Night Moves

Movie City Indie Archive for April, 2007

Overlord's Stuart Cooper's 10 Criterion Collection raves

overlord_02.jpgDoes the man dream the machine or the machine dream the man? American-born director Stuart Cooper’s epic, stoic, willfully peculiar Overlord (1975) is a hybrid of fiction and fact, of the Futurist and the post-modern, tracking the preparations of one supremely ordinary 20-year-old soldier, Tom Beddow (Brian Stirner), one Tom among tummies, as he trains to become part of Operation Overlord, or D-Day. More soon about the DVD edition, but for now, in an ongoing Criterion Collection tradition, Cooper offers 10 personal Criterion favorites. One fave among the raves: “The Battle of Algiers, for its originality, objectivity, and political power. I studied it while I was preparing Overlord. I admired a quote of Pontecorvo’s: “Technically U.S. directors keep improving. But this technical expertise hides an emptiness that keeps getting bigger. They’re very good at saying nothing.”

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[LOOK] A close-up of the human face: Jessica Lynch



Again, simplicity itself: a C-SPAN single position shot, medium-close on the human face. Jessica Lynch, a working class woman who joined the Army to gain the opportunities for an education that would allow her to make a career teaching children somewhere near her hometown Palestine, West Virginia, who was injured in battle in Iraq in 2003, the details of whose capture was fabricated by person or persons in the Department of Defense. I can hardly get past the first few seconds: that shy smile after she repositions the microphone in front of her is devastating. An all-American face. An all-American hero. It’s good she’s alive.

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[LOOK] The US Trailer for John Carney's Once



If you pick up the Spring 2007 Filmmaker magazine, among the features you’ll get that you can’t get online is my interview with John Carney, the director of Once, and Glen Hansard, the star and co-composer of this lovely small film. I’ll have a different interview with them on Indie in late May when the picture’s released. Close to perfect, sez NY Times’ A. O. Scott? It may well be the best music film of our generation, sez ChiTrib’s Michael Philips? Getting warm, gentlemen. Getting warm.

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Year of the Dog, 2007 (1/2 *)

A PORTRAIT OF MENTAL ILLNESS BROUGHT TO THE FORE BY THE DEATH OF A LUMP OF A DOG NAMED “PENCIL,” The Year of the Dog stars Molly Shannon as Peggy, a drear crackpot, a bore with no life beyond office job and needy hound, a life wasted away between grande Starbucks. Writer-director Mike White, who wrote Chuck & Buck and starred as its gay stalker with reveries (and arias) of prehensile sexual exploration, expanded on his statement that his directorial debut is a “comedy that’s not funny” YOTD_03.jpgto Filmmaker magazine, “I find it funny, but it plays at such a deadpan level for so much of it that I feel like some of the comedy is missed” Or missing, perhaps? “And there are also so many minor keys in it. My preference for comedy is something that’s played so straight that, in a way, you’re wrong-footed. I think it’s a comedy; it definitely plays for laughs, but it plays with the audience. As somebody who sees a lot of movies, when something’s not pre-digested, it’s very pleasant because you’re like, ‘I don’t exactly know how to take this.’
Interminable, morally and psychologically incoherent, it is a soulless bore. Brightly lit, bluntly framed and criminally dim, The Year of the Dog is Todd Solondz light, as infuriating as a stone in a shoe on a 90 minute walk somewhere you wouldn’t want to go. This is a failure worthy of sustained contumely. It seems to go on for hours. Dog is more tedious than it is skin-crawling; it’s the kind of movie you’d expect the people who don’t just walk out would light up the room with the soft blue glow of their cell phones. You miss the steady yet soulful hand of director Richard Linklater on White’s script for School of Rock.

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Jeff Daniels on why Dumb and Dumber is art

“Oh, yeah, Dumb and Dumber. Did all those fart jokes hurt your reputation?” Boris Kachka asks Jeff Daniels in New York Magazine. dd4.jpgYou lose your membership in the serious-actors club, so it took me a long time to get over that.” Kachka suggests Daniels’ roles in The Lookout and on stage in Manhattan Theatre Club’s “Blackbird” are a “bit more challenging than Dumb and Dumber, I’d imagine.” Daniels: “Yeah, but I visited Walter Reed in February and met these vets with horrible injuries. And every single one of them knew Dumb and Dumber. It made them laugh. You can’t tell me it doesn’t matter when a guy with no legs and half a face is laughing through his painkillers, reenacting a scene from Dumb and Dumber. That’s art.”

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[LOOK] Love for Sayles: A Honeydripper clip



Via Filmmaker and Emerging Pictures, a two-and-a-half minute rough-cut clip from John Sayles‘ latest, due this summer.

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[SCRIPT] Peter Morgan's screenplay for The Queen

stag_965.jpgDownload the PDF here, via Miramax’s 2006 awards site.

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Red Road: A word or three with director Andrea Arnold

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I’ve got a couple of pieces coming up in the late Spring issue of Filmmaker, including a chat with John Carney and Glen Hansard, respectively, writer-director and male lead-co-composer of the marvelous musical Once; here, for the nonce, from Sundance 2007, is a snip of conversation with Red Road‘s writer-director Andrea Arnold and her remarkable lead, Kate Dickie. “It’s usually dangerous, and sometimes insulting to directors to talk about influences, but it is shorthand to get at the work. Certainly, Red Road is going to be aligned with Rear Window and movies by Michael Haneke, like Caché.” ARNOLD: Yeah, I’ve had that lots. [Find the homonymic error in the last graf and I have a shiny nickel for you.]

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[LOOK] An internet secret revealed by Monkey Dust

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[LOOK] A goof from Zoran Bihac

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Zoran Bihac directs a chipper, dazzling goof of a video for the German group Die Fantastischen Vier for a song called “Wir Ernten Was Wir Säen.” Warning: drag showgirls and smiling Germans ahead. [Bihac's site is here.]

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The forthright Sarah Polley directs: could she make a Battle of Algiers?

“As a director, [Sarah] Polley is a rarity because of her youth,” writes Kira Cochrane in the Guardian, “but also because of her gender. She recounts the story of a friend, “an incredibly intelligent woman, who was making a film, and was meeting quite a famous actor about it. The actor eventually turned her down, saying, ‘I’m just used to working with people who are more like mad visionaries.’ I thought that was interesting, because, in fact, we’re still at a point where women aren’t allowed to be mad visionaries. SPolley2798773a.jpgWe have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re responsible, that we can handle it, that we’ve got all our ducks in a row … most women who direct always come in on budget, always come in on schedule, and if they were wild and irresponsible it would not be put down to brilliance, but to a general flakiness.” In the extended profile, Polley mentions upcoming acting projects a couple of scripts. “Would she like to combine her interest in politics with her film-making? “I’d love to,” she says, but “I think it’s so rarely done well. It’s really hard to make a useful political film, and, at the same time, make a great film artistically – I feel like the Battle of Algiers did it, and a few Ken Loach movies … That would be my ideal, though, and one of the main reasons that I want to be a film-maker is to combine those things. But I think it’s one of the trickiest things to find a delicate and graceful way to do.”

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[LOOK] John Hillcoat's "Funeral For A Friend" promo

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The Proposition director John Hillcoat brings the weather indoors in this nice promo for the song “Oblivion,” by the band Funeral For A Friend.

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Grindhouse (2007, ***)

THE NOTION OF SECRETING SOME CHEETOS PUFFS AND AN OIL CAN OF FOSTER’S INTO MY SHOULDER BAG into last week’s past-my-deadline all-media Grindhouse screening at Chicago’s AMC River East 21 held momentary allure, or perhaps packing a flask, in honor of the mid-adolescent shake-‘n’-bake tradition of drive-ins and dollar houses in decades past, but I resisted, yet still experienced the exchange of deliciously bitchy talk-out-louds from nearby audience members and the grindmouse.jpgapposite spectacle of a late-coming, morbidly obese woman clumsily tramping on my feet and blocking the screen in the oversold auditorium and loudly dubbing me a “motherf–ing little white c—sucker.” (Free shit makes me stupid, too.) I could almost smell the scorched, foul carpets and seats of the Loop’s late and lamentable UA, McVickers, Woods and pre-civic-ized Chicago Theater venues. Other rancid things comprise the 191-minute spectacle, thrilling and dismaying in equal, vivid measure. Also of interest is writing about the film after its cataclysmic opening weekend, with mooted plans by distributor The Weinstein Company to perhaps pull the $90 million-plus investment from theaters and to release Robert Rodriguez’s twangy, frenetic Tex-Mex-neck zombie Planet Terror separately from Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, a sadistic, even nihilist, limb-scattering car-crash demolition derby opus and girl-gawking trash-talk epic (aka “Gone in 60 Footrubs”).

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[LOOK] Alex Cox directs Iggy Pop & Debbie Harry



In honor of the completion of a new feature by Alex Cox, Searchers 2.0, Screengrab’s Faisal Qureshi digs up this sweet little video from 1990, as the duo cover Cole Porter’s “Well Did you Evah?” for the Red, White & Blue Aids project.

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Movie City Indie

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“By the time the sounds of the Von Trapp children warbling ‘Silent Night’ drift through The Giver, you may find yourself wondering what fresh movie hell this is. In truth, the enervating hash of dystopian dread, vague religiosity and commercial advertising-style uplift is nothing if not stale. Adapted from Lois Lowry’s book for young readers, the story involves an isolated society that, with its cubistic dwellings, mindless smiles, monochromatic environs and nebulous communitarianism, seem modeled on a Scandinavian country or an old Mentos commercial.”
~ Manohla Dargis’ Deadly Lede For Review Of The Giver

“It’s possible that in the coming days or, God forbid, weeks, the president could have something more specific to say about the freighted decades-long history of political imbalance at work, in this case between a mostly black working-class town and its majority white government and police force. But this is a black man who must choose his words about race, governance, and law enforcement even more carefully than a white politician would. And this is the third summer in which, as president, he would have to do so…

“Until this point in the turmoil, the absence of the crucial second face in the incident seemed to heighten the distance between police and the people they serve. It grants them both an anonymity and autonomy that matches the bizarre transformation, in Ferguson and elsewhere, of police into troops. The riot gear turns 2014 into a dot on a Jim Crow–era timeline. Since the officer’s name wasn’t made public more immediately, it should have seemed urgent for the police to lose the riot attire and take steps to minimize distrust, to dispel the contagious assumption that silence equates racism…

“What is so affecting isn’t just that 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed when he was barely a man. It’s other things as well. One was how many reports of the incident that first day mentioned that he was about to start college. That’s a rite that’s universally emotional. But for a black male from a poor family, the first day of college is a freighted day that usually requires the sacrifice of more than one person. Black people know the odds of getting to and graduating from college, and that they’re low. That Brown seemed to be on the right path compounded the parental, local, and national outrage over his being wiped from it.”

~ Wesley Morris On Let’s Be Cops, The Shooting In Ferguson, Obama…