Movie City Indie Archive for March, 2006

Basic Skyline: tear down this phallus, Mr. Livingstone!

In the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw constructs prize contumely in: re a certain building being the anchor of today’s London skyline in movies: “And, please, what is it with the Swiss Re ‘gherkin’ building? Why is it that every film set in London has to feature the gherkin? It used to be that London films had Routemasters sailing past the Palace of Westminster as their establishing shot. 30 St Mary Axe Gherkin photo by Grant Smith.jpgNow it’s that bulbous, squat glass edifice poking up into the skyline as characters hurry in and out of cabs. Morrissey’s office is actually in the gherkin, one of the most implausible sets I have ever seen, with its cross-diagonal struts visible on the windows overlooking the city. Why not have his office on the London Eye for ‘Basic Instinct 3′? Our poor capital city adds nothing to the film, and the film contributes nothing to London; it might as well be set on one of Jupiter’s moons for all the atmosphere that is injected. Basic Instinct 2 resembles nothing so much as the toe-curling sex-obsession drama Killing Me Softly, another movie in which the UK is about as sexy as a pair of old Y-fronts.”

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Dunking the bucket: why Dorothy was lucky

Over at screenwriting blog Alligators in a Helicopter, a few notes about why you must earn The Bucket: “The longer I read, the more intolerant I have gotten about dumb logic mistakes in scripts. There’s nothing that makes me throw a script across the room quicker… I don’t think I even realized how stupid the bucket was, until I was an adult.The bucket, of course, is the bucket of water that Dorothy throws on the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, melting her. There are so many amazing things wrong with the bucket. First of all, it has no reason being there… You’re a witch. And your main Achilles’ heel… is that water will melt you… it takes a lot of effort to avoid water your whole life.We’re talking no showers. No swimming in pools, or lakes, or skinning-dipping in the local pond. No dancing through the rain as a little girl… No toilets, because she wouldn’t want to risk the splashback… Was she limited to juice? Milk? Martinis? …But despite what must have been a tyrannical water ban… there’s a bucket of water. Just sort of sitting there…

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United 93 opens the Tribeca Film Festival

Touchy topic: “The Tribeca Film Festival and Universal Pictures today announced that United 93, the feature film which chronicles the unfolding drama of the hijacked September 11 flight that crashed outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, will have its world premiere [April 25] as the Opening Night film of the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.butdoesinworkintheory.jpg“The events of 9/11 had a massive effect on me, like everyone, and I wanted to use my position as a filmmaker to contribute something so they are not casually forgotten,” stated [director Paul] Greengrass. “United 93 tells one story of that morning and I hope that by showing the film at Tribeca, whose roots and inspiration grew in response to the devastation of 9/11, we will be reminded of the courage of all those on board and also the thousands of men and women who confronted similarly unimaginable scenarios in New York and Washington. By honoring the families who lost those they loved, I hope we can ensure that their sacrifice is remembered and hopefully seek wisdom in the future.” At SFGate, Mark Morford digests the 9/11 conspiracy theories cover story from the March 27 issue of New York. UPDATE: Cinematical’s Martha Fischer reports the fest has more taste than Greengrass. The debut will be private, “open only to the families of victims, first responders, and festival staff. Press will be accommodated in an overflow room, but will not be allowed into the actual theater” and because Tribeca is home to Ground Zero, “negotiations are currently underway to hold it at a landmark theater in midtown Manhattan.” Paging Flo Ziegfeld…]

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Who the hell's sitting in it?: Peter Bogdanovich muses, invokes the dead

Links here and there this week to the dependably crusty 66-year-old Peter Bogdanovich’s recollection of the Big Screen and What It Meant in the LA Times, pegged to the paperback release of his latest Song of Myself, “Who The Hell’s In It?” hoot-hoo-45.jpgThe essay’s auteur-hauteur has a certain faint odor beyond mothballs—of course, the moviegoing experience died once you started making fillums, doh!—as well as Bogdanovich’s keen sense for when dropping a famous name (almost invariably of the dead) will clatter like a penny in an otherwise empty washing machine. Still, this classic swatch of Bogdanovichery has notes: “On special occasions, my parents took me to the greatest movie theater in the country, Radio City Music Hall, which, for $2, would show a first-rate new film exclusively (such as An American in Paris or North by Northwest) plus a live, 40-minute stage show featuring the Rockettes. That’s why it meant so much to me in 1972 when my first comedy, What’s Up, Doc? was booked to open in New York at the Music Hall. I was so excited I called to tell Cary Grant (a friend of 10 years). “That’s nice,” he said casually. “I’ve had 28 pictures play the Hall. “I tell you what you must do,” he went on. “When it’s playing, you go down there and stand in the back — and you listen and you watch while 6,500 people laugh at something you did. It will do your heart good!” … It remains the single most memorable showing of any of my pictures: The sheer size of the reaction in that enormous theater was like a mainliner of joy. The fact is, it takes at least 100 people to get a decent laugh in a movie—smaller audiences are just not given to letting go.”

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Cronenberg's corpus: they're all funny

The Davids D’Arcy and Cronenberg discourse in depth at GreenCine. Several savories from their career-ranging epic: “When I make a movie, I try to completely ignore everybody’s expectations about what I do, and I don’t think about my other movies, and I don’t impose those things on any given movie that I’m making.” When A History of Violence premiered at Cannes 2005, “There was a famous incident involving an Austrian critic saying, “Shut up, you fucking piece of shit critics. Don’t you know this is not funny. It’s serious.” within david.jpg“This was reported in the New York Times blog, in which the writer says that he was a very good and intelligent critic, but they felt, and I think they were right, that they had a better handle on what was going on in the movie than he did, because it does ask the audience to twist and turn in terms of tone. It’s funny, it’s shocking, and then it’s immediately scary, then it’s immediately funny again, and then it’s sad and emotional, and it does all that. It is a dangerous thing to do, because if you’re walking a bit of a tightrope, it can’t backfire on you. What I really wanted to do was replicate the kind of emotional roller coaster that you have in the course of a normal day… Why can’t a movie have that many moods within it? The template for movies these days is very clunky… There’s never any mixed scene of tones and moods. People can get confused. They can think that they’re supposed to be solemn, because it’s a Cronenberg movie, and they think that’s a serious thing. But I’ve never made a movie that’s not funny. They’re all funny. Is violence “edgy”? “Conflict is the essence of drama, said George Bernard Shaw, and violence is the most basic kind of conflict. So violence doesn’t give you an edge. What you see in a lot of movies is not even real violence, it’s attitude. Attitude is anti-art. It’s a pretense, it’s a façade, it’s a defense mechanism. It means you’re not digging deep, you’re not going into something real. It’s not something that makes you vulnerable. If what you’re expressing is attitude, it’s all defensive. And you can’t be defensive if you want to be an artist. You have to make yourself vulnerable. You have to allow yourself to open up, and that’s anti-attitude.” Cronenberg recalls the critics in the UK who demanded that Crash (the good one) be banned: “I’m still pissed off.

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ChiTrib: cyber, savvy, hep [plus nekkid Sharon Stone]

The Chicago Tribune continues a series of editorials with cranky granddad verbiage about the modern world, commenting on the internet’s “DarkAlley.com”: “…[T]oday we’re neck-deep in the unforgiving age of cyberspace… Some users—MySpace alone has 32 million—dismiss these warnings with the belief that they can sanitize their postings whenever they wish. Maybe, maybe not. Provocative material tends to migrate swiftly to points unknown… it’s only a matter of time before some shrewd dweeb with tape on his glasses develops software that can miraculously recapture much of what has appeared and supposedly been deleted… [A]lways assume the Internet is forever.” [Or behind a for-pay barrier after 7 days.] not tubby-1.jpgAt least Marc Caro‘s Pop Machine blog feels up-to-date, such as this posting about Sharon Stone, compiling seven of her hottest hits as she primes the pump for Basic Instinct 2.

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WTF? Of course, THINK would've thunk it.

In the Reporter, Gregg Goldstein swears there’s a topper to The Aristocrats: “The F-word is the word on everyone’s lips in a documentary [with] an all-star lineup including crooner Pat Boone and newsman Sam Donaldson, rapper Ice-T and porn star Ron Jeremy. f***67458074.jpgIndependent distributor ThinkFilm has nabbed worldwide rights to director Steve Anderson’s [FUCK, which] presents some obvious marketing challenges, “It’s an invitation to cleverness,” said Mark Urman, head of the theatrical division at ThinkFilm. “It’s become clear to us who can print what, but here the entire title is an expletive, and it’s going to be interesting to see how we’ll get away with it.” ThinkFilm has tentative plans to release the film in limited engagements in the fall, and will send it out unrated because “it’s more consistent with the spirit of the film,” said Urman. From THINKfilm’s PR: “Steve has made a wonderfully clever, informative, and energetic film and we are not only excited to be releasing it,” says Urman, “we are thrilled to be among the few companies who CAN! Everything about the way we advertise, publicize and even discuss this film requires us to be thoughtful, original, and fresh, and for an independent distributor, there is no greater gift.”

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Take a bite out of horror: Kelly's heroes

Christopher Kelly, in a Sunday takeout in the Star-Telegram faces the fear of the faces of fear: “The most gruesomely vivid, elegantly made horror movie in recent memory opened with little fanfare on Dec. 25, 2005 in approximately 1,500 theaters nationwide. Titled Wolf Creek, it’s a low-budget shocker… about three carefree twentysomethings whose hiking trip goes terribly awry after they are kidnapped by a maniacal serial killer in the Aussie outback. As is often the case with horror pictures, it was greeted by many critics like a Christmas present wrapped in soiled tissue paper. Wolfy0079.jpg(…Roger Ebert: “There is a role for violence in film, but what the hell is the purpose of this sadistic celebration of pain and cruelty?”) The fact that the movie announced the arrival of an immensely gifted new director named Greg McLean—whose patience, control and ability to play the audience like a very cheap fiddle would have done Alfred Hitchcock proud—seemed lost on most adult moviegoers.” Kelly says it’s not an isolated case of B movies getting the blues, taking up the case for Hostel, Final Destination 3, and The Hills Have Eyes remake. “…These movies aren’t slipping under the radar and disappearing straight to video. Instead, the largely teenage and college-age audiences who flood the multiplexes on Friday nights have turned them all into modest hits… Are the critics simply out of touch? Well, yes. Because if you can’t recognize the often-astonishing level of craft on display in these films, then you’re watching them with your eyes closed.” Kelly thinks “the teenagers are getting it,” the link to post-9/11 anxieties. “Gruesomeness,” Kelly quotes Wes Craven as saying, reflects the real world. “The war in Iraq is a very violent, scary war, and it’s a war not being fought by an army on one side,” [Craven] says. “I’m sure the average kid who watches these kinds of movies has seen on the Internet someone getting his head sawed off with a kitchen knife by the enemy.” [Lots more to cut through at the link.]

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Crickets catch up: somebody reads 'em

Variety’s Barbara Scherzer reports that moviegoers still read the papers; cue chorus of slumbering crickets. A Neilsen NRG survey asserts that “84% of moviegoers said that they use a newspaper with varying frequency. The Entertainment Section of the paper is used most by moviegoers, with a 65% useage rate… tinycricket.gifhalf of all moviegoers said that the newspaper was their primary source used in making movie plans.” As for the film crickets: “For movie reviews, the most influential type is one that is printed in a newspaper (26%) which equals the influence of a review that appears on TV. The study found that a positive movie review is more likely to increase a moviegoer’s interest than a negative review will detract their interest.”

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Risk, free: where indie oughtn't

Aon/Albert G. Ruben’s 2006 Risks In Global Filmmaking Map is available here. ” Every filmmaker, from major studios to independent producers, experiences some element of risk while filming in foreign countries. That is why, each year, Aon/Albert G. Ruben, the largest entertainment insurance broker in the world, comprehensively measures and maps the risks filmmakers face across the globe.�The 2006 Risks In Global Filmmaking Map measures crime, corruption, kidnap and ransom, disease, and medical care risks, and references terrorism and political risks.”

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Matthew Barney: repulsed by the lack of moisture

beer-Barney.jpgMatthew Barney does some regular-guy shtick talking to New York mag’s Karen Rosenberg about the influences on his uncinematic films: “Horror films, for sure. The Evil Dead films, the Friday the 13th films, Jaws, The Omen, The Exorcist, The Shining—the simpler, the better. When I started making art, I think the simple-format horror films were a model for me, as a way of making something that blended an object and its environment—if you accept that in some of these stories the antagonist and environment are interchangeable, like the cabin-in-the-woods stories, or the ocean and the shark in Jaws. On a visceral level there was a big difference for me between “wet” characters and “dry” characters. Zombie films never appealed to me because they were too “dry.” I was repulsed by the lack of moisture in those characters.” [Drawing Restraint 9 premieres at IFC Center in New York tomorrow and opens Wednesday, when the man, the myth and the petroleum jelly will attend. The pic is from an uncredited page of party snaps at the site for the lamentably hiatusing Index magazine.]

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In Bulgaria, it's Alan Parker Central Time

Disappeared UK director Alan Parker gets some attention at the 10th Sofia Film Fest; Lucy Cooper listens. “Sometimes, if I’m watching TV late at night, or you’re going through jetlag or insomnia and you put the TV on in the middle of the night and there’s a film on, you go: ‘This looks good,’ then you suddenly think: ‘Oh, actually I made this film!’ You forget sometimes. But I think most directors would prefer not to see their work after all these years, which is peculiar.” What would he change? “I don’t think you should really…If you see Picasso in his blue period, he’s not going to look at it 30 years later and say: ‘I’m going to go back and paint everything yellow.’ You make your statement at that period in time and really you should stick by it. It always amazes me when you see these things saying ‘the director’s cut’- you think, well the original should have been the director’s cut. Parker picked a peck.jpgThe films that I put out are the films I wanted to put out and if they don’t work it’s my fault, not some studio’s fault. So, no, I don’t have any regrets – sometimes I regret that I put so much anxiety into the making of it. Some directors I really admire are able to just sail through a film without getting a heart attack or an ulcer. I think I’m the opposite – every moment is so painful to do, day by day, because you’re so concerned and so worried – but that can be good work…”

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Censorshipped: I was tired of watching porn

Kaiju Shakedown’s got an anecdote-rich rundown of the role of the censor worldwide: “It’s the worst job in the world… You watch hundreds of movies for a living, burning out the part of your brain that once found movie going pleasurable. Your career is a dirty little secret because it’s practically an insult… Maggie (not her real name) left Malaysia to attend graduate school in the U.K. She returned to Malaysia to become a university professor but unable to find work she wound up at one of Malaysia’s few private television companies, sitting in a windowless room and watching movies… Her job is to make sure that Muslims in these films are not shown doing “haram” things: drinking, smoking, or encountering pork products. She has generated hundreds of pages of notes…: “Scene in which the Koran is discussed in relation to belief in the supernatural needs to be further looked into.” baise-toi.jpg…While Malaysia seems to operate on the principal of “when in doubt, cut it out” the truly tormented censors live in the UK and Canada… What the BBFC spends much of its time watching is porn. Every single porn film must be classified and Robin Duvall, the BBFC Director from 1999 – 2004, says that while the [UK censorship] offices are already “Dickensian…demoralized…and a little bit paranoid” he feels that regulating porn is the “least attractive and most exhausting task of an examiner.” Psychological counseling services are provided for those who have a hard time with it. [Explicit anecdotes follow.] … Probably the most hated censorship organization in North America, the Ontario Film Review Board has publicly put its foot in it more than once. In 1999 it ordered cuts in Toronto documentarian, Ron Mann’s… Grass. The charge was cruelty to animals, and the material in question was… archival footage of restrained monkeys being forced to smoke pot. The distributor took the case to the media, the ruling was overturned and the Ontario Film Review Board became a laughingstock…” Baise-Moi was one of their tougher nuts, “a French rape-revenge [film] that was too pornographic to be classified under the mainstream guidelines, but had too much violence to be classified as a pornographic movie. After much soul-searching the Board ordered a 13 second rape scene removed because they worried that if allowed, it would set a precedent for violent rape in porn. “13 seconds of someone’s art wasn’t worth an explosion of explicit rape scenes in porn flicks,” Devine says. Soon after, she retired from the board. “I was tired of watching porn.”

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9/11's United 93: new title, new trailer

93.jpgSo you had a bad weekend? Did you see Universal’s new trailer for the newly titled United 93? Aside from the triply iconic key art, link it and weep. Hey, this is Sandy in the back? Can you call ground and see if we can get some more pillows and blankets? “A story of 9/11″? A myth of 9/11? A moment of 9/11? A song of 9/11? Even with a mustachioed man in fatigues appearing to take the role of the Vice President in a potential shootdown of civilian aircraft, the product seems promising.


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Schamus-less: NYRB Brokeback exchange continues

Over at Filmmaker, Peter Bowen prints a letter from Brokeback Mountain producer James Schamus that continues the letters-page kerfuffle from New York Review of Books between Schamus and writer Daniel Mendelsohn about the movie’s marketing; apparently NYRB thinks the first exchange suffices. Schamus: “In his reply to the few corrections in my otherwise laudatory response to his review… Daniel Mendelsohn calls me, and my work as a producer of Brokeback and as the head of the studio that distributed the film, “discomfited,” “embarrassed,” “defensive,” “bluster[ing],” practicing “obfuscatory sophistries,” “actually falsifying [the movie’s] content,” arguing “with breathtaking disingenuousness” and “evasive coyness” my “heated but ultimately self-destructive protestations” against his charges that I and my colleagues have consistently sought to “closet” the film’s central gay themes in our marketing of it. BBM-affiche.jpgOf course, our very success ($150 million in worldwide box office to date) is prima facie proof of the efficacy of our sinister methods “in so aggressively marketing this gay story to the ‘heart of America’”: how else could we have snookered so many millions of people into embracing such a gay film? Mr. Mendelsohn was, as I so gently put it in my response, “unfair” in his original depiction of our marketing; he is viciously mendacious in his latest reply, and NYRB readers deserve at least a brief correction: it is important that, as gay subject matter continues to enter further into mainstream culture, parochial nay-sayers such as Mendelsohn are at least asked to maintain the minimum standards of honesty in discussions of such matters… I will gladly provide a full refund to any New York Review reader who bought a ticket to Brokeback Mountain, and who feels that he or she was misled by our marketing campaign into not knowing that the movie’s central story was an epic romance between two men.” [There's more, more, more at the link.]

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Movie City Indie

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DEADLINE: How does a visualist feel about people watching your films on a phone or VOD?
REFN: It depends on what kind of movie you make. We had great success with Only God Forgives on multiple platforms in the U.S. Young people will decide how they see it, when they want to see it. Don’t try to fight it. Embrace it. That’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re at the most exciting time since the invention of the wheel, in terms of creativity because distribution and accessibility have changed everything. A camera is still a camera whether it’s digital or not; there’s still sound; an actor is an actor. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is going to be seen on a smart phone – I know this is the greatest thing ever made because it allows people to choose, watching what you do on this format or go into a theater and see it on a screen. That means more people than ever will see what I do, which is personally satisfying in terms of vanity. But you have to be able to adapt, to accept things in different order and length than we’re used to. We are in a very, very exciting time.
~ Nic Refn to Jen Yamato

DEADLINE: You mention Tarantino, who with Christopher Nolan and a few other giants, saved film stock from extinction. To him, showing a digital film in a theater is the equivalent of watching TV in public. Make an argument for why digital is a good film making canvas.
REFN: Costwise, it’s a very effective way for young people to start making movies. You can make your movie on an iPhone. It’s wonderful seeing how my own children use technology to enhance creativity. For me it’s a wonderful canvas. Sure, I love grain in film. I love celluloid. But I also like creativity. I like crayons, I like pencils, I like paint. It’s all relative. Technology is more inclusive. A hundred years ago when film was invented, it was an elitist club. Very few people got to make it, very few people controlled it and very few people owned it. A hundred years later, storytelling through images is everyone’s domain. It’s ultimate capitalism. There are no rules, and no barriers and no Hays Code. Where does this go in another hundred years? I don’t know but I would love to see it.
~ Nic Refn To Jen Yamato