Movie City Indie Archive for June, 2010

Trailering Somewhere

Neko Case addresses an unruly audience member (strong language)


Seriously, whoever threw that, come up here and I will fucking fight you.

Video: Collapse (2009, ****)

collapseruppert.jpgLet’s see… just as I was about to press “publish” on this entry, what’s the latest deadly headline? Oil recovery efforts on the demolished well in the Gulf were stopped: lightning set a ship on fire. The oilspill persists. Follow the wrong feeds, you’re not reading Twitter, but “Grimmer.”
In the modern world, information wants to be freely deconstructed and recontextualized. You could make a case from disparate strands that journalists and politicians and military leaders are hapless or the future is hopeless, as does Michael Ruppert, the single solitary figure in “Collapse,” (on DVD, VOD, download) a documentary by Chris Smith. Smith is best known for “American Movie,” which, with its post-”X-Files,” post-Errol Morris, post-9/11, mid-paranoiac fashion, could also be the name of this enterprise. Ruppert is a well-spoken former cop, wearing a blue shirt over a white T-shirt, with a sandy not-quite-comb-over, his assured cadences sounding a little like Billy Bob Thornton’s. If Ruppert were fiction, he would be a brilliant invention, rather than a feat of self-invention, twirling strands of the DNA of the most stalwart aspects of the pissed-off American character. Think Chris Carter’s conspiratorial miasma meeting James Ellroy’s moralism.
In an empty warehouse, chain-smoking for the film’s 82-minute duration, Ruppert insists, “I don’t deal in conspiracy theory, I deal in conspiracy facts,” that his life’s work has become “placing the dots close enough so that they can be connected.” He has a charming smile under his brushy ’stache. The chosen setting suggests a place where you’d tie James Bond to a chair for a few tender lashings, or the portent of horror movies, but the horror’s not “Saw,” but “Seen,” what Ruppert’s aggregated in his trawling of data and deception.
It’s worth transcribing a typical Ruppert passage, from early on, in full. “Basically my life disintegrated because I was betrayed by a woman who worked for the CIA, who was my fiancée, and when I said I wouldn’t get involved in [trafficking] drugs, she disappeared and people started shooting at me. And then it was a matter of saving my life and the tools which I acquired to save my life then, which were writing letters to Congressmen, getting on the record, those were survival skills but it was also part of learning how things were. I was a, a mapmaker, a cartographer if you will, going out and trying to map how the world really worked rather than the way we were told that it worked.” He’s neither purple nor panicked but his command of his chosen details is seductive. Words—sentences, paragraphs!—reel like an “infernal radio,” as Gaspar Noé described the form of the internal monologue narration in his study of rage, “I Stand Alone.” Ruppert aggregates, argues, seduces: this end of the world is not a whimper.
Smith gently prods him about his surge of sentiment and conviction. Ruppert shakes his head. Or takes a draw. Or fires a fresh one. He grows impassioned at times, but mostly, won’t be flummoxed: “It’s axiomatic that if you take the oil away you must take the population away as well.” “Collapse” turns into “George A. Romero’s Prelude of the Dead.” All he’s hoping, he says, is “to separate the ice cream from the bullshit.” He’s even willing to invoke Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But Ruppert’s not an accepting kind of guy. Still, the ultimate lesson is as much Christian as alarmist: if systems fail, “you will fail as a rugged individualist, you will survive as the member of a tribe or a family.”

Random EbertTweet for the morning

eberttwitterverse6.jpg“In the Cities of the Future of the past, there were never satellite dishes.” [Link.]

A cryptic hint about Tree of Life

Jeff Nichols is shooting his untitled followup to Shotgun Stories in Ohio, with Michael Shannon. malick1912750.jpgNotable, but so is this odd description of what sounds like a dual role in Terrence Malick’s latest: “Jessica Chastain, 29, recently costarred with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the upcoming Terrence Malick movie “The Tree of Life.” She plays Pitt’s wife in the film, and the mother of the character who is played by Penn as an adult. She has also appeared on television in “ER,” “Veronica Mars” and “Law and Order: Trial by Jury.”

Daniel Clowes event this Sunday in Chicago

CLOWES.CHICAGO.jpg
At the Printer’s Row Book Fair, Dan Clowes and I will be talking about his latest book, and a little about filmmaking as well.

Trailering Scorsese's "Boardwalk Empire" (preview 3)

At Amoeba Records, what's in Die Antwoord's bag?

HBO's For Neda, in its entirety


In its 78-minute entirety; the documentary about the slain protester, is also available in Farsi and Arabic, with the hopes of it getting seen widely in Iran. It’s described as “The true story of Neda Agha-Soltan, who became another tragic casualty of Iran’s violent crackdown on post-election protests on June 20, 2009. Unlike many unknown victims, however, she instantly became an international symbol of the struggle: Within hours of Agha-Soltan’s death, cell phone photographs of her blood-stained face were held aloft by crowds protesting in Tehran and across the world. With exclusive access to her family inside Iran, the documentary goes to the heart of who Neda was and what she stood for, illuminating the larger Iranian struggle for democratic freedoms through her powerful story.” Directed by Antony Thomas.

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David Mamet's Lost Masterpieces of Pornography, with Kristen Bell and Ricky Jay

Shot by Robert Elswit.

Movie City Indie

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“I find it hard to believe that it’s pure machismo. It’s too simple of a thought. I don’t know what the reason could be. I also think that it makes sense that, as time goes by, filmmaking should become more of a women-dominated activity. To me, of course, I feel like it’s going to happen. It seems to me that, especially for a certain cinema with its own language, you need to take a lot of risks. And women receive a type of education that allows much more for failure than the type men receive. It is easier for a woman to take risks than for a man. But I’ll also tell you another thing, women need to learn to master the tools, to solve technical problems, to control unscripted situations. There is also a totally macho attitude that many women have internalized in terms of not solving certain technical problems on their own. That also makes them a little less capable… Female DoPs often think that their technical area is limited to pen and paper. And that’s wrong. You need to learn a lot of things to be a good DoP. For me, machismo breeds both a masculine education and a nefarious feminine education. Macho culture engenders an education for men and another for women. The education for men we already know, and is easily criticized. And the nefarious education that machismo has for women is exemplified by women who ultimately ignore how to use tools, who—when something breaks, or when it gets dark—are rendered useless and get desperate. Women who do not even know how to build a fire. They don’t know how to deal with these situations, because these were activities that have traditionally been delegated to men. That can make us… not very… prone to achieve certain things. For me, we first have to fight against our own education, and also against an external model of erasure that has rendered women less capable than men in certain fields.”
Lucrecia Martel

“When my first book came out in 1978, and Carter was president, the top tax bracket in the US started, at that time, at one hundred thousand dollars a year; the federal income tax was 70 percent. Now, that may be excessive—I mean, it certainly was excessive—but the people who are rich now are psychotically rich. It’s stupid amounts of money that people have, and they pay no taxes! And they are allowed to make money in ways that you were not allowed to make money before. So there used to be all kinds of laws in this country. All kinds of regulations: usury laws, laws that regulated the amount of interest you were allowed to charge, bank regulations—all this kind of stuff. These were laws made by humans. They could be made again by humans. There is no reason why people should be allowed to make billions of dollars. It’s a stupid amount of money. It’s just simply stupid. And no one earns a billion dollars. You earn twelve dollars an hour. These are stupid amounts of money. No one should have them.”
~ Fran Leibowitz