Movie City Indie Archive for April, 2005

Enron: Did CNBC turn on the wipers?

From the online journal, Television Archiving, a report on a SF Film Festival Q&A after Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: “In the discussion with the director, Alex Gibney, they report it was alleged that “CNBC claims to have erased all of its coverage of Enron. It would be good to verify whether this is the case, but if true, it would seem to put CNBC a little closer to the level of the Texas office of Arthur Andersen, which shredded Enron-related accounting documents.”

Closely watched trees

The Observer’s Tim Adams a first review of a photo exhibit in London by Abbas Kiarostami: “While scouting for film locations in Iran, Kiarostami returned over a period of 25 years to remote landscapes on foot. He was drawn particularly to alpine stands of trees in winter. His photographs fix an obsession that also found expression in his haiku-like poetry.”

This block has already been pissed on: Village neighbors wary of new IFC Center

Manhattan’s IFC Center, on the site of the old Waverly, is due to finally open sometime in May, and it’s already in the crosshairs of its neighbors: Sharon Sullivan, president of the Central Village Block Association tells local paper The Villager, “We were surprised at how little information they seemed to have”… Sullivan said [the company] wouldn’t admit to having flashing or spinning lights, but they said the lights, shining through a grid, would create patterns on the sidewalk. “We don’t want the effect to be tawdry and we don’t want it flashing into people’s windows… This is not Times Square, this is Greenwich Village.” Marilyn Dorato, secretary of the Greenwich Village Block Associations, also seems to squint as she tells the giveaway, “Like it or not… they do have to have a relationship with the community.”

The Dude abides: Desplechin's bigger Lebowski

Hugh Hart hears Arnaud Desplechin on the quirks behind his new, vital masterpiece, Kings and Queen in the SF Chronicle: The movies I was watching three years ago seemed slightly soft, so the bet for me was: Why not do 2 films? In one, you tell a melodrama in an hour and 10 minutes. Then you make the other one… a real slapstick comedy and put one next to the other… The pleasure would be to jump back and forth from love to tears, from tears to love. … The 2 1/2-hour tragicomedy is split down the middle, Hart writes, with somber heroine Nora dealing with her father’s impending death while her former boyfriend Ismael, an eccentric musician, tries to escape from a mental institution with the help of his drug-addled lawyer. Desplechin modeled Nora on heroines from… Hitchcock films… For antihero Ismael, the filmmaker found contrasting inspiration in The Big Lebowski. With the Dude, Jeff Bridges created this amazing character… We all know someone like him, with that attitude, but he’d never been depicted onscreen.

No looking back: Harvey Keitel's lifetime award

Sheila Johnston sits with the irascible Harvey Keitel after the Istanbul Film Festival tosses the 65-year-old a lifetime achievement trophy. “I meet him again over breakfast… in the Ottoman splendour of the Ciragan Palace on the banks of the Bosporus. Keitel is in a sunny mood and enthuses about his first visit to a hammam. He orders a double decaf espresso with milk on the side, which he slurps appreciatively throughout the interview, and a couple of simit, Istanbul’s version of the bagel.” But it’s not an entirely sunny gathering, she concludes. “Keitel, so eloquent when talking about the Work or Sitting, is less keen to talk about the Family. “I’m not going to discuss that situation,” he says with an air of finality, and though he has been thoroughly gracious up to that point, I get a brief glimpse of a man whom it would be best not to cross.”

Todd Solondz: I can't choose what I want to remember

In the Telegraph, Todd Solondz puzzles a bit before picking About Schmidt as a favorite pic: “I’m not sure what angle I’m supposed to take,” he frets… “That’s very limited. I’m sorry about failing you on this simple, simple assignment… I’ve gone all over the map for you. All over the map.” … Solondz’s taste ranges from Peter Greenaway to The Sound of Music. But nothing was a positive inspiration. “Years ago, I saw a series of short student films and they were all dreadful, just terrible. That was a negative incentive, rather than my having the moxie of seeing Nicholas Ray‘s work and thinking, ‘I could do that.’ … I often find the movies I don’t like to be more memorable. Unfortunately I can’t choose what I want to remember.”

Argentina time: talking to el amantes cine

Larry Rohter talks to the diverse directors of a new wave of Argentine cinema, including Lucrecia Martel, Pablo Trapero, Fabian Bielinsky (Nine Queens), Daniel Berman (Lost Embrace), Diego Lerman and Lisandro Alonso (La libertad, Los Muertos): “I believe that Argentine cinema today is defined more by what it isn’t than by what it affirms,” said Mr. Trapero, 33, whose best-known film is probably El Bonaerense, a drama about police corruption… “What we have in common is that many things are excluded from our films, such as the notion of the omniscient discourse of a director who knows the truth and interprets and illuminates it for the spectator.” Surprisingly… in view of Argentina’s turbulent history, there is also an aversion to overtly political themes in favor of more intimate and personal ones. “Smaller stories and a smaller focus” is the way Mr. Alonso, 29, puts it.”

The nonpareils of Pauline

Pauline Kael once said… In the Times, Terrence Rafferty masticates Michael Powell: “It’s this exasperating tendency to overwork his assets that makes Powell such a difficult filmmaker to evaluate. He has been accused of “inordinate ambition, bumptiousness and a general unevenness of judgment” (James Agee) and of being a “master purveyor of high kitsch” (Pauline Kael); he has been hailed as “a great director” (Martin Scorsese) and even as “the cinema itself” (Bernardo Bertolucci). And all those assessments are just.” Meanwhile, in the Baltimore Sun, reviewing Chrystal, Michael Sragow notes “Famed critic Pauline Kael once noted that no actor can survive a bad toupee.” There’s little of the zing from beyond in a capsule for Masculin-Feminin in the Hartford Courant: “The late New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film “a rare achievement.” But, earlier in the week, Variety found space for these comments on Barbarella:Pauline Kael wrote that Fonda’s “American-good-girl innocence makes her a marvelously apt heroine for pornographic comedy.”

On the Oscar trail with Eternal Pierre Bismuth

Eternal Sunshine co-screenwriter Pierre Bismuth recounts his Oscar jitters to Frieze magazine: Tom Hanks presented advice to the nominees, Bismuth writes, ‘Make it short! Make it sincere! Make it special!’ However, it’s wasted advice, since our producer, Focus Features, Universal’s speciality film unit, who produced the film, has asked Michel Gondry and me to let Charlie Kaufman do the talking if we win… At the Oscars ceremony… Gondry’s agent in LA, reminds me that it is 7 years since I jotted down an idea I mentioned to Gondry during a chance encounter at a bad Parisian restaurant…” [More at the link.]

A death in the Glass family

Chris Hewitt has a nice survey of book-to-movie translations, even as he kills off a famous writer: “J.D. Salinger was writing “The Catcher in the Rye” when a movie version of his story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” was released. Called My Foolish Heart, it starred Susan Hayward, and he hated it. Which may be why “Catcher” hero Holden Caulfield is so contemptuous of his brother, who works in Hollywood. The late Salinger decreed that no other movies should be based on his work, and his heirs appear to be resisting what would be a huge payday if they agreed to sell the beloved “Catcher.” Or is Holden’s daddy truly dead? Hmmm…

2929 helping to 86 Section 8?

Yes, as if Schizopolis and Criminal had not blazed new indie trails, Steven Soderbergh signs up for six HD movies: “Announced Thursday, the deal through 2929’s HDNet production company will see Soderbergh’s films released simultaneously across theatrical, TV and home video platforms on the theory that collapsing the traditionally staggered windows gives consumers a choice regarding how and when they want to see a film,” The Reporter writes. “Soderbergh will have creative control over all the films’ content, with each produced in 1080i high-definition format. The first project, Bubble… a murder mystery in a small town in Ohio, is in production on a 3-week schedule with Soderbergh writing and directing… HDNet Films is financing all the projects with Bubble‘s budget between $2 million-$3 million.”

Godard: That time was missed

Geoffrey Macnab has an audience with Jean-Luc Godard in the Guardian: “Godard may be a famous name, but he seems resigned to the fact that his films are not now widely seen and rarely make much impact at the box-office. His reputation is such that his regular producers… can raise money for his new projects… but his recent career isn’t exactly a commercial beanfeast. To illustrate the point, he tells a story of how he recently flew from Montr�eal to New York. When he arrived, the customs officer asked him: “Mr Godard: what are you coming here for? Business or pleasure?” Godard indicated the former. The officer asked [his] business… “Unsuccessful movies,” Godard replied. There is something paradoxical about his attitude toward cinema. He now seems despairing of the medium’s ability to reinvent itself or to have any kind of social impact. “It’s over,” he sighs. “There was a time maybe when cinema could have improved society, but that time was missed.” [More at the link.]

Fox Searchlight: Well, the model is, some of their films are really working

Variety reports from a Tuesday Tribeca Fest panel on “specialty” releasing; Fox Searchlight was the patient on the table: “Sony Classics co-prexy Tom Bernard was more dubious… He called midsize pics “a questionable venture,” noting, “If a movie like Sideways, which I think cost a lot of money to promote, doesn’t work, it’s an incredible loss.” … Kinsey, for example, didn’t catch on.”They cancel each other out,” he said of the two pics.”Our goal is to have singles and doubles… We’d rather release 22 movies a year, and, you know, spending a little money on each one, and if one happens to pop, then all the better for us.” [Bob] Berney replied, “Everyone goes, ‘Well, we want to use the Fox Searchlight model,’ and you’re sort of like, ‘What is that model?’ and they go, ‘Well, the model is, some of their films are really working.'”

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Line, please: Sydney Pollack's compulsive repetition

Sydney Pollack‘s got this ticking in his head, a line he tells Anthony Minghella that’s occured in four of his movies. In 3 Days of the Condor, writes the Guardian, “Pollack’s line is spoken by an outraged Robert Redford, on discovering that the folks at Langley have a secret plan to invade the Middle East to secure America’s oil supplies… “What is it with you people?… You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?” (No, he is informed, “It’s simple economics.”) The line… is, of course, a variation on the Latin tag favoured by lawyers: Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi. That is to say, the suppression of truth is the suggestion of falsehood. It’s less easy to place the other two usages but a good bet would be Tootsie (1982) and The Firm (1993), two Pollack-directed films in which the main characters live a lie.”

$C25 million for Toronto fest: a new deal for Canadian cities

The new HQ for the Toronto International Film Festival, due for 2008 at a cost of $C122 million, got a boost Tuesday as the Canadian government kicked in $C25m, matching a commitment by the Ontario provincial government last monthm, reports the Globe and Mail. “Federal politicians also touted Ottawa’s investment as in keeping with the government’s commitment to a “new deal” for Canadian cities. Tuesday’s $25m federal contribution will be managed under the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund… The new building – which will also house a gallery and screening rooms – is being billed as a year-round facility that would serve as both the headquarters for the main film festival as well its accompanying programs.”

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin