Thursday, September 30, 2004

Smiley versus Smirky...

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This photo says a lot about the first Presidential Debate:

Kerry was very strong, very confident and frankly very presidential. Bush smirked a lot and kept repeating himself. He looked like he didn't want to be there.

- On an MSNBC online Poll as to who won the debate [as of 9:00pm PST) out of 457,000 voters the percentages are as follows:
Who Won the Debate?
Kerry 70%
Bush 30%


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Update:
As of 10AM PST the MSNBC Poll has it out of 1,963,577 responses the percentages are as follows:
Kerry: 61%
Bush: 39%


[Obviously, the right wing talk radio spin this morning have done their job to try and change the tide].

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Odds and Ends...




- "This is a terrific book. No, it is more than that. It is one of the best books of film writing I have ever read. Anyone seriously – or even casually – interested in film criticism, in Hollywood, in movie art, in postwar cinema, in how movies think or in really, really good writing needs to read this book. More than once. More than twice."
So says William D Routt about 'Movie Love in the Fifties' by James Harvey


- The following Associated Press article reveals possibilities about the outcome of "The Apprentice." If you'd prefer not to know anything, please stop reading now.


- A Fistful of Westerns: A site dedicated to Spaghetti Westerns.


- A Windfall of Modern Poetry for Scholars
...[I]n an astonishingly literal fashion [Raymond Danowski] has donated a library of some 60,000 volumes and tens of thousands more of periodicals, posters, recordings and other items devoted to 20th-century poetry in the English language - to the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University.
The Danowski collection includes rare and coveted volumes by T. S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Allen Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams and James Merrill, among many others. There is even a first printing of an 1855 edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Mr. Danowski said, because of Whitman's influence on later poets.
Mr. Danowski's gift is "the largest English-language poetry collection ever put together by an individual.


- Strangers on my Flight: The lost Frank Sinatra song?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Tales of a Blurb...A Confession

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I was alerted* last week to the above ad for the DVD release of Notes From Underground, which was an ad that Salon.com ran on their day pass entry page. What was remarkable, of course, was that the quote circled at the top of the page is by me. How flattering. However, it's time for me to come clean on this blurb and tell a story.

The quote is from a review I wrote in the June 1996 issue of Film Threat Magazine. But it is a bit out of context. While it is true that I used the word "masterful" it was not in relation to the movie, which I must say is not all that masterful. The actual quote was meant for the actor Henry Czerny. What I wrote was, "Czerny is masterful here with his nervous tics...."

I'm not sure where they pulled the quote that says "(see it now)" except to say they must have just made it up since it is in parenthesis. What I did write was that the movie was, 'worth recommending' because it is so disturbing to watch. [I was on one of my rigorous film kicks].

But here it gets more tricky.

At Film Threat we used to rate movies on a scale from 1 to 10. I gave Notes From Underground a 6. But for some reason my editor put it down as an 8. I told him to change it to a 6 when he had a chance. Time passed and no change was made. Then right before we went to press I again told him to give the review a 6. But what with hard deadlines there wasn't time to change it. The review was printed as an 8. I let it go as one of those mistakes that happen in the magazine business.

But it got more interesting...

First, I must say that the review was vague enough that it could be construed to be a lot more positive than it was. This is part of my writing style: I have a tough time ambushing a film if I like some aspect of it. This is the case with this film.

Soon after the review was in print I went to the Taos Talking Pictures Festival and happened to run into the director of the film, Gary Walkow. He was pleased to meet me and very estatic that I had understood his movie. I was a bit taken aback so I simply shook his hand and nodded my head. And then I noticed that he had a bunch of fliers he had printed up that used a large excerpt from my review, which he was handing out and placing on various tables in the festival office. I noticed that there were few filmmakers that year who were using fliers. As a consequence a good number of people were alerted to Notes From Underground and went to see it out of curiosity.

Taos is a cool place, it had a neat festival that became famous in part because the festival organizers gave a prize of five acres of land to the film that won the juried competition. Amazingly, Notes From Underground won the festival that year and the director instantly had five acres!

On the final day of the festival I went to the closing night party and ran into the director. Needless to say he was very happy. He than told me that my review had helped his film. I don't think my review pursuaded the jury but in his mind it didn't hurt. He said that the least he could do was to take me out to see the land. I declined.

Gary is a good guy and I have seen him on a few occassions but never told him this tale nor that I thought his movie was just okay. But, hey, what does he care? He has five acres of land outside of Taos New Mexico. And me? Well, after 13 years of being a film critic I finally have a blurb on a movie ad. [Even if there should be an asterick next to it].

[*Thanks to MrJeff3000! for finding the blurb.]

Thursday, September 23, 2004

FLM Magazine...

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The Fall 2004 FLM Magazine is now available [for free] both at Landmark Theatres nationwide and online. There are 76 pages of orignal material written by filmmakers about their films. Some of these are online including:

- John Waters writes about a famous sex educational film: When I was ten years old, the nuns in Catholic Sunday School (the Magdalene Sisters of film critics) would tell us we would go to hell if we ever saw his “condemned” movie, Mom and Dad. This phony sex education film played on and off for many years in Baltimore... By showing the "actual birth of a baby," you could legally see a full-fledged vagina on screen for the first time. The horny men in the audience just ignored the baby and concentrated on the pubic hair. Birth as a masturbation aid seemed so new and exciting.

- Roger Michell talks about the opening balloon accident scene of Enduring Love:
We needed perfect conditions. We needed the wind to be from the southwest, so that the balloon would move away from the cameras into the beautiful Chiltern valley we had picked for the scene, but the wind had to be running at exactly the right speed. Too fast, and ballooning became unsafe. Too slow, and the balloon would only rise vertically. We needed the sun to be shining brightly. And we needed everything to be absolutely ready at the precise golden moment: five actors, the stunt man, five cameras and their crews, riggers, balloon pilots, and many others.

- Walter Salles writes about the significance of Ernesto Che Guevara's Journey:
You know, these are very conservative times. And maybe, maybe there's a way to look at this in the complete reverse angle, that yes, utopia is something that is reachable. It's not only a distant concept. It's important not to live other people’s lives vicariously through television, but to go on the road, and then to see for yourself, in what kind of society we live.

- And Jonathan Caouette - the writer director of Tarnation - lists the 25 things that he loves including:
Emma Goldman, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dolly Parton, Cheese Enchiladas, 4AD Records and Sissy’s Bloody-Killer-Walk in Carrie

- You can also read my review of the extras on the Criterion Collection DVD of Slacker. But you'll have to get your hands on the magazine for that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Odds & Ends...

- Metafilter has a great post on Takashi Miike's films.

- David Lynch Ads, Commericals and Promos.

- Annie Gets Her Documentary
THE documentary I know you have all been waiting to see. Plays in Los Angeles at the Liberty Film Festival in October. I shudder....

- The other famous Anne: Anne Rice posts a critique of her critics on Amazon.com. [Y]our stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I'll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I'm answering you, but for what it's worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses.

- Director Christopher Boe tells IndieWire about his new film Reconstruction. A film I recommend for those of you enjoy Alain Resnais' films.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Olympic photos...

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The Best Olympic photos
are featured over at The Digital Journalist. [At least the best digital photos].

Gallery here.

These ping pong photos are a hoot.
Random Opinions, Thoughts and Complaints from the world of film...

Vincent Gallo whines:
They were gunning for me on Buffalo '66, too. I was booed out of Sundance. I never won a prize there. I never was supported by the Spirit Awards. I never got invited to any other festivals. No one ever gave me an offer to make another movie after Buffalo '66. No young filmmakers ever cast me. And Paul Schrader and a group of other individuals had a mantra against me at the Sundance Film Festival. Lisa Cholodenko, who did High Art, was quoted as having my photo in her production office and throwing darts at it every day.

David Thompson voices concern:
We live in a very strange culture where the New York Times and most of our papers take it as their duty, their obligation, to review every film that opens. Do they review every book that is published? Of course not. Do they review every concert? No. Do they review every art show? No. Does anyone think they should? No, of course not. There's a great fallacy there. A paper that showed the courage to say, "A lot of the movies that are opening do not merit our review space." That would be a refreshing attitude.

Jonathan Rosenbaum considers 'mainstream' experimental film:
I see two categories of mainstream experimental film. The first -- which includes films such as Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi (1983) along with his Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002) -- can be loosely labeled new age documentaries. The second -- which includes Christopher Nolan's 1998 Memento and Gaspar Noe's 2002 Irreversible --could be called puzzles that have narratives and characters. The Five Obstructions and What the Bleep Do We Know? straddle these categories: each has documentary elements, and each has a narrative and characters.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Star Wars extra scenes...

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Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday takes a stab at the DVD release of Star Wars.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mr Johnson's art...

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Ray Johnson was one of the great unknown artists of the late 20th century. Who was he? You can learn more about him in the documentary How to Draw a Bunny, which just came out on DVD.

Here's a Ray Johnson gallery

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Vintage Film Posters...

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North Woods Dramas Gallery
- From the teens through the twenties, many movies were set in the north woods, the Northwest, and beyond the trees to the Arctic--snow pictures. Adventures set in a hearty north land.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Movie Titles...

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Shill's video movies title pages.

I suspect many of you have seen these but the site is always worth paying another visit. Plus, there are plenty of new titles added each month.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Old Magazine Images...


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Old Magazine pages from the 1890's and early 1900's collected by Scrape Books (aka fulltable) [via neurastenia]

Mon Journal

Meggensdorfer Blatter

Le Jeudi de la Jeunesse

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Memorial...

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United we stand.

TheARTproject is a virtual exhibition in response to the events and aftermath of 9/11/01.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Hiking...

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When I was in Telluride I went for a fifteen mile six-hour hike up and over a 13,000 pass on a trail called the Wasach Trail. The air was thin but it was exhilirating. Especially since it was such a beautiful day.

A few of the photos from the hike can be found at my photo site here.

This site from a "Neuromorphic Engineering Workshop" has some good photos of the hike too.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Japanese paintings...

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Edo Period paintings from the Etsuko and Joe Price Collection, which contains over 500 Japanese art objects. (Via Plep)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Jazz Album Covers...

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1000 good album covers over at Pixagogo.

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Elsewhere...
The complete list of 259 famous Belgians. Including Adolph Sax who invented the saxophone. [Via The Cartoonist]

Monday, September 06, 2004

Telluride Wrap-up...

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I could only attend the festival for two-and-a-half days but I did manage to meet a number if friendly filmgoers, encounter the coldest and stormiest day in the festivals 31 years [it rained and snowed - we were camping] and watch seven films.

Here are the films I saw in order of preference:

Enduring Love - After one of the most extraordinary opening sequences in recent memory this film by Roger Michell (Persuasion, The Mother) delves deep into intense psychological drama. Combining the best of Hitchcock (suspense) and Kieslowski (fate) along with top-notch performances by Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton and Rhys Ifans the film - based on an Ian McEwan novel - is one of the best I've seen this year.

The Motorcycle Diaries - Walter Salles returns with a fine impressionistic road movie about Ernesto (Che) Guevara and his best friend Alberto Granado who traveled 9000 km around South America in the early 1950's. Not a revolutionary tract but a very good film about a young man finding a world he hardly knew existed. The cinematography adds much to the film's effectiveness.

Yes - Sally Potter finally manages to blend her poetic, cinematic style with real heart in this film about an Irish woman (Joan Allen) who has an extramarital affair with a Middle Eastern man. The film [thankfully] avoids the trappings of a typical romantic drama with many artistic devices including the use of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter, an astute use of Greek chorus, timely political overtones and an abundance of style.

Nobody Knows - Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with an interesting film about four young children [ages 4 to 12] who are abandoned by their mother. Left to fend for themselves they find a way to survive when the money runs out, the electicity is shut off and the house becomes a wreck. The subject is compelling but the handling is very matter-of-fact [and completely unsentimental] making the whole thing that much more disturbing.

Kinsey - Bill Condon gives the biopic treatment to Alfred C. Kinsey the scientist turned sexologist who in 1948 published a book on male sexuality that changed the way American though about sex. The film stars Liam Neeson [who is a bit stiff] and Laura Linney [who seems on auto-pilot]. Best is Peter Sarsgaard who is one of Kinsey's study partners. The film has some funny bits and overall is worthy of its subject to the point that it makes one want to learn more.

Adam and Paul - This film by Lenny Abrahamson, described in the press notes as Laurel and Hardy by way of Samuel Beckett, is about two heroin junkies wandering the drab streets of Dublin looking to score. The film has some good bits but for the most part the dead pan humor and the story reveal little. The director seems to be influenced by Jim Jarmuch and Aki Kaurismaki who do this kind of humor much better.

Baober in Love - This scattershot film by Li Shaohong about a waifish Chinese teen who manages to land a hot married guy and get him to fall madly in love with her is conceived as a metaphorical fantasy about modern China [or so the filmmaker says]. The program notes dare to compare the film to the work of Wong Kar-wai but it is such an undisciplined mess that it loses credibility with each passing minute. It does, however, have good editing and nice cinematic tricks.

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I really wanted to see the documentary Gunner Palace and the African film about female circumcision Moolaade but I expect them to be in theatres soon since they now have distributors.

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UPDATE:
My friend Larry Calloway has a review of Gunner Palace.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Telluride Film Festival...

The organizers of the Telluride Film Festival - (now in its 31st year) are prone to secrecy. So much so that they don't even announce the films that will be showing until the day before the festival. [Most of the staff is even unaware of the full program].

Part of the reason for this is because they don't want to promise a tribute (for which they are famous) for someone who can't make it. But also it is because they have absolute disdain for the papparazti. They don't want star crazy fans lining the streets. What they want is passholders and ticketbuyers who love cinema to show up and just trust that what they have to offer is top quality. And, having come to this festival for 15 years, I can attest to that quality.

The festival starts tomorrow but today is the day they release the 'unofficial' official schedule.

Tributes this year are for Greek master filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos (who's films are graceful and glacial), screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere who wrote many of Luis Bunuel's late films, and Laura Linney who is a fine actress in and out of Hollywood.

Among their retrospectives are for Fernando Arrabal (Viva La Muerte) one of the Spainish surrealist filmmakers from the 1970's. Gustav Machaty a Czech filmmaker from the 1920's whose film Ecstacy was a scandal in its day. Also showing are a new print of Hitchcock's Blackmail with an original score by the world famous Alloy Orchestra. And a new print of THX 1138 will be shown. [Yes, George Lucas will be at the festival].

I've scanned the program and have provided a list of ten what seem to be notable films:
Gunner Palace - the documentary about the Iraqi war from the inside makes it's US Premiere and promises to pique interest and possibly stir controversy.
Moolaade - the latest film by Senegalese master filmmaker Ousmane Sembene.
Palindromes - the new Todd Solondz film gets a world premiere.
Nobody Knows - the latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda about a group of abandoned children in Japan.
Unforgivable Blackness - the new Ken Burns documentary. This one about boxer Jack Johnson.
House of Flying Daggers - Zhang Yimou's latest film is another high flying honk kong style martial arts film.
Bad Education - the latest by Pedro Almodovar.
Kinsey - a film by Bill Condon about the 'carnal cartograher' Alfred Kinsey (played by Liam Neeson).
Being Julia - the latest film by Istvan Szabo based on a Somerset Maugham novel and starring Annette Bening (who rumor says may be up for Oscar consideration with her performance).
Aaltra - a politically incorrect Belgian comedy that became an instant cult hit in Europe earlier this year.
Keane - a film by Lodge Kerrigan whose film Clean, Shaven managed to disturb a good many people.

Telluride has an outdoor theatre (Called the Abel Gance Outdoor Theatre) that shows movies for free. Last night I watched Milos Forman's first film Taking Off, which is about how a couple deal with their runaway teenage daughter. Funny in spots and very 70's the film felt incomplete. The film starred Buck Henry who is the guest director at this year's festival.

Tonight in the park they are showing The Motorcycle Diaries by Walter Salles a film about Che Guevara.
It looks like it could rain and no doubt it will be cold in the park. But this is what festival and film dedication is all about. I'm ready.