Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
* 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.
A less kind and gentle Nora Ephron; Ira Sachs' favorite movies about love; Google Glass in film schools; Marlon Brando as cinema's Raging Bull; the impossibility of being literal.
Sheila writes: Thank you all for taking the time to answer our survey! We will keep you posted on any changes that may come about. So let's get to the newsletter, shall we? Jack Kerouac famously wrote the majority of "On the Road" on one long scroll of paper. Kerouac found that taking the time to remove the finished pages off of the typewriter and replacing them with a fresh sheet interrupted his flow. California artist Paul Rogers, who has done ten book covers for Random House UK of Hemingway classic, has created an online scroll of beautiful illustrations for Kerouac's novel. Evocative and gritty, they make a great companion piece for "On the Road". You can see more of Paul Rogers' cool work at his site.
A box set of early Fassbinder films sees him working through pastiches of film noir and melodrama as he fins his way to his distinctive themes and style.
Michał Oleszczyk catches up with two takes on troubled youth: François Ozon's "Young & Beautiful" and Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring."
Ben Kenigsberg looks forward to the parallel programs at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Seasonal anticipation: as 2013 debuted, many were feeling it. The 28th iteration of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, aka "SBIFF," was on the wind, with jazzed moviegoers soon to converge elbow-to-elbow in a familiar, even familial, and happy bustle on downtown's State Street.
I was among the excited, as this would be my third year covering the festival. And for me, extra sweetening would be provided by the tribute to Daniel Day-Lewis, the oft-reticent acting genius whose reanimation of Abraham Lincoln seemed certain to bring another Best Actor Academy Award -- his 3rd, making him the only actor to surpass Marlon Brando, who received 2.
Marie writes: the following moment of happiness is brought to you by the glorious Tilda Swinton, who recently sent the Grand Poobah a photo of herself taken on her farm in Scotland, holding a batch of English Springer puppies!
This week we'll be treated to a big advertising campaign for "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D." I have not seen the film, but I have experienced the process.
Yes, the Scratch-n-Sniff card is back, this time advertised as Aromascope. We have come a long way since Odorama and Smell-O-Vision. Well, maybe not that long a way.
I do not know what Jean-Luc Godard's "Film Socialisme" does because I haven't had the opportunity to see it. But the initial reviews from Cannes are, incredibly, the same ones he's been getting his entire career -- based in part on assumptions that Godard means to communicate something but is either too damned perverse or inept to do so. Instead, the guy keeps making making these crazy, confounded, chopped-up, mixed-up, indecipherable movies! Possibly just to torture us. Many approach the films themselves as though they are puzzles designed to frustrate (and to eventually be "solved"), then they blame Godard for not doing a better job of solving them himself because they're too hard. Herewith, a sampling of New York Times reviews over the years. Just about any of them could be about any of Godard's movies -- and, positive or negative, some are noticeably more perceptive than others. A key with the "answers" (who wrote what about which film) is at the bottom.
1. Mr. Godard sometimes makes his storytelling more difficult than it needs to be.
2. And neither can Mr. Godard make us understand why the wife in his drama suddenly tells him she has contempt for him and decides to leave. Has she lost faith in him? Is she bored? Or is she just fed up with watching him wear his hat all the time?
Evidently, Mr. Godard has attempted to make this film communicate a sense of the alienation of individuals in this complex modern world. And he has clearly directed to get a tempo that suggests irritation and ennui.
Click above to REALLY enlarge...
UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...
Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.
In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)
Reposted from May 2009
I want things to stay the way they always were. This is insane, because they weren't that way in the first place. I see friends who have grown older, and want them to grow younger.
In Cannes, I look around and see a new building where an old one was. A new franchise store where once there was a bookshop, or a little cafe, or a woman who thought she could make a living selling flowers.
Here was a store where I bought my papers every morning, and Tintin comics so I could improve my reading French. Now it is a Häagen-Dazs, which has splendid ice cream but is a company name made of words in no known language.
I would take my newspapers to a little cafe nearby named Le Claridge. That was when all the action in Cannes was down at the other end of the Croisette, huddled in the shadow of the old Palais. Now there is a new Palais. The dusky wooden interior of Le Claridge, where you can imagine Inspector Maigret ordering a beer and filling his pipe, is a bright new brasserie, stainless steel and glass, no smoking. In the old days you could read your paper and be left alone.
Werner Herzog is a regular. One time I met a man in a cowboy hat on Main Street and he was Jimmy Stewart. I saw Andre Tarkovsky and Richard Widmark exchange shots on the Sheridan Opera House stage (though not on the same night). Krzysztof Zanussi translated forTarkovsky and showed his miraculous "Imperativ." Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern strolled around town, hand-in hand, wearing matching seafoam green outfits and white shoes the year of "Blue Velvet." I was greeted heartily by Crispin Glover, who momentarily mistook me for director Tim Hunter ("River's Edge," "Tex"). I bowed down and kissed Hannah Schygulla's hand....
Continued below, after jump...
View image Marlene Dietrich, "The Scarlet Empress" (Josef von Sternberg, 1935). A pivotal moment of (re-) birth after providing her country with a male heir -- though not one fathered by her husband, royal half-wit Grand Duke Peter.
View image "Scarlet Empress": "... one of those extraordinary women who create their own laws and logic..." Beds, dreams, filters.
Memory starts one image pinging off others across time and movies. Ruminating upon the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at the House Next Door (which, obviously, I can't stop doing), I see close-ups flowing into and out of one another, dreams within dreams within nightmares, on themes of memory, loss, identity, the process of consciousness and the end of consciousness -- you know, the stuff movies are made of.
View image "Once Upon a Time in the West" (Sergio Leone, 1968): Mrs. Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) arrives in Sweetwater to find her family slaughtered. After the funeral, she is alone in a big bed in a small room in a vast new land.
View image Final shot, "Once Upon a Time in America" (Sergio Leone, 1984): David "Noodles" Aaronson flops down in an opium den to smoke away his pain and drifts off into a narcotic dream...
In the Godardian spirit of making a movie as a critique/analysis of other movies, here's a free-association visual essay/commentary on close-ups (with inserts, jump cuts, switchbacks, flashbacks, flash-forwards...) that got synapses firing in my brain as I flipped through shots in my memory -- and my DVD collection. Looking back, most of them seem to be filtered, obscured, freeze-framed or reflected faces of characters reaching an impasse or a reckoning -- largely from the endings of some of my favorite movies. I wish I could actually cut the film together, so that I could show them in motion, control how long each shot remains on the screen and fiddle with the rhythms (flash cuts, match cuts, reversals of motion), but I don't know have the technology or the know-how for that at the moment. So, imagine this as a (sometimes perverse) little movie, a "found footage" montage sequence... Kuleshovian, Rorschachian, Hitcockian, Gestaltian, however you want to look at it. I suppose it's also a look in the mirror.
Hope you can see the associations, juxtapositions, oppositions, contradictions I was going for, although I'm not sure I consciously understand all the leaps myself. They just flowed together this way. Feel free to make your own connections. (And, of course, be aware that you may find spoilers surfacing. With a broadband connection all 38 enlarge-able images should load in about 10 seconds.)
View image Final shot, "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (Robert Altman, 1971): The camera moves in on Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), in an opium den while snow drifts outside.
View image Flash cut to final shot of "Petulia" (Richard Lester, 1968): Petulia (Julie Christie), in labor, feels the hand of someone (husband? lover? doctor?) on her cheek just before she blacks out under anaesthesia.
View image Flash cut to final close-up, "Le Boucher" (Claude Chabrol, 1970): Drained and devastated after a long and harrowing night-trip to the hospital, Helene (Stephane Audran) drives herself to a dead end and stares across the impassible river in the cold light of dawn.
View image Flash cut to final freeze-frame close-up, "The 400 Blows" (by Chabrol's New Wave compatriot, Francois Truffaut, 1959): Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) reaches the ocean at the edge of the continent. Where to go from here?
View image Flash cut to final moment of final shot: "Nights of Cabiria" (1957) (Federico Fellini): Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) pulls herself together, puts her game face on, looks into the camera and smiles through tears in a tender moment of quiet triumph. Another of the most famous movie-ending close-ups.
View image Number 74.
I was not familiar with TotalFilm.com, until I spotted a link over at Movie City News.
Thanks a lot, guys.
The link was to a pair of articles listing Total Film's choices for "The Greatest Directors Ever" Part 1 (100 - 49) and Part 2 (50 - 1).
Will I return to this site? I think probably not. Why am I linking to it now? Because it's my shameless attempt to stimulate discussion, which I hope will be on a more informed level than this list. Or maybe it's just to have a laugh. Or a moment of sadness. What do I think of the list itself? Well, let's see:
Baz Luhrmann is #97.
Tony Scott is #74, just edging out Milos Forman, Kenji Mizoguchi, Satyajit Ray, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Buster Keaton, who comes in at #88.
Bryan Singer is #65, two slots below Robert Bresson, who immediately follows Sam Raimi.
Rob Reiner is #35.
Michael Mann (#28) is on the list, but Anthony Mann is not.
Bernardo Bertolucci is... not on the list.
Otto Preminger is... not on the list.
Richard Lester is... not on the list.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder is... not on the list.
Max Ophuls is... not on the list.
George Cukor is... not on the list, but George Lucas (#95) is.
Andrei Tarkovsky is... not on the list.
Eric Rohmer is... not on the list.
Claude Chabrol is... not on the list.
Luchino Visconti is... not on the list.
Vittorio De Sica is... not on the list.
Michelangelo Antonioni is... not on the list. Not even the top 100.
What's worse are the little names they have for each director. Sophia Coppola (#99) is "The dreamer" ("Dreamy, brave and cool, this Coppola is doing it for herself"). Singer is "The new Spielberg." Robert Altman (#26) is "The outsider" -- oops, but so is Hal Ashby (#58). Somebody ran out of labels. Well, at least they are not outside all alone; they are outside together. Sam Fuller (#50) is "The hack." Mike Leigh (#49) is "The grouch." Quentin Tarantino (#12) is "The motormouth."
OK, that's enough. Have at it if you feel like it. If you don't feel like it, you'll probably live.
ADDENDUM: A reader, spleendonkey, describes TotalFilm as a British magazine aimed at teens and pre-teens, designed to broaden their film horizons. For the record, here's the mag's description of itself on its subscription page:In 2007, Total Film celebrates its tenth year of being the only film magazine that nails a monthly widescreen shot of the whole movie landscape. It’s the essential guide for anyone who’s passionate about movies - whether they’re into Cruise or Cusack, Hollywood or Bollywood, multiplex or arthouse, popcorn or - er - sweetcorn. Each issue is pumped full of reviews, news, features and celebrity interviews on all the latest cinema releases. The all-new home entertainment section, Lounge, is the ultimate one-stop-shop for everything you should care about in the churning world of DVDs, books, videogames and, occasionally, film-related novelty furniture. The mag regularly features highly desirable, Ebay-friendly FREE stuff - exclusive film cells, posters, postcards, DVDs… We’re currently in discussions with Health & Safety operatives about sticking a magical compass to the cover when "His Dark Materials" comes out. Subscribe to Total Film now, or forever be belittled by precocious children in discussions about what’s best and worst in movieland.Doesn't sound all that different from Entertainment Weekly to me, but there you go...
View image Wim Wenders' "Kings of the Road" (or literal English translation: "In the Course of Time"). You may recognize the poster image from outside the theater in which "Duck Soup" is playing in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters." This movie can also save your life.
An ad hoc bunch of 51 online movie enthusiasts (online movie critics, bloggers, et al.), organized by Edward Copeland, the eponymous proprietor of "Edward Copeland on Film," recently composed our unordered lists of up to 25 most significant (or enduring or even favorite) "foreign-language" talkies.
Eduardo (as he might be known in, say, Mexico or Spain or Uruguay or Nicaragua or Puerto Rico) took on the gargantuan task of tabulating the ballots and coming up with the initial list of 122 nominees. As he explains: I set a few guidelines for eligibility: 1) No film more recent than 2002 was eligible; 2) They had to be feature length; 3) They had to have been made either mostly or entirely in a language other than English; 4) Documentaries and silent films were ineligible, though I made do lists for those in the future if this goes well. In all, 434 films received votes, not counting those that had to be disqualified for not meeting the criteria.In order to make the final ballot, films had to receive at least three "votes." I'm happy that most of my initial choices made the finals. And there were five I've never seen, so I have these to look forward to: Elem Klimov's "Come and See," Sergio Corbucci's "The Great Silence" (a spaghetti western), Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood For Love," Bela Tarr's 7.5-hour "Satantango," and Hayao Miyazaki's anime "Spirited Away." (And I've never made it all the way through "Amelie" or "Chungking Express.")
This exercise also reminded me of a bunch of movies I need to re-watch, because it's been too long (at least 20 years) and I don't remember them very well, including: Jacques Rivette's "Celine and Julie Go Boating" (always hard to see, but available on Region 2 DVD, at least), Carl Theodor Dreyer's "Days of Wrath," Lucino Visconti's "The Leopard," Kenji Mizoguchi's "The Story of the Late Crysanthemums" (and, for that matter, "The Life of Oharu," which deserved to be on the list and which I have on import DVD), and Edward Yang's "Yi Yi" (which I've been meaning to revisit since his untimely death).
Best of all, the list serves as a reminder that the vast majority of these films, available on DVD, are easier to see now than they have ever been since they were made! Most are just as easy to borrow from NetFlix as "Wild Hogs."
For my Own Personal List, and some observations about the preliminary results, click to continue...
Meanwhile, if any of the participants -- or any readers -- would like to publish their own lists, please feel free to do so in comments! I'll show you mine if...
View image: Dieters at the beginning of the shot.
View image: Dieters at the end of the shot.
From Scott Gowans, Web Manager, WOSU Public Media, Columbus, OH:
I had been reviewing films for four or so years before I decided to take some film courses at Ohio State. One intensive, joyful seminar was the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, whose films had just been re-mastered and were showing in pristine condition at the Wexner Center on campus. His work is both frustrating, fascinating, illuminating, and always puts me on edge. For anyone who doesn’t get him or his work, I understand, and I’m also sorry. He’s hard to watch and abstruse, but when you get it, nothing looks the same anymore. My professor hates the way society attached the term ‘genius’ to anybody who shows above-average intelligence, but he had no problem with putting Fassbinder in the same class as Goethe and Shakespeare. One opening shot sticks with me, though I could site others. The first shot in “Beware of a Holy Whore��? has the camera at waist-level looking slightly upwards at Deiters (played by avant-garde filmmaker Werner Schroeter), who has brown hair spilling over his shoulders, and is dressed in a black cowboy suit. Behind him is sky. Deiters, whose role in the film is an odd photographer, delivers a soliloquy about Goofy (the cartoon character) in drag, who teaches kindergarten, gets beaten up by his students, meets Wee Willy, a gangster who is "the size of a 3-year-old," takes the crook home, and feeds him. Though the police arrest Wee Willy, Goofy refuses to accept that his new friend is less than perfect.
Q. Recently I came across an Italian poster for the 1952 John Wayne movie "Big Jim McLain." In Italy, it seems, the movie was called "Marijuana." Fascinated, I rented the movie, and found out it was an anti-communist film that starred the Duke and James Arness as HUAC investigators out to break up a ring of communists in Hawaii. There was no mention whatsoever of marijuana in the movie. My guess is that, as communism was not considered inherently evil in Europe in the 1950s, they changed the plot of the film to have Wayne and Arness chasing a drug gang. But to do so, they would have had to reshoot a considerable amount of the movie. Is this what happened, or is there some other explanation for the Italian title? (Jeff Schwager, Seattle, WA)
In the 1970s Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a familiar presence at film festivals, invariably clad in black leather, a cigarette always in his hand, a scraggly mustache drooping over lips that seemed curled in constant ironic amusement. He traveled with a pack of friends, lovers and associates, and at Cannes, for example, you expected them all to turn up sometime after midnight at Le Petit Carlton, the little all-night bar where the party spilled out into the street.
The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.
In the autumn march of film festivals, Chicago's comes after Montreal, Telluride and Venice, and is held at about the same time as New York. All of these festivals are essentially fishing in the same pond, so the remarkable thing about the 31st annual Chicago event is how many new or unfamiliar titles have been discovered.
The Chicago International Film Festival turns 21 in 1985, and as its birthday approaches, these are some memories from its long coming-of-age:
Let's hope we meet again, in your heaven, or my hell.
Our film critic, Roger Ebert, steps out into the light, blinks his eyes and shares some of the good memories.
Michael Kutza's year began with a January trip to California to look at the American Film Institute's new stuff. Then he was off to Colombia to help judge the Cartagena film festival, new movies from Latin and South America. He was back in Chicago in March for board meetings of his Chicago International Film Festival.