We begin with two big-picture items on the state of things. In general. First up, the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody: “It’s already known that most so-called ‘films’ are shot on video, and then released and projected as video. The news that Paramount has stopped shipping film prints of its movies is of symbolic importance—except, of course, to the operators and patrons of the eight per cent of theatres that haven’t made the digital conversion.” That said, “ultimately, what matters is not film or video but the idea.”
Sam Adams puts a question to the Criticwire network: “The Sundance Film Festival played a key role in popularizing the notion of American independent film, but with the festival celebrating its 30th year and the landscape more fractured then ever, does ‘Independent Film’ still mean anything?” If you’re at all interested in the question, you’ll want to read these answers.
“I finally saw Spike Jonze’s Her,” begins the latest entry from Steven Shaviro. “I have to agree with what my friend Paul Keyes said about the film on Facebook: that it is ‘a dystopia about how awful it would be if all the aspirations of hipster urbanism actually came to pass.’… Ultimately, Her is the exact inverse, or the flip side, of a much better film—Brian De Palma’s recent masterpiece Passion.” And yes, he explains.
“For all its compelling intellectual swerves and parries, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology never actually provides a solid definition of its titular term.” Michael Sicinski in the Nashville Scene on the latest from Sophie Fiennes and Slavoj Žižek.
Fired up by what he called ‘directors of vision’ from Europe—he names Murnau, du Pont, Lang and Lubitsch—Vidor set about creating his own. [In his 1953 autobiography A Tree Is a Tree, he] describes the movie’s most famous shot, where the camera scales a vast office building, sweeps through a window and swoops over hundreds of desks until at last it discovers John Sims, bored out of his mind….
So breathtaking is this scene that 13 years later, when Orson Welles and Gregg Toland moved a camera up a building, seemingly through a skylight, and down to Dorothy Comingore drunk at a table in a deserted club, the effect was still thrilling. It was thrilling almost 20 years after that, when Billy Wilder’s camera in The Apartment crawled up another tower to find Jack Lemmon at his desk at Consolidated Life of New York. Wilder never hesitated to credit Vidor.
In the new issue of Interiors, production designer Alex McDowell, who’s worked with Spielberg, Gilliam and many others, talks about working with David Fincher since the director’s music video days before focusing on the layout of a crucial showdown in Fight Club (1999).
M.G. Lord in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Victoria Wilson’s A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940: “Stanwyck’s path from chorus girl to movie star may not be especially fascinating or unique, but Wilson charts the actress’s more startling, less savory evolution: from a dirt-poor innocent into a hardened Republican, bitterly opposed to collective bargaining, and devoted to the ideology of her first husband, Frank Fay, an alcoholic tax evader who hated ‘Roosevelt, Communism, unions, and Jews.’ The marriage only lasted seven years; his ideology corrupted her forever.”
In Film International, Brandon Konecny explains why he admires Evgenija Garbolevsky’s The Conformists: Creativity and Decadence in the Bulgarian Cinema 1945-1989: “[W]hat’s most impressive is how she situates Bulgaria’s cinema not just within its own film culture, but also within that of its regional and even global counterparts.”
IN OTHER NEWS
“More than 30 years after the crime, a reputed mobster was indicted Thursday in the $6 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport that was dramatized in the Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas.” The AP reports.
Amber Heard, David Gordon Green and Austin Chronicle editor-in-chief Louis Black will be among the inductees at the Texas Film Awards on March 6. The Chronicle‘s Richard Whittaker has the full list of winners.
Austin. Marjorie Baumgarten calls up the curator of the series Jewels in the Wasteland: A Trip Through Eighties Cinema With Richard Linklater: “The Eighties were the period during which Linklater became, by his own definition, ‘cinema-crazy’ and ‘watched almost every film that came out’… Five films are scheduled for the first installment of this series, which only covers the years up to 1983. ‘I’m going to talk about these from a personal, subjective viewpoint,’ explains Linklater. (Cialis) ” The five? Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982, screening January 29), Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss (1982, February 5), Martha Coolidge’s Valley Girl (1983, February 12), Sam Fuller‘s White Dog (1982, February 19) and Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981, February 26).
Los Angeles. Starting tomorrow, Karina Longworth, author of Anatomy of an Actor: Meryl Streep, will host a week of films starring Meryl Streep at the New Beverly. The LA Weekly‘s Amy Nicholson talks with her “about the secret Streep we never knew: firebrand, tactician, enemy of Madonna.”
Seattle. “Kicking off with a documentary portrait of the brilliantly prickly Broadway legend Elaine Stritch and closing with a romantic drama led by Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling, SIFF’s Women in Cinema festival is a five-day showcase of films by, about, and starring women.” David Schmader previews the series running through Sunday.
London. The BFI series A Serious Man, a Modern World: Buster Keaton and the Cinema of Today is on through February and BFI programmer Geoff Andrew pulls out all the stops: “He was not only a great American filmmaker of the silent era, he is also one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, anywhere, and belongs in the very highest level of the cinematic pantheon alongside the likes of Fritz Lang, Carl Dreyer, Jean Vigo, Jean Renoir, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Max Ophuls, Ingmar Bergman and a handful of others. In short, Keaton is as good as it gets.”
The Telegraph‘s Tim Robey on The General (1926): “Almost certainly the funniest silent film ever made, Buster Keaton’s hurtling 1926 comedy about a Civil War railroad engineer is now widely considered his masterpiece. But it wasn’t always thus.” And of course, he elaborates.
IN THE WORKS
First, I suppose, we’d better make note of a couple of films that are no longer in the works. On Tuesday, Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. broke the story that’s evidently the talk of the town (you know, the big one out there on the west coast). Quentin Tarantino gave the screenplay for The Hateful Eight to a handful of actors, someone leaked it, and QT’s so pissed he’s called the whole thing off. Fleming: “Tarantino tells me he will publish it first and maybe revisit the prospect of a movie in the next five years.”
On the upside, i.e., news of projects actually still on, Brown also reports that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play Philippe Petit (the subject of the widely lauded 2008 doc Man on Wire) in Robert Zemeckis’s To Reach the Clouds.
Peter Greenaway will soon be shooting Eisenstein in Guanajuato with Elmer Beck as the Russian filmmaker and Stelio Savante as Hunter S. Kimbrough, “one of the financiers and producers of Eisenstein’s original venture that procured meetings with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera,” reports Jeremy Kay for Screen Daily.
A couple of promising notes on future scores: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who worked with David Fincher on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, are back on board for Gone Girl, reports Marah Eakin at the AV Club. The Playlist‘s Cain Rodriguez reports that Carter Burwell will score Todd Haynes‘s Carol, featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and Danny Elfman will score Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
“David O. Russell is coming to television,” announces Nellie Andreeva at Deadline. “ABC has given a straight-to-series 13-episode order to a drama project from the American Hustle writer/director and Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant.” It’ll be “an upstairs/downstairs soap set at a private country club.”
“Nicolas Winding Refn’s still mostly-under-wraps sci-fi remake/television series Barbarella now has a home at Amazon Studios,” reports the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth.
“Penelope Cruz will topline and co-produce Ma ma, the next film by one of Spain’s most prominent auteurs, L.A.-based Spanish director Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia, Room in Rome).” John Hopewell has more at Variety.
“Movie producer James ‘Jim’ Jacks, who worked with independent-minded filmmakers including the Coen brothers, Richard Linklater, Sam Raimi and Billy Bob Thornton, died Monday,” reports Dave McNary. “Though his most commercially successful venture was the The Mummy franchise, which he launched in 1999 with longtime producing partner Sean Daniel through their Alphaville Films banner, Jacks was known for championing American auteur filmmakers even while working in the studio system at Universal.” Among the films for which Jacks, who was 66, is credited: Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, John Woo‘s Hard Target and the Coens’ Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and Miller’s Crossing.
More news from Variety: “British stage, film and television actress Sarah Marshall died Saturday morning in Los Angeles following a long battle with cancer. She was 80…. Marshall made her feature film debut in 1958’s The Long, Hot Summer, but her most notable work was on Broadway.”