Reeler Archive for February, 2006

'16 Blocks': Donner's NYC In 10 Seconds or Less

Somewhere in the blur that was Monday, I landed at the Ziegfeld Theater for the premiere of Bruce Willis’s good-cop/bad-cop action thriller 16 Blocks. Before I could tell him I work for Entertainment Weekly, he was shuffled down the red carpet, past the metal detectors (!) and into the waiting auditorium.

16 Blocks star Mos Def’s touching red-carpet reunion with director Richard Donner (Photo: STV)

The same goes for Willis’s 16 Blocks co-stars Mos Def and David Morse, although I did manage to ask director (and 76-year-old Gotham native) Richard Donner just how New York-y his New York film is. I mean, for a place that plays a character in every movie it hosts, how did he approach the city this time around? “How does New York ever play as a character?” he shouted to The Reeler as a publicist dragged him away. “The best. The best. From a little kid growing up on the streets, it hasn’t changed a bit.”

Lamenting my lost opportunity to go over little Richard Schwartzberg’s Manhattan, I spent a few extra seconds with screenwriter Richard Wenk–another local guy–going over what he had in mind. “Really, it is the character. It is the 16 blocks from the Fifth Precinct to 100 Centre St., through Little Italy and Chinatown and some of the Financial District. It’s a very colorful, gritty, real area, and it’s also an area that cops know very well. So the idea of a chess match between two ex-partners on their streets was very interesting to me.”
As for influences, what did you expect? “Dog Day Afternoon, definitely,” Wenk told me. “I always loved the fact the film was real and honest. Telling a commercial (story) about the remaking of a man in 90 minutes–I wanted to keep that kind of flavor.”
And just like that–it was over. Next red carpet stop (hopefully): V For Vendetta. It might take an act of Congress, so start writing your letters of support now.

Where There is 'Smoke'…: Auster and Lethem Talk Cinema at BAM

The Reeler procrastinated as long as it could in making its monthly journey to Brooklyn, where novelist/screenwriter Paul Auster hit BAM last night to discuss his 1995 film Smoke with fellow author Jonathan Lethem. Despite the slightly overwrought tie-in with Auster’s latest book, The Brooklyn Follies (Lethem noted it almost as an afterthought, lest the weighed-down Auster kiosk in BAM’s lobby sag from disuse), the event was another one of BAM’s dignified triumphs–not quite to the level of last year’s rapturous Gena Rowlands appearance, but somehow I doubt Auster was attempting to compete.

Smoke screenwriter Paul Auster (left) gets all filmic with novelist Jonathan Lethem at BAM (Photo: STV)

“Jokingly, we would say we were trying to make an Ozu movie in Brooklyn,” Auster told the crowd, describing his collaboration with Smoke director Wayne Wang. “It’s really about storytelling. It’s about giving people a chance to say something to each other, whereas most films seem so short and so fast–there’s no content there except the visual material. But this movie is about words as much as it’s about images.”
And anybody who recalls the film’s brilliant final act knows this to be true, from the protracted silence of the Cole family’s unplanned reunion to Auggie Wren’s even more protracted story that winds down the film. Along with the monologue’s black-and-white re-enactment, the sequence probably represents the best reel of Harvey Keitel’s career–not that Auster was about to judge or anything. “It’s a funny thing about that last scene,” Auster said. “The way I wrote it in the script, we were going to alternate Harvey’s talking in the restaurant with the black and white imagery.”
“It looks much nicer the way it plays,” Lethem said.
“Well, we cut it the original way–alternating–and it turns out that you start listening to him tell the story, and you really get involved in how he’s doing it,” Auster explained. “And it’s a long bit–I think it’s something like… five to eight minutes. It’s very long. Every time we’d hop to the other imagery, you’d lose track of what Harvey was saying for a few seconds as your eyes adjusted. And then you were losing the story. So we kept cutting out bits until we had one or two, and then we said, ‘Let’s just get rid of it all.’ I remember we were in the cutting room, and Wayne said, ‘I guess we’ll just get rid of the black and white footage.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, no; I like it so much. We really have to do something with it.’ ”
Follow the jump for Auster’s solution, plus cameos from Robert Altman and New York’s other Harvey.

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In the Picturehouse: Berney on the Foreign-Film Struggle


I dropped by Picturehouse‘s offices yesterday for a quick word with president Bob Berney, who was kind enough to supply some insights for a freelance piece I’ll be writing this spring. Near the end of our chat, however, I stole some totally unrelated thoughts from him about the demise of Wellspring’s theatrical unit and what it might mean for foreign film distribution in the States.
Berney invoked a cautious optimism for the most part, citing foreign-language standbys like Sony Classics as well as a few new media upstarts. “I think there will still be outlets, but every time somebody closes, it makes it harder,” Berney told me. “I think the ancillary stuff–the video side of foreign films–has been tough, but Netflix is kind of helping a bit. I could see Netflix taking up the slack on buying some films, like they’re doing with IFC now. There’ll be ways I think it will increase. I don’t know how many Wellspring was buying–at least four or five last year. It’s a factor. … It’s still tough when you think of a classic French art film–it’s still consdered an art film, and I think the mini-majors aren’t buying as many. But it doesn’t mean they won’t. I don’t think it’s dire.
“We are doing (Guillermo del Toro’s) Pan’s Labyrinth, and we’re doing bigger things we think will crossover,” Berney continued. “I’m probably going to make a deal for Lukas Moodysson’s new film, but it’s also hoping he’ll make a bigger film later that we can get. And I know there was (the Sundance sensation) 13 Tzameti. And I still think there’s value in the remake rights if people want to buy them. I think it’s been a tough market for a lot of films, but when you look at the overall kind of foreign-language market, the Asian films have done really well. They’re not even considered foreign films anymore. Look at Hero, and even right after Crouching Tiger–certainly before–they never worked. You couldn’t give those films away. They figured there was no audience. I think the same thing is going to be true for Spanish-language. It’s not quite there yet, but I think in L.A. and Chicago and New York, we’re almost there where something could break out and people will say it doesn’t matter. I’m hoping that’s what happens on Pan’s Labyrinth: We can open big, and because Guillermo’s known, people will accept it.”

I also asked Berney about the marketing challenges distributors face with foreign films. Naturally, Toro’s name recognition from English-language genre pictures like Hellboy and Mimic can boost Labyrinth, but Berney admitted non-genre picture remain a challenge. “I think 13 Tzameti can be marketed as an intense experience. I think you just have to push the film and a director as something that’s completely different. If it’s the same old movie–the same kind of French love story–you know, it’s hard. But if it’s some striking new director, you’ve got a shot. I mean, 13 Tzameti is not only in French, but also black-and-white. A real challenge. But it’s also a great, adrenaline-surprise movie. You have to take each one one-at-a-time and try to go beyond just putting it at Lincoln Plaza if you can. You’re going to do so much business there, but it’s everywhere else where you want to find an angle.
“We did all right with Ushpizin, which was an Israeli film, by just going to the Jewish community and saying, ‘This is a movie you’ll relate to.’ We even got some of the (religious leaders) to talk about it, and people came to see who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have [Ed: The film also made headlines during its theatrical release when supporters hosted unauthorized public screenings with Israeli and pirated DVDs.] It didn’t matter that it was subtitled, because of the subject. A lot of us are trying to find films that you can find a constituency for whether its subtitled or not.”
Berney noted the potential for day-and-date releases (via distributors such as Magnolia Pictures/2929 Entertainment and IFC First Take) to acquire new visibility for foreign pictures. “It’s true that if there isn’t a theater or community that has a consistent reputation (for exhibiting foreign films), that there may be a lot of markets where you can’t see them at all,” he said. “But with technology for downloading and Netflix, you can get this stuff all the time. The awareness of these directors and filmmakers is such that when they have a new film, the next one could be theatrical. I think the audiences are broadening. Younger audiences are more apt to see a foreign language film now than 10 years ago, just because of the Internet and the awareness of different directors on the Internet. … I think for a while I was nervous that it was just going to die, you know? The ones that came here seemed to be the very stereotypical, blue-hair art film, and nothing for a younger audience.”

Boldface Gets to Bottom of 'Smoking' Sex Mess


Having evidently learned from Lloyd Grove the dire consequences of skipping a Thank You For Smoking story for dessert, The Times’s Campbell Robertson scampered uptown last week for a party celebrating Jason Reitman’s buzz-packing feature debut. And bless Robertson’s heart, readers can finally anticipate the movie based on its narrative merits rather than the bidding war it provoked in Toronto or the gamy prospect of Katie Holmes fucking:

What happened to the KATIE HOLMES sex scene that was totally missing from the screening at Sundance because I totally heard it was like TOM CRUISE breaking into the projection room or something and it was like a five-hour sex scene and the movie was totally going to get an NC-45 rating how crazy is that?

“It disappeared for a week, just a very prominent week,” said Mr. Reitman (above), who looked as if he had not been asked that question for at least three minutes. “It was a result of a projection issue. The movie you saw tonight had it.”

Oh that scene? That was it?

“The L.A. Times did an article two days later saying, ‘Was it the Mormons or the Scientologists?’ and that’s what set it all off,” he continued. “People started speculating. And I think people just felt like, ‘Well, if we’re going to make stuff up, let’s go all out.’ And people started saying there was nudity, people said it went on longer than they thought, people said it was steamy and sensual and it’s none of that.”

Ah-hah! There goes the goddamned L.A. Times, ruining it for everybody once again. Except “projection issue” sounds vaguely like “wardrobe malfunction” or some other, equally sinister P.R. euphemism for “accidentally on purpose,” don’t you think? Or maybe it is just my prurient side imagining how Cruise foresaw men “projecting” at the sight of his L’il Katie all hot and bothered. Not that there is anything wrong with that–the guy obviously has enough to worry about these days without Ivan Reitman’s kid exploiting his babymaker. Hopefully he will be done with Katie by the time the DVD comes out and we can get the unexpurgated Holmes/Eckhart/Macy three-way that will probably show up on YouTube in a week, anyway. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Netflix: The Antistudio (and Antidepressant) of Choice


Jesus Christ. I hate these late starts as much as you do, but the news that the Antistudio got over again with a film its own execs admit is terrible just has me eight different ways of disconsolate. You know those commercials with the despondent slob sprawling in bed in broad daylight and the gentle voiceover prodding, “Sleep a lot? You may be depressed.” Exactly–that was me this morning, sunken by the tragic brutality of Lionsgate.
But Steven Zeitchik has the corrective today in Variety, which features a thoroughly interesting profile of what I believe could be the real Anti-studio in years to come:

(S)lowly but surely, the Netflix approach is catching on. The site has helped increase the popularity of niche categories like documentaries and foreign films, especially in smaller cities. The company takes credit for 70% of DVD revenue from hit Capturing The Friedmans and says that 16% of its rentals come from suppliers smaller than Lionsgate. …

Execs at the company, who tend to toss about lofty phrases like “democratizing film,” believe they can quantify what has previously been determined by instinct. Netflix staffers feverishly work to refine “perfect-inventory” and “perfect-buy” models — that is, stocking the exact number of copies of a given movie, whether it’s one or 1,000, so that the company never runs at a surplus but is never shorthanded either. By doing that, Netflix believes it can offer a much broader selection of movies than, say, Blockbuster, which is forced to make the safer bet and carry a lot more tentpoles.

In other words, the Netflix system is customized to the tastes of individual customers — the anti-tentpole model.

Zeitchik notes an even more intriguing statistice placing Netflix’s library-to-new release rental ratio at 70-to-30 percent, which, at least from a long-term perspective, is about as freakish (not to mention deadly) as it gets for distributors. And as video-on-demand forces conventional theatrical windows shut over the next 5-10 years (and do not think the studios are not watching how IFC First Take and 2929 Entertainment evolve in the interim), and as Netflix bumps its market share from 8 percent to 15 percent to 25 percent and higher with a younger population living online, the tentpole metaphor becomes less apt. We would almost be facing a high-ceilinged ballroom full of support columns, and whichever studio could crowd the biggest stars and the least incentive to change the channel into its room could probably survive in the black for a while.
Of course, the star system would eventually collapse on itself, but who is to say that is not happening already when Madea’s Family Reunion can rake in $30 million on opening weekend and Paul Walker is carrying two of the weekend’s top ten grossing films? Or when one of the biggest threats supposedly facing old-school Hollywood is a DVD service that rents stuff like The Johnny Cash Anthology at a two-to-one ratio over Walk the Line?
OK, fine–I might be overcompensating a little hyperbolically for the Lionsgate Blues. But at least I am out of bed, and I have to admit: The big distribution question mark excites me. Now if only I could shake off all this Oscar fatigue, I might be able to summon enough will to leave the house.

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Screening Gotham: Feb. 24-26, 2006


A few of this weekend’s worthwhile cinematic happenings around New York:
–Another winning weekend is shaping up over at the Museum of the Moving Image, where curators have organized a three-day tribute to the late Richard Pryor. The Museum begins the series tonight at 7:30 with a panel discussion featuring Paul Mooney, Lonette McKee and historian Mel Watkins; bits from Pryor’s stand-up performances will be screened throughout. McKee will return tomorrow to chat about Which Way is Up?, while Mooney will be on hand Sunday to present vintage highlights from the short-lived The Richard Pryor Show (to which Mooney contributed his own brilliance as a writer). This is a rare chance to catch Mooney off-Broadway, without Caroline’s cumbersome drink minimum and lousy opening act. I hear Pryor is funny as well.
–The Fourth Annual Red Shift Film Festival moves into Anthology Film Archives, featuring a selection of work by emigrants from the former Soviet Bloc. This year’s theme is “Transit Cinema,” the kind of fascinating qualities of which I shall leave it to the programmers to define:

Today we are embarking on a new mission–to gather and exhibit films and videos made “IN TRANSIT,” by travelers, nomads, pioneers and migrants of all backgrounds. We realize that the outsider, the one who leaves home, who crosses borders or who speaks multiple languages, develops a special way of seeing and relating to the world–a perspective that transcends cultural boundary walls, or tunnels through them–a vision, penetrating and panoramic, which can yield images of unique insight and enduring meaning for everyone.

Come on. Try to tell me you are not intrigued. We are so, so there.
–Hey, here is an idea: Check out all the Best Documentary Oscar nominees this weekend, starting with Marshall Curry’s Street Fight at IFC Center. I am sticking by my July ’05 prediction that Murderball is the film to beat, but Curry’s doc or Alex Gibney and Jason Kliot’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room are almost equally sublime intrigues in their own right. Darwin’s Nightmare is now available on DVD for your viewing and clinical depression convenience, as is March of the Penguins. Except for that part about the clinical depression–Penguins threatens something more along the lines of insulin shock. Yes, it will hurt, but at least you’ll be prepared come Oscar night. Deal with it.

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From Wellspring to Weinstein: It Is Hard Out There For a Foreign Film


IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez this morning offered the official Wellspring theatrical division post-mortem, featuring plenty of comment from around New York. Declaring The Weinstein Company to be the official cause of death, Hernandez explores a vibrant, risk-taking family whose steady diet of underachiving art house and foreign titles contributed to an untimely demise:

“For the majority of the time I have been here, we have been a small core group of people who are incredibly loyal to each other,” said (Wellspring distribution head Marie-Therese) Guirgis, who worked with the rest of the team to maintain a steady release schedule amidst the many changes in ownership over the past few years. “More than I think most companies.” She continued, “We feel really lucky to be doing what we do and feel really strongly about what we do. We sustained each other, more or less running the company on our own.”

After being acquired by Genius Products last year, Wellspring continued to acquire art house fare, including The Beat That My Heart Skipped, The Intruder, Dear Wendy, Gabrielle, and Unknown White Male. The group also worked with Ira Sachs on his Sundance grand jury prize-winning film, 40 Shades of Blue.

Preceding those films were Wellspring releases ranging from invisible (Reel Paradise) to radar blips (Palindromes) to sleepers (Tarnation)–a checkered theatrical slate in general, but one that nevertheless boosted the value of a DVD library comprising more than 700 films and some foreign names (Godard, Almodovar, Truffaut) you may have heard of. Genius Products will retain the Wellspring name and a single acquisitions guy–Rob Williams–to watch over the video side of things, where insiders worry foreign films that would have earned theatrical release a year ago will now die a marginalized, televised death via DVD and VOD.
The general consensus blames new Genius partners Harvey and Bob Weinstein for engineering Wellspring’s realignment, which is kind of stating the obvious in several ways. I mean, it is the perfect deal for these guys: The Weinsteins replace the library they lost in the Disney/Miramax divorce as well as clear up new avenues (and cash) for video distribution of their new company’s titles. And the resultant outrage brimming around the Web and especially here in town insists that the move signals a far more irresponsible and insidious trend.
To wit, writes Sarasota Film Festival programmer and IW blogger Tom Hall:

Anyone in their right mind looking at the Weinstein Company slate for 2006/2007 can see that there is not a single title on there that reflects the kind of film that Wellspring would have brought to places like The Film Forum, The Cinema Village, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, etc. … There is now a void, and while wonderful companies like Magnolia, Tartan and THINKFilm have all of my support in the hopes that they will continue to provide challenging, engaging titles, I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about the future of challenging and foreign film in America.


Indeed and then some, an incensed critic Amy Taubin tells Hernandez:

“Of course distribution is in a big transition, and Wellspring has been struggling, as have all small distributors of great foreign-language films. … This, however, is another example of the pernicious Weinstein approach to competition: just don’t let those pesky great art films (the kind that the Weinsteins would never distribute unless their directors allowed them to be mutilated, and these days, probably not even then) get released in any theaters whatsoever.”

Whoa, Amy, hold it a second: That sounds kind of “all-or-nothing,” does it not? Yes, the Weinsteins have a “pernicious” streak and yes, they trimmed a lot of their foreign titles at Miramax. But how “pernicious” were they while riding Disney’s money to Oscars for Denys Arcand or Roberto Benigni or Jan Sverák? I know the $1.2 billion TWC funding has a lot of zeroes on paper (and that, naturally, Harvey likes talking up his support and IPO and anything else Vanity Fair and New York Magazine will print), but the cash that the Weinsteins have to roll the dice on foreign films right now is virtually nil. And not because they cannot afford to buy them or “mutilate” them (witness The Promise)–the bottom line is that these guys no longer have the resources to spend a lot to make a little.
The Weinsteins and Wellspring actually have this is common. With the exception of Sony Classics (and Warners, if you count March of the Penguins), nobody can actually market a foreign film anymore–especially outside major cities, where Miramax was able to score hits like Life is Beautiful and even pre-Disney fare such as Like Water For Chocolate, but also where video has been the primary foreign-film distribution outlet for, like, ever. Indeed, the Weinsteins exacerbated that “problem” for the last two decades as well, muscling their ways into four or five thousand Blockbuster locations with Il Postino, Kieslowski’s Three Colors films, Malena, etc.
But I digress. In Wellspring’s case, I am interested to see how even a domestic film like Unknown White Male does outside New York. The controversial amnesiac doc is absolutely interesting, possessing plenty of box-office promise if the outgoing regime can spin the film’s authenticity issues into its premise’s central mystery–kind of a “judge-for-yourself” campaign that big media like even Good Morning America have already given them a head start on. Would Unknown‘s subject, Doug Bruce, hate it? Without a doubt, but he intimates in a recent GQ interview that he is already more than a little dissatisfied with the experience as a whole. Regardless, should Wellspring care? Is there a better alternative to marketing an Oscar short-lister than to go out with guns blazing and/or inciting a national dialogue? Does that impugn its legitimacy? Or is it all just a little too Harveyesque a tactic for us to withstand?
Do not get me wrong–none of this carnage thrills me. But if you look beyond the kind of moralistic and aesthetic idealism evinced in the post-Wellspring outcry, ask yourself: What are distributors really doing to prevent the obsolescence of the foreign-language film in America? How adherent are they to the conventional theater-to-DVD-to-cable model, and how inflexible can they afford to be for how long? Is it enough to attribute the foreign-film “death knell” (in Hall’s words) to some abstract systemic crisis or specific personal malfeasance? From the outside, it looks as though the distributors’ missions are confused; preserving the theatrical experience (or at least the revenue source) is as essential as finding their films an audience. Even Guirgis follows her acknowledgement of distribution’s shifting paradigm with the (paraphrased) insistence that “such releases are fueled by a theatrical component as well.”
Maybe. Maybe not. It is a tough question to ask and an even tougher question to answer, but you would not love the cinema if it did not wield the potential to break your heart every now and then. And anyway, by this point, if you do not think it is necessary work, you are not likely paying attention and could use the career change anyhow. The rest of us will try to soldier on without you.

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Today at The Carpetbagger: Dish Runs Away With the Spoon


Carpetbagger David Carr, whose man-on-the-street inquiries have provided some of the more engaging moments of The Times’s saturation Oscar coverage, outdid himself this week during a trip to the Academy’s Awards Party tasting preview at the St. Regis. And though he might have strayed a little far from the street, Carr still found a few men to hang with, including the hotel bartender, Oscar greeter Robert Osborne and… Mr. Spoon.
Yes. Mr. Spoon. What did you expect? I mean, come on–it is The Times. Everything is in the honorific over there.

Movies of the Week: NY Observer Does Oscar, College and Demme's Neil Young


Notwithstanding Andrew Sarris’s trenchant reprinting of Freedomland writer Richard Price’s IMDB resume, this week’s New York Observer boasts a trifecta of interesting (and in one case, kind of fantastic, but I’ll get to that) film pieces that I have been wanting to get to for days now. If only I upheld an efficiency standard.
I suppose it would actually be something like two and a half film pieces: Ron Rosenbaum settles into a little more general survey of the two (or is it three?) Neil Youngs after a somewhat scorching indictment of Young’s new concert movie, Neil Young: Heart of Gold. All but pulling director Jonathan Demme aside to yawn in his face before slapping it, Rosenbaum contrasts the “bland, insipid, complacent, syrupy, self-satisfied, family-values, country-pie, pious, rural-virtues Neil Young” of Heart of Gold against the more transcendent “hard-core, killer rock ’n’ roll genius whose electrifying, volcanic sound and deeply resonant and compressed lyrics left an imprint not just on music, but on popular culture itself.”
But in also contrasting Demme’s work to that of Jim Jarmusch, whose 1997 doc Year of the Horse documented a rawer, dynamic Young in performance, Rosenbaum’s indignance is a thing to behold:

Mr. Demme’s film omits the dark, electrifying, deeply disruptive, sometimes bleak, sometimes exhilarating and subversive Neil Young. … Don’t get me wrong: Mr. Demme’s film is in many ways both beautiful and respectful. But by exalting rural virtues—in effect, by equating “rural” with “virtue”—and by making a hymn of praise for the prairie wisdom of the Great White North, Neil’s Canadian prairie roots, he verges on rural supremacism. By that I mean the ingrained American nativist, puritanical distrust of (and distaste for) the urban, the cosmopolitan, the seductive sins of sophistication, irony and complexity. Instead, simple is always best. Or less dangerous.

And so, in his extremely well-meaning way, Mr. Demme—well known as an admirably socially engaged director—has made perhaps the most reactionary film of the past year.

Reactionary in the sense that it implicitly gives the impression that family values of a certain kind—the Great White North, Great White Nashville kind—are the only true values. If you stay close to the land and practice rural virtues, you’ll go to heaven, (as long as you’re a rich rock—sorry, “country-rock”—star). Conventionality rules, dude!

The thing is, Demme and Rosenbaum are going to have words about this, and we’ll likely never know what comes out of it. Now I totally want to see the aesthetes go to war (Rosenbaum cites “Demme’s reliably adoring film-critic acolytes”–read: uninformed snobs); I want to see an impassioned, bloody, granola-vs.-cocaine Neil Young Civil War in my lifetime.

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Name the TomKat Baby, Win Valuable Prizes


I know how much the media terror coruscating from the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes union means to so many of you, and as such, I thought it my duty to bring you the very, very latest development affecting this brainpan-imploding, very pregnant Hollywood power couple.
This just in from the online betting tip sheet Puntersrealm:

By now we all know that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are to be married this autumn. The craze surrounding the two has been intense, many saying it is just a big Hollywood publicity stunt. Regardless of what you think about the Cruise and Holmes Show, you can profit from it by looking into the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ Baby’s name betting market. …

The current favorites in the betting market are: Katie (8/1) & Thomas (8/1) but we feel that naming the child Thomas would be seen as arrogant by the Tom Cruise skeptics, and our inside info suggests that it will be a boy, so we will look beyond Katie.

AMUSING POSSIBLE NAMES

Bookmakers always try and have a bit of fun in these novelty markets, and the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes betting market is no exception:

500/1 Iceman

500/1 Goose

150/1 Elvis Presley

I think it is fair to say we can rule out Nicole at 100/1 and also Penelope at 100/1.

Yeah, well, I think it goes without saying that this whole TomKat ordeal will have been worth it should they name their offspring Iceman. But what do the oddsmakers like? Lee (12/1) or Cass (16/1) rank among their favorites, although they also hint at some sure-to-be-bulletproof gossip about a recent shopping trip where Holmes bought nothing but boys’ clothes. As far as the spawn’s religion goes, PuntersRealm seems to avoid making odds; my own figures show the smart money is on Scientology at 1/1, but think of the mint you could make if you nailed Southern Baptist (100,000/1).
The baby-name market evidently closes March 4, so up your Visa’s credit limit, read the tabloids and get to work. This is your future we are talking about.

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New Directors/New Films Looks Inward (Sort of) For '06


A press release fluttered out of Lincoln Center this morning detailing the films chosen for next month’s New Directors/New Films series. New York filmmakers enjoyed a typically strong showing, with Ryan Fleck’s Half Nelson, Michael Cuesta’s Twelve and Holding, Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart and a few others settling in among the 25 feature selections.
Screening at the Walter Reade Theater and MoMA’s Titus Theater from March 22 through April 2, the program also features Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Prize winner Quinceanera as well as the Berlinale’s Teddy Award-winning The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros. The festival’s five short-film selections include another Sundance hardware claimant, Adam Parrish King’s The Wraith of Cobble Hill.
The Reeler caught up with Bahrani (above, with Cart star Ahmed Razvi) a little while ago to chat about Man Push Cart‘s selection. “Look, it’s a huge honor,” he said. “The two festivals that I had always been going to since I’ve been in New York–and really the only festivals I went to without a film–were the New York Film Festival and New Directors. So it’s great, after going to those festivals for 10 years, to actually be in one of them.”
Bahrani also re-emphasized the film’s local flava. “We shot our main location a block away from the MoMA,” he told me. “The pushcart corner is 54th and Madison. We were actually driving past the opening nght of the MoMA when they reopoened (in 2004) to go shoot at 11 at night while everybody was leaving. So this is amazing.”

Today in Gay Activism: Man Overpays For 'Brokeback' 's 'Ruby Slippers of Our Time'


It seems like only yesterday we were captivated by the fund-raising promise embodied in a couple of stinky props from a likely Oscar winner. Today, however, those auctioned-off Brokeback Mountain shirts leave the symbolic world and enter the realm of tacky memorabilia, and the man who is taking them there is exactly $101,100.51 lighter for the privilege, says the AP:

Tom Gregory just spent more than $100,000 on two used cowboy shirts. And he couldn’t be happier.

The shirts are the ones worn by the ill-fated lovers, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, in Oscar front-runner Brokeback Mountain. The shirts that represent their relationship. The shirts that, to Gregory, represent the ongoing plight of gays for acceptance in society.

“They really are the ruby slippers of our time,” said Gregory, 45.

A longtime gay activist, Gregory plans to keep the shirts “as they were, on the hanger, entwined.”

“I would never wear them, put them on, or separate them,” he said.

Well, at least in an auction boasting Vin Diesel’s xXx motorcycle pants and a Ringer poster signed by Johnny Knoxville, the Brokeback shirts are the ruby slippers, John Travolta’s white suit from Saturday Night Fever and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula cape all rolled into one stiff, blood-stained ball. But Gregory should know these investments are notoriously unsound: The Reeler hears that Transamerica star Felicity Huffman’s prosthetic penis, “Andy,” should be on the market soon and fuck everything up by becoming “the Indiana Jones fedora of our time.” Tough break there, pal.

'Street Fight': Documentary Stunner Opens at IFC Center

Riding the wave stirred by Confederate States of America and Transamerica, IFC Center reportedly just had one of its best weekends yet since opening last June. And if that were not a big enough relief to Dolan, Vanco and the whole Sixth Avenue Posse, things only stand to improve today as the theater opens Marshall Curry’s Oscar-nominated documentary Street Fight.

Newark Mayor Sharpe James, set to duke it out in Marshall Curry’s doc Street Fight (Photo: The Star Ledger, used with permission)

While viewing Curry’s riveting film last week, it occurred to me that this could absolutely be the dark horse nominee come March 5. In chronicling Newark’s 2002 mayoral race between relative newcomer Cory Booker and Jersey’s reigning machine-politics king Sharpe James, Curry captures a system imploded by racism, corruption, lies and at least a few physical altercations. Perhaps more shockingly, Street Fight reflects the assured work of a first-time feature filmmaker–a guy who quit his job, bought a camera and followed the campaign with his crew of one just to see what would happen. A complete and total hunch.
The result was near-total access to Booker and a fairly breathtaking stonewalling job by the incumbent James. “Lots of the time while I was making the film–I’d say most of the time–I thought, ‘I’m wasting my time,’ ” Curry told The Reeler earlier this week. ” ‘This is crazy. What am I doing here? I’m not getting anything interesting. Nothing’s happening.’ And when the mayor kept me from shooting, most of the time, I thought, ‘He’s ruining the film. I can’t make an election film about one character. I’ve gotta have access, and by keeping me from having access, he’s ruining the film.’
“Really, it wasn’t until we got into the editing room that I started looking at that footage, and it would just give me a stomachache every time I watched it,” Curry continued. “Then I thought about it and said, ‘This is some important stuff.’ These are the most revealing scenes and the most exciting scenes in the film, that tell you a lot about bloody-knuckle politcs and the lack of scruntiny of politcal machines.”

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Un-Wellspring: Nice Party, Sorry About the Pink Slip


So Reeler HQ kept its phone line open all day Tuesday waiting for director Rupert Murray to call for a quick chat about his fascinating, suddenly controversial new film, Unknown White Male. As such, when the phone rang with Murray’s distributor Wellspring Media on the caller ID, I was primed with my notebook and ready to go.
Alas, it was just a Wellspring rep stammering about how crazy things were around the office and telling me the interview would have to be postponed.
“It’ll be tomorrow or… We’ll work it out,” he said.
“OK,” I replied. “So do you have anything else going on? Like a premiere, or–”
“It’s tonight.”
“Is that something I can cover?” I asked. “I mean, I do this stuff all the time–”
“It’s not that kind of event,” the rep said.
I paused. “Just like a picture and some quotes–”
“It’s a celebration. Yeah, so we’re not–”
“OK, OK. I gotcha,” I said. “Well, let me know, then. Thanks.”
Evidently, Harvey Weinstein and Genius Products heard about our exchange and were none too pleased. To say the least.

Script, Food, Whatever: On the Set with Scott Speedman


The Daily News’s Rebecca Louie today goes way, way deep into the production trenches on the Manhattan set of Anamorph, director H.S. Miller’s cop-thriller debut. This is especially good news for fans of star Scott Speedman, a hardcore Method legend who all but acknowledges keeping a copy of Anamorph‘s screenplay in his trailer’s bathroom.
Not to read, of course:

“I never follow what’s in the script,” says Speedman, who also declined to hang with NYPD to research his role, which he landed five days before shooting. “I hate that kind of bulls—, actor-y stuff. An actor that goes and reads the lines of the script and follows it like a map, it’s really boring. It’s TV stuff. Anyway, writers are doing that to sell the script, not so that you go and act ‘sadistically.’ I cross that stuff out. Sure, I do. You don’t want it to get into your head.”

Louie also provides the scoop on Speedman and co-star Willem Dafoe’s eating habits, featuring perhaps newspaper history’s first-ever quote from a craft services supervisor. The author also notes how “he wanders the maze of cables, monitors, cast and crew, carrying an overflowing vegetable basket with dip.”
This is Wednesday’s must-read news, if only because I do not think I can summon another word to write about it.

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“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho