The Filmington Post

Monday, 1 May 2017

What we learned from the Tribeca Film Festival’s epic Godfather reunion

Diane Keaton: “Why was I cast again?”

Friday, 28 April 2017

A couple of interesting stories from this week

Jeff Goldblum is returning to Jurassic Park/World. This is the best Jeff Goldblum news of the week, bumping news of him handing out sausages in Sydney from the top spot.

Variety is absolutely raving about Sweet Virginia, which we mentioned earlier this month. “One of the gnarliest and most unsettling movies we’re likely to get this year,” they say.

If you have a Rift or Gear virtual reality headset, you can currently experience the Alien chestbursting scene as if you were the Xenomorph. Vive, Daydream, and PlayStation VR owners have to wait until May 11. Cardboard owners (such as me) can eat shit and die.

Speaking of Alien, here’s yet another prologue video, ahead of Alien: Covenant’s release. I am still very excited about this movie, because I adore the originals, but the teasers (and this Audi ad) have left me slightly concerned, unlike Blade Runner 2049, which looks like it’s going to absolutely deliver. But then Denis Villeneuve can seemingly do no wrong.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Bad Batch looks like it could be the next Southland Tales

The Bad Batch is the new film from Ana Lily Amirpour, who made the very excellent Persian-language vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, my favourite film of recent times.

This one stars Keanu Reeves, a guy from Game of Thrones, model Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi, and, according to IMDb but not present in this trailer, Jim Carrey and Diego Luna. So a pretty interesting cast.

As for the film, from the trailer it looks like it’s going to be a sprawling mess. I’m not sure what’s going on. It’s “post-apocalyptic”, which is rather yawn-inducing in 2017, but I have faith in Amirpour.

Having said that, this does look like it’s heading towards a late-night cinema slot a la anything Richard Kelly has ever done after Donnie Darko. Not that that’s a bad thing.

And in case you’re not familiar with Ana Lily Amirpour’s work, here’s an excellent scene from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. But it doesn’t really do justice to the film as a whole, so go and watch it.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Stalker gets the Criterion treatment

Peak Criterion moment.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece Stalker is being digitally restored by the wonderful folks at the Criterion Collection. It will be released in July, but if you’re in New York City (which I am not, unfortunately) it’s also screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in May.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Trailer released for The Last Jedi

The eighth Star Wars episode now has a trailer, and an even better poster.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A man walks into a closed diner…

The Hollywood Reporter has a clip from a film on our radar called Sweet Virginia.

Its synopsis, from IMDb:

A former rodeo champ befriends a young man with a propensity for violence.

In this clip, a man walks into a diner, after-hours, and asks for food. When refused, the situation becomes pretty uncomfortable.

The film premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month.

(Disclosure: The film’s writers, Ben and Paul China, are friends of the author.)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thank you Pepsi for saving the world…

Sometimes filmmaking can be used as a weapon against humanity, like D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, or Kendall Jenner’s ad for Pepsi. It starts out so-bad-it’s-good, but then becomes plain offensive.

I’m never drinking Pepsi again.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Kelly Reichardt Season at ACMI

Beginning April 21, ACMI will be screening four of Kelly Reichardt’s films in a mini season that will run until the May 2. The title of the festival is Certain Women: Kelly Reichardt’s America

From the ACMI website:

Kelly Reichardt’s films evoke the vitality and daring of European and New American Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. From her masterful genre defying western, Meek’s Cutoff, to the astute character studies Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Certain Women, Reichardt spotlights an America rarely seen on celluloid.

I am very much looking forward to seeing these four films again at my favourite cinema in Melbourne.

I encourage you to support ACMI here. Film Memberships are only $25!

The Business of Making Movies

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a film produced by Jason Blum–or will any time soon–but I did find this episode of Planet Money extremely interesting. Episode 650: “The Business Genius Behind Get Out” is a podcast episode about a movie producer who’s only real interest is making money—and how he has managed to have so much success in doing just that.

Blumhouse, run by Jason Blum, makes movies on tiny budgets. They make a lot of movies, and many of them sneak straight to video, if you know what we mean. But somehow, they keep making hits. And it’s happening more often. Get Out, for example, cost about $4.5 million to make, which is extremely cheap for Hollywood. Since it opened in February, it has grossed nearly $150 million.

In this episode, Stacey Vanek Smith and Steve Henn go to Blumhouse and found out how they work, following the director of Fast and Furious as he learns to make big movies on small dollars.

The Cage Cage is a virtual cage surrounded by Nic Cage, Nic Cage, Nic Cage, and Nic Cage

Maximum Nicholas Cage!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury score new Ben Wheatley film

Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise) has a new film coming out called Free Fire, which features an excellent cast including Michael Smiley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, and Noah Taylor.

Its synopsis, from IMDb:

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

The film’s score has been written by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and composer Ben Salisbury, and marks their third collaboration after Ex Machina and the “Men Against Fire” episode of Black Mirror. Free Fire is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music now.

(Unfortunately the soundtrack has a lot of dialogue interspersed throughout, so if you’re only after the score, you’ll want to create a playlist.)

Barrow and Salisbury join an exciting roll call of names in the film scoring world, including Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (Paul Thomas Anderson’s go-to guy), Max Richter (HBO’s The Leftovers amongst a wealth of amazing non-film work), Denis Villeneuve regular Jóhann Jóhannsson, and Atticus Ross – whose Before the Flood (with Trent Reznor, Mogwai, and Gustavo Santaolalla) and Almost Holy (with Leopold Ross) are two of my favourite recent film scores.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Trailer for A Ghost Story

I wasn’t a big fan of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which seemed to prove that only Malick can do Malick. But A Ghost Story looks beautiful and intriguing, and the critical reception after this year’s Sundance has been very positive.

The trailer isn’t kidding you, the film really is shot in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio with the vignetting.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey bedroom scene recreated in new installation

If you’re in Los Angeles and have any interest in Stanley Kubrick or science-fiction, this is a must-see.

A Movie Date With My Younger Self

Mark Caro of the New York Times revisits Harold and Maude after a period apart, nervous to find out if his feelings are the same.

What if it didn’t hold up? What if my obsession had been a sign of callow youth? Some respected critics considered it sappy. I’d outgrown sap, hadn’t I? It’s dicey business to set up your older self to pass judgment on your younger self.

Harold and Maude is one of my favourite films. Whenever I even think of it, its poignancy bubbles up and I can’t help but contend an appreciation for life. Caro’s write-up reminds me that cinema is more than just entertainment, it constructs our character.

What I hadn’t expected was how Harold and Maude would connect me to sensibilities that have become part of my core. Maybe this is why I loved the movie so much, because it dramatizes a way of seeing the world that looks directly into darkness but also emphasizes humor, creative thinking and kindness while concluding that cynicism and despair are dead ends.

New poster for Alien: Covenant returns to Giger roots

The new poster tightly embraces H.R. Giger’s beautiful Necronomicon artwork, with a hint of Bosch.

Action cinema history: Face/Off

It’s time to check in with The A.V. Club again for their year-by-year take on cinema’s most important action films. They’re up to 1997, which of course means it’s time to Face/Off:

Face/Off was the moment that Woo got to be gloriously, euphorically himself in front of the largest possible global audience, and he was not trying to hold back Travolta or (especially) Cage.

I’d go as far as saying without John Woo giving us this the pinnacle of Hollywood’s affair with Hong Kong action cinema, we would never have received The Matrix.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Mamoru Oshii weighs in on Ghost in the Shell casting controversy

The director of the original film on casting Scarlett Johansson in the remake:

“What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” Oshii told IGN by e-mail. “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”

The director went on to point out how a number of actors in the past have played characters of different ethnic groups without issue. “In the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav. It’s all just cinematic conventions,” he explained. “If that’s not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn’t speak English, either. I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.”

I think the Venn diagram of those upset about the casting and those with an actual interest in the original film is two circles.

Update: You can watch the first five minutes of the live-action remake online. Judge for yourself, but my take is that it looks childish, clumsy, and Johansson’s performance looks poorly directed. The shots lifted form the original look like cheap imitations and the approach to the “nudity” feels awkward.

Shia LaBeouf performance art project relocated outside US over safety

The Guardian:

Shia LaBeouf’s anti-Trump performance art project He Will Not Divide Us has relocated from the US to Liverpool owing to safety concerns.

The project is now being exhibited at the city’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (Fact) gallery, as “events have shown that America is simply not safe enough for this artwork to exist”, a statement from the actor’s artistic group LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner said.

He Will Not Divide Us was originally installed on a wall outside New York’s Museum of the Moving Image on 20 January, the day of Trump’s inauguration. The project, which consists of a live video stream of LaBeouf and others chanting “he will not divide us” into a camera, is intended to run for four years, or the duration of the Trump presidency.

“Safety concerns” is an amorphous term. In liberal democracies, safety concerns usually refer to empty threats of violence. In Trump’s new dystopia, this now amounts to Nazis and gunshots fired. The phrasing pegs the motivation on the gallery, i.e. it’s not the violence itself, but the concerns that have lead to the relocation.

www.hewillnotdivide.us

Trailer for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand goes to war against the police after her daughter is murdered.

Welcome back, Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths).

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Every film ever screened at ACMI, a dataset

I started listing the films I watch in a spreadsheet in 2012. I list the date, film title, director, year, country of origin, and how I watched the film (DVD, Netflix, cinema, etc.). It’s a simple list that brings me joy, and I’ve written about it once, but would love to use the information visually sometime.

So, to me, this new ACMI dataset is an absolute thing of beauty. (Also, it’s not every film, but 10,000 is still impressive.)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Filmic Pro for iOS now enables shooting in log mode

A big update to the app that made Tangerine possible. No Film School:

This is a gangbuster free update, with the addition of the ability to shoot in LOG mode getting the most attention, and for good reason. You can now shoot b-roll or steal shots on your phone that could be credibly cut in with your A-Cam footage. However, remember that you’re still encoding to 8-bit H.264 and using a small sensor.

The update adds gamma control features (including a logarithmic curve), but only for the iPhone 7 series (and only via in-app purchase), which leaves most iOS devices in the cold. But luckily it seems the Filmic team are on the case, responding in an email:

We worked very hard to optimize the new capabilities for the A9 processor devices (iPhone 6s/6s+, SE and iPad Pro 9.7) but in the end they were not meeting QA requirements for all settings combinations. We are hopeful that we can optimize further once we complete our transition to Swift 3 (which is underway right now).

The update also features an overhaul of the UI. My one complaint with the app previously was that the interface controls were too difficult to adjust in anything less than optimal conditions (e.g. shooting while hanging off a moving vehicle). The new UI provides very ergonomic arc controls for exposure and focus (or zoom). Couple this with zebra striping and focus peaking and your iPhone becomes a formidable camera.

Space Jam Soundtrack Gets Vinyl Reissue

Pitchfork:

The 1996 soundtrack to the iconic Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, and Bill Murray-starring film Space Jam is getting reissued on vinyl. It’s coming on Record Store Day (April 22) via Atlantic. The soundtrack features R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” plus tracks by D’Angelo, Quad City DJ’s, Seal, Salt-N-Pepa, Monica, Barry White (with Chris Rock), and more. It also includes “Hit ’Em High,” the track featuring Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Method Man, Coolio, and B Real. The soundtrack was released on vinyl in 1996, though copies are currently up on Discogs for hundreds of dollars.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Why the identity crisis in Ghost in the Shell still resonates today

Little White Lies has posted an interesting analysis of identity in Ghost in the Shell. In part:

[…] we see Motoko travelling on a boat through the city’s canal system. She gazes at the buildings and those around her, not with contempt but melancholy. At one point she spots another girl, who is the spitting image of her. They observe each other without registering an emotional reaction. This is the only hint that Motoko might be a model assembled on a factory production line, defined only by her mind. It is only a passing moment but one that conveys a strong sense of loneliness and detachment.

What I find makes Ghost in the Shell so enduring is that it defies any attempt to reduce it to singular interpretation. Maybe the woman in the window is a replica of Motoko, or maybe the scene suggests that both women have augmented their bodies with mass-produced cybernetic parts to a point beyond physical difference? Or maybe it’s our protagonist catching a glimpse of herself in an imagined alternate life?

Independent Copyright Office bill introduced to US Congress

The Trichordist:

Reps Marino, Chu and Comstock just released text to house bill that would make the Copyright Office (mostly) independent from the Library of Congress. This is a good thing for authors, photographers, filmmakers and songwriters. And it’s all thanks to aggressive overreach by radical copyleft academics and librarians.

I had no idea that the US Copyright Office was just a branch of the Library of Congress.

The article goes on to charge that the American Library Association has been cosy with Silicon Valley interests to the detriment of artists for a while now, which seems kinda odd and a bit conspiracy theorist (“radical librarians”). I mean, aren’t these people usually pretty for the sustainability of the Arts? But it makes a bit more of sense when you consider that the library sector exists entirely outside of a commercial framework, subsisting on donations and grants; their world is one of funding vs. the independent artist’s world of revenue.

The Cinema Scope Top Ten of 2016

There are three end of year lists that I look to: Reverse Shot’s, Film Comment’s and Cinema Scope’s.

Cinema Scope rounded out their end of year list by tweeting their top two films overnight. The complete list is as follows:

  1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
  2. Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
  3. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
  4. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
  5. La mort de Louis XIV (Albert Serra)
  6. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
  7. The Dreamed Path (Angela Schanelec)
  8. The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)
  9. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
  10. Silence (Martin Scorsese)

Special mentions: All the Cities of the North (Dane Komljen); Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson); Hermia and Helena (Matías Piñeiro); Moonlight (Barry Jenkins); The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)

I have seen nine of the fifteen films listed. I have not seen: 3, 7, 8, or SM1, SM3, SM5.

NB. Worth noting that Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) topped CS’s list last year. And came in at 3 and 4 on RS’s and FC’s this year.

You can subscribe to Cinema Scope magazine here.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Revisiting The Social Network seven years later

The Verge:

Just about everyone who read [Mark] Zuckerberg’s new Facebook treatise labeled it as chilling — a manifesto declaring that a technology platform is aiming to perform dozens of tasks that would usually be considered the purview of governments. But there wasn’t much public discussion about the most nauseating factor: Zuckerberg took on this role of digital emperor of the world… accidentally. Watching The Social Network, with Jesse Eisenberg portraying him as a bitter child in flip-flops, underlines how nightmarish it is that a person could just wander into this role.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Netflix Replacing Star Ratings With Thumbs Ups and Thumbs Downs

Variety:

Netflix realized that explicit star ratings were less relevant than other signals. Users would rate documentaries with 5 stars, and silly movies with just 3 stars, but still watch silly movies more often than those high-rated documentaries.

I’ve never liked star ratings, or any method of ranking films. People are very good at knowing whether they like a film or not, but very bad at ranking that film relative to others on a finite scale. If we took the IMDb Top 250 as gospel, The Dark Knight is the fourth best film in the history of cinema. This is enough to give most cinephiles a facial tick, but if you look a little deeper, the film is rated highest (9.4) by males under 18. The under-18 demographic has, in general, seen far fewer films than perhaps females aged 45+, who rate the film much lower (7.9).

Thursday, 16 March 2017

LWLies’ 100 Best Films of the 1990s

We can argue about omissions and placings but no “Best films of the 1990s” list is complete without Harmony Korine’s Gummo.

Anyhow, here’s the top twenty:

  1. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
  2. The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992)
  3. Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991)
  4. A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
  5. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
  6. Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)
  7. Public Housing (Frederick Wiseman, 1997)
  8. The Game (David Fincher, 1997)
  9. Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the ’60s in Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1994)
  10. Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997)
  11. The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998)
  12. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch 1995)
  13. Khrustalyov, My Car! (Aleksey German, 1998)
  14. Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  15. Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994)
  16. An Autumn Tale (Eric Rohmer, 1998)
  17. Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993)
  18. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
  19. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
  20. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)

“Okay Pai Mei, here I come.”

The best scene Tarantino has ever done. (Why didn’t Ryan Reynolds think of just punching his way free?)

Ennio Morricone’s incredible piece “L’Arena” (originally from Il Mercenario) is my go-to music when I struggle to start the day.

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Dust in the Wind

Watched this film yesterday. Loved it. Thought this passage in Andrew Tracy’s piece, written for Reverse Shot’s Hou Hsiao-hsien “Symposium,” did a good job of articulating how the film arrives at its gentle magnificence.

The narrow paths of existence which Wan, Huen, their friends and families are forced into does not limit the breadth and depth of their feeling, but rather invests the most minute gestures and objects—a crutch, a squashed metal lunchbox, a watch—with tremendous emotional import. And when Hou’s camera pulls even further back, the unforced pathos of their quotidian lives is only amplified by the enormity that surrounds them. The vastness of the onscreen world and the reticence of the narrative elevate the film’s emotion to a more crystalline level—we are moved not immediately, but cumulatively, with the full weight of what each individual pain articulates.

For those curious to see it (again), the film is available to rent or buy on iTunes. Excellent HD transfer, by the way.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The forgotten world of 90s movie websites

The Guardian has a nice roundup of still-accessible official movie websites from the dawn of the WWW. Highlights include the Saving Private Ryan site, which looks like it was created by someone who actually went to World War II.

For some cynical reason the writer calls the perseverance of these online artefacts a “crime”, but I for one am grateful that the Internet Archive exists to preserve the official websites for Godzilla (1998) and There’s Something About Mary.

Related: the wonderful Jurassic Systems.

The Matrix Reboot in the Works at Warner Bros.

File under: you’ve gotta be kidding me.

Update: The reactions on Twitter are pretty great.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Those on Kiarostami’s wavelength

From an interview with Abbas Kiarostami, in the 2000 July/August issue of Film Comment:

David Sterritt: Who are some other filmmakers you feel might be working on a similar wavelength?

Abbas Kiarostami: Hou Hsiao-hsien is one. Tarkovsky’s works separate me completely from physical life, and are the most spiritual films I have seen—what Fellini did in parts of his movies, bringing dream life into film, he does as well. Thea Angelopoulos’ movies also find this type of spirituality at certain moments. In general, I think movies and art should take us away from daily life, should take us to another state, even though daily life is where this flight is launched from. This is what gives us comfort and peace. The time for Scheherazade and the King—the storytelling time—is over.

Incidentally, I am making a special trip to Sydney next weekend to see two of three Hou Hsiao-hsien films that will be playing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of their film series Asian new waves. All screenings are free and the films are projected from 35mm prints.

Watch Gareth Edwards’s SXSW keynote

Edwards’s talk is bookended with the experience of seeing Star Wars as a kid, which instilled in him a sense of destiny to “help blow up the Death Star,” and of course the fulfillment of that destiny with the release of Rogue One. But it’s the journey between that makes this an hour worth viewing. His career may appear to follow the wunderkind template, but Edwards graduated film school at 21 and was 35 before he made his debut shoestring-budget feature Monsters.

“The reality was I was afraid of failing. What if I go make something, deep down, and it’s shit? And I have to admit to myself I’m not really who I thought I was, that I’m not really gonna be able to make films. So I kept making all these excuses and many years went by, and I played this really unheathy game, which I wouldn’t recommend, on IMDb where I’d look at the date of birth of all my favourite filmmakers and then do the maths on when they made their first film. […] I found that what happened, in my life anyway, is that this fear of failure that puts you off doing something, that chases you through your life, is sort of met head-on with this bigger fear of having never tried.”

An inspiring talk by a gracious, humble artist. He also offers great tips on when to take a sip of water during public speaking.

Sigur Rós Announce Anti-Trump Screening of Inni

Pitchfork:

Sigur Rós have announced a new screening of their 2011 film Inni. It takes place next Monday, March 20 at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland. The event is free, but donations are encouraged, and all proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union “to resist the policies of President Donald Trump.” It’s part of the theater’s “Clinton Resistance Series.” Other films in the series include Thelma & Louise and 1984.

Concert films are a hard sell (I fell asleep in Scorsese’s Shine a Light) but Inni is the most affecting concert film I’ve seen—one of the experiences that leaves you in a state of chills, eyes a little bit damp, wanting to grab onto someone to verify that you both just witnessed the sublime.

The film, released in 2011, was shot on basic HD camcorders, then transferred to 16mm. Director Vincent Morisset explained the process to NPR:

We laid down a big flat-screen on an animation bench and photographed the quicktime rolling with an Aaton camera. We printed a positive copy of the film and then projected INNI on a screen. With hands and different translucent objects in front of the projector’s lens, we were able to distort and transform the image. The handmade effects were then recaptured by a digital camera filming the screen. The music was playing in the dark room. The whole process was instinctive. We shot several times each song and then re-edited the whole film with the most interesting moments. With these multiple generations of transfer we lost details in the image. The mood became dreamy, the gestures and compositions almost abstract.

I’d relish any chance to see this film again in a cinema with an audience. So if you’re in Portland, here are the details.

Watch the trailer for Inni.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Twin Peaks: Nighttime at the Roadhouse

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is about to return to television screens after 26 years (which is almost the sweet spot for nostalgia).

This is an excellent eight-hour(!) playlist of songs that would fit right in at the Roadhouse.

I’ll see you in the branches that blow, in the breeze.

Trailer for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver

“What is your name?”

“Baby.”

There are so many great one-liners in this trailer. I like Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead was fun. Hot Fuzz was also fun, mainly because of Bill Nighy. Scott Pilgrim vs the World was my favourite film of 2010.

Now he’s making a high octane version of Refn’s Drive, it seems. Watching this trailer, I’m reminded of Over The Top, an underrated 1980s movie starring Sylvester Stallone as a truck driver who also arm-wrestles. There’s a scene where he explains the power that flipping his trucker cap backwards has over him. I feel like Mr. Protagonist here—“Baby”—has a similar relationship with music.

Anyway, I’m waffling. Jamie Foxx, John Hamm, and Kevin Spacey (who should be, for consistency really, Kevin Spaceyy) in the same film is okay with me. It looks like fun.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Oeuvre

An interesting thought expressed in the final paragraph of Richard Brody’s blog post about Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay today. I don’t know that I agree with it, but will turn it over just the same…

There’s something special about experienced directors shifting gears and picking up speed. Whether it’s Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee, Terence Davies or Terrence Malick (whose new film, Song to Song, premieres tonight, at South by Southwest, and opens next Friday), the thrill of self-surpassing artistic innovation, of the rediscovered spirit of youth on the basis of deep experience, highlights the very importance of quantity as an artistic quality. A filmmaker can’t change course without being on a course. That’s why the notion of building a career and a body of work is itself a basic artistic value—and why, when brilliant filmmakers don’t manage to do so, the loss is one for the future as well as for the present.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Considering The Rock in the history of action cinema

From The A.V. Club’s A History of Violence series examining the most important action film of each year since Bullitt:

And The Rock did its job. It raked in more than $300 million worldwide. It helped turn Bay into one of the world’s biggest filmmakers; a couple of years later, he made Armageddon. It utterly transformed Cage from an award-bait leading man into a straight-up action star; the very next year, he made both Con Air and Face/Off. And it helped nudge action cinema along in its evolution, turning it into something bigger and slicker and dumber. Because of movies like The Rock, it was pretty much impossible to think of action movies as B-movies by the mid-’90s. They were becoming something else. They were becoming blockbusters.

I just rewatched The Rock last night. Michael Bay is an easy punching bag, but he understands visual kineticism better than any other filmmaker. And The A.V. Club aren’t the first to acknowledge the film’s rightful place in history; it is the Criterion Collection #108.

For bonus points, here’s Every Frame a Painting’s What is Bayhem?

Watch Jeff Bridges bring back The Dude in honour of John Goodman

The Hollywood Walk of Fame now has an overdue John Goodman star, and as Variety reports:

At John Goodman’s Walk of Fame ceremony, Jeff Bridges donned “The Dude’s” signature, quirky, knit sweater, and delivered a typically rambling and hilarious rendition of the eulogy that Walter reads over Donny’s grave in the 1998 Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski.

Both funny and touching.

The Dude abides.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Kiarostami’s Two Solutions For One Problem

What takes Asghar Farhadi two hours and five minutes (The Salesman), Abbas Kiarostami can do in two minutes (Two Solutions For One Problem).

That said, do not miss The Salesman. In cinemas now.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Paul Clipson’s film accompaniment to Lawrence English’s album Cruel Optimism

Lawrence and Paul are both friends and artists I look up to. Paul’s 16mm images have always been beautiful, his rhythms always captivating, but I think this work is his most focused yet. The poetry of his editing is masterful, and there seems a clear theme of humankind’s physical and metaphysical place in the world.

His process is intriguing. From an email:

I first cut everything on my laptop with iMovie and then conform first the workprint to the digital cut (and often show this tape spliced incarnation at festivals, shows, etc.) eventually getting a negative cut and prints made down the road…

Yes, he cuts on iMovie. So much for those “pros” who say Final Cut Pro X isn’t capable enough for them.

It was an intense film to make. Lawrence’s album is very moving, very painful, and epic. His music really composed the film. I’d already shot all of the footage, almost unaware, without thinking. His sounds somehow pulled all of these images together into the poetic constellation you now see.

And from Lawrence English:

In my opinion, Paul Clipson is one of the most vital experimental filmmakers active in North America right now. His work over the past decade or so, has been utterly transfixing and he’s developed an entirely original and personal language of in camera processing of images.

Currently reading

Found in a secondhand bookstore: a copy of Lillian Ross’ account of the making of John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage. Ross is the legendary reporter who has written for the The New Yorker since the 40s, was a friend to Hemingway and Salinger, and is renowned for her remarkable observational abilities.

Her 1950 profile on Ernest Hemingway—“How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?”—is one of my favourite pieces of writing.

From the back cover:

Picture is a literary innovation — The first piece of factual reporting ever to be written in the form of a novel. It is also a revealing record of he Hollywood community—its language, manners, preoccupations, and ideas. Before the writer’s perceptive camera eye pass the figure of studio production head Dore Schary, producer Gottfried Reinhardt, director John Huston, actor Audie Murphy, and an entire hierarchy of talented, ambitious, power-haunted people as they struggle to make The Red Badge of Courage, which they variously hope will be a work of art, a box-office hit, or both.

Hugh Jackman set to play Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann-helmed biopic

Adrian Brody would be better suited to play Enzo perhaps (or, you know, an Italian), but for me the most exciting part about this project is the likelihood of aerial shots of night-testing at Maranello. Eccelente.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

All You Need To Know About The Crying Game

Streamline on the release of The Crying Game in 1992:

Moviegoers were experiencing whiplash with a wild array of films like Unforgiven, Basic Instinct, Wayne’s World, Scent of a Woman and Batman Returns turning into significant hits by year’s end, not to mention indie smashes for Robert Altman with The Player and some newbie named Quentin Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs. It was a strange time.

Nobody really knew what to expect when The Crying Game unrolled with another canny marketing campaign from Miramax, playing up the danger and intrigue of the story without any specific plot details. […] That secret became the centerpiece of the film’s word of mouth and promotions, escalating it to a major national release in rapid time for a small art film and turning it into a pop culture sensation. By the time the film had earned six Oscar nominations (and a win for Original Screenplay), people were still doing an admirable job of keeping the main twist under wraps despite a memorably cheeky parody in host Billy Crystal’s opening number for the Academy Awards.

I remember first watching the film on VHS. The tape lost its tracking right before the reveal and never recovered. It was years before I saw the whole thing.

Here’s Billy Crystal at the Oscars in 1993.

Paul Verhoeven on satire

“What comes out of making a movie can have more depth in retrospect than you really thought while you were doing it. There are, of course, elements in your brain that do these things while you’re not aware of it. You can read all these things into it afterwards, but it’s good that you’re not thinking about them while you’re doing it, otherwise you’re going to preach. […] while we were making it, we weren’t thinking of it as a critical study of the United States, we were just laughing at our ideas.”

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Violence and swear words

The promise Logan makes with us is that it’s more than just another stupid superhero movie ratcheted up to an R rating, that it’s a serious film—oh, there’s Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” (drawing a perhaps too-literal line to Logan’s supposed self-destructive character), there’s the word “fuck” and “fucking”, and right there in the first line of the first scene too, and there’s Logan’s adamantium claws now delivering on the threat to do some real bodily damage. The A.V. Club have protested that “Logan isn’t like its peers, goddammit.” Except that it is. It’s the same juvenile stuff, but with an injection of violence and swear words as a flimsy and insulting disguise as seriousness.

In a perverse way, the added violence means Logan delivers exactly what a certain subset of fans have wanted to see all along. It happens in the first scene. The setup hits all the audience-identifiable markers: our protagonist warns the unsuspecting wrongdoers that they really don’t want to do this, the wrongdoers react with arrogance and aggression, and our protagonist is forced to counteract. The caveat is that unlike his adversaries, Logan has superhuman healing powers, an indestructible skeleton, and knives attached to his fists. The first display of this greater might is slicing off a person’s arm. Given the thick redemption theme, you’d be forgiven for thinking Logan’s preference for 0-to-100 violence is a purposeful character flaw—but no, slicing people up is his sole method of problem-solving throughout the film.

Despite what I had read, there’s no depth of character here, no relationship driving the story, no redemption. The only evidence that Logan is as self-destructive as the film keeps telling us he is, is some heavy drinking. But his drinking never nudges the story one way or the other, or impairs his ability to slice people up. Professor Xavier rasps various platitudes to him, which constitutes their entire relationship. A surrogate daughter/plot device arrives, but the film is too pained at the prospect of drawing any relationship between her and Logan, so keeps her literally mute for the majority.

I was so bored in Logan I had time to reflect on just what was going wrong with adult action films. The best case for comparison I could think of was Terminator 2: Judgement Day—both films employ established characters in a preexisting world, both are about those characters facing their end of days, both play out against the American desert as a kind of prelude to a reckoning, and both feature a man with a metal skeleton protecting a child.

T2 is unmistakably a serious film, but its approach to violence is very different. While our good-guy Terminator rolls some people about, an intervention from John Connor prevents him from ever killing anyone. Sarah Connor too, who competes with the Terminator for coldness, when faced with the utilitarian trolley problem—avert Judgement Day by sacrificing one man’s life—can’t pull the trigger. This is a moment I remember thinking as a child, just shoot him, but as an adult it leaves a lump in my throat: it is difficult to remain moral, and difficult not to. Instead, the violence in T2 is largely perpetrated by the T-1000. The moments the film dwells on its violence derive from the way in which this antagonist combines machine dispassion for killing people (and dogs) and AI inquisitiveness for how to kill to his best advantage. His advance is like a Google algorithm; the evil in both the machine and man’s nature that programs the machine.

However, in Logan, our protagonist perpetrates the overwhelming majority of on-screen violence. Which isn’t exactly bad, but the film’s problem isn’t that a superhero from our childhoods is severing limbs and stabbing people through the head. It’s that this ultra-violence is presented as cartoon/comedic fun, not dissimilar to the slow-motion bloodletting of Kick-Ass or Zombieland. Unlike with T2’s adult approach to violence, we’re not supposed to condemn Logan’s careless attitude toward human life, we’re supposed to revel in it—each graphic death is calibrated to make the man-children in the front row squeal with delight—and at the same time, we’re supposed to laud this as, finally, a story for grownups.

Esquire clears up a Die Hard plot-hole that wasn’t

The makers of Die Hard have just explained a big plot hole in the middle of the movie, and it’s only taken them three decades to give us the truth.

In case you’ve forgotten, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) pretends to be a hostage when he first comes face to face with John McClane (Bruce Willis). McClane suspects that something is off and manages to get away—but it is never specified what exactly set off his alarm bells.

In all the Christmases I’ve spent watching Die Hard, not once did anyone question NYPD cop John McClane’s ability to tell Hans was lying.

Today is the early-bird deadline for Academy Nicholl Fellowship

Conundrum: Do you submit your screenplay today and save $15, or take some more time to polish it up?

Regular deadline is April 10. Late deadline is May 1.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Scorsese on Silence

“I think the whole thing was finally made for $46.5 million. Actually it was made for 22. The rest of that money went to lawyers and lawsuits.”

Sunday, 5 March 2017

This fish is a Giger nightmare come to life

In deepest ocean, no one can hear you scream.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Jean-Pierre Léaud Retrospective at Lincoln Center

Another reason New York City has it better than the rest of us: from March 29 – April 6 the Film Society of Lincoln Center will screen a retrospective of the French New Wave’s boy icon Jean-Pierre Léaud, in “an expansive, 20-film retrospective, presented almost entirely on 35mm.”

You can even see the entire Antoine Doinel series in one day on April 2!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Blackmagic Design Announces DaVinci Resolve 12.5 for Linux

Blackmagic Design today announced that DaVinci Resolve, its professional editing and color correction software, is now available on Red Hat and CentOS Linux. […]

Previously, DaVinci Resolve Studio was only available on a special build of Linux for customers using the high end DaVinci Resolve Advanced control panel for professional colorists.

Considering that the options available for video editing on Linux are somewhat lacking, this is amazing news. Now DaVinci Resolve joins Lightworks as the only other NLE that covers Windows, Mac and Linux.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

New trailer for Alien: Convenant

I was 100% with this until the CGI Alien headbutting the glass. But I’m interested to know the relationship between this and Prometheus.