Movie City Indie Archive for January, 2010
“After the streets and the buses [were] free of the non-film skiers and LA lookeeloos and I saw 3 Backyards, Blue Valentine, and Winter’s Bone, I started to think about how essential Sundance still is to American Indie film,” Mike S. Ryan writes, arguing why Sundance still matters: “Where else would such stellar, uncommercial work be better presented to the public? If these films have any chance of securing a healthy life in your local mall, it is for sure due to their introduction via the national press that has really gathered to grab shots of stars in wacky fur hats. That is the dialectical reality of the Sundance condition.” The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes gets Robert Redford to repeat at the end of the festival some of what he said at the front of the festival: “This year I got very heavily involved again because we had to let some folks go,” Mr. Redford said. “It was the right thing to do. Geoff [Gilmore] was ready to go and we were also ready to move on. I felt the festival was flat-lining and not going in the direction I wanted.”… A spokeswoman for Mr. Gilmore, who now works for the company that runs the Tribeca Film Festival, said he was unavailable to comment.” Mike Jones has four take-aways. Eric Kohn offers reason to dub Sundance “Posey’s Waltz.”
Mira Advani Honeycutt blurbs the “lounges,” and “discretionary gifting”: “In between bites of organic mini cupcakes, guests could get a luxurious Clarisonic skin treatment from Dr. Rob Akridge.” First-timer Timothy M. Gray convinces himself a film festival in the mountains in January is a good idea. “First, because the scenery is stunning. Amazingly stunning. Second, It’s fun to see showbiz colleagues, trying to look their best, coping with freezing weather. (High heels + slush = guaranteed hilarity.) Third, the love of film is pervasive. Total strangers at restaurants exchange moviegoing tips. Nonpros come into town to see as many films as possible. The industry workers come to scout/encourage talent. And of course, to make deals. Art and commerce exist peacefully, with creativity to be found even in the pacts this year (sales to online and foreign companies, imaginative reach-outs to audiences, etc.). Without the distraction of gifting suites this year, it’s all movies all the time. Early in The Shining, Shelley Duvall’s loopy character enthuses, “It’ll be lots of fun.” Jack Nicholson smiles about the location, “I love it.” OK, it didn’t turn out too well for that family, but I came to see their point of view… I loved it.” At the Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt leans on his superior boredom and makes presumptuous analogies to old news in college football that would make no sense to the average reader. “At nearly every turn, [filmmakers] went for the expected. Brave new ideas were nowhere to be seen. What one did get were tired warhorses such as the coming-of-age movie… Qualitywise, these films ran the gamut from good to so-so, but nobody was smashing any molds.” At Variety, Todd McCarthy prescribes his own Sundance “revolution,” programming films that he wishes had been made.
2010 SUNDANCE / NHK INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKERS AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED
Los Angeles, CA (Park City, UT) – Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) today announced the winners of the 2010 Sundance / NHK International Filmmakers Awards. The four winners were selected from 12 finalists by members of an International Jury which included: Violeta Bava, John Carney, Michael Lehmann, Rebecca Miller, Jose Rivera, Elena Soarez, Pablo Stoll and Wesley Strick; and a Japanese Jury that included Masato Harada, Shin-ichi Kobayashi and Bong-Ou Lee.
Originally created to celebrate 100 years of Cinema, the annual award recognizes and supports four visionary filmmakers from Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Japan on their next films. Each winner receives approximately $100,000 ($10,000 as a cash award and a guarantee from NHK to purchase the Japanese television broadcast rights). In addition, Sundance Institute staff works closely with the winners throughout the year, providing creative and strategic support through the development, financing and production of their films. The awards are presented at the Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 30, 2010.
The winning filmmakers and projects are: Amat Escalante, Heli from Mexico; Andrey Zvyagintsev, Elena from Russia; Daisuke Yamaoka, The Wonderful Lives at Asahigaoka (written with Yugo Eto) from Japan; and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild (written with Lucy Alibar) from the United States.
COME FOR THE SURREALISM, STAY FOR THE GIBBERISH. Terrible in a dull way that once would have been termed “unreleasable,” “shelved,” or “rightfully forgotten,” Paul Morrison’s “Little Ashes,” (E1, $27) starring Twilight biter Robert Pattinson, doesn’t rise to the level of dreadful. Pattinson plays a young, sallow, flabby Salvador Dalí; Matthew McNulty, who looks nothing like the cockeyed, boxer-stout filmmaker Luis Buñuel is a classmate and poet-playwright-activist Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) becomes the center of the picture, which insists on a sexual obsession between he and Dalí. Beltrán’s sturdy, unlike the other actors, but like the other actors, isn’t given a modulated style of performance over the film’s duration. “I’m trying to be constructive here!” a character bellows in a scene that may as well have been played up against construction paper in a high school production. “Listen! I’m part of this underground movement,” García Lorca explains. The only instant that rises from the doldrums is a scene that draws on the historical fact of García Lorca’s assassination; the reality is touching even when the scene’s shot through blurred frills of field grass in an olive grove to the murmuring in English over the murmuring in Spanish of one of his seriously bloody poems. Also typical of the visual furze is a sunset scene where faces aren’t lit, golden hour replaced with molybdenum. (Call it “day-for-Twilight.”) Seriously, young Pattinson is given help by neither director nor editor, seeming in every other scene like he’s suffering the actor’s equivalent of dreams where you’re naked in a restaurant. To be more charitable, he delivers a rapt portrayal of mild bowel irritation. The gay and/or homoerotic component is negligible, even if you include the goopy, carbonated slow-motion scissor kick underwater to suggest twinkly infatuation between Dalí and García Lorca as well as a scene where Dali masturbates to the other man fucking a female friend (the fright-coiffed Marina Gatell) in a nearby bed and the composition of two shots centers oddly, even in an unrated film, on the woman’s bared, posturing anus. “We’ll go for breakfast at the Pelican and you’ll paint all afternoon!” A better line might have been “My best friend got executed in an olive grove and all he got was this lousy biopic.” The typing and formatting of the screenplay is credited to Philippa Goslett.
Rock around the doc: Soul Power, Michael Jackson’s This Is It
Two musical documentaries from Sony this week: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte’s Soul Power is superior in every way to Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Little-seen in its theatrical run, Soul Power ($29) as more than an oddity: a director editing the footage of ace cameramen decades after a shoot into his own dynamic documentary. My interview with Levy-Hinte is here.
Is This Is It all there is? A dog’s breakfast of scraps from on-the-fly, sloppily-shot rehearsal footage of his not-to-be final tour, Michael Jackson’s This is It excited some first reviewers enough to suggest the movie’s good enough to be nominated for Best Picture. Unless you really, really care about Michael Jackson, it’s not much of anything: it’s hushed hagiography as sandpapered as Jackson’s own nose, less documentary than séance. It’s also debt warmed over: On the verge of losing his many possessions after decades of incautious spending, Jackson had to do something as creditors circled. A tour, with multimillion-dollar advances from mammoth tour promoter AEG, was the choice. Interest must be paid. But the final evidence of that choice, compiled by director and “co-creator” Kenny Ortega, with the furious assistance of editors Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Tim Patterson and Kevin Stitt, MJTII would surely embarrass the late ditherer. As Vladimir Nabokov reputedly said, “Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one’s sputum.” (Nabokov’s heirs, three decades on, recently published that writer’s unfinished final novel, having allowed the sputum to age and mellow.) A difference scatological reference came to mind walking out of the theater. What’s the line from Withnail and I? “It feels like a pig. Shat. In. My head!”
All kinds of indie jones in one short burst….
Eddie’s site is here.
Twitter’s become the Weather Channel with aviation foul-ups and other SNAFUs marking the first day of Sundance.
Chicago has the good fortune of regular archival programming around the city (Siskel, Doc Films, the Music Box, Facets) but another venue’s slipping a sleek program into the Windy City mix in the cold of January. As part of The Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution 1968–2008,” (running until February 14), eight films will be shown in glorious 35mm, including Visconti’s The Damned, Pasolini’s Decameron, Antonioni’s The Passenger, and rarely-shown titles by Bertolucci and Rosi. Gwen Infusino, Curatorial Administrative Assistant at the MCA, worked on the series.
I first heard of the film series after running into Infusino, and even at a casual mention, it sounded ambitious. Later, we had a few exchanges about why the MCA went with this unusual extra to the larger exhibition, including the origins of her participation and what background experiences brought her to this point. It’s a few days before Sundance opens, where the conversation about seismic shifts in finance, distribution and programming with be on the tip of every other tongue. But as this specialized conversation shows, the enterprise of getting movies to audiences, even in old-fashioned 35mm, persists, if not thrives.
PRIDE: How’d it start?
INFUSINO: Back in August, Elizabeth Smith, the former Chief Curator, told me that Madeleine Grynsztejn was interested in screening films at MCA, and had suggested a film series be developed in conjunction with Italics. Elizabeth knew I had a long background in film and writing.
PRIDE: Here’s what struck me when we first talked about this, you saying, “In curatorial discussions, I had a tendency to compare everything to films, so it was exciting when this project came up.”
INFUSINO: Yes. She assigned me to work on the project, and I started research. It was also really interesting to work with Peter Taub [the director of performance programs] as the director for the project. Previous to that, I had learned a lot at the institution from a curatorial standpoint, so it was great to get involved in a multidisciplinary discourse with performance. Peter facilitated a lot of useful discussions about how the audience would experience the films, and how the screenings could be situated.
PRIDE: Do you have a title on this project?
INFUSINO: I don’t have a separate title specific to my role in the project. At MCA, we generally all contribute work to a litany of projects at once; and our roles tend to develop organically during the creative process. I worked on this series with Peter Taub, the Director of Performance Programs, and Stefano Questioli from the Italian Cultural Institute.
PRIDE: Did you propose right off the bat to find these particular films?
INFUSINO: I started with a list of roughly a hundred films I was interested in showing. All of the final choices were on that list, except for The Inglourious Bastards. That suggestion came from Joe Rubin [see below for more on Rubin and other Chicago contributors], who had a friend at Severin Films who had a newly [struck] print, and the timing for a screening was perfect. I researched everything on the initial list to get a sense of what we had to work with. I really wanted to program a series that developed thematically with each film, something that would have its own progressive shape and serve as a well-rounded metaphor for Italics. I was curious as to why more film series aren’t programmed this way, and learned that it’s somewhat counterintuitive to the process of tracking down prints. It was definitely more challenging to take that approach. Anyway, I was sure about screening [Elio Petri's 1970] Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, since it resonates so well with the exhibition. I also wanted to show Fellini’s Casanova because thematically, [the exhibition offers] the right context to illuminate what really works about that film. Luckily, those two prints were easy to get. I was really interested in screening [Francesco Rosi's 1976] Illustrious Corpses and [Bertolucci's 1981] Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man, but I didn’t expect to be able to find them. Oddly enough? I ended up finding both prints at British Film Institute.
PRIDE: In a download-and-DVD era, it’s impressive that they’re all in 35mm. Are there any good stories about obstacles or unexpected successes, or archives you never knew existed until you set out on this?
INFUSINO: Well, Illustrious Corpses was the most difficult to find. Maurizio Cattelan‘s “All, (2008)” leads off the major exhibition, and Illustrious immediately came to mind as the perfect complement to that piece. I was asking everyone I came in contact with if they knew where I could find it. When I found Tragedy at BFI, I was searching their still image holdings and noticed they had stills of Illustrious, and sure enough they had a print. It’s not in very good condition, but I couldn’t find any record of it being screened in the US since the 1970s, and BFI believes it’s the only known print left of the film. I later heard there may be another print in a private collection, but that was never confirmed. Obviously, it’s difficult to get a definitive idea of how many of such prints are left in existence, who’s holding them, and where. Nearly all of the initial prints I researched were somehow unavailable. Rights would be expired, there was that fire at Universal, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is temporarily closed, New Yorker Films was bought out by Technicolor…
PRIDE: What’s in your background that stoked your curiosity about the arcana of this kind of programming?
INFUSINO: I grew up with an enormous collection of Beta and VHS, including an extensive amount of international films (especially German and Italian); bootlegs like the original rough cut of Dune (I think it was over 5 hours long), genre stuff like horror and 1950’s sci-fi, and everything fantastic to come out of Hollywood over the past 50 years. I worked at Elmhurst Public Library during high school and could get nearly anything on loan, and started heading down to Facets with my friends as soon as we were old enough to drive. I did a lot of literature and film work at DePaul, and in ’02 I moved to Paris to study. The program had a sort of interdisciplinary liberal arts focus on the expatriate experience. So one week I’d spend 60 hours at the Louvre listening to an art historian contextualize each piece in the collection, and the next I’d be seeing three films a day and reading and writing extensively.
A NEW WEBB FOR SPIDER-MAN™
Marc Webb Chosen To Direct Next Chapter of the Acclaimed Series
-Spider-Man to Climb into Theaters in Summer, 2012 -
CULVER CITY, Calif., January , 2010 – Marc Webb, the director of the Golden Globe nominated Best Picture (500) Days of Summer, will direct the next chapter in the Spider-Man franchise, set to hit theaters summer 2012, it was jointly announced today by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.
Written by James Vanderbilt, Webb will work closely with producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin in developing the project, which will begin production later this year.
The reel was edited by journalist-cutter Stephen Garrett and Christy Wilson of Kinetic Trailers. Their recent work includes coming attractions for Thirst, Wendy and Lucy, Gomorrah and Police, Adjective.
Spike Lee’s adaptation of Passing Strange (IFC, $25) debuted at Sundance 2009 and later was distributed by IFC on video-on-demand. I saw it on DVD before its release to cable, and his vivacious direction of the Broadway edition of Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s smart, vivid coming-of-age musical makes for a pretty terrific movie. Still, it’s an indication of how movies slip in or out of the public consciousness, especially mine, that I haven’t found a place to even mention the movie. The old windows of festival-theatrical-video are still etched in a lot of heads. And when something as good as Passing Strange can’t find a place in the conversation, we have some catching up to do. Or, if you haven’t seen Passing Strange, you have a chance to catch up now. Fierce, funny, smart, sweeping, swell.
No Impact Man
Or, “Superdownsize This.” Functioning as a satire of contemporary media, aspiration and errant idealism, the central figure of Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s No Impact Man, (Oscilloscope, $30) writer and environmental activist Colin Beavan, is annoying, Morgan Spurlock with a mission but with condescending patter and a pronounced lack of charm. (A colleague told me she felt a simmering desire to punch him out.) But as he persists in his project as a 365-day idealist of eliminating any impact on the environment by himself, a privileged and connected Greenwich Villager with a book contract, his wife, Laura Conlin, a writer at Business Week, and their small daughter, friction sets in with entertaining results, even as he rubbished me the wrong way. (No imported food, no travel, no taxis, no air conditioning, no laundry detergent, no elevators, etc.) The book’s extended subtitle seems like a preemptive strike against accusations of bourgeois liberal guilt: “The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.” The film also cleverly opens with clips of sardonic media coverage of his enterprise. Beavan’s blog provides some of the savor of his character as presented on screen, and likely the flavor of his book. In prose, after dismissing a critic of his enterprise as “strident,” he sounds more reasonable. “Whether my book and the companion documentary of the same title are remembered as the stories of a stunt or not is ultimately immaterial. Of course, as a writer and a person, it hurts to be trivialized, but the truth is that ‘No Impact Man” is both a stunt and not a stunt. Because my hope in living and writing about my year was to put myself in a crucible in which to examine some important cultural issues surrounding our solutions to our environmental crises as well as the quality of life crisis which is so closely related to them.” Beavan is a snit. Conlin is the voice of reason. “Mommy doesn’t really like nature.” Really? Beavan also appreciates comments on his project, such as the profane comments section of a Gawker.com entry on their enterprise. Comedy sparks.
Kirby Dick’s methodical inquiry into the boundless hypocrisy of some politicians,Outrage (Magnolia Pictures, $27), was classed by some reviewers and columnists as a movie about “outing,” or revealing the homosexual behavior of closeted men and women. In a terse ninety minutes or so, Dick doesn’t reveal any names or behaviors that haven’t made it into the press in one form or another. (Still, National Public Radio yanked a review to remove named politicians as well as the correspondent’s protest in the piece’s comment section.) Senator Larry Craig of Idaho hasn’t much to hide after eagerly pleading guilty to soliciting in an airport toilet, for instance. The most telling comment comes late in the game, when former Governor McGreevey of New Jersey describes the behavior of closeted gay men being excellent training to become a politician, presenting a game face to whatever individuals you find yourself trying to persuade of things you truly do not believe. Among journalists, Dick chooses to single out one rambunctious Fox News personality(while burying a gossip column mention of a white-haired CNN anchor in the corner of a frame). Is Florida governor Charlie Crist, long a bachelor, recently wed, the white-haired hope of the Republican Party now running for Senator, a gay man? It’s a surprise that his opponents in Florida haven’t made more of the subject. But Crist’s legislative record, like those of other figures mentioned in the film, largely archconservative Republicans have at least the consistency of supporting anti-gay measures. Sirius host and veteran gay columnist Michelangelo Signorile, veteran gay activist Larry Kramer, longtime outer-of-politicians Michael Rogers and Congressman Larry Frank are among the other interviewees. There are fewer “Washington whispers” than examples of double standards and pretense. As in his documentaries This Film is Not Yet Rated, Twist of Faith and the co-directed Derrida, Dick is a good listener and an excellent editor. At the end of Outrage, there’s as much sadness and melancholy as outrage to go around: public lives spent in denial, supposedly productive lives spent in self-contempt, are a tragic spectacle. With McGreevey’s wife Dina Matos McGreevey.
One of the underrated elements of Steven Soderbergh’s Che (Criterion, $50), is Alberto Iglesias’ score. We talked about that a little about at the time of release, and I hope to post that interview soon. For now, a repeat of a short answer on video about how the RED camera affects Che and other projects. Original trailer here. And a clip from the DVD/Blu-Ray interview with Soderbergh.
Also this week: Wholphin # 10 (Wholphin, $20), and Chantal Akerman In The Seventies: Eclipse Series 19 (Criterion, $45). In three DVDs, early works by the daring director [pictued, from Je, Tu, Il, Elle], including La Chambre (1972); Hotel Monterey (1972); Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1974); News From Home (1976); Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978). I have fond memories of the chilly Euro-anomie of Anna; I’m curious if it’ll still seem to have affinities with Peter Handke’s work, as it did when I first saw it.
Who needs subtitles?
A new documentary about Chicago commodities traders, Floored, opened in Chicago last Friday. A report about the melancholy film and pictures at the link. Pictured: trader and co-producer Joseph Gibbons at the pre-show reception at the Siskel Film Center.