Movie City Indie Archive for November, 2005

A specialist reports: Mrs. Henderson's naked and the nude

In the Guardian, Sophie Heawood chats up Lily White, “a burlesque artiste from the Whoopee Club about the knickers and kit in Mrs. Henderson Presents: “I suppose some people might think all we do is ponce around and get our kit off, but there’s a lot more that goes into it. In a way, it’s harder to work without your clothes on than with them. There’s one point in the film where the singer, who remains clothed, says rather sulkily to the head nude girl: “All you do is stand there.” The girl replies: “I believe that’s the definition of a star.” I was cheering in my seat.”

Tehrangeles: movies by Darius Khondji, Sam Nazarian and Bob Yari

“One day Hollywood will make an Iranian-American Gone With the Wind, writes Behrouz Saba, “All the epic elements are there. Extended, deeply rooted families in Iran become fabulously wealthy during the oil boom of the mid-1970s, only to see their lives shattered by the Islamic revolution late in the decade. Fleeing to Southern California in droves, they begin to carve out for themselves a niche of wealth and promise they proudly call Tehrangeles… Iranian-Americans are… gaining the capital, clout and skills necessary to become Hollywood players themselves, and to fashion their own screen images as earlier immigrants [did]… Tehran-born Sam Nazarian lives the flashy lifestyle [of] a reincarnation of an old-fashioned Hollywood mogul. The owner of the two trendiest nightclubs in Los Angeles, he is buying and restyling hotels and restaurants here and abroad while backing such films as The Beautiful Country, about the search of a Vietnamese-American for his father, and Waiting, a comedy about a staff of underachievers at a chain restaurant…. More circumspect but no less determined is producer Bob Yari. One of his earliest film credits is as an assistant in Checkpoint (1987), a work by the pioneering director Parviz Sayyad, who made low-budget, independent films about Iranians in America in the revolution’s immediate aftermath. Knowing that money speaks the loudest in today’s Hollywood, Yari went on to become wealthy in Southern California’s booming strip-mall real estate…. Yari is a backer of Crash, which depicts frictions among blacks, Latinos, Koreans and Iranians in Los Angeles. Its cast includes Sandra Bullock and Don Cheadle. Tehran-born actor Shaun Toub, who was discovered as he worked as a real estate agent in Los Angeles, plays an Iranian shopkeeper who is victimized when he is thought to be an Arab.” Also noted: cinematographer Darius Khondji .

It's Showtime: Dante's Homecoming

At its Turin world premiere, VOICE’s Dennis Lim talks to Joe Dante about “Masters of Horror” and his episode, Homecoming: “In an election year, dead veterans of the current conflict crawl out of their graves and stagger single-mindedly to voting booths so they can eject the president who sent them to fight a war sold on “horseshit and elbow grease.” The dizzying high point of Showtime’s new “Masters of Horror” series, the hour-long Homecoming (which premieres December 2) is easily one of the most important political films of the Bush II era… Its dutiful hero, presidential consultant David Murch… reports to a Karl Rove–like guru named Kurt Rand… and engages in kinky [sex] with attack-bitch pundit Jane Cleaver… a blonde, leggy Ann Coulter proxy… Murch’s glib, duplicitous condescension is apparently what triggers the zombie uprising: Confronting an angry mother of a dead soldier on a news talk show, he tells this Cindy Sheehan figure, “If I had one wish… I would wish for your son to come back,” so he could assure the country of the importance of the war. The boy does return, along with legions of fallen combatants, and they all beg to differ.
“How fitting that the most pungent artistic response to a regime famed for its crass fear-mongering would be a cheap horror movie. Jaw-dropping in its sheer directness, Homecoming is a righteous blast of liberal-left fury… “If you’re going to code the message, which is the way horror movies have always done it, that’s fine, but it’s not going to reach an audience like a movie that’s overt, and this is not exactly subtle,” says Dante. “Somebody has to start making this kind of movie, this kind of statement. But everybody’s afraid—it’s uncommercial, people are going to be upset. Good, let them be upset. Why aren’t people upset? Every minute, somebody’s dying in this war, and for nothing. To establish a religious theocracy in Iraq? It doesn’t seem to me quite worth it.” … Homecoming [accommodates] a devastatingly specific checklist of accusations, from the underreporting of war casualties to last November’s dubious Ohio count. As if in defiance of the Pentagon’s policy to ban photographs of… coffins, Dante’s film shows not just the flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base but their irate occupants bursting out of them. “There’s a lot of powerful imagery in this movie that has nothing to do with me… When you see those coffins, which is a sight that’s generally been withheld from us, there’s a gravity to it…” To [Dante’s] surprise, Showtime executives didn’t flinch… “I can’t conceive of any other venue where we would have been able to tell this story: You can’t do theatrical political movies; people don’t go to them. You can’t do them on television, because you’ve got sponsors… Michael Moore’s last picture made a lot of money, but he was vilified for it so much he’s practically in hiding… The New York Times and all these people that abetted the lies and crap that went into making and selling this war—now that they see the guy is a little weak, they’re kicking him with their toe to make sure he doesn’t bite back. It’s cowardly. This pitiful zombie movie, this fucking B movie, is the only thing anybody’s done about this issue that’s killed 2,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis? It’s fucking sick.” … Dante says he’s eager for the right-wing punditocracy… to see it: “I hope this movie bothers a lot of people that disagree with it—and that it makes them really pissed off, as pissed off as the rest of us are.”

Mind-bloggling Pt. 37: Chicago Tribune's Rambling Gleaner

Chicago Tribune “Rambling Gleaner” Charlie Madigan sounds the klaxon for icky metaphors in the defense of megacorps over measly internet writers: “Generally, opinion, in the form of lots of blogging, will be slathered all over it, like peanut butter so heavily spread you can’t see the toast anymore.”

France vs. U.S.

As a chunk of the 2006 Sundance sked falls from the sky
those rotten French moviegoers are watching Shu Qi in Three Times.
three times.jpg
More Sundance slates: Wednesday—Spectrum, Frontier, and Park City at Midnight; Thursday, Premieres. And on Monday… Shorts!

Baby, it's cold inside: Indiana on Brokeback insularity

In the VOICE, Gary Indiana scores a few points about the isolated lives of the characters in Brokeback Mountain: “No one ever refers to the large events of the day, or to places outside his or her immediate ken. Between 1963 and somewhere in the early 1980s, the only evidence of a realm beyond the rodeo circuit and the ranch is the cathode eye in the living room, the slowly mutating look of motor vehicles and supermarket wares, and an occasional reference to the state of the economy.
“In effect, two decades of history produce no important effects in the communities and individuals under scrutiny. Attitudes and opinions remain obstinately immobile… Even TV, which replaced verbalization in so many American homes during the period spanned, can only emit meaningless images to people who have nothing to say to each other in the first place. This is depressingly credible. Tight-knit communities, like tight-knit families, manage to stay tight by deflecting any strong sense of connection with larger social configurations—”America,” to this mindset, is, or ought to be, a country whose norms are indistinguishable from their own, ergo not such a big place after all. The insular quality of American life reinforces a stubborn naïveté about sexual matters that’s been part of our national character from the outset… The deviant, whether religious, political, or sexual, has always needed to be identified from among the existing population, then exterminated or expelled. The expunged have tended to found their own little territories, which in turn establish their identities by driving out the unorthodox—who have to be invented if they don’t already exist… In this respect, Brokeback Mountain is a pungent slice of an essentially unchanging reality.”

Nice Harvest: Keeping it in Chicago

Harold Ramis talks about keeping regional production regional, with Chicago, not Toronto, doubling for Wichita in The Ice Harvest. “Focus Features wanted to film The Ice Harvest in Chicago-look-alike Toronto… The budget for a Chicago-based [production] was still $200,000 over Focus’ ideal,” reports Sally Duros in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I felt this movie could so easily be made in Chicago, I couldn’t see how $200,000 would be a make-or-break number,” Ramis tells Duros. “I knew if they dragged me away I would wind up getting passive aggressive. I also know that when you are shooting a movie, time is money. I was guaranteeing the price when I said I could make it in 40 days on that budget in Chicago.” … Brenda Sexton, managing director of the Illinois Film Office, said Chicago native Albert Berger’s Bona Fide Productions was the first to put the homegrown film into play. A Latin School graduate, Berger grew up on the Gold Coast.
The Ice Harvest was the first film to commit to shooting in Illinois under the first round of the new tax credit, Sexton noted. Focus received a 25% tax credit based on wages paid — at certain levels — to each Illinois employee involved… Busch said the Teamsters, International Stage Technicians Local and the Wardrobe and Costume Local provided concessions equivalent to 15% of labor costs… While tax incentives are nice, Ramis said they are less important than how Illinois contributes to the filmmaking world on its own. “We keep waiting for the studios to come here. It’s not even about U.S. vs. Canada,” Ramis said. “The key is to show your competence, and that you are asking for a partnership, not to go hat in hand, employing a beggar’s mentality. There would be more production here if films were being financed from here. We have the creative talent.” What’s needed, Ramis adds, is “a really tough guy to squeeze the money out of people.”

Flick this: Sarah Silverman gets an editorial

The Lowelll, Massachussetts Sun editoralizes against Jesus is Magic as an inhumane flick: “Sarah Silverman steps over a line that no American, no human being, should ever be willing to cross.” [No mention of dogs, cats, or horses.] Silverman makes light of the worst day in this nation’s history—Sept. 11, 2001. The horrific events of that day have remained untouched by comedians for more than four years… There’s nothing funny to be found in the massive destruction, the thousands of innocent lives lost, the shattering of hearts and families, that occurred that day. Silverman… doesn’t seem to understand the depths of this nation’s sorrow… Perhaps she simply doesn’t care… Humor can be found in many situations… Sept. 11 isn’t one of those…
flick editorial.jpg
“Nearly 3,000 people died that horrific day, including popular Dracut resident John Ogonowski who was the pilot of [one] ill-fated flight… Perhaps Silverman was one of the fortunate Americans who didn’t know anyone murdered in the terrorist attacks… But that doesn’t excuse her callous disregard for the feelings of those who did lose a family member, a friend, a colleague… The $8 or $10 that might have gone for a ticket to Silverman’s movie—were it a flick even mildly diverting—will be better spent elsewhere.”

Bah smug-bug to journo hegemony: You and what Armond?

Over at NYPress, Armond White is having, erm… words? in a lengthy takeout entitled “Self Satisfaction, Hollywood Style.” “In mass media, ‘smart’ has become the alternative to popular,” White writes. “And ‘smart’—the hipper-than-thou, angrier-than-thou attitude of today’s culture—has led to smug… It’s what connects Good Night, and Good Luck, The Squid and the Whale, North Country, The Dying Gaul, The Weather Man, Syriana and Capotesome of the year’s most acclaimed yet detestable films… In today’s fake populism, where obscenely overpaid and overpromoted journalists pretend to speak for the commonweal, pundits are superstars.” [Name-calling without names: purple, purblind purism!] “And since each self-proclaimed expert certifies himself film savvy, movies are considered less important than how they make one feel superior. The hope that movies could bond a disparate populace is passé. Movies are now part of the way that the media elite (and the cyberspace fringe) proclaim their advantages.
“At no time in my experience reading cultural journalism was there a period when the culture was as hostile as today. Awful movies are foisted upon the public through critics’ hypocritical confusion of bad taste and private interest. Propaganda for themselves. They automatically acclaim movies that align with their personal beliefs while shunning any intellectual challenge. Conflict-of-interest duds—from The Squid and the Whale to Good Night, and Good Luck—represent boomer vanity; their implicit values denote the backed-up sewage of the ’60s counterculture’s self-importance. These are films only people who fancy themselves New York intellectuals could love… One social set’s prejudices get validated based on the unexamined acceptance of particular class priorities. This hegemony is put into effect by pundits with no grace or humility, who assert their difference—their smartness—from the general public.” [More hautyoor at the link.]

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Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to the whinging billionaire who owns one: Zuckerman slags blogs

Writing from catbird seat in US News & World Report, owner Mortimer B. Zuckerman disdains the internet.
“There’s a virtual galaxy of obscure blogs that may get a few hits a day but occasionally light up the blogosphere when they’re picked up and amplified by the mainstream press… Blogs often resort to blood sport in their commentaries on politics and life, with many repeating and reporting without fact checking… This new age of journalism is challenging the “trustee model” of journalism, where journalistic professionals served as gatekeepers, filtering the defamatory and the false. Today, a large segment of the public believes the new media are flavoring their reporting so as to tell us not so much how the world works but how the media believe it ought to work… The blogs, while fragmenting our mass audience and carrying many more inaccuracies than mainstream media, have nonetheless democratized journalism by giving citizens daily and immediate access to different opinions and, sometimes, to purveyors of truly expert knowledge.” No footnotes in Mr. Zuckerman’s nest of generalities are provided to discern the balance of inaccuracies between the blogosphere and mainstream media. [“Mainstream media” may be defined in this case as “Who doesn’t take car service?”] [The photo is from; their photo editors slugged it as “mug_mort.jpg”, not we.]

Nollywood rising: the world's third largest B.O.

ChiTrib’s foreign correspondent Paul Salopek goes to Nigeria, where money woes in the early 1990s stemmed a steady stream of kung fu and Chuck Norris videos, leading to the birth of Nollywood: “A wellspring of some 50 new films a week, home to a unique genre that might be called “romantic voodoo,” and a cinematic assembly line that churns out blockbusters for as little as $8,000 apiece… Nigeria has emerged as the hottest… movie mecca in Africa… The country’s brash young film industry—inevitably dubbed “Nollywood”—[rakes] in at least $200 million a year, making it the third-largest box office in the world after the US and India…. Shot mainly in English with hand-held video cameras, then copied endlessly onto cheap [CDs], Nigerian titles have flooded… stores and dusty village markets across Africa… Their popularity has even toppled the biggest obstacle to moviemaking on the polyglot continent: Nigerian films are in such high demand that they are being subtitled [for] French-speaking Africa… “We know we can’t beat Hollywood on production values–not yet,” said Cyprain Chukwunta, a producer with more than 40 movies, none of which took longer than a week to film… “But our quality is constantly improving,.. I predict that one day we won’t just dominate Africa but the world. By 2010 we will be No. 2, minimum.” See also this story from Nigeria Online. A Nigerian filmmakers’ bulletin board, with links to a regularly updated raft of relevant articles, is here; you can find fan boards at this link.

Liminal velocity: a dangerous Rendez-vous

Online viewing: Probably the most dangerous eight-minute, thirty-nine second single take known to Frenchmen: “C’était un rendez-vous is a short film made in 1976 by Claude Lelouch, the director of Un homme et une femme. Lelouch’s own car, a Ferrari 275 GTB,
“is driven by an anonymous driver [reportedly Rene Arnoux, an ex-Formula One driver for Renault] at breakneck speed through the streets of Paris just after dawn, for a romantic “rendez-vous” at Basilica of the Sacré Cœur.”

A stately pressure doc: where the Wal-Mart bucks aren't

SF Chronicle’s Ron Dicker parlays with Robert Greenwald about the cost of Wal*Mart, the doc: “The distribution pattern is not designed to maximize dollars… For every house party we do, in a sense we lose money because, for every person who buys a DVD, 20 or thousands come and watch without paying anything, which is fine. It’s not about selling tickets. It’s about reaching people.” … Greenwald, a 61-year-old father of four, already has amassed Hollywood-standard riches in his dramas, which include the Farrah Fawcett beaten-wife vehicle The Burning Bed. He takes no profit off the documentaries. “The reason was I knew that I would be attacked… I didn’t want the Bush administration, Fox News or Wal-Mart to attack, saying I wanted to make a buck. That’s always the first line of attack. This makes them silent, at least for a while.” Retaliation has ranged from death threats to exhumed reviews of Greenwald’s 1980 flop Xanadu.”That came courtesy of Wal-Mart… “It hurt my feelings and cost me a lot of money in therapy,” he says, chuckling… “But it hasn’t made me change my opinion of Wal-Mart.”

What a mouth: transcribing Henry Jaglom

Conversing at SF Chronicle’s John Stanley, veteran four-waller Henry Jaglom is
more a jag-man talking about his latest blabfest, Shopping: “My mother never told me just because I was a male I couldn’t participate in the girl’s world of buying a new wardrobe… She gave me the opening to see what a female life was like. I was in school getting into trouble, but after I shopped for a whole weekend I became much easier going.
“Suddenly, I was happy. The contrast was profound. My whole focus became fun. Life became a game as opposed to the serious values of the all-boys school I was attending. I became relaxed around women. I found out women talk about themselves. They have a sense of play. They have a way of bonding with each other that’s different from men. Men are not supposed to play. They have their manhood to consider. But women, they play all their lives. They just want to have fun. That’s why women are so special. They remain free-spirited, joyful. I never forgot that, and all my life I’ve loved to shop. I hope I’m still a kid having fun in a department store.” Men “are pragmatic about shopping… ‘I need a pair of pants,’ and that’s it. Some men are uncomfortable shopping, especially with women. But if a man can enjoy shopping with a woman, he has discovered an important way to bond. But what fascinates me most about women shoppers — shopping becomes a metaphor for things not going right in their lives, or things that are going right. If I learned anything new, it is the extreme psychological depth women plunge to when they buy. It’s a way of resolving issues. A woman has this instinct to find something new and pretty. Something to give them an upper. Shopping ultimately is this wonderful self-protective mechanism.” Did Stanley cut anything from this interview? There’s even more at the link.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochqatsi: Qatsi Trilogy live in Wales

Godfrey Reggio‘s Qatsi Trilogy will be in concert at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Center, reports Western Mail’s Karen Price: “Technology is the big force, and like oxygen it is always there, a necessity that we cannot live without,” said Reggio.
Philip Glass, whose ensemble accompanies the three film, weighs in before meeting the Welsh. “While a synthesised score might to some seem the obvious choice to support the technologically made images, I chose a contrasting language for the music. I’ve composed the score for a large symphonic ensemble and used the voice of the cello throughout to give audiences something familiar to hold onto and guide them through this unfamiliar world. My instinct was to balance the quite startling effect of the synthetically composed images with a sound world of natural timbres.”
Glass said… “This idea is central to what the Qatsi films talk about – this world of technology has replaced nature, but we as humans, are in the middle of it, and just can’t see how dangerous and damaging it is,” added Reggio.

Movie City Indie

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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