Friday, February 29, 2008


Brett Morgen talks Chicago 10

Brett Morgen's "Chicago 10" revisits the tragic events outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when Yippie protestors were brutally beaten by police officers during a protest riot. Morgen, who co-directed "The Kid Stays in the Picture," takes an unconventional route in re-counting this tragic piece of American history in the '60s, telling the story of the subsequent trial as a cartoon (with voiceover work by Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte, Mark Ruffalo and others), and blending it with footage of the riots. In the interview, Morgen shares his experince with showing the film to both the young and mature alike, and why he' sick of why people ask him about Chicago 10 vs. 7. The movie opened the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and hits theaters this weekend via Roadside Attractions.

indieWIRE: You've been making a lot of effort to generate youth interest in the film. Was this always the plan?

Brett Morgen: The social outreach was very youth-oriented, but the trailer, to me, is not very youth-oriented. In terms of distribution, part of the challenge for "Chicago 10" has been trying to nail down the core audience. I made the film, somewhat obviously, for a youth audience. The reaction that we had from Sundance from most distributors was, "We love the film, we think this film will play like gangbusters for kids, it's going to cost us $10 million to market it and we don't know if they're going to show up." The more conservative approach to marketing this film is to go for the boomers.

Read the rest of the interview in indieWIRE...

Chicago 10

With the desperate street theater enshrouding the last Republican National Convention already looking like a retreating nightmare, political protestation has surely entered a new era. Whether he’s pure rhetoric or the real thing, Barack Obama gets crowds bouncing with a positive streak: The “Yes We Can!” campaign has an inclusive ring that such polarizing edicts as “Four More Years” can’t touch. Finally, feisty young liberals can dance to an upbeat tune. The question of how long until the record starts skipping is secondary to whether or not it means anything in the first place. Chicago 10, Brett Morgen’s highly original documentary about the Yippie massacre outside the Democratic National Convention of 1968, reminds us that this isn’t the first time vivacity, rather than urgency, dictated activism.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

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Jar City

As procedural thrillers go, the Icelandic drama Jar City is better than the average American genre entry, but that’s not saying much. Baltasar Kormákur directs this dark investigative work like a heavy contemplation of identity, where the solution is secondary to the atmosphere. Miles away from the David Fincher school of by-the-numbers solutions, the movie finds its center in murky ambiguity.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

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Violent Saturday

Melodrama abounds in Richard Fleisher’s Violent Saturday, the incessantly amusing 1955 noir screening this week at Film Forum, but it’s basically a red herring. Much like Dog Day Afternoon did two decades later, Violent Saturday gives the bank robbery an ensemble touch, with a story set in the kind of petite town that opens up nicely to vignettes. Most of the movie consists of build up, but the payoff makes it worth the wait. The residents struggle with soap opera woes, but the glorious Cinemascope—and the threat of something major lurking around the bend—elevate their plights. The would-be robbers, lead by a calculated Stephen McNally and the hilariously mean-spirited Lee Marvin, have concocted the perfect plan. It’s only fitting that they’re eventually thwarted by the innocence they hope to outwit.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Chop Shop interview with Ramin Bahrani

Ramin Bahrani looked ecstatic when his sophomore feature, Chop Shop, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Turning around to face the cheering crowd, the New York–based filmmaker was greeted by an enthusiastic Abbas Kiarostami, the Iranian auteur whose neorealist aesthetic had a profound impact on the 32-year-old Bahrani. His debut, 2005’s Man Push Cart, told the solemn story of a fallen Pakistani rock star resigned to selling coffee on the streets of New York. Chop Shop (opening this week at Film Forum) is another localized tragedy, documenting the struggles of an impoverished 12-year-old Latino (Alejandro Polanco) slaving away in a Queens-based auto-body shop and coping with the desperation of his older sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales). Bahrani discussed his original method and the larger purpose of his art.

Read the rest of the interview in New York Press...

The Signal

Technology is one of the few major preoccupations of modern society that predates 2001. At the box office, sci-fi dread has a populist appeal: The Matrix imagined life as a computer-processed nightmare, and Minority Report suggested imperfection in the utopian dream of systematically ending violence. The recent commercial success of Cloverfield showed that Hollywood could easily exploit 9/11 anxieties for entertainment value, overruling the need for narratives exploring the frighteningly intangible threat of media saturation. Fortunately, there’s The Signal, the brilliant independent production from a close-knit gang of Atlanta-based filmmakers released this week. It takes this frequently neglected issue to task with McLuhanean efficiency, but it’s also one badass horror film.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

Friday, February 15, 2008


The Lost

Before Chris Sivertson guided Lindsay Lohan through the unintentionally hilarious highlight of her career in I Know Who Killed Me, he had already developed a proficient style of visceral filmmaking in his preceding directorial effort, The Lost. Viewing this earlier independent work gives context to the big-screen joke that followed it: Say what you want about the amazingly miscalculated sequences that turn I Know Who Killed Me into an epic highlight reel of craptastic abuse, but there was a definite skill to the splendiferous sleaze. There’s even more of it in The Lost, which screens February 13 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in anticipation of a March DVD release.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

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Milos Forman: A Retrospective

The funny moments in a Milos Forman movie are nearly indistinguishable from the sad ones. Not a prophet of doom as much as a chronicler of contemporary despair, Forman meshes satire with realism and wields irony as a cultural weapon. From his early efforts as a progenitor of the Czech New Wave in the 1960s through his landmark contributions to the golden age of American cinema in the 1970s and continuing in his recent works, Forman has maintained a consistently dour tone. The humor emerges as a natural reflex—nervous laughter over the uncertainty of our times.

Read more in New York Press...

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Diary of the Dead

As a cinematic pioneer, George A. Romero remains uniquely selective. For nearly 40 years, the father of the modern zombie movie contributed a humble quartet of undead squalor to the newly revived genre, applying anthropological focus to the collapse of civilization. In his latest entry, Diary of the Dead, the aging director returns to his starting point and sets the now-legendary story of a zombie outbreak in the present. The times have changed, but his unflinching portrait of humanity’s innately self-destructive tendencies hasn’t frayed a bit.

For his fifth outing, Romero chose to ditch the original timetable: The first four zombie films, beginning with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead and culminating with Land of the Dead in 2005, adhered to a chronological progression. The world gradually adapted to its debilitating plague, and so did the infected. In Diary, Romero pits the zombie epidemic against the digital quirks of the new millennium (the survivors download a news report of the outbreak off the web), which completely shatters the real-time logic of the earlier entries. In doing so, however, he makes a valiant attempt to resurrect their original impact.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

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Doug Liman is no John Woo. Where the Hong Kong émigré tears through scenery and plot alike with a "ballet of bullets" in his mindlessly gripping action productions, Liman creates a more generalized choreography of motion. From Go to ridiculously overblown studio products like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the director tells stories with constant forward motion. Whether it's running, punching, fucking, combusting or any other spectacularly expeditious movement, Liman's movies progress with the incessant need to move from point to point, sequence to sequence, without letting the story get in the way.

Read the rest of the review in The Reeler...


"War is a crime," says the traumatized teenage lead in Ezra, "but I did not start it." Standing before a hardened “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in Sierra Leone to answer for crimes of brutality he committed as a soldier for an unnamed warring faction that kidnapped him as child, Ezra (played with measured intensity by Mamoudu Turay Kamara) is persistently direct. His world, however, never coalesces with such specificity. Alternating between Ezra's militant upbringing and the trial where he must confront it, the movie refuses to establish a real location or political backdrop. Although it's clearly set in South Africa, Ezra's sweeping declarations could refer to anywhere. Vaguely situated in the Twilight Zone of national unrest, the main trapping of Ezra is imprecision.

Read the rest of the review in The Reeler...

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Roy Scheider, the actor perhaps best known for his lead role in Jaws but also responsible for many memorable performances of the last three decades, died yesterday in Arkansas. He was 75.

To me, Scheider’s passing has far greater reverberations than the untimely demise of Heath Ledger. It signals the loss of a major artist whose fully developed body of work remains wholly distinct from the formulaic trajectory of so many leading men. He was refreshingly believable as the hardened police chief vainly attempting to guard an unsuspecting town from the monstrous creature lurking off shore in Steven Spielber's 1975 classic. And yet Hollywood formula didn’t sit that well with him: You could find him as a pimp in Klute and Gene Hackman’s withdrawn sidekick in The French Connection, but never a one-man army or incredulous hustler. The Jaws sequel was his sole miscalculation, but he followed it up with All that Jazz, Bob Fosse’s surrealist musical that remains potent to this day. The vibrant movie concludes with the show-stopping “Bye Bye Life,” where Scheider’s Fosse-like character bodes farewell to a troubled existence with a mixture of excitement and melancholia. It could be played at the actor’s funeral.

Read the rest of the tribute in New York Press...

Trevor Moore and his colleagues in the raunchy sketch comedy group Whitest Kids U’Know were early viral sensations, posting videos of their offbeat bits online during the baby days of YouTube. They got a lot of media coverage last year when a Budweiser ad featured a slapping joke that seemed heavily derived from their own work, but that was hardly a hindrance. The group has developed a steady group of fans that allowed their upstart stature to solidify into a career. Now they’re minor television stars, with a movie project that just wrapped and the televised version of their performance beginning its second season on IFC tonight at 11 p.m. Trevor spoke with New York Press about the experiences of then and now.

Read more in New York Press...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The Band's Visit

Eran Korlirin has not made a political statement with his debut feature, The Band’s Visit, but it still maintains an unavoidable topicality. The Israeli filmmaker stuffs his motley characters into a cheerfully simplistic jam: A whimsical bunch of Egyptian brass musicians en route to the Arab arts center become stranded in a vapid Israeli settlement, where they make awkward attempts to play nice with the hardened locals. Deadpan hilarity ensues—with a few healthy doses of melancholia—but the shadow of foreign animosity enshrouds every quirky vignette-like sequence, precipitating a metaphor stronger than anything overt about Korlirin’s breezy intentions.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...


The Hottie and the Nottie
Fool's Gold

Sometimes it’s the title, and sometimes the star—but in the case of The Hottie and the Nottie, both affect the perception of the movie as a zestfully lightheaded affair. The marketing gods haven’t lied to you, but they have fudged some of the details. Paris Hilton plays the same brainless set of curves that her media-saturated persona implies, but the doltish image nearly works in the context of this acutely slight romantic comedy. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly good, but certain measured elements of the genre create something surprisingly passable.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...

Friday, February 01, 2008


The Silence Before Bach

If classical music were a weapon, tranquility would be its ammo of choice. With the capacity to lull listeners into utter complacency, the lighter works of classical composers tactfully disarm the senses. In The Silence Before Bach, Spanish filmmaker Pere Portabella examines the art and craft of making music with the same lightness of being emanating from the art itself. There’s no plot, action or anticipation, but Portabella holds our attention by tracking the connecting strands of sound.

Read the rest of the review in The Reeler...

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A recap.

Everyone at the Sundance Film Festival this year agreed: It’s no easy task to tell a good story. There’s always reason to complain about the annual Park City gathering for growing commercialized, overpartied or just too damn cold—but the recent spate of rants focused on the movies. While the documentary categories gleamed with calculated topicality and observant portraiture, quality among the narrative features was sparse. Fortunately, a relatively barren creative landscape left ample room for several contemplative works to blossom as heralded discoveries, and only a few remain in the chilly festival void without theatrical distribution.

Read the rest of the recap in New York Press...

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If the gently amusing Lebanese romcom Caramel primarily intends to neutralize the mass media perception of its home country, then the deed is done. Considering that Lebanon has been represented at the movies in recent years with deleteriously suggestive titles like In the Battlefields and Under the Bombs, the effervescent aura of Nadine Labaki’s debut feature suggests an alternative perception of Middle Eastern life. In this light ensemble piece, it looks like anywhere else. Almost.

Read the rest of the review in New York Press...