Archive for the ‘in other news’ category

Angelenos, catch Mitch McCabe’s Youth Knows No Pain at the Arclight on August 19th

August 18, 2009

Mitch McCabe’s Youth Knows No Pain premiered at the Film Society on April 28th, and since then, the beauty obsessed denizens of LA have been deprived of it’s incisive, funny and personal probing of the business around the quest to stay forever young.

Angelenos, never fear–Mitch McCabe will be town to screen her doc at the Arclight in Hollywood on August 19th. Chris Kattan will be on hand for the Q & A. Don’t miss it!

Read more about the event

Read the filmlinc blog’s interview with Mitch McCabe

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Scorsese to LACMA: Film Matters (via the Los Angeles Times)

August 12, 2009

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Last month, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art decided to scrap its four-decade-old-film program. We here at the filmlinc blog were saddened to see our left coast brethren lose such a precious venue through which to experience cinematic rarities. And we’re not alone. An active “Save Film at LACMA” page on Facebook is gathering steam, a petition has over 1,500 signatories, and film lovers coast to coast are up in arms.

Today, the Los Angeles Time blog printed an open letter from Martin Scorsese protesting LACMA’s move. Because we think it’s so important to read, we reprint it in it entirety below, but you can read the original post here:

“I am deeply disturbed by the recent decision to suspend the majority of film screenings at LACMA. For those of us who love cinema and believe in its value as an art form, this news hits hard.

We all know that the film industry, like many other institutions and industries, has to be radically rebuilt for the future. This is now apparent to everyone. But in the midst of all this change, the value and power of cinema’s past will only increase, and the need to show films as they were intended to be shown will become that much more pressing. So I find it profoundly disheartening to know that a vital outlet for the exhibition of what was once known as “repertory cinema” has been cut off in L.A. of all places, the center of film production and the land of the movie-making itself.

My personal connection to LACMA stretches back almost 40 years to when I lived in L.A. during the ’70s and regularly attended their vibrant film series, programmed by the legendary Ron Haver. It was actually at LACMA, during a 20th Century Fox retrospective, that I first became aware of the issues of color film fading and the urgent need for film preservation. Ian Birnie, a programmer of immaculate taste and knowledge, has continued in the tradition of Ron Haver, who was so well-versed in cinema past and present. I do not understand why this approach to programming needs to be re-thought. I am puzzled by the notion of pegging future film programming to “artist-created films,” as stated in the letter announcing this shift – to do this would be tantamount to downgrading the worth of cinema. Aren’t the best films made by artists in the first place?

Without places like LACMA and other museums, archives, and festivals where people can still see a wide variety of films projected on screen with an audience, what do we lose? We lose what makes the movies so powerful and such a pervasive cultural influence. If this is not valued in Hollywood, what does that say about the future of the art form? Aren’t museums serving a cultural purpose beyond appealing to the largest possible audience? I know that my life and work have been enriched by places like LACMA and MoMA whose public screening programs enabled me to see films that would never have appeared at my local movie theater, and that lose a considerable amount of their power and beauty on smaller screens.

I believe that LACMA is taking an unfortunate course of action. I support the petition that is still circulating, with well over a thousand names at this point, many of them prominent. It comes as no surprise to me that the public is rallying. People from all over the world are speaking out, because they see this action – correctly, I think – as a serious rebuke to film within the context of the art world. The film department is often held at arms’ length at LACMA and other institutions, separate from the fine arts, and this simply should not be. Film departments should be accorded the same respect, and the same amount of financial leeway, as any other department of fine arts. To do otherwise is a disservice to cinema, and to the public as well.

I hope that LACMA will reverse this unfortunate decision.”

–Martin Scorsese

Save LACMA film — sign the petition here

Seth Rogen: Counter-Revolutionary?

August 11, 2009

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If one was looking in the New York Times’ Op-Ed section today for some opinions on the state of Obama-care or the media negligence surrounding the War in Iraq, one might have been surprised to see instead, a self-styled film review praising the “conservative values” of the films of Judd Apatow

Ross Douthat, the Times’ newest Op-Ed columnist and replacement for the gladly departed William Kristol, chose to wrote his Op-Ed this week on the film “Funny People” and how it was Apatow’s “most conservative” film in a long line of them.

His article, entitled “The Unfunny Truth,” states that no contemporary figure has done more than Apatow, the 41-year-old auteur of gross-out comedies, to rebrand social conservatism for a younger generation that associates it primarily with priggishness and puritanism.”

To make such a claim is to invite sniggers, as how can making movies involving so many Jews, Canadians, comedians, members of the so-called “Hollywood elite”, not to mention penis jokes, make for a “rebranding of social conservatism”?

But Douthat backs it up by citing The 40 Year-Old Virgin as an example of the benefits of waiting to have sex until marriage, calling the ending of that film akin to “an infomercial.”

More noticeably, he cites Apatow’s second film Knocked Up as an example of the arguments against abortion, with its scenes of rushing Katherine Heigl into a difficult choice, put upon by her parents, where she rejects the idea based on that discomfort.

Of Funny People, he claims that it reinforces the institution of marriage, citing George Simmons’s (Adam Sandler) misguided attempt to break up his ex’s marriage despite her two children.

“This time, doing the right thing has significant costs — but you have to do it anyway,” Douthat writes. “This time, doing the wrong things for too long has significant consequences — and you have to live with them. It’s the first Apatow film in which love doesn’t conquer all. And it’s the first Apatow film in which you get punished for your sins.”

Funny People was, now controversially, panned by most critics who saw it as bloated (it was marketed as a 150-minute comedy), but who also saw it as just not funny enough.

While I would say that might be the fault of the marketing of the movie, it might also be considered telling of Apatow’s attempts to be serious about love and loss, or his focus on the methodical ways of the stand-up comedian and their tenuous grasp on maturity through their profession.

In the same paper, A.O. Scott penned a defense of the film Funny People, citing it for it’s ambition, without mention of Douthat’s purported conservative overtones.

Is Funny People the most conservative comedy since An American Carol? Or is it just another movie, well, about Funny People that Americans didn’t seem to get too much?

I would say that Mr. Douthat reads too much into Mr. Apatow, a writer who claims all of his films as autobiographical, and his allegiances. I don’t think it is “conservative” to believe in love, or to have a frustrated sexual life (indeed, many conservatives seem to be enjoying quite active ones). I think Heigel’s character’s choice in Knocked Up was a product of feeling like she was pressured into something she didn’t want, not a reaction against the nature of abortion. Indeed, one might think that someone as assiduous as her character was in that film would have riled if she didn’t have a choice as to whether or not to terminate her pregnancy, which is what a socially conservative position espouses.

Still though, thinking about Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill as counter-revolutionaries espousing Apatow’s conservative message is a lot funnier than looking at a usual op-ed subject like Iraq. Or the economy. Or the job market. Or the housing market. Or Afghanistan. Or…

-Nicholas Feitel, Contributing Editor

Nicholas Feitel also writes for his own blog, Feitelogram.

Cinema for Commuters: Enter the Toronto Urban Film Fest by July 15!

July 3, 2009

I LOVE this idea! The Toronto transit system is hosting a competition for short films, under one minute in length, that will ultimately be screened on subway platforms. According to the official website of the competition: “The Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) is the only film festival of its kind in North America, and one of the largest in the world with an average daily viewing audience of over 1 million. The 3rd annual TUFF is programmed on the Onestop Network of 270 subway platforms screens throughout the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).”

Better yet, the contest is open to us Yankees. It’s true that little time is left before the deadline on July 15th, but cool prizes are at stake. And you can’t beat a captive audience.

Full info here

MTA, are you listening?

Beyond Bollywood: The New India at MOMA

July 1, 2009

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Perceptions of India volley between the extremes of luxurious wealth portrayed in commercial Bollywood flicks and the news beat struggle the forty percent of the nation’s population living in poverty. The latter is a hairy picture for a Western public, to which the outrage over Slumdog Millionaire can attest. With every portrait of a country with enormous divides between class, caste, culture, language and religion, the question must be asked, “Is this the real India? Is this the India that Indians want the world to see?” To its credit, the Museum of Modern Art’s The New India series, sixteen films screened from June 5th through June 18th included thought-provoking documentaries about the reality of rural villages, including Megan Mylan’s film Smile Pinki, and Sourav Sarangi’s Bilal against large-scale Bollywood features like Luck by Chance by Zoya Akhtar, and subtler portrayals, like Buddhadev Dasgupta’s The Voyeurs that raise questions as much about the rise of India in the global eye and portrayals of poverty.

The line between an honest portrayal of rural life and “poverty porn” is fine and often blurry. Smile Pinki, directed by Megan Mylan stays beautifully clear of dangerous territory, recounting the story of poverty-stricken children with cleft lips and their magical transformation upon receiving free surgeries from a charity organization, The Smile Train. The film pivots around the vitality of the patients, a young girl in particular whose courage comes as a unnerving reminder of the astounding resilience of children. Sourav Sarangi’s Bilal is a far more complicated, ambivalent affair, following a young boy living in poverty with blind parents, unsure of itself as a documentary or a more stylistic narrative. Sarangi often films at Bilal’s eye-level, seeing the world from his perspective picks fights with peers and roosters outside of the 8×10 foot partitioned room he shares with his blind parents and little brother. Life is hard, as the parents are led around infamous Calcutta streets and struggle with debt, abortion, and violence portrayed matter-of-factly. Moments of hardship are obviously downplayed and others are not, muddying the line between slum exotica and a tale of real hardship and strength.

India cannot be seen without the role of fantasy and escapism provided by cinema’s ubiquitous cultural presence. Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance transitions from the aesthetic world of glossy Bollywood parties to the humble lives of struggling artists, to the sets gaudy day-time soap operas. The deliberate moves between the glamorous celebrity-studded dream and the reality of an industry run on nepotism and corruption a simultaneous self-consciousness and great love for the industry the film criticizes and participates in. While revealing an industry that thrives on its incestuous breeding of star cache, Zoya Akhtar never loses sight of the impact of this world on the quotidian reality of Indian life across social stratum.

Buddhadev Dasgupta’s The Voyeurs, zooms in a little closer, painting a poetically stylized portrait of contemporary urban Calcutta, telling the sad tale of two young men and the effect of technology and popular culture on their lives in a modern environment run on traditional values. Much of the film is delightfully acted in the saccharine style of old Bengali comedies, the dialogue sing-song theatrical. Old Indian cinema plays a significant role in the film as the two protagonists’ small, circumscribed lives are rendered less lonely by their admiration for a picture of Madhubala, a beauty from 1940s Indian cinema over whom they rhapsodize, sharing woes – another manifestation of the emotional role of Indian film in the lives of Indians across the socio-economic board.

Shaik Nasir’s short brings role of film in the Indian consciousness most emphatically to the fore in Superman of Malegaon which follows the making of Malegaon-ka Superman, a regional parody of Superman whose production is a comedy of errors, the final product is a hilarious mash up, YouTube style. The importance of such a small production in the lives of the desperately underprivileged speaks to the changing nature of film in India and the growing interest in using the medium for poetic statements about Indian life – without compromising the tremendous need for escape that Bollywood provides. In a much needed attempt to offer a deeper look, the series offers a largely textured and broad, if not complete, view of a growing, changing Indian film industry, and in the best testament to the nature of the country, leaves one with a sense of paradox and questioning of perception of the diversity and portrayal of Indian life and cinema.

-Ashna Ali

BAM CinemaFest Review: Beeswax

June 26, 2009

Sprawling yet restrained, Andrew Bujaski’s new film Beeswax is either his best film yet or significantly underdeveloped.

The decision as to which you might believe rests in your own prejudices and the way you view cinema.

For instance, a valid question might be to ask yourself whether you are a fan of the “mumblecore” movement and the challenge to conventional cinema it provides.

“Mumblecore”, for those of you who don’t know it, is a new American independent-cinema among a group of largely white, 30-something filmmakers who believe that movies do not have to be about world-changing events, but rather the intricacies of one relationship or one moment in a life.

A good way of illustrating might be to compare a movie like Transformers II, full of robots, explosions and Bad Boys II references, to a movie like Mutual Appreciation, about a couple of people who think about cheating together, but ultimately decide not to and instead talk it out and do a little dance.

The contrast is rather stark and Mr. Bujalski (who also made Mutual Appreciation) is considered the break-out artist, if not the godfather, of the genre.

So when Andrew Bujalski announces that his new film will be a “legal thriller”, as an audience we collecting wink and wince, trying to figure out how that will work.

And, as a “legal thriller”, I can certainly tell you that Beeswax does not work.

The movie follows a pair of identical twins, Jeannie and Lauren (played by real-life twins,Tilly and Maggie Hatcher), who eke out an existence an Austin, Texas, living in the same house. Lauren is a free-spirit, but also unrooted, who dumps her boyfriend because she feels that she’s only half-in the relationship (“And why is that a problem?” Her rightly-dumped boyfriend asks). Jeannie, her sister, is more responsible handling the day-to-day operations of a thrift-store she co-owns called Storyville, along with the emotional demands of an air-headed new shop clerk (Kay O’Connor). Jeannie’s part of the story adds the “legal thriller” aspect–her irresponsible partner is considering a lawsuit–and also a twist of reality: even though Jeannie and Lauren are “identical”, Jeannie is confined to a wheelchair for reasons never explained.

It is here that another element of the “mumblecore” genre is played with: the relationship between character and performer, fiction and reality. The cast is mostly made up of friends and former actors for Mr. Bujalski. Jeannie’s love interest, a law student who tries to comfort her about the details of the lawsuit that may-or-may-not be coming her way, is played by Alex Karpovsky, a filmmaker who Mr. Bujalski reportedly cast because he “liked his movies”. When Mr. Bujalski was asked about his choice to work with non-professional actors at the Q+A for the film, he said “that my films wouldn’t work without them.”

And indeed, Beeswax does feel like a better movie for its bristly performances. The pacing, while not glacial, seems like the pacing of life in a small subsection of Austin, Texas. In other words, it rings true. However, for all of the unhurried veracity of the film, it might also lead some viewers to wonder: “Well, why did I pay 12 dollars for this?” By the end of Beeswax, not much has changed. In fact, Mr. Bujalski explicitly points out how little has changed with how similar the situations of the characters is at the beginning of the movie is to its end. He is a filmmaker who seems not to believe in telling stories beyond the personal, the simple, the everyday, and the leaves the judgment of value to you.

In the end the satirical element of a “legal thriller” falls flat and feels snide if you view the film that way, or snarky. But one need not.

Beeswax is a film without bees or wax or beeswax. It’s a film that puts you in the figurative meaning of it’s title, “personal business”, the personal business of its characters for a short 100 minutes, before leaving you to your own judgments and life.

For Mr. Bujalski, that’s your beeswax, not his.

-Nicholas Feitel

BAMCinemaFest Review: Big Fan

June 22, 2009

This past year, one of the films I was looking forward to the most was Jody Hill’s Observe and Report.

Mr. Hill, along with his muse, the comic-actor Danny McBride, had had a meteoric rise, starting with the little-seen but influential indie-comedy The Foot Fist Way, going all the way up to the hit HBO series Eastbound and Down.

His newest film, Observe and Report, was billed as the exact sort of edgy, black comedy that he made his name with; a dark, dark humorous-update of Taxi Driver complete with mall cops, bimbos and parking-lot-flashers.

While this was a brilliant idea though, as Taxi Driver is exactly the sort of earnest movie that is rife for parody, Hill couldn’t pull it off and the movie was too grotesque in its darkness and also not dark enough in its light moments to really be effectively comedic. Instead, it alienated most everyone, including audiences.

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It is out of this disappointment that I am glad to say someone has succeeded where Jody Hill has failed: Robert Siegel with his new film, Big Fan.

Big Fan, which had its premiere at Sundance before coming to BAM, follows another pathetic loser, only this time, instead of a mall cop, we get a ticket-taker at a parking lot. This is a man who lives to play not on the football field he so admires, but on the field of late-night call-in sports-radio, where his back-and-forth heckling reaches epic levels against a deplorable villain who goes only by the moniker “Philadelphia Phil”.

Our hero–if he can be called that–is played by Patton Oswalt, one of the few actual actors in the film and this is one place that Mr. Siegel goes dangerously right. Mr. Siegel, whose last script was The Wrestler, seems to have culled the best of Darren Aronofsky impulses from that movie and added it to his own sensibilities. Just as The Wrestler was informed by the backrooms of semi-pro wrestlers, Big Fan could not exist without the real people of Staten Island, mostly non-actors, whose houses the film was shot in.

As a result, the location feels real, as do the characters. Even when the film veers into the parodic, for instance in a gleeful scene mocking TV spots for ambulance-chasing lawyers, it feels true, because, hey, it’s Staten Island and it’s not so hard to believe. Everyone around Mr. Oswalt’s schlub seems to be living it up in such McMansion-mediocrity that his choice to live in a different sort of fantasy world–the world of sports-hecklers–seems almost relatable.

Like Observe and Report, there are many dark moments in the film–certainly most of us would not want to live in this character’s world–but ultimately the film has compassion for all of it and unexpected lightheartedness. “It’s going to be a great year.” Mr. Oswalt says towards the end of the film and we believe him.

At a Q-and-A after the film, Mr. Siegel said that he likes his movies to be a balance between funny and sad.

The Wrestler was about 80% funny and 20% sad,” he said. “This one’s about 50/50.”

He said that he prefers his movies this way because he feels that comedy and tragedy are intertwined, which is true, but that balance can often be hard to strike and it is much to Mr. Siegel’s credit that he managed it.

Finally, it is important to say that I saw this movie in a “packed” crowd. This was the New York premiere and obviously many people who had worked on the movie from Staten Island were there, chanting-and-hollering defiantly. But then again, I feel more lucky than influenced in my assessment of the film; after all, I think if the film was bad, those Staten Islanders would have beaten the crap out of Siegel on stage (a scrawny fellow) instead of giving him cheers and hugs, like they did.

-Nicholas Feitel