A Letter to Momo
Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…
* 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.
An appreciation of "A Hard Day's Night" as its 50th anniversary approaches.
She-Hulk is a feminist hero; Tasteless souvenirs at The 9/11 Museum; Remembering Sam Greenlee; Is Mary Barra standing on a glass cliff?; How to sell a film at Cannes.
John Turturro, actor/writer/director of Fading Gigolo, discusses his career, working with Woody Allen, and cinema's difficulty in capturing true intimacy.
Tragedy strikes at SXSW; Nebulous platitudes and James Franco; TV actors don't need movies; Connecting The Sopranos and Irreversible; Eviscerating Nymphomaniac: Vol I.
Brian Doan wonders if Mark Cousins' "The Story of Film," showing over 15 weeks on TCM this fall, deserves all the praise it has received.
Sheila writes: BAFTA-award winning "Pitch Black Heist" is a 13-minute film directed and written by John Maclean, starring Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham (reunited after their 28-minute one-take scene in Steve McQueen's 2008 film "Hunger"). Here, they play two criminals hired to crack a safe. The only catch is that they must do their work in the dark: any light at all will trigger the alarm. Elegantly filmed in black-and-white, it's a taut fun little thriller with a twist ending. In case the video doesn't work here, you can also view it at Cinephilia and Beyond.
Oh my. Here we go again with all the deathiness. Movie criticism keeps dying deader and deader. Film itself has keeled over and given up the ghost. Cinema ist kaput, and at the end of last month "movie culture" was pronounced almost as deceased as John Cleese's parrot. Ex-parrot, I mean. Then the movie "Looper" came out, posing questions like: "What if you could go back in time? Would you kill cinema?" Or something like that.
People, this dying has gotta stop.
Marie writes: I may have been born in Canada, but I grew-up watching Sesame Street and Big Bird, too. Together, they encouraged me to learn new things; and why now I can partly explain string theory.That being the case, I was extremely displeased to hear that were it up Romney, as President he wouldn't continue to support PBS. And because I'm not American and can't vote in their elections, I did the only thing I could: I immediately reached for Photoshop....
(Click image to enlarge.)
(Photo by Russell Yip, SF Chronicle)
Since I learned Monday that my friend Bingham Ray had died of a stroke at Sundance, I've been tweeting random memories of him. He was 57, but we first met in 1984 when he was 30 and I was 27. In the years I knew him, he worked at New Yorker Films, Alive, Samuel Goldwyn, Avenue Pictures, October Films (which he co-founded with Jeff Lipsky), United Artists, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment... I can't keep track of them all, but I hadn't spoken to him since he moved west in November to head up the San Francisco Film Society. What I can't fathom right now is that I won't be running into him, as I could be sure I would, at a film festival or his office if I happened to be in town, or calling or e-mailing him on a whim... What I treasure most are the things I've been spontaneously remembering and tweeting about, like:
* Bingham Ray was a New Yorker. When he first moved to LA he took the bus [on Santa Monica] to [work at] Goldwyn -- the only passenger who wasn't a Beverly Hills maid.
(He learned to drive and got his license.)
* Great memory: Spontaneous BBQ lunch w/ Bingham Ray, Jeff Dowd, RTJ, K. Murphy, Julia Sweeney & me at the (tiny) 2000 SxSW Film Fest.
(This was one of those coincidences that wound up becoming a treasured afternoon. I remember being so happy to have these favorite people from different yet overlapping parts of my life for so long -- I'd known "The Dude," Richard, Kathleen and Julia since the 1970s -- all together at one table! You just never know which moments are going to stay with you indelibly.)
"Woody Allen: A Documentary" airs on PBS stations in two parts, at 9 p. m. Sunday and Monday, Nov. 20 and 21. Check local listings for airtimes. Also available via PBS On Demand.
by Odie Henderson
I took this gig as a challenge. It's not that I hate Woody Allen; I just don't adore him as much as you would like. Plus, I live in the Bizarro World when it comes to his films, enjoying the ones most people hate and vice-versa. For example, I hated "Match Point," disliked "Annie Hall," and could never commit to "Manhattan" despite its astonishing, heartbreaking cinematography. Conversely, I loved "Deconstructing Harry," found "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" amusing, and I may be the only sane person who liked "Hollywood Ending." These confessions may disturb die-hard fans, but before you vow never to read anything of mine again, you should watch American Masters' "Woody Allen: A Documentary." There you'll discover that Woody Allen dislikes most of his movies, even going so far as to offer to make a different movie for free if United Artists used "Manhattan" for kindling. Compared to that, my "meh" reaction to the gorgeous-looking film is a ringing endorsement. We now know who should be getting your hate mail, don't we?
Not that Allen would care. Robert B. Weide's exceptional documentary makes clear that critical opinion is the farthest thing from its subject's mind. The prolific writer-director has been too busy cranking out a film a year for the past four decades to worry about what anyone thinks of them. You'd have to go back to the studio system's heyday for that kind of output, work that produced eleven solo and three collaborative Oscar nominations for writing. That's two more than my beloved Billy Wilder, who coincidentally never got a solo writing nomination. Add to those fourteen writing nods his six directing nominations, sole acting nod and the resulting three wins, and you have one of the most honored filmmakers in Hollywood history. He can expect a 22nd nomination for "Midnight In Paris," which I cop to liking but not with the slobbering praise afforded it by most critics. (It's like a cross between Cliffs Notes, "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and a Tea Party rally, with all that "it's so much better in the past" nonsense.) The fact that awards mortify Allen makes these numerous acknowledgements the kind of ironic, funny joke one would find in, well, a Woody Allen movie.
Marie writes: They call it "The Shard" and it's currently rising over London akin to Superman's Fortress of Solitude and dwarfing everything around it, especially St. Paul's in front. I assume those are pigeons flying over-head and not buzzards. Ie: not impressed, but that's me and why I'm glad I saw London before they started to totally ruin it.Known as the "London Bridge Tower" before they changed the name, when completed in 2012, it will be the tallest building in Europe and 45th highest in the world. It's already the second highest free-standing structure in the UK after the Emley Moor transmitting station. The Shard will stand 1,017 ft high and have 72 floors, plus another 15 radiator floors in the roof. It's been designed with an irregular triangular shape from base to top and will be covered entirely in glass. The tower was designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect best know for creating Paris's Pompidou Centre of modern art with Richard Rogers, and more recently the New York Times Tower. You can read an article about it at the Guardian. Here's the official website for The Shard. Photograph: Dan Kitwood.
I wasn't old enough to experience the French New Wave first hand. My introduction to the New German Cinema (Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders, et al.) was getting my mind blown by Werner Herzog's 1973 "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" when it was released in the US in 1977. The bossa nova craze was before my time, as was Elvis, but I vividly remember Beatlemania and felt that punk and grunge were mine. It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like to look back on some of the things I experienced first-hand and to approach them retroactively.
I've been thinking about this for a while -- what a pleasure it has been, for example, to see Steven Spielberg develop, having watched his TV movie "Duel" when it was first broadcast and being absolutely riveted; discovering the monstrous phenomenon of "Jaws" when it opened and created the "summer blockbuster" before we had a term for it; witnessing the remarkable suburban double-whammy of "E.T." and "Poltergeist" (in which Spielberg's presence was clearly felt) in the summer of 1982...
But what brought it to the forefront of my consciousness was this (last?) week's Entertainment Weekly cover story touting a big ol' list of 1,000 "New Classics" in film, music, theater, video games, etc. I'm not entirely sure what their definition of "classic" is meant to be, though among the terms they use to describe them are "iconic" ("Pulp Fiction"), "primal work of popular art" ("Titanic"), "quotable" ("Jerry Maguire"), "apotheosis of its genre" ("A Room With a View"), "most amazing" ("Children of Men")... and, um, "classic" ("When Harry Met Sally").
Woody Allen (foreground, center) in "Stardust Memories."
Regarding issues raised by Brian De Palma and "Redacted" (see below): Here are two frame grab from Woody Allen's 1980 feature "Stardust Memories," a United Artists release. The movie is a Felliniesque comedy (it starts right off as a parody of "8 1/2"), not a documentary. The blown-up image on the wall was taken a dozen years before "Stardust Memories" (February 1, 1968) during the Tet Offensive by Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams in Saigon.
From "Stardust Memories."
The man with the gun is South Vietnamese National Police Chief General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan. The man in the plaid shirt, who is or is about to be shot in the head (his death is shown in NBC News footage taken at the same time), is thought to be Nguyễn Văn Lém (or possibly Le Cong Na), and was either a Viet Cong officer or a political operative. His face was disfigured because he had been beaten. The title of the photo, which became instantly famous around the world, is "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon" and it won a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1969. It was widely reprinted and was used as a symbolic image by the anti-war movement.
Adams later wrote in Time magazine: The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'Although a number of "galleries and artists" are acknowledged in the end credits of "Stardust Memories" for the use of photos and artworks in the film, the source for this picture is not cited. The film does contain a standard disclaimer, reading: "The story, all names, characters and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended or should be inferred."
From Dennis Cozzalio, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, Glendale, CA:
When Jim invited me to participate in this survey, I accepted with enthusiasm and then immediately began to worry. Every example of a great opening shot that was coming to mind ("Touch of Evil," "The Player," "Shadow of a Doubt") had already been pawed over and written about to such a degree that I certainly didn’t think I would have anything more to add to the discussion that hadn’t already been said, and far more eloquently than I would be able to say it. And as I continued to drag my feet, I saw some of the off-the-chart top choices I had come up with ("Dazed and Confused," "Kiss Me Deadly") get snapped up and written about, again, quite eloquently, by others. Now, after digging through my DVD and laserdisc collection, I’ve finally come up with what I think are some great ones, and as usual I haven’t the discipline to hold myself to just one.
UPDATED WITH FRAME GRABS (07/14/06) JE: Dennis, the owner and proprietor of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, of one of my favorite movie blogs, has contributed several great shots and analyses. I'm going to spread 'em out over the next few weeks or so -- and try to get frame grabs for 'em. I hadn't seen "Thieves Like Us" since I showed it in the ASUW student film series at the University of Washington in about 1980, and it isn't available on US Region 1 NTSC DVD -- but I found a German Region 2 PAL version through an Amazon.com z-shop importer, DaaVeeDee.
"Thieves Like Us " (Robert Altman, 1974; photographed by Jean Boffety) Robert Altman has had more than one rich, visually stunning opening shot in his long career. From the Panavision image of helicopters racking into focus to kick off "M*A*S*H," to Rene Auberjoinois’ mysterious lecturer announcing a series of avian themes and questions while surrounded by bird skeletons and other classroom at the beginning of "Brewster McCloud"; from Elliot Gould’s Philip Marlowe stretched out on a bed, counteracting the proactive image of Raymond Chandler’s private eye to the strains of “Hooray for Hollywood��? [and "The Long Goodbye" -- ed] to open "The Long Goodbye," to the K-Tel-esque record commercial that serves as the opening credits of "Nashville," to the raising of the flag by bugle call leading into the staged massacre that opens "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson" (proclaimed on-screen with satiric bombast as “Robert Altman’s Absolutely Unique and Heroic Enterprise of Inimitable Lustre!��?), Altman knows how to kick off a movie.
One of his most beautiful opening shots, however, occurs at the beginning of "Thieves Like Us," a shot that artfully prepares us for the somber mood, the deliberate, unhurried pace of the film as a whole, and its naturalistic attitude toward the story it intends to tell, that of the doomed relationship between a young escaped convict and the naпve young woman with whom he falls in love.
TORONTO – I have another few movies to see, and the awards are still to be announced, but Toronto 2005 is basically history, and now what remains is for its many wonderful films to find their audiences. There’s general agreement that this will be an autumn to remember among those who care about good films.
When I moved to Chicago in 1966, the Loop was the center of moviegoing in Chicago, and all the big first-run movies opened downtown before going “outlying” two or three weeks later. Today, there is exactly one movie theater in the Loop: the Gene Siskel Film Center, run by the School of the Art Institute. There are, of course, the AMC River Plaza and Loews 600 N. Michigan multiplexes, and Burnham Plaza at 826 S. Wabash, but technically they’re not in the Loop.
TELLURIDE, Colo. -- There is a scene in Francois Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" where a colony of book lovers pace slowly through the snow around a pond, reciting the books they have committed to memory. This is in a future where the printed word has been banned. At Telluride sometimes I feel that movie lovers are in the same position, now that the pressures of the marketplace have marginalized all but the most palatable of films.
Q. As a member of the Thai culture, I find your review of the movie "Anna And The King" objectionable. Certainly a critic may give a scathing review to a bad movie. However, in this case, you ventured into abuse and insult of another culture. The Thai King Mongkut is known for his initiative well over a century ago to prohibit men from selling their wives and parents from coercing children to marry, as well as for laying groundwork for the abolition of slavery to be accomplished in the subsequent reign of his son, but perhaps the dramatized version of this king was so far from actuality that you compared him to Hitler and Hannibal Lector! What's more, you reminded the readers of a more modern aspect of Thailand in your punch line about Bangkok being a "world center of sex tourism" (a tradition ostensibly established by the king, you said). Are we as readers supposed to find some parallel in an exotic, bad movie and an exotic, immoral country? You described the British attitude towards Siam and the Thai king during Anna's time as "racist and jingoistic." Can you claim your own attitude is much better? (Ekachai Sombunlcharoen, Bangkok)
When she found out her brother Mike had cancer, Julia Sweeney dealt with that fact in different ways. One was to have her brother move into her house so she could care for him. Another was to talk about it every Sunday night in a comedy club.
Q. John Candy's last film, "Canadian Bacon," was directed by Michael Moore, who made "Roger & Me." But it has never been released. What's the story? (Tank Drummond, Boulder, Colo.)
Though I've never personally experienced the Tingler or Ghost-a-Rama, my life as a moviegoer has touched on most of the other legendary film gimmicks.
CANNES, FRANCE -- The great galleon Neptune rides high in the old yacht harbor, attracting thousands of gawkers who admire its weathered timbers, its 18th century riggings and its bizarre 20-foot figurehead. But Roman Polanski's "Pirates," the movie that used this ship as a prop and location, sank on launching at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
"Tron," the $19 million computer thriller from Walt Disney Productions, opened on July 9 around the country, and that was the day most of the nation's movie critics published their reviews. But the critics were beaten to the punch by an earlier reviewer, whose verdict on the movie appeared in July 8 editions, on financial pages. Ever since, the folks at Disney have been pounding their collective heads against the wall because of that advance review.
PHILADELPHIA - "There is this one question, which when I hear it makes me very mad," said Sylvester Stallone. "They all ask me, Will 'Rocky II' save your career? Is this my comeback, they wanna know? Will it pull my career out of the toilet? I didn't think I was doin' so bad. I've never made a film that lost money. If 'Rocky II' was a comeback, I coulda made it a lot more commercial, Like, Rocky coulda been an astronaut."
NEW YORK -- So there I was, sitting in Woody Allen’s living room, up in the penthouse overlooking Central Park, waiting for Woody and meditating on the dimensions of his talent. There must not be, I decided, many people who can simultaneously star in their own comic strip and make a movie the critics call Bergmanesque… and then of course there’s Woody the jazz clarinetist, and Woody’s Academy Award for “Annie Hall,” and the first prize in the O. Henry Awards that one of his New Yorker short stories won this year. How can a guy this successful still be seeing an analyst? How could I get the name of his shrink?