Wednesday, April 30, 2008


My colleague and buddy Zack Sultan has a brilliant piece in Stream today about his disdain for user-generated contests. He uses Doritos' Super Bowl ad campaign as his main example. An excerpt: 

"The Doritos Model confers genuine benefits on the participant, even beyond the promise of interstellar publicity and hefty cash prices. Making an ad sharpens the focus of many young filmmakers who don't yet know how to use their freedom wisely (witness the gray sludge of scantly edited and conceptualized web-cam dispatches that clog the arteries of most video sharing sites). Submissions to these contests are frequently more thoughtfully constructed, and even more artful, than the typical 'auteur' project you stumble across on YouTube."

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Much time has passed since Larry Clark discovered Harmony Korine skateboarding in Washington Square Park and hired him to write "Kids." In its wake, Korine exploded into the mainstream as a radical artist with a bad boy streak. His first two features, "Gummo" and the Dogme '95 entry "Julian Donkey-boy," divided critics and furthered his reputation as a fiercely independent figure. Just when his world seemed to be moving too fast, Korine left New York City for his native home in Nashville, got married and made a new movie to reflect his comparatively happier state of mind.

"Mister Lonely" stars Diego Luna as a disillusioned Michael Jackson impersonator whisked off by a faux Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) to a strangely fascinating commune of like-minded characters. In a separate storyline, Werner Herzog plays a priest whose team of nuns inexplicably learns how to fly. In e-mail exchanges over several months and during an interview last week in New York City (where "Mister Lonely" is screening at the Tribeca Film Festival prior to its May 2 release), Korine discussed the themes of the movie, his general filmmaking philosophies, and the dubious case of the Malingerers. IFC First Take opens "Mister Lonely" in limited release Friday.

indieWIRE: Have your expectations for the way the film is received changed since last year's Cannes premiere?

Harmony Korine: I try not to think about it too much. I have never been good at gauging reactions to my films. I remember thinking "Gummo" would be embraced by the public in much the same way as "Bambi" was when it first came out. I am always wrong about such things.

iW: There's a point in the film when the story gets significantly bleaker. Did you always intend to have reality intrude on the movie's surreal sense of beauty?

HK: Yes, this is one of the central themes of the film. Reality always seems to trounce the dream. Nothing too good lasts too long. Fuck it and enjoy while you can.

Read the rest of the interview in indieWIRE...

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NEW YORK, New York -- A web celebrity making his big screen debut, a pioneer of internet-based film marketing who keeps making small movies, and two remarkably original animated features that only their radical creators could think up: Such are the joys of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. After opening last Wednesday with Baby Mama, the massive New York City gathering premiered dozens of tiny independent titles, many of which arrived with the sort of unlikely back stories you'll never find in Hollywood fare.

Bart Got a Room tells an amusing if familiar coming-of-age story, sporting strong performances from William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines and newcomer Steven Kaplan--but YouTube star Brandon Hardesty steals the show in a supporting role. Daniel Myrick, already in history books as co-director of The Blair Witch Project, continues working on an independent scale with his supernatural thriller The Objective. Famed indie animator Bill Plympton has ventured into deeply complicated morality issues with his painstakingly rendered noir Idiots and Angels, while cartoonist Nina Paley brings years of Flash experience to fruition in her provocative feature Sita Sings the Blues. I won't try to argue that any of these projects share similar themes, because they don't. However, fitting the standard for a well-programmed festival, this quartet bears the fruits of individual efforts and unflagging, singular ambition.

Read the rest in Stream...

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Monday, April 28, 2008


In fifty years of tooling around, Jonas Mekas hasn’t changed his groove. Once the Super 8 camera provided him with the means to capture New York in all its gritty permutations, and now the mobility of cheap digital technology has made this goal even easier. Writing in his film column for the Village Voice in 1963, Mekas predicted that “the day is close when the 8mm home movie footage will be collected and appreciated as beautiful folk art, like songs and the lyrical poetry that was created by the people.” More than a prophetic statement, it was a declaration of aesthetic intent. Ever the fierce guardian of independent cinema, shielding it from the deleterious pressures of studio product, Mekas recognized cinematic redemption in the formal properties of thriftiness.

Read the rest in the new issue of Reverse Shot...

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

ERROL MORRIS AND THE DIGITAL DIVIDEFor close to thirty years, Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris has consistently churned out some of the most provocative inspections of the American psyche ever put on film. His work is always profound, whether it's existential, political or personal: He uses animal death to explore the transience of all life in Heaven's Gate, explores the psychology of working in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, and launches straight into the concept of war criminality with The Fog of War, which finally won him an Oscar.

Now, he's back in the ring of topicality with Standard Operation Procedure, an in-depth study of the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal with testimonies from practically all the soldiers featured in the infamously photographs. A highly stylized work of forensic cinema, with a haunting score by Danny Elfman, Standard Operating Procedure (which opens on Friday) gets a special screening tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Morris will attend and take questions. I caught up with him at a Manhattan hotel yesterday for a pointed discussion about the way new technology has affected his work.

Read the rest of the interview in Stream...

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Still reeling from SXSW, I headed back down to Texas last week for the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, covering the young gathering in two pieces that are up now at indieWIRE: Read about some of the small discoveries here, and various recuts and undistributed stuff here.

While the town isn't nearly as chaotically energizing as Sundance, it's still a great environment for watching movies with general audiences. Thanks to John Wildman, Levi Elder and the rest of the AFI Dallas team for helping me out.

As I mention in the second dispatch, Polyphonic Spree played a kickass show at the House of Blues on Saturday night. Here's a sample, courtesy of yours truly: