Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Screening Gotham: Sept. 22-24, 2006


A few of this week’s worthwhile cinematic goings-on around New York:
–I would like to think that there is such a thing as Reeler Karma, and that it blesses all of those who have ever contributedto or simply been kind to this blog. So when I heard about one-time guest writer Josh Horowitz’s Q&A with filmmaker Neil LaBute(right) tonight at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble, I thought, “There you go, score another one for Reeler Karma.” In actuality, though, Horowitz interviewed LaBute and something like 30 other filmmakers for his book The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker, so really, I got nothing. On the other hand, LaBute has never written here, and you can bet the Wicker Man second-guessing will be shattered-glass shrill. So who knows? The point is that you should go check out the discussion this evening at 7. We can figure out this karma business later.
–Call me contrarian, but I would like to go against conventional critical wisdom this weekend in recommending you check out All the King’s Men and avoid Old Joy. Neither film is especially bad nor especially good, but each lists farther than they desrve to either side of the hype spectrum. King’s Men, adapted by Steven Zaillian from Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel, takes its dueling meditations on idealism and power far too seriously (composer James Horner’s “soaring” score induces diabetic shock in people over 55) yet eventually comes into its own as kind of a fascinating, beautiful, A-list accident. Sean Penn is hammy but serviceable; Jude Law is better than anyone wants to admit, lest they lose ground in the tastemaking circle jerk of Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a tad difficult to follow, but hardly difficult to enjoy.
–Not so for Kelly Reichardt’s latest, Old Joy, which has left hard-to-remove come stains on seats at Sundance, New Directors/New Films and now in limited release at Film Forum. Daniel London and Will Oldham star as Mark and Kurt, longtime friends who pair up for a weekend in the woods only to discover they have nothing in common. In her readings of landscape and faces, Reichardt captures spatial and structural dynamics that her story just cannot support; even at 76 minutes, the film exhausts its premise and tension less than halfway through. Anyway, Yo La Tengo will join Reichardt to discuss the film after tonight’s 8:15 screening, which is sold out online but might have a ticket or two remining at the box office if you go down there, like, an hour ago. Trust me–you can wait.
Richard Sandler‘s documentary work arrives in Williamsburg this weekend, with five of his films–often shot over the stretches of years or even decades–screening until Sept. 27 at Monkey Town. The Guggenheim Fellowship-winning work includes the street-preacher portrait The Gods of Times Square, the subway chronicle Sway and Sandler’s 12-years-in-the-making glimpse at East Village gentrification, Brave New York. Programs run nightly at 7:30 and 10:30.

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“A shot is a story. A shot on its own should be a piece of a story. Which is why I talk a lot about watching films, even the films we’re working on, with the sound off. Just to analyze how the film works, because a film should work for an audience without any sound. The biggest problem I see is that someone may have a superficial understanding of what a shot is propositionally, but they don’t have an understanding of how all of these shots are part of a family that needs to connect, and so you’ll get something that’s like a sentence arranged poorly with six nouns in a row. That surprises me, because I think that’s something that can be learned. Some things can’t be, but that can. It’s a grammar. In a classroom I could walk somebody through the difference between a sequence in which the filmmaker has a deep understanding of how images connect, and someone who doesn’t. It’s not really an intellectual process. Some people are just born with it and are just sort of savants at that deep mathematical understanding of shot construction.  I’m better than I used to be, but there are some people I’m just never going to catch. Spielberg. His staging ability. I’m never going to catch him. But when you’re trying to figure out how to get better—I’m not competitive in the sense of looking around at other filmmakers and comparing myself to them. What I do have to think about in trying to navigate myself through a career is: what can I get better at, and what do I have that I can enhance that somebody else doesn’t have?”
~ Steven Soderbergh

“It’s not going to be huge. He and I had been corresponding for a while. When I finally met him, he said, ‘We should collaborate.’ When John Ashbery says that to you, you don’t say when, you just say yes. It has not been easy to conjure this out of nothing. Sean Price Williams and I spent time with him, and it will appear on FilmStruck before the year is out…. I have figured out how to streamline things. I still have dreams of making movies with bigger budgets, and they might be considered to have more of a voice in pop culture. I don’t want to let go of that. I also realize that you grow up a lot of your life with wishful thinking and waiting. I have figured out ways to avoid doing that. I am working on a bigger movie about Nikola Tesla, set in the past, so it is not an easy film to make. I am also working on an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s ‘White Noise.’ That seems more likely to catch fire.”
Michael Almereyda Steps It Up