Movie City Indie Archive for August, 2006

Brutal realities: distributing Mutual Appreciation

Promoing indieWIRE’s “Undiscovered Gems” series, indieWIRE’s Brian Brooks ekes a squeak or two out of Andrew Bujalski, director of the painfully sly, 16mm b&w pic Mutual Appreciation. [indieWIRE opens the Harvard-spawned filmmaker’s endeavor starting September 1 at NYC’s Cinema Village and LA’s Sunset 5 and Pasadena’s Playhouse 7 on September 8. What lead [sic] you to filmmaking? mutual_promo659.jpg“I was obsessed with movies as far back as I can remember (Rocky III, Star Trek II, etc), [and] never really considered doing anything else with my life. Wish I could be a musician but lack any apparent talent. Also wish I could be a novelist; same problem. Also painting. Or, I don’t know, even dancing. They all sound good to me.” Bujalski “studied film as an undergrad at Harvard, which has a tremendous program where you really get an opportunity to ‘handmake’ films, which doesn’t make you particularly employable but does give you delusions of autonomous grandeur, which I’ve managed to hang onto since… Distribution is a pain in the ass. Most of the people in that business are very friendly and affable and nice to talk to, but the business itself of course is brutal.” [For an alternative take on Bujalski’s film, sample Becky Ohlsen of Willamette Week: “I wanted to walk right into this movie, like Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo—only with a machine gun. Or maybe a hatchet. Then I’d kill every single character while laughing with glee. The most painful example of gutless, nutless indie-rock awkwardness I’ve ever seen… drifts aimlessly through the lives of an aspiring musician from Boston, his best friend and his best friend’s girl. All three of them are loathesome, inarticulate, self-absorbed, unoriginal, bumbling, insubstantial wastes of skin who can’t even make crippling neurosis mildly interesting.” [Ms. Ohlsen was attacked with a pie earlier this year by a Portland exhibitor for a relatively innocuous mention of his theater.]

Six Moral Reviews: considering Rohmer

The epochal Criterion edition of Eric Rohmer‘s Six Moral Tales is under the microscope. First, in Slate, Stephen Metcalf says that he’s realized Rohmer’s his favorite auteur,  Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer_5345.jpg writing also, “The default state of mankind is bullshitting, or the foisting of our self-deceptions onto others. For Rohmer, film was a uniquely apt way of putting this fact before an audience, though he did so without a tincture of contempt, either for the elaborate evasions themselves, some of which… are quite beautiful, or for the animal need being evaded by all the persiflage. Rohmer, a late bloomer, coffret_235.jpghad started out a teacher and a critic, and by the time he ceded his life to making movies, he was well into his 40s. He once described his method this way: “When filming, it’s usually: ‘Camera,’ then ‘Clapper,’ then ‘Action.’ I did the opposite. First I said, ‘Action!’ Then if it was going well I tapped the cameraman and he started filming.” He is still a vigorous presence in international film at the age of 86, thanks to a very Rohmerian contradiction: His love of people and ideas has always exceeded any affection he may or may not have for the monomaniacal cult known as “cinema.” More: At Senses of Cinema, Tamara Tracz offers a career summary. A selection of brisk thoughts on Rohmer from the likes fo Adrian Martin and Philippa Hawker is here. Click here for the 1978 National Film Theater retrospective brochure. And of course, here’s the Criterion page on the boxed set.

Kazakh to where you once belonged: Borat vs. Nazarbayev

pregnant.jpgEditor & Publisher notes the intersection of Borat and the Kazakh leader on the Washington Post’s front page. The story, writes E&P, “profiles an upcoming visit to this country by the president of Kazakhstan, an accused thief and “autocrat” who, nevertheless, will soon be receiving a warm welcome both at the White House and the Bush compound at Kennebunkport. With this fresh publicity, he may now be the second most famous Kazakh in America, though still trailing far behind Borat Sagdiyev, the comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen… [N]ormally one might suspect that the Kazakh leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has timed his visit to help boost the movie debut of a favorite son. However, the Kazakh government has blasted Cohen in the past, and threatened legal action, for allowing Borat to, among other things, make fun of his homeland, demean women, slander gypsies and (in a famous song) urge listeners to “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” The article notes that Nazarbayev “runs a nation that is anything but free and who has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of $78 million in bribes from an American businessman… Nazarbayev has banned opposition parties, intimidated the press and profited from his post, according to the U.S. government. But he also sits atop massive oil reserves that have helped open doors in Washington.” pres bush friend_471.jpgNazarbayev, 66, has led Kazakhstan since 1990.” As more than one internet source notes, at least “Nazarbayev’s regime does not boil people in oil like that of his neighbour in Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov.” [Borat’s MySpace profile—MySpace, like Borat distributor Fox, is controlled by Rupert Murdoch—currently lists his hometown as “Kuzcek, 3 mile north of fence to Jewtown“; Here’s an unofficial Borat site from a UK obsessive.]

Yes Men, we have no housing today: the sequel

Too true to be good: “A prankster posing as a federal housing official took centre stage at a New Orleans event with the city mayor and the governor of Louisiana, controversially promising to throw open closed public housing to thousands of poor former city residents,” Reuters reports, via The Scotsman. Oh-oh: are the Yes Men in town? yes_men.jpg Report Peter Henderson and Matt Daily, “The stunt, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development called a “cruel hoax,” was the latest by an activist group known as “The Yes Men” who have previously masqueraded as World Trade Organisation officials announcing they were disbanding the body. Activist Andy Bichlbaum, pretending to be HUD “Assistant Deputy Secretary Rene Oswin,” told hundreds of businesspeople at a forum the agency would reverse policy and reopen housing units now targeted for replacement by mixed-income development. He promised to “fix New Orleans, not just for the benefit of a few but for everyone.” The audience applauded the speech and the moderator thanked “Oswin” for the “dramatic announcement.” A cruel hoax, indeed. “Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin gave the preceding speeches at The Gulf Reconstruction and Hurricane Preparedness Summit, although neither was on the podium when the bogus official spoke… Later, the group provided barbecued chicken and ribs to contractors at an open public housing development while a brass band belted out New Orleans jazz…. Mike Bonanno, the second “Yes Man,” told Reuters the hoax was a bittersweet achievement. “It’s helped us to become the people we wish we could be to correct the problems,” he said.” Here’s coverage by The Times-Picayune’s invaluable NOLA.com. The documentary The Yes Men does a fair job of showing the pair’s brass; their website is here.

Stoned to deaf: Saddam and South Park?

Via Scotland’s DigitalSpy, saddam01.jpga report that Saddam Hussein has been forced to repeatedly watch his cartoon debut, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Writes David Cribb. “According to the film’s co-creator Matt Stone. The former Iraqi leader is portrayed in the movie as a homosexual who is in a relationship with the devil, and Stone claims the prisoner is being forced to watch it “repeatedly” as he is held by US Marines…. “I have it on pretty good information from the Marines on detail in Iraq that they showed him the movie. That’s really adding insult to injury. I bet that made him really happy.”

L.A. confidence: Ellroy returns west

On the eve of what may or may not be closure on the eve of The Black Dahlia‘s release, James Ellroy ruminates at length in LA Times’ Sunday supp, West, about his return in a piece filled with his crackling staccato prose, entitled “The Great Right Place.” [In a recent interview, he told me this essay is his last venture in self-revelation; it’s novels from here on in, and interviews only about the novels.] LATIMES_ellroy_784.jpg In spring 2002, “I was midway through a three-year crack-up. It was the upshot of long transits of overwork and emotional seepage held in check by near-insane ambition. Brutal sleeplessness and panic attacks. Sobbing jags and weightless plummets… My marriage was burning down. My nerves were shot. My mind ran in obsessive circuits. I was strung out on sedatives, sleeping pills and herbal uppers. I flew and drove around L.A., staring at women. I crashed and tried to slake my king-size sleep deficit. I was afraid that I’d lose my mind…” He had returned to a city “[f]or picaresque grifters, dollar-driven D.A.s, well-hung gigolos, hollow-eyed strumpets, hophead jazz musicians, pervert cops, alcoholic private eyes, sadistic studio heads, laudanum-lapping layabouts, homosexual informants, religious quacks and an uncategorizable array of stupes with indefinable psychopathic mandates and plain inconsolable despair.” Ellroy moved on. “Suburban New York. Five more novels in five years. A flowering knowledge of craft. Transference writ large. Long-term dissipation channeled into the work-ethic supreme… I moved from New York to Connecticut to Kansas City. My work habits were megalomaniacal. I guzzled large carafes of coffee and wrote 300-page outlines for my novels. My books were monumental models of construction. My book tours were epic journeys. My friends warned me to slow down. I ignored them.” Later, he wrote “My Dark Places.” “It was my mother’s life, my life, Bill Stoner’s. It was all real. It was my best shot at L.A. thusly. It was another media glut. I told my L.A. story 2,000 more times. Every retelling was a notch on forthcoming burnout. The film version of “L.A. Confidential” was released. I told my L.A. story 2,000 more brain-broiling times.” … I was writing the sequel to “American Tabloid.” I was burning a warehouse of candles at both ends. I was fully determined to make “The Cold Six Thousand” the single greatest novel ever written and fully convinced that I could accomplish the task… This essay is a travel document and a homecoming brief. It will stand as my final autobiographical statement. The gist is simple: My birthplace made me, I ran away, I ran back… I moved back to L.A. three weeks ago. It’s the only place I feel safe. I’ve got a slick pad near my old prowling turf and an arriviste sports car. I want to live here, I want to work here, I want to end my days here. I want the all-new and wholly familiar stimulation that only L.A. provides. I want to reclaim L.A. with a revitalized and mature imagination.” [Photo from the link; Credit: Damon Winter, LAT.]

Gathering Woollen: the kindest cuts

Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker, the home page of Mark Woollen & Associates, whose recent work as lc_crossing235.jpgtrailer cutters include Brick, The Constant Gardener, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Hard Candy, Hollywoodland, Lord of War, March of the Penguins, The Last King of Scotland, A Prairie Home Companion, The Science of Sleep and Syriana, as well as the evocative mini-movie that is the trailer for Todd Field‘s highly regarded second feature, Little Children. [Frame source.] The end credits of that coming attraction reveal that Leon Vitali, who was Stanley Kubrick’s assistant on The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, in which Field acted, is an associate producer; Vitali is also credited with the role of “Oddly Familiar Man,” to add to his CV, which includes Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon. [Matt Dentler points out that Woollen directed a doc that debuted at SxSW, Jam.]

Indie returns Monday

listening to NB_1d84504c88.jpgTechnical issues, plus? It’s kind of nice out-of-doors.



Come and See: what another generation saw

In the Telegraph’s valuable “Film-makers on film” series, Christopher Smith, the director of a new UK horror film, Severance (which has its North American debut at Toronto), admires Elem Klimov’s indispensable war masterpiece Come and See: “We all get scared of nightmares, but then there’s the euphoric moment when we wake up. Those up and down emotions are why I grew up loving horror films,” the director says. “Smith realises that the “gore-bores” raving about Severance on the internet might be a bit perplexed by his chosen film. Described by J G Ballard as the greatest war movie ever made, Come and See is a harrowing, monumental epic set during the Nazi invasion of Belarus… Klimov_51-087.jpg “I haven’t seen any of [Klimov’s four other films],” Smith says. “He’s not part of the canon and he’s not known outside Russia like Eisenstein or Tarkovsky. That’s why I’m so keen to get people to see this.” And for the best part of the following hour, he explains why at high speed. “It’s not one of those films where everyone’s on their way to a big battle, and it’s not about solving a mission… We have no idea where the narrative is flowing, and this free-form structure is how I think war would be. The madness of war is a cliché, but Come and See truly captures it.” … “Klimov also used live ammunition. In one sequence, the boy and girl are skipping through a forest, all in one long take, and real explosives start going off within 20ft of them…. ” As a film student, Smith wrote his dissertation on the Holocaust in fiction and says he’s obsessed with the Second World War.” One scene of Severance “involves a plane being shot out of the sky with a rocket launcher. “I was told by the financiers that it would make the film un-releasable in America. Well, we took Severance to Cannes and the Americans were the ones who were laughing the loudest there and who immediately signed up to buy it.”

Larry Clark's latest Kid: There's no mystery

Larry Clark is used to his work shocking other people,” Stephen Applebaum writes in the Guardian about Impaled, the photographer-director’s documentary contribution to Destricted, which auditions teen boys for a hookup with a fortysomething porn star. 221294296_09d442553d_m.jpgHere’s how Clark describes the sexual oddities of his young wannabes: “There’s no mystery. You fuck, you pull out, and you come on the girl – that’s the way to have sex. It’s shocking to me. I had no idea, I swear to God. But it makes sense,” he reflects. “If kids see that they think that’s the way to do it.” Consequently, anal intercourse is also high-up on their sexual desiderata, especially [his star’s]. However, accidents will happen, and poor Daniel’s fantasy turns into something resembling a porno blooper reel. … “While Clark’s critics frequently accuse him of exploitation, he regards himself as a truth teller. Impaled is art, not pornography, he argues, “because I’m an artist and I made it and it works”. [Photo © Leah Missbach Day.]

Add color, remove smoke: Turner classic moves

Two complaints by one viewer in the Old Smoke have prompted Turner Broadcasting to scour its 1,500-title Hanna-Barbera catalog of images of smoking. Writes Mike Collett-White for Reuters, “The review was triggered by a complaint to British media regulator Ofcom by one viewer who took offence to two episodes of “Tom and Jerry” shown on the Boomerang channel, part of Turner Broadcasting which itself belongs to Time Warner Inc. Fred Quimby_57.jpg “We are going through the entire catalog,” Yinka Akindele, spokeswoman for Turner in Europe said… “This is a voluntary step we’ve taken in light of the changing times,” she said, adding that the painstaking review had been prompted by the Ofcom complaint.” The offenses, reports Reuters? In “Texas Tom,” the hapless cat Tom tries to impress a feline female by rolling a cigarette, lighting it and smoking it with one hand. In the second, “Tennis Chumps,” Tom’s opponent in a match smokes a large cigar.” … Akindele said cartoons would only be modified “where smoking could be deemed to be cool or glamorized,” and that scenes where a villain was featured with a cigarette or cigar would not necessarily be cut. “These are historic cartoons, they were made well over 50 years ago in a different time and different place… Our audience is children and we don’t want to be irresponsible.”

Blood money: Saw III's special affect

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From the Land of the Mixed Metaphor: Lionsgate reports their 2005 blood drive saw 10,000 pints donated and want to triple that with the upcoming release of Saw III. And what’s up with the highly stylized posters over there? Even if you were to hold some of the product out of the House of SAW in contempt (such as, mmm, Hostel?), the arty posters are a jarring touch o’ class. [More posters at the jump, and even more at the link, where details about the blood drive are promised.]

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Snakes on a Plane (with bacon)

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All the rage: NP Thompson hates Slate

MediaBistro reprints a blistering e-mail from Seattle freelancer N. P. Thompson to the tinycricket.gifcricket herders at Slate, and manages to work in a plug for one Armond White while at it: “Stephen Metcalf and Dana Stevens are two of the worst writers on the face of the planet. They are dull, incompetent, lifeless, and narcissistic. Nathan Lee and Michael Agger are scarcely less so, although Agger manages a self-effacing blandness that in the context of Slate emits the fumes of a virtue… quo_4789.jpgMetcalf, the most brazenly untalented and unsubtle in this quartet of sixteenth-wits, writes like an ape that has just discovered a bone will suffice as a murder weapon… The dyspeptic hipster [Nathan] Lee (who doesn’t write so much as he postures) and the doddering Dana Stevens aren’t far behind… I did not bother to sully myself with Metcalf’s recent revisionist assessment of John Ford’s The Searchers, though I glanced at blogger Clive Davis’… reaction to it. But I can (and will) tell you this: smearing or otherwise spraying graffiti on an established classic is the easiest and most obvious kind of hackwork to fob off as criticism… What takes genuine courage on the part of a critic is to swim against the tide of the highly praised swill of the present, and this, I suspect, is a type of courage unknown to Metcalf. Where are the much-needed voices of dissent against such garbage as Lost in Translation, Capote, Sideways, The Squid and the Whale, and the collected works of Miranda July and Clint Eastwood? … As Slate will sometimes publish a book review or commentary by Armond White or Stanley Crouch, one gathers that toothlessness in a writer isn’t always a condition of employment… Meghan O’Rourke gives the impression that living in a Manhattan or Brooklyn neighborhood (preferably Brooklyn, and the more gentrified, the better) is pretty much the lone criterion of worth, and that if one lives outside the bubble, then she isn’t going to read what a writer submits, nor will she even consider looking at a writer’s clips, and beyond that, neither she nor tinycricket.gif Bryan Curtis will have the slightest interest in making a new discovery. What we have at Slate are editors hell-bent on preserving the shittiest, shallowest aspects of the status quo by slamming a door on anyone capable of upstaging their friends and neighbors, or their lovers.” [No, that’s not all. More at the link.]

Where is it? When is it? Crispin Hellion Glover tours What Is It?

The auteur tours, the PR tells us: “Veteran actor Crispin Hellion Glover, who has appeared in over 30 films, including RIVER’S EDGE, chg_235.jpgCHARLIE’S ANGELS, THE DOORS, WILLARD, DEAD MAN, BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHAT’S EATING GLIBERT [sic] GRAPE, WILD AT HEART, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT the upcoming BEOWULF, THE WIZARD OF GORE, and BOB BAILEY’S DISCO BALLS will tour his debut feature film as a director, WHAT IS IT? with an in-person tour… Glover’s appearances in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will include a q & a after the film screening and a presentation of his “Big Slide Show” which features illustration and commentary from eight of his books, followed by a signing of his books RAT CATCHING, OAK MOT, and What it is, and how it is done… Known for creating many memorable, incredibly quirky characters onscreen as an actor, Glover’s first effort as a director will not disappoint fans of his offbeat sensibilities and eccentric taste. Featuring a cast largely comprised of actors with Down’s Syndrome, the film is not about Down’s Syndrome. Glover describes it as “Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe and how to get home as tormented by an hubristic racist inner psyche.” In addition to writing and directing WHAT IS IT?, Glover also appears in the film as an actor in the role of “Dueling Demi-God Auteur and The young man’s inner psyche.” Fairuza Balk voices one of the snails.” Glover also notes that “WHAT IS IT? is part one of a trilogy. Parts two, IT IS FINE EVERYTHING IS FINE…! is currently in post-production. On part two, Glover collaborated with Utah writer-actor Steven C. Stewart, who also appears in WHAT IS IT? Stewart passed away from complications from cerebral palsy in 2001.” [The schedule appears below.]

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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