Film Essent Archive for January, 2009

Santa Barbara Dispatch Day Two

santa_barbara_sign.JPGMy first full day at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival proved to be both busy and well worth the time invested in watching four films. We dragged ourselves out of bed in time to score a massive caffeine dose before the 8:15AM screening of Poppy Shakespeare, which is having its US premiere at the fest after having premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last July and a run on Brit television.
The darkly comedic (emphasis on the “darkly”) film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Clare Allan, examines the institution surrounding mental health care in the UK through the eyes of N (Anna Maxwell Martin), a long-term vet of the Dorothy Fish Day Center mental health facility and Poppy Shakespeare (Naomie Harris), a former ad agency receptionist ordered to spend a month attending the day center even though she swears she’s perfectly sane. N, who’s spent the past 13 years jumping through the hoops of madness to continue receiving state benefits, is assigned to mentor Poppy who, in order to get a state lawyer to prove she’s not insane, must first prove that she is in order to receive the state benefit “mad money” that qualifies her to get the legal help she needs.

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Santa Barbara Dispatch Day One

santa_barbara_palms.jpgDue to being busy with our Sundance coverage, immediately followed by a need to spend a few days with my kids between travels, I just got into Santa Barbara yesterday in time to cover the last five days of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I’ve never covered this fest before, but now that I’m here I’m thinking it won’t be the last.
Much as I enjoy Sundance, Cannes and Toronto, those fests are exhausting to cover. Three-four hours sleep a night, so many films a day they start to all blur together, because you know however many you see, you’ll still end up missing some great films for the sake of mediocre ones. I wish I could clone myself for those major fests and have enough time to see everything I want, write all of it up, and still get sleep.

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Sunrise, Sunset

santa_barbara_sunrise_2.jpgsanta_barbara_sunset_2.jpg

Nifty and useful things learned at the Santa Barbara Film Festival:
because of the geography of Santa Barbara, we can see both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean across from our hotel. Pretty cool.

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Brutal Day

Layoffs hitting Variety today, good friends are affected.
What to say? It’s just brutal out there.

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Let It …. Snow?

It was an odd Sundance this year, with no snow almost the entire time we were there. A couple of lonely flakes toward the end of the fest, but nothing terribly impressive — at least not compared to last year when it snowed every single day and more than a few of us were snowed in by the blizzard that hit the day we were heading home, forcing us to stay an extra night in Park City while the whirling whiteness howled through the town.
Last night, when I got home to Seattle — land of much rain and typically minimal snowfall — the snow that should have been in Park City made an appearance here. Fortunately, it’s not a heavy snowfall. Seattle does not handle snow the way Park City does; here, an inch on the ground freaks everyone out and paralyzes traffic. So far, no major stickage, but it was supposed to have stopped snowing already, and instead it seems to be picking up.
It’s pretty as it falls, though, and it gives me an excellent excuse to stay inside and write my Sundance wrap-up, which will be coming in tomorrow’s Voynaristic column.

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Stylin' at Sundance

I just got into Salt Lake City a while ago, and I’m sitting here at the airport with Gregg Goldstein waiting for the rest of our team to arrive. My Sundance adventure this year got off to a rip-roaring start yesterday with me injuring my ankle (I know, smart, right?) so I’ll be schlepping around Park City with my foot in a very attractive walking cast. I decided to forego the option of crutches on the theory that a chick clumsy enough to screw up her foot a day before a big trip just by walking does not need to increase the odds of further injury by hobbling on snowy/icy pathways with crutches while carrying a laptop backpack.
Fortunately, Vicodin dulls the pain enough to get me by. I’m thinking, this being a ski town and all, that I need a sexier story about why I’m wearing a walking cast than “Yeah, I was walking, and then there was this patch of gravity and I fell” — something involving me doing some incredibly cool moves while snowboarding or something. If you have suggestions for a better injury story, put them in my inbox. If you have the most creative suggestion, and you’re here at Sundance, I’ll buy you a drink at the Yarrow Bar or some bad Chinese buffet.

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Bad Movie! Bad, Bad Movie!

Just got in from a pre-Sundance date night with the hubs … he bought us tickets to go see Gigli! Yes, yes, it’s one of the worst movies ever made. I’m not sure which was worse: the tragic cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino? The endless gratutious shots of JLo’s midriff and ass? The yoga scene? The “gobble-gobble” moment? The mockery of the disabled guy? The lesbian cat fight?
Or perhaps the whole bit about JLo, who’s supposed to be an intelligent lesbian, being magically turned onto men by Gigli, after he’s spent their entire time together showing her what a completely misogynistic moron he is? Or could it be the schizophrenic tonal changes, the ghastly lighting, the glacial pacing, the bizarre musical score that seems to have been written for a completely different film? Or should we just blame the dreadful script? If your answer is (D) All of the Above, you win.

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Proud Mama

I have to just take a moment and a little blogspace here to say that my almost-12YO daughter, Neve, found out this afternoon that she’s been accepted as a juror for the Seattle Children’s Film Festival. To apply, she had to write a list of her top ten films, giving specific reasons why she liked them and talking about the elements that make a good children’s film. Added bonus? It counts on our homeschooling SLP!
With Neve’s permission, here’s her list, right after the jump…

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Teen Wolf

Good news for all you Twilighters out there … according to Twilight Lexicon, New Moon director Chris Weitz says that Taylor Lautner will, in fact, return to play the role of wolf-boy Jacob Black in the sequel to Twilight. Well thank God for that, now I can sleep tonight.
Seriously, I think it’s a good call on the part of Summit, Weitz and book series author Stephenie Meyer (who apparently had a hand in the decision-making process, good for her) to leave Taylor in the part, even if he’s not nearly seven feet tall, which Jacob is supposed to be in New Moon. Weitz noted in this statement on Twilight Lexicon: “it was my first instinct that Taylor was, is, and should be Jacob, and that the books would be best served by the actor who is emotionally right for the part.” Couldn’t agree with him more.
Taylor was one of the better things about Twilight. He gets the part of Jacob, the girls who comprise a large chunk of the fanbase seem to like him, and he’s charming, cute, and has a gorgeous smile. What more could they want? When he was in our room’s rotation at the Twilight junket, he came across as a genuinely nice, smart, enthusiastic kid; good to see him finally move past the wretched Sharkboy, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the role in New Moon, which is a very Jacob-centric novel. Team Edward’s gonna have to take a backseat to Team Jacob for this film, but I bet a lot of those fickle teens will switch hit for New Moon.
Now, if only brisk sales of Team Jacob t-shirts at Hot Topic could stimulate the economy …

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Different Strokes

Compare and contrast Manohla Dargis’ extraordinarily well-written piece on Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, NY to this review of the same film by Rex Reed, which has been sticking in my craw since he wrote it in October.
It doesn’t even sound like these two are reviewing the same movie. I personally thought Dargis’ piece was logically thought, insightful, and beautifully wordsmithed, whereas Reed’s, though meticulously written in its own way, is just so incredibly vapid that I can only hope he actually slept through half the movie.

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New Years Confession #2

My sentimental favorite movie of all time is E.T. And I cry at the end every single time I watch it, no matter how much I swear to myself I won’t.
Also, I think I may be addicted to watching The Incredibles.

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What'd You Call Me?

There’s an discussion going on at Hollywood Elsewhere in a post titled “Pussies,” in which Jeff Wells discusses Clint Eastwood’s Esquire interview where Eastwood says, in part: “We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody’s become used to saying, ‘Well, how do we handle it psychologically?’ In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you’d be left alone from then on.
There’s an interesting side conversation in the comments now over the use of the term “pussy” in this context. Is it a sexist term? Eh. One the one hand, you can say that the derogatory use of the female sexual organ in that sense implies that to be female is to be weaker, or less than desirable. And sure, I’ve heard more than a few men use it that way on their sons, as in, “Oh, get up, son, don’t be such a pussy. Get back in that game!” And you could substitute “Nelly” or “Mary” or “girly-man” or “girlie” in there for “pussy,” and it would mean pretty much the same thing, albeit in a less overtly vulgar way.

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New Years Confession #1

Every time the Gran Torino trailer comes on behind me (fourth time today) and Clint growls, “Gettttt offff myyyy laaaaawn,” I break into uncontrollable giggles.
Yes, I am a bad person. Sorry.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch