If you read my review of Paranoid Park in today's paper or on the blog post below and decided to check it out, you may have discovered the movie didn't actually open.
I just spoke with a rep at IFC Films, who informed me the film won't open here until May 16. The decision was made at the last minute: As recently as Tuesday, Paranoid Park was still scheduled to open today. They just forgot to tell us it was being bumped.
Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant's mesmerizing new movie, melds the dreamy languor of his last few films (Gerry,Elephant, Last Days) with a page-turner of a plot. The camera still floats lazily behind the protagonists as they take long, rambling walks. But these walks actually lead somewhere.
That's not to say Paranoid Park, which Van Sant adapted from Blake Nelson's young-adult novel, unfolds in a straight line. As the film's narrator, the teenaged skateboarder Alex (Gabe Nevins) warns us early on, ``Sorry this is a little out of order. I didn't do so well in creative writing.''
Chronology is a key factor in Paranoid Park, which doesn't always let us know whether we're watching past, present or future, and occasionally replays moments we've already seen, revealing significance in previously mundane details.
Even though the subject of Paranoid Park -- Alex's growing guilt over his involvement in the accidental and unspeakably gruesome death of a security guard -- is dead-serious, the movie finds Van Sant in a creatively playful mood, using unexpected musical cues (from Beethoven to old Fellini film scores) and complex sound designs to illustrate the inner state of his characters. In one scene, the cacophonous sound of birds plunges us into the churning stress and anxiety Alex is feeling. In another, a musical melody drowns out the bad news Alex's girlfriend Jennifer (Taylor Momsen, from TV's Gossip Girl) is reacting to in unfortunate fashion.
The somewhat irreverent nature of Paranoid Park extends to the film's visuals. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle keeps Alex's parents out of focus for almost the entire movie to illustrate the disconnect between adolescents and their guardians. When Alex's father, oblivious to the quandary his son is struggling with, asks him ''How's school going?'' the scene is strangely funny, a sad reminder of the no-one-understands-me angst every teenager inevitably feels at some point.
In Alex's case, though, that isolation has a precise reason for being. Nevins, who like many of the film's other actors answered a casting call Van Sant posted on MySpace, has an awkward, halting delivery and manner that makes Alex's inexpressive nature seem all the more real. Unlike most Hollywood films about high school life, the kids in Paranoid Park feel like just that -- kids -- which gives their dilemmas, such as losing their virginity or breaking up with their partner, the same gravity you felt when you went through it.
Paranoid Park takes its title from a skateboarding park where Alex starts to hang out, and the movie is peppered with interludes of Super-8 photography of skaters flying through the air, performing balletic stunts on their boards, oblivious to matters of gravity or injury or anything else that takes place in the world below. It is down in that world that Alex is stranded, weighed down by his conscience over a murder along with the usual issues of girlfriends and schoolwork and chatty little brothers. The story of Paranoid Park may center on an extreme and unusual case, but it's Van Sant's understanding of -- and compassion for -- the hell of growing up that makes the film such a profound and lasting pleasure.
NOTE: As of Tuesday, Paranoid Park was scheduled to open today at the Intracoastal and Gateway cinemas in South Florida. Unfortunately, distributor IFC Films bumped the release to May 16 at the last minute and did not alert us to the change. Sorry for the confusion.
The Village Voice's Nathan Lee, who had proven himself to be a supremely entertaining and iconoclastic critic since being hired by the paper 18 months ago, has been laid off for what he describes in an e-mail as "economic reasons."
Here is Lee's Feb. 2007 piece on David Fincher's Zodiac, which was the best article about the film published anywhere last year. If an alternative newspaper chain like the Voice (which also owns the New Times) deems this kind of writing expendable, then serious film criticism in papers really is doomed.
Responding to an L.A. Times article about the 1980s teen-comedy godhead who has practically disappeared from public view, Defamer has launched the John Hughes Q&A Challenge, inviting readers to post questions for the director of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles and many other movies revered and despised in equal measure by anyone who grew up in the eighties.
The idea is that the public interest will motivate the filmmaker to break his Salingeresque ways and resurface. I doubt that will happen, but some of the questions being posed are pretty hilarious if you're familiar with Hughes' films. For example, "metroville" posted the following:
FOLLOW-UP: Was she the only person in that band?
To celebrate its 90th anniversary, United Artists (aka the studio that Heaven's Gate killed) is taking a series of some of its best-known films around the country, including a stop in South Florida over four consecutive weekends in April and May.
Founded in 1919 by the fantastic foursome of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith, UA was formed to give actors and filmmakers creative freedom in an era when the studios called the shots on every aspect of film production, from casting to the theaters where they were shown.
In 1981, after the financial disaster of Heaven's Gate, UA was absorbed by former rival MGM. In 2006, Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner took over the reins of UA, securing $500 million to finance new productions.
The new UA's first release thus far, Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, didn't fare very well. But this is supposed to be a birthday party, dammit, so let's not dwell on current events and relive the happy days instead.
Here is the list of the UA classics scheduled to be shown during the mini-fest. All screenings will be held at the Sunrise Cinemas Stadium 15 at Las Olas Riverfront, located at 300 SW First Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Each movie will be shown three times on its respective day at 1:30 , 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are as follows: $7 for the 1:30 p.m. screenings; all other shows are $8.50 for adults and $7.50 for students. Seniors 62 and over and children under 12 are $6 at all times. To buy tickets, go here.
I tracked down the original one-sheet posters for each of the films, because old movie posters are cool (and some of them are worth big bucks).
April 22 - Annie Hall
April 23 - The Apartment
April 24 - West Side Story
April 29 - Some Like It Hot
April 30 - Raging Bull
May 1 - Rocky
May 6 -
The Seven Samurai The Magnificent Seven
May 7 - The Good The Bad and the Ugly
May 8 - Midnight Cowboy
May 13 - The Great Escape
May 14 - Dr. No
May 15 - The Manchurian Candidate
The Digital Bits reports 20th Century Fox and MGM are mulling over which catalog titles to release on the Blu-ray format this year. Among the films being discussed: Fargo, The French Connection (woo-hoo!), the original Planet of the Apes, Young Frankenstein, the X-Men trilogy and, um, Super Troopers.
Dear Fox executives: Instead of the towering comedy classic known as Super Troopers, which won't be any funnier just because it's in high-def, may I humbly suggest you release this instead? Please? I guarantee you it will sell a lot more copies. That's a promise.
The Guardian's Joe Queenan goes looking for the worst movie ever made and comes up with Heaven's Gate, which is unanimously considered to be the biggest bomb of all time, even though
the French love it it has its share of defenders.
Queenan makes a compelling case for crowning Heaven's Gate as the all-time champion of bad:
This is a movie about Harvard-educated gunslingers who face off against eastern European sodbusters in an epic struggle for the soul of America. This is a movie that stars Isabelle Huppert as a shotgun-toting cowgirl. This is a movie in which Jeff Bridges pukes while mounted on roller skates. This is a movie that has five minutes of uninterrupted fiddle-playing by a fiddler who is also mounted on roller skates. This is a movie that defies belief.
I would argue that any movie that can generate the preceding paragraph cannot possibly be the worst ever made. If anything, that description makes me want to watch the film again. But while Queenan makes Heaven's Gate sound as amusing as Showgirls or Gigli in terms of its camp value and sheer folly, he underplays the one element that makes me agree with his anointment as the Worst Of All Time: Heaven's Gate is stupefyingly boring.
There are a million reasons why Heaven's Gate doesn't work, from the casting of Kris Kristofferson in the starring role (he had the task of carrying a three-and-a-half hour movie, something beyond the reach of almost any actor) to Vilmos Zsigmond's hazy, brown-and-tan cinematography, which makes big chunks of the movie look like they were shot through a dirty lens, to writer-director Michael Cimino's slow, ridiculous script, which stretches out 90 minutes' worth of plot into more than twice that duration.
But if Heaven's Gate is impossible to sit through, it is endlessly fascinating as a subject of discussion. For example, the film generated the second-best book I have ever read about the Hollywood studio system, Steven Bach's Final Cut, which addresses the seemingly unanswerable question of how so much time and money could be spent on a movie that no one would ever want to watch.
Bach's book was adapted into an excellent documentary of the same name that was shown at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival. A newly restored print of Heaven's Gate premiered there that same year. I went to the screening to find out if the movie was more tolerable on the big screen made than on DVD, the only way I had ever seen it.
But although the meticulous cinematography was far more nourishing when seen in a large theater, the whole of Heaven's Gate remained just as plodding as it ever was. I made it as far as the roller-skating rink sequence - a beautiful setpiece that stands apart from the rest of the film as a piece of pure craftsmanship - then bailed, wishing the festival had done a retrospective of Cimino's Year of the Dragon instead. That movie may be just as wretched and overblown as Gate, but there isn't a boring frame in it.
It may not be a banner weekend for Hollywood studio releases, but the Miami Film Festival opening-night charmer La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) is out in regular theaters today. Also still playing are Caramel, Funny Games and the brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which is easily my favorite movie of the year thus far and deserves to be seen in a theater, not just on DVD.
Coming up soon are several films I'm eagerly anticipating. Opening next Friday is Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park, his third in a loose and unplanned trilogy of movies (after Gerry and Elephant) about young people, murder and really long takes.
Arriving April 4 is Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's concert documentary on the Rolling Stones. And due on April 18th is Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights, his first film set in America and spoken in English. The movie got a lukewarm reception at last year's Cannes Film Festival, but I don't care. Even bad Wong Kar Wai is still Wong Kar Wai.
The 25th Miami International Film Festival may be over, but the local film festival season is just getting started.
First up is the third annual Women's International Film and Arts Festival, which runs March 28-April 6. Boasting 100 feature-length and short films "by women, about women and for all who love women," the event opens with the
red pink carpet world premiere of Steam, starring Ally Sheedy and recent Oscar-nominee Ruby Dee, both of whom will attend.
The black-tie screening will be held at the Gusman, followed by an opening-night bash at the Havana Club featuring a performance by Xiomara Laugart, star of the off-Broadway hit Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz, which I can personally attest is a whopping good time. Unfortunately, the party carries a big "BY INVITATION ONLY" label on the program, which is usually code for "We don't want you here." Alabao!
Anyway. Other WIFF events include An Evening With Ruby Dee at the Lyric Theater on March 31, a slew of workshops and panels and, of course, movies. You can download a copy of the festival program here.
Next up is the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary April 25-May 4. The festival launches with a screening of Breakfast with Scot and closes with Were the World Mine, both at the Gusman.
Other noteworthy events include the festival's centerpiece selection, The Secrets starring Fanny Ardant, and a tribute to iconoclastic film producer Christine Vachon (I Shot Andy Warhol, Go Fish, Far From Heaven) along with a screening of her latest film Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore.
New this year is the addition of a parallel mini-fest, the Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which will run May 1-May 4 with its own set of films. The festival's complete lineup will be unveiled this Sunday.
A few weeks later, the 12th edition of the Brazilian Film Festival of Miami arrives. Running May 30-June 7, the event kicks off with a free outdoor screening of last year's People's Choice Award winners Urban Snapshots (Polaroides Urbanes) and Chicken Blood Stew (Galinha ao Molho Pardo) at the North Beach Bandshell on Collins Avenue.
Nine days of screenings, workshops and parties will follow at the Colony and Lincoln Theaters and Miami Beach Cinematheque. This year's lineup will be announced on April 18th.
Filmmaker David Lynch is donating a million dollars through his eponymous foundation to provide scholarships for students to learn Transcendental Meditation techniques and attend Iowa's Maharishi University of Management, where meditation is part of the daily curriculum for students and faculty.
Established in 2007, the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace funds "quiet time" programs in schools and research studies that examine the effects of daily meditation on academic performance, learning disorders and brain functions.
Judging by the importance of dream imagery and logic in Lynch's films, the director obviously practices what he preaches. He even published a best-selling book last year, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, about how meditation has influenced his own work. The book is an illuminating (and inspiring) read for anyone who's ever wondered, say, what Lynch was smoking when he came up with Mulholland Drive.
Here's a video clip of Wednesday's news conference announcing the $1 million scholarship program. I think I will try this meditation stuff next time I'm five minutes away from deadline and see if it has any effect on my writing.
Variety reports actor-turned-filmmaker Peter Berg has been signed by Paramount Pictures to direct a second feature-film adaptation of Frank Herbert's landmark novel Dune. Berg, who has shown a flair for well-executed action pictures (he directed The Kingdom, The Rundown and this summer's upcoming Will Smith vehicle Hancock) hasn't settled on a screenwriter yet, so the new Dune probably won't hit theaters until at least 2010.
The first attempt to film Herbert's novel resulted in David Lynch's disastrous 1984 curiosity, which has attained a devoted cult following over the years, like practically every science-fiction film does with time. But to most people - especially Herbert fans - Lynch's Dune remains largely unwatchable.
Lynch himself has disowned the film, even declining to participate in the special edition DVD released by Universal two years ago (when I interviewed him in 2001 for Mulholland Drive, I brought up Dune and got back a strained, don't-go-there smile). Lynch, who was coming off a Best Director Oscar nomination for The Elephant Man, famously turned down George Lucas' offer to direct Return of the Jedi in order to make Dune. But although producer Dino De Laurentiis spared no expense in financing the film, trouble arose when the filmmakers tried to compress Herbert's sprawling novel into a lucid two-hour film.
I remember going to see Dune on opening weekend and being handed a glossary by the ticket-taker, explaining the various factions and planets in the movie I was about to see. It's never a good sign when you have to give audiences a homework assignment before the lights go down. Sure enough, 10 minutes into the movie, I was completely lost and confused, never to regain my bearings.
The impenetrability of Lynch's Dune is often attributed to De Laurentiis' insistence that the director turn in a 137-minute cut (the exact length, coincidentally, of Aliens, The Abyss and Spielberg's final cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; is that Hollywood's de facto running time for sci-fi films?) While a Lynch-approved "director's cut" has never surfaced, the longer version shown on TV is certainly easier to follow, proving that the enforced cuts hurt the coherence of Lynch's film.
I tried watching Dune again last year when it was released on HD DVD, and although I still
don't understand it find the film clunky and uninvolving on a narrative level, the dreamlike power of its imagery and sound design cannot be denied. I now think of the film as a Lynchian meditation on a densely plotted story - more of a Herbert pipe dream than a Herbert adaptation. Its impenetrability has started to grow on me.
It's a safe bet Berg's version, if it actually gets made, will figure out a way to compress Herbert's novel into a comprehensible film. The movie is also expected to stress the environmental/ecological subtexts of the book. Maybe I should take the persistent advice of friends who cherish Dune and just read it before the movie comes out. I don't think I've ever actually finished any science-fiction novels I've started, though. Except this one. But that probably doesn't count.
It's not just Circuit City helping HD DVD owners make the leap to Blu-ray land. Electronics chain Best Buy has set aside a whopping $10 million in order to mail a $50 gift card to every customer who bought an HD DVD player in one of their stores before Feb. 23. The chain is also allowing customers to trade in their HD DVD players via BestBuyTradeIn.com.
Curiously, now that the format war is over, Blu-ray players aren't dropping in price as quickly as they were before. In fact, they're actually getting MORE expensive. Imagine that!
The Salt Lake Tribune's Sean P. Means reports that San Jose Mercury News movie critic Bruce Newman has been deployed to the general-assignment features beat, while the Contra Costa Times' Mary F. Pols has accepted a buyout offer at her paper.
Forget Agatha Christie. It now feels like a Friday the 13th bloodbath here in movie-critic land.