Movie City Indie Archive for April, 2008

Raising Kael, or, "I Lost It On The Internet": Part II

So… where was Pauline Kael this week? Over at NY Times blogs. love was lavished by Stanley Fish on her slavering over Charlton Heston’s work of body: “When you saw him it was all too easy to agree with Pauline Kael’s summary assessment: ‘With his perfect, lean-hipped, powerful body, Heston is a god-like hero; built for strength, he is an archetype of what makes Americans win.’” But in Saskatchewan, crickets lose, as a conservative blogger at the Western Standard tinycricket.gif spins a too-familiar canard: ” I believe that Obama is going to lose, that he is going to lose big, and that the media is going to miss it – possibly until the very last moment due to the Pauline Kael syndrome (“I can’t believe it! I don’t know anyone who voted for Nixon”). When it’s over, they’ll blame it on American racism.” Doug Moe at Wisconsin State Journal adds Kael’s contrast of Heston and Paul Sorvino: “Sorvino’s character in Slow Dancing in the Big City is a daily newspaper columnist. Pauline Kael noted in her New Yorker review: ‘He’s a loud, sad-sack oaf, with an idiot smile—a patsy.’ It’s enough to make a daily columnist want to fall on his sword.” At Popmatters, Kael is invoked as a writer confesses about not being invited to a screening other writers were: “With an unlimited access to information, a community that’s passionate about its viewpoint, the ability to achieve rapid (if also restrictive) consensus, and an outright capacity to leave the traditional media in the dust, [the internet] should be the [belwether] for a new wave of criticism. Unfortunately, the fanboy tends to take over, allowing unrealistic expectations and a blinkered devotion to one’s own insights to win out. Now, some might say the same about Pauline Kael, or Roger Ebert. After all, film reviewing is founded in personal judgment more than any other factor.” memoires de fumee_65.jpgAt Rotten Tomatoes’ Meet The Critic, MSNBC’s Georgia-based Alonso Duralde cites influences: “I grew up obsessed with movies, and I devoured film criticism, from Eleanor Ringel in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to Roger Ebert and Vito Russo and Pauline Kael and David Ansen and anyone else I could get my mitts on.” Boston Globe honors their Pulitzer-winner Mark Feeney, writing that “Globe arts editor Scott Heller said Feeney is animated by what the late critic Pauline Kael once called a “belief in the audience.” “Mark takes this to heart in every piece he writes,” Has it only been a week since Patrick Goldstein invoked his child to describe why he thinks critics are no longer relevant? He pulls Pauline from the grave for his sins: “hen I was growing up, eager to write about the arts, it was just as important to read Pauline Kael, Frank Rich and Lester Bangs as it was to see a Robert Altman film, a David Mamet play or listen to the latest Elvis Costello album. Critics gave art its context, explained its meaning and guided us to new discoveries.” Now, he surveys college classes to further devalue his image of colleagues in the field. David Edelstein, in New York magazine’s 40th anniversary number, pish-toshes together an overview of New York filmmaking for the past four decades: “Pauline Kael wrote that on-location shooting had ushered in a new age of “nightmare realism,” with New York as “Horror City.” [The French Connection was Exhibit A: trash, horns, gore, Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle slapping suspects around, and a chase scene yet to be equaled for suspense and public endangerment.” Taking up Edelstein, The Reeler, however does not sup at the grave of Great Barrington, supplementing his observation that “[M]ass-market entries like Enchanted, I Am Legend and the upcoming Sex and the City movie are far more emphatic evocations of the real post-9/11 New York: a municipally authorized spectrum of urban fantasy… It’s what makes the metaphor of something like Julia Loktev’s Day Night Day Night—with its bomb-packing outsider prowling tourist-heavy Times Square—so inaccessible yet utterly essential. It is as if to say, “Your imagination is not your own.” Chirp.

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Indie springs shortly…

Redbud

A brief remark upon the commentary following the thinning of American critical ranks.



DO NOT TRY THIS BEHIND THE KEYBOARD! Regarding recent analysis by LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein, Anne Thompson, Spout and Sean P. Means. PS: Friends don’t let friends blog and die.

Indie is at the movies…

Set

Reality is a negotiable item: Alan Rudolph paints

Writer-director Alan Rudolph is showing paintings at Bainbridge Island’s Gallery Fraga. In an email interview with Art Access, Rudolph says of his Washington State home, “Joyce and I have lived on Bainbridge for 20 years… Except for the continuing criminalities of our national government, I hope never to settle anywhere else. Our first dozen years here, we also had an apartment in New York City. Large metropolitan settings appear in many of my paintings. All those woozy years of wandering Manhattan have come home to roost.” One sees visions of big cities in many of Rudolph’s paintings, where tilted buildings often flank characters that appear to walk through a London fog. When I ask Rudolph about the atmosphere in his paintings he writes, “My guess is that aesthetic comes with Rudolph_-_Juicer.jpgbirth. We spend the rest of our lives applying our particular version and supposing what it means. Mine is invariably drawn to atmosphere and mystery. Something familiar, yet not. Emotional visuals. Vice versa. Reality has always been a negotiable item for me.” Rudolph tells Bainbridge Review’s Lindsay Latimore that it’s “all ink from the same well.” “But the actual experiences couldn’t be more different,” he said. “Painting is solitude, as with writing or dreaming. Filmmaking is dreaming out loud, and very public. The process of making a film involves several years and hundreds of people. It’s a life experience from which you know you’re going to be altered. A painting is a moment. But a moment with an entire meaning.”… Rudolph initially had no interest in showing his work. “In fact, I enjoyed the private spotlight,” he said. “But when the Fragas dangled a show that would also include Josie Gray and Michael Pontieri, two friends, I felt it was a good excuse to drink wine and enjoy new works by these gifted artists.” in The Moderns, Rudolph says, “It was rewarding to show critics labeling authentic paintings as forgeries, and vice versa. As a filmmaker, you can only truly understand what you’ve created when there’s another ass in the room besides your own. But professional critics are just that, it’s their job. Sometimes that brings in a whole set of priorities that has little to do with what they’re judging. On the other hand, an audience’s response, any size or familiarity, is collective and involuntary. You can feel it. Sometimes it affects changes, sometimes not, depending on whether you agree. Painting is easier when it comes to that. If Joyce, my official muse, likes something, that’s all I need… Except for Joyce, my muse, and the great Tom Robbins, my amuser, I seem to be a loner.” A gallery of the 25 paintings in Rudolph’s show. Download the show postcard [pdf].

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Escape

Escape

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Alex Cox still has dream projects

David Willentz catches up with Alex Cox’s many projects at Brooklyn Rail. Cox’s latest, Searchers 2.0 is a “microfeature.” Cox explains. “A microfeature is made for $180,000 or less under the SAG low-low budget agreement, which actually was negotiated by one of the actors in the film. alexcoxdotcom_56789.gifSy Richardson was on the SAG committee, which created this new form where you literally can pay the actors a hundred bucks a day. The committee created this because they knew there was this void where films were being made but they couldn’t employ SAG actors, hence they made this kind of little realm for very low-budget films.” You have a project about Buñuel, right?“I tried to get the life story of Buñuel on. We have a script you can download on my site [PDF]. It’s called ‘Bugs Are my Business.’ He’d wanted to be an entomologist. We had an incredible cast for that movie: Jeanne Moreau playing his wife, Javier Bardem as the young Buñuel and Sy Richardson as Louis B. Mayer. And for the old Buñuel we talked to Martin Landau, Dennis Hopper, everybody wanted to play Buñuel. But Buñuel is an old Spaniard. They’ve forgotten him. Then we were going to do a puppet version. That’s still my goal but I’m also trying to persuade Rudy Wurlitzer that we should do a puppet version of “Zebulon, “his western that was never made. I’m thinking we can put the puppets on the backs of dogs (for horses). It’s cheaper to work with puppets and we can put the voices later. We just go to Jeanne Moreau’s house and say “Can we record your dialogue?” What’s a dream project? “I would like to make four films for a million bucks because that’s how you make money. When a television company buys a film they don’t care if it’s good or bad, they just want to fill 8 or 10 hours of television time and justify the commercials. If I take Searchers 2.0 and four more films made for the same price as a package that’d be easy to sell… so if you run into anyone with a million dollars…I’m always looking for money for films, I’m always writing, every so often some money appears.” [More at the link.] Here’s the the pitch for those four-pics-for-a-mill enterprise. Preview the graphic novel of the sequel to Repo Man, “Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday.” In a clip from the newly-released Walker DVD, Cox dissects his critics.

Charlton Heston was 84 [Added clips.]



That was a face. [Obit.] Madly wrote Michael Mourlet, then co-editor of Cahiers du Cinema, in May 1960 in one of the finest tatters of hyperbole in the film-crit canon (as recounted in J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s “Midnight Movies”): “Charlton Heston is an axiom. By himself alone he constitutes a tragedy, and his presence in any film whatsoever suffices to create beauty. The contained violence expressed by the somber phosphoresence of his eyes, his eagle’s profile, the haughty arch of his eyebrows, his prominent cheekbones, the bitter and hard curve of his mouth, the fabulous power of his torso; this is what he possesses and what not even the worst director can degrade. It is in this sense that one can say that Charlton Heston, by his existence alone, gives a more accurate definition of the cinema than films like Hiroshima, mon amour or Citizen Kane, whose esthetic either ignores or impugns Charlton Heston.” (Take that, Armond White.) A lovely poster. A lingering question I can’t figure out at this hour: did Heston outlive his obituarist?




Heston mouths along with Woodstock: “They sure don’t make pictures like that any more.”



Heston as the lead player in Branagh’s Hamlet.



Plus: The opening of Touch of Evil, a project Heston might just have had a hand in getting made.

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The truthiness of Errol: veritas, vérité

Errol Morris returns to the pages of the New York Times with a lengthy first installment of a piece on re-enactments in documentaries. It’s almost 5,000 words long; here’s a taste. “Memory is an elastic affair. We remember selectively, just as we perceive selectively. We have to go back over perceived and remembered events, in order to figure out what happened, what really happened. My re-enactments focus our attention on some specific detail or object that helps us look beyond the surface of images to something hidden, something deeper – something that better captures what really happened. I also Errol_Morris_007.jpgthought the re-enactments provided a way of presenting the crime [in The Thin Blue Line], so that it could be understood, of reducing the crime to essential questions… Critics don’t like re-enactments in documentary films – perhaps because they think that documentary images should come from the present, that the director should be hands-off. But a story in the past has to be re-enacted. Here’s my method. I reconstruct the past through interviews (retrospective accounts), documents and other scraps of evidence. I tell a story about how the police and the newspapers got it wrong. I try to explain (1) what I believe is the real story and (2) why they got it wrong. I take the pieces of the false narrative, rearrange them, emphasize new details, and construct a new narrative. I grab hold of the milkshake as an image because it focuses the viewers’ attention and helps them to better understand what really happened. The three slow-motion shots of the milkshake – the milkshake being thrown, its parabolic trajectory through the night sky and its unceremonious landing in the dirt at the side of the road – are designed to emphasize a detail that might otherwise be overlooked and to focus attention on where [the policewoman] was and what she saw. It never occurred to me that someone might think that the re-enactments were not re-enactments at all, but honest-to-God vérité footage shot while the crime was happening. It’s crazy for someone to think I had just happened to be out on that roadway, that night, with a 35mm film crew and many, many cameras – cameras taking multiple angles, high angles from overhead, low angles at tire-level looking under the car, even angles inside the suspect vehicle. How could anyone think that? How could anyone believe that? Of course, people believe some pretty amazing things, and it made me think: is it a legitimate question?

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I can has internets? Clay Shirky explains



Now you know: Here Comes Everybody…

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"Hollywood's Vietnam moment": the Atlantic's Russ Douthat on paranoia in American movies



A sidebar to Douthat’s April 2008 article, “The Return Of The Paranoid Style.

Leigh way: the sunny side of Mike

The Telegraph’s got a package of pieces about Mike Leigh‘s latest, Happy-Go-Lucky, including the peppy, poppy coming attraction. It debuted at Berlin and won best actress for star Sally Hawkins.sally3_5678.jpg I’m stumped most times when I’m asked me about a most-favorite film, or to trippingly, lightsomely describe some Platonic ideal of what would define the perfect movie for me. (Anything that demonstrates itself as great; and when I really figure it out, I’ll figure out a way to make it myself.) Still, I’d grasp at Rules of the Game and Leigh’s Naked, and based on this trailer and what I’ve read between the lines in reviews and interviews, as well as the highs, lows, and general characteristics of Leigh’s good and great movies, I take a deep breath and hope this is one of those movies: offhandedly serious with a light surface described through behavior, told through a bright, brash woman with the most generous of heart? I’d like to see a lot of movies like that. It’s the one movie I’m really anticipating in the next few months. (My fingers are crossed under the desk.) In a profile of the 65-year-old conceiver-writer-director, Sheila Johnston goes through the ritual of visiting Leigh’s threadbare Soho aerie and gets good quote on grumpiness from one of the more contentious interviewees I’ve ever had the pleasure to get stick from. “He ushers me into his production offices. He has been based here forever, a Soho institution nestled among Soho institutions: a pub, an art gallery and a prostitutes’ flat. A compact, round, grey-bearded figure with large, watchful eyes and the soft trace of a North-West accent, he’s a sharp interlocutor, who doesn’t hesitate to describe a question as “ridiculous” or (less often) “good”—but also an empathetic one. I remark that the early reviews in Berlin… ran something along these lines: “What a surprise, a fabulous feel-good comedy from Mike Leigh, the… the…” I hesitate, looking for the tactful word, and the director helpfully supplies it: “Miserable!” Sally2_5678.jpgSo, yes indeed: a light-hearted comedy from that miserable grump who makes dour movies about the turmoil and pain seething through lower-class lives. “In a perfectly good-natured way, I reject all that as nonsense,” the director declares. “People say it as though my other films have been relentlessly grim, but I haven’t made anything that doesn’t have humour in it…” He eyes me quizzically. “And, well, is Happy-Go-Lucky light-hearted? I certainly started from the premise that it would be an erupting, energetic film. But I think it has plenty of weight underneath it.” Johnston gives the bare-bones of Leigh’s extensive preparation process here. Johnston also interviewed Hawkins, on-set and off: “It is very much her film: she plays 30-year-old primary school teacher Poppy, who slowly but surely be comes a multi-faceted character, starting off as bright, easy and zippy and ending up as compassionate, thoughtful and complex. It is a brilliantly subtle performance, one that not only demands humour (there is a hil a rious scene where Poppy goes flamenco dancing) but also pathos (the apparently carefree Poppy also has to confront the harsh realities of life).” sally_1_5678.jpgSince first seeing his work at the time of Life is Sweet, I’ve grown increasingly fond of Leigh’s way with stereotypes that he proceeds to explore and burst. From a 1983 Guardian Interview with an audience at the NFT: “One of the things that I like to do is to take ideas which people think of as being clichés, social clichés—you know, like a postman and milkman go round and going into houses and having it off with people’s wives—it’s a cliché. The fact is, however, that the minute we started researching [we discover] that it’s not really a cliché.” “Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh” (edited by Amy Raphael) is published in the UK on 17 April. (No US release date slated.) Below: Film4’s 10-minute Happy-Go-Lucky preview with Leigh and Hawkins, plus my interview with Leigh for Topsy-Turvy and some reflections on Naked, which originally appeared in a slightly different form in Cinema Scope; my conversation with Leigh about Secrets and Lies is collected in “Mike Leigh: Interviews.” Plus: Leigh’s mash note to Bruxelles. [Leigh’s credits.]

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Scorsese's Big Shave



Time for Marty’s IMAX remake of this one? [Below: S-T-E-R-E-O.]

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Teasing Blindness (2008)



The adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel is by Don McKellar, whose credits include the mid-apocalypse Last Night. While the effects are likely only for the trailer, one of Meirelles’ most striking effects in The Constant Gardener involved an in-camera aperture change when a window blind was raised, revealing London outside. Similarly striking yet simple imagery to come?

New media bloopers: TPMTV version



An unembarrassed reel of embarrassing moments trying to change the way news is told… [Swearing is invoked.]

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

What about replacing Mr. Spacey with another actor? Mr. Plummer, perhaps.
“That would theoretically be fantastic,” Mr. Rothman said he responded. “But I have supervised 450 movies over the course of my career. And what you are saying is impossible. There is not enough time.”
~ Publicizing Sir Ridley’s Deadline Dash

“Would I like to see Wormwood in a theater on a big screen? You betcha. I’d be disingenuous to argue otherwise. But we’re all part of, like it or not, an industry, and what Netflix offers is an opportunity to do different kinds of films in different ways. Maybe part of what is being sacrificed is that they no longer go into theaters. If the choice is between not doing it at all and having it not go to theaters, it’s an easy choice to make.”
~ Errol Morris