Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final Post for now...

Hello followers...what with all of the social networking sites, website, and other fun stuff, our meager staff can't seem to find the time to post unique material to all of our outlets, so we're gonna fold this blog and dedicate all future posts to Facebook (as Notes) and MySpace (as bulletins)

Bloggery was fun while it lasted, but there's a certain degree of guilt that goes along with being unable to truly make this a full time forum.

With that in mind, please consider the following to keep up with us!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

March, March, March Pt 1 - RESTRIKES AND RESTORALS culminates!!

March: It's gonna be a good one - Where to start? The first-runs? The midnights? The classics? The middle? The end?

How about the beginning, or rather what has already begun: The Weekend Classics' Restrikes and Restorals series.

Easy to forget that we undertook the R&R at the new year as 11 films that would cover the weekly Weekend Classics slots (usually Sat-Sun @ noon and Mon @ 7:30 of every week). But due to the almost-first-run nature of new prints, most of these films are expanded well beyond that limitation. Well, dang it if it didn't turn into 13 on us, and I'm feeling that the best may have been inadvertently saved for last. So, here's what we have:

First up are the recent restorations of THE GODFATHER (Feb 27 - Mar 4) and THE GODFATHER II (Mar 6-10), significant among the series as they have been supervised by the filmmakers themselves. Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis oversaw the project for a recent Blu-Ray release, the final result of which was release in accordance with these new 35mm prints.

Following that are two from Janus Films: Federico Fellini's AMARCORD (Mar 13-16), fresh from a successful run at NYC's venerable Film Forum, is enjoying a healthy revival. Originally presented by Roger Corman? That kinda fits.

Just after that is definitely the largest undertaking: the 3-part Japanese wartime epic THE HUMAN CONDITION (Mar 20-25). If you recall our Samurai Festivals of a few years back, you'll recognize filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi's work. His films HARAKIRI and SAMURAI REBELLION made lasting impressions on those that attended, helped in no small part by Tatsuya Nakadai, lead actor in all three of these films and a Kurosawa regular as well. A smash hit at the dawn of 1960's, all-night marathon screenings were said to be scheduled to accomodate the crowds who stayed in the theaters through the wee hours to experience the whole thing. The films, though linear, do stand alone and will be screened seperately as well. The Belcourt will hold only one such marathon screening during these five days on Sunday, March 22nd beginning at noon. THE HUMAN CONDITION is not available on DVD in the US. The Film Forum in NY has a lot more information on the film, which you can read about here.

Closing out the series will be Rialto Pictures' latest project, a restoration of Jean-Luc Godard's MADE IN U.S.A. which, somewhat ironically considering the title, has never had a proper theatrical release in the USA. Take a look at this trailer. The Godard regulars are here as well: lovelorn leading lady Anna Karina, cinematographer Raoul Coutard's cinemascope photography, "David Goodis", not to mention irregular Marianne Faithfull.

Here, in cellphone photo glory, are the complete 9+ hours of THE HUMAN CONDITION:

Odds and Ends - 2/25

- The home-bred MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE sees some pre-SXSW love over at Spout. We expect to see more in the coming weeks as they were given a prime Saturday night slot at the Alamo Ritz...Download a preview EP of the coming soundtrack right here.
- Exec VP at Starbucks becomes CEO of AMC Entertainment. Coffee sales to go through roof as parents struggle to enjoy the Jonas Bros in 3D.
- The doc-centric True/False Film Fest enters its sixth year. In its short time, it's become a popular festival among documentary filmmakers who dig its tastes (not to mention its laid back Columbia, MO feel and its field trips!). I'm heading up there tomorrow and hope to report back right here soon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gone, but not forgotten: New Yorker Films

The entire month of Ousmane Sembene films (XALA, CEDDO, BLACK GIRL, BOROM SARRET, MOOLAADE)
WEEKEND (Godard)
DISTANT (Ceylan)

These are but a few of the films that we've booked through the now-defunct New Yorker Films. It's always sad to see such a venerable institution go down.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sundance Dispatch #6

The last half of the Sundance Film Festival is quite different from the first in terms of circus. Most revelers and scenesters are gone by Monday leaving only those in for the long haul. The lines die down and the whole town in general begins a sigh of relief. Sensing this, and coupled with the anticipation of coming home, my notes grow smaller and the response more muted. That said, I'll leave the criticism to others who might more carefully dissect these films. As a journal goes, here is the last few days of screenings:

Paul Giamatti plays himself in something not unlike BEING JOHN MALKOVICH meets THE DEATH OF MR LAZARESCU. Unable to dredge up the umph to perform a two-week run of Chekhov, he seeks to store his soul (yes, really) courtesy a newly developed company featured in that month's New Yorker with the idea that this will give him a clean slate. Giamatti is fantastic - a pleasure to watch in this offbeat oddity.

Doc on the Doors. No real revelations here other than some good studio footage and some unseen live stuff. Of particular note is what appears to be a detailed restoral of Morrison's film dalliances. The 16mm transfer looks at times like HD, but the narration and archival summation of the Vietnam War over the climax of "The End" is a bit awkward, if not chronologically incorrect.

Distribution Panel at Prospector Square - Don't get me started. You with the smirk who heads a mini-major, talks about community but avoids the art house and, by your own indirect admission, could give a damn about theatrical distribution: Sure, you've seen some ups and downs, but don't you think you might be in the wrong job now? The rolling of your eyes reveals your inability to accept the changes around you. You are in the way. Just go.

Devastating eco-doc about dolphin slaughter in a small Japanese coastal village, THE COVE follows the man who brought us "Flipper" as he seeks to undo the industry that he helped spawn. Perhaps best at home as a Frontline special, any lack of theatrical sensibility shouldn't detract attention from the subject matter at hand. It's put a serious challenge to certain dietary indulgences - like a bitter pill washed down with salt water dyed in Valentine red.

Like THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE, there's joy in the discovery through documentary of things that one knows little to nothing about. In this case, Chris Rock is the host of feature-length inquiry into the mystery of hair - primarily that of black women and weaves. Weaves come from India and run anywhere from $1000-3500? I had no idea, and that's just one tidbit.

Man, wife and child go completely enviro-impact-free for a year. No plastic, subway, coffee and everything else you could possibly imagine. The fatigue of 17 films in 3 days sets in. I resolve to pace myself and leave early. Nothing against the film...just prepping for another 4 days and the big inauguration in the morning. They're putting a screen out on Main Street...

More LA excess a la SPREAD but a bit more entertaining since we at least have Mickey Rourke.

I thought they already re-made THE BAD NEWS BEARS. They did! But not with Sam Rockwell and a high school girls basketball team. Unfortunately, what could have been a lot funnier kinda misses the mark.

Considering the liberation of Nelson Mandela and abolishment of apartheid starring William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Thabo Mbeki. Consolidated Gold, convinced that a peaceful resolution in South Africa serves their interest, sets up talks to advance this agenda which becomes a template for similar negotiations around the world.

Blaxploitation of blaxploitation, if you will. And funny as hell. Big Sony picked the film up for distribution during the festival and they'll put it in wide release sometime soon...

As far as films about the Irish conflict goes, I'll take HUNGER which is coming this spring. James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson play two men from the same town, but divided by the politic and the murder of a brother.

Bobcat Goldthwait directs Robin Williams as a high-school teacher who is fighting the uphill battle with a deeply troubled son whose sexual deviances ultimately cost him his life. Williams redesigns his death as a suicide and must struggle to reconcile his son's bloated image in a school that formerly ignored him. Think HAPPINESS meets ELECTION.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sundance Dispatch #5

Just finished dinner after my last full day at the festival and I'm behind on my updates. My head is spinning largely with conversations about the new direction of distribution, how filmmakers find and connect with a film viewing public in the era of product on demand and how that impacts theatrical distribution of films. I have moments of excitement and moments of terror when the back and forth occurs but am eager to make sure that independent art house theatres have a voice in the conversation. It has been a treat to be here with our seventeen art house colleagues and to begin to formalize a network of like minded community based film houses from around the country to act as a force in the field and a support for each other to ensure that at the end of the day you—our loyal and fantastic Belcourt audience, gets to continue to watch great films from the brave souls out there fighting the good fight to make the kind of movies we love to show.

Now for the films…


Kicking off my day of romance…British film of love lost, gained and struggled over. Lots of beautiful strangers and good music in a parallel story about two young foreigners living in a squat in London. The intersection of their stories is a lovely moment in a familiar feeling film.


Toby largely covered this but I definitely second the Michael Cera thoughts and you’ll have to see it to draw your own opinion on whether knowing it’s fiction as documentary works for you or not. Some great laugh out loud moments for me.


Sort of He’s Just Not That Into You for the indie set. Fun performances by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the kid from Third Rock from the Sun all grown up and leading man-ey) in a good old date night movie (sorry guys).

Lots of love this year…ready for some grim reality frankly.


Nick Hornby’s newest script following Holly-Go-Lightly look alike Jenny (Carey Mulligan) as a young, bright sixteen year old who’s hungry for the world but pushed by her father (Alfred Molina) to excel academically so she can get into Oxford. She meets the handsome stranger and a journey ensues. It’s got great performances including small appearances by Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins (of Happy Go Lucky fame) and feels liken an interesting departure for Hornby. No grim reality yet...we'll see what's up next.

Couple more to go before bed so I'll update from the airport as I come home to what better be a nice warm Nashville. Or else.

Stephanie Silverman

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sundance Dispatch #4

So, it's dinnertime on Sunday and there are a few more films to go tonight. Given a few minutes, here is another round with a little overlap from Stephanie's last post. I had a picture to post, but I thought it in questionable taste. E-mail me if you want to see...

Concerning overweight endurance swimmer Martin Strel whose daily routine consists of 30-50k swims, driving on two bottles of wine and being Slovenia's biggest celebrity/ambassador, BIG RIVER MAN follows his biggest feat yet. Having smashed world records swimming the Yangtze and the Mississippi among others, Martin surprises everyone (including his son who provides a perfect narration for the doc) by announcing that his next feat will be the mighty Amazon. With film crew in tow - and Nashville's James Claur DP'ing the Brazilian leg - BIG RIVER MAN enters its main section with a rotating helicopter shot over the rainforest with an aurual wall of feedback (score by N'ville native Rich Ragsdale), one immediately senses the impending Herzogian slow ride to crazyland.

Chronicling the months leading up to Vogue's voluminous September issue, this slick doc reveals the highest order of the world's fashion scene as it ko-tows to its apparent overlord, the "ice queen" pixie magazine chief Anna Wintour whose career beginnings in the swinging London of the 60s are still evident in her Anna Karina haircut and who has the world's top designers and models quivering in their oversized scarves. Having taken in three dude movies in a row, I'm confident enough in my masculinity to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hard to add too much to the statements of the last dispatch and I'm having trouble dredging up a pithy response. Me like movie. Soccer good game. Agent sleaze feed on naive hicks.

The word 'vaccuous' evidently escapes player-turned-gigilo Aston Kutcher by the girl who hustles as well as he. An apt word for the film in general. Set among the pretty people in L..A., SPREAD is every bit as vacant as its subjects.

Often times, walking into a film having read nothing about it can yield the more pleasant of surprises, especially following a load of crap like SPREAD. This one follows a divorcee and her teenage son from the West Bank to a new life with her sister's family in a small town south of Chicago just as the US invades Iraq. Of course one can guess what lay in store, but the film's celebratory ending signals a cinematic parallel worthy of its timely arrival on the cusp of a new era in America. Did that make sense?

It's a look at Lil Wayne's ever-mobile inner sanctum which consists primarily of ESPN, a laptop, a microphone and a whole lot of weed and cough syrup and soda cocktails (?), which really should translate into quality entertainment. Being fairly ambivalent about his style, I still was looking forward to it. Having done so, I can safely say that I've had more than enough Lil Wayne for now and I needn't think too much about this curious yet uninspiring documentary.

L.A. comic/musician Charlyne Yi decides to make a movie about love, an elusive idea for this quirky skeptic. Traveling through the country, she interviews primarily older couples who have been together for decades but somewhere along the way meets sweet and equally quirky Michael Cera who becomes a co-star in the film due to their budding relationship. This challenges Yi's detachment and throws a wrench in the director's plans. Without getting into spoilers, let's just say that the real Michael Cera is just like the fictional one and that the director must have seen ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO sometime around the end of filming.

The Ravens are down 13-0. Good.

Back soon...

--Toby Leonard