Movie City Indie Archive for September, 2007

[Toronto] The Brave One (*** 1/2, 2007)

thebraveone16.jpgNEIL JORDAN’S BEST WORK AS A WRITER AND DIRECTOR IS CUSTOMARILY WHEN HE DRAWS FROM FAIRYTALE FORM, ranging from In The Company Of Wolves to The Miracle, Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, allusions to Alice in Wonderland are recurrent, as in the fate that meets New York public radio host Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) when she and her boyfriend (Naveen Andrews) walk their dog in Central Park late one night. It runs into an underpass at Stranger’s Gate at the far north of the park at 106th Street, and it’s down the rabbit hole for Erica. (Call it “This American Strife.”) After the brutal mugging and weeks in a coma, Erica tries to return to her everyday life, which no longer exists—especially after she buys a gun illegally and soon un-lucks onto a liquor store robbery with queasy echoes of a similar scene in Taxi Driver, a fever dream of Manhattan paranoia and feelings of helplessness that Foster had no small role in. While Death Wish is a movie that The Brave One will be paired with by some reviewers, as Foster’s steely version of Terry Gross is taken as a Charles Bronson vigilante—NPR meets NRA—there are other fevered Manhattan-set movies that it evokes, such as Abel Ferrara’s city-of-death Bad Lieutenant and female revenge Ms. 45 as well as the lurid, moist In the Cut by Jane Campion. Jordan and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot impressively create a fearful post-9/11 milieu, and the liberties taken with topography and plot logic are often quite beautiful to observe: the fears in the world at large are reduced to the potential for harm on modern city streets. Yet the folie-a-deux between Erica Bain and the cop on her tail (perhaps too literally so), Mercer (Terrence Howard), which also arrives at absurdity, the simplicity, directness and brisk, assured pacing—despite expressionist explosions of sudden violence—make this conflicted amorality tale into more than hothouse lyricism or the latest in Foster’s lineage of victims who correct wrongs (The Accused, Flightplan, Panic Room) Make no mistake: still, this small, fierce woman’s brute cheekbones are an axiom of modern American cinema. Like David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, The Brave One is fearless even at its most foolish. Nicky Katt is a standout as Mercer’s droll sidekick. [Ray Pride.]

[Toronto] Across The Universe (*, 2007)


ANYONE WHO’S LIVED THE PAST FEW DECADES AND MOVED THROUGH PUBLIC SPACE has swum atop a sea of songs by Lennon and McCartney: so much so that their sounds, depending on the listener, have become either aural wallpaper or dreary irritant. That’s why it’s exciting when someone comes up with a cover like the one of The Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” used twice in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men: suddenly the craft of too-familiar yet stellar songwriting seems fresh once more. (Ubiquity is not the same as propinquity.) The same can’t be said by the grandiose folly of Julie Taymor’s third theatrical feature, Across The Universe, which mostly evokes a tiptoe by elephants working on the side as advertising copywriters but still trampling the Sony-owned Beatles songbook for which a cool $10 million was reportedly passed along for the rights to the songs, but not the original versions. Collaborating with screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais (Flushed Away, Vice Versa) Taymor goes in for the fatally twee affect of giving characters names like Prudence… Lucy… Maxwell… JoJo… Jude… Hey, Julie? It’s like a shout-out to your own cleverness. (Prudence? After a few reels’ absence, yes, she comes in through the bathroom window.) The late 1960s war-and-protest setting is enlivened largely by the intrusion of contemporary commentary and parallels, which bluntly suggests the folly of sending young generations to war will always be compounded by hidden faces. It’s elephantine whimsy with occasional inspired and quite beautiful images, such as when a splat of strawberry against a white wall becomes an acre of flaming napalm in a Southeast Asian jungle. But a moment on an Ohio football field where an Asian-American cheerleader in a golden uniform gazes longingly at her love while football players careen and pinwheel on the green turf behind her and she sings an a cappella version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to that other, female cheerleader, tears welled up from how poignant, how piercing that brief moment was. There’s also a sweet, strange gag, involving the passing of a roach in a frathouse which is invisible, but we hear a harmonica zing each time, then the final inhalee blows smoke: reportedly Taymor made the change to assuage the ratings board, digitally eliding the offending object. Nothing’s that consistent, however, but the inclusion of soldiers in tighty-whities bearing a Statue of Liberty on their shoulders while stomping as giants across a tiny palm-studded landscaped is typical of the bold visual gambits Taymor finds but for the life of her cannot integrate into anything more than second-rate vaudeville. The lead love story is between the damp Joe Anderson and frail, pale, lissome Evan Rachel Wood, who brings to mind images of her recent public snogs with Marilyn Manson. Bono, performing “I Am The Walrus,” and Eddie Izzard, as Mr. Kite, are merely insufferable; the SDS and terrorism elements less offensive than oddly unenlightening and an anti-Catholic-cum-dervish musical number is just jejune. All you need is rewrite… [Ray Pride.]

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[LOOK] The Daisy Spot (1964, ****)

A comprehensive history of one of the most notorious short films ever made: the one-time only broadcast of a 1964 LBJ campaign spot against Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. From the site’s introduction: “Every election season when politicians unleash their expensive and (usually) unimaginative attack ads, op-ed writers invoke the unofficial title of the most notorious 60 seconds in advertising history: “The Daisy Ad” (official title: “Peace, Little Girl,” aka “Daisy Girl,” “The Daisy Spot, “aka “Little Girl – Countdown”). The spot features a little girl picking petals off of a daisy in a field and counting out of sequence just before an adult voiceover interjects a “military” countdown which is then followed by stock footage of a nuclear explosion and the cautionary words of President Lyndon B. Johnson: “These are the stakes – to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” The ad – which never identifies its target – was aimed at reinforcing the perception that the 1964 Republican candidate for president, Senator Barry M. Goldwater, could not be trusted with his finger on the button. As has often been recited, the Daisy ad aired only once as a paid advertisement – on NBC during the network movie (DAVID AND BATHSHEBA) on Monday, September 7, 1964.[ 5 ] Since that long ago Labor Day, the film of the child and her daisies has been re-played millions of times. The spot was and still is a masterpiece of manipulation, juxtaposing the playful innocence of childhood with the protocol and horror of war. The simplicity of the message was made all the more effective because the 1964 campaign took place less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and within three years of the Berlin crisis in which President John F. Kennedy rattled the nation with his remarks on the importance of civil defense.[ 6 ] In other words, the “end of the world” was not an abstract concept for most Americans during this period of the Cold War. It was a very real possibility…” There’s a wealth more at the Conelrad site. [H/t Boing-Boing.]

Indie returns Wednesday afternoon


[LOOK] The Shock Doctrine (2007, ****), by Naomi Klein, Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón.

The Shock Doctrine is playing at Toronto; a better version can be downloaded at Klein’s site, where she writes that when she finished her new book, of the same title, “I sent it to Alfonso Cuarón because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists — including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited — to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated.” (There’s one more showing in Toronto, September 15 at 10:30.)

Indie returns over the weekend


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Sometimes I do love Mark Cuban: Calling bull on Bill

tell2a.jpg“”I got this question from Mr OReilly’s producers,” Mark Cuban posts at his BlogMaverick site (the typos, as always, are Mr. Cuban’s own).
From: “Watters, Jesse”
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2007 13:14:55 -0400
Subject: o’reilly factor request
> Mr. Cuban,
> The Factor will be doing a segment this evening on Redacted…which, as
> you know, depicts US atrocities in Iraq. The director says the the
> depicted rape is “the reality” of what is happening in that country.
> Of all of the schools that are being built, the medical care being
> supplied, and the security that our soldiers have been providing to
> Iraqi neighborhoods…do you agree that a few random and horrific
> crimes represent the norm of what is going on in that newly liberated
> country? and what exactly was it about the film that made you want to
> produce it?
> Thanks
> Jesse Watters
> The O’Reilly Factor
> Fox News
> 212-xxx-xxxx
From: “Mark Cuban”
To: “Watters, Jesse”
Date: 09/04/2007 12:55 PM
Subject: Re: o’reilly factor request
No, it doesnt represent the norm and the movie doesnt say it represents
the norm. Seperate the self promotion of Brian Depalma from the movie. The
movie is fully pro Troops. The hero of the movie is a soldier who stands
up for what is right in the face of adversity.
Maybe Bill can attempt to be fair and balanced and actually see the movie
before he thinks he knows what he is talking about.
And this is one of many movies we produce. I actually have seen it and
think it is an amazing movie. But to answer your question, I didnt read
the script or know all that much about it before we greenlit it. As we do
with several big name directors, we give them carte blanche in producing
their movies.
And to pre empt some of the stupidity coming from bloggers, I am fully Pro
Troops, Pro America. I think that the concept that the enemy will see
these films and use it as motivation is total nonsense. We have no plans
of translating these movies to arabic or other middle eastern languages.
Nor will we provide batteries or electricity for them to watch bootleg
DVDs as some zealots have suggested online.
And no , I am not involved in Loose Change. No I didnt finance it. No I
didnt plan to have it translated to multiple languages as Mr Oreilly
claimed on air. His command of the facts is truly abysmal.
What other lies has Bill spread that I can dispel ?

Oh, and I dont know how bill feels about No End in Sight, but we
distributed that movie as well.
Thats my feedback for Mr Bill

Which leads to my position on the Iraqi War. I hate that thousands of our troops have died. It sickens me to think of how their families must feel and every single day I wake up I say thank you to them, as I thank all those who have come before them for their sacrifices to make this country so great and to give me the opportunity to live the life I have and enjoy my family. I have never, nor will I ever take for granted the liberties we have in this country
That said, I don’t agree or disagree with the war because I don’t know enough. There isn’t enough information available to me to take a position beyond hoping that it runs its course very very quickly and our troops return home safely as soon as it is viable.
And to anyone who has ever questioned my patriotism or love for this country, fuck you. [Photo from DePalma’s Telluride Q&A conducted by Larry Gross © 2007 David Poland.]

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon