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Listen Up Philip

The terrific cast all delves into the material full-bore, which contributes to its peculiar resonance. Perry may hate everyone and everything, but in making a…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#122 July 4, 2012

Marie writes: If you're anything like me, you enjoy a good book cover as much as a good story; the best often speaking to inspired graphic design. Indeed, I know I'm not alone in my admiration...Welcome to "The Book Cover Archive" for the appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design; edited and maintained by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen. On their site, you can gaze lovingly at hundreds of covers complete with thumbnails and links and even the name of the type fonts used. Drool....

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#115 May 16, 2012

Marie writes: Behold a truly inspired idea...Age 8: Eileen's pink creature It started with a simple idea: to make a recognizable comfort toy for her 4 year-old son Dani, based on one of his drawing. His school had asked the children to bring in a toy from home; an emergency measure in the event of a tantrum or crying fit. Fearing he might lose his favorite, Wendy Tsao decided to make Dani a new one. Using a drawing he often made as her guide, she improvised a plush toy snowman. Five years later, Wendy Tsao has her own thriving home-based craft business - Child's Own Studio - in which she transforms the imaginative drawings of children into plush and cloth dolls; each one handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. She receives requests from parents all over the world; there's 500 people on waiting list. Note: kudos to club member Sandy Kahn for submitting the piece.

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#50 February 16, 2011

Behold a most wondrous find...."The Shop that time Forgot" Elizabeth and Hugh. Every inch of space is crammed with shelving. Some of the items still in their original wrappers from the 1920s. Many goods are still marked with pre-decimal prices."There's a shop in a small village in rural Scotland which still sells boxes of goods marked with pre-decimal prices which may well have been placed there 80 years ago. This treasure trove of a hardware store sells new products too. But its shelves, exterior haven't changed for years; its contents forgotten, dust-covered and unusual, branded with the names of companies long since out of business. Photographer Chris Frears has immortalized this shop further on film..." - Matilda Battersby. To read the full story, visit the Guardian.  And visit here to see more photos of the shop and a stunning shot of Morton Castle on the homepage for Photographer Chris Fears.

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Yes, but is it art?

The phrase above was the name I gave to the arts section I edited at the University of Washington Daily. I thought (and still think) it was funny, while it also satirizes the central conceit of writing about culture, whether it's "high culture" or "popular culture." (If I made a Venn diagram of those categories they would significantly overlap.) I still have a rubber stamp that says, "This is not art." I got it about 30 years ago. Sometimes I like to get it out and stamp it on things because I think it is absolutely hilarious -- both as a comment on art and a comment on criticism. I laugh and laugh, even if it's only on the inside.

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The Hollywood studio mentality in one paragraph

Kimberly Peirce.

The first time I interviewed Martin Short (one of my "SCTV" idols) in 1987, he told me an anecdote about his experiences in Hollywood. A typical encounter with studio executives would begin with something like, "Wow! We love you! You did this and you did that and we think you're great!" Followed, almost immediately, by, "And now that we've hired you, don't do that stuff anymore because that's not what we want from you. Just do it our way."

Here's director Kimberly Peirce on why nearly ten years elapsed between her last feature, "Boys Don't Cry," and her latest one, "Stop Loss": ... After "Boys Don't Cry," Hollywood came and offered me some very expensive projects, some very good stuff.... I had one project that I got almost to fruition, "Silent Star," about the unsolved murder of [the silent movie director] William Desmond Taylor in the 1920s. It was wonderful - the story of how Hollywood was built on an unsolved murder and a cover-up. We had it cast and ready to go, and the studio ran the numbers and they said, "We want to make it for x amount of money." And I said, Uh, all right. But then they said, "We don't want to spend that much, we want to spend 10 million dollars less." I said, Well, I don't know if that's a good idea, but I'll go ahead and make the adjustments I can. And they said, "Well, we don't want to see the version of the movie that we're prepared to pay for. We want to see the version we're not willing to pay for."Perfectly circular bureaucratic logic -- so beautiful in its impeccable shape that Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller must be laughing so hard they're crying....

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Bergman and Antonioni: Commercial moviemakers

View image "Zabriskie Point" -- an Antonioni movie on the cover of LOOK magazine in 1969: "Had he violated the Mann Act when he staged a nude love-in in a national park? Does the film show an "anti-American" bias? As a member of the movie Establishment, is he distorting the aims of the young people's 'revolution'?"

Watching Ingmar Bergman's "Shame" (1968) over the weekend (which I was pleased to find that I had not seen before -- after 20 or 30 years, I sometimes forget), I recalled something that happened around 1982. Through the University of Washington Cinema Studies program, we brought the now-famous (then not-so-) story structure guru Robert McKee to campus to conduct a weekend screenwriting seminar. McKee, played by Brian Cox in Spike Jonze's and Charlie Kaufman's "Adapation." as the ultimate authority on how to write a salable screenplay, has probably been the single-most dominant influence in American screenwriting -- "Hollywood" and "independent" -- over the last two decades. Many would say "pernicious influence." (Syd Field is another.)

It's not necessarily McKee's fault that so many aspiring screenwriters and studio development executives have chosen to emphasize a cogent, three-act structure over all other aspects of the script, including things like character, ideas, and even coherent narrative. Structure, after all, is supposed to be merely the backbone of storytelling, not the be-all, end-all of screenwriting. But people focus on the things that are easiest to fix, that make something feel like a movie, moving from beat to beat, even if the finished product is just a waste of time.

The film McKee chose to illustrate the principles of a well-structured story that time was Ingmar Bergman's "The Virgin Spring."

"Shame" is another reminder that Bergman's movies weren't solely aimed at "art" -- they were made to appeal to an audience. Right up to its bleak ending, "Shame" is a rip-roaring story, with plenty of action, plot-twists, big emotional scenes for actors to play, gorgeously meticulous cinematography, explosive special effects and flat-out absurdist comedy. I don't know how "arty" it seemed in 1968, but it plays almost like classical mainstream moviemaking today. (And remember: Downbeat, nihilistic or inconclusive finales were very fashionable and popular in mainstream cinema in the late 1960's: "Bonnie and Clyde," "Blow-Up," "Easy Rider," "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry"...),

It's important to remember that Bergman and his fellow Euro-titan Michelangelo Antonioni, who both died on the same day last week, were big-name commercial directors -- who also helped moviegoers worldwide see the relatively young, originally low-brow, populist medium in a new light: as a (potential) art form. (The Beatles, who in 1964-'65 were the most popular youth phenomenon on the planet, even wanted Antonioni to direct their second feature, after "A Hard Day's Night"!) And if they hadn't been so popular and famous, they would not have been so influential. These guys won plenty of high-falutin' awards at film festivals, but they were also nominated for Oscars in glitzy Hollywood.

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They no like Borat

View image: Borat in New York, a town locate on the eastern coast of United States and America.

In their reviews of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" Anthony Lane of The New Yorker and Armond White of the New York Press make it clear they are not amused. Mostly because they think the movie is about something I woudn't think was funny, either, if I thought that's what the movie was about.

To Lane, Sacha Baron Cohen is a guy who "adopts fictional personae and then marches briskly into the real world with a mission to embarrass its inhabitants." That may be "Punk'd" (or "Candid Camera") but that's the least of what's going on in "Borat," which presents these improvisations in a fictional narrative context that give them meaning (and, consequently, humor). To White, "Borat" is "anti-American propaganda," that "primarily consists of genital humor, scatological humor and jokes about deformity and mental retardation" -- while any praise of the film is "a bit seditious" and amounts to "evil criticism." OK, that movie doesn't sound funny to me, either. But that movie is nine shots of Armond White with just a splash of Borat Sagdiyev.

Lane is baffled by "Borat." White goes off on a comically crude and incoherent rant against Madonna, Andy Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Madonna (again), 9/11, George W. Bush, Michael Moore, Emir Kusturica, the "angry Left’s vicious temerity" and the "self-loathing" of "Borat’s ass-kissing film critics." Yes, in White's six-paragraph review he spews more bilious imagery -- "pits," "sewer gas," "flatulent," "odious," "evil," "stench," "Ethnic-Cleansing" -- than the feature film he's accusing of low blows. (And for some people, inexplicably, everything will always be about Madonna.)

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Brand new film heavies

TORONTO You hurry between theaters, barely enough time between curtains, and one gift after another comes from the screen. Your only regret is that for every good film you see, the people next to you are describing three you missed. This is the payoff after a slow summer at the movies, when it sometimes seemed directors were no longer swinging for the fences, but just happy to get on base.

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Martin Short: 'Cross My Heart'

There's a benefit at Second City for Comic Relief, the stand-up's favorite charity, and word is all over the room that Martin Short is going to sit on on the 11 p.m. improvisational set. Nobody budges when the lights go up after the early show, and there is a certain buzz in the room. These guest appearances by famous former Second Citians have become a tradition over the years, a promise that if others who once labored in wretched anonymity made it onto "Saturday Night Live," there is hope for us all.

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