Movie City Indie Archive for March, 2008

Jules Dassin was 96



The closing of Naked City.



Dassin’s first short, The Tell-Tale Heart, in two parts.



Part II.

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Young@Heart: "I wanna be sedated"

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The real 21: the cuts to My Blueberry Nights

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Finally got around to comparing the runtime of the version of Wong Kar-wai‘s My Blueberry Nights that screened at Cannes and Thessaloniki (where I saw it at a public screening after a pitched shout-and-push-fest between a theater manager and the dozens of Greek students lining the stairs) and the version being released next week in New York and LA. First cut: 111 minutes. US release version: 90 minutes. That will make for a brain-scrambling Monday morning screening…

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When Andy Warhol met Tom Bosley…

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Richard Widmark was 93



Widmark sez hello in Kiss of Death.

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Sony's Screen Gems picks a Culpepper until 2012

S_From_Heaven.jpgWhile the crunching of New Line Cinema into a smaller company, a genre arm of Warners, has yet to produce public results, Sony seems satisfied with the low-profile head of their Screen Gems, extending their contract with topper Clint Culpepper for four more years. Sayeth the PR: “Culpepper has extended his contract with Sony Pictures Entertainment and will continue to oversee the studio’s highly prosperous Screen Gems label through 2012, it was announced today by Michael Lynton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of the studio. Under Culpepper’s leadership as President of the division, Screen Gems has emerged as one of the most consistent and successful studio-operated specialty film labels in the industry. Culpepper has run the division since 1998 delivering a diverse slate of motion pictures that includes films for horror fans, African American and urban audiences, thrillers, comedies and action movies. Since Screen Gems’ inception as a film label, Culpepper and his team have achieved solid returns with moderately budgeted hits such as Stomp the Yard, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Vacancy, Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road, When a Stranger Calls, and You Got Served, among others. The label has also successfully launched two thriving franchises with the Resident Evil and Underworld series of films. [More below.]

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Indie is on deadline…

Walk at dawn

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Paranoid Park (2007, ****)

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LIKE ELEPHANT, GUS VAN SANT’S MASTERFUL PARANOID PARK phases in and out of linear time, capturing flux and flow and the blank fear of life not yet understood in a clear-eyed boy’s hardly-expressive face. An accidental death is recalled. Narrative is attempted. It’s as mixed, mixed-up, miscellaneous as the boy’s (Gabe Nevens, pictured) attention. Paranoid Park’s a great DIY place to skateboard, and one Saturday… but right now… but not then… Shot by Christopher Doyle and Kathy Rain Li and sound-designed by Leslie Shatz, with Super-8 skate footage that includes a bravura long take of multiple skaters rising into the air, into the frame, out of existence, Paranoid Park emerges from Van Sant’s loving immersion in the formal character of movies by the Hungarian Bela Tarr, taking his respect for the sustained, lengthy duration of shots and creating a minimalist idiom that is simply stunning. There is shallow and homophobic writing about this and other movies by the Portland-based director: why is a gay man in his fifties making languorous movies that involve lost, lissome male youth? Hasn’t he done that before? Aren’t “lost boys” the most tired of topics? That is not serious criticism. It’s closer to mere bullshit. Paranoid Park serves as a metaphor for all that is accidental and hurtful and inexplicable that we live past, but it is also a rich, singular dream. The statement “No one’s ever ready for Paranoid Park,” said by a pal of the boy, applies to foolish, elderly even if young, critics as well. Life; death, a walk through a park, a lonely park bench, wary faces: beauty. Pure, cinematic beauty. The score ranges from Elliott Smith to Nino Rota to Ethan Rose, with a frighteningly effective use of Billy Swan’s “I Can Help,” accompanied by a hardly-inflected descent into the hell of what is unspoken in one teen’s mind. [Ray Pride.]

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Snow Angels (2007, ***)

snow-a-1059.jpgDAVID GORDON GREEN’S FOURTH FEATURE, THE CASUALLY PLAYED YET DEEPLY SERIOUS, SOULFUL SNOW ANGELS, continues along his own lovely path, reaching into particulars of working-class life with wit and empathy. Life is a river, and sometimes it freezes over: Green, working with generous breadth in adapting Stewart O’Nan’s 2003 novel, warms the heart. The cast is large, Altman-sized. Green moves between them fluidly. There are at least ten primary characters, and their interactions are marshaled with novelistic care. It’s a tapestry of overwhelming complication, adroitly described, demonstrating well the abiding truth that you must forgive trespasses in tiny towns. Failing to do so is at your own risk. (Made in 2006, Snow Angels debuted at Sundance in 2007 just before Green shot this summer’s Apatow-factory stoner comedy Pineapple Express.)
Set in an unnamed Pennsylvania town (but shot in Nova Scotia), the movie conveys the chill of disillusionment, yet in the foreground or in the corner of many of the widescreen shots, tendrils reach. Trees, rooted, that will revive come spring. Annie (Kate Beckinsale) is the mother of Tara, a small girl. Working at the China Town restaurant, she tries to avoid sad, lost, self-pitying, grief-struck estranged husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell), while meeting up with Nate (Nicky Katt), husband of China Town co-worker Barb (Amy Sedaris). Another co-worker is teenaged Arthur (Michael Angarano), who is in a want-a-first-kiss flirtation with Lila, a proto-glamour-geek behind cats-eye glasses, under rats-nest tangle of dark hair (Olivia Thirlby, Juno). Theirs is a sweetly hopeful young romance despite the quietly catastrophic onset of middle-aged disillusionment in Arthur’s parents (still floppy-haired Griffin Dunne, weary yet luminous Jeanneta Arnette). Their youthful romance counterpoints the disillusioned grownups; the pair could become any of the failed, failing partners who surround them. The acting is very, very good, with the performers matching the capacity of Green’s fully furnished world to surprise from shot-to-shot. Establishing shots are used as socioeconomic shorthand, and meticulously gathered props and interior design hold talismanic weight.
Darkness falls. The temperature falls below ache. Disappointment shatters. The world falls apart terribly in this small, unspecified town and the landscape swallows many sorrows. And yet. Things change but life does not stop: young love, old love, they are as true as the hurts notched across years of acquaintance or relationship.

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Arthur C. Clarke's 90th birthday message (December, 2007)



[Via Vin Cerf.]

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Sometimes… I doubt

Sometimes I doubt


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The cricket's voice: John Anderson

At Washington Post, John Anderson goes a few online rounds with readers: “Atlanta, Ga.: As crtic, are you bothered when parties refuse to screen their films? Why? Why not?” “John Anderson: well, for one thing, it forces you to go out on a friday morning, see what you already expect to be a bad film and write the review in 15 minutes because the deadline has become more onerous than usual. Worse, you can’t quite trust your own judgment, because tinycricket.gif there’s a certain resentment factor in having your time controlled by people you wouldn’t have in your living room. Additionally, the movies are, almost invariably, horrible, because if they were any good they would have been screened. Sometimes, though, the movies are perfectly decent and some marketing twerp has decided they’re better off getting through a weeekend (or an opening day)without any review at all.” [All spelling sic.]

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Klawans on Cronenberg's At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World

From Nextbook, Stuart Klawans‘ “Endgame” considers a 2007 David Cronenberg short: “[A]t the broadest base we define ourselves as a touchy people, a people constituted by our touchiness. Why, I can’t imagine; but listen now to the words of a Jew, who at most times would not bother to call himself one: My parents were secular. I was never bar mitzvahed. At a very early age, I decided I was an atheist, and I still am. I don’t feel the need to involve myself with the traditions of Judaism. In fact, I’m rather anti-religious. . . . I wasn’t hiding my Jewishness. It just never seemed to be an issue. But when I started to make this little short, suddenly, it was. It was provoked by what’s going on in the world right now. The pronouncements of various Islamic leaders about how nice it would be to kill all the Jews in the world—you know, like the Hezbollah leader. I thought, “Well, what if that would happen? How would that happen?” The lights go down; the movie starts…” Cronenberg’s contribution to Chacun son cinéma:


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A selection of Anthony Minghella viewing

Minghella’s acting debut in Atonement:




SPOILER WARNING: This is one of the final scenes in the movie and contains surprises if you don’t know the novel or the film.

The trailer for the hard-to-find Truly, Madly, Deeply:




Minghella’s adaptation of Beckett’s Play, from the “Beckett on Film” project, in two parts. With Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Kristen-Scott Thomas.





And: Viva Neruda, addio Minghella. A great scene from T,M,D.

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Minghella on writing, or not

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Robert J. Elisberg posts a 1999 interview with Anthony Minghella about writing: When you write, how do you generally work? Do you have any specific kind of music playing or prefer silence? I work fitfully, in hope rather than in expectation, invent methods which last a week, and fill notebooks with tiny, illegible writing which often defies my own attempts to decipher it. I find any excuse not to write, despair of writing, measure my achievements like a schoolboy and give myself undeserved rewards for completing a page, daren’t leave my room when I’m working in case I finally have a fully-formed thought, and preside over the process convinced that in a drawer somewhere exists the finished piece of work, and that I’m permitted, to the delight of some cruel spirit, to have fleeting access to the drawers, sometimes for 30 seconds, sometimes for an hour, but then it slams shut and will never advertise its next opening. I know that the minute I leave the room to annoy my family, to catch the end of a football game, to lie down, the drawer springs open and waits until it hears me take the stairs… I always listen to music, my passion and vice is music, I will be denied access to heaven because of the number of CDs I own, and I have gluttony for all types and colours of music. I might listen to Hungarian folk songs, Portishead, Ella Fitzgerald and Van Morrison in the same work session. And I always listen to Bach. My work has been a shameless advertisement for Bach, from my plays, through my first film, Truly Madly Deeply, through The English Patient and most recently, in The Talented Mr Ripley, which has The St. Matthew Passion in the first scene. [More at the link.]

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Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I am just grateful I am still around. I would love to be Steven Soderbergh, but I am lucky to be Joe Swanberg. Actors want to work with me, people want to give me money, and my nightmare scenario remains: Getting in bed with a studio, spending years on a movie, and it turns out horrible, but now I’m rich.”

Actually, by Hollywood standards, you’re right, I said. That is unambitious.

“It is, and yet, if you can go to bed happy at night, doing what you want, isn’t that ambition for a lifetime?”
~ Swanberg On Swanberg By Borelli

“In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.”
John le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman