A report on some good films coming your way from Telluride and Toronto this year.
Sheila writes: Filmmaker (and Ebertfest favorite) Ramin Bahrani has directed a new documentary short called "Lift You Up," profiling a man named Glyn Stewart. Bahrani met Stewart in a food bank while filming a commercial in North Carolina, and knew he wanted to make a film about him. In an interview on Rogerebert.com, Bahrani says, "I liked him immediately. He had an electric personality. He was so intent on laughing and hugging everyone, that I assumed he must be harboring a profound sadness. I wanted to know why." You can read the full interview with Bahrani, as well as view "Lift You Up" over on Rogerebert.com.
Marie writes: The West Coast is currently experiencing a heat wave and I have no air conditioning. That said, and despite it currently being 80F inside my apartment, at least the humidity is low. Although not so low, that I don't have a fan on my desk and big glass of ice tea at the ready. My apartment thankfully faces East and thus enjoys the shade after the sun has crossed the mid-point overhead. And albeit perverse in its irony, it's because it has been so hot lately that I've been in the mood to watch the following film again and which I highly recommend to anyone with taste and a discerning eye.
In our many wonderful conversations over the years, Chaz, Roger and I – often along with a step-star step-producer or step-child or two – pushed our inquiries and experiences into the corners of ambiguity to find those images, colors, and sounds where the understanding and commonalities would blend and come together in a Monet Vanilla Sky.
"Maverick" starts with the protagonist in the middle of nowhere. He helplessly sits on a horse; his neck is at the end of a noose tied to a tree branch. The men who put him in this vulnerable situation surround him. They drop a bag containing a snake and ride away. If the horse bolts, Bret Maverick dies. It is one of the most attention-grabbing opening scenes in film.
Marie writes: I love illustrators best in all the world. There's something so alive about the scratch and flow of pen & ink, the original medium of cheeky and subversive wit. And so when club member Sandy Kahn submitted links for famed British illustrator Ronald Searle and in the hopes others might find him interesting too, needless to say, I was quick to pounce; for before Ralph Steadman there was Ronald Searle... "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence onmy life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle."-- John LennonVisit Kingly Books' Ronald Searle Gallery to view a sordid collection of wicked covers and view sample pages therein. (click to enlarge image.) And for yet more covers, visit Ronald Searle: From Prisoner of War to Prolific Illustrator at Abe Books.
Marie writes: Gone fishing...aka: in the past 48 hrs, Movable Type was down so I couldn't work, my friend Siri came over with belated birthday presents, and I built a custom mesh screen for my kitchen window in advance of expected hot weather. So this week's Newsletter is a bit lighter than usual.
Q. I read that "Paranormal Activity," which reportedly cost between $11,000 and $18,000 to make, blew out the opposition pictures with multimillion-dollar budgets. Some of my friends have liked it, but I'm wondering ... Greg Nelson, Chicago
View image Brad Dourif as a doc with a dark turn of mind.
Since I've been feelin' poorly, I have spent the odd evening and weekend with a book (including some fine ones: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and "No Country for Old Men," Paul Bowles' "The Sheltering Sky" [now one of my all-time favorite novels], Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter," among them) and -- alas, most belatedly -- have been catching up with the first season of David Milch's "Deadwood." How to describe my feelings? "Blown away" would be one accurate, but inadequate, way to describe my response thus far. Unfortunately for me, I was so spellbound by my introduction to the program that I exhausted Season One in but a few days, and now must wait for the goddamn, c-----cking US Post to bring me f---ing Seasons Two and Three. (All due respect, and no offense intended.)
For the moment, I'm pleased to share with you -- gratis free -- some words of wisdom from creator Milch (on the DVD extras) and Doc Cochran. Somehow, I think they're all interconnected:
"Reason is about seventeenth on the list of the attributes that define us as a species." -- David Milch
"They say in certain rooms today, you can't think your way to right write action, you only act your way to right write thinking." -- David Milch
"I find that most moral codes are kind of elevated expressions of economic necessities." -- David Milch
"I see as much misery outta them movin' to justify theirselves as in them that set out to do harm." -- Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif)
(P.S. And I would never have known, from "An Inconvenient Truth," that Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim was a f---ing movie director!!!)
I don't usually do this (and have no intention of making a habit of it), but I wanted to share a couple of appreciations of Roger Ebert, on the occasion of his first public appearance (at his Overlooked Film Festival, aka Ebertfest) since complications from surgery last July. I know Roger doesn't want me to turn this or RogerEbert.com into a big bouquet of flowers for him -- but let's just take a moment to celebrate his return to public life (and more reviewing!). Over the last ten months or so, many have written, in public and private, about what Roger and his writing have meant to them, and two recent notes struck me as especially eloquent.
The first is from Ted Pigeon, whose blog The Cinematic Art is a favorite of mine. (Check out his piece about critics and blockbusters, too.) Ted begins by observing: Like so many young film lovers, I first discovered my love of film criticism through Roger's engaging and intelligent movie reviews. His work showed me that film criticism is important, that it can be the source of great feeling and knowledge of cinema, and that criticism is essential to the advancement of cinema as an art form. It is a necesary companion to the experience of watching films for those who care deeply about films.The other piece was e-mailed to me by Peter Noble-Kuchera of Bloomington, Indiana, who recently attended Ebertfest. With Peter's permission, I'm publishing his entire article after the jump. This paragraph really resonated with me:To know Ebert by his TV show is not to know him at all. You have to read him. He was the first film critic to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and one of only three ever to have been so acknowledged. He is the only American critic to review virtually every film in major release. His essays, while without the crabby flashiness of Pauline Kael’s, are marked by the groundedness of a Midwesterner, exacting writing, deep insights, and more than that, deep compassion. More than any critic, Ebert seems to understand that the movies are made by people who, with all their flaws, were trying to make a good film. He is a tireless champion of small movies of worth, and no critic has done more to leverage his influence in order to bring those films to the attention of America.As I've said many times before, it wasn't until I started reading (hundreds, thousands) of Roger's reviews when I was the editor of the Microsoft Cinemania CD-ROM movie encyclopedia in the mid-1990s that I came to appreciate what terrific critic and writer the man really is. I feel more strongly than ever about that after three and a half years as the founding editor of RogerEbert.com. He's so very much more than the sum of this thumbs.
The rest of Peter's report (lightly edited) below...
It was a year when more movies opened than during any other year in memory. A year when the big Hollywood studios cast their lot with franchises, formulas, sequels, and movies marketed for narrow demographic groups--focusing so much on "product" instead of original work that they seemed likely to be shut out of the Oscars, as they were essentially shut out of the Golden Globes. A year when independent and foreign films showed extraordinary vitality. A wonderful year, that is, for moviegoers who chose carefully, and a mediocre year for those took their chances at the multiplex.