Sunday, August 31, 2008

Telluride: Day 2

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Before the world premiere of his movie Everlasting Moments at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, director Jan Troell said, "I would never voluntarily come to a film at this time. Not even my own. Try to stay awake." I did.

Everlasting Moments. Epic domestic drama from Sweden with a grounded lead performance by Maria Heiskanen, who looks and sounds like a working-class Ingrid Bergman. Spans 10 years. A quietly moving fable about seeking the perfection of life through a camera's viewfinder. How we forge everlasting moments of goodness in a fleeting second from life's boredom, unpleasantries and unfairness.

Critic and filmmaker Richard Schickel -- red-faced, purple-shirted, tweed-jacketed -- received the silver medallion of the festival at the Sheridan Opera House. Watching Schickel, who is lively but old, makes me think that the age of the esteemed critic-historian is ending. Schickel and Ebert might be the last of the breed. What is it being replaced by? Perhaps film appreciation has been institutionalized by academia, and it will live on, for better or worse, there.

Schickel: "I have had young people come up to me and say 'I've never seen a black-and-white movie and I'm like, 'Are you out of your fucking mind? It's not something to be proud of.'"

Schickel's documentary on Warner Bros., You Must Remember This, will play on PBS soon.

Happy-Go-Lucky. By Mike Leigh. How happy people make us miserable. How we make our own luck. Winning performance by Sally Hawkins as the most joyful woman alive. Great cameo by Karina Fernandez as a flamenco teacher perhaps too invested in her art. Q&A after. Leigh is slight, stooped, suspendered, bearded. Small. "For me, filmmaking is all about discovering what the film is."

Philanthropy. A dark Romanian comedy that looks and feels like Scorsese's After Hours. By turns funny and boring. From 2001.

Seen: Laura Linney, defacto mayor of Telluride during the festival, conferring with friend over the program. I also served Mike Leigh a bottle of water. Michael O'Keefe ("Noonan!"), the bad guy in American Violet.

Crowd-pleasers: Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, which got a rousing ovation last night. Also, the documentary Prodigal Sons is the most-loved show at Telluride (and it doesn't even have an IMDb page). Also, Fincher didn't show up to host or introduce his director's cut of Zodiac. Bitch.

Everyone is mumbling about the lacklusterness of this year's slate of new movies. The vintage offerings are top-knotch, though I probably won't be able to make any of them. They are showing Troell's The Emigrants and The New Land back to back tomorrow. And the Alloy Orchestra is providing a live, original score for The Last Command (with Emil Jannings).

Drizzly and overcast today. I'm off to catch the gondola to the tribute to Jean Simmons.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Telluride: Day 1

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Bronze sunsets. Chapped lips. What I saw yesterday:

The David Fincher tribute. Clips of Se7en, The Game, Panic Room and Zodiac (which is also playing in full in a director's cut -- with six additional minutes -- tomorrow). Regrettably, no Alien3. A very tense medley of movies -- all about people who are wrapped in an inescapable situation. Fincher talking with Todd McCarthy of Variety afterward. A poor interview. Oh well. Fincher is a San Francisco kid. Inspired to be a director after watching a making-of of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "Blow up balsam wood trains, scout locations out West and hang out with Katharine Ross? Good deal." Worked with George Lucas. Boyhood friends shaved their heads to be part of THX. Did music videos with Madonna, Michael Jackson and Iggy Pop. Fincher came off as a bit of douchebag, as my friend Tom said, but that was probably because he was annoyed with the inane, disinterested "discussion points" that Todd McCarthy dribbled out.

Flame & Citron. Introduced this movie last night at the Nugget Theater. Most expensive Danish-speaking film ever made. Budget? $9 million. Extravagant! Intricately epic 2.5-hour espionage flick, dirge-like, monotonous, incessant, featuring assassinations every scene by the title characters, two Danish operatives working against the Nazi occupation in Copenhagen. Citron is played by Mads Mikkelson, who was the villain who wept blood in Casino Royale. I introduced the director, Ole Christian Madsen, who shot the movie in Prague. Flame & Citron just got U.S. distribution on Thursday at the festival, so you'll be seeing it sometime next year I bet.

Notables in attendance: Jeff Goldblum (here with Paul Schrader's Adam Resurrected) holding court on Main Street. Peter Sellars, Ken Burns, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham here with Flash of Genius. Salman Rushdie too, sans Padma.

Looking forward to: Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, which has been irking people here, as rumor has it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Telluride: Day 0

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Well, I'm here again. Fest starts today. Won't have time to compose essays or reviews, so I'm just going to spit out brief thoughts. Saw two movies last night:

American Violet. Sentimental, simplified deposition drama about racist plea-bargain tactics in Texas. Star of the show, the charismatic Nicole Behaire, makes quite an impression, but the movie feels made-for-TV/after-school-specialy. Should've been a hard-hitting documentary rather than a syrupy drama. One staffer muttered "it's social, liberal Hollywood pablum." Release date unknown.

Baraka. From 1992. Remastered, in 70mm print. In the vein of Godfrey Reggio's mindf*cks. This one strings together footage of beautiful locales and human creations, set to thumping monk music. It's mesmerizing, and builds slowly to make several large points about humanity, our ingenuity and our cruelty, our capability for greatness and depravity. Features time lapse, highspeed filming to make us see the insane operational aspect of human routine. Available via Netflix.

Also, take a look at the fancy new Telluride widget. Goes into more detail than I can about the schedule:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Scarlett, Javier, Penelope

A good friend reviews Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is beautiful because Allen is now decidedly in control of this phase of his career, which blends the sharpness of his older dramas with a newly acquired expatriate hipness.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Give Ernest Borgnine a hand

The secret to staying so youthful at 91 years old? Watch the clip below.

I love it when senior citizens get squirrely (as long as they're not touching me).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bleak chic

Looking for examples of bleakness in cinema: bleak stories, bleak landscapes, pervasive hopelessness. Films that don't shy away from getting to the redemptionless heart of humanity: gangster pics, post-apocalyptic films, etc. Recent are upcoming examples are welcome, as are ones from the past. Please leave in the comments.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Obama picks Jeff Bridges

I'm as dismissive of the presidential campaign as you are (at least until they actually start debating), but I have decided who I'm going to vote for. I base this not on the fact that one guy is sane and the other insane, but that one guy chose Jeff Bridges when asked for his favorite movie president. From a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly:

Who's your favorite movie or TV president?
You know who was a great movie president? Jeff Bridges in the Contender. That was a great movie president. He was charming and essentially an honorable person, but there was a rogue about him. The way he would order sandwiches — he was good at that.

That is the correct answer, senator. You have my vote. McCain picked Dennis Haysbert from "24," which is a copout on several levels.