Movie City Indie Archive for November, 2006

Go Bruins: cops Taser student, new media converge [UPDATED]

There’ve been too many stories lately about making mini-movies with cell phones, such as this AP dispatch about “mobilettes,” a homely bastard of a word created to describe the results of a class taught at Boston University “through a unique partnership with cellular company Amp’d Mobile [backed by Qualcomm and Viacom and ” branding itself as a youth-oriented company”] and taught by director Jan Egleson. During the semester, the students will produce a series of short episodes that eventually will be distributed by the company for its cellular customers. The students have challenged each other to shoot it using only the phones, despite obstacles surrounding sound and video quality.” But, as with any emerging medium, unintended uses are more intriguing, such as in this sloppy yet horrific amateur recording of UCLA campus policemen Tasering a student. No news of when UCLA will release images from their substantial surveillance system. The Daily Bruin’s Sara Taylor reports that “Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was repeatedly stunned with a Taser and then taken into custody when he did not exit the CLICC Lab in Powell Library in a timely manner. Community Service Officers had asked Tabatabainejad to leave after he failed to produce his BruinCard during a random check at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday… Tabatabainejad did not immediately leave, and UCPD officers resorted to use of the Taser when Tabatabainejad did not do as he was told. A six-minute video showed Tabatabainejad audibly screaming in pain as he was stunned several times with a Taser, each time for three to five seconds. He was told repeatedly to stand up and stop fighting, and was told that if he did not do so he would “get Tased again.” UPDATE: Mr. Tabatabainejad is filing suit, reports the LA Times. “The lawyer said Tabatabainejad eventually decided to leave the library but when an officer refused the student’s request to take his hand off him, the student fell limp to the floor, again to avoid participating in what he considered a case of racial profiling. After police started firing the Taser, Tabatabainejad tried to “get the beating, the use of brutal force, to stop by shouting and causing people to watch. Generally, police don’t want to do their dirties in front of a lot of witnesses.” [Bonus irony at the jump.]

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Block Quote: Eyes Wide Shut

Words never spoken, never heard: one of the passages for Barry Lyndon-style voiceover in the script for Eyes Wide Shut, written by Stanley Kubrick with the intercessions of Frederic Raphael. [Fifth in a series.]


Borat, unturned: on the cover of Rolling Stone

Would you like a little more Borat with that? 12478484.jpg RS previews its Sacha Baron Cohen cover story, in which he lifts the mustache for Neil Strauss. “Borat essentially works as a tool… By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice, whether it’s anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism. ‘Throw the Jew Down the Well’ … was a very controversial sketch, and some members of the Jewish community thought that it was actually going to encourage anti-Semitism. But to me it revealed something about that bar in Tucson. And the question is: Did it reveal that they were anti-Semitic? Perhaps. But maybe it just revealed that they were indifferent to anti-Semitism… [W]hen I was in university I studied history, and there was this one major historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw. And his quote was, ‘The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference.’ I know it’s not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but I think it’s an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic.”

Block Quote: McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Like his mentor Robert Penn Warren, David Milch borrows from the best: from a draft of “Presbyterian Church,” which became McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), written by Robert Altman and Brian McKay, with added muttering by Warren Beatty. “No Unescorted Whores Allowed”? Why is this not at every gate of every studio in town? [Fourth in a series.]


Sundance at 25: Filmmaker's download

sundance25a.gifA chunk of Filmmaker Magazine’s fall 2006 issue is online, including a downloadable PDF of a 33-page salute to Sundance at 25. I have a contribution that begins on page 70, “The Sundance Touch,” broad-brushing the idea that what’s good formally about the best Sundance entries has already been soaked up by studios and cable. “Okay, so a hundred filmmakers walk into the Eccles…

Block Quote: Miami Vice

Writer-director Michael Mann‘s vivid scene descriptions are prodigious, knowing, often show-offy assemblies of terms-of-art, brands, place names, with the odd breathtakingly painterly description. From a 2004 draft, a scene not in the release version of Miami Vice. [Third of a series.]


Ratting Borat: more fine whine

Salon does a rundown of what’s verite and what’s fake in Borat, and AP’s Erin Carlson chats up some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s unsuspecting figures of fun in ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, never questioning that their eagerness to be in a television show, any kind of television show, kept them from reading the egregious release forms proffered by the production. 956726472_l.jpg D.C. public speaking coach Pat Haggerty, who got $400 after signing a release, is affable about the humor. ”They were exercising a First Amendment right,” said Haggerty, adding that he enjoyed the movie. ”And this Sacha Cohen guy’s going to make 87 gazillion dollars. You know, good for him. I’m just sorry that he had to do it in such a way that he allowed people to make jerks out of themselves exposing their character flaws.” The drunken frat brothers lawsuit is mentioned, as well as this paragraph, which doesn’t fully explain the last line. “Cohen’s behavior also wasn’t funny to former TV producer Dharma Arthur, who claims she was duped into giving Cohen airtime on a morning show segment in Jackson, Miss. Cohen’s live appearance, in which he said he had to go ”urine,” led her life into a downward spiral, she said.” Professional unfunnyman Joel Stein doesn’t like journalists who’ve allowed Baron Cohen to conduct interviews in character and sometimes with questions provided in advance. In the LA Times, Stein, who is inexplicably on the op-ed page, writes, “If you can’t make a story about a movie this complicated and different interesting — without just getting Cohen to perform — then you might as well just direct people to a clip of his movie. The excuse is that it’s only entertainment journalism… [P]opular culture has dramatic effects on our society…

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Block Quote: North by Northwest

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman sets the scene of utmost modernity (and timeless headlines) on the opening page of Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959’s North by Northwest. [Second of a series.]


Bite this: processing Fast Food Nation

At SF Chronicle, Joe Garofoli, anticipating Friday’s opening day, talks to Fast Food Nation‘s co-screenwriter (and 2001 source book author) Eric Schlosser about the bark of food processors and the bite of his movie. “As the son of former NBC President Herbert Schlosser, the 47-year-old had grown mistrustful of… the “sycophants” and sellouts of the entertainment industry… Participant Productions (An Inconvenient Truth), which put up 40% of the movie’s budget, offers ways to get involved in the fight against “brutal working conditions, food poisoning, animal cruelty and low wages.” So does distributor Fox Searchlight providing one [of] the strongest connections ever between a film and social action.” A McDonald’s spokesman says the website they’re funding ittybitties_3657.jpgis to counter “Hollywood fiction.” “Whatever happens in the fictionalized movie restaurant called Mickey’s doesn’t reflect the real world at McDonald’s.” … While [Schlosser] envisioned the book as a documentary… veteran British producer Jeremy Thomas (Sexy Beast)… convinced him otherwise. Thomas had been given the book by Malcolm McLaren, the former Sex Pistols manager, who suggested it would be a good fictional movie. Thomas agreed… [W]hile in Austin, Texas, on a book tour, Schlosser ran Thomas’ idea past [Richard] Linklater… Schlosser’s major request was that the film “be financed without studio involvement, so there wouldn’t be some kind of committee putting pressure on what could be said and what couldn’t be said… And Jeremy… was great about all that.” Schlosser and Linklater wrote the story together online and in pass-the-laptop meetings in Austin and Northern California. Schlosser took the director to meat-processing plants in Colorado… At the film’s emotional core are the moral compromises made by everybody along the burger conveyer belt. From the environmental activists to the burger company executives to the immigrant workers, everybody refuses to fully challenge the status quo. So nothing changes.” Says Linklater, “This is more about the politics of everyday working life.” From the time of its Cannes premiere, Janet Adamy and Richard Gibson wrote for the Wall Street Journal, “The nation’s largest fast-food chain is also funding TCS Daily, an arm of the Washington lobbying and public-relations firm DCI Group, that is making more pointed attacks against Mr. Schlosser and his work…

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Awards seasoning: inescapable technical demands

In the midst of “for your consideration” promos, the most straightforward yet charming p.r. I’ve seen this year quietly reminds crickets that they are reviewing movies and not television. “—- regrets that a DVD screener of XXXX cannot be available prior to your voting deadline. itd_12-78.jpgDue to the film’s delivery date and the time needed to fulfill the DVD mastering process, we do not anticipate having screeners of the film available until well after your initial ballots are due. —- does not want to restrict your accessibility to view XXXX as we believe it is one of the most ambitious and accomplished films of the year. However, the availability of screeners is dictated not by our desire to create them early but the inescapable technical demands of production. We would like to invite you to screenings of the film through your voting deadline…

With Blood Still Warm on the Ground: The Decemberists

Shooting against green screen in a studio with no superimposed effects? Not quite Jonathan Demme‘s video for New Order’s “The Perfect Kiss,” shot by Henri Alekan with Agnes Godard pulling focus, but not bad, not bad at all. The song is “O Valencia!”; voice, Colin Meloy, the director, Cat Solen, whose earlier work includes videos for Bright Eyes’ “At The Bottom of Everything” and “Bowl of Oranges.”

John Fante and Los Angeles: a photo essay

Do not

Please check out this photo essay from Los Angeles, accompanied by a passage from John Fante’s “Ask The Dust.”

Block Quote: Syriana


Stephen Gaghan demonstrates the craft of the brisk character introduction. [One in a series.]

Waiting for guff: plugging corporate "alt-weeklies"

Passed without comment: Here’s a new, presumably sponsored feature at Deadline Hollywood Daily. tinycricket.gifBlogs Nikki Finke, “This is a needed feature I’m starting for Saturdays: my round-up of what’s new and hot in entertainment from Village Voice Media alternative newspapers across the country. Trust these alt-weeklies to know about the best or worst stuff first. Every week, check out the links to movie, music, video game and TV-related articles and reviews in the VVM alt-weeklies.”

Gypsy tears: When amid Roma [Borat]

boratype1234.jpgIn the FT, Christopher Condon reports that all that glitters is not Glod for Borat: “The residents of Glod, a remote village in southeast Romania that supplies the opening sequence of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, still don’t know what hit them. They are just beginning to understand that cinema audiences around the world are laughing at them. To add insult to injury, the residents of a village whose name literally means “mud” say they were paid a pittance for their appearance in the spoof documentary… Glod appears in the first four minutes as Borat’s fictional home town. “Paraschiva Stoian, the toothless 73-year-old who plays Borat’s mother got 30 Euro and 200kg of cement… [T]he diminiutive Mrs. Stoain says she feels “insulted” especially because the film crew insisted she put balloons under her shirts to simulate large breasts” yet Petre Buzea, the vice-mayor of Moroieni, the municipality that includes Glod, is more Boratonian, not caring about any offense. “They got paid, so I am sure they are happy. These gypsies will even kill their own father for money.”

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“There are different signs that this is not stopping. I don’t think that anger and frustration and those feelings can go away. I hope they don’t. The attention and support for the victims needs to be continued, more than people worried about these abusers and what’s next for them, how are they going to move on — shut up. You know what? If any of these people come back, I would say, “I can’t wait to see who is actually going to support them.” That is going to be the glaring horror. Who is going to be, like, “This is a pressing issue, and we need to get them back?” If a janitor was so great at cleaning the building but also tended to masturbate in front of people, would the people at that building be like, “Yes, he masturbated, but I’ve never seen anyone clean so thoroughly, and I was just wondering when he’s going to get his job back, he’s so good at it.” No, it would be, “That’s not acceptable.” It’s fame and power that people are blinded by.”
~ Tig Notaro in the New York Times

“It’s never been easy. I’ve always been one of the scavenger dogs of film financing, picking up money here and there. I’ve been doing that all my life. This was one was relatively easy because certain costs have gone down so much. I made this film in 20 days whereas 30 years ago, it would have been made in 42.”
~ Paul Schrader