Archive for March, 2010

Fixing to skedaddle

March 26, 2010

Wasn’t March a kick? I thought so too, for the most part. Did you read the DC’s April Fools’ edition yesterday (featuring a column from yours truly, but that’s neither here nor there)? If you didn’t, I recommend tracking down a copy: it was legitimately hysterical.

Anyway, CineMadison will be going on hiatus from today until next Monday. It’s spring break and eight days of cutting loose is at the top of the agenda. In case you were wondering, I’m driving to Boston tonight with a couple of dear friends, both of whom have agreed to put up with my slight phobia of driving in return for me putting up with their slight habit of chain-smoking (no disrespect to any of you chain-smokers out there). It’s doubtful that I’ll get a chance to see any films while we’re gone, which will mark my longest dry spell in months. However, cinema will still be very much on my mind all the time. I hope it’ll be on yours as well. Let’s have some constructive dialogue when we all get back, ya hear?

If you’re going to be in or near Manhattan next week, be sure to mosey on over to the IFC Center on 6th Ave to see Catherine Breillat’s “Bluebeard,” which opens there today. I’ve always found Breillat to be a pretty hit-or-miss artist (and if any of the contemporary French filmmakers deserves the “auteur” label, it’s gotta be her); but even when she misses it’s affecting—and usually in a defiant, challengingly unpleasant way. “Bluebeard” was reviewed this week by the Times’ Manohla Dargis and the Voice’s J. Hoberman; both paint the picture of a film at once morbid and nostalgic, dark and whimsical, sensitive to the latent psychopathology hiding in the heart of all human practices—including the writing and telling of fairy tales. Unfortunately it’d be the schlep-to-end-all-schleps for me to get down to NYC to join you for a matinee.

On Tuesday (or more precisely, at midnight on Monday) the Criterion Collection’s new 4-disc Pedro Costa set, “Letters from Fontainhas,” which consists of the films “Ossos” (1997), “In Vanda’s Room” (2000) and “Colossal Youth” (2006), will be available at Four Star Video Heaven. This is probably the most anticipated home video release of the year, and for damn good reason: by all accounts, Costa is among the most important artists working today. Enjoy the spareness, the stillness, the desperation. Here’s a link to the New Yorker’s Richard Brody’s review of the entire set. Can’t wait to tear through these when I return to Madison.

Also, be sure to check out Kenneth Burns’ positive—and autobiographical—review of “Greenberg” in this week’s issue of the Isthmus.

Alright dear reader, I oughta get while the gettin’s good. I’ll see you a week from Monday. Don’t you go and cut your hair.

To stream or not to stream?

March 25, 2010

That is the question, according to this week’s DC column. Yeah, “Cinema in the Internet Age” is my fallback subject, and it’s probably apparent that I was busy with a bunch of other stuff and just sort of threw something together to meet my deadline—but please, don’t let that dissuade you from givin’ her (the article) a look. Links to the sites to which I allude, UbuWeb and the Auteurs, can be found in the Worthwhile Links section to your right; you can also scroll down the page to find a series of stunning stills from “India Song” and “Noroît.” Expect some decidedly more thought-out columns when I return from my week-long siesta/hiatus-from-blogging. Onward!

Quotes of quotes of…, 3/24

March 24, 2010

After this I promise to chill with the meta-criticism, I promise. Today’s Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes (not to be confused with Quote of the day) comes from Scanners’ Jim Emerson, and it deals with a problem that, as you may or may not know, has loomed heavy in my consciousness recently: how to get paid to do what I love.

For the first seven years of [writing film criticism] (in alternative weeklies, monthlies and on radio), if I got paid at all it was $10-$20 per review or article. I bring this up only to emphasize what both the writers above are saying: The ideas have to come first, then the writing. Anything after that is gravy. In the past, the biggest problem was how get your stuff to an outlet where it could be published. Now you can publish yourself worldwide on the Internet, and the remaining problems are still the same as they’ve always been: How to get readers to notice it, and how to make money doing it.

While movies have always been a popular form of entertainment, film criticism has always addressed only a tiny fraction of that audience — people who want to read about or think about or discuss movies with someone other than their immediate family and friends. That hasn’t changed.

Hopefully there’ll be a cushy spot in the socioeconomic food-chain for us film bloggers in, say, a little under three months. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades—but will I be able to afford them? Stay tuned.

Quote of the day

March 24, 2010

Not to be confused with Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, of course. This one’s courtesy of “Greenberg” star Greta Gerwig, whose interview in this week’s A.V. Club is a solid read:

I’m not committed to not doing big movies, but I am committed to continuing to make smaller movies, not for the sake of making smaller movies, but because I think it’s really invigorating to just go work with people and know that it might be awful. And that’s okay, because it didn’t cost that much to make.

Greta Gerwig: apparently staying true to the mumblecore sensibility both on and off the screen.

The importance of biography

March 24, 2010

Spring break is rapidly approaching and UW students are gettin’ ready to head for the hills. Some of us have cleared our last few academic hurdles, earning the right to enjoy 8 days of R&R or, in my case, coffee and I-90.

But wait! There’s still some cinematic activity on campus that you might want to consider checking out before you depart for Cancun or Daytona or wherever. (Just try not to go home—there’s no there there.)

On Thursday night at 7:30 the Cinematheque is hosting a talk with Joseph McBride, author of several biographies of canonical filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, Orson Welles), the most pertinent of which is 2001’s Searching for John Ford. Here’s a link to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s rave review, which I seriously recommend reading.

According to the Cinematheque’s website, McBride is going to lecture “about the ways biographical research can inform our understanding of films”; his discourse will lead into the Cinematheque’s screening of Ford’s final film, “7 Women” (1966), on Friday night at 7:30. For us armchair film historians, this is something of a big deal. It’s a crying shame that so many of us will be on the road and unable to take advantage of such a rare opportunity (“7 Women” is currently unavailable on DVD).

Cleaning house and trying to do nothing

March 24, 2010

Seeing as how I have pretty much nothing substantial to say for myself at the moment, it’s only fair that I direct you toward some things you might find interesting:

1. Check out my esteemed colleague Todd Stevens’ review of Sebastián Silva’s “The Maid,” which is currently enjoying a short run at Sundance Cinemas. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to see this film but Todd seems to have dug it quite a bit. He’s particularly taken with the film’s psychological dimension, which I find somewhat curious given how much I read about its overt Brechtianism. Then again, who says you can’t have it both ways? And it’s always nice to munch on the NY film scene’s leftovers.

2. File this under “Well I’ll be!”—the Badger Herald’s Tony Lewis scored a conference call with Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach and Jamie Murphy (the LCD Soundsystem mastermind and former Princeton Junction resident). Good show, old chap. In the interest of continuing to fuel the “Greenberg” hype-train (allll abooard), I’ll say the interview is worth a gander, though Tony seems much, much more familiar with Stiller than with Baumbach or even Murphy—which is too bad because “Greenberg,” like all of Baumbach’s “mature” films, is said to be very much the work of an auteur, as demonstrated by Stiller’s comments in the interview.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some last-minute botany studying to do.

Quotes of quotes of…, 3/22

March 22, 2010

The final paragraph of J. Hoberman’s review of Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” (1956), originally published in the October 27, 1987 issue of the Village Voice:

Written on the Wind is not simply epic trash but meta-trash. As the pulp poetry of the title suggests, it’s about the vanity of trash, set in a world Sirk finds poignantly innocent. (There’s a wonderful, if belated, gag that no one is quite sure exactly where Iran is.) This is the land of simulacrum, a hall of mirrors in which the reflection of an image substitutes for the image itself. Malone disposes of both male Hadleys (freeing Hudson to possess the film’s only possible mother, which is to say, Bacall) and sentences herself to eternal sexual frustration. She’s left to fondle her father’s oil-rig dildo, the image of the dead patriarch smiling benignly from above, as Hudson and Bacall make their escape. The last shot is of a black servant closing the gate; you expect him to roll up the lawn and strike the set.

What I’ll be seeing at the Wisconsin Film Festival

March 22, 2010

This came up often enough over the weekend that it deserves an entire post: what I’m planning to see at the upcoming Wisconsin Film Festival (April 14-18). I was very pleased to hear from a number of my amigos and acquaintances that they’ve already bought or will soon buy their tickets for the fest. I wasn’t as pleased to wait nearly 30 minutes in line at the Union today to buy my own tickets. Anyhoo, without further ado:

“Historias Extraordinarias,” “Daddy Longlegs,” “The Host,” “Collateral,” “Harmony and Me,” “It Came from Kuchar,” “Wild River,” “The Art of the Steal” and “The Train.”

Some new stuff, some old stuff. Some fiction films, some documentaries. Some screenings with the filmmaker(s) present, some screenings with the filmmaker(s) absent. All will be great in their ways. And don’t you dare forget that tickets are a mere $3.50 per screening for UW students.

Above all else, one thing is crystal-clear: if you’re not planning to see “It Came from Kuchar,” then you probably haven’t seen the ridiculous and ridiculously poignant “Hold Me While I’m Naked” (1967).

The entire program and schedule is available at the WFF’s website.

(Visual) Quotes…, 3/22

March 22, 2010

Another special edition: a batch of images from Marguerite Duras’ ravishing, immobile, almost ostentatiously spare “India Song” (1976):

What the heck…

March 19, 2010

… are we to make of this? (Spoiler alert… I think?)