“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
Movie City Indie Archive for April, 2008
A note that had been made at Sundance now fully flowers: THINKFilm topper Mark Urman spent several years in the 90s as a publicist to Polanski and was an early consultant on Marina Zenovich’s documentary. Here’s today’s PR:
“THINKFilm Acquires Theatrical Rights To “ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED” From HBO
New York, May 1, 2008 – THINKFilm has acquired from HBO, the US theatrical and home video rights to ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED, Marina Zenovich’s acclaimed documentary about the public scandal and private tragedy that drove the legendary director from the United States more than 30 years ago. The film, which had its world premiere at Sundance 2008, will make its international debut in the official selection at the forthcoming Cannes Film Festival. HBO will air ROMAN POLANSKI on June 9th, with THINKFilm’s theatrical engagements beginning with a New York opening on July 11th. The deal, which was jointly announced by THINKFilm President Mark Urman and Sheila Nevins, president, HBO Documentary Films, is the latest and most innovative collaboration between the two companies, whose long series of partnerships has yielded two Oscar wins, most recently with this year’s “Taxi to the Dark Side.”
About the acquisition, Urman says, “Marina’s film is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years. It is as compulsively enjoyable as the juiciest tabloid yet it also serves as a stunning indictment of our tabloid-crazed culture. Buoyed by HBO’s terrific promotional support, the film should have enormous want-to-see, and exhibitor interest in the film couldn’t be higher.” Urman, who served as Polanski’s publicist for several years in the 90’s, was interviewed by Zenovich on background at the earliest stages of production. Of Urman’s involvement as the film’s distributor she says, “While researching this film I discovered that Mark had worked with Roman Polanksi [sic]. After talking to him, I realized that he had a real understanding of the story and knows how to get it to the biggest audience. Having THINK and HBO behind the film is every documentary filmmaker’s dream.”
Among the points the veteran editor makes in this promo clip, an important one to anyone who’s read how he charts the cuts of his projects: “FileMaker makes storyboarding of screen captures possible. Images of key moments in a specific shot are gathered, printed and posted to a board in the editing room. The process makes it clear to everyone on the team what the most important actions, expressions or moments are to a particular scene. “FileMaker is the database repository for all of those thousands of photographs that we extract from the film, which are very valuable things for me in editing…”
At The House Next Door, Matt Zoller Seitz and Keith Uhlich go at length over some choices. Seitz, who has directed and is shifting to that pursuit, writes, “Well, the short of it is: I’m out of print criticism. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and for a variety of reasons. One of them is that I’ve been doing it for 17 years now as of May of this year, and I’ve done it for a variety of different outlets in a variety of different forms. I’ve enjoyed it… I’ve always enjoyed it, but I just don’t want to do it anymore. Part of the reason for that is that I don’t write as quickly as I used to and I don’t have as much time to do it as I used to. But the more important thing is that, according to the actuarial tables, I’m probably about halfway through my life, if I’m lucky. And there’s a lot of things that I would like to do, and I haven’t done them yet. And I want to get started on it… [I]n all honesty I write a lot more slowly than I used to, and I have a lot less patience with print than I used to. When I’m writing, when I’m doing pieces in print, that are print only, I find my mind starting to wander, and I’m thinking about movies. I’m thinking about watching movies and making movies and I’ll go off and start storyboarding thepuppet movie. Or I’ll start combing through my DVD collection looking for scenes of a similar type. Like one night I went through my DVD collection and looked for scenes in movies that reference the famous shot of the bouncing ball in M… There’s more to life than movies, and I don’t think that, 10 years ago, I don’t think I would have said that. But I’m saying it now: there is more to life than movies. And I remember a conversation with Sean Burns—I think it might have been in the comments section of the blog—he casually mentioned that Gene Siskel, God rest his soul, was… there was somebody who looked down on Siskel for saying that he skipped some film festival to go to a basketball game. And Burns was completely approving of [Siskel], and I am too. I am too: Go to the goddamn basketball game! And when I look back on those hundreds and hundreds of hours that I spent watching movies—many of which were not that memorable, and many of which did not tell a whole lot that I didn’t know—when I realized that they were hours that are gone now and I’m not getting them back… It makes me mad. It makes me mad, honestly, that I’m not gonna get those hours back. You know those are hours I could have been spending with my family. With my loved ones.” [A few thousand more worthy words at the link.]
The homage to the key art for both poster and video packaging of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, not bad; but Greta Gerwig with a sheet pulled up in modesty? False advertising!
PR, as received: “EXPELLED Producers to Yoko Ono: Let it Be
( Dallas , TX ) – A new front has been opened in the culture wars. Ben Stein’s EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed stunned detractors by opening as the nation’s #10 movie last weekend. Out for less than one week, it has already become one of the top 25 documentaries of all time.
Opponents of the film have attacked everyone and everything in it. They have attacked the producers, the star, the music, and film itself. They have even attacked those who have seen it. Now they want to change the Constitution.
Yoko Ono and others have now filed lawsuits challenging the film’s use and critique of John Lennon’s song Imagine. One of the suits seeks to ban free speech through preliminary injunctive relief which essentially means that they are trying to expel EXPELLED as it is now being shown in theaters.
“If you really listen to the lyrics of Imagine then you realize that it represents everything that the Neo-Darwinists want. ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven…No hell below us…Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too…’ That’s exactly what the Darwinist establishment wants to do: get rid of religion. And that’s what we point out when we play less than 15 seconds of the song and show some of the lyrics on screen,” said Walt Ruloff Executive Producer and CEO of Premise Media.
But will be back in a bit…
A good filmmaker and a terrific photographer.
Morgan Spurlock’s second feature, “Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden?” is more like “Super-Snide Me,” glossily, glibly entertaining yet deeply dumb and seriously shallow as the mustachioed West Virginian purports to seek out the ostensible shadow-figure of all matters Al Qaeda in various Middle Eastern countries while a darling baby grows in his girlfriend’s belly back home in Brooklyn where they await their man’s return from the field of war. Forget America: he must make the world safe for his spawn. The movie’s episodic character is camouflaged by campy interstitial material, such as videogame-style animation in which bin Laden is portrayed dancing and leaping to an M. C. Hammer song from the depths of last century, but the only genuine battle Spurlock pitches is against angry Orthodox Jews whom he laughs at while picking a fight by videotaping them in their own neighborhoods. Watch just how pleased he is, how much he grins with genuine glee as he’s told to leave and met with blows. This is near-clever television masquerading as earnest muckraking.
Louisville, Kentucky racetrack and pari-mutuel parlor Churchill Downs is one of the financiers of the eighteen-city release of John and Brad Hennegan’s “The First Saturday in May,” a decidedly subpar specialist documentary about the annual gambling and drinking bacchanal, the Kentucky Derby. Despite the dreadful pacing in its vérité about something exceptionally false (a gleaming symbol of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a battered and dying state), aggressive and aggravating intertitles and captioning and an eclectic, abysmal score credited to The Ryan Brothers (among almost a dozen credits to the Hennegan brothers in the end roll), “First Saturday” provides a distinctly unflattering portrait of the attendants of the six equine hopefuls on display. It’s hard to tell whether the filmmakers are aware that virtually everyone on screen, painfully banal and semi-articulate almost to a soul are also dislikeable, earnest, often profane bores. (There’s a shocking amount of profanity that would likely alienate some of the potential buyers who’d place the DVD in their third bedroom of their second home.) A typical example: a trainer in a wheelchair who’d had a dirt-bike accident, we’re told, was a shining example, for him to have “come back with a vengeance… to show the determination… it’s just beyond the call of duty… it’s just something unexplainable.” (And nearly unwatchable.) A rich trophy wife of a horse-owner is shown making jokes about plastic surgery (and even gets subtitles despite not having that distinct a drawl). One trainer has a pair of cousins who are given one of the film’s final scenes in a drunken, profane ramble on a golf course. One jarring moment is when a black man sweeping the stables reflects, “We takin’ care of million dollar horses, horses worth a million dollars, we takin’ care of.” (It’s strange and casual, but it’s hard to tell whether the filmmakers understand the weight of the moment’s inclusion, which is almost as troubling an editing choice as the words from the Kentucky congressman over the weekend who called Barack Obama “boy.”) There’s Tammy, a tiny female jockey, who seems likeable, but her moments are shared with her small young son who’s got a wad of “a thousand and thirty-four” dollars he’s going to bet. “Horses and poker, that’s his thing right now… He’s just like his father,” she says, leaving us to imagine what that truly means. Mostly, the screen is given over to tedious arcana that doesn’t demonstrate anything memorable, with rare flashes like the trainer who’s about to lose profanely crossing himself at post time. (“Shit fire, man! Shit fire, is his keen observation after his horse’s screw-up.) “First Saturday” may be comprehensible to someone who knows this stuff, who could stitch their own tout sheet, but to a general viewer, ought to be deeply dull. Taking a note from the filmmakers, I’ll end with the words of the hanger-on cousins on the green: “You motherfuckers don’t know anything about whiskey… Everybody’s got dreams but everybody likes t’crush ’em…. For us, the Derby’s fucking everything, it’s like the World Series, Superbowl, everything, and our whole life we’ve been going to the track and Dale’s starting from nothing… I say we’re in the Derby, but I use it as we, it’s the best thing that every happened to him or us… We’re at the big dance. It’s a proud day…. Shit… we’re on top of it!” And the staggeringly drunk man spits on the green. Opens Friday: Austin, Berkeley, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. Opens April 25 Atlanta, Milwaukee, Seattle. [Trailer.]
To promote Forgetting Sarah Marshall, writer-star Jason Segal took to the august pages of the New York Times to advertise the precise number of frames in the comedy’s opening scenes that we are obliged to contemplate his junk: 79, transcribes the Gray Lady. Another innately conservative “shock” comedy from the Judd Apatow production line, Forgetting, the début from director Nicholas Stoller (who wrote the script to 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane remake and three episodes of “Undeclared”) is one of the shaggiest to date. Segal plays Peter, who writes murky music for a “CSI”-like series that stars his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She dumps him for a British musician, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), which he discovers when he retreats to Hawaii to get over his bawling fits and fits of balling and checks himself into the same hotel. Rachel (Mila Kunis), the pretty desk clerk at the resort helps him beyond the call of duty and they meet-cute, screw-cute and break-up-cute. While other writers have noted Apatow’s fondness for stories about shrubby men who are honey to attracted women, “Sarah Marshall” is the first that approaches levels of misogyny, especially in the way Bell is shot, with inconsistent lighting and angles that accentuate how close her eyes are together, almost akin to the inexplicable tomato hues of Kirsten Dunst’s skin in Spiderman 2. Kunis is only slightly better served, but she holds her own with her level gaze, large green eyes, superb timing and a fine plush pudgy nose. But the reverse angles on Segal are all static-camera stand-ups, the most advanced example of the “Stand there and say shit and say shit and say some more shit” until we run out of time. The camera can’t move while the guys in “Sarah Marshall” are riffing. (An unfunny Bill Heder plays a pal of Peter’s who’s seen almost exclusively on the screen of his laptop). Still, it’s the avowed comedy of the male frontal nudity in four shots and the many perspectives of the tall Segal’s pale chest that exposes the nakedness of the enterprise. (It’s still to be preferred over Mike Myer’s compulsive display of his fishbelly-white rump.) I’m not an opponent of a plethora of petseleh, but it’s almost as unfunny as Peter’s obsession with a puppet musical of “Dracula.” A nudist has to dream, I suppose. (There’s a Segal nude scene in Knocked Up, too.) There’s no double standard, though: there’s at least two sets of perky bared breasts, or mid-fucking midriffs covered with a bedsheet for every fifth glimpse of ample man-boobs. In a way, it’s a high-art homage to Peter Greenaway’s R-rating-buster, Prospero’s Books, which stymied the MPAA censors with its ample acreage of withered man-flesh and Sir John Gielgud’s fallen knob. In the most important way, it’s a comedy with scattered laughs, myriad fetishes and fixations and no small amount of clumsiness.
And Miramax releases in the U.S. later this year…
The Democratic debate audience has a few comments for the questioners from Disney/ABC.