazine film critic) David Edelstein sends word that the one doc he’s seen so far–Kristi Jacobson’s Toots–is delightful. “It’s all a wondrous new adventure to me,” he said this morning in an e-mail to The Reeler. “I look forward to arm-wrestling Rosie Perez in the jury room, though.” And while I have made my case previously for both American Cannibal: The Road to Reality and A Stadium Story, here are a few more winners from The Reeler’s preliminary Tribeca documentary survey:
Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple: Unapologetically direct in its retelling of the suicide/massacre that claimed more than 900 lives, Stanley Nelson’s documentary explores more than just the unqualified psychosis we have seen in God knows how many A&E chronicles of Jim Jones’s religious sect–it illuminates the vulnerability that sank Jones and all of his followers. Nelson exquisitely intercuts survivor interviews with stock photo and video footage of the dead, reconstructing a human tragedy whose scale, devastation and avoidability has no contemporary analogue. Anyone with a heart should bring Kleenex.
Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos: Is it too long? Absolutely. Does it shove soccer’s global appeal down American throats? Perhaps. But directors Paul Crowder and John Dower also adore their subject, the professional soccer franchise that emerged from the imaginations of New York media titans like Steve Ross and Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun to become the talk of a tortured town in 1977. The anecdotes run from hardscrabble goalkeepers posing nude to Cosmos star Pele mistaking the green spray paint on Downey Stadium’s field for a fungus when it showed up on his feet. “You know this is going to be like Rashomon, don’t you?” a former Cosmos executive warns the filmmakers. Of course we do, and we should be grateful Crowder and Dower have the acuity to put all the contradictions into such entertaining focus.

Tell Me Do You Miss Me: You could argue that Matthew Buzzell’s you-are-there chronicle of Luna’s 2004-05 farewell tour will probably boast little appeal beyond the band’s fan base. And to some degree, you are probably right; Tell Me‘s best moments revolve around the 12-year-old Luna’s history of underappreciation and every artist’s implicit dread of dying with a whimper. But Tell Me also exposes the agony and ecstasy of touring, where for every hour-long show one faces grueling travel, lousy pay, cynical critics, intra-band squabbles and other challenges to longevity. Luna’s leader, Dean Wareham (right), acknowledges that the problems posed by the rock life are not the worst you can have, but that they can only be endured for so long. Tell Me examines that tipping point in a sober, scultpted spotlight befitting its moody subject.
Then there is the second tier: Saint of 9/11, which tells the story of NYFD chaplain Mychal Judge, who perished during the rescue effort at the World Trade Center on 9/11; The Cats of Mirikitani, which tells the powefrul (if meandering) story of homeless artist-turned-civil rights symbol; and Once Upon a Time in Marrakech, the chronicle of Hunter College film students joining a Marrakech Film Festival master class with Abbos Kiarostami and Martin Scorsese. In all honesty, the latter film is probably only half-watchable; the Kiarostami short that precedes it plays like an almost laughable, interminable screensaver-meets-soliloquy, full of lukewarm bromides like: “The road is the expression of the man’s journey in search of provisions. … Whoever neglects his pack animal wil never reach his journey’s end.” But then you get to the master class, where Kiarostami and Scorsese do supply about a half-hour of introspection that will have cinephiles mouthbreathing in minutes. Added bonus: Look for an appearance by Man Push Cart auteur Ramin Bahrani, who scored the plum gig translating Kiarostami for the Americans. I always knew that guy would make it someday.
(Wareham photo: Franck Dewannieux)

'American Cannibal' Claims Premiere Audience in East Village

More than a handful of this year’s Tribeca selections have evoked that most puerile of criticisms in me: the one that shakes my head and insists to myself and anyone who will listen, “Jesus Christ–I can make a better movie than that.” And then there are the few exceptional films that I not only enjoy but also ruminate on for hours or days afterward, thinking, “Jesus Christ–not only can I not make a better movie than that, but I should fucking distribute that film.”
The inner distributor in me is particularly excited about the documentary American Cannibal: The Road to Reality, which premiered to an enthusiastic New York crowd yesterday at the AMC Village. Local directors Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro (above) spent more than two years taping the professional lives of Gil Ripley and Dave Roberts, a writing team whose fruitless story pitches find a more receptive audience with Kevin Blatt, the C-list pornographer responsible for the Paris Hilton sex tape. Insistent on developing a reality TV show, the trio’s working relationship challenges Ripley and Roberts’s personal standards while tempting them with the overdue payday they both need.
Blatt latches on to Ripley’s joking suggestion for a series entitled American Cannibal, a show that would plunk starving contestants on a desert island to determine the lengths they would go to survive. When Black bankrolls the show, Ripley and Roberts sign on against their better judgment. They assume increasing responsibility for their unwanted child, clash with production heads and all but smoulder with resentment as the reality parade approaches its nadir on a rocky beach fringing Puerto Rico.
Grebin and Nigro’s triumph stems from their assiduous, unswerving filming regimen; while American Cannibal started out as an industrial project aimed at helping film students learn to pitch stories, it became a bruising reality exercise of its own as it narrowed its focus to a writing team wracked evenly with ambition and crisis.
“People were not pitching the way they normally pitch,” Grebin told the audience during Wednesday’s Q&A They weren’t coming in with sitcoms and dramas. Everything had switched to reality.”
“There were two writers who emerged from the group who were a little more interesting than others and had more wild ideas,” Nigro said. “It was more entertaining to watch them. So once we figured out we kind of had something of a documentary on our hands, we just kept going, because we thought (the team’s original pilot) Psychotic Episodes was going to be brilliant and it was really going to propel these guys. But we had nothing. But we realized that there’s much more to be said for reality than for traditional work–at least at this time. So why not follow? Of course, once we’d met Kevin Blatt, things just started rolling.”
The desperation depicted in American Cannibal resonates from one act to the next, from one subject to another. A director “specializing” in reality TV signs on, followed by reality host George Gray. Casting sessions gone awry lead to angry outbursts and cast members covering up physical ailments for the shot at competing on television. Ripley and Roberts risk everything they have, and watching them lose it day-by-day is as brutal as any of the trials facing their castaways. Which, naturally, is the point: These guys are the castaways, as is the entire creative industry subjugated to the reality craze.
Roberts acknowledged the toll the experience had on his emotions and family life. “There were definitely things that I’m glad are not in there,” he said from his seat in the middle of the audience. “They didn’t ‘Michael Moore’ me or Gil, and I’d have to say that the jerk I look like up actually is me. They were very fair.”
But the fact that Grebin and Nigro could be where they were when they were almost feels unfair; that they could edit their footage into three cohesive acts with an ending that does justice to the dramatic tension that precedes it almost defies belief. Judge for yourself what these guys’ souls are worth, and when–not if–the festival marketplace puts its own value on an American Cannibal distribution, believe me–I will pass along the news.


'Da Vinci Code' Radiation Smothers NYC Area; PR Zombies Walk the Earth

Just when I thought I was going to be able to bypass the entire Da Vinci Code craze on account of its essential non-New Yorkiness, a deluge of related news and notes flooded my beleaguered inbox over the last 24 hours. It would be bad enough that The Times gave Tom Hanks the run of its Web site for a tribute to his retiring makeup man, but these latest heads-up raise the bar on ancillary excess–and put our fair city in the position of swatting mosquitoes before summer has even started.
The trouble began early Wednesday, when something called Chosen People Ministries fired off a press release evidently intended to be printed out and affixed to your computer monitor like a big, cross-shaped Post-It Note:

Message to Da Vinci Code Author, Film Makers & Fans: Don’t Forget Jesus Was Jewish!

NEW YORK, April 26 — The Da Vinci Code has caused an uproar in many Christian circles, since it claims that the traditional Church has suppressed the real story of Jesus. The best-selling book and movie also assert the New Testament documents in the Bible are unreliable. There have been numerous, substantial responses from Catholic and Protestant circles, but none from Messianic Jews (Jews who follow Jesus as Messiah) which is striking, considering that Jesus and his first followers were all Jews.

“Messianic Jews bring a unique perspective to The Da Vinci Code debate, yet their voice is being completely overlooked,” says Dr. Michael L. Brown, a biblical scholar and the author of the multi-volume series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. …

Many believe the time has come for Jewish people and especially Messianic Jews to also reclaim Jesus as one of the greatest Jewish leaders.

“If there is a conspiracy, it is that somehow Jesus has been separated from his roots and is viewed apart from his Jewishness,” said (CPM president Dr. Mitch) Glaser. “This is something Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code author [sic], completely missed in his book and the movie will not do anything differently.”

So there is your message of conscience for the day: Give Jesus his props as a Jew, and buy Michael Brown’s multi-volume series. Also attempting to enlighten your spiritual and beach-reading agenda are director Jonathan Stack and author Dan Burstein, whose documentary collaboration Secrets of the Code had a preview last night at the Tribeca Film Festival. While I will abstain from commenting on what I have not seen, you have to appreciate the pair’s highbrow-lowbrow marketing savvy:

From glimpses of the sacred feminine in a prehistoric cave in France, to musical mysteries hidden in a chapel in Scotland, and from a Templar tomb in London to the catacombs of Rome, the film takes the viewer on an intimate journey along the paths traveled by The Da Vinci Code novel. …

“(T)he overarching issue,” (Burstein said), “the one that ties all the other fascinations together, is the one that novelist Dan Brown alludes to throughout The Da Vinci Code in the persona of his fictional character, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon: the human desire to understand man/woman’s place in the universe and to create stories that become the basis for powerful myths, religions, and belief systems that seek to provide answers. Jonathan Stack’s interpretation of these issues turns Secrets of the Code into a film that is its own independent, entertaining, and thought-provoking meditation on the themes of The Da Vinci Code.”

But for today’s most ambitous-if-not-overbearing Da Vinci Code offshoot, drop in on Rahway, N.J., resident Martin Goldberg’s Leonardo’s Code 57. The Web site does amazing work pairing fill-in-the-blanks philosophy with all the poetic grace a place like Rahway will allow; a quick glimpse at Goldberg’s home page will have Ron Howard scrambling to add a $50,000 “Goldberg epigram” line to The Da Vinci Code‘s post-production budget:

Now it’s time to take a look,

at a very popular book,

portending that The Holy Grail

is actually a divinely inspired girl. …

Pray tell, Leonardo, what hath thou in mind?

In the mirror shall we look?

Are you a genius or a kook?

Simple this just cannot be

reflecting on life’s mystery.

Yeah, well, it seems simple enough. Tomorrow, noted theological experts will debate the implications of the “live black crucifix” going down in Los Angeles. Operative phrase (I am not making this up): “I’m impressed that many people seemed not to be shocked at the sight of a black Jesus!”
Will the next person who comes across Dan Brown slap him, please? For me?


New York Film Snobs Take to the Airwaves

My good friend Lawrence Levi–he of the swell film blog Looker–joined David Kamp on WNYC yesterday to discuss their recent collaboration, The Film Snob’s Dictionary. And as brilliantly as their meditations on diageses segue into hairsplitting of the Mean Streets soundtrack, I do not know if the interview could have yielded a more rewarding conclusion than this caller who recounted sitting near Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson during a screening of Takashi Miike’s Audition:

JIM IN MANHATTAN: The torture section? Where the hero has his eyeballs poked with needles? The two of them got up and left because they were I guess, I dunno, too freaked out or something.

KAMP: This is the man who wrote “Venus in Furs.”

J.I.M.: Precisely. And I was so emboldened by that moment that the rest of the film was just laughable. You know? It was like, “I can’t believe that Lou Reed couldn’t take this movie.”

There are about 26 additonal minutes where that came from, and you already know the book is totally fucking great, so check out the rest here. At least the listening will not cut into your valuable on-the-clock Web surfing like all this reading I always force on you.

Tribeca by Moonlight: The Reeler Joins Huffington Post's Festival Orgy

The drugs must be really good over at The Huffington Post, where somebody had the batty idea of inviting me to contribute to the blog’s daily Tribeca coverage. There are something like 14 or 15 of us on the reporting team, including former FishBowl NY editor Rachel Sklar, who provides an introductory overview here. Expect maybe a little overlap between my HuffPo and Reeler dispatches, but I mostly intend to keep them separate. Mostly.
This morning I have a look at the wonderful Colour Me Kubrick–in particular, New York Times power broker Frank Rich’s real-life run-in with Kubrick impersonator Alan Conway and the incident’s portrayal in the film. Suffice it to say that actor William Hootkins–best known as Star Wars‘ doomed X-Wing pilot Jek Porkins–plays Rich. Goddamn, this can be a cruel world.

'United 93' Bows, Tribeca Finally Open For Business

While I really do look forward to checking out the overwhelmingly well-reviewed United 93, I was, for whatever reason, turned away from covering its premiere Tuesday evening and even from viewing the film at its Loews Lincoln Square overflow theaters. “You can wait if you want,” a festival flack said, nodding toward the door. “We’re totally full.” Two sources who did manage entry corroborated at least a near-capacity crowd in e-mails to Reeler HQ last night; for the three of you concerning yourselves with the outcome of yesterday’s Lloyd Grove vs. Tribeca Film Festival pissing contest, here is hoping that provides some closure.
Among those who covered the premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater, the Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Goldstein receives The Reeler’s red-carpet blue ribbon for the quick turnaround and general thoroughness of his dispatch:

(E)ven amidst the smiles and pleasantries in the lobby, mixed emotions were very close to the surface when audience members were asked about the film they were about to see. …

Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro began the evening’s series of introductions by acknowledging the audience’s difficulty with the subject matter, something Universal is facing as it prepares for the movie’s release Friday. “Given our festival’s founding after September 11, for many of us, the story is difficult,” he said. “We applaud the participation of the family members — your participation means a lot.”

De Niro’s characteristically brief remarks were followed by Rosenthal’s appearance. “The film exemplifies the highest form of the human spirit,” she said. “It leaves us with a new memory that is uplifting.” …

But perhaps actor Gabriel Byrne best summed up feelings about the film: “I can understand why some people don’t want to see the film, and I can see why there’s a compulsion to confront it, because in many ways we still haven’t confronted it.”

Goldstein also features cameos by MPAA boss Dan Glickman, former U.S. Senator (and 9/11 Commission head) Bob Kerrey and some guy named Greengrass. The festival starts in earnest today, which means I must beg your pardon while I put my running shoes on and wolf down another dose of speed. No days down, eleven to go.

'Made In NY' Money All But Gone; City Council Rides to Rescue

Also today in Variety, Andrew Barker contributes the latest update about the “Made in NY” tax incentive program’s wild success. While his colleague Addie Morfoot had pretty much the same story last December–explaining that the $50 million trough was just about empty–Barker’s version arrives with a weird sense of forboding that implies no good deed goes unpunished:

Less than a year and a half after incentives began, the city has reached the $50 million limit allocated to the initiative.

“Productions which shoot in New York can still take advantage of the state’s 10% tax credit,” says Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. “Mayor Bloomberg supports a continuation of the program, and the next state legislative session will determine its future.”

Applications are still being accepted for the 5% credit, although it is unclear when or if the city’s coffers will be refilled.

Enter City Council members David Weprin, David Yassky, Vincent Gentile and Domenic Recchia (representing Queens and Brooklyn, natch, home to three separate studios) who extracted their cheerleader outfits from the closet yesterday for the Daily News:

Saying it will generate more jobs, a group of City Council members called yesterday for $30 million a year in tax credits for film and television production in the city.

Under a law passed two years ago with the backing of those Council members, the city now spends $12.5 million a year on giving a refundable 5% tax credit to filmmakers who produce 75% of their work within the city.

“You’re not really just benefitting Hollywood,” said Councilman David Weprin (D-Queens), one of the prime boosters of increasing the film production tax-credit pot. …

They’ve also expressed concern that some of the tax-break money is going to production companies that would have worked in the city even without the tax breaks. …

“It’s too soon to say ‘Cut!’ to the film tax credit,” (Yassky) insisted. “We can’t let the tax credit end up on the cutting room floor.”

Insert groan here. The NYDN’s Frank Lombardi goes on to report that the councilmen atribute the delay to political snags in Albany, where budget squabbles have paralyzed the plan’s advance. Meanwhile, the current funds are locked up through 2008, so do not go thinking Ethan Hawke has relinquished your parking space just…quite… yet.

Variety (Hearts) NY, Has the Hundred or So Stories Today to Prove It

With Tribeca ’06 commencing in seven hours, Variety has chosen April 25 as the day of a thousand New York film culture articles. OK, so it is really only, like, a few hundred, and some are a little more impressive than others, and if it is indeed the thought that counts, then this might be the most generous consideration the trade will throw our way this year.
While you already know all about Eamonn Bowles’ band The Martinets from The Reeler’s deafened coverage of one of their shows last January, Lily Oei reprises a few licks from the offices of Bowles’ Magnolia Pictures. In other news, we also learn that Lili Taylor considers 42nd Street and 11th Avenue “uptown” and that producer Lee Daniels likes Butter (as in the nightclub). And he has his own inspired impression of New York’s crude, cruel vitality:

The city provides you with the fundamental foundations to create from because of your interactions with people. It is a constant struggle. People here will step on you in order to get where they have to go so and it really brings something to you as a person that you are able to create from.

It must do something more for him than it does for me; after all, this guy is voluntarily producing Mariah Carey’s follow-up to Glitter. At any rate, another Oei contribution looks at P.S. 260, the post-production house whose server exploded after editor Robert Ryang’s Shining trailer parody flooded the Web last fall. This time, however, the spotlight is on co-founder J.J. Lask feature directing debut On the Road With Judas, which Lask recently wrapped and which Ryang will edit this summer.
David Hafetz offers probably the best read in the package with his sober survey of this year’s crop of 9/11 movies. Hafetz backs away from hero-hype and too-much-too-soon twaddle to look at the specific phenomenon of society via cinema–and in 9/11’s case, the acute, aestheticized perception of politics, culture and history. That sounds a little higher-brow than it probably should, but that is why Hafetz gets the big bucks and I just point you his way:

For all their controversy, both United 93 and World Trade Center occupy familiar Hollywood terrain. Against the backdrop of terror and tragedy, the movies tell stories of individuals facing dire situations and tapping unknown strength and courage to survive or fight back.

Ironically, the films provide an almost affirming message to a country caught up in unsettling times. …

It is still uncertain whether American audiences want to see stories about Flight 93 and the Twin Towers on the big screen. Whatever the answer, these films, though daring in their own right, somehow suggest a more innocent time.

Speaking of innocence, Anthony Kaufman has a list of Tribeca’s “high buzz” and “moderate buzz” films here. Watch Cindy Adams say she reported them first yesterday. Typical.

'United 93' Premiere Begs Question: 'Is That Seat Taken?'

In today’s Daily News, Lloyd Grove stirs the shit about tonight’s United 93 premiere having potentially been underbooked. While Grove writes that local celebrities are expected to round out the low-key nexus of the Ziegfeld Theater, he details a bitchy (and, naturally, anonymous) give-and-take between a pair of sources speculating just how packed the Lowes Lincoln Square’s overflow venue will be:

“Despite grand hopes for massive attendance, it seems they were having trouble filling the seats and had to send out last-minute invitations to B-list invitees,” said my source. “There’s a lack of appetite for watching something so gruesome and something we already know so much about.”

But a festival organizer scoffed: “You have bad information. Our overflow screening is full.”

As for suggestions that Universal Studios might have overestimated the demand, the festival type said: “The phones have not stopped all day for tickets to this.”

A little probing this morning from Reeler HQ revealed the latter to be closer to the truth, even if 6,000 guests are quite a lot for anyone to expect to draw at two theaters for a docudrama about one of 9/11’s hijacked plane. But if no less an authority than Peggy Siegel says the screenings are the source of crowded “high anxiety,” then I guess we can probably expect people sitting in the aisles. “I guess we’ll see,” Grove concludes; I have my money on the festival.

Reed, Fishburne, Cuban and the Juries That Ate Lower Manhattan

“So STV,” you ask, “What was the deal with Ken Burns and Trudie Styler (among others) at the Tribeca press conference earlier today?” Great question–one I should have answered in the post before I got carried away with all that quoty goodness.
Anyhow, Burns, Styler, Oren Jacoby and nearly three dozen other New York boldface names make up the members of this year’s Tribeca juries. Awards will be distributed in six categories through the International, NY, NY and Short Film Competitions, and judging by the names on some of these panels, the 2006 selections face some hard, hard graders. Take the International Documentary Feature jury, for example: Burns, Jacoby, Robert Drew, Whoopi Goldberg, Rory Kennedy and Marc Levin. Or the Narrative Short jury: Mark Cuban, Laurence Fishburne, Samantha Morton, Gayle King, Shelly Lazarus, Julia Stiles and Lou Reed. Mark Cuban, Laurence Fishburne and Lou Reed on the same jury? Fuck J.J. Abrams; they should sell tickets to those discussions.
A few other notable jurors include Craig Newmark (the “Craig” of craigslist, judging student shorts), critics David Edelstein and Glenn Kenny (judging NY, NY docs) and Melvin Van Peebles, who represents the godfather of the International Narrative jury. Look for the complete jury lists after the jump.

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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