Reeler Archive for May, 2006

Kerrigan and Co. Kick Off Reeler Screening Series in East Village

After nearly three months of planning, scheming and general prayers that I would not totally fuck it up, the Reeler Screening Series launched last night at the Pioneer Theater. As you likely know from the last week’s worth of garish self-promotion, I invited filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan to discuss his brilliant (if woefully underseen) drama Keane with me and my fellow bloggers Lawrence Levi and Karina Longworth. A wonderful crowd dropped in for the film, taking time afterward to pepper Kerrigan with questions and celebrate his work with a fitting beer-and-pizza reception.

Lodge Kerrigan has almost all the answers for Cinematical’s Karina Longworth Tuesday night at the Pioneer Theater (Photo: Ray Privett)

Naturally, I taped everything, and I will be working on assembling a podcast of the post-screening chat in the next week. In the meantime, here are a few choice Kerrigan insights to hold you over:
On shooting a movie at Port Authority: The biggest risk is that at Port Authority, 200,000 people pour through every day, and actors work at different rhythms. And I say this in a completely non-pejorative way. Damian would be ready out of the gate–in the first few takes. That’s when he was peaking. Abigail (Breslin), who gives such an incredible performance as Kira, even as much as I would rehearse with her she really didn’t hit her peak until take six or seven, at which point Damian was coming down. So I had to keep shooting, and was take 14 or 15 on average when the two of them are together. I’m running three or four minute scenes with no coverage, and all of the sudden–let’s say on take 12 or take 13, a bus arrives and some guy comes down and says, ‘Hey, are you making a movie?’ And you’re at zero. You start at nothing and go again. And I always wonder about that question. I’m like, ‘What? Was it the camera that gave us away?’ ”
On the ambiguity of Keane’s quest to find his daughter: “The idea for the film originated from the fact that I’m a parent, and my worst fear is that my own daughter would be abducted. I just tried to confront that fear to some degree. But a lot of people that I’ve encountered who suffer from mental illness, a lot of the times the stories they tell me I’m not sure if they’re really accurate or not. … I don’t think it’s a question that they’re being deceitful, but that delusion is a symptom of mental illness. I wanted to place the audience in the position of it seeming as real as possible–to try to force some identification with a character that you normally would avoid. And so really for the audience to answer that themselves.
On rehearsing: “I made a film years ago called Clean, Shaven, and I would rehearse all the time and want to get every reaction down, in this false belief, I think, that actors really turn it on for you in rehearsal, when they don’t at all. They wait until the camera’s rolling. But I’ve kind of moved away from that; in rehearsals now, what I do is really focus on making the characters as clear as possible. I’m not really concerned with performance until the day of the shooting. But y rehearsing on location, we were able to answer all of the technical questions and all of the actors’ questions so early that on the day of the shoot, all we dealt with was performance and rehearsing the camera. That’s it.”
On Steven Soderbergh’s cut of Keane, featured as a DVD extra: “As if he’s not prolific enough, he was shooting Ocean’s 12, and I was just about to picture lock. So out of respect–he is the executive producer of the movie, and arranged for financing through his company Populist Pictures–I sent him a cut of the movie. And he, as another filmmaker, just reordered it and re-edited it on his Mac, in between producing, directing and shooting Ocean’s 12. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a little more time. I’ll take a look at this.’ He said to me that it’s the visual equivalent of a conversation. That’s all it was. … When it came time to release the DVD, I didn’t have any bonus features and I really don’t like doing commentaries, so I think Steven came up with the idea: ‘Why don’t we include the other cut?’ And I was like, ‘That’s great. That’ll be the commentary.’ …
“It’s been really interesting–for myself, I laugh at it–to watch the response to it. Some critics/bloggers/opinion makers think that it’s a really passive-aggressive thing that he did; that really he didn’t like my cut and it was a backhanded way to tell me that. … Really it was just fun. We laughed, and I watched it, and we talked about it. And we thought it was kind of a cool thing to do.”
On the “lost” Kerrigan film, In God’s Hands: “I shot a feature on Super 16 called In God’s Hands. It actually had extensive negative damage and had to be abandoned. … It’ll never be seen. Actually, you know, legally, I’m bound by the terms of the settlement that I can’t talk about that. I signed a ‘gag clause.’ ”
“With who?” Longworth asked.
“I’m sorry,” Kerrigan said, almost as incredulous as his inquisitor. “I can’t answer that question.”
My goal is to have the full 30-minute podcast on this site by next Monday; a few freelance deadlines have their feet on my throat until then. But if, for whatever reason, you could not make it Tuesday night, start getting ‘sick’ now so you cancel whatever previous engagements you might have planned for the next one–whenever that is. But if last night’s success was any indication, it will arrive sooner than later. Thanks again to Ray Privett at the Pioneer, Eamonn Bowles at Magnolia Pictures, Lodge, Karina, Lawrence and all of you who came by; I look forward to seeing you again in the not-so-distant future.

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Reeler Screening Series Starts Tonight at Pioneer Theater

Consider this your last call to drop by tonight’s first installment of the Reeler Screening Series at the Pioneer Theater, where my bloggish colleagues Lawrence Levi and Karina Longworth will join me in welcoming filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan for a discussion/Q&A of his 2004 classic Keane. The show starts up at 6:30 and should nicely disintegrate into a beer- and pizza-fueled orgy of cinephilia (for ticketholders only!) immediately following our chat.
Check out the jump for a film synopsis and full program details–this should be a great night, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Read the full article »

IFC, Shapiro Laying Down the Law in the Name of Fair Use

The closet El Santo fan in me fell head over heels for Lewis Beale’s piece about Nacho Libre and the luchador tradition in Sunday’s Times, but Elaine Dutka absolutely floored me with her close, considered look at the ways IFC and its documentaries are challenging studios’ exorbitant clip fees through the 165-year-old law known as the fair-use doctrine.
Granted, there is some smooth-talking in the network’s and its allies approach (“Fair use is the lubricant that allows creativity and copyright law to coexist,” said lawyer and former International Documentary Association president Michael Donaldson), but for all the shit I have given IFC TV’s Evan Shapiro in the last 12 months for one awkward rationale or another, he deserves a bundle of credit for challenging mid-six-figure licensing fees that would have sunk a pair of its most promising docs, including the just-premiered road movie paean Wanderlust:

Mr. Shapiro had vowed never to embark on another clip-heavy film after Xan Cassavetes’s Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, a costly 2004 profile of a cable network that used scenes from movies like Salvador and 400 Blows. Rights had to be purchased separately for home video and film festivals, and renewed periodically. But Wanderlust, set in motion by a predecessor, was a chance to set a precedent.

“We’re taking on the fight not only with Wanderlust but also with the upcoming This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” said Mr. Shapiro, referring to a clip-dependent critique of the film ratings system set for release in theaters later this year. “That was made, from the start, under the fair-use doctrine, as all of our documentaries will be from now on.”

Director Kirby Dick had alluded to this tack during a Not Yet Rated preview in April, but as far as I know, Dutka’s piece is the first real exploration of the issues: You have the French rights-holder to Breathless accusing IFC of blackmail; you have Warner Bros. slashing its licensing charges by more than 90 percent; and you have no less a legal titan (and cautious optimist) than Lawrence Lessig getting IFC’s back: “Shapiro is fighting the good fight. … But the danger of drawing a line in the sand is that others will try to erase it.” If you did not catch this Sunday, start your four-day procrastination work week right and give Dutka a read.

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Word-of-Mouth Cult Joins Berney and Siegel Among Marketing Greats

In a periodically fascinating piece in today’s Variety, columnist Jonathan Bing takes on that ever-abstract, ever-influential marketing lodestar known as word of mouth–and I only say “periodically fascinating” because we already know how Picturehouse’s Bob Berney and publicist Peggy Siegel are among the shrewdest word-of-mouth wonks in New York (if not the entire film industry). And while I am beyond relieved that Anna Wintour has at long last “validated” The Devil Wears Prada, I had to read down to the final third of Bing’s column to take in the summer’s first official “you-have-got-to-be-shitting-me” revelation:

(W)ord-of-mouth marketing has long been overlooked by major consumer brands largely because it didn’t seem to lend itself to the sort of metrics (gross ratings points, costs per thousand, etc.) that a TV campaign does. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has been working hard to change that perception. Next month, it’s holding a conference on “Word of Mouth Basic Training,” otherwise known as WOMBAT, to study the ways in which this marketing practice can, as WOMMA head Andy Sernovitz puts it, serve as a “plannable, trackable part of the marketing mix.” …

“The future is going to be what I call people networks,” said Dave Balter, founder of a Boston-based marketing agency BzzAgent which employs some 180,000 volunteer word-of-mouth agents from coast to coast. “We’re turning our system of agents into a media form. Companies can access them as they access other media forms.”

Bing adds that WOMMA measures its impact in something called WOM Units and that the entire movement is predicated on the theory that networks of people can be managed as strategically as media campaigns can be. I thought WOMMA’s point was that the two were not really separate, but I am genuinely inclined to find out for myself if I can ever pry my ass away from the goddamned Da Vinci Code beat. Oh, wait.

Screening Gotham: May 26-29, 2006

A few of this holiday weekend’s worthwile cinematic happenings around New York:
–Film Forum is about two-thirds of the way through its B-Noir series, in which the theater is screening double features of seemingly every fast, cheap and dirty noir film made between 1944 and 1957. As his Memorial Day gift to you, however, programmer Bruce Goldstein arranged a triple feature of films by the late Richard Fleischer for Sunday and Monday; the package includes the 1949 tandem Follow Me Quietly and The Clay Pigeon and the 1950 heist flick Armored Car Robbery. Or, if you’d rather spend your holiday with director Anthony Mann, restored prints of his films T-Men and Raw Deal (above) will screen together Monday only. Think about it: Five features for $20. There’s not a better moviegoing deal in town.
–Since you should already be at Cinema Village tonight checking out Cavite, what harm can you do staying late for String Theatre’s Midnight Shorts Program? Odds are not great that you will know the filmmakers (Bengt Anderson? Amina El Etreby? Roey Shmool?), but that is a selling point as far as I am concerned. And it is a fundraiser, so have a fucking heart and just go, for Christ’s sake.
–Speaking of shorts, word just hit Reeler HQ that the New York Minute Short Film Festival is accepting submissions. The online “event” is exactly what it sounds like, featuring an international selection of films running 60 seconds or less. And face it: With so many drunk sailors and their conquests running around town doing stupid shit during Fleet Week, a thousand all-too-brief comedies, dramas and horror stories are right outside your door. Unclip that lenscap and get shooting!

'Cavite': Terror Thriller Hits Mark With No Budget (or Excuses)

While I guess I’d admit having sort of a soft spot in my heart for bilingual no-budget terrorism thrillers, I do not think that was any prerequisite to enjoying the hell out of Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana’s gritty film Cavite, which opens today at Cinema Village. Shot on video and costing whatever the going rate is for a flight to Manila, the film follows a young Filipino-American from his dead-end job (and impending fatherhood) in the States to his father’s funeral in the Philippines. No sooner does Adam (Gamazon) arrive than he is on the receiving end of a cell phone call threatening to kill his kidnapped mother and sister.
But while anonymous, the caller is hardly part of a random plot, and its brisk momentum plunges Adam into slums where an increasing social desperation reflects and eventually overtakes his own proscribed fear. And as Cavite–with its squalid authenticity and a percussive score so minimalist it is barely there–rockets toward its climax, the suspense falls away to reveal the raw roots of extremism. That said, nothing about Cavite feels excessively didactic (as opposed to, say, Michael Winterbottom’s egregious verite-terror meditation The Road to Guantanamo), an asset that only bolsters the film’s resonance.
But the filmmakers’ achievement is arguably more apparent in their adaptability. After all, Dela Llana and Gamazon wore virtually every hat in their Philippines locations, all the way down to Gamazon carting around sound equipment in his bag. “We knew that to go to the Philippines, we couldn’t have a very big crew or too many people with us for logistical and for budgetary reasons,” Dela Llana told me last week. “I mean, with a one-character film, we thought, ‘Yeah–this can be done with two people.’ We were going to have to work around sound and camera and all that, but we knew it was possible.”
Gamazon assumed the lead role after a year of auditioning actresses, none of whom felt especially comfortable with the prospect of traveling to Asia with two strangers to shoot for no pay. The pair filmed restlessly around Manila during the day and crashed with Dela Llana’s relatives at night. The pure foreignness of the environment comes through in every shot, with Gamazon–who had not visited the Philippines since his childhood–seeing this world for the first time with the same Western helplessness as his and Dela Llana’s viewers.
The conditions evident onscreen are the same ones to which many observers attribute the rise of Filipino terror groups like Abu Sayyaf, and the filmmakers specifically wanted to address the issue when they developed the script. “When the seed of the idea came up with the cell phone call between Ian and myself, basically it was just an action movie.” Dela Llana said. “But once we decided to set it in the Philippines, Ian and I knew during the writing process that we could make this really topical. Especially after 9/11; this is literally weeks after 9/11 that the ideas started to come together. Originally, it wasn’t supposed to be a political film, but it just kind of layered itself into the story.”
“We’re very apolitical people,” Gamazon added. “But at the same time, we knew while filming in the Philippines that this had to be a political film.”
“It was an option that would make the film a lot more layered and give it a lot more dimension,” Dela Llana said, “as opposed to just a generic action film like a Phone Booth or a Cellular.”
Cavite made a festival splash right away, premiering at Rotterdam before moving onto South by Southwest and the Los Angeles Film Festival. The distribution hunt was notably slower, with Gamazon and Dela Llana exercising months’ worth of patience before locking in fabled producer rep John Pierson as their distribution point man. “John e-mailed, and basically he said, ‘We have to talk,’ ” Dela Llana told me. “And John was at the University of Texas in Austin teaching a film producing class, and he wanted us to turn Cavite into a class project, where he would teach his class hands-on experience on how to get a film out there through marketing, through publicity, how to get distributors into screenings–it basically became a huge class project for him. At the same time, he really took the lead in getting the film out.”
They eventually landed with Truly Indie, sort of a pay-to-play distribution arm of 2929 Entertainment that handles a film’s one-week theatrical release, publicity and advertising for a flat fee. In return, the filmmakers retain the rights to their work and can choose another theatrical and/or video distributor if a successful run attracts potential buyers–which I am certain will materialize. I mean, just watch the movie; you will not find any fear and not a single excuse. These guys can do anything.

Foreign Sales Powerhouse Fortissimo Films on its Way to NYC

Eugene Hernandez sends word from Cannes that foreign sales rep Fortissimo Films will open an office in New York City. The company is moving its Hong Kong point person Winnie Lau into town before the Toronto Film Festival, at which point she can get to work “fostering long-standing relationships … with Jim Jarmusch, Mira Nair, Killer Films, Hart Sharp, IFC Film and IFC Television.” As far as jumping into a pool already crowded with the likes of Cinetic Media, William Morris, Washington Square and other fish of various shapes and sizes, Fortissimo co-president Wouter Barendrecht told Hernandez that he views those companies “as greater partners, rather than competitors.”
Right. I am sure Cinetic’s John Sloss is ordering up a “welcome to the neighborhood” flower basket as I write this. While the city is probably big enough to accommodate another A-list sales agent, Fortissimo’s worldwide reach has to bulge more than few domestic producers’ eyes; Ted Hope signed up the new Todd Solondz film with Fortissimo only a week ago, for example, back when Barendrecht was still offering brow-furrowing, chin- stroking platitudes about “organic, natural growth” and the “pitfalls of radical expansion.” Now that he is actually here, I cannot imagine at least a few mid-level reps around town will not be cutting their Memorial Day barbecue beers with extra-strength Pepto-Bismol, or just skipping the light stuff altogether and running straight for the vodka while anticipating the 70- or 80-day weekends of insolvency that lay ahead. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.

Early Tracking on 'The Departed' Reveals a Dissatisfied Christopher Doyle

In the lingering PR hangover accompanying the New York Film Festival’s recent schedule announcement, a colleague and I bandied about a few titles we thought belonged on a short list for opening night. I ultimately suggested Marie-Antoinette (before yesterday’s critical gang rape, natch) while my knowledgeable pal stuck with the Warner Bros. motif in citing Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which is evidently locked into an Oct. 6 wide release. (The NYFF starts Sept. 30.)
But another old friend of The Reeler’s indicates (via Grady Hendrix) that we shouldn’t be getting our hopes up for Scorsese’s red-carpet saunter through Lincoln Center either:

The Departed also gets a gift of some choice words from Christopher Doyle, Hong Kong’s acclaimed cinematographer and the visual consultant on Infernal Affairs. Saul Symonds, a writer in Hong Kong, interviewed Doyle and these are the outtakes, which are fascinating. Here’s what Doyle had to say about The Departed:

“I find it disappointing if not depressing to see someone of the integrity and scholarship of Marty:

1) apparently not knowing or caring where the original originates from (which I find insulting to our integrity and efforts…when of all the filmmakers in the world Marty is the one who pretends to celebrate excellence and integrity and vision in cinematography)

2) needing to suck box office, or studio, or whoever’s dick he feels he needs to suck…it can’t be for the money…it can’t be for the film (for the reasons above)…it must be just to work…which is mostly my motivation most of the time…but to have something fall into one’s lap because one is supposedly competent in a certain kind of filmmaking is exactly why we are moving on and accountants are making non-subtitled versions of what we do.

There is a little more over at Hendrix’s Kaiju Shakedown, and of course it is worth the read. Meanwhile, The Fountain just moved into the front-runner spot for opening night, assuming Doyle doesn’t empty his clip on Darren Aronofsky for debasing himself with cocksucking time-travel films or something. Anything is possible, and God knows it is a long way to September.


MoMA Salutes Mangold's "Work in Progress"

Anna Deveare Smith quizzes James Mangold at Tuesday’s “Work in Progress” benefit at MoMA (Photos: STV)

The Reeler had the good fortune last night of scoring a ticket to MoMA’s annual “A Work in Progress” benefit, which this year celebrated filmmaker James Mangold. The museum’s Junior Associates group organizes these tributes as sort of a This is Your Professional Life for 30- and 40-something directors in the early to middle stages of their careers; previous honorees include Sofia Coppola, Alexander Payne and Marc Forster. As such, the company is pretty good, and while nobody registered the P. Diddy, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Will Ferrell sightings that accompanied last year’s Forster extravaganza, it was nice to see Mangold veterans Liv Tyler, Dallas Roberts and John C. McGinley drop in for support.
Myself, I wound up in the fourth row next to Lloyd Grove and right behind a semi-dozing Michael Musto, both of whom I presume had little use for the keen cine-centric insights threading the discussion between Mangold and moderator Anna Deveare Smith. Mangold’s personal history proved a little more unanimously dazzling; as the son of painters Robert Mangold and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, he became the third person in his family to have work in MoMA’s permanent collection.
“The thing about growing up in a house with two painters was that I was not a rebel in trying to become an artist,” Mangold said. “It was something that made a lot of sense. These two people got to dream, paint and work and somehow make a living making beautiful things. So it seemed like a good way to go. The only rebellious act I can think of, in fact, is being frustrated (at) the narrow band of the world that appreciated me. And in a way, it was very frustrating growing up in kind of a blue-collar town where no one who I went to school with understood what my parents did and how it related to the world. It was very hard to be in an upstate town, and I’d go, ‘My dad is a minimalist painter.’ Or, ‘My mom paints landscape with masking tape on it.’ ”
Of course, no critical assessment of Mangold’s career would be complete without dropping the phrase “actor’s director”–a label the filmmaker earned early with his masterful feature debut Heavy and later cemented with the ensemble drama Cop Land and the Oscar-winning films Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line. Smith brought it up within about three minutes of the first film clip.
“I remember hearing people at film school complain, ‘They don’t have any Steadicams; I’m trying to get a donation of one from blah blah blah’ ” Mangold said, recalling his days studying at CalArts with legends like Alexander Mackendrick (Sweet Smell of Success). “It’s all about equipment. It’s like, ‘Dude, in that equipment room, you have what Orson Welles made Citizen Kane with. All that shit you’re trying to get is shit that you don’t need. What you’re missing is Joseph Cotten. You need Joseph Cotten and a light. And a camera from 1964.’
“Whenever you find a young filmmaker–and I include myself–looking at his movie and going, ‘It sucks,’ it’s not because of that shot that you missed,” he continued. “It’s because there’s no human ‘there’ there. And so what occurred to me that what was really missing from my own work was being moved. What blew me away, whether it was something as far reaching as Star Wars or The Conversation, was that they both moved me. And if somehow, you don’t get moved, you’re dead. … It’s your special effect.”

That’s what an actor’s director is”: Mangold with Identity co-star John C. McGinley

McGinley was more specific in his introduction to a scene from Mangold’s 2003 thriller Identity. “I asked Jim what it’s like to be an ‘actor’s director.’ And what it means to me–there are some other great actors in this room; I’m not sure what it means to them–but what it means to me is to be included in a collaboration when someone has a vision. And a vision can be as simple as how we’re going to tell the story–‘This is my opinion, and this is how we’re going to do it.’ It’s just night and day when someone doesn’t have that vision. It really takes some backbone to turn to somebody and say, ‘I love that idea. Bring that into my vision.’ On set, as Jim was saying, one person has to marshal 120 people or more. And so when your ideas are integrated into that vision, it’s extraordinary. It elevates you, and when you’re elevated, actors have a chance to flourish.”
He turned to address Mangold directly. “That’s what an ‘actor’s director’ is, and that’s what you do with your films, and it’s extraordinary.”
Mangold and Smith also get around to discussing Heavy, which I have always considered one of the great, woefully underrated films of the ’90s and was thrilled to see back in the theater again after a decade (the film screens at MoMA June 4 and 22). Mangold wrote the film while attending Columbia University’s film school, bouncing 20 to 30 pages of drafts every week off some instructor named Milos Forman. It was his first feature-length script.
“For me, it was a very purposeful decision to make as silent a film as I could in this day and age,” he said. “With what was going on with Reservoir Dogs and Quentin and a lot of people following that kind of movement toward bigger, faster, louder, talkier, (and) cooler, there was a level where, in a sense, I couldn’t compete. I felt what was happening out there, and I felt that what I was interested in I couldn’t wrap up into that form. Whatever I went after at that point, I wanted it to be fragile. I wanted it to be myself.”
I later snuck in a word with Greg Allen, the filmmaker and writer behind who has also spent almost a decade as a member of MoMA’s Junior Associates. The group comprises art lovers age 40 and under; Allen was the co-chair of this year’s “Work in Progress” event. “When filmmakers aren’t trying to sell a specific film–when it’s just them talking about what they love–it’s just so much more educational for me,” Allen said. “As a filmmaker, anyway. But it’s more interesting, too, because they talk about the good and the bad things. They talk about what worked and what didn’t. Could you imagine him talking about, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t have marketed Kate and Leopold as a Meg Ryan film,’ when she’s the star? He couldn’t do that right at the time, but in retrospect, when he’s out of that marketing bubble, it totally makes sense.
“There’s more to it than just that,” Allen added, “and it’s one of things that we tried to do when we defined how to create this event and this award: finding filmmakers who had something to say. They’re not just studio hacks, and they’re not these introverted, auteur-y filmmakers, either. They CAN talk about what they do in a meaningful way, and not just to, like, film students. It transcends just the pure professional aspect of it.”

I also got about four seconds of face time with Liv Tyler before Mangold sweetly pulled her aside. “I’ll bring her right back,” he told me. I never saw her again. Robert Mangold, however, told me about young Jim’s decidedly different artistic tastes. “You know, a painter’s life is basically that you go to your studio and you’re all alone,” he told me at the event’s after-party. “Basically it’s a very solitary process. But Jim was interested from the beginning in puppet shows and in magic; we used to go to these magic shops in Times Square where these magicians were performing. It was like he was always involved in this kind of rapport with an audience that’s very different than a painter or a sculptor.”
That rapport showed Tuesday night, when Mangold could not stop smiling as one attendee after another congratulated him on the MoMA accolade. But by that point, the prognosticator in me was far more interested in who might be up for a tribute in ’07; my magic eight-ball tells me P.T. Anderson. After all, he will be 36 at this time next year, There Will Be Blood should be due out around that time (probably for Cannes), and many of his best-known ensemble players–Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly–are New Yorkers. This is work that absolutely should be in progress.

Spy This: Bond Poster Exhibition Opens at Posteritati Gallery

The Reeler dropped by the Posteritati Gallery on Centre Street today, where owner Sam Sarowitz just opened up his new “Bond, James Bond” movie poster exhibition this morning. I last chatted with Sarowitz about Posteritati’s contribution to The Independent Movie Poster Book, but not much about his gallery has changed; it still makes me want to blow out my credit limit, and the vintage 007 one-sheets would test any Bond-buff’s discipline.
Sarowitz told me the idea for the exhibit came from the franchise’s latest (and controversial) resurgence with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. “Bond is very popular–always has been,” he said. “I’ve loved James Bond movies since I was a kind, and some of the first things I got were stills form James Bond movies back when I was a teenager. But really, from a business standpoint, we buy what’s in demand. And we’re always selling them.”

A selection of Posteritati’s vintage James Bond movie posters, including the $3,500 Dr. No import from Japan (top left)

Posteritati has 111 Bond posters in stock from countries ranging from Australia to Yugoslavia. Sarowitz is partial to the Japanese-style posters; he has a handful on display from Goldfinger, Thunderball and Dr. No, the latter of which is priced at $3,500.
“It’s pretty difficult to find. It’s the first film, so it tends to be the hardest of any of the Bond films to find. There’s actually an even rarer style on Dr. No. There are two styles of Japanese posters for Dr. No: The main image on that other one is him putting–or maybe it’s… Pussy Galore putting? [Ed.: A Web search later revealed it was actually Bond babe Sylvia Trench.] It’s a style I’ve never had before.”
Obviously, a few people take this kind of thing more seriously than others, but even casual Bond fans would probably find it a fun display to check out. While you are there, please pick up the rare US poster for Kubrick’s Lolita for me; these blogging wages keep such treasures eternally just beyond my means.

Comprehensive Kubrick Retrospective Coming to Queens in June

Amid the mythology surrounding his nearly 40-year expatriation in England, it can be sort of easy to forget that Stanley Kubrick was a Bronx native who cut his teeth as an NYC street photographer. And while his only real dabbling in New York cinema was 1955’s Killer’s Kiss (count the production-designed Manhattan of Eyes Wide Shut if you must), I guess he did a respectable enough job with his other 11 films to warrant a dynamite upcoming retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image.
The series starts June 3 with curator David Schwartz’s lecture “A Kubrick Odyssey” before moving on to screen each of Kubrick’s feature films (with the exception of his 1953 feature debut Fear and Desire, which Kubrick eventually disowned). The museum will also precede its June 10 and 11 screenings of The Killing with Kubrick’s hard-to-find 1951 short, Day of the Fight; Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto will lecture following the June 10 showing. Meanwhile, Matthew Modine will be in house to chat about Full Metal Jacket on June 17.
The series also includes work by Kubrick’s hero Max Ophüls (La Ronde, which was, coincidentally, based on a play by Eyes Wide Shut source Arthur Schnitzler) and the 75-percent great Spielberg/Kubrick love child, AI: Artificial Intelligence. The retrospective concludes July 8; tickets are available now.

Hamptons, Tribeca and New York Film Festivals Collide in Publicity Three-Way

Three of New York’s biggest film festivals made a flurry of newsworthy announcements Monday, with Tribeca and New York setting their respective festival dates while the lovely folks at the Hamptons announced producer Ted Hope (right) as the recipient of their annual Industry Toast.
HIFF director Denise Kasell broke the news from Cannes, joining indieWIRE to celebrate Hope’s two decades producing films for the likes of Ang Lee, Todd Solondz and Hal Hartley. His producing partnership with James Schamus resulted in the Good Machine shingle, which evolved into Focus Features after the pair sold it to Universal in 2002; Hope now runs This is That with Anthony Bregman and Anne Carey. He will receive his toast and probably some hardware for the mantel at a dinner slated for Oct. 19.
The New York Film Festival does not have anything nearly as fabulous planned, unless you count a 50-year retrospective of Janus Films its own sort of honor. But at least we know that the 2006 festival–the 44th annual, incidentally–will run Sept. 29 to Oct. 15; the Janus series coincides with the event, running Sept. 30 to Oct. 27. And all told, it is a great-looking program–essentially a world cinema hall of fame featuring Renoir (The Rules of the Game), Bergman (Monika, The Seventh Seal), Antonioni (L’Eclisse) and a few rarely screened gems not yet available on video, such as Carlos Saura’s Cria Cuervos. Still no word on which Warner Brothers film modern masterpiece will open the festival, but I have my ear to the ground.
Finally, as though you were clamoring for Tribeca news so soon after the festival’s most recent go-around, organizers sent word that the 2007 event is booked from April 25-May 6. Better yet, submissions open Sept. 5, with shorts due by Dec. 8 and features due by Dec. 15. I like your chances, so get shooting.

'Shortbus': Mitchell's Sex Opus Lands at Cannes

One of the few (if not the only) New York films playing at Cannes this year is John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, which had accrued nearly two years’ worth of notoriety for all the real sex and sophistry unapologetically stirred up by its filmmaker. But now Mitchell is letting his film do the talking, and early buzz has the amateur fuckfest speaking at least a few critics’ language:
Tony Scott, The NY Times: ” ‘I’m a Catholic boy, I don’t mind pushing a few buttons,’ Mr. Mitchell said, and Shortbus, which has generally been well received here, may make some American distributors squeamish. But it is ultimately less shocking than disarming, more a comedy of manners layered with social satire than a peep show or a John Waters-style provocation.”
James Rocchi, Cinematical: “After years of buzz, actually seeing Shortbus leaves you wanting to invent new adjectives — Fucktastic! Cocktacular! Breastalicious! — but it also leaves you more than a little impressed by how funny and loose and, yes, emotionally engaging the film is. All the sex makes Shortbus kinda hot, but what’s surprising is how Mitchell’s sensibility and comedic charm makes it warm, too.”
Eugene Hernandez, indieWIRE: “While those involved with the movie have admitted that it may be a challenge to secure distribution for such a film, early positive reaction has buoyed interest in the movie here in Cannes, with insiders saying that even some unlikely prospects started circling the movie. A few buyers informally polled by indieWIRE today said they loved the movie.”
–(The less-favorable) Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: “The film lacks the depth and discipline of Mitchell’s first film venture, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which makes Shortbus a real disappointment. … You do gain some insights into these people through the inventive positions and marital aids they so eagerly employ. But you gain more in the ceaseless group-therapy speak that continues before, during and after much of their sexual activities, a tacit admission that merely watching sex isn’t going to tell us that much about peoples’ lives.”
The repressed, compulsive gambler in me wants to bet IFC Films picks this up by the end of the month. Any takers?

Waters, Anders, Russell and Hartley Turn Tide, Stick Fork in Sundance at BAM

(L-R) David Russell, Hal Hartley, Janet Maslin, Allison Anders and John Waters bask in Sundance nostalgia Sunday at BAM (Photos: STV)

Monday morning always feels too early in the week to editorialize, but let me just say: If I really wanted to feature a panel discussion with “Four Independents Who Turned the Tide“–as the Sundance at BAM organizers did Sunday afternoon–it occurred to me a few minutes into the event that maybe panelists Hal Hartley, David Russell and Allison Anders would not have been my first choices to join John Waters and moderator Janet Maslin. I mean, they are lovely people (although Russell can be a notorious pill), but “Turned the Tide”? Especially in the Sundance-influence context, I am thinking Steven Soderbergh or Quentin Tarantino or maybe Kevin Smith would have to anchor something like that. I have to assume the organizers tried for at least one of these filmmakers (isn’t Smith in Cannes?); as it was, Russell appeared to be over the panel before it started, while a bemused Hartley never quite seemed to settle in.
Second-guessing aside, of course, the program as a whole was rewarding enough. Viewers started the day reacquainting themselves with the early-ish work of each filmmaker; Russell’s Spanking the Monkey and Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth were feature debuts, while Gas Food Lodging was Anders’s second film and 1981’s Polyester was the biggest movie Waters had yet made in his 17-year career. The subesequent discussion may have peaked early when Russell recounted his early days at Sundance, where he took tickets at the Egyptian Theater and met directors like Hartley, Gus Van Sant and Richard Linklater in between bouts working on Monkey.
“Those guys certainly seemed to be getitng their careers started,” Russell said. “We screened Spanking the Monkey for (festival director) Geoff Gilmore here in New York and he walked in and I said, ‘We were up all night cutting on a flatbed. So there may be some bumps and stuff.’ And he’d been looking at shitty films all day. And he turned to his assistant and he said, ‘Why are we watching it then? Why are we screening it?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is not gonna go well.’ And I walked home 50 blocks. Then we got into the festival, and that was a victory right there.
“And then to get written about in The New York Times,” Russell continued, jamming his tongue into his cheek hard enough to leave a bruise. “Then you get to start making a living doing this–thanks to Sundance and The New York Times and that other stuff.”
Times veteran Maslin deflected the comment, moving on instead to the subject of Sundance as a marketplace–a “narrow corridor of options,” as she described it before Waters begged to differ.
“I wanna really stick up for Sundance,” Waters said. “I don’t understand today when people say it’s often too commercial. What is the problem if you’re a kid and you go there and someone overpays for your movie? You’re bitching about that?”
“I think it’s the free iPods,” Maslin said.
“That’s ludicrous,” Waters said, nodding. “The people who give away gift bags and free stuff treated me this year the way the governemt should treat Katrina victims.”
“Don’t you wonder how it’s come to that?” Maslin asked.
“Well, but you know what?” Waters said. “I thnk it’s great. They’ve got Slamdance (also). I think it’s the most incredible, successful film festival for a young person in the country right now. What is anyone complaining about? That it’s crowded? That all the press goes and writes about it?”
“The only people that complain, John, are the media,” Russell said. “Because they’ve got to have something to write about. So they have to keep creating a fake conflict.”
“Yeah, there’s a conflict there,” Waters said.
“The trouble is,” Maslin said, “there’s a finite amount of space if the press is going to do the whole festival. And the more Paris Hilton gets, the less you get.”
“I was guilty of it this year,” Waters said. “I went and launched a TV show that had nothing to do with Sundance. I booked films to show on my TV show that Sundance would reject. So I know that was part of it. But it was always a good experience. I was on the jury there, I saw a lot of great new movies that I had never seen. I hitchhiked there; people picked me up. I’ve never had any bad times there.”
“Did you start out walking up and down Main Street in Park City with Divine?” Maslin asked, recalling Hairspray‘s success at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival.
“No, Divine was never there,” Waters said. “Divine, unfortunately, died a week after Hairspray came out. So Divine was not at Sundance that time. But, however, it was at Sundance before it opened. That’s weird–I wonder why Divine wasn’t at Sundance. I’m not quite sure.”
“Park City would have exploded if he’d been there,” Maslin said.
“He would have liked it,” Waters said. “Except getting up those hills might have been some trouble.”
Anders later chimed in about Sundance’s lingering influence over her work as both a filmmaker and one of the Sundance Institute’s regular lab advisors. “There’s a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous that you can’t turn down an AA request because AA got you sober,” Anders said, briefly sucking the air out of the room. “It gave you your life and the more you give, the more you learn. And so I’ve had that with Sundance, too. I never turn down a Sundance request. I really feel like they gave me my career, and so I do a lot of work at the Institute as an advisor. I just always have the best time. I love working with the new filmmakers; they’re excited, because often they’re going to the festival after the labs, and it’s always exciting to see their expectations. And of course it flashes back to me and my first experience there.”

And then there was a Q&A we should avoid getting into (including at least three struggling writers and some guy asking, “What do you think of Crash beating Brokeback Mountain in this year’s Oscars?”), and then they pretty much called it a series. The consensus is that the festival will be back in Brooklyn next year, by which time director of programming John Cooper (right) will have booked Harvey Weinstein for the keynote one-on-one we all know he deserves. Can. Not. Wait.

Screening Gotham: May 19-21, 2006

A few of this weekend’s worthwhile cinematic goings-on around New York:
Sundance at BAM wraps up this weekend with a diverse selection of films including the documentaries Trials of Darryl Hunt and Beyond Beats and Rhymes, the quiet dramas Stephanie Daley and In Between Days, and the Tae Kwon Do comedy The Foot Fist Way. But if I had to choose only one title to recommend before these films and filmmakers go back to the distribution waiting game, it would be Wristcutters: A Love Story. Goran Dukic’s offbeat comedy features Patrick Fugit as a young suicide on a road trip through the afterlife in pursuit of his dead girlfriend; his travels introduce him to a beauty (Shannyn Sossamon) trying to make her way back to the living world and an eccentric community leader (Tom Waits) who might have the power to resolve their quests.
The imagination and humanity on hand is exhilarating, and Dukic’s exquisite direction reflects an obvious love for both his material, his cast, and most of all, his viewer. I do not know if this is the best film playing at BAM this this weekend, but after watching it again Thursday, I just felt a certain gratitude for the privilege. And God knows that these days, I do not take that for granted.
–Fans of Allison Anders should consider planning a multi-borough weekend. First off, the filmmaker’s 1987 debut Border Radio will screen Saturday afternoon at 3 at Anthology Film Archives as part of the Don’t Knock the Rock festival‘s NYC sojourn; Anders will join festival director Gianna Chachere and music director Tiffany Anders (yes, Alison’s daughter) for a discussion afterward. Meanwhile, back at BAM on Sunday, Anders will be part of the Four Independents Who Turned the Tide panel discussion with John Waters, David O. Russell and Hal Hartley. The event basically goes like this: A $20 ticket gets you in to see one of the directors’ films (Gas Food Lodging, Polyester, Spanking the Monkey and The Unbelievable Truth, respectively) at noon, followed by the chat at 2:30 p.m. And perhaps best of all, you can still make Wristcutters at 3:30.
–The Pioneer Theater yesterday kicked off its weeklong engagement of the documentary Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh’s film examines the life of Eva Kor, a concentration camp survivor whose search for retribution gives way years later–after meeting one of her Auschwitz tormentors–to hope for reconciliation. The doc has inspired robust controversy as well as acclaim, and Hercules, Pugh and Kor will be in attendance (separately, to my regret) tonight through Tuesday to discuss NYC audiences’ reactions. Check the Pioneer’s Web site for a complete appearance schedule.

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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