Night Moves

Film Archive for March, 2011

Somewhat in Defense of Sucker Punch (Well, Parts of It, Anyway …)

It will probably surprise you to learn that, for all its flaws, I kind of dug Sucker Punch. Or rather, I like the idea of Sucker Punch a lot, and I like parts of how it was executed. Visually, it’s pretty stunning. Loved the desaturated and tinted tones, loved the hair and makeup (yes, even the many false eyelashes), loved the costuming (and look forward to seeing gangs of roving teenage cosplayers lovingly recreating those costumes at cons over the next year).

I loved the movie’s opener, which in many respects evokes the opener for Watchmen, which was also brilliant … and was also, as is the case with Sucker Punch, the best part of that film.
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Juno Temple Joins The Dark Knight Rises. Cool.

Here’s some casting news in which I’m particularly interested: Variety is EXCLUUUUUSIVELY reporting that indie starlet Juno Temple is locked to join the cast of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. The pot had already been sweetened by the addition Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the mix, but Juno Temple being cast as well is great news.
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Spotlight: Cinematographer Michael Simmonds on Working Collaboratively with Ramin Bahrani

You’ve probably seen Michael Simmonds work, even if you don’t realize it. The ace cinematographer has been very busy over the last few years shooting lots of movies, including notable docs Project Nim and The Order of Myths. He’s also shot all of Ramin Bahrani’s better-known films: Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo, and Plastic Bag, a terrific short narrated by Werner Herzog, and featured on Futurestates.

I first met Michael at Sundance years ago when Man Push Cart, Bahrani’s first major feature, was playing there, and his work so impressed me that that I’ve followed it since. A while back (okay, a LONG while back, like in October), we chatted through email about the way in which he and Bahrani collaborate, and he was kind enough to allow me to share his thoughts with you here.
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Imagining the Future Through Film

The site Futurestates, part of ITVS, is a very cool site that challenges students to think about what the future will look like 25, 50, 100 years from now. The site combines films on pertinent subjects with lesson plans that tie in and challenge students to think about what they’re learning and hypothesize about what consequences might result decades from now, from choices they’re making today.

One of the Season One lessons, for instance, used Ramin Bahrani’s terrific short film Plastic Bag, narrated by Werner Herzog, to illustrate the relationship between humans as consumers and how we impact the environment without thinking.

One of the season two episodes, Exposure, which releases April 4, was directed by Mia Trachinger, whose film Reversion played at Sundance a few years ago. Reversion was a trippy film about a group of people who lack the ability to travel linearly through time. Trachinger used this basic conceit to explore the idea that if we don’t experience life linearly, we don’t ever see the direct consequences of actions, as an allegory for consequential morality generally.

Reversion had some flaws in the execution (Trachinger just told me she’s recut the film, though, so I am really interested to see it in this new iteration), but it was a really smart concept and Trachinger herself kind of reminds me of a sci-fi Miranda July … very smart and passionate, with a particularly interesting and engaging way of looking at the world.

Here’s the trailer for Trachinger’s film Exposure, which imagines a future world in which teams of government workers are tasked with the job of inoculating the population against disease by exposing people to contagions, and a group of people trying to avoid being exposed.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, now that I know about it, and maybe using some of the lessons with my middle school youth group at the Unitarian Church to kick off some discussions about some of the issues addressed. Pretty cool.

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The Real Problem with Mars Needs Moms

Over on the Hot Blog, David (again) takes Brooks Barnes to task for lazy writing on his blog-tastic piece titled “Many Culprits in Fall of a Family Film.”

And as is often the case, David has some interesting and astute points to make about the journalism (or lack thereof) in this piece of writing for The Paper of Record and the business side of who did what to whom and who’s taking the heat for the failure of this film. And there’s lots to pick apart there, lots of business angles to analyze and quotes to dissect, and if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of the business analysis of Mars Needs Moms, you should go read it.
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Dallas IFF Announces Stellar Lineup

SXSW may be rocking Austin right now, but the Dallas International Film Festival, which runs March 31-April 10, is just a few short weeks away, and the fest, under the leadership of Artistic Director James Faust and Senior Programmer Sarah Harris has just announced an impressive slate.

Last year was the first year that the fest took off under its own steam, after three years of partnering with AFI, and this year from the looks of it Faust, Harris, who set out with the goal of bringing films from a wide array of cultures to Dallas audiences, certainly seem to be aiming for that goal. I’ll be in Dallas myself a few days toward the end of the fest, so I’ll be keeping you apprised of all the cool happenings at this year’s fest. In the meantime, you can check out the press announcement with the full line-up right here.

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Spotlight: Ari Gold on Adventures of Marketing Adventures of Power

Three years ago, filmmaker Ari Gold made a little film called Adventures of Power, a quirky comedy about a dorky air drummer (played by Gold himself) who pursues his air drumming dream all the way fro New Mexico to New … Jersey where he battles Adrian Grenier for a $2000 smackeroos. Unfortunately for Gold, the film debuted at Sundance to divisive reviews, just as the faltering economy was bursting the bubble of industry sales at the Park City fest.
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Review: Mars Needs Moms

I’m going to be right up front about Mars Needs Moms and tell you that I wasn’t overly impressed with this movie. And I feel bad saying that, because it’s apparent that an awful lot of work went into making it. Actors wore little dots all over their faces, for Pete’s sake! To do motion capture! That’s gotta count for something, right? Unfortunately, someone forgot to give the story as much thought as they gave to the motion capture technique, which isn’t in and of itself new enough or nifty enough to overcome a flawed script.
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Hope for Hathaway

Okay, people, I need to get something off my chest here. What the hell happened to Anne Hathaway?

As I watched the Oscars, with poor Hathaway so gamely and desperately trying to make it work, I just felt … sad, I guess. What happened to the Anne Hathaway who showed such damn promise in Rachel Getting Married? Who the hell has been helping her choose her projects since then? I mean, really. Let’s go to the map:
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Anime Girlfriend

There’s a new episode of My Anime Girlfriend up over on Atom.com. I kinda dig this little web series about a data entry dork and his anime girlfriend, Yuruki. I’ve seen a lot of little gems at Atom over the years … more so before they got bought by MTV and essentially made into a web channel for Comedy Central a few years ago, but you can still find a lot of good stuff over there.

One thing, though, is that it’s all comedy now there, so a lot of the indie stuff that wasn’t comedy isn’t there anymore.

P.S. If you have a fave short film that you’d like me to check out, send me a URL. I’ve been watching more shorts of late, and I’m particularly interested right now in shorts that are really original, or even experimental.

Episode 3 of My Anime Girlfriend is embedded below. If you’ve not seen the first two episodes, you might want to watch them first. Short, but cute, especially if you’re an anime geek.

o

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Marriage of the Minds

Well, this is some welcome news, even if it means I might have to finally suck it up and subscribe to HBO. Variety reports that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys, Mysteries of Pittsburgh) and his wife, writer Ayelet Waldman, have a project set up at HBO called Hobgoblin, about conmen and magicians using their skills to battle Hitler during WW2.

Chabon just happens to be my favorite (living) writer, and I’m quite a fan of Waldman, who I’ve been reading and loosely corresponding with since way back when I was mommy blogging on my previous blog, Catawampus, and she was mommy blogging on Bad Mother. Chabon may be the better known of the pair, but I’ve always loved Waldman’s sass and style. I asked her once many years ago how she dealt with “competing” with Chabon when it came to work and she replied simply, “I don’t.” Well, exactly.

This project marks the first time the couple is collaborating on a project — at least professionally. They’ve already survived marriage with four kids for quite a while now, so I expect they’ve hammered a lot of the balance of how they work together out a bit. I’ll be following this project with interest, so stay tuned.

By the bye, if you’ve been wondering what’s up with the adaptation of Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, it’s apparently still a go at Sony with Scott Rudin and the Coens. Good news on that front as well … though I’m still waiting for Kavalier and Clay, which still appears to be “in development.”

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Consenting Adults

Still one of my all-time fave short films, directed by pre-Thank You for Smoking Jason Reitman:

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Weekend Special: Axe Cop Awesomeness

In honor of Emerald City Comicon, which is happening right here, right now: Axe Cop.

Happy weekend. Remember Wheaton’s Law.

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Spotlight: Ann Arbor Film Festival

Much of the indie film world is gearing up for South by Southwest, which runs in Austin (the film part, anyhow) March 11-19. And they have a swell slate, and Austin’s a fun town, and SXSW is always a great party sandwiched around some interesting films, but you already know that. Love SXSW, love the folks who run it, but you already know about that fest, right? Probably you already have your digs set, your plane ticket purchased, your film-and-party slate lined up.

What you may be less aware of is the Ann Arbor Film Festival, which runs March 22-27 in lovely Ann Arbor, Michigan. When I went there a couple years ago, it was C-O-L-D! And it snowed during the fest. In March! But I didn’t care, because the films that Ann Arbor programs are so engaging, and their primary venue, the Michigan Theater, is just a lovely place to celebrate film.
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The Very Rich Indie Filmmaker?

There’s maybe something to be gleaned from this Novelr piece on indie writers making money off self-publishing digitally and selling through the Kindle store. The thing is, will there always be a line in the sand that differentiates books published in an eBook only format from books printed on paper? Probably for a while, sure. But I’ll bet you not nearly for as long as you might think.
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Quote Unquotesee all »

“I am just grateful I am still around. I would love to be Steven Soderbergh, but I am lucky to be Joe Swanberg. Actors want to work with me, people want to give me money, and my nightmare scenario remains: Getting in bed with a studio, spending years on a movie, and it turns out horrible, but now I’m rich.”

Actually, by Hollywood standards, you’re right, I said. That is unambitious.

“It is, and yet, if you can go to bed happy at night, doing what you want, isn’t that ambition for a lifetime?”
~ Swanberg On Swanberg By Borelli

“In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.”
John le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman