Thursday, October 13, 2011

Movies: Identity Crises with Antonio Banderas, Glenn Close and Marilyn Monroe

This weekend at the multiplex it's the battle of the 80s remakes with sci-fi horror film THE THING (previously in theaters in 1982) vs. "everybody cut everybody cut" dance drama FOOTLOOSE (previously in theaters in 1984). The latter proudly and absurdly waves a "this is our time" tagline despite being a remake of another generation's touchstone.

Okay, okay. Aaron Johnson is not of much consequence to Albert Nobbs, but I just wanted to post those screengrabs courtesy of MNPP. Can you blame me?

Albert Nobbs is really all about Glenn Close's Oscar grab though the trailer does seem to have something of an identity crisis itself. Close plays the titular character, a female waiter who passes herself off as a man in Ireland. She finds an unexpected ally in Mr Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) someone much more comfortable with their trans identity. Not many people have seen the film yet but among those who have there's some concern that it's too restrained a star turn and film to win Glenn Close that elusive Oscar. But "career achievement" angles and story hooks can go a long way during Oscar season. It's worth noting that Glenn Close first played this role on stage in 1982, which was also the year of her movie debut (The World According to Garp) for which she earned the first of her five Oscar nominations and she co-wrote the Nobbs screenplay. That's quite a lot of material with which to build an Oscar campaign. I wouldn't bet against her for a Best Actress nomination (at least at this point).

Speaking of Oscars and actresses, some people are mighty pissed at Hilary Swank for a recent appearance in Chechnya.

Michelle Williams is also generating Oscar buzz now that people have been seeing My Week With Marilyn. Michael Musto reminds us of this tragic Marilyn Monroe Oscar Factoid. The subject of Marilyn and acting is always a fascinating one since "Marilyn" was a performance from the beginning. Here's a great piece on the overplayed legend and the underplayed quality of Monroe's acting. I also saw the film but while I think Michelle is certainly giving it her all the takeaway for me was hammy Kenneth Branagh's brilliant casting as hammy Sir Laurence Olivier.

Albert Nobbs Trailer: Glenn Close Sheds Cross-Dressing Light oRodrigo Garcían Equal Opportunity

Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs is just one of the many award-winning buzz movie trailers released these past few weeks, and given a very strong performance from Glenn Close, it is understandable to see why. But while the performance is strong, I cannot make out what this movie is suppose to be. But whether it is a drama, comedy, or a blend of the two and more, one thing is for sure, Glenn Close’s performance looks tailored to win a few awards.

Nobbs does seem to poke fun at her sexuality, trying to pass off as a man, but outside forces seem to thrust her into confusion. So I really don’t understand what Albert Nobbs is trying to be.

Directed by Rodrigo García (Nine Lives) Albert Nobbs also stars Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson, Janet McTeer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Pauline Collins, and Brenda Fricker.

Sixty-three Films Eligible for Foreign Language Oscar, Leading Contenders

Of the final sixty-three countries that have submitted their official Oscar entries in the Foreign Language Film category, many have been seen on the festival circuit. Screenings will soon be scheduled for various foreign language committees, which will eventually narrow the list to the final five to be announced on January 24. The first committees see groups of films and must see a certain percentage to vote; branch chief Mark Johnson chooses an uber-committee to add three films to an initial list of six and then vote on the final five nominations. Thus high-brow movies that may not play to the bigger group can be added. The prime contenders based on previous nominations or and/or critical response so far are:

Sixty-three Films Eligible for Foreign Language Oscar, Leading Contenders
Zhang Yimou’s $90-million Nanking Massacre period drama Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale (seeking North American distribution), which is a bigger-budget entry than usual from China; France’s Declaration of War from Valérie Donzelli (IFC); Greek sex drama Attenberg (pictured, Strand), directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, which is also up for Europe’s LUX prize; Iran’s A Separation (SPC), from Asghar Farhadi; Israel’s Footnote (SPC), from Cannes screenplay award winner Joseph Cedar; Venice special jury prize-winner Terraferma (seeking North American distribution), directed by Italy’s Emanuele Crialese;

Lebanon’s Where Do We Go Now? (SPC), directed by Nadine Labaki; Mexico’s Miss Bala (Twentieth Century Fox), from Gerardo Naranjo; Poland’s In Darkness (SPC), directed by Agnieszka Holland and Sweden’s Beyond (seeking North American distribution), from actress-turned-director Pernilla August,  which stars Noomi Rapace. The full list of 2011 submissions is below:

New on DVD this week

GREEN LANTERN (2011, Warner, PG-13, $30) — Ryan Reynolds has enough charisma for a dozen movie stars, but he can't save this silly origin story involving yet another DC Comics superhero. As the titular crime fighter, Reynolds is enlisted to take out Parallax (Clancy Brown), a fire-breathing giant octopus-ish villain hellbent on decimating the Green Lantern Corps. Given the cast (Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Blake Lively), the director (Martin Campbell, who oversaw the Bond reboot "Casino Royale") and the budget ($150 million), "Green Lantern" should have burned a whole lot brighter. Extras: deleted scenes on the DVD, an extended cut of the movie, featurettes on the Blu-ray.
From left, the superheroic 'Green Lantern,' the
dark comedy 'Horrible Bosses,' the animal
romp 'Zookeeper' and the mind-bending 'Tree of Life.'
TREE OF LIFE (2011, Fox, PG-13, $30) — Terrence Malick's fifth feature in 38 years is a humdinger, an unclassifiable mind-bender of a movie that encompasses everything from dinosaurs to a depiction of small-town American life in the 1950s. The heart of the story belongs to Jack O'Brien (superb Hunter McCracken), a youngster being raised in Texas by a strict dad (Brad Pitt) and a caring mom (Jessica Chastain). No mere coming-of-age story, "Tree of Life" is after something bigger. It's a look at what came before us and, if we're lucky, what comes after. Occasionally confusing, always ravishing, "Tree of Life" is a movie of gripping questions, not easy answers. Extras: 30-minute making-of short.

HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011, Warner, R, $29) — Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman star as three put-upon employees who decide the only way to deal with their overbearing supervisors (Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey) is to knock them off. A few scenes fall flat, as the cast members attempt to out-raunch each other, but other scenes work beautifully, especially the ones demonstrating just how horrible the bosses are. Aniston is a nightmare predator, Farrell is a frequently hungover bully and Spacey has a sadistic streak a mile wide. Extras: deleted scenes on the DVD, extended cut, featurettes on the Blu-ray.

ZOOKEEPER (2011, Sony, PG, $30) — In a nutshell, it's "Night at the Museum" meets "Doctor Dolittle," with cheesier special effects and more slapstick comedy. Kevin James stars as a gentle zookeeper who is such a big loser in the romance department that his four-legged friends have to help him snag the hottie (Leslie Bibb) of his dreams. Even though celebrities like Adam Sandler, Cher, Sylvester Stallone and Nick Nolte provide the voices for the talking animals, the critters, bizarrely, take a backseat to James' love life. You'll see most of the twists coming a mile away, but James' good-natured performance and some quirky touches make this a passable family diversion. Extras: blooper reel, featurettes.

Killing a Hollywood Legacy

The San Sebastian International Film Festival may not have the profile of Cannes or Sundance, but insiders know that it is one of the world’s most inviting festivals. Set in a spectacular seaside town in northern Spain known for its world-class Basque cuisine, the festival always showcases a sterling selection of new films from around the world.  Equally impressive is its classic programming. Director Ami Canaan Mann, who visited San Sebastian this year to present her new film, Texas Killing Fields, says, “I can’t think of any American festival that has such extensive retrospectives.”
Carlos Alvarez
This year San Sebastian showcased a series titled “American Way of Death: American Film Noir 1990-2010.”  Although the series undoubtedly reflected Europeans’ views of American preoccupation with violence, it was a wide-ranging and impressive selection of 40 films, including two from Ami’s father Michael Mann (Heat and Collateral), the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing and Fargo, David Fincher’s Seven and Zodiac, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, and Sidney Lumet’s last film, Before the Devil Knows You’re DeadTexas Killing Fields, about a series of murders of young women in Texas, was the only new film in the series, and it opened the retrospective.  “I was incredibly honored to be chosen,” Mann says.  “I’ve always loved the genre.” After its festival screenings in Venice and San Sebastian, the movie opens in the U.S. on Oct. 14.
Back in Los Angeles to promote the movie, Mann spoke about discovering the story. Ten years ago, her father developed the script with screenwriter Don Ferrarone, who heard about the crimes in Texas when he was working as a DEA agent.  (He later switched careers and has worked as a consultant or producer on such movies as Miami Vice, Man on Fire, and Déjà Vu.)  But the project languished until Ami decided to revive it.  She secured financing once Sam Worthington agreed to star as one of the detectives investigating the murders. Worthington persuaded his co-star from The Debt, this year’s “It” girl Jessica Chastain, to take a supporting role as his ex-wife and fellow cop.

Mann was haunted by photographs of the 50 women whose bodies were discovered outside Texas City, Texas.  She explains, “In many cases, all they had were school photographs of these young girls, smiling and looking straight at the camera.  Some of the victims have never been identified, but they are all daughters and sisters.”  While the women were the victims of a number of different killers, Mann and Ferrarone knew they needed to provide a plot that would link several of the murders to one killer, providing the framework of a whodunit without oversimplifying the case.  So they created the character of one young girl in jeopardy, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, to provide an audience focus for all the forgotten victims.  “I wanted to give a face and voice to the victims,” Mann says, acknowledging that this gives the film a different feeling from many crime films made by men. She also wanted to avoid depicting the murders in a grisly way. “I wanted to be more evocative,” she explains, and she says that her chief influences were more atmospheric thrillers, like Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.

“Peter Weir takes a stone cliff and brings it to life,” Mann explains.  “I wanted to do the same thing with the swamps in Texas where many of the bodies were found.  I was very lucky to find the location.  We just happened to turn off on a weird road and found all these tree stumps in a swamp that had once been a forest.”  One of the strongest elements in the film is the haunting depiction of this ravaged landscape.
In some ways, Texas Killing Fields was a family affair.  Her father was one of the producers, and her half-sister, Aran Reo Mann, was the production designer who helped Ami to find the eerie locations and construct the beautifully detailed sets.  Both of them made important contributions.  “It was a unique advantage having Michael as a producer,” Ami says.  “He needed to make decisions on budget, but he could step outside that and see things as a director would.”  As for Aran Mann, who also worked on Miranda July’s first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Ami says, “She’s a brilliant, quiet force of nature.  She catches nuances and details that many people would not see.”

Saved From Extinction: Classics and Curiosities

Film preservation takes many forms, some perilously close to Dumpster diving.

When the director Joe Dante was assembling his epic-length mash-up, “The Movie Orgy,” in the late 1960s, he scoured the East Coast for castoff footage — educational films, commercials, TV shows, forgotten drive-in features — that would lend itself to being creatively re-edited.

A scene from Joe Dante's restored 1968 “Movie Orgy,” which kicks off “To Save and Project,” at MoMA
“Back in the day,” Mr. Dante said, “there were lots of mom and pop 16-millimeter rental sources, often attached to camera stores. When the prints became too tattered, they were often junked, in pieces. If you knew the guy behind the counter, sometimes he’d just give the stuff away.”

Working with Jon Davison, a friend and fellow student at the Philadelphia College of Art, Mr. Dante massaged his found material into a hilarious metamovie in which five or six stories seem to be going on at once (giant grasshoppers invade Chicago, as flying saucers attack Washington), constantly interrupted by prom night dos and don’ts, stomach-churning commercials for laxative pills and disturbing excerpts from children’s television shows (including a stuffed cat and mouse who perform “Jesus Loves Me” on piano and drums).

In the wild juxtapositions, the outlines of two future careers are apparent: Mr. Dante’s as a director (“Gremlins”) and Mr. Davison’s as a producer (“Airplane!”).
Sponsored by Schlitz, “The Movie Orgy” toured college campuses for years, in a constantly changing form that varied in length from three hours to seven. Mr. Dante will introduce a four-and-a-half-hour version on Friday evening to kick off this year’s edition of the Museum of Modern Art’s annual festival of film preservation, “To Save and Project.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Locals getting a taste of Hollywood action as Jay Moriarity movie begins filming

SANTA CRUZ - Filming of the new movie about surfer Jay Moriarity began this week, bringing a little taste of Hollywood to the region.
The cast and crew of "Of Men and Mavericks" will be in the Santa Cruz area for about two weeks. Filming kicked off in Santa Cruz on Monday before moving Tuesday to the Pleasure Point area, where Moriarity grew up and later lived with his wife, Kim.

The area along East Cliff Drive at the end
of 41st Avenue is transformed into a movie
set as the 'Of Men and Mavericks'
crew prepares to film a scene of the movie
about Santa Cruz surfer Jay Moriarity on Wednesday
A number of residents clustered around the set Wednesday morning, looking for glimpses of the film's stars and watching the cast and crew at work. Wednesday scenes were being filmed at the end of 41st Street, and many residents took their morning walks and bicycle rides as usual, zipping past a lot full of trailers and camera equipment.

Jennifer Young, who lives right by the beach in Pleasure Point, came over with her cousin, Kevin Dean, to watch the action.
"It's been really calm, very professional, very organized," said Young. "They've been very welcoming."
The crew was careful not to disturb the area's residents much, refraining from blocking off too much of the area and allowing people to pass by except during short periods. A small group of set assistants politely asked the onlookers to keep quiet when the cameras were rolling.

"They've really got it together," said Dean. "It's interesting to watch - everyone's been very cooperative."
Young, who used to run a weekly newspaper in the area, said she'd met the real Jay Moriarity a few years before his 2001 death and she still keeps in contact with his widow, Kim Moriarity, who is being portrayed in the film by actress Levin Ramblin.

Hollywood movie stars a big hit on streets of Upper Darby

Another reader snapped this shot of star Bradley
Cooper last week during the filming in Ridley Park
UPPER DARBY — If the myriad trailers and film crews didn’t give it away, then the throng of women milling around Park and Madison avenues Tuesday afternoon was a big hint.

Hollywood hunk Bradley Cooper was on the 200 block of Madison Avenue Tuesday, shooting portions of the upcoming film, “The Silver Lining Playbook.”

“I’m a fan, and it’s awesome just to meet someone famous,” said Stephanie Siegman, 29. The Drexel Hill, Upper Darby, resident said she and several friends were thrilled to have the actor visiting their township.

“And for it to be in our area is awesome, too,” she said. “(Plus) he’s hot.”

Based off a Matthew Quick novel by the same name, and directed by David Russel, the film stars Cooper and longtime Hollywood leading man Robert De Niro.

Not everyone was there to see Cooper. Michelle Kao, 26, brought her 17-month-old son, Noah, along to “stalk and watch” De Niro go to work, she said.

“It’s Robert De Niro! How would you not want to come see him?” she said. The Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital unit clerk cited “Goodfellas” as her “all-time favorite ever.”

“How could you not want to stalk him if he is up the street from your house? I don’t understand that,” she said.

Tuesday’s scene involved Cooper’s character, Pat Peoples, returning from a mental institution to live with his parents.

The homeowners have been temporarily relocated to an area hotel at the expense of the filmmakers. A phone message left for the homeowners was not returned by press time Tuesday.

Northern Ireland actor joins the Three Musketeers

His name may not strike automatic recognition among the masses, but Lisburn-born actor Ray Stevenson has been slowly notching up a long list of films and television roles.

Muskets at the ready: Stevenson as Porthos
Now he is set to take the world by storm in a leading role in the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Stevenson stars as Porthos in new movie The Three Musketeers, due to hit our screens today.
And the 6ft 4ins actor will hardly be away from our cinema screens in the coming year as he has been filming a host of movies alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names.

Earlier this year he headed up a cast that included Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer on the Irish-American mob epic Kill The Irishman; he’s currently shooting GI Joe 2: Retaliation with Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson, and has just finished on the set of Jayne Mansfield’s Car with John Hurt.
The who’s who of Hollywood action heroes gives a clue to the kind of films Stevenson has found his place in.

He has already starred as the lead character in two movies based on heroes from the Marvel comics — The Punisher and Thor.
In King Arthur he played Dagonet, a knight of the round table who sacrifices his life for his comrades.
And the 47-year-old credits the action-packed roles for keeping him fit. “I hate the gym. I can’t do the matching socks and tops,” he said in a recent interview. “As long as I keep working on a film I’m pacing myself and training. In between times I am a lazy, lazy bugger.”

In the adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas Three Musketeers story, he plays Porthos alongside fellow musketeers Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen and Luke Evans, who play D'Artagnan, Athos and Aramis.
The swashbuckling heroes must stop the evil Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and face off with Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) and the treacherous Milady (Milla Jovovich).
Filmed in Germany, Stevenson has talked about how the cast bonded over Bavarian beers and how he was drawn to the role, in part, because of the technology being used.
The film is shot entirely in 3D, and claims to be the first film to be conceived and designed as a 3D movie since Avatar.

But acting wasn’t Stevenson’s first job. He originally trained as an interior architect and, after a change of heart in his mid-20s, embarked on a new career, enrolling in the Old Vic Theatre School.
The huge leap into the unknown paid off when he landed his first role alongside fellow Ulsterman Kenneth Branagh in the film The Theory Of Flight.

The film was followed by theatre productions and regular spots on ITV dramas such as Peak Practice and Band Of Gold.
And while he may find himself rubbing shoulders with some of the hottest names in Hollywood, Stevenson says he hasn’t forgotten his roots, admitting it was on his mum’s advice that he accepted the part in Kill The Irishman.

'Rum Diary' kicks off LACMA film series

The Los Angeles County Art Museum’s new screening program, Film Independent at LACMA, gets off to a big splash Thursday night at the Leo S. Bing Theatre with the world premiere of “The Rum Diary.” Based on gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s novel , it stars Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart. Depp, director Bruce Robinson (“Withnail & I”), Heard and Eckhart will be walking the red carpet.

'Rum Diary' kicks off LACMA film series
On Tuesday evening, new curator Elvis Mitchell welcomes "How I Met Your Mother's" Josh Radnor for a screening of Charlie Chaplin's brilliant 1936 comedy "Modern Times," which was his last silent film.
LACMA’s Tuesday matinee is serving up Stanley Kramer’s 1967 romantic drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” starring Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy in his last film role, and Katharine Hepburn in her Oscar-winning turn.

The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre presents “Recent Spanish XVII” Thursday through Sunday. The series opens with Pa Negre’s 2010 drama “Black Bread.” The film’s star, Nora Navas, will discuss the film after the screening. Director Achero Manas will be on hand Friday for the Los Angeles premiere of his 2010 drama “Anything You Want.” Also screening is Montxo Armendariz’ 2010 drama, “Don’t Be Afraid.” On tap for Saturday are Daniel Sanchez Arevelo’s 2010 comedy “Cousinhood” and “Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis,” starring and directed by Santiago Segura. Actor Alvaro Cervantes will talk about his latest film, the 2010 romantic drama “Three Steps Above Heaven,” screening Sunday. Rounding out the bill is the 2010 nostalgic comedy-drama “Forever Young.” 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Tom Cruise 'One Shot' set photos feature Katie and Suri visit

Movie fans in Scottsdale are waiting to see Tom Cruise's next project hit the big screen. Cruise has several movies set for release in the near future, but the actor is already working on his 2013 schedule. On Monday, Caught on Set shared the latest photos of Tom Cruise working on One Shot. The photos also feature his wife Katie Holmes and daughter Suri Cruise as the pair stops by the set to see Cruise in action. Check out the photos here. For previously released photos featuring Tom Cruise, go here.

Tom works on One Shot while family watches
Caught on Set also reported that One Shot also has its villain. Director Werner Herzog will take on his first major acting role in the film. He will play the man that arranges the death of five people in the film.

While work continues on One Shot, Tom Cruise is already in talks for his next project. On Monday, Cinema Blend reported that the man is in talks to take the lead in Doug Liman's project about a soldier that is brought back time and time again to the day before he died. Think Groundhog Day or Tru Calling for an idea of that plot. The film project is currently titled We Mortals Are, and Brad Pitt was also considered for the role.
Fans are ready and waiting to see what this actor does next on the big screen. One fan said the following on Twitter recently:
Werner Herzog will play the villain in the new Tom Cruise movie! Next I want Cruise as the villain in a Herzog movie.
One Shot will be released to Scottsdale theaters in 2013.

Weapons meant for Pitt film seized in Hungary

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- Nearly 100 weapons to be used in Brad Pitt's "World War Z" film were confiscated in Hungary because they had not been properly deactivated, authorities said Tuesday. The weapons included machine guns, rifles and pistols.

Actor Brad Pitt waves as he arrives at the Paramount
Theatre of the Arts for the premiere screening
of the movie "Moneyball"
The weapons arrived from London to Budapest's Ferenc Liszt Airport on Saturday and were discovered at a nearby duty free zone, Janos Hajdu, head of Hungary's Counterterrorism Center, said. He said he could not confirm they were meant for the film.

"It's possible that all the weapons were brought in for the film, but this would not be allowed by Hungarian law," as the weapons had not been fully deactivated and could easily be used to fire live ammunition, Hajdu said on Neo FM radio. "This is a very complicated case."

Hajdu explained that in Hungary weapons were considered to be deactivated only if the process "was irreversible," while the weapons seized could still be fired even though screws had been used to fill the end of the barrels.

Bela Gajdos, a weapons supervisor for "World War Z," said Mafilm, a Hungarian film company based near Budapest which had the guns brought to Hungary, had the necessary permits, including a detailed list of the weapons in question, issued by local police authorities.

"We had all the permits in order for the weapons to be brought in," Gajdos told The Associated Press by phone. "They were brought in only for this film and are owned by a company in England."
In accordance with British regulations, the weapons were prepared to be used with blank ammunition, Gajdos said, while in Hungary the guns were considered to be "not suitably modified."

Gajdos said he had been questioned by government investigators and that his home in Budapest had been thoroughly searched by security forces before dawn Monday who also confiscated the permits.

Gajdos added that he had not been able to inspect the weapons before the police seized them, but that they would have been checked by him and a Hungarian forensic weapons expert before allowing their use in the film.

Adam Goodman, whose company is providing production services for "World War Z," said he had been advised not to comment on links between the seized weapons and the film.

"We are preparing as planned. We are not changing our schedule," Goodman told the AP. He added that media reports claiming the film set had been raided by police to confiscate the weapons were "not true."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’: Consolation for the Grieving Process

Terrence Malick’s latest film, The Tree of Life, comes out this week on DVD. Beginning with its opening quotation from The Book of Job, through its 15-minute visual history of the universe, to its cryptic ending, this is a film that invites questions about “meaning” as well as the writer/director’s intent.

The Tree of Life
Admirers and critics have written extensively about the film’s “message” — search the Internet and you’ll find hundreds of comments that describe particular scenes and discuss their symbolism. While many viewers seem perplexed by this movie, to me it offers a fairly straight-forward New Age message about life, death and the source of true consolation during the grieving process.

The opening quotation from Job reads as follows: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” As you may recall, Job is the story of a righteous man whose faith God consents to let Satan test by (among other trials) killing all ten of his children. Job endures his enormous grief without cursing God, despite encouragement from his friends to do so, though he eventually comes to curse the day he himself was born.

This story has received various spiritual interpretations over the centuries; the one that resonates most powerfully for this film concerns the ineffability of God’s intentions, the inability of man to grasp God’s larger plans, and the part played by humility and an acceptance of such limits in true religious faith. The film’s opening quote suggests that God thinks on a time and celestial scale vaster than man can comprehend, infinitely larger than any one individual’s joy or grief.

By including the long sequence that runs from the Big Bang, through the creation of Earth and the origins of life on our planet, up to the story of the O’Brien family in 1950s rural Texas, Malick places his story within this larger context. While the family drama may consume its members, their individual passions, guilt and grieving process are minuscule within the larger universal context. Their journey is about gaining perspective on their actual place within that universe, a journey from solipsism to transcendence.

This journey is best exemplified by Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) in her attempt to reconcile personal grief with her belief in a Christian God’s mercy and grace. Early in the film, she learns that her 19-year-old son R.L. (Laramie Eppler) has died, and various people attempt to offer consolation during her grieving process.
The grandmother lists off a whole slew of platitudes: “You have your memories of him. You have to be strong now. I know the pain will pass in time. You know, it might seem hard, my saying that, but it’s true. Life goes on. People pass along, nothing stays the same. You’ve still got the other two [children]. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away and that’s the way he is. He sends flies to wounds that he should heal.” Then her minister offers more rote consolation — “He’s in God’s hands now.”

Mrs. O’Brien replies, “He was in God’s hands the whole time, wasn’t he?” If God is good and cares about us, why does he makes us suffer?

In voice-over, as she turns to scripture for consolation, her doubts intrude in the middle of a verse: “What did you gain?” she asks, presumably of God. She later asks, “Was I false to you?” — as if there is a reason why her son has died, as if the God of her personal faith is concerned in the minutiae of her life and has punished her for some infraction. “Lord, why?” she then asks. “Where were you?”

Malick’s answer to that question is the following magnificent sequence in which he unfolds the history of the universe. To me, it exposes the irrelevance of her personal concerns within the vastness of time. It also says that to ask such a question is entirely solipsistic and vain, to believe that you matter so very much. In this way, while apparently framed in terms of Christian theology, the film’s message is more spiritual than Christian. Especially in the final sequence, where Mrs. O’Brien emerges from the grieving process by giving her son over to God and the universe, she has come to understand that she is a part (only a tiny part, but a part nonetheless) of something much larger: The Tree of Life. To appreciate the beauty and goodness of that larger whole, to feel a part of it and to rejoice in that beauty is to transcend individual pain and suffering.
The Tree of Life also includes a message about the importance of love and forgiveness in its debate between “grace” and “nature.” Mr. O’Brien’s story (Brad Pitt) exemplifies the futility of nature, which “only tries to please itself,” while Mrs. O’Brien seems almost angelic in her selfless and loving acceptance of those around her.

At first blush, it may seem as if these are Christian virtues, but within the film’s larger context and her personal evolution, it seems that “love” is less about what one feels for others than what one feels as an integral part of the universe itself (an aspect of self-love as I’ve discussed elsewhere). This, in the end, is the film’s core spiritual message: that fulfillment in life comes neither from individual, solipsistic striving nor from adhering to Christian virtues, but rather through a kind of rapturous merger with life as a whole, the joy that springs from an appreciation for the beauty of something much larger than one’s individual self.

Only this kind of “grace” allows us to endure the pain and suffering that are an inevitable part of our brief lifespans; attempts to discover the meaning of our personal existence, or to decipher the illusory intentions of a God supposedly concerned with the minutiae of our lives, in the end yield scant consolation.

The Tree of Life is a deeply spiritual movie but not a religious one. Its beautiful, ardent imagery argues for the existence of God; but this God, it tells us, is everywhere, in everything, less a discrete being unfolding an ineffable plan for us than one embodying the vast and awesome beauty of the universe as a whole. Feeling oneself to be an integral part of that universe is the ultimate consolation for the grieving process, as well as for the existential pain of being alive.

‘Carnage’ Trailer – Roman Polanski’s Latest With Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly

Roman Polanski’s Latest With Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Take four of the best actors working today, throw them into a room and let the cameras roll. That seems to be the claustrophobic vibe director Roman Polanski is going for in his film adaptation of the Yasmina Reza play Carnage. The film stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly as two sets of parents who meet for an awkward, civil discussion that soon devolves into madness. It’s scheduled to open December 16. Check out the trailer after the jump.

Here’s the plot description of the movie. Be careful reading other ones online, as they’re likely from the play and contain spoilers. This one is spoiler-free though:
After two boys duke it out on a playground, the parents of the “victim” invite the parents of the “bully” over to work out their issues. A polite discussion of child rearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colors. None of them will escape the carnage.
Carnage opened this year’s New York Film Festival, as well as a few others, to generally good reviews (as of press time, it had 15 out of 16 positives on Rotten Tomatoes) so, if all goes according to Sony Pictures Classics’ plan, this film – with such a star studded cast and crew from top to bottom – will likely be an Oscar contender. Does it have that vibe for you?

Human Centipede sequel crawls into Brisbane

First it was gay zombie porn, now a movie deemed so offensive it was at first banned in the United Kingdom is the latest radical program choice made by Brisbane International Film Festival director Richard Moore.
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence will make its Australian debut in Brisbane in November, giving local audiences a first look at what American critics are describing as a “methodical snuff film", “an unfortunate success” and “a dismal, nauseating and yet bizarrely artful sequel”.

The second instalment follows from the Tom Six's 2009 release, The Human Centipede: First Sequence, which the sexually and emotionally abused, mentally unstable male protagonist of The Human Centipede 2 decides to copycat in his garage, with grotesque DIY gusto.

The Human Centipede II ... leave the kids at home
Recently released in full in America, and in the UK – after some scenes were cut – the film has been booked by Moore and guest curator Tim League for the 20th anniversary program of BIFF after the Australian Classification Board cleared the uncut version for R18+ release earlier this year.
The film involves a man sewing together humans into one "centipede". The full - graphic - synopsis can be read here.

It's not the first time Moore, among the few in the country to have seen the film, has sparked controversy; while head of the Melbourne International Film Festival, his selection of Bruce laBruce's L.A. Zombie was followed by a ban, and an illegal screening.

‘Top Line’ at the Movies: Ken Burns’ ‘Prohibition’ and History’s Repetitions

Legendary director Ken Burns turns his lens on “Prohibition” for his latest documentary, a three-part, 5 1/2-hour film that premiered on PBS last week.
The film is about the oft-misunderstood 13-year period — from 1920 through 1933 — where the manufacture and sale of liquor was illegal in the United States.

 It’s also about larger truths in American politics – as the nation watched a “magic bullet” spectacularly misfire — with lessons emerging that are newly relevant today, Burns told us in an interview for ABC’s “Top Line.”

“I learned more on this project than almost any other project I’ve gotten involved in,” Burns said. “It’s about single-issue political campaigns — wedge-issue campaigns that metastasize with horrible unintended consequences. Sound familiar? It’s a story about the demonization of recent immigrants to the United States and, as always, African-Americans. Sound familiar? This is the story of the loss of a civil discourse and smear campaigns during presidential election cycles. Sound familiar?”

“This is about a debate about the role of government in people’s lives, about unfunded congressional mandates, about warrantless wiretaps — I mean, all of a sudden I’m working on a project, and I’m going, OK, did I just abandon history? Or am I talking about current events? That’s the story.”

Burns told us that among the many things misunderstood about Prohibition was what it actually meant for the ability to get a drink in the United States in the years between the enactment of the Eighteenth and the Twenty-First Amendments.

Official Washington was particularly guilty of hypocrisy during that time period, he said.
“It was easier to get a drink during prohibition than after they repealed it, because once government came back in and regulated, there were opening and closing hours. You couldn’t sell to minors. Kids could walk into a speakeasy and get a drink,” he said.

“It’s one of the great ironies that it was harder to get a drink when they repealed it. This is the center of hypocrisy,” he said. “The president of the United States, Warren G. Harding, has a bootlegger come to the White house twice a week to fuel his whiskey cabinet when he’s in support, publicly, of prohibition. … This was corruption from the top down. And finally at the end it sort of crushed of its own sort of hypocrisy.”
The period also empowered women politically, setting the stage for women’s suffrage and broader involvement by women in politics. And it speaks to larger truths about the American spirit, Burns said.
“It is symptomatic of human nature,” he said. “We’re prurient but we’re also puritan. We’re Saturday night and we’re Sunday morning.”

Turning to modern politics, Burns – a strong supporter of President Obama in 2008 – said he’s confident the president can recover in time for 2012.

“All you have to do is look to see where we were four years ago to understand that Hillary Clinton had basically doubled up Barack Obama’s lead,” he said. “The No. 1 for the Republican nomination at this time was Rudolph Giuliani, followed by Fred Thompson. We have a fluid scene.”

“I think that the president will be reelected. I think it will probably be narrower than before. But a lot of it has to do with the ever-changing, unpredictability of things — which eventually then historical documentary filmmakers got get to make films about.”

We filmed the interview at Washington’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon, with the proprietiors bringing a Prohibition feel by breaking out some whiskey that was bottled during Prohibition – and were available for sale in the United States during that era for “medicinal use” only.

The Muppets Show You All The Things You Shouldn't Do During Their Movie

The beauty of shooting a motion picture with Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of Jim Henson’s classic Muppet characters is that when you need them for additional promotional campaigns, they’re always available. Gonzo isn’t like Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, jetting off to the next gig on the far side of the world. He’s a puppet, waiting to be picked up and used again and again in clever The Hangover Part II or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo spoofs.

The irony, of course, is that the clip touches on all of the reasons people would not want to see the new Muppets movie in a theater. Why put up with idiots on banana cell phones and texting morons that seem to congregate in area theaters? Then again, that’s likely not the point the Muppets want to make in the new spot, which does manage to advertise that their latest film, The Muppets, opens in theaters on Nov. 23.

So, if you do go to the movies to see The Muppets, leave your microwave at home. The Muppets, and all of the other patrons who paid good money to see James Bobin’s new family comedy, thank you in advance.

Korea's Busan stakes claim as Asian film hub

With a new name, a new venue and an emphasis on actors and directors from lesser-known parts of Asia, this South Korean port city is moving decisively to assert its status as the region's pre-eminent film industry destination.

The 16th annual Busan International Film Festival BIFF.L, Asia's largest, kicked off earlier this week at the new Busan Cinema Center, an eye-catching, $140 million complex designed by Austria-based architectural collective Coop Himmelblau.
BUSAN, South Korea
 Over 300 movies from 70 countries will be screened at the festival, including 89 world premieres.
Organisers have spared no expense on infrastructure and expanded the festival to include industry forums and educational activities as the number of competing regional events grows.

Beijing launched its own international film festival this year, and similar events have emerged in such seemingly unlikely places as Luang Prabang, Laos.

Even South Korea's hostile northern neighbour is getting in on the act, with the next edition of the biennial Pyongyang Film Festival slated for September next year.

Out with the new: Turbine Hall's latest work is tribute to old movies

Tate Modern's Turbine Hall has seen giant arachnids, huge suns and fake sunflower seeds fill its vast hangar-like space. This year sees a role reversal, with the gallery playing a pivotal part inside the artwork – as an extra in a giant film, projected on its side in the dark.

Tacita Dean: 'A moving tribute to the beauty of a dying art'
The Berlin-based British artist Tacita Dean's latest work, Film, unveiled yesterday as the 12th commission of the Unilever series, is an "homage" to the threatened analogue film-making industry. The east wall of Tate Modern appears as a recurring image inside Dean's 11-minute silent movie projection, which, at 13-metres tall, towers over visitors inside the blackened Turbine Hall space.

Dean, 45, said the "Turbine Hall as a strip of film" is the mesmerising 35mm film's motif – with references to Hollywood, the Dutch painter Mondrian and a previous Unilever artist, Olafur Eliasson. Dean said she "wasn't looking over her shoulder" at previous commissions, but acknowledged that the Turbine Hall's scale meant any work created for it needed to be about "the spectacular". She said: "It just grew, it became what it did."

Dean said she was motivated to create Film, in which she employs hand-tinting techniques, a mixture of speeds and images of flowers, tomatoes and smoking chimneys, after discovering in February that London's Soho Film Laboratory, a trusted collaborator, was due to shut. The lab announced it was stopping the printing of 16mm film, one of her chosen media. At the time, she said "the news will devastate my working life".

She said: "The beautiful medium we are about to lose... there's a whole industry that has just been wiped out. When you lose that you lose a certain vitality."

She said she "might go back to oil painting" or write a novel if she were no longer able to get hold of 16mm film, as the number of labs which can process it continues to diminish.

The artist said her difficulties highlighted the industry's problems. Less than two weeks ago a Dutch laboratory working on the film created an error of "colossal proportions". There were over 170 flashes of white at edit points in the film. The Tate was forced to track down British negative cutter Steve Farman, 52, who has worked on films including Batman Begins and Troy, to travel to Holland, where he worked through the night to salvage the project. Farman delivered the film to the Tate curator Nicholas Cullinan at 3am last Saturday. Farman said: "I've been doing film cutting for 35 years but I've never been so wrapped up in the passion of it all... I'm the last person doing it in the UK now. There used to be 200 people. It's very sad. It's a dying art. When I pack up, that will be it."

The exhibition's catalogue contains written defences of analogue film-making by internationally recognised directors such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. The latter director writes that his "favourite and preferred step between imagination and image is a strip of photochemistry that can be held, twisted, folded".

Hall of fame
2003 One of the Unilever Commission's greatest successes, Danish sculptor Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project saw thousands of visitors bask beneath an artificial sun, created through 300 mirrors.
2004 Raw Materials by Bruce Nauman, comprised 22 segments of spoken text played over loudspeakers. Voices broadcast included a man shouting "thank you" and the word "work" repeated like a yelping dog.
2006 Belgian artist Carsten Höller showed five giant slides of up to 55m long, the highest descending from the Tate's fifth floor to the level of the Turbine Hall. Höller said the installation, Test Site, was a playground for the "body and the brain".
2007 Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo prompted speculation over how she created a 167-metre-long crack, called Shibboleth, in the Turbine Hall's concrete floor. Theories ranged from the placement of a false floor on top of the original to replacement slabs. She said it represented "racial hatred" and "division in society".
2010 Chinese artist Ai Weiwei filled the Tate's Turbine Hall with 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds shipped from the Far East. Each seed was hand-painted.

New 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' promotional photos

Movie fans in Scottsdale are waiting for the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to theaters, and now they have been given another glimpse at the film. On Sunday, Spoiler Movies shared the latest promotional photos for the film featuring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. Slash Film also reported on the release of a bit of the musical score of the film. Check out the photos here. If you missed any of the previously released photos or spoilers for this film, go here.

Daniel Craig tackles The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is coming from Sony and MGM this December, and the score of the film features Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Fans can listen to the score of the film now on its official website, but Slash Film reported on an extra bonus for fans waiting for this film. Hidden on the official website is a free download of the score.

This film features a cast of Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård , Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, and Christopher Plummer. It is based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. The film tells the story of a journalist that is trying to solve a forty-year old murder case with the help of a hacker.The film is being directed by David Fincher. Check out the latest trailer for this film released last week here.
Fans are buzzing about this film on social media. One fan said the following on Twitter recently:
Stunning new images of David Fincher's #TheGirlWithTheDragonTattoo. Rooney Mara looks lush as Lisbeth!!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is set for release to Scottsdale theaters on December 21.

Sony Securing Rights to Steve Jobs Movie

Steve Jobs
Sony Pictures is looking to produce a movie from the soon-to-be-released biography titled Steve Jobs. The book, written by Walter Isaacson, is now scheduled to hit the shelves, both physical and virtual, on October 24.

Film School Rejects reports that Mark Gordon will be the producer. Sony has recently had a string of hits based on biographies, including The Social Network and Moneyball. Given the world’s reaction to Mr. Jobs passing, this movie would surely extend that string.

The biography was authorized by Mr. Jobs and it has been reported that the extremely private man gave permission so that his children would know him better. Pre-orders for the book have seen sales rise meteorically in the days following his death. The author is the last person to have interviewed Mr. Jobs before his passing.

No release date, cast, or crew have been mentioned yet for the movie.

'Shame': Being a sex-addicted bachelor in New York gets old

"We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place," says Sissy (Carey Mulligan) to her brother Brandon (Michael Fassbender).

That "bad place" is never made explicit in Steve McQueen's latest feature, Shame, which details the numbing routine of a sex-addicted bachelor in Manhattan, but the results are clear in the self-destructive behavior of these two siblings. There's a lot of graphic sex in Shame, which may attract most of the attention from audiences and critics, but the feeling of survived trauma pulses beneath the film like unacknowledged radio static. McQueen is not interested in why Sissy and Brandon are the way they are; he wants to examine how trauma and addiction actually play out in the everyday lives of those afflicted. There is a lot of repetition in Shame, showing Brandon's narcotized-by-sex routine.

Fassbender and Mulligan in Shame
 McQueen's camera is sometimes restless, sometimes stationary, always specific. He is a visual artist of the highest order, melding content to form in every shot. No shot is static, no space is unexplored for its interesting visual properties, and every time the camera cuts it means something. He often plays out scenes in one long take, which gives the event onscreen an almost uncomfortable sense of immediacy. Brandon goes out for a restless jog one night where he runs across five New York avenues, and the camera follows along with him the entire way. McQueen's shots themselves have tension in them, which makes sense, since McQueen started out (and still is) an artist, photographer and sculptor. He understands the relationship between objects and space.

This is the second collaboration for McQueen and Fassbender, the first one being 2008's Hunger, the harrowing film detailing the 1981 hunger strikes in Ireland, in which a literally starving Fassbender plays the first hunger striker to die, Bobby Sands. It was a standout performance and certainly got Fassbender the attention he required at that juncture in his career.

In Shame, he looks eerily like Ted Bundy, clean-cut, handsome, remote, with an elegant scarf around his neck. He lives in a high-rise apartment which isn't too palatial: living room, kitchen, bedroom. It's not one of those alienating unrealistic New York apartments so often seen in movies. He has a record player, lots of vinyl, a bookshelf (I noticed Don DeLillo's Underworld on the shelves, a perfect choice), but other than that it's pretty sparse in terms of decoration and furnishings.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stars of ‘Footloose’ remake dance into Philadelphia for a special screening

Will Hollywood ever stop with the remakes? Every year, theatres see countless number of “reboots”, and “re-imaginings”, and they all pretty much suck. Now the new trend seems to be that the original movies don’t have to be that old. Movies haven’t even been around twenty years, and they’re getting the treatment.
Stars of ‘Footloose’ remake dance into
Philadelphia for a special screening
That leads us to Footloose, the latest in the remake crazy, and surely one that’s gotten much attention in the wrong way. That said, Paramount seems to think they have a golden egg on their hands, as they’ve screened the film in advance countless times in an attempt to garner buzz.

Paramount was right, because Footloose is a hit. The story centers around toe happy teenagers that try to reverse a town-ban on dancing, set into effect after a horrible accident killed several high school seniors. I was at one of these screenings and can attest that the film is sweaty, sexy, good old-fashioned fun. The rowdy screening audience unanimously agreed, and lead stars Kenny Wormald  and Julianne Hough attended live after the film finished to answer questions.

Both Hough and Wormald expressed appreciation for the Philly crowd, who they claimed had the best energy to date in regards to test screening audiences. Wormald also added that Miles Teller, a co-star in the film, is a born and raised Philadelphia native with much love for the city. Having seen the film, it can easily be said he steals the show, playing Wormald's best friend with two left dancing feet. By the time the finale rolls around, he’s ready to show off what he’s learned.

Another question geared towards Hough (who plays a sexed up preacher’s daughter in the film) asked if filming was harder than Dancing With The Stars. She of course replied that the two are entirely different animals but the Stars was harder because it involved dancing “seven days a week, 12 hours a day on top of fittings and press.”

However, this doesn’t mean the 50-day film shoot wasn’t grueling.
“All of those dance scenes you see at night time, we literally started with the sunlight down, and finished when the sun came up,” added Hough.

“It was grueling”, commented Wormald.
Of course a dance film with this much electric charge needs some serious heat between the stars, and it was clearly evident on film that both of young actors clicked in a big way. Director Craig Brewer staged plenty of sultry interactions, but the chemistry was there too.

When asked how long it took for the two to click, Hough stated  “About 20 seconds.”  Wormald explained that Julianne already had the part when he auditioned, and that there certainly a bond there, one that naturally forms from being literally attached to each other half the time.

One of the biggest moments in the film is a ferocious solo four-minute dance number, which literally explodes onto the scene in an abandoned warehouse via Wormald. On filming the exhausting experience, Wormald indicated, “it was the last three days of shooting. I think they did that strategically in case I died or broke a leg. It was a dangerous dance scene and great to finish the film with.”

On a closing note, before the two energetic stars departed, one last fan asked what iconic films they would take on if they could board the remake train again. Their answers? Pretty Woman and Top Gun respectively.

I personally hope those projects never see the light of day, but in terms of Footloose, all parties involved have created a fine piece of entertainment.

Movie Review: film ‘pulls at every heart string’

As a child star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was unassumingly seeing angels on the baseball field next to stars like Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza and Danny Glover. Since “(500) Days of Summer” hit the world in 2009 with Levitt at the helm, it seems he can do no wrong. His latest release, “50/50”, continues this trend of stupendous movies.

Movie Review: film ‘pulls at every heart string’
Levitt’s new role is as Adam, a young radio program producer who is suddenly and unexpectedly struck with a rare form of cancer, which has developed as a mass on his spine. Based on a true story, Adam’s journey to battle this affliction is touching, emotional and heart-warming.

Levitt has a gift for being completely transparent in his acting. He’s seamlessly stepped into all of his latest roles and doesn’t disappoint this time around. Adam is an average guy with an average best friend, an average, if not very attractive, girlfriend and relatively average parents.

This average situation is exactly what makes the film so attractive. Levitt is this everyday man – just like you – and he gets cancer. It can happen to anyone, and you won’t forget. “50/50” offers one of the first real looks at someone getting cancer. Up until now, it seems it’s always about an older person or it’s drawn into this sappy, cry-your-eyes-out drama.

Instead, the message from “50/50” says, “Hey, cancer happens – this is how we actually deal with it.”
Levitt presents this concept extremely well. He looks goofy when he’s crying – not because he’s acting, but because everyone does. He perfectly plays the young, fledgling, awkward-relationship-with-his-parents-because-they-still-miss-him homeowner. He brings to the table what a young person dealing with fragility might put up with in regard to concerned friends and family.

Funny-man Seth Rogan plays Adam’s goofy best friend Kyle. He’s at Levitt’s corner at every turn, acting as both a humorous and honest friend. Nobody is pushing this film as a comedy, which is a bit unusual for Rogan, but he shows that he can fit into some different shoes. Just like that guy you knew in high school, Kyle is surprisingly going the extra mile for Adam but keeping it light at the same time.

Hollywood sweetheart Anna Kendrick stars as Adam’s psychiatrist Katherine as he deals with the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer. Some may remember her from the Twilight movies, but if you’re of a more mature audience, perhaps you remember her from the 2010 film “Up in the Air,” starring alongside George Clooney.

While it’s easy to say that Kendrick is simply playing the same character, you have to admit she does it rather well. She offers both a flustered and fresh attitude and that charming smile. The role fits her well because Katherine is new at her job. Anyone with experience may have been a stretch for Kendrick.
The film is based on a true story, and it’s pulling at every heart-string. From Adam’s dad with Alzheimer’s disease to the slips and slides that still happen in life even when you have cancer, this film brings it all and brings it hard. It has the potential to be a crier, but brings with it a genuine story and terrific acting.

Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival turns 16

When the late Vito Russo visited Seattle in 1982 and 1990, his three-hour film-and-lecture show, "The Celluloid Closet," planted the seeds for what would eventually become the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

"Vito made festivals happen," said Jason Plourde, programming director for Three Dollar Bill Cinema and the festival's latest, "sweet 16" edition.

The flashy musical "Leave It On The
Floor" is set in Los Angeles' underground drag-ball scene
Rachael Brister is executive director for the festival, which opens Friday at the Egyptian and continues through Oct. 23 with screenings at Pacific Place, the Admiral, Central Cinema, Northwest Film Forum and Harvard Exit.

Closing night takes place at Cinerama, where "Vito," an excellent new documentary about Russo, will have its West Coast premiere. It covers his years as a gay activist, the transformation of "The Celluloid Closet" (which became a 1981 book and a 1995 film) and Russo's death from AIDS shortly after his last Seattle visit.

Vito's show painstakingly demonstrated how Hollywood dealt with gay themes in movies as different as "Rebecca," "Red River," "Pillow Talk" and "Ben-Hur." He also called attention to the homophobic stereotypes that afflicted such seemingly harmless exploitation pictures as "Vanishing Point."

What would Russo have made of this festival's opening-night film, "Dirty Girl," which relies quite heavily on gay stereotypes? The hero is a chubby closet case named Clarke, his companion is the absolutely fabulous Danielle, and they've "borrowed" a car to take them from stuffy Oklahoma to liberating California.

The year is 1987, the Reagan era of "just say no," when even such slickly packaged multiplex movies as "Footloose" and "Dirty Dancing" managed to suggest that sensuality will not be denied.

Film Fest Gleams Mysterious This Year

In its 49th incarnation, well into respectable middle age, the New York Film Festival has experienced a growth spurt and a burst of youthful energy. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which hosts the festival, expanded its footprint last summer, with the opening of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, a street-level miniplex across West 65th Street from the lofty terrace of the Walter Reade Theater. The festival’s offerings have expanded accordingly, with more classic films and retrospectives, a new documentary program and a larger selection of Views From the Avant-Garde, in addition to the 27 features in the main slate.

Ditta Miranda Jasifi in “Pina,” a 3-D film directed by Wim Wenders
Gala screenings have been added beyond the traditional opening, centerpiece and closing-night events. And on Monday night there will be a sneak preview of an as-yet-unannounced film described as “a major work in progress by a master filmmaker” at Avery Fisher Hall.
Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar”?
Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”?
The next “Twilight” installment?

Footage from a party last night at Joe Swanberg’s apartment? Your guess is as good as mine.
An element of surprise is surely welcome at a festival that can seem, year in and year out, a bit predictable, an annual parade of work by the same cluster of masters. This consistency is in many ways admirable, especially in contrast to the indiscriminate frenzy of the Tribeca Film Festival. It is good to have attention lavished on the latest efforts from Pedro Almodóvar, David Cronenberg, Jafar Panahi and Lars von Trier, among other stalwarts of the festival. But a sense of energy, of spontaneity, is also a good thing, and perhaps necessary if the festival is to hold on to its reputation as an important event both on the New York cultural calendar and in the larger world of cinema.