film

Moulin Rouge, via Gatsby

I have a terrible confession to make.

You are likely to shake your head in disbelief when I tell you this.

But I've decided to come clean: I just saw the film Moulin Rouge this week.

*ducks for the inevitable pelting with overripe vegetables that follows*

I can explain! 2001 was a tough year for me. And the previews here in the states showed that zippy little number done to the tune of the Can Can. It looked to be far too bouncy and jubilant for me to digest. And thus, I never saw it.

Over the years, as I listened to friends whose taste paralels mine, or at least frequently overlaps when it comes to movies, I would smile and nod when their unbridled love for this movie would come up. "Mmmmhmmm" I would say, before bouncy off on another topic as quickly as possible.

So what made me take the plunge this week? It was the trailer for the new Baz Luhrmann film based on The Great Gatsby, as seen above. Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite books (tho it seems I most unfortunately lent my vintage copy of it out to someone who never brought it back to me.) So knowing that I will defintiely want to go see Gatsby, and having had an evening with movie watching on the agenda and nothing in hand that looked particularly inspiring, we rented Moulin Rouge from the iTunes store...and I positively loved it. Of course.

I'm sorry it took me so long to see the film, but am glad to finally be able to add to the conversation the next time someone brings it up as one of their favorite movies, or an example of Ewan McGregor being positively adorable, etc.

Now, what else do you secretly suspect I've never seen and should add to my queue ASAP?


Saying Goodbye to Severus Snape

Severus Snape...erm, make that Grape, in my Restaurant City restaurant

Sometimes you need to have a less ambitious weekend. That's how this one has turned out, after the landlady for the place we had an appointment to go see (a landlady who talked L's ear off for 15min about the place I might add) called to tell us it had been leased. Thus we ate the extra city car share hours, and spent some time cruising around the neighborhood looking for For Rent signs, then ran a ton of necessary but completely uninteresting errands.

My greatest accomplishment thus far this weekend? Helping L with his Restaurant City tasks, resulting in him attaining -- and gifting to me-- the adorable little Snape, erm, Grape, statue you see here in my restaurant.

I absolutely had to have him after seeing the final installment of the Harry Potter movies last weekend. I was misty-eyed for about the entire last half of that movie, as Severus Snape has pretty much been my favorite character in those films since I first laid eyes on him. Alan Rickman, with his Trent Reznor hairdo and terse comments, can you even imagine anyone else in the role but him?

Snape appealed to me as a character because, frankly, he reminded me of my teenage years. Snape was the sort of kid who would have hung out with my friends in the quad. He would have been in the front row of the Sisters of Mercy show with us. When he was having a tough day, he would have gotten a hug, not shoved into a locker. I recognize his dry sarcasm as a defense mechanism. And as the story plays out over the movies, I love how we get to see more and more what a truly amazing and caring person he is.

I'll stop now, before I say anything that may spoil something for someone whom has not yet seen the film. This is when I should mention that, unlike pretty much everyone I know, have not read any of the Harry Potter films. L has read them all, usually as soon as they were released. But I have experience Hogwart's only through the movies.

This has meant extreme vigilance in curbing (or completely turning off) my social media usage around release time of the movies, lest I be spoiled thoroughly before making it to the theater. I am happy to report that I made it to see this edition of the franchise without any spoilers reaching my eyes-- tho just barely.

It continues to amaze me just how insensitive people are to others, and how eager they are to casually toss out spoilers in public media as soon as they themselves have seen something. There appears to be very little recognition or understanding as to how incredibly insensitive that is to other people. And then there are the people who *cackle* and rush to share spoilers with you. Luckily, it is incredibly easy to swiftly unfollow such folks.

If you love Snape as I do, here is some additional clicking for you:


A Shared Group Experience That Wasn't

Last night, we went out to see "The American", the new film from Anton Corbijn, starring George Clooney. I was excited to go see it, having been a big fan of his photography for decades (yes, seriously), and his iconic video work for Depeche Mode. I'd really enjoyed his first full length film, Control, based on the tragically short life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis.

The film opened with a gorgeous snowy landscape, in Sweden, and immediately conjured up Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" in my head. We were drawn in to the dangerous day-to-day life of Jack, a weapons expert and assassin by trade. Having seen the trailer, and being well-versed in Corbijn's work, I knew this wouldn't be some run-of-the-mill "assassin pulls one last job" movie.

As the movie progresses, you see it's really more of a statement regarding figuring out what gives your life meaning. Having an exciting job with lots of money isn't it. All you really have in life are your relationships with other people. The rest is filler, not what's important. Jack comes to this realization by the end of the film. But as the film ends, you fear he figured this out a tiny bit too late. And that after executing all the elements of his plan perfectly throughout the film, when he most needed perfection, he fucked up. The final scene leaves you with a jack who is angry. Angry at himself for messing up. Angry for not realizing what mattered sooner. Finally, the assassin's mask is lifted and he shows this final emotion.

Corbijn fades out to the trees in the Tuscan countryside, leaving you, the viewer, to decide how this film ultimately ends. Personally, I love ambuguity in films, especially in the endings. (I loved that about Inception, for instance, and know that was the element most likely to vex many of the folks I know who saw it.)

As the screen faded to black, I'd started to tear up a ittle. I'd really enjoyed the film. And at that point, a group of 6 or so people sitting near me, started hissing.

That's right. They hated the movie. But they decided that was not enough of a statement. And thus, I had to listen to these self-appointed arbiters of culture complain loudly about how "this was a terrible movie." The "worst movie I've ever seen."

WTF?

I know we all have our own expreience of films, and pieces of music, and books, and of art. But, frankly, the last time i saw this kind of righteous indignation was when I saw Lost Highway. Someone walked out of that midway through, possibly during the S&M scene with Marilyn Manson's "Apple of Sodom" playing. It didn't surprise me during that film because quite honestly, I love David Lynch but I have seen numerous people lose it while watching his movies in the theater.

But I was shocked at all the noise these folks felt compelled to make on their way out of the theater, thus imposing their opinions over the experience of the rest of us -- the majority of the audience -- who'd sat there wanting to soak up the ending of the movie as the credits played out. To be fair, they weren't the only people who hadn't liked the film. A couple in front of us had stalked out of the theater after a scene with Clooney and a lady of the evening.

After a few minutes of their hubbub I really couldn't listen to more of it. And thus I said in a stage whisper to my SO, "I guess they were expecting a Hollywood action film where the guy gets the girl and they all live happily ever after." Happily, their obnoxious commentary stopped after that, as they packed up and left.

I'm not proud of stooping to their level, mind you. But I couldn't stand another minute of listening to their boorish commentary. Save it for your post-movie dinner chat with your friends. The strangers in the audience with you are not interested in your opinion. Really. We're not.

I wonder what had compelled these folks to trek out to the Sundance Kabuki (that's right, they're affiliated with that Sundance, the one that puts on the independent film festival) and pay a premium to watch this film. All I can think of is one of the ladies in the group was a big George Clooney fan and convinced everyone to go along with it.

 I'll never know what their issue was with the film that caused them to raise their voices to ensure everyone in the audience could hear how much they hated it. But it was a good reminder that these shared experiences we have in a large group of people...they're not the same experience for all of us, even though we all take part. And hopefully next time I encounter folks acting in this manner, I'll be able to just shush them.


SF International Film Festival + Vacation Week

In 8 days, I'll be packing up my laptop and taking a much needed week off from work.

We're not planning on doing any traveling since I have a sabbatical in October and we're planning on heading to Scotland for that. Instead, we timed this week off so it coincides with the SF International Film Festival. For the past few years, it seemed like most of the screenings we wanted to attend were in the middle of the day. Thus my brilliant idea of taking the week off so we could go this year.

Of course, much of what we picked ended up being...late evening shows. Ha! So much for all that planning.

Our watch list thus far is these five films:

This should leave us with a free day to head out to the Valley to get to meet Emma, the Valentine's Day  addition to the Stevens family. And possibly a day to head up to Napa or Sonoma. Looking forward to having a few lazy days to recharge.


RESfest founder Jonathan Wells has launched a new film fest

My college classmate Jonathan Wells has always had a good feel for what's new and captivating in the video arts. Back in the day, he had a local cable access program that showcased indie rock videos, local art, and other cool stuff of interest in the visual arts. A few years later, he founded the RESfest, the roaming digital film fest that has long been a must-attend on my social calendar.

This morning, I received a note that he'd moved on from the RESfest to start a new film festival, Swerve, with West Coast flavor. They're open for submissions through August 8, so get crackin'!

    I'm excited to let you know about a brand new festival that I'm directing and that is being produced by my new company Flux. After ten years at the helm of RESFEST, it was time for a change.

    Inspired by art, film, music and action sports, Swerve Festival celebrates west coast creativity and culture. The festival is a brand new initiative of FUEL TV and will include screenings of independent feature and short films, music videos and live music performances. A Swerve art show of original art installations is being organized by Beautiful Losers co-curator Aaron Rose. Todd St. John and Gary Benzel of HunterGatherer have designed the festival logo and are creating the visual identity of the festival.

    I'd like to invite you to get involved. Submit a film, music or art project or just join us for the last weekend in September in Los Angeles.

    Swerve Festival
    September 28-30, 2007
    Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles

    We are seeking innovative films and videos from around the world for the film programs.
    Entry Deadline: August 8, 2007 (postmark deadline)

    For more information visit:
    www.swervefestival.com

    Please join the festival mailing list on the Swerve site if you'd like to receive programming updates.

    best,
    Jonathan
    --
    Jonathan Wells


SF's Legion of Honor Kicks off a new "Cinema Supper Club"

Supper_club The new DeYoung Museum may have gotten the lion’s share of the press over the past year-and-a-half, but its sister organization, the Legion of Honor, is still alive and kicking. I just received an email about their summertime cinema dinners, starting today.

Mirroring the DeYoung’s extended hours on Fridays, these Thursday night events pair special 3-course dinners in the Legion’s café with a selection of films that tie in with their special exhibition Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper.


Noise Pop 2005: Oranger and Man with a Movie Camera

One of my favorite events at each year's Noise Pop music fesitval is the screening of a silent film at the Castro Theater with a live rock band performing the score. This year, they asked local indie rock favorites Oranger to reprise the score for Man with a Movie Camera, apparently originally created by Oranger for the L.A. Independent Film Festival. The movie was a collage of images from daily life in a Russian city, abstract but beautiful, and a great pairing for Oranger's rockin out. AND there was even ample usage of theramin.


2004 RESFEST SF

Each Fall, I look forward to RESFEST for my fix of innovative short filmmaking -- and kick ass music videos. This year's fix is Thursday, September 30 - Sunday, October 3, at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Cinema Electronica (10:00 p.m. Friday) and Videos That Rock (3:00 p.m. Sunday) are the two recurring music video programs I never miss.

A Videos That Rock screening a few years back was even my introduction to Death Cab for Cutie, and perhaps for The White Stripes as well. This time, Videos That Rock has Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", The Shins' "So Says I", and a video by RESFEST fave and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" director Michel Gondry for Steriogram. It will also be my first listen/viewing of anything by TV on the Radio. Given all the hype they've rustled up, I am amazed that's true.

Thanks to this being an election year, and an election which has stirred up a lot of strong feelings, the creation of Bushwacked! (8:00 p.m. Saturday), a collection of 22 short films about the Bush administration and its related politics was a given. There are two Bay Area filmmakers in the group: Eric Henry with his School House Rocks-style animated short "Pirates & Emperors" and Louis Fox's "Slam Bush", a Hip Hop Nation response to a George W. Bush debate monologue.

For the rest of my RESFEST picks, sign up to receive this week's flavorpill. Tickets to individual screenings are $9 plus service charges and postage in advance, $12 at the door. The $99 pass gets you into all the screenings and events (including the opening night party with L.A. indie rockers Midnight Movies playing a set.)


2004 Mill Valley Film Festival

I almost never leave SF unless I'm stepping on an airplane to go across the country*. But the line-up for this year's Mill Valley Film Festival may move me to rally some film-loving City folks for a road trip or two. There are screenings of several high visibility films slated for October NYC screenings at the New York Film Festival, but the bulk of the screenings includes several dozen U.S. premieres.

My picks for some of the highlights from the Mill Valley Film Festival schedule:


  • Finding Neverland -- this opening night film, starring Johnny Depp as British playwright J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. The film also stars Kate WInslet and Julie Christie. Unfortunately, after the members only ticket sales, this film is already at RUSH (day of waiting in line to by no-show tickets) status.
  • Vera Drake -- as part of the festival's tribute to Mike Leigh, which will include an on-stage Q&A, there will be a screening of Leigh's new film. Leigh won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for this film, while lead actress Imelda Staunton was recognized for her work as well.
  • Antares -- recently screened at the Toronto FIlm Festival, is a German film that explores the emotional ties and social conventions that bind people to each other, and looks
  • Hair High -- Bill Plympton fans who missed his latest film at the SF Indie Film Fest earlier this year get a second crack at it.
  • Head-On -- This German film explores the lives of second generation Turks living in Germany and won top honors at the Berlin Film Festival.
  • The Nomi Song -- On eof two MVFF films playing at the Castro Theatre in SF, this is a documentary on avant-garde entertainer Klaus Nomi, perhaps best known for his performance on Saturday Night Live with David Bowie in 1980.
  • Primer -- Generating lots of buzz due to its cast of unknowns and $7k budget, this indie film centers on the premise of the blessing and curse of being able to have anything you want.
  • Stage Beauty -- costume drama (that's been compared to Shakespeare in Love for obvious reasons) on what happens to a celebrated leading lady (a gentleman) once women are allowed on stage.
  • Stella Street -- an outgrowth of a British comedy series, featuring Phil Cornwall and John Sessions as a variety of celebrities.
  • Undertow -- a thriller about a disintegrating Southern family, starring Dermot Mulroney and Josh Lucas.

A big change from previous years is the lack of the the CinéArts@Sequoia Theatre venue. due to a collapsed ceiling last month. This means all their printed materials are wrong, and they are relying upon the website and ticket hotline to inform folks of the venue change resulting in all those films moving to the Regency in San Rafael.

The screenings are not transit friendly, alas (unless you consider spending 1.5-2 hours each way and $8 nice), which means, as in previous years, I probably won't be attending any of these screenings. Too bad we don't have some sort of special Mill Valley Film Festival shuttle from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal...you'd think they could get some SUV or mini van manufacturer or even a local limo rental firm to sponsor it...

* This is due primarily to my not being a driver. But the smug satisfaction that I live in a City that serves up more than I could ever possibly have time to do or money to afford is another major factor.