Movie City Indie Archive for January, 2006

Mo-better blues

Mo-better.jpg Admittedly, David Carr‘s Carpetblog entry is about awards “momentum,” but isn’t there someone at the NY Times copydesk—despite having an apostrophe in the proper place—who could have found a better bit of slang to head a graf that’s also about Brokeback Mountain? “Mo” could be short for something else at a quick glance, couldn’t it?

Why We Fight and David Denby has always been at war with Oceania

why-we-fight.jpg Doc-maker Eugene Jarecki articulates a thing or two about Why We Fight to Rob Nelson in the VOICE: “There’s a tendency to lay all our problems at the feet of George W. Bush, to want to see him as taking a radical departure from the traditions of U.S. foreign policy. But Bush wasn’t born overnight: He’s the product of decades of movement by this country away from its origins and ideals, and toward something more aggressive, more arrogant, more imperial. The Iraq war certainly isn’t the first time that the reasons we were given to go to war have turned out not to be the real reasons why we went. Ultimately I think it’s a political distraction for us to be obsessed with Bush or any other single figure. The larger forces that the film examines are those—including the military- industrial complex—that are undoing the very fabric of the democracy we’re fighting for. It’s what Eisenhower meant when he said, “We must avoid destroying from within that which we are trying to protect from without.” It’s an articulate position, even before reading David Denby‘s pissy notice in The New Yorker: “Isn’t it time to retire the collage method of making documentaries? A phrase or two clipped out of some policy expert’s discourse, followed by a bit of stock footage of jet fighters lined up in rows, followed by some candy-sucking kids… and, wham!, you’ve got an indictment of American militarism and imperialism. Except you don’t; you don’t have much of anything but tawdry film-editing technique… Why We Fight argues that we are at war in Iraq because we have been at war, someplace or other, on some pretext or other, under every Administration since Harry Truman was President, and we have to be perpetually at war in order to stoke what President Eisenhower, in his famous 1961 farewell address, named the “military-industrial complex.” … In order to be great a documentary must discover something…. A documentary filmmaker, at the least, must be a journalist seeking to unearth, and not a collagist who assembles miscellaneous footage in order to support what he already believes.”

There Will Be long takes: the new P. T. Anderson

oil1_lrge.jpg As surmised last March at Movie City Indie, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s got a gusher. In the Reporter, Anne Thompson reports he’s ready to produce and direct the Daniel Day-Lewis-starring There Will Be Blood, a “sprawling period piece, which Anderson… spent several years writing… loosely adapted from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil!” The $25m production is part Miramax and part Par, with former Anderson agent (at Endeavor) and now Par Classics head John Lesher averring, “It’s an ambitious film and a compelling, relevant story about family, greed, religion and oil,” Lesher said. “Paul is an incredible talent, exactly the kind of filmmaker the new division wants to be in business with.” [Scott Rudin is also part of the compact.] Image source.

Nader in '06: the spoiler takes Park City

Millionaire former activist Ralph Nader is ascending the slopes of Park City to view the doc on his life and role in the election mayhem of 2000, An Unreasonable Man on Sunday. PRs the film’s publicist: ” Nader’s appearance will mark the first time the political pundit and consumer activist has seen the film as well as the first time he has attended the film festival itself… To some, he is an icon of rare idealism, while others see him simply as the political spoiler of the last two elections… This exhaustive… film by Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan includes… archival footage and newly shot interviews with Nader himself. Numerous extended interviews with former colleagues.. The film begs the question, when do we speak for what is right without compromise, and when do we surrender one battle for the sake of the war?”

Battle in Park City: Heaven's school crossing

Battleheaven img1.jpgExplicit sex scenes get Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven pushed from a planned screening at Sundance’s largest venue, the Eccles Theatre, which is part of a complex shared with a local high school. Its January 20 slot was vacated when “school officials found out about the film’s now-infamous scenes of graphic sex and voiced their objections to the festival,” PRs the film’s publicist, as the noon screening time is within school hours. “Officials contacted the Sundance Film Festival who informed Tartan Films, the movie’s U.S. distributor, of the situation. Sundance moved quickly to relocate the first public screening to the Library Theatre.” At its 2005 Cannes debut, the release continues, suggesting the acronym FFF, “many critics were agog at Battle‘s opening and closing scenes of full-frontal fellatio. But perhaps more remarkable than the explicitness of sex is the directness with which Reygadas addresses issues of class, race, and religion in contemporary Mexico. The film, a critically acclaimed and aesthetically stunning journey through the labyrinth of life and death in present-day Mexico City.”

Redford: Paris Hilton is not about anything

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Sundance founder Robert Redford says “the festival’s programmers still have the same strategies they had 20 years ago and that all the dollars flowing down Main Street have altered only one aspect of what Sundance is about,” writes Daniel Fienberg of Zap2It.com. “Once it started to roll and you had the success of films like Sex, Lies, and Videotape and other films… more people began to come… Then the merchants came. When the merchants came, then the celebrities came and the actors came, the talent came. Then the paparazzi came, and then the fashion came. And it’s like a pebble being dropped in a pond, but these ripples come out… And when a media person comes in and looks at the festival, but from an outer tier, they’re going to see a completely different picture than the one we’re programming. They’ll think it’s about Paris Hilton, which is not about anything.”

From Mumbai: M. Nine Shyamalan?

spielboy.gif From Asian Age, news of a feature being made by a 9-year-old, passed without comment. “He says “start”, “sound” and “action” with such ease, as he wields the camera on the sets directing “Uncle Jackie”. Nine-year-old Kishan HR, a student of Camlin School in Bangalore is [setting] a world record as the youngest director in film history to direct a feature film in Kannada titled Care Of Footpath. “The film stars Jackie Shroff in the role of a chief minister along with Saurabh Shukla. The [130] minute film has been made on a budget of Rs 70 lakhs and will be released in April. Kishan was moved by the young urchins selling newspapers at traffic signals. He asked his father why they were selling papers and not going to school. “This culminated into a story. My father told me that they are poor children who have to work for their living. I wrote the story and showed it to my father, who in turn showed it to his friends. They encouraged me to direct a film… I have learnt the ropes of filmmaking on the sets. My parents showed me DVDs on filmmaking and have read out books to me. I observed the director placing the lights and the camera positions. But learning about camera angles and shot divisions took more time,” he adds. We ask Jackie how it was to be directed by a child. He says, “It is an amazing experience. The kid is brilliant. He has realised his dreams and it’s nice to work with a child basically because children have no egos. When I met this child, I was amazed by his experience and talent. I told him that he should make a film and promised to work in it. He came to me a few months later with his story and asked me if I would work for him,” says Jackie.”

Shreveport doubles 1965 NYC: Factory Girl

Was it really like that? Shreveport, LA is doubling for 1965 NYC. “Texas Street became Lexington Avenue, New York circa 1965, for a scene in the movie, Factory Girl“, about Edie Sedgwick (played by Siena Miller). “With 60 extras dressed in the time period clothing, and yellow cabs driving the streets, [co-star Edward] Herrmann praises Shreveport’s ability to blend. Herrmann says, “they did an extraordinary job of making this look like Lexington Avenue in 1965 or 1966″… Herrmann tells us he’s enjoying Shreveport, especially after dinner at Shreveport’s Noble Savage Tavern. Herrmann says, “I was invited to a table with the locals to sit and from there we went to a number of places I can’t remember”. The cast and crew say Shreveport is up and coming in the movie ranks.”

David Lynch: Every day begins to feel like Saturday morning with your favorite breakfast

lynch-cz-002.jpg In the new Arthur [not online], Kristine McKenna talks meditation with David Lynch—whom she’s known for 25 years. Lynch had just returned from his university speaking tour on behalf of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness Based Education and World Peace.”You begin waking up more and more when you meditate, until finally one day you’re fully awake… This is the potential of every human being and if you visit that unified field twice a day, every day begins to feel like Saturday morning with your favorite breakfast, it’s sunny, and you’ve got the whole weekend ahead with all your projects that you’re looking forward to doing.” [Photo source.]

Stomping crickets: Peter Rainers down on hot and spicy entrees

tinycricket.gifPeter Rainer‘s only recently become film cricket of the august Christian Science Monitor but he’s got an embarassingly exaggerated, WTF?!-level fume about how moviegoing manners among his colleagues disappoint him, as a professional, that is. [In breaking news, the “anguished sigh” remark may refer to Pauline Kael, who retired in 1991 and has been dead for almost five years.] “I happen to be one of those people who don’t like a whole lot of hubhub, least of all inside a movie theater. Because I’m a professional film critic and attend hundreds of screenings a year, this presents a distinct problem for me. Many of my screenings are for critics only, so you would think I have a comparatively easy time of it. The press, as we all know, is so well behaved. Think again… For example, there is one group (whose identity I won’t divulge except to say that it dispenses Golden Globes every year) that’s notorious for smuggling hot and spicy entrees into screening rooms (often poorly ventilated) while pursuing a line of nonstop chatter in heavily accented English. Then there are all those critics who pull out their lighted pens at the drop of an insight… New school is bringing your laptop into the theater and typing your insights as you go along. If enough of these typists are in the theater, the collective sound is like a squadron of rats clacking across a linoleum floor. Critics also enjoy impressing other critics by venting aloud for all to hear. One famous critic used to belt out an anguished sigh whenever she found a film too drippy; another regularly rocks the room with a laugh pitched somewhere between a croak and a whinny. At film festivals like Toronto and Cannes, the one-upmanship often takes the form of instant mini-dissertations, as in “That tracking shot is so Tarkovskian!” That example is so… apocryphal. A chart of Movie “dont’s” is appended for those who’ve made it through the clumpy gruel, including don’t “[kick] the seat in front of you.”

Wes Studi wants his cut: The New World

new_world_farrell_kilcher98765k.jpgWhile only a few folks have seen the re-edited version of The New World, Indian Country Today’s Jennifer Hemmingsen is not impressed. “The melodrama is thick, the internal monologues are endless and the soap operatic overuse of the thousand-yard stare is absolutely maddening… The story is tired… It’s not really a love story… With Smith playing the colonizer and Pocahontas the ”good Indian,” it’s actually a metaphor reinforcing the tragic inevitability of the conquering of America—a story we’ve heard too often already… ”It’s not my cup of tea,” said Cherokee actor and activist Wes Studi, who plays Opechancanough in the film. Studi, who is also a spokesman for the Indigenous Language Institute, said he got involved… because of the original script (the final cut of the movie is missing most of his character’s development) and the historical research that went into it. The production team hired language expert Blair Rudes to research the indigenous language and use it for much of the film’s Native dialogue. The resulting lexicon is being used by the Pamunkee trib [but] it wasn’t much used by [the filmmakers]. ”I’m a bit disappointed that so much of that reintroduced language wasn’t used in the film,” Studi said… What will it take to write a new story about the ”new world”? A different director? Another 400 years? ”What it would take is for me to edit it,” Studi said.”

Shear gall: Caryn James cuts-'n'-trims the latest styles

new world or k_jpg.jpg“The commonsensical view that an audience might actually have a better experience if the film were tauter is rare among directors, especially this season when some of the most prominent movies are needlessly long,” writes noted, lauded filmmaker Caryn James, adopting a condescending tone hardly heard since a certain past critic would recast movies to his tastes in his reviews. “These films achieve their bloated status for different reasons: the old New World and Brokeback Mountain… take too much time getting started. If the audience knows that the English settlers will land and the cowboys will turn out to be gay, the movies shouldn’t waste 15 minutes getting there. Both Peter Jackson’s popcorn movie King Kong” … and Steven Spielberg’s ultraserious Munich… seem slacker than they should, probably because their powerful directors can do whatever they want… As Mr. Malick realized, the issue is not length itself, but what works on screen.” The original version of The New World, Ms. James coyly suggests is filled with what “others might call travelogues: pretty pictures of birds flying, water flowing, trees growing… Those preliminary scenes, which slowed things down, have been trimmed, and the voice-overs—interior monologues in which Pocahontas and Smith meditate on their lives—are less likely to accompany picturesque views of nature. Instead, [co-producer Sarah] Green said, the voice-over “pulls you into the next scene.” The editing was the kind of snipping that, like a good face-lift, should be inconspicuous if it works. Besides, Mr. Malick can put it all back (and more) in the DVD.” [Ultraserious. Shit! Who wants to see that? Yes, and it’s lonnnnnnng. And it’s full of… Nature. Yike-ums.]

Branding Sundance and "White Noise"

You feel a vague foreboding… I kept seeing myself unexpectedly in some reflecting surface… I shopped for its own sake, looking and touching, inspecting merchandise I had no intention of buying and then buying it….From the novel, “White Noise,” by Don DeLillo.
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The 2006 Sundance Film Festival sponsors are Hewlett-Packard, Entertainment Weekly, Volkswagen of America, Adobe Systems, American Express, Delta Air Lines, DirecTV, Intel, Sprint, Aquafina, Blockbuster, L’Oreal Paris, Moviefone, The New York Times, Sony Electronics, Starbucks, Stella Artois, Turning Leaf Vineyards, the Utah Film Commission and CESAR Food For Small Dogs.

Korine cinema: Cat Power in Nashville

Austin filmmaker Margaret Brown, whose Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt produced Harmony Korine’s latest: she “returned from [Korine’s hometown of] Nashville, where she produced the new music video for Cat Power. The racy video for Power’s song ‘Living Proof’ is directed by the intractably avant Korine… and shot by Be Here to Love Me and Slacker cameraman Lee Daniel. Korine is showing the video to MTV this week in London, with hopes the channel will air it.”
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Nashville Scene’s excited about local vid production, too: “Hey, what’s this we hear about Jim Jarmusch scouting out Nashville locations for a White Stripes video? And about Harmony Korine shooting a Cat Power video here? That’s as awesome as the time Wim Wenders went to the Opry.”

Altman's Oscar: "It's okay with me"

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Movie City Indie

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“I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism… Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.”
Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier