Monday, December 22, 2008

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them..

8 cans to ship them all and 32 reels to bind them! The complete The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is hanging out in our hall ready for screening this weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nashville filmmakers head to Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival lineup was announced over the last two weeks and features some familiar folk to us here at the Belcourt...very familiar. This may get confusing, so bear with me: Let's start with Brent Stewart's short film THE DIRTY ONES, playing in the shorts program. We showed his documentary THE LONELY back in May as a companion piece to Harmony Korine's MISTER LONELY, the film shoot that it documents. Brent also served as cinematographer and editor on fellow Nashvillian James Clauer's THE ALUMINUM FOWL, a short that made it into the 2006 Sundance Film Festival (and onto our screens later that year). James also will return to Sundance this year having done camera work on a feature film in the Documentary section, BIG RIVER MAN, which chronicles endurance swimmer Martin Strel's trek down the Amazon River. Additionally, both THE DIRTY ONES and ALUMINUM FOWL also share both a cameraman, filmmaker Michael Carter who also shares editing on THE DIRTY ONES, and a producer in new proud parent Harmony Korine. Additionally, THE DIRTY ONES stars Harmony's wife Rachel and the sound mix was done by Belcourt projectionist alumnus Jim Reed. Kudos, gentlemen.

In celebration of all of this, here is THE ALUMINUM FOWL:

--Toby Leonard

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No dream is ever just a dream. Notes on Eyes Wide Shut.

As promised, here is my scrawly labyrinth of notes as used for the Wednesday, December 3rd screening of Eyes Wide Shut.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Criterion Collection steps it up...again

We thought it noteworthy that our friends at the Criterion Collection have not only overhauled their website, but made it much more interactive. Not only is there a lot of exploring to be done, but the coolest feature is probably the fact that they are making films available for $5 rental online. Not only are they good quality, but that $5 can be used toward the purchase of the hard copy itself. Film school in a box, that Criterion Collection.

Check out the 4 minute video and take it from there...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Considering the perils...

With the challenges inherent in screening often-aged 35mm prints, we're no strangers of screenings gone awry. Today, we pause again to consider the often-foretold evidently-impeding advent of digital cinema. Any time now, we're told. Being an organization bringing a mix of new and classic film, we, by nature, are/have been struggling to reconcile film's future with its past. So, it is with great interest that reports of recent high-profile digital screenings have notably gone awry with some of the major proponents of d-cinema in attendance, and press to cover it. Just Thursday, Paramount's VIP screening of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON was cancelled when it became apparent that there would be no red. Additionally, a recent industry screening of CHE was botched when it became apparent that there would be no subtitles (oddly enough, they showed up later on a seperate screening of DOUBT, an English language film).

For an organization like the Belcourt, the ramifications of digital cinema are pretty big and would a huge investment in materials that could be subject to expensive upgrades as the tweaks are worked out. We have witnessed at world-class film festivals such exhibitions of world-class digital gear to nary a fault, but the difference in depth, atmosphere and similar intangibles don't quite live up to the glow of 35mm film. This is the world where the history of cinema lives. However, and this could be the subject of an entirely different post, one must consider The Way We Live Now.

--Toby Leonard

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kubrick Addendum #2: 2012 teaser trailer (?)

In honor of next week's Thanksgiving screenings of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, feel free to file this under WTF:

Starring John Cusack and directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow) comes a stretch of the apocalyptic order. But really now: Is it a second sequel to 2001 or a first sequel for THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW? You be the judge. Comes free with theme music stolen from THE SHINING.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gone, but not forgotten: Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)

In celebration of the South African songstress, who has passed away following a collapse onstage in Italy....

We'll be seeing her onscreen again soon with the coming release of SOUL POWER. Currently making the festival rounds, the film follows the organization and implementation of the music festival that was to accompany the "Rumble in the Jungle" Ali vs Foreman fight of 1974 in then-Zaire. The fight itself was delayed, but the music played on: a cross-cultural matching of James Brown, Bill Withers, Spinners etc with their African superstar counterparts of the time represented by Afrisa, Franco and Miriam Makeba.

Gone, but not's "Qongqothwane" or rather, "The Click Song"...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trailer du jour: CHE

Can't help passing this one along. There's a bit of interest about this here CHE flick, as well as a small bit of diverging opinion around the campfire among those of us who've seen it. At any rate, the film will do its "Academy Run" in NY/LA before the end of the year followed by a platform release in January (a Nashville date would likely be in February).

At any rate, here's the recently release international trailer for Steven Soderbergh's two-part, four-hour-plus CHE. Dig:

Kubrick Addendum #1: Post-Election fodder

Now that the election's over, what are you gonna do? Well, you might take note of a solid piece of online viewing courtesy of Jon Ronson. Invited to the Kubrick estate to go through thousands of boxes containing a lifetime of the director's packrat possessions, the resulting documentary is one high-quality piece of work. It's essential viewing for those of you planning on taking in any amount of our current Kubrick retrospective.

Here's Part 1/5 of STANLEY KUBRICK'S BOXES. The rest can be found by double-clicking the video below:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week IV

A remarkable single-shot short about the process of loss, told completely in silhouette. Just remarkable.

LA MUJER SIN CABEZA (The Headless Woman)
Take the skeleton of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, then send it wandering off into the last half hour of Mulholland Drive but preparing for a Last Weekend at Marienbad, and you have the idea of where this remarkable mindmelter from Argentina's Lucrecia Martel. It so much subtler than any of those films, though, and filled with so much possibility. This and Synecdoche, NY are proving the films from this northward sojourn that I want to dwell in repeatedly, again and again. If there is any justice, this film will get some kind of further distribution.

C'EST DUR D'ETRE AIME PAR DES CONS (It's Hard Being Loved by Jerks)
A battering ram of a documentary that illustrates the trial of the publishers and editorial staff of French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which printed those infamous twelve cartoons which portrayed the prophet Mohammed. The film has countless things to say about the role of the press and the courts and religious authorities, and all of it is pretty fascinating even if lack of access to the actual courtroom proceedings lends a surreal air to the whole thing. Certainly worth seeing, and as provocative a way as any for me to finish up my time at the 46th Annual New York Film Festival.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week III

Week Three of the NYFF is what we like to call the big ticket week. This was when the big names and the big films showed up, with longer lines and security searches.

A/K/A Che Part I. We were shown what is being called The Roadshow Presentation, which has no credits or specific differentiation of title, so I'm going from the standard titling of the two. This was a cinemascope biopic on the rise of Che, with the occasional high-contrast black & white interlude from his speech before the UN in the early sixties. It jumps around in time a bit, but you're always kept at a distance from the material. It's well-acted, but it's not all that.

A/K/A Che Part II, when everything gets kind of nuts and handheld and 1.85 and visceral. Guerilla is not quite Tropical Malady, but it's damned close, and both as an extended thinkpiece and an emotionally draining experience, here's what makes it all worthwhile. It's good enough to mkae me realize and acknowledge that The Argentine is pretty good as well. But in the battle of the Ches, put me down solidly for Part II. IFC Films has this for the U.S., and in Nashville, that usually means Belcourt. So send in your eMails and bloggables if you want to show some Che pride, or are intrigued at exploring the fall of such an absolutist ideology. Either way, there's something here for you.

Cutesy short about love truly being a universal language. Not essential, but not unpleasant.

L'HEURE D'ETE (Summer Hours)
Following up his globalization trilogy (Demonlover, Clean, and Boarding Gate), Olivier Assayas turns his focus on the family and makes one of the most beautiful and restrained dramas of the year. One mother, three children, five grandchildren, two dogs, a housekeeper, and an exquisite country house. There are no big scenes, no flare-ups or crying jags, just a rapturous dive into the eddies and whorls of the time we spend as families. This one's my first four-star feature at NYFF08 (hopefully not the only), and IFC has it for the US. Keep an eye out for this one, it will floor you. Bring Mom and Dad with you as well.

An interesting (and non-maliciously deeply misogynist) short from Germany about loneliness and store policies. It would seem to clever for its own good were it not so devastating.

And the Academy Award goes to... Mickey Rourke. The story is conventional, and it appears our boy Darren Aronofsky's been watching some Dardenne brothers films in the past few years. But it's edited like a normal movie, and Rourke (and Marisa Tomei) are just exceptional. The story is pretty conventional, so it plays against Aronfsky's arthouse instincts beautifully. And how can you not love a film whose soundtrack is half 80s hair metal and half trap-rap. The way that Guns 'n Roses's "Sweet Child O' Mine" is used in this movie made me tear up like a damned fool.Fox Searchlight is releasing this in NYC and L.A. on December 19th, with the rest of the country to follow soon after.

A three-minute documentary that is effective and scarring.

The good news is that Clint Eastwood is still an amazing director, Angelina Jolie knocks it out of the park, there are quite a few moments that are of unearthly power, and it starts with the old-school Universal logo from way back in the day. The bad news is that the script is a mess, it's way too long, and there are a few scenes (mostly involving a necessary subplot) that are just embarrassing to behold. This one makes some of the same mistakes that Mystic River did, and it makes them bigger. Am I jaded because hyperstylized and violent representations of violence against children just don't affect me anymore? I should be horrified seeing axe murders and nonconsensual electroconvulsive therapy, but none of that holds a candle to some of Angelina's scenes with the child-who-is-not-hers. Worth seeing, absolutely. But one of Clint's best? No.

The latest evolution in Mafia movies. A colleague compared it to The Wire and found it wanting. There's some tense moments, and its indictment of blustery machismo is refreshing, but after two-plus hours, I just wanted everyone to get shot in a surprise fashion and for the thing to be over with. That said, a couple of connoisseurs of gangster films said it was a spectacular acheivement, so go with that if you're so inclinced. IFC has it for the US, so it'll be around.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week II

Well, week two is definitely best described as full of frustration. With two stellar exceptions, nothing really knocked it out of the park, though nothing was terribly awful (though some would disagree).

This film aims to be an expose of what life is really like in the age of voyeuristic video and violated civil liberties, while at the same time getting at what's really going on with these kids today. Every time I was ready to walk out, something amazing would happen, and every time I was ready to love this film, it did something incredibly stupid. Also, it's one of those films that seems to think that shock is a valuable tool when used without context. It's not. This si the kind of film that it's very easy to overrate. I'm interested in what director Antonio Campos comes up with next, and the frame composition is among the best I've ever seen. But still, it's just not all that.

DEMAIN PEUT-ETRE (Maybe Tomorrow)
An exceptional French short about identity, race, and observation. Haunting, and with any luck it may pop up in the shorts program at the '09 Nashville Film Festival.

SERBIS (Service)
Family travails, in and around a four-story moviehouse in Angeles City in the Philippines. Lots of betrayal, hardcore sex, transsexual gender shenanigans, and through it all, the inescapable sounds of the modern city. Oh, and an extended plot point about pus. Regent Releasing has this for the U.S., which means it will get a small-scale release in NYC, L.A., San Francisco, and possibly in cities with high Filipino populations and/or Tagalog speakers, then come out on DVD shortly thereafter. So much gets crammed into 93 minutes that you almost wish the director had made a miniseries out of it- the setting and characters are rich, but there's so much left unsaid or seen.

TIRO EN LA CABEZA (Bullet in the Head)
This was the screening where a significant portion of the press corps lost their mind. The film is, for all intents and purposes, silent. We hear ambient sounds, consistent with the placement of the camera (almost always far away), but even when we're in the same room as the main characters, they speak but no sound comes out. It's meant to be an allegory about how hard it is to understand what motivates horrifying acts of violence, and it works- sort of. But people HATED this movie. Eh, it's interesting. But it would work better as a short.

Pretty damned amazing, this one. It's a great political film, a savage prison movie, an effective procedural, and rife full of possibilities for theological and political debate. There's a central reel-length conversation that easily ranks among the finest of the year, and it's always interesting to see what happens when artists from other media give film a try. IFC Films has this for distribution, and they're aiming for March 09 for a release. I'm not sure when it'll play here, but I'll lay down dollars that it will play in Nashville at some point.

A delight. A frothy (but slightly edgy) comedy from Mike Leigh? Perish the thought. But this film is like a big goofy drunken British hug, and I can't wait to see how audiences take to it. This opens on Halloween at the Belcourt, and mark my words- this is the perfect date movie. If you bring a date/spouse/significant other with you to see this movie, dimes-to-dollars says you'll get some that evening.

A snarky but ultimately effective Kiwi short that aims to dig, laterally and figuratively, into women's issues. It gets derailed in its final third by a sappy Lilith-lite ballad, but there's still some interesting moments.

VOY A EXPLOTAR (I'm Gonna Explode)
If you'd only ever watched Harold & Maude, Romeo and Juliet, and Y Tu Mama Tambien over and over again, then you too could have made this film. The leads are cute and the young-lovers-on-the-run trope never really gets old, but there just wasn't enough of a spark here to make the ingredients properly- explode. Maria Deschamps, the film's star, has a hell of a career ahead of her, making her motion picture debut in a part that feels like 60% Anna Karina, 25% Bjork, and 15% Linda Manz.

More next week...

In response to last week's questions, yes, I saw Midnight Meat Train in a theatre, and it was pretty awesome. Also, Xanadu on Broadway was everything one could hope for.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week I

Inspired by Toby's take on Toronto, I figured why not do the same for this year's New York Film Festival. They start Press Week almost two weeks before the actual festival, so it's good in that it allows to get some word out before the public screenings begin (on Sept. 26th).

It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, and at first feels like a typical Dangerous Minds/Stand and Deliver type film en francais - the young teacher who cares, dealing with students who are stymied by varying levels of bureaucracy and indifference. But as it goes along, it gets weirder and more dialectical, and by the end I was pretty much won over. Sony Classics has it for the US, which means it'll get a week at Green Hills.

One of the two new films from Jia Zhang-ke at this year's NYFF, and this one is pretty much inert. Students in the 90s, currently adults adrift in their own lives, nobody's happy but they do soldier on. There's some nice tracking shots downa river, though.

Absolutely devastating portrait of isolation and life on the brink. Michelle Williams is truly amazing here, and Toby is absolutely right when he says it'd make a great double feature with The Dark Knight. Dog lovers, this is the movie for you. Oscilloscope Films (The Beastie Boys' film label) is handling this, so it will more than likely be coming to the Belcourt at some point.

Can you build a film around an extended sick joke? If it's as good and genuinely effective as this one, then yes.

Holy shit. An animated documentary with the urgency of an unquiet witness and the soul of the most imaginative of poets, and structured around the basics of psychic exploration in a way that will infuriate Scientologists, this may also be the film that pushes the evangelical Christian faction in this country into apoplexy. It's a remarkable film, funny and devastating, and featuring one of the most haunting sequences I've ever seen. Again, Sony Classics has it, so be on the lookout for its one-week run at Green Hills.

The best thing I saw during Press Week I, this short from British artist/Pet Shop Boys collaborator Sam Taylor-Wood (whose only other film I had seen was in a segment of Destricted) is a short and sweet tale of High School lust played out to the sound of the Buzzcocks. With any luck, this might pop up at the '09 Nashville Film Festival.

Simulatneously about the casual violence and horror of life under the rule of Augusto Pinochet and one man's need to express himself through dance and wanting to be like John Travolta, this film is upsettingly violent, features hardcore sex, and at least one disco dancing sequence in every reel. How could I not love it?

The centerpiece restoration (last year's was Blade Runner) of the festival. It's a rapturously lovely film, and also a great metaphor for cinema itself. Unfortunately, just as was the case in my Hollywood and Its Alternatives class at NYU some fourteen years ago, I love luxurious blends of history, film, and sex, but I'm still not feeling this one. Rialto Pictures is handling this one, which means we'll more than likely see it at the Belcourt, if there's any justice.

UN CONTE DE NOEL (A Christmas Tale)
A colleague dismissively called this Kings and Queen 2, but I think it's weirder and a bit more incisive than that. Family dramas, insanity, cancer, sexual frustration, and the arduous process of forgiveness- yeah, it's like that. Higly recommended, though. IFC has it, and with any luck, it'll be this year's big Christmas arthouse hit.

A dark, dark French short that is ruthlessly pragmatic and full of the kind of wit that works beautifully here but leaves you wondering if the filmmaker will make the step up to feature-length material.

Kuorosawa Kiyoshi is back, and this time he's made a fairly conventional film- one that takes the issues that form the subtext of his genre material and works with them on the surface. It's a fascinating portrait of this moment in history, and the central cast is pretty damned great. It takes some wide turns in the last half hour, but is still a fascinating development in Kurosawa's body of work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fat Tire on tap

We've added FAT TIRE beer to our taps, come get some while it lasts.

The Sticky: What We Do Is Secret

"It Was A Movement That Changed Music. It Was Music That Changed The World. And It All Started With A Germ." - WHAT WE DO IS SECRET we're playing it for 3 days only. What'd you think? Anyone ever see The Germs live?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Toronto Dispatch, part 2

The last few days of the Toronto festival settle down. The crowds thin out and because the high profile films are front-loaded, the last few days give you a chance to look at films you may not have otherwise. Back in Nashville now, I'm looking forward to a few weeks from now when the weather approaches Toronto levels of pleasantness. Here's the log for the last half of this year's Toronto film festival, again with varying degrees of objectivity...

CHE - Part 1
In which Che takes the eastern half of Cuba. Cinemascope: such a wide world! So many possibilities

CHE - Part 2
In which Che leads a failed revolution in Bolivia. 1.85: Now hunted, Che's world narrows!

Mickey Rourke as a washed up wrestler. Director Darren Aronofsky shows off some new tricks he learned from the Dardennes. Rourke astonishes.

Japanese Midnight offering in which mushroom-haircut countryboy with a love for cheesey pop finds himself as an idolized satanist frontman of a death metal band bound for a face-off guitar collision with Gene Simmons. Yes, really.

Wherein a boy raised by his grandmother is scooped up and taken to an Argentine "paradise", but all I saw was a lot of rain.

Poor boy from the favela gets rich girl from Impanema. Yes, really.

Biopic on Chess Records' founder Leonard Chess

Those French horror guys sure are angry...and suitably deranged.

Bill Maher, half-Catholic half-Jew, does his best to preach the Gospel of Doubt. He succeeds.

Another director of economy Kelly Reichardt (OLD JOY) delivers another tale set in and around Portland, OR, this time with Michelle Williams as an introverted Vagabond-like girl with car issues and a lost dog. Would make a great double feature with THE DARK KNIGHT as Williams' introvert contrasts beautifully with Ledger's troubled Joker considering that they were made at roughly the same time in their lives, post-seperation, mirroring what may have been Williams' frame of mind against what certainly was Ledger's.

Midnight offiering wherein Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself, loses gigs to Steven Seagal and gets sucked into a robbery in his native Belgium.

The true story of an ill-fated informer playing the Brits against the IRA. With Ben Kingsley, who seems to be everywhere lately: A British agent in this one, snogging Penelope Cruz in ELEGY, taking bong hits THE WACKNESS. Hopefully soon to be seen battling Darth Whosit with a bullwhip in some Spielberg/Lucas hybrid. Or maybe playing himself losing gigs to Steven Seagal.

Follows a 3-day music festival centered around the "Rumble in the Jungle": the Ali/Foreman fight in 1974 Zaire. Performers include Miriam Makeba, the Spinners, Franco & OK Jazz, Bill Withers, Afrisa and peak-form James Brown.

Doc centered around the making of and world tour of N'Dour's "Egypt" record, a brave defense of his Islamic faith in the wake of 9/11.

A horror film for linguists and radio personalities

Davis Guggenheim gets Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White in a room, but all summarizes their careers. Some nice footage of rural Franklin, TN in the process...

Other observances:

- The Manulife building where the press and industry screenings are held has a rooftop bar with an amazing view. I always find the cool stuff on the last day in town.

- Common threads: cross-referencing of IRA figures in HUNGER and FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING. Muddy Waters' first cut of "I Can't Be Satisfied" with just guitar and an upright bass is dramatized in WHO DO YOU LOVE, then heard in actuality in IT MIGHT BE LOUD.

- A Youssou N'Dour performance has a formula: 3 upbeat songs, 1 synthy ballad, 3 upbeat song, 1 synthy ballad.

- Elizabeth Banks: LOVELY, STILL and ZACK AND MIRI. I saw these two back-to-back by accident. She's purty.

- Toronto's street hot dog kiosks beat the hell out of any dog in Nashville. The city is also an enviable model of diversity and harmony. And the human beauty quotient is quite remarkable as well.

- Film execs go to strip clubs named the Brass Rail and Zanzibar, who are evidently owned by the same "really nice guy". No word on the Brass Stables' owner, but I've invited them to Nashville to find out.

- Kevin Smith is now a considerably larger man than Michael Moore. Much much larger. Much.

- Think Atlanta's bad? Toronto sprawl encompasses even more municipalities, some of which can be seen from the top of the Manulife building.

- A few of the films at Toronto have been secured for dates at the Belcourt, but for fear of the jinx, I can't tell you which. Keep an eye to the website.

Signing out...

Toby Leonard

Thursday, September 11, 2008

100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers

This is pretty neat...let the countdown begin...


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Toronto Dispatch, part 1

Well, it's a nice 80 degrees in the day and about 55ish at night here in Toronto. Amid the usual bustle of North America's fifth largest city is a whole lot of film types making their ways from screening to screening. Full days are spent in dark rooms with like-minded buyers, exhibitors, programmers, distributors, writers, bloggers and such - punctuated by brief respites into the daylight for a drop at one of the many Asian noodle joints or maybe a quick stop for the amazing hot dog kiosks that seem to be on every other block. It's easy to subside on those.

In the interest of time and a half-hearted jab at objectivity (or maybe not), here's my viewing log for the first half of this year's Toronto International Film Festival with a comment , observance or something like it.

Harsh lower Pacific Oceans, the Tierra del Fuego, the frozen fingers and cold air permeate the long long takes of this one. to warm it all. I thought at one point that I'd really like to visit, but I think I'll go in the summer.

Evidently, there are two adults in Burma and they both have bad teeth. Why Sony - big Sony - bought this is anyone's guess.

Good looking, but fairly dull Claire Denis.

Tried to get into BROTHERS BLOOM, but was shut out. I hear that I was lucky.

Often referred to as "the Israeli Persepolis", it's really much more than this.

In Deepa Mehta's new film, an Indian woman moves to Canada to be married. She escapes a violent home (and reality in general) via a magic something.

Many animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Kid from Mumbai slums wins big on Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Should be quite a hit. Witnessed the person of front of Roger Ebert turn around and punch him hard in the arm. Whoever you were, you punched a cancer patient. I hope you slept well.

Terences Davies' arresting love/hate poem to his hometown of Liverpool. His first doc as well.

Plato's Retreat in 70's-80's NY was a swinger club hotbed of sex and lots and lots of hair, both pubic and chest-wise. Medallions as well. You would think that would sustain interest.

Amos Gitai = Nap time.

Youssou N'Dour and Le Super Etoiles de Dakar at Dundas/Younge Square. He was introduced by Spike Lee. Great great show. There's a documentary here about him that I hope to catch before leaving.

This will cause a generational rift, somewhere around the mid-40s. Since I fall in the lower, I thought it was drop-dead hilarious.

Aren't seniors cute? Especially when they fall in love. Remarkably, was written by a kid from Omaha then in his teens. He directed it some six years later. In retrospect, certain aspects seemed to have been included only to justify use of a certain Bright Eyes song in the closing credits, but the chicken came before the egg.

Mike Leigh makes a crowd-pleaser. Very funny. Very good-looking film. Best female role so far at the fest.

Rahmin Bahrani's latest effort set in Winston-Salem. Another victory from a director of economy.

Guillermo Arriaga has another star-studded lives-in-crossing time he actually directs it.

Coming up on next update: The 4.5 hour CHE and, fresh from a win @ Venice, RELIGULOUS and Darren Aronofsky's THE WRESTLER.

--Toby Leonard

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Countdown to Crispin

Crispin Hellion Glover arrives in Nashville tomorrow for two big ole nights you'll never forget at the historic Belcourt. To give you a dose of what you're in for check out the NASHVILLE SCENE's interview with Crispin. And here's a little clip of Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show (where Crispin Hellion Glover performs a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated book) that will proceed the showing of Crispin's film WHAT IS IT?.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nashville Film Festival names new artisitc director

The Nashville Scene reports that the Nashville Film Festival has named Brian Owens, co-founder and director of the Indianapolis International Film Festival, as the new artistic director for the Nashville Film Festival. Congratulations Brian and we look forward to seeing what directions you'll be taking the film festival in the future.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Nashville as movie city?

The Tennessean has an interesting article about the proposed use of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

"Picture this: a film studio complex and public entertainment venue in Nashville that would capture the look and feel of Universal Studios Hollywood — only without the rides and with a project pipeline loaded with films targeted at heartland audiences.

That's the pitch being made to redevelop the Tennessee State Fairgrounds by Woodland, Calif.-based Tower Investments and Nashville's 821 Entertainment, whose projects include a forthcoming film about the life of the Rev. Billy Graham, as well as a biopic on music legend Hank Williams."

And speaking of the Bill Graham movie, be sure to look for the movie theatre scene it might just be a place you know....


Friday, August 22, 2008

Tell No One: the sticky

TELL NO ONE opens today, and we're pretty excited about. Having personally stumbled across the novel by accident the other day and giving it a read, I'm excited to see how the film plays out now that it's been transposed to France from New York. After you watch it come back and give us your thoughts, have you read the novel too? Compare, contrast, whatta you think of this adaptation?


Monday, August 18, 2008

Film critic and artist Manny Farber R.I.P.

The great film critic and artist Manny Farber, passed away last night at age 91. Passed onto us and posted below, from BlogDance, as a tribute to Manny, part of his classic essay "Termite Art vs. White Elephant Art"

"Masterpiece art, reminiscent of the enameled tobacco humidors and wooden lawn ponies bought at white elephant auctions decades ago, has come to dominate the overpopulated arts of TV and movies. Three sins of white elephant art are (1) frame the action with an all-over pattern, (2) install every event, character, situation in a frieze of continuities, and (3) treat every inch of the screen and film as a potential area for prizeworthy creativity.

"An exemplar of white elephant art, particularly the critic-devouring virtue of filling every pore of the work with glinting, darting Style and creative Vivacity, is Fran├žois Truffaut. Shoot The Piano Player and Jules Et Jim, two ratchety perpetual-motion machines devised by a French Rube Goldberg [leave behind] the bladelike journalism of The 400 Blows.

"The common quality or defect which unites apparently divergent artists like Antonioni, Truffaut, [Tony] Richardson, is fear, a fear of the potential life, rudeness, and outrageousness of a film. Coupled with their storage vaults of self-awareness and knowledge of film history, this fear produces an incessant wakefulness....

"Good work usually arises where the creators...seem to have no ambitions towards gilt culture but are involved in a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor that isn't anywhere or for anything. A peculiar fact about termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art is that it goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than
the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.

"[John Wayne in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance] is a termite actor focusing only on a tiny present area, nibbling at it with engaging professionalism and a hipster sense of how to sit in a chair leaned against the wall, eye a flogging overactor (Lee Marvin). Better Ford films than this have been marred by a phlegmatically solemn Irish personality that goes for
rounded declamatory acting, silhouetted riders along the rim of a mountain with a golden sunset behind them.

[Kurosawa's Ikiru] sums up much of what a termite art aims at: buglike immersion in a small area without point or aim, and, over all, concentration on nailing down one moment without glamorizing it, but forgetting this accomplishment as soon as it has been passed; the feeling that all is expendable, that it can be chopped up and flung down in a different arrangement without ruin."

There's also a cool reminiscence at Glenn Kenny's blog Some Came Running.

What do you think, Termite Art or White Elephant Art, which one's for you, who do you think belongs in which category?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Guy Maddin interview

As linked below, Jim Ridley's interview with Guy Maddin in this week's Nashville Scene was a bit stunted due to print limitations. But we're glad to post here the full interview, from Billy Idol to If Day...proceed:

Did I read a story you told about some people in Winnipeg once using the legs of a frozen cow as a hockey goal?

The way we use our dead cows tells us so much about our culture.

Here in Nashville, we have an NHL franchise that has had a somewhat hard time catching on. Why should we get excited about hockey?

Nashville’s already so mythologically packed with music and Civil War lore and history and just its place in the honeycomb of great American mythology that I don’t know if it really needs hockey. Maybe people are just puzzled, or just need to get out, or maybe they buy tickets for the games but just don’t show up. I don’t have any great sociological for it. It’s a sport we [Canadians] can all identify with because we either played it ourselves or know someone that played it, or just grew up with it. It really goes back. It’s like when you’re watching a football game, there’s a whole grid of things going on at once involving nostalgia, and hope for the future, and civic pride, and intense rivalries, and vicarious achievement, and all that stuff. And all that stuff goes on with hockey the way it does with football for you. It must be more like roller derby for you, where a league starts up now and then and then goes away for a while and nobody really misses it. (laughs) But good luck with your franchise. I know you’ve got some comical ownership issues. Your team was really good a year ago, as I remember, and then they sort of fire-sold some good players.

From the film, I take it the loss of Winnipeg’s old hockey arena was a traumatic event.

Well, I got kind of mad that the city didn’t feel it as badly as I did. The morons in our city were happy to all throng to the new lousy arena. Our city isn’t really very wealthy, so they tore down not only a perfectly good arena but one that is packed with memories, and replaced it with one that is going to fall apart in 20 years. And put it in a place that isn’t as accessible. And as usual in these graft cases, made a couple of people rich and will ultimately not serve the community. So it kind of outrages me, but everyone else is just happy to go. We’re in sort of the honeymoon period of the arena, when people show up just to see the arena, so Engelbert Humperdinck and Billy Idol have been selling out to like 15,000 people, where they would have drawn 1,100 people at a smaller venue a couple of years ago. It’s got us all in kind of a disgusting drunk-on-novelty.

How did your fellow Manitobans react to the movie?

I was a bit shocked. I’m sure the reaction isn’t over, but I thought they’d be very uncomfortable and annoyed—this is Winnipeg, the town that sort of booed Neil Young out of the country. (laughs) And there’s a guy who’s pretty good. But they weren’t having him. So I expected the same sort of treatment; I almost wanted it. But it didn’t happen the opening night where the film played. It got a really nice response; my mom herself, up in the Abraham Lincoln loge, got a two-or-three-minute standing ovation and glowed like a bioluminescent animal up in their spotlight. Everything seemed fine. But I think what might happen now if I know my Winnipeggers, and I do, is they’ll slowly start (or maybe not-so-slowly start) resenting me and hating me. Not for making the film, but for the film getting out there and doing what I wanted it to do.

I have to ask what your mom thought of the movie.

The first words out of her mouth afterward were, ‘It’s a strange movie, but I liked it.’ I thought she might be too upset by it, frankly. I thought she might be upset by the uncanny resemblance of the actor [who plays her] late son.

What’s the thing in the movie that most people think you made up, when in fact it’s real?

If Day. You can look it up. And I like that story. If you think of it, it’s very analogous to what Orson Welles did with War of the Worlds, fake invasion—in his case for entertainment, in our case for…war-bond frightening. The Orson Welles broadcast, and all its apparent panic that it produced, became part of American legend, where If Day was completely forgotten. My parents don’t even remember it. Nobody told me about it. It’s just the way Canadians behave as compared to Americans—as compared to the way any other country would behave, as a matter of fact. In response to the magnificent self-mythologizing powerhouse that is America right immediately to our south, we insist on presenting all of our historical figures in life-size terms, and there’s no more surefire way of consigning something to oblivion than presenting it life-size. (laughs)

You’ve taken care of that.

That was my whole mandate with this thing—to treat it the way an American would. (laughs) Actually, If Day, I found out about it from an American, and the only newsreel footage of it was taken by the Fox Newsreel Company.

I would think that restaging your childhood would be emotionally demanding.

I felt really guilty at times. I felt like I was committing a crime of some sort. And then at other times I felt myself overcome by tears—and I realized what they were. They weren’t tears triggered by any mysterious and long-buried emotion; they were just tears of pride. I realized I was really proud of how I’d managed to pull this off. My memories were being filmed! It was almost like just pointing a camera at my temple and collecting memories out there. That was kind of a sobering moment—I realized I wasn’t being overcome with emotion, I was just being hubristic.

In a way, this seems like a terminal movie—like you’ve followed your childhood mythology as far as it will go.

I think I have to move on now. Which leaves me sad, because I’m not sure I nailed it. At least for 10 or 15 years, I don’t think I can go back to it. And then I’ve messed up all the evidence, right? From now on I’ll be remembering the movie version of my childhood rather than my real childhood.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Man on Wire & My Winnipeg

Two new openers today MAN ON WIRE & Guy Madden's MY WINNIPEG. Come and watch and then bring your thoughts here to the magic of the interweb...

Two local writers spoke with Guy Maddin about his new film, check out Jim Ridley's interview for the Nashville Scene and Jason Shawhan's for All The Rage which can be found HERE.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jack White, Johnny Cash and James Bond, together again

In honor of today's news that Nashville transplater Jack White and Alicia Keys are teaming up for the first duet'ed Bond theme, we present what might have been the first chapter of the Nashville/Bond connection...

Johnny Cash's submitted theme song for THUNDERBALL was rejected as the last minute in favor of Tom Jones, and some savvy person has put it where it rightfully belonged.

Hat Tip: Mr. Pink

Friday, July 25, 2008

the Sticky: Encounters at the End of the World

Opens today, what do think of the latest work by Herr Herzog?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The thumbs go in a new direction...

Roger Ebert has posted a statement on about Disney's decision to take his show in a new direction. I remember fondly watching "Siskel & Ebert" on PBS what seemed late in the night when I was younger in the 70s and 80s. Back in the day, that was about all we had to catch a glimpse of upcoming flicks, that and Starlog.

Here's Roger's statement: "After 33 years on the air, 23 of them with Disney, the studio has decided to take the program named "Siskel & Ebert" and then "Ebert & Roeper" in a new direction. I will no longer be associated with it.

The show was a wonderful experience. It was a great loss to me when surgery in July 2006 made it impossible for me to appear on the air any longer. Although I remained active behind the scenes, I feel that Richard Roeper and several co-hosts, notably Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, have excelled at carrying on the tradition Gene Siskel and I began in 1975 with "Sneak Previews" on PBS.

Gene and I felt the formula was simplicity itself: Two film critics, sitting across the aisle from each other in a movie balcony, debating the new films of the week. We developed an entirely new concept for TV. Few shows have been on the air so long and remained so popular. We made television history, and established the trademarked catch-phrase "Two thumbs up."

The trademark still belongs to me and Marlene Iglitzen, Gene's widow, and the thumbs will return. We are discussing possibilities, and plan to continue the show's tradition. -- Roger Ebert"


Monday, July 21, 2008

Secret movie birthday surprise...

As a thank you to all the fans of things like the Late Show/midnight movie thingies, I'd like to invite you to a free screening of a movie in honor of my birthday. I'm not sayin' exactly what it is, but I think you can figure it out. I'm taking a limited number of invites, so if you'd like to be considered, send an email to with your name and the name of a guest you'd like to bring. If you get chosen, I'll email you with the time and place and what to expect. In the subject of your email you must answer the question "Who's the baddest mofo low down around this town?" Make sure you email by the midnight Sunday July 27.

Good luck!

GONZO...what'd you think?

good crowds this week, let's talk, what'd ya think?


Friday, July 11, 2008

Sticky: CONSTANTINE'S SWORD - opens today

A more condensed reworking of subject James Carroll's book of the same name, the film follows the former Catholic priest on a journey to confront his past and uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence and war. His search also reveals a growing scandal involving religious infiltration of the U.S. military and the consequences of religion’s influence on America’s foreign policy. Bringing the history of religious intolerance to life, tracing it as a source of the fanaticism that threatens the world today. At its core, Constantine’s Sword is a compelling personal narrative — a kind of detective story — as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own past, searching for a better future.

To get the ball rolling, we offer this OUTTAKE for Constantine's Sword. This clip shouldn't be misconstrued as a major cog in the wheel that is the film. But rather, something that's just a little too irresitable not to post. You've seen him on the saw him in JESUS he is: the Rev Ted Haggart:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sticky: MONGOL and the introduction of the sticky

Taking a cue from internet forums, a format somewhat different from this, we introduce the sticky: a page dedicated to discussion of films currently screening. We'll try to post them on opening day of each film and encourage readers to comment on these films: strengths/weaknesses, thoughts for the lover and the hater. In honor of this, we'll kick it off with MONGOL. Sure, we're a few weeks in on this film and it could still be around for a few more weeks, so it seems appropriate.

I have to say that, upon first viewing late last year, my initial impression of MONGOL was one of apprehensive excitement. I certainly found it watchable from beginning to end (remarkably so) though its biopic premise suggested something we've certainly seen before but with the added suggestion that it could only be a "Part One", a notion that has since been confirmed: MONGOL is conceived as a trilogy. There were a few holes in it (for example, how did those shackles really come off the first time around?), but that long opening shot through the castle, up and into our protaganist's cage, really brought me in far enough that such things would be overlooked. Just to kick this off, I'll throw out some review quotes:

"Mongol -- or, as I prefer to think of it, "Genghis Khan: The Early Years" -- is a big, ponderous epic, its beautifully composed landscape shots punctuated by thundering hooves and bloody, slow-motion battle sequences." - A.O. Scott, NY Times

"My only problem with Mongol is that--how often in life do you get to write this sentence?---Genghis Khan is a little too nice." - Dana Stevens, Slate.Com

MONGOL is a ferocious film, blood-soaked, pausing occasionally for pas"sionate romance and more frequently for torture. As a visual spectacle, it is all but overwhelming, putting to shame some of the recent historical epics from Hollywood." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The kind of statement which sets tongues to wagging.

Dare we dream? Could there be hope for cinephiles the world over, especially following the unspeakable desecrations of the indefensible Aliens vs Predator 'films?'

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Without the heart, there can be no mediator between the hands and the mind."

While we're on the subject of up to 85% of the lost footage from Metropolis being found (note: the Murnau Foundation's English-language press release appears to have been made using a translation program, so there are some dodgy turns of phrase), here's a little more on the subject.

The film's history is a tangled one, with several versions surfacing throughout the years. The most recent restoration, back in 2001, played for several weeks here at the Belcourt, and this news is the kind of boon from the cinematic gods that makes it all worthwhile. There's so much film history out there, squirreled away and waiting for rediscovery.

There's no telling how long it will take to get these materials restored, cleaned up, and on screens throughout the world, but provided we don't wipe each other off the face of the earth in the next four or five years, we could be seeing so very much more of Fritz Lang's Sci-Fi vision of the world we live in... We can't wait.

And while we're on a Metropolitan kick, allow us to show some love for the unfairly maligned 1984 Giorgio Moroder reconstruction. At that time, it was the most complete version of the film available, and if its use of pop stars as vocalists for the soundtrack seems unconventional, it committed no sin graver than any other big-studio film of that time. Moroder's heart and soul went into this version, which deserves its own restoration at this point. Here's some excerpts from that, just to bring a little futuristic robot disco love into the world.

Freddie Mercury's "Love Kills"

Bonnie Tyler's "Here She Comes"

And if these have your appetite whetted for some further Metropolis diffused through our popular culture, check out the videos for "Radio Ga-Ga" by Queen and "Express Yourself" by Madonna.

Metropolois lost scenes discovered!

If you saw the most recent Kino release of METROPOLIS, (it played at the Belcourt last year as part of our Family Classics series) you'll remember that there were still several scenes missing from the film, lost to time it seemed. But now it appears that a much longer and complete version of the film has been found in Buenos Aires, a version which according to ZEIT ONLINE

"...there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film: The role played by the actor Fritz Rasp in the film for instance, can finally be understood. Other scenes, such as for instance the saving of the children from the worker’s underworld, are considerably more dramatic. In brief: “Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s most famous film, can be seen through new eyes.”, as stated by Rainer Rother, Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum and head of the series of retrospectives at the Berlinale."

Know I'd love to see it how about you?


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ian Fleming 100 Years old...

or at least he would be this year if he we're still alive. To celebrate the JAMES BOND creator's centenary we're dedicating our Weekend Classics in July to CLASSIC 007. Starting this weekend with a new 35 mm print of DR. NO followed by

July 12-14 FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE* - NEW 35mm Print
July 19-21 GOLDFINGER* - NEW 35mm Print

All films play Saturdays & Sundays at Noon and Mondays at 7pm.

TIME magazine has a list of 100 fascinating facts about the author and his most famous creation. Like #3 "Operation Goldeneye was an Allied plan developed by Ian Fleming during World War II, that monitored Spain after the Spanish Civil War. " and #9 "The children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by Ian Fleming. "

And what would seeing Bond on the big screen at the Belcourt be without a martini. Here's what we've got lined up at the bar.

Casino Royale Martini – Gin/Vodka Martini just like the movie
Vodka Martini – Traditional, or Down and Dirty w/olives
Gin Martini - Traditional
Blueberry Martini-with White Cranberry juice w/a blueberry garnish
Raspberry Martini – with Stoli Razz and cranberry, w/splash of sour

All Martini’s - $8. Seeing new prints of James Bond on the big screen - priceless!

UPDATED: Check out Nashville Scene's article Chauvinism Is Forever: In the year of Ian Fleming’s centennial, do feminists have any reason to celebrate 007? Maybe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"We love tourists here in Nilbog..."

Let's just assume (like most of the world) that you've never seen Claudio Fragasso's Troll 2.

How do you describe what makes a film a cult classic? It's not like there's a tried-and-true formula to achieving such a goal (many films have tried, only to fall by the wayside). Some would say that there's at least one rabid devotee for every film that gets made (which is possible, but at least in the case of Alexander & Karaszewski's Screwed, unlikely), but even that can't account for the widespread enshrinement that this no-budget Italian-American oddity has wrought over the past couple of years.

Thankfully, the Alamo Drafthouse's superawesome Rolling Roadshow has decided to swoop in with a thoroughness that makes the trash film lover in me swoon as if stricken with the vapors. It's happening this weekend, and I can't imagine a more action-packed place to be for fans of films that go splat in the night.

You've got an insane amount of the cast and creative team (including Director Fragasso), five rare screenings, and the kind of activities (a Molotov Cocktail toss? For real?) that no rational human being could soon forget. Plus, a trip to Utah! If the Belcourt's midnight programming continues to grow and expand, perhaps someday you'll see something like The Nilbog Invasion as part of our community outreach.

Just picture it: Michael Mann's The Keep in the Carpathian Alps (or better yet, deep down in the rock quarry in Box, England where they shot all the weirdness). Slava Tsukerman's Liquid Sky on the roof of a New York building. Or maybe Evil Dead in the middle of the Tennessee woods?

TROLL 2? You're soaking in it...

Let's get Canadianaughty...

Here's a fascinating little piece from The Star (no, probably not the one you're thinking of) about onscreen sex; specifically of the Canadian variety.

I'm happy to see reference to Cronenberg, Maddin, and Egoyan, and author Geoff Pevere opens up the debate further by getting into areas of distinctly Canadian character. But more time gets spent on current controversy magnet Young People F---ing than the upsetting C-10 funding bill (which could seriously suck all the twisted, provocative exploration from Canuck cinema). Personally, I'm shocked that any serious exploration of the nasty (north of the 49th parallel) doesn't mention the most pragmatic and entertaining sexual theorist and therapist working today, Canada's own pride and joy, Sue Johansen.

So let's have at it, Nastyville... What are your thoughts on Canadian cinema sex and the role of arts funding in the process of laying bare taboos?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The best movie opening-credit sequences ever

This isn't really relevant to anything specific going on right now, but I just think it's pretty cool.


"The movie opening-credit sequence has become a lost art; so many movies today, especially action blockbusters, are content to plunge directly into the action and wait until the end to show you who made the film. Now, Screengrab has compiled a list, complete with YouTube clips, of the 12 best opening-credit sequences ever. It's a good selection of these mini-movies that expertly sets the tone for the feature that follows. A lot of credit buffs' favorites are here, including the ones for Scorsese's Raging Bull, Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and David Fincher's Seven and Panic Room. Of course, you can't talk about film credits without mentioning the genre's master, Saul Bass, who revolutionized the opening credit sequence in the 1950s with his jazzy, fragmented-animation segments for such movies as The Man With the Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder. (Which gives me an excuse to embed this clip, which has been making the rounds this week, of what the Star Wars credits would have looked like had Bass designed them.)"


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion

Those who woke early on Friday, May 23 may have caught a really cool piece on the Belcourt by the lovely Christine Buttorff during All Things Considered on WPLN. Thanks to the interweb, you can here it now at your computer. We especially like the WRATH OF KHAN scream contest getting some exposure.

Click here to hear.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rest in Peace Stan Winston...

Reports are trickling out the the legendary creature effects creator Stan Winston has passed away. Stan had his hand in creating some of the most memorable creatures, legends and effects of the current modern era of film. Stan's work added to the pantheon of legendary film creatures like the classic Universal Monsters and the legendary creatures of Ray Harryhausen, one of Stan's personal idols. Winston won the Oscar four times for his work on Aliens, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, and AI and most recently worked on the brilliant visual effects in Iron Man creating the practical Iron Man suits. Winston was easily one of the greatest special effects and make-up visionaries to ever work in Hollywood and has created some of the most memorable special effects in cinematic history. This is truly a great loss and an incredibly sad day for Hollywood.

In addition to the four films that he won Oscars for, Winston worked on The Thing, Predator, Edward Scissorhands, The Monster Squad, Congo, Galaxy Quest, Big Fish, The Wiz, Constantine and lots more. You can see much of his fantastic work over at his studio's official website:

His legend, vision and attention to detail will be greatly missed.

Ain't It Cool News has posted several tributes to Stan from James Cameron, Jon Favreau, Jonathan Liebesman, Frank Darabont and Joe Dante.


Friday, June 13, 2008

New on Tap...

Look what that Hat brought in. As you know, or maybe you don't know, with the many "You guys serve beer?!" that we hear as soon as someone walks into the lobby of the Belcourt for the first time. But, not only do we have your regular theatre concession fare; popcorn, soda, candy, etc., but we also serve beer, wine and liquor (only to those of age of course) and we're the only theatre in Nashville to do so. One of the functions of this blog will be to keep you update on all the great new offerings we have in the concession stand and also give you a place to let us know what else you'd like to see us serve. We look forward to your comments! Let's get to it shall we?

New this week - from the magical land of Vermont - MAGIC HAT #9
From Magic Hat Brewery - "Not Quite Pale Ale - A beer cloaked in secrecy. An ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue and ask more questions than it answers. A sort of dry, crisp, fruity, refreshing, not-quite pale ale. #9 is really impossible to describe because there's never been anything else quite like it. Our secret ingredient introduces a most unusual aroma which is balanced with residual sweetness."
ABV: 4.0 Gravity 1.047 Bitterness 18 SRM 9.5 YEAST: English Ale HOPS: Cascade, Columbus MALTS: Pale, Crystal

Just passing along...Gene Hackman @ Downtown Library

This is cool: On Wed, June 25 @ 6pm, Gene Hackman and co-author Daniel Lenihan will be on hand to discuss their new book, Escape from Andersonville. More info at 862-5755 or at the Library's website.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Four (discs) to 'tango

Back in December 2006, about 100 people took a big chance on a film that we never thought we’d get the chance to show, and it wasn't until 26 reels arrived at our doorstep that the realization fully hit. Something of a holy grail for cinephiles, up there with Jacques Rivette’s OUT 1, Fassbinder’s BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, Godard’s HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA by virtue of mammoth length, accomplishment and audience endurance, a rare screening of Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s SATANTANGO is something that we luckily found would even attract people from other southeastern cities willing to make the drive for a 7.5-hour slice of miserablism laid out in long, long takes. If you, the reader, were among the brave, feel free to chime in here, but I think it’s fair to say that most people found it a truly rewarding experience – one that would stay with them for some time to come.

That said, the reason for this post is that it seems that Facets is finally releasing the film on DVD on July 22 after two years of threatening to do so. I write this with baited breath, as the release date has probably been announced and cancelled more times than I can count on one hand, but Facets has recently added details regarding extras with their most recent date, which is encouraging.

For shucks and giggles and to fly in the face of previously stated viewing preferences, here’s one of the extras, PROLOGUE for the omnibus VISIONS OF EUROPE, in its entirety:

As is not necessarily evident in YouTube clips, Bela Tarr’s use of the elongated shot naturally brings the viewer to contemplate and appreciate even the smallest details of the frame. Even on the best of televisions, such things can be lost or, at very least muddied in the inherent compression of the DVD format. In addition, Facets has a history of releasing dodgy product, though it is said that the reason for the delay has been that the director has rejected previous transfers submitted to them by Facets. Having experienced the real deal myself, I'm somewhat exempt from the argument, but let us hope that this is the case. But is this the final resting place of this film, a film which for 14 years has managed to stay, at least in the US, enshrined in the cinema only?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indy Jones, the Wrath of God?

Opening with a CGI’d ground hog, an inexplicably recurring character introduced with Elvis’ version of “Hound Dog” (not the same animal, Steven/George), and culminating with Russian soldiers aiming their guns offscreen to a crew of prison guards that are directly in front of them (lame, guys), I knew immediately that the suspension of disbelief would be a factor in being able to enjoy INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL for what it is, which certainly needs no recounting here. And I enjoy I did, for the most part. While basking in one unlikely misadventure after another, one thinks back to RAIDERS and wonders if so many infractions of the sort, CGI aside, bogged down the first edition of Indy. I suspect not, though another viewing of Raiders certainly seems in order. But I digress… The recurring thought for me were the parallels between CRYSTAL SKULL and Herzog’s films shot in the Amazonian jungle, most obviously AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, which screened at the Belcourt a few weekends back as part of the Herzog/Kinski Weekend Classics this month.

(very light spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen CRYSTAL SKULL)

The clear link is the shared subplot of the myth of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold located somewhere in the Amazonian jungle, arguably the main plot of AGUIRRE. Herzog’s Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) leads his Spanish expedition astray in a mad search for El Dorado. The source for AGUIRRE is inspired by a similar journey of Captain Francisco de Orellana circa 1633, a nod to which can also be found in CRYSTAL SKULL when Indiana Jones enters a tomb of mummified Spanish conquistadors who’d been unheard of since their own search for El Dorado. Indy opens one to find a perfectly enshrined rough-hewn specimen, Aguirre-like armor on his head. Did he name Orellana directly? I can’t be sure.

Also recurring are similar locations, or fake locations in the case of the CRYSTAL SKULL: Following the mummy scene, the journey diverts via plane to Iquitos, which Herzogians will recall is the main village and site of the to-be-built opera house in FITZCARRALDO (playing June 14-16). Whereas Spielberg/Lucas substituted the much friendlier environs of Hawaii to emulate Peru (and in a lowest-common-denominator moment, the world famous Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina), one has to give props to Herzog for actually shooting there rather than animating it (as will be chronicled in MY BEST FIEND, June 28-30).

One can argue that the creative team behind this edition of Indy had Herzog on the brain when plotting the details of CRYSTAL SKULL, and so it seems do others in Hollywood if we’re to believe that Werner Herzog is remaking Abel Ferrara’ BAD LIEUTENANT with Nicolas Cage. Say it ain’t so. Abel Ferrara does.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Raiders: The Adaptation...

Last Thursday night at the Belcourt we hosted the Tennessee premiere of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. In 1982 three 12 year old boys made a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the lost ark, it took them 6 years to finish. We had the privilege of having filmmaker Eric Zala, one of those "boys" to be in attendance for the screening. The crowd was very energetic and gave Eric a standing ovation at the end of the film before his Q & A. It was a great evening, and a hilarious and an inspiring experience.

In his adult life, Eric had been working at EA sports as Quality Control Director for 10 years making 6 figures, but wasn't satisfied, so to the behest of his childhood buddy Chris, one of the other boys who did the shot-for-shot remake, he left his job at EA moved back to Mississippi and is pursuing making an independent film with his friend, they've finally finished thier script and are shopping it around next week. Also Producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, ect.) has bought the life rights to the boy's story of the making of the Raiders: Adaptation.

Here's a pic from the night, plus a picture of the boys as kids, a pic of me and Eric, the Raiders guys with Spielberg and the letter Spielberg wrote them after he saw a bootleg VHS copy of the film : O