Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Some thoughts, some news.

Larry was wondering what kind of career Jennifer Hudson will have. Well, what kind of career does any black actress have? What are the choices? It's hard to tell. But the Academy Award doesn't guarantee anything.

Looking forward to "Out One": i'm hoping it's another dose of late-60s, early-70s idealism. Just to be able to remember those days (as i did while watching the Peter Whitehead documentaries), it'll be worth it. However, i must be one of the only people i know who really disliked "Out One: Spectre", which i felt was disjointed, tedious, and flaccid. But i hope the whole thing is more engrossing.

ABC did something really cute: on Academy Award night, when Ryan Gosling was introduced, there was a little clip-show, which included a brief shot of him with Britney Spears from "The New Mickey Mouse Club". The juxtaposition was very telling.

Ryan Gosling is pretty savvy. He doesn't want attention, and he doesn't get it. He just wants to be known for his work. Though he is now engaged to Rachel McAdams, for this first time at the Oscars, he didn't take her: he took his mother and his sister. It's a conscious decision not to play into the hands of the tabloids.

He knows what happens. Britney Spears claims to want privacy, yet everything she has done has been to directly court media attention.

When Francis Ford Coppola is puffing himself up, i wonder if he remembers Elizabeth Hartman. For her, it was a real risk to agree to star in "You're a Big Boy Now", because she was under contract to Pandro Berman (the RKO producer who was responsible for much of Katharine Hepburn's career, as well as the Astaire-Rogers series and Ginger Roger's RKO solo career post-Astaire). He was furious, and Hartman wouldn't budge, and Berman cut her off. But at that point, she had been nominated for an Oscar for her first film, "A Patch of Blue", and was in the middle of the production of "The Group" (the most expensive movie yet produced in NYC, and one of the most publicized movies of the year). "The Group", though Hartman wasn't the "star" of the film, was a calculated move on Berman's part, to piggyback on the publicity while he was preparing another "vehicle" for her. But she insisted on doing "You're a Big Boy Now"....

Getting a star to commit to his project helped Coppola to secure financing, and he was then able to attract other talent (Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Julie Harris, et al) but it was Hartman who was the first. And she was willing to jeopardize her own career for him.

For a while, on his website (Zoetrope), there was a little tribute to her, but i think he removed it. That's sad.

But this whole idea of having someone in your corner.... in some perverse way, English cinema conforms the "auteur" theory, because if you didn't have a director in your corner, you had no movie career. And it has nothing to do with talent or beauty or whatever. Vanessa Redgrave had Karel Reisz ("Morgan" and "Isadora"), Julie Christie had John Schlesinger ("Billy Liar", "Darling", "Far from the Madding Crowd"), Glenda Jackson had Peter Brooks ("Marat/Sade) and Ken Russell ("Women in Love", "The Music Lovers", "The Boy Friend"). But Diana Rigg had done "The Avengers" and so was a TV star (and in the 1960s, the stigma of being a TV star was still very prevalent), Judi Dench was also doing a lot of TV.

In Gavin Lambert's book "Mainly About Lindsay Anderson", Lambert makes the point that in the late 1950s, the actors that were coming up (and that were being used in plays and films by Anderson and his compatriots, cf. Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, etc.) were from the north country, i.e., "working class". Which was very different from the actors of previous generations. And this also changes the ideals, what actors are supposed to do, what actors are supposed to be.

Online, on one of those message boards, someone asked a ridiculous question: was Marlon Brando really like his character Terry in "On the Waterfront"? Duh... NO! Marlon Brando was not from a working class background. The only reason he wasn't college educatred was because he was a terrible student and dropped out, so he went to live with his sisters in NYC (one was an artist, the other, Jocelyn, was an actress). Through Jocelyn, he pursued acting, and the rest is history. But where do people get the idea that Brando was from a working class background? Are they nuts?

Well, the AICA Awards were the prelude to the finale of the awards season: the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and the MPAAS "Academy Awards" on Sunday. The Spirit Awards were of interest, since i sent in my ballot, so i was curious to see if anything i liked was liked by a majority. Yes and no. But i was so pleased to see that "Sweetland" was able to get an award as "Best First Feature", and i thought that Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps would win for Best Actor and Best Actress for "Half Nelson". "The Lives of Others" was another film which, if people saw it, was sure to impress. However, i had a problem with "The Road to Guantanamo" as Best Documentary, if only because, with its "reenactments" and its actors playing the parts, it's not a documentary. I was impressed with the film, anyway, but my problem was simply its classification as documentary.

I guess what i didn't understand was the love that people seem to have for "Little Miss Sunshine". Not so much understand as underestimate. For the Spirit Awards, i thought it was going to be a sweep for "Half Nelson": not just the acting, but also for Ryan Fleck's direction, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for Best First Screenplay, and for the film, because "Half Nelson" is the kind of well-done, rather-too-earnest film which screams "indie". But no. It was a sweep for "Little Miss Sunshine": Best Feature, Best Director(s), Best First Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin). Wash Westmoreland (somehow i still think of him as Wash West) was so cute about this, by saying how thankful they were to be nominated in a category (The John Cassavetes Award for Best Feature Made for Under $500,000) which didn't include "Little Miss Sunshine". But that's the thing with the Independent Spirit Awards: there's usually a sweep.

The Academy Awards were long, rather tedious, and moderately surprising. This whole thing about "owing" Martin Scorsese an Oscar is ludicrous. No one is "owed" an award. And since Marty is supposed to be such a film historian, surely he knows that Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Howard Hawks, Nicholas Ray, Josef von Sternberg and King Vidor (just as examples) never received Oscars. (Ok, Hitchcock, Hawks and Vidor were eventually given honorary ones, but then, Scorsese was given an honorary one already.) Is Marty saying (with all this crap about being owed an Oscar) that he is better than Hitchcock? Well, yes, he is (of course, he is such an egomaniac). In fact, Nicholas Ray was never nominated as director (his sole nomination was for the story of "Rebel Without a Cause"). Neither were Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, Douglas Sirk, Samuel Fuller, Joseph Losey, Robert Aldrich. (Orson Welles won one competition Oscar, and it was for the screenplay of "Citizen Kane", which Welles shared with Herman J. Mankewicz.)

There are 5,800 members of the Motion Picture Academy. According to information gathered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, of those members, only 110 are African-Americans. God knows what number are Asian-American. I don't really want to go into this, but i'll say this: Oprah Winfrey is an example of what's wrong with the industry. As the single most powerful woman in show business, and one of the richest people in show business period, she could, without any problem, help to produce films for African-American talent. And by that, i'm not talking about performers (Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, etc.): i'm talking about Julie Dash, Charles Burnett, Thomas Allen Harris, Rodney Evans, Cheryl Dunye... Hell, i probably know more African-American filmmakers than Oprah does. But she concentrates on the white establishment, on Spielberg and Jonathan Demme and Clint Eastwood. And she doesn't seem to realize how paternalistic and patronizing the attitudes are (example: the Morgan Freeman character in "Million Dollar Baby"). But that's neither here nor there.

The whole issue of what's independent and what's not really is going to be more and more of an issue as Hollywood tries to preempt competition.

Anyway, Douglas came over to watch the Academy Awards, but we got bored, and kept switching to "The L Word", which Douglas (who doesn't have cable, let alone Showtime) had never seen. What an episode! The episode was written by Ilene Chaiken, and directed by Jamie Babbitt. And it was the most insanely soft-core episode yet. (Actually, Larry couldn't stand the Oscars, so he went to the basement and watched the entire episode of "The L Word" down there.) A lot of fun....

The Gay VN Awards were also this weekend, and Spencer Quest won for Best Supporting Actor, although Spencer has announced (on his blog) that he is retiring from porn.

Well, got to prepare for the start of New Directors....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tonight, Larry and i went to the AICA Award Ceremony, held at El Museo del Barrio. It was amusing, and fascinating to see who shows up, but i feel very removed from it all. I haven't been to an art event of any sort since December, and this is the big week, with previews of the Matta-Clark show at the Whitney, the Jeff Wall show at MoMA, and the various art fairs (the Armory Show, Scope, MASH, etc.). Usually, i go to these, but this year, it was a pass, and i don't care.... so i felt removed from the AICA proceedings, because i haven't seen a single art show (museum, gallery, alternative space) in months....

Do i miss it? I don't know. I caught up with some more French movies, i missed the last one, which was the "gay" one "The Man of My Life" (which Strand is distributing) this morning. But i went Monday and Tuesday. Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One" reminded me of the French thrillers from the last three Rendez-vous round-ups, only those are usually drawn from Ruth Rendel's mysteries. This one is from a mystery from Harlan Coben. But like the ones from past years, it's involving but too long (more than two hours). Benoit Jacquot's "The Untouchable" was intriguing, there are "long" sequences which follow Isild Le Besco through the streets of India very reminiscent of Claire Denis's "The Intruder". (Was Caroline Champetier the cinematographer for "The Intruder" as well?) "One to Another" directed by Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr was one of the better movies in the series, in fact, i felt it was one of the only really inventive movies in the series. (When the credits rolled at the end, i realized that Lars Van Trier's Zentropa was one of the companies producing the movie, and one way of describing the movie is as a development of the Dogme principles, with handheld camerawork, natural lighting, a lot of close-ups.)

Watched Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation" on Saturday. The first 45 minutes were irritating (Larry, in fact, fell asleep); by the time the "band" plays at one of those Williamsburg clubs, Larry was ready to give up. I kept watching, and it grew on me, and by the time of the "group hug" at the end, i have to admit i was charmed.

But Wim Wenders's "Don't Come Knocking" infuriated me. I never understood the talents of Sam Shepard. His acclaim seems to come from a misunderstanding: most of the theater critics who have praised him (such as Robert Brustein) know nothing (and i mean: nothing) about rock-and-roll, so Sam Shepard (by default) has been the playwright whose energy and insights come from rock-and-roll. But the inane plotting and the sheer stupidity... i can't take it! I can cite example after example... but here's one: Sam Shepard is supposed to be a cowboy movie star. Well, if you're an American movie star in the United States, that means you should be famous. But Sam Shepard's character walks off the Monument Valley set of his movie, and winds up in Butte, Montana, and nobody knows him. Nobody recognizes him. Even when he tells them his name, nobody knows it. What? Butte, Montana is somehow not in the US? They don't have TV, they don't get People Magazine, they're the only place in the country that is removed from pop culture? And he's not supposed to be a "new" movie star, but someone who's been a star for decades.

I know it's (somehow) supposed to be "symbolic"... but of what? Of the isolation and ignorance of Butte, Montana? And so i got the feeling that i always do with Sam Shepard's writing: i think, what is this shit? And i want to wipe it off my shoe. And the "poetic" cinematography and the languid editing didn't help. Wenders's technique only made the silliness more readily apparent.

Maybe one reason i'm not missing art is that i've been reading again. In the last few days, finally read Susan Minot. (I'd read some stories in The New Yorker, but they slipped out of my mind.) She's a very stylish writer, and i liked "Monkeys" a lot. "Rapture" was also quite enjoyable. Now i'm in the middle of "Evening". I also spent Sunday reading Gavin Lambert's "Mainly About Lindsay Anderson". I loved it.

Sunday was Chinese New Year.

A lot in the news. The whole media coverage of Britney Spears reminds me of Debra Winger's famous statement, e.g., if you don't want people to know, they won't know. (The reason for her statement was that, when Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn were filming "The Falcon and the Snowman", Sean Penn - at the time dating Madonna - was besieged by the press. But Timothy Hutton and Debra Winger were carrying on their affair, and nobody noticed. And Debra Winger was - at that time - the biggest female movie star in America, having come off "Urban Cowboy" and "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Terms of Endearment". She didn't want people knowing her business, and they didn't. And right after "The Falcon and the Snowman" wrapped, Hutton and Winger got married! And everyone was surprised, the press wondered whether they even knew each other, and they'd been having an affair for at least six months. ) The reason i'm reminded of this is that Ryan Gosling (another fellow Mickey Mouse club alum) has become one of the youngest Best Actor nominees for the Oscars, and he's never let anyone mind his business. Not even in the three years when he was living with Sandra Bullock.

A lot on the Academy Awards. One of the craziest things was Alison Bales wondering why there is the category for "Best Foreign Film". Duh. Because these are awards given by an American industry organization. (Until the 1960s, only ONE movie not in English was ever nominated as "Best Picture" and that was "Grand Illusion" in 1938.) If France, Italy, Spain, etc. want awards, let them make their own. (Which they do, that's why there are Cesars and Goyas and so on and so forth.) But since i can't vote (i'm not a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences) , why should i care? It's fascinating as an indication of what people in the industry are like, but so what? Most of the people i know in the industry have zero taste and zero intelligence (if they had any intelligence, they wouldn't be in the movie business). I remember decades ago when i was helping with the Student Academy Awards: there was one film which was based on a Flannery O'Connor story, and it was beautifully crafted and just so well done. But there was a horrible piece of crap about a retarded boy working in a bodega. It looked like crap, it was horribly written, it was sentimental... and the five industry judges gave it the award! I was in shock. But that taught me a lot about the industry. It's a place where Sidney Sheldon is considered a major writer (who's Sartre? who's Nabokov? who's Marguerite Duras? yet all these people were nominated for Oscars, only to lose to the usual Hollywood hacks).

Since i can vote for the Independent Spirit Awards, i'm interested in seeing what people have actually seen. This year, it's more difficult. But i think Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps will win as Best Actor and Best Actress. (They were my top choices in those categories.) Other categories, i can't figure out.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm still a technological idiot, but now i'm blogging on my Google account. (I have no idea what this means.) In the past few days, have seen a bunch of movies, press screenings from the Rendez-vous with French Cinema series at the Walter Reade Theater, and the end of the Independent Spirit Awards Netflix queue. The last movie: a screener for "The Painted Veil". Surprise, surprise: a very well-done old-fashioned movie. In fact, quite a beautiful old-fashioned studio movie. Except that it isn't a studio movie, it's an independent production. A symptom of what's happening: here is material that was done (twice) as a big-budget star vehicle (in 1934, as an MGM vehicle for Garbo; in 1957, as an MGM followup for Eleanor Parker who had just had a huge hit for MGM in "Interrupted Melody"), now it's being done as an independent with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts (who are quite wonderful). It's well-written (by Ron Nyswaner) and well-directed (by John Curran)... the location shooting in China is spectacular. everything is so well-crafted... yet why was the movie made? In short: in an independent film, there's usually a sense of someone's passion which motivates the project. But Larry and i really liked this version of "The Painted Veil". (Talked about this movie with Ronnie Scheib, who reviewed it for Variety; she said that it is old-fashioned, and it is well-done, and you keep waiting for it to get really stupid or anachronistic, but it doesn't, and that's why it's surprising.)

Now, i still have three weeks on my free Netflix subscription, and Larry and i have decided to see some of the "indie" or foreign releases which i didn't get press screening invites. The first three: Wim Wenders's "Don't Come Knocking", Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation" and the Mexican Julian Hernandez's "Broken Sky". I can't wait. I know that Amy Taubin and Jim Hoberman (among others) really liked "Mutual Appreciation"; Armond White really recommends "Broken Sky". And after that, the Portuguese film "Two Drifters" is next on my queue; i know that Nathan Lee recommended that film. So Larry and i are ctatching up on releases that we didn't get to in 2006.

We did see "Infamous". Very problematic. I don't really want to go into it. But one problem: the "research" is skewed. I'll use an analogy: in "I Shot Andy Warhol", the Warhol that is on display si the gnomic, withdrawn Warhol, the post-shooting Andy. But the Andy of the mid-1960s... he wasn't loud (he was neverloud) but Warhol used to chatter incessantly (this can be seen in a documentary that the BBC did on Susan Sontag, where she goes to visit Warhol at the Factory so he can do "screen tests" of her). At one point, when Capote is trying to interview the townspeople, he's wearing this long fleece coat... which he wouldn't have worn in 1961, because nobody made those coats in 1961. Those were post-1966 fashions. The post-hippie, post-Carnaby Street look. But 1961: no. And the cutesiness of the casting really was a downer. It must have seemed like such a cute idea to have Signourney Weaver (daughter of Pat Weaver, who was head of NBC in the 1950s) play Babe Paley, the wife of Bill Paley (the head of CBS from the 1940s through the 1970s). What a clever idea! And Hope Davis (who can be wonderful, i loved her in "American Splendor" and in "About Schmidt") is hopeless as Slim Keith. Slim Keith is "known" in the oddest way possible....

In 1937, Howard Hawks was directing "Come and Get It" when he embarked on an affair with Frances Farmer. Hawks got into a fight with the producer, Samuel Goldwyn, and walked off the set. (According to Joel McCrea, this left Frances Farmer utterly bereft.) But a few months later, he would meet another husky-voiced, athletic, adolescent blonde, a girl named Nancy that was nicknamed Slim. In 1939, Hawks would attempt to make the first of his "portraits" of Slim: he had Jean Arthur dress in the suits that his wife favored, and she already had the husky voice, but he wanted her to wisecrack. (The husky voice somehow made everything Slim said sound vaguely naughty.) Jean Arthur balked at this, and she and Hawks fought constantly on the set, though there were enough of the snappy dialogue to make "Only Angels Have Wings" entertaining. In 1940, Hawks put Rosalind Russell in the suits for "His Girl Friday". Finally, in 1943, Slim was looking through a fashion magazine when she saw a young model. Hawks took the girl (a New York Jewish teenager of 18) and spent months getting her to lower her voice, getting rid of her New York accent, and putting her in the "Slim Hawks" suits, and turning Betty Perske into Lauren Bacall, the "Imitation of Slim". Hope Davis doesn't have the rangy, athletic hauteur of Slim Hawks. (And Slim Hawks was no fool: she kept her own counsel, but she was also very loyal... her stepchildren, Brooke Hayward and her brother Bill, really loved her, which is in contrast to Pamela Churchill, whom Leland Hayward would marry after his divorce from Slim... Pamela Churchill they hated! But Slim also seemed to have "been around", which is why she wasn't anxious to gossip with Truman Capote.)

The other night, i was watching "Frances" again, and Jessica Lange's performance is very forceful. But (of course) her voice is wrong, but that's ok. Her performance isn't an impersonation, it's an attempt to actually create a rounded portrait.

Anyway, this week, i missed "La Vie en Rose" because of the mini-blizzard on Wednesday. But i did go to press screenings on Thursday and Friday. Thursday: "Blame It on Fidel", Bruno Dumont's "Flanders" and "Ambitious"; on Friday, "The Page Turner" and "The Singer". But there's something so smug about the screenings, i'm starting to hate them. I hate being with a bunch of critics who are nestled in their superiority in how "cultured" they are that they can delight in French films. Especially when French cinema is at a low ebb: so many of the movies are simply polished commercial crap. I almost went crazy at "The Valet", the cute boulevard farce complications were just nerve wracking, and it made me feel like i never wanted to see another French film again.

So much this past week. Ed Halter (online) and Jim Hoberman (in The Village Voice) wrote very illuminating pieces about the Peter Whitehead documentaries now at Anthology. Vivian Gornick had a really terrific piece on Susan Sontag in Bookforum; i liked Jim Hoberman's piece on recent L.A. "neo-noirs" ("The Decay of Fiction", "The Black Dahlia", "Hollywoodland") in Artforum.

I've been trying to convince people to see "The Wayward Cloud", one of the best "new" movies around. I hope that there's an audience for "These Encounters of Theirs", which i really thought was so lovely.

Already, there are a number of great movies that have been released in 2007: Garrel's "Regular Lovers", the marvellous meditative doc "Into Great Silence", "Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams", "The Lives of Others" and the doc "The Decomposition of the Soul", Azazel Jacobs's woozy but charming "The Goodtimeskid", "Two Wrenching Departures", the Rumanian satire "12:08 East of Bucharest", the Russian "The Italian", and the Israeli "Close to Home". Plus "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" will open (one of Ken Loach's best films, i think, with phenomenal performances). That's not so bad, and it's only February!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Since the last blog, have seen a number of movies, nearing the end of the Netflix Independent Spirit Awards queue, and watched some TV. Blogspot has changed over to Google... i think this is an attempt to get more people signed onto Google accounts.

In the news: Anna Nicole Smith died, and it was covered as if it were a major news item. Why? Aside from being a media freak, whatever did that woman do? Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, whatever else they were, were actresses, and were accomplished at something. The whole spectacle of the news coverage and the men coming out of the woodwork now claiming to be the father of her baby... of course, it's a trailer trash joke, but it's too sordid to be funny.

But it reminded me that the point of Marilyn Monroe was that she started out as a "joke", the pin-up girl brought to life, but it was because of her aspirations, her desire to be an "artist" (hence her studying at the Actors Studio and the trajectory of her marriages, from an American sports hero to America's leading heterosexual playwright) and her "accomplishments" (the performances in "Bus Stop" and "Some Like It Hot" and "The Misfits"), that she attained "status". Monroe wanted (desperately) to be "serous": there was nothing serious about Anna Nicole Smith, not even her death.

On Saturday, Larry and i watched "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" and it was an aggravating movie. But it pointed out so many problems that are now occuring in American movies, and so it was illuminating. Just because something is "real" (based on a true story, autobiographical, whatever) doesn't make it ipso facto "good". It's not a work of art just because it's your life. After it, i felt like i needed to clear my brain, so i watched "Sylvia Scarlett" and then the Ealing comedy "A Run for Your Money". I'd never seen the latter, and it was charming in a sort of stretched out way.

Today, watched "The Magnificent Ambersons" on TCM. An interesting note on Matt Zoller Seitz's blog "The House Next Door" (http://www.mattzollerseitz.blogspot.com): Edward Copeland has some questions for the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. One question: is Warren Beatty the only person to be nominated in four categories in the same year (producer, director, writer, and actor) or can Orson Welles also claim that distinction? Well... and here's the bombshell, for "Citizen Kane", the nomination for "Best Picture" is not in the name of RKO Radio (the studio which "distributed" the film) but the production company is listed in the Academy's files as "Orson Welles's Mercury Productions"... so the copyright (which is how the "producer credit" is listed) does not say "RKO Radio"... so Beatrice Welles is right all along: the Welles estate owns "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Journey Into Fear"! And this is from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences! Even in the old studio days, Orson Welles had the copyrights to his films, and NOT the studios! (So, yes, Orson Welles was nominated as Producer, Director, Co-writer, and Actor for "Citizen Kane".)

The studios can't have it both way: Disney has been leading the fight to extend copyright into perpetuity, but then the most celebrated American studio film of all time is under the copyright of one person (and not the studio that funded and released the film) and that copyright is not being honored. If Time Warner and Turner (which have joined Disney in the fight for copyright extension) want copyright extension to be honored, then they've got to pay Beatrice Welles. And the RKO contract (the most lavish contract ever; basically, RKO pledged everything to Welles, final cut and the copyrights and whatever budget he wanted) remains the most "generous" contract in Hollywood history.

My question: has Drew Barrymore ever watched "The Magnificent Ambersons" since the star of the movie, Dolores Costello, was her grandmother?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In the last three days, have seen Tsai Ming-liang's "The Wayward Cloud" ("problematic" but exciting, an uneasy mixture of camp, pathos and porn, but certainly adventurous), Kirby Dick's "This Film is Not Yet Rated" (amusing and informative) and the Israeli drama "Close to Home" (ultimately affecting and illuminating). Tonight will see "Starter for Ten" a British comedy.

Am still thinking about the conversations of the past few days. Tony Pipolo's comments about "Two Wrenching Departures", his feelings of intense emotion during parts of Ken's piece, especially the shots of Jack Smith behind the fence, with the close-ups of his face when he was a young man... and how truly handsome Jack was in the 1950s (before any of us knew him), how vulnerable and open he was.

Ronnie Scheib and i talked about different expectations... she was saying how Variety was having her review a number of the low-end comedies that are coming out, the ones that don't get press screened. So she had to go to a theater packed with kids, to see "Epic Movie", and the audience is attuned to the movie in a way she is not, because her frame of reference is not just limited to TV, yet the preponderance of immediate pop culture references can be alienating if there's nothing else going on. My problem with "Little Miss Sunshine": if it had been a studio picture, i probably would have felt it was bright and charming and funny, but as an "indie" picture, it seemed horribly shallow and slick and empty. Does that mean that i assume that studio pictures are supposed to be shallow and slick and empty, and that that's fine if they are? Why do i assume that "indie" films should be "personal expressions" and not just slick entertainments? I don't expect Gregory LaCava's movies to be "deep", and i certainly don't expect Preston Sturges's movies to be deep, so what's wrong with "Little Miss Sunshine" (which i've heard described - by people i know - as an updated Sturges comedy, and with good reason)? This is a real question.

"The Wayward Cloud" restored some of my sense of film, i.e., Godard's comment about cinema being an art where we praise a work for opening doors. For suggesting new possibilities. "The Wayward Cloud" may be a mess, and it may be "uncomfortable" (what is the line between art and exploitation? when it's porn you know it's exploitation but you also know people have signed up for it) but it was the most exciting film i've seen since "Inland Empire".

Monday, February 05, 2007

Again, it's been a few days since i've blogged, but have been seeing movies. Today, went to the rpess screenings for "Film Comment Selects" at the Walter Reade Theater. Very pleasant. Not because of the movies (three more dour films it would be hard to imagine) , but because it was fun running into people. George Robinson, Ira Hozinsky, Tony Pipolo... Elliott Stein had some info on upcoming retrospective films at the Tribeca Film Festival, a new print of "Stairway to Heaven". Anyway, the three films were the German film "Longing", "Bardo" which was an "experimental" video from Taiwan, and "These Encounters of Theirs", the final film from Danielle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. The Straub-Huillet film was... discreetly beautiful, i guess is a way to describe it. Rather gentle in a passive-aggressive way, which is typical of Straub-Huillet. It's a film of further dialogues from Cesare Pavese....

Anyway, in the past few days, have seen Peter Whitehead's "Daddy" (a collaboration with Niki De Saint Phalle) and his "Pop Films" (a selection of his musical shorts... the one of Nico is particularly stunning), "Brick", "The Dead Girl" and (again) "The Blossiming of Maximo Oliveros". Before my free Netflix subscription ends (on Friday), hope to see "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints".

A tornado ripped through parts of Florida.

"The Dead Girl" is one of those curiosities: it's hard not to say that it's consistent, that it's a sustained and fully realized piece of work. But dreary! Talk about your dose of misery! However, i'd like to say that Marcia Gay Harden is better in "The Dead Girl" than she is in "American Gun".

And i've been reading. Read Karen Joy Fowler's "The Jane Austen Book Club" and am in the middle of her "Sarah Canary", and finished Gavin Lambert's "The Goodbye People" and now near the end of "The Slide Area".

But have been thinking about movies, and am looking forward to seeing "The Wayward Cloud" tomorrow.