Movie City Indie Archive for July, 2006

An anniversary darkly: Ingmar Bergman is 88 today

ingmar_350_1345.jpgIngmar Bergman was born in 1918 on this day. The website devoted to his archives, “Ingmar Bergman Face to Face” has been adding more material in English, including a page of links to his writing and a handy guide to personal demonology.

Despite the heat it will be all right: Indie recommends

YAB prod (c)Ray Pride.jpgNo time for posting today, but for more summertime heat in the meantime, sample Joe Swanberg‘s NSFW Young American Bodies serial from here. [Production still by Ray Pride.]

I'm jus' sayin': the MPAA on Clerks II

babyclerks2.jpgPretty much sums it up: Clerks II is rated R for “pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material.” [Look for a long Kevin Smith interview, linked here early next week.]

Indie's deconstructing until Wednesday…

Wednesday indie103742345.jpg

Deadlines and travel and screenings and interviews… And that sun’s kind of nice out there.

Centering WTC: revenge of Ollie's expropriationist

The New York Times’ Felicia R. Lee catches up with the latest development in the story of Chris Moukarbel, the artist sued for producing a $1,000 video out of the screenplay for World Trade Center. [Movie City Indie was cited in the complaint for earlier coverage.] mourk350.jpgThe new bit o’ criticism sounds like a more fascinating piece of work than the earlier appropriation: “This one was created from film shot in the process of making the video that led to the lawsuit…. After a temporary restraining order was placed on the distribution and showing of his video (part of a thesis project for his Master of Fine Arts at Yale), Mr. Moukarbel went ahead and produced another for Wallspace [Gallery in New York]. For his new 13-minute video, he used film of the two actors in the first video while they were waiting for direction and getting into character. It has no dialogue except for the banter between the actors and off-camera direction from Mr. Moukarbel. Mr. Moukarbel, 28, who graduated from Yale in May, said his new video was intended to capture the art of performance and to serve as commentary on his plight. “I had to put together a project to reflect on the old project but also stand in its own right,” he said…. Spokesmen for Paramount could not be reached for comment yesterday.”

New and recent releases: The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest; Superman Returns; The Devil Wears Prada; The Road to Guantanamo; Strangers With Candy and The War Tapes.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (**)
GOTTA LOVE THE JOKE ABOUT THE UNDEAD MONKEY. Gotta be peeved that Keith Richards doesn’t show up as Jack Sparrow’s dad until the third installment, months down the road. Mr. John Depp also does wonders with the line, deppcharge070606.jpg“I feel sullied and unusual.” Yet, as a continuation of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl, with most of the crew and cast intact, Dead Man’s Chest feels both too much and too little. While I really, really liked Gore Verbinski’s goofy, erratic first edition of three Pirates pictures, the result here, at 150 minutes, is like Three Stooges auteur Jules White being given Breughel as a production designer, and the borrowings, in the form of digital settings and CGI creatures—such as a squid-faced Davy Jones, voiced by Bill Nighy—and ranks of images drawn from work by Terry Gilliam, Dave McKean (Mirrormask) and Matthew Barney, are both overscaled and underwhelming. Keira Knightley has tomboy gleam, but most members of the cast—Jonathan Pryce, Orlando Bloom, Jack Davenport, Stellan Skarsgard,a racial caricature played by Naomie Harris—are overwhelmed by the Bruckheimer scale of the production, and where the mascaraed Mr. Depp made antic hay through Black Pearl, there are only three or four moments here that betray similar, if modest and quickly passed over, comic inspiration.

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Richard E. Grant on Wah-Wah, widescreen and the underrated sense of smell

RICHARD E. GRANT’S DEBUT AS WRITER-DIRECTOR, the wry, witty and pungent coming-of-ill-age Wah-Wah, should surprise no one who’s seen his unforgettable, eccentric performances in movies like Withnail & I or read his quippy, gossipy film diaries (“With Nails”). thesmell-reg234.jpgPatterned from events in the veteran actor’s own life growing up in the African former English colony of Swaziland—including having Ralph, his young protagonist, witness his mother’s adultery in the opening scene—Wah-Wah is set at the end of English empire, as well as past the end of a torturous marriage. While Grant’s script is rich with keenly observed details and behavior about boredom, snobbery and the inevitable colonial provincialism, he also gets uniformly fine performances from a strong cast, including Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne as Ralph’s parents, Harry and Lauren, and Emily Watson as Ruby, the bold American stewardess his father later marries. (Harry’s descent into Jekyll-and-Hyde alcoholism is touching and unsentimental: Byrne seeps melancholy.) Grant, 48, is in a good mood when we speak. “The sun is shining. I had a very good response to an AFI screening last night for my friends and some famous faces. Steve Martin did the Q&A with me afterwards. I couldn’t be in better shape if I tried. Of course, I’d like it to be on 4,000 screens but I don’t have the MI3 or Poseidon [advertising] budget behind me.”
PRIDE: Roadside Attractions have done well with unexpected films, like Ladies in Lavender, even if Wah-Wah is less… genteel. You may be in good hands.
GRANT: I hope for their sake that their faith is proved to be rewarded and reciprocated.
PRIDE: You’ve said this story is very personal. I’m wondering how you organized your thoughts. Personal history is sometimes the most difficult thing for a writer to organize and it can take a long time to get there.
GRANT: I’d been thinking of writing a script for some years, about the last gasp of Empire and the wahwah-byrne-0213.jpgcommunity of people who are past their historical sell-by date. That [was] a source of comedy and tragedy in my own personal life, and I thought that it would be a good set-up to have the story of my utterly dysfunctional family set against the last gasp of empire, the disintegration of the English empire, this private family life against the public show of a broad political canvas. That’s what I did. I then spent two months in 1999 writing the first draft. In the way of the world, a first-time writer-director’s movie getting off the ground has now taken six years to releasing in the U S of A… Yeah… Six.
PRIDE: There has been a gap in your acting CV the past few years.
GRANT: That’s because I’ve been taken up with the all the pre-production, shooting and post-production on my movie.
PRIDE: You’ve described writing this movie as being like “a tax return in the middle of a nervous breakdown.”

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Best wishes on Independence Day…


Roger Ebert is to the movies what baseball is to America

Neil Steinberg‘s Auberon Waugh-ish medley of a column at the Chicago Sun-Times usually leans to the ish, but here’s a crisp personal anecdote about working with Roger Ebert: “When I joined this newspaper, 20 years ago, there were more reporters than places to put them. I would wander from desk to desk, dragging along my stack of files, setting up camp wherever there was a free computer, at the desk of someone who had… sometimes, merely stepped away. 27012955_c2ac575a8a.jpgNo refuge was more welcoming than Roger Ebert’s office—crowded with memorabilia, movie posters and little wind-up toys, already famous from the opening montage of his TV show. He was almost always somewhere else: at a screening room, at Cannes, or his beloved London. You can’t imagine the joy of… banging out my workmanlike news articles among the mementoes of the great Pulitzer Prize winner, wordsmith, social force. The pride of belonging to an organization that employs an Ebert, who underwent emergency surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital over the weekend… What I felt hearing the news was deep concern and cold dread. Roger is to the movies, and to this newspaper, what baseball is to America—the enduring certainty, the agreed-upon universal, the cherished standard of excellence. Next month will be the 40th anniversary of the August day when Ebert loaded his old Dodge and drove up Route 45 from Urbana to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago and join the Sun-Times, and while I’ve never really thought much about the anniversary, or looked forward to it before today, I’m thinking about it and looking forward to it now with an unexpected intensity.” [Photo: Ray Pride.]

Candy-dancing: Sundance expansion into a Fannie Mae factory

The long-mooted, Robert Redford-guided Sundance Cinemas announces a Chicago location on the gentrifying West Side, “a deal that would add celebrity glitz to a once-gritty area now brimming with new condos and townhouses,” Crain’s Chicago Business’ Thomas A. Corfman reports, brimming glibly. “Sundance Cinemas LLC is close to signing a letter of intent to open a six- to eight-screen theater in a 266,000-square-foot, multistory development” in a former Fannie Mae chocolate plant. onoz_omg2.gif “A Chicago location would be a key step in a planned nationwide rollout of movie theaters featuring the artsy independent films [And who the hell wants to see “artsy” films?] and brainy documentaries [Lord forbid! Brainy documentaries!] that have gained wider popularity thanks in part to Mr. Redford’s non-profit Sundance Film Festival. [The Sundance Institute might laugh at this reductionism.]… Sundance Cinemas was launched last year by Oaktree Capital Management LLC, a Los Angeles investment firm with $30 billion in assets, and Provo, Utah-based Sundance Group LLC, which oversees Mr. Redford’s business interests, including a cable channel, a catalog company and a resort.” Madison, San Francisco and Boston are other targets; in 2001, Business Week described Oaktree as a “vulture fund.” “Sundance Cinemas is looking at many sites all across the country,” says President and CEO Paul Richardson, declining further comment. Mr. Richardson is a former top executive with… Landmark Theatres, the country’s largest art house chain… The developers have been working on the project for nearly two years, after paying $12.2 million for the nearly four-acre site at 1137 W. Jackson Blvd, part of the liquidation of the historic Chicago candy company. Called Metro Center 290, to play up the location along Interstate 290, plans for the project also include a specialty grocery store and a health club… [T]he Near West Side would at first seem an odd choice for Sundance, compared with trendier neighborhoods such as Bucktown or Lincoln Park,” where an earlier incarnation of the business plan failed to materialize in the late 90s. “In Madison, as part of the redevelopment of Hilldale Shopping Center, Sundance is planning a six-screen, 1,200-seat theater that would include a bar, restaurant and shop for Sundance-themed merchandise, says Andrew Stein, vice-president of development at… real estate firm Joseph Freed & Associates LLC, which owns Hilldale. “Sundance is the premier name in independent art films. That’s what we’re banking on,” he says.”

Movie City Indie

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“We’re all going to die so it makes it very easy. I haven’t always thought that way but I’ve realized it’s the truth. I think age gets you there, questioning your mortality… When you realize that, it’s so liberating, it’s so free, you can fly! There’s no need to hold on to anything. Like, think of the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you; it’s probably happened to 500 million people as well. Who gives a shit!”
~ Steve McQueen

“Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen—people he’s never known—with equal intensity—with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL—His children.”
~ Stan Lee, 1965