Editor | Nick Dawson
Martin Scorsese's Eerie Eleven
Posted October 30, 2009
It's Halloween and so myriad celebrities - just like our Five In Focus horror writers - are picking their scariest movies.
One of the most prominent within the film community to publically reveal the films on his personal ballot is a certain young, upcoming director by the name of Martin Scorsese, who has revealed his choices to The Daily Beast. His number one choice, The Haunting (1963) directed by the versatile Robert Wise - who would next direct The Sound of Music - is indicative of the list's cinephilic nature, with lesser-known titles nestling next to classic spine chillers.
You should definitely check out Scorses's selections and, as a Halloween bonus, I'm also linking to an excellent listicle newly up on the IFC website, The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies.
Carrie Returns to Broadway?
Posted October 29, 2009
It's fair to say that's been a minor fascination of mine on this site has been to write about all the movies that are being turned into musicals and operas, as well as film directors who have been recruited to direct operas. Particularly with the former, the reaction to these little gobbets of news tends to be "Really?!" (Fight Club and Spider Man are two recent examples of movies that are, against all odds, in development to become Broadway shows.)
While it's been a little quiet in this area for a while, there now comes some rather momentous news: Carrie is coming to Broadway. Or rather, coming back to Broadway. While it's weird enough that Brian De Palma's horror classic could be thought of as being suitable for "musical-ization," the idea was actually put into action way back in 1988. The result was a show that played for only five performances and lost $8 million.
According to Michael Riedel of the New York Post, however, the producing team of Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum - who have scored hits with the shows Rent, Avenue Q and West Side Story - are planning to bring the biggest Broadway flop ever back to the stage.
Here's Riedel's take on these startling developments:
Some on Broadway think ego may have gotten the better of Seller and McCollum. After all, if they can take the greatest flop of all time and make something of it, they may in fact be the best producers since Ziegfeld. ...But these guys aren't stupid, and they may be onto something. Carrie was bad. But some of it, especially the score, was pretty thrilling, those who saw it say.
We will watch what emerges in the coming months with great interest.
Sin Nombre Nominated for British Indie Film Award
Posted October 27, 2009
The nominations for the 2009 British Independent Film Awards were announced yesterday, and indieWIRE has the full list. The leading contenders for the awards, which will be announced on December 6, include Andrea Arnold's contemporary urbam drama Fish Tank (which will be released Stateside in early 2010) and Moon, the quirky sci-fi movie starring Sam Rockwell (in multiple roles) and directed by Duncan Jones, the son of a certain David Bowie.
In the Best Foreign Film category, Sin Nombre, the debut feature from Cary Joji Fukunaga about illegal immigrants' journey to America, was one of the five nominees, honored alongside Italian political drama Il Divo, Kathrym Bigelow's acclaimed Iraq movie The Hurt Locker, the offbeat Swedish horror film Let The Right One In, and Mickey Rourke's comeback movie, The Wrestler.
You can read the full list of nominees here.
Coraline and Selick @ MOMI
Posted October 23, 2009
Coraline's release in February of this year seems quite distant now, but one of the best reviewed films of the year is being put in the spotlight again by the good folks at New York's Museum of the Moving Image.
On November 18, the director of the movie is going to be at the museum for a special event entitled An Evening With Henry Selick, in which he will discuss Coraline (and other films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) with the museum's curator, David Schwartz. And the following day, Selick will be present to do a Q&A session after a special screening of Coraline - organized by MOMI in association with Variety - at the Directors Guild Theatre (110 West 57 Street, Manhattan).
"No, you don't understand. It's a story."
Posted October 22, 2009
Though the world created in each of their films is unique, the Coen brothers nevertheless have a very particular stylistic vocabulary that is used throughout their oeuvre. In a recent interview with The Onion's Sam Adams, they discussed their cinematic style and their take on filmic naturalism, prompted by a comment that they work with people who specialize in a "kind of stylized acting that hearkens back to pre-World War II Hollywood."
In the interview extract below, it's fascinating to see how in tune they are with each other, finishing each other's sentences, but for me there was one particular moment that really stuck out. If you're looking for a way to understand the way that the Coens' work as a whole, I think it's encapsulated perfectly in Ethan Coen's revelation that he tells actors, "No, you don’t understand. It’s a story."
Joel Coen: It has to do with the difference between, I think, the way we imagine characters and scenes, and also stories in general, that would prohibit us ...from doing a movie like, in a weird kind of a way, Michael Clayton. You know? There’s something about that completely naturalistic style within the current understanding of naturalism in Hollywood, you know what I mean, that we just don’t truck with for some reason, and I don’t fucking know why. [Laughs.] But in that respect, I kind of know what you mean. It’s like I can’t imagine our doing a movie which requires of an actor exactly that.
Ethan Coen: Yeah, that’s somehow disconnected too. Yeah.
Joel Coen: And it goes to, I think, just the way we think about stories and actors, characters, and just scenes. You know?
Ethan Coen: Right. If an actor tried to, you’d shake the actor and go, "No, you don’t understand. It’s a story." [Laughs.]
Joel Coen: But I say that it’s naturalistic only, I think, within Hollywood’s current idea of what naturalism is, because there isn’t really that. That doesn’t exist in the abstract as a pure thing.
Ethan Coen: It’s funny, because even Fargo, which was an exercise in naturalism…
Joel Coen: It was an attempt at naturalism.
Ethan Coen: It was like, true story, but a "true story" in quotes because it wasn’t fucking true.
Joel Coen: Yeah. And it has what you’re talking about, the same thing in terms of acting, what we were after, or what was understood.
Ethan Coen: It was more like, "Act like it’s a true story."
Joel Coen: Yeah, act like it’s a true—but it doesn’t have that thing, it still has the stamp of that certain kind of acting or approach to character. So yeah, I do know what you mean, but it’s a hard thing to put your finger on.
A Serious Man Gotham Nods
Posted October 19, 2009
Earlier today, the nominations for the first awards show of the season, IFP's Gotham Awards, were announced, and the Coen brothers' new film, A Serious Man, was selected in two categories. The recent release from Focus Features is one of the five movies up for Best Feature (along with Amreeka, The Hurt Locker, Big Fan and The Maid), while the film is also up for Best Ensemble Performance, with cast members Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, and Fred Melamed collectively sharing the nomination. (indieWIRE has the full list of Gotham nominations.)
On a related note, one of our favorite film bloggers, Jim Emerson, just posted an extended reaction to A Serious Man over at his Scanners blog. I strongly encourage you to read the piece in its entirety, but here's a choice segment to whet your appetite:
In the end -- a moment as exquisitely timed as the breathtaking ending of No Country for Old Men -- I choked on my own laughter and then, still smiling, felt tears coming to my eyes. I had to sit and cry a little as the credits rolled. It's not the first Coen finish that has stunned me to tears (Miller's Crossing, Fargo, NCFOM -- even Barton Fink, for the perfect beauty of the moment). I mention it not to pretend that my personal emotional response means it's a great movie, but only because I know there are those who insist that the Coens aren't serious, that their vision consists only of scorn and ridicule. Nothing they can do now will change those shortsighted opinions because they're already locked in. But few filmmakers capture their (and my) view of the world³ more clearly than the Coens. In retrospect, I guess I'm not surprised it's the movie of the year for me, the one to which I feel the deepest personal connections. It's a magnificent piece of moviemaking, too, of course -- which is why it has the impact it does.
Dustin Lance Black backs Harvey Milk Day
Posted October 15, 2009
Via Jenni Olson's Harvey Milk Movie News comes news that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has passed the motion to make May 22 the specially designated Harvey Milk Day in California.
Jenni also posted this very moving video of Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Focus Features' Milk, making his case for the motion in front of the California Senate Education Committee.
We should also give plaudits to California State Senator Mark Leno who authored the bill proposing the creation of Harvey Milk Day in his home. FilmInFocus interviewed Leno last year to coincide with the release of Milk, and you can read that article here.
Coen bros. Favorites
Posted October 14, 2009
Salon have been doing a little polling of a variety of film figures, asking them for their favorite movie by Joel and Ethan Coen. The people posed the question were directors James Toback, Jeff Lipsky and Mary Harron, media mogul Mark Cuban, critics Aaron Hillis, Glenn Kenny and Molly Haskell, producer Ted Hope, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.
I particularly liked what Burns (who recently penned the superb The Informant!) wrote in response to the question:
I grew up in Minnesota and attended the same Hebrew School as Joel and Ethan. (I doubt any of us can actually speak a sentence of Hebrew.) We all ate at the same restaurants, bought cars at the same dealerships and wandered around in the same graying snow drifts. When I first saw Fargo, I thought someone had broken into my brain and removed scenes from my childhood -- and my sense of foreboding about things like wood chippers. It was funny and frightening and strange and poignant: It was Minnesota. I was certain that only about 15 other people would understand the movie because of the specificity of place. And yet, it is exactly their attention to place that makes Fargo so remarkable. Other people do connect. Because detail is so much of life -- all lives. And it is the realization that details will haunt us, kill us and save us that makes me love Fargo slightly more than all of their other movies.
I swear this is a true story. My wife and I spent much of the late '90's trying to conceive. After years of constantly taking body temperature, taking time off work to drive to a fertility clinic (90 minutes from where we live) once a day during the 2 or 3 day window of opportunity every months, we finally just decided to give it up, save up our money and adopt. A few months later (this was late 1998), we rented The Big Lebowski on VHS and, after watching the scene in which Maude Lebowski does some post-coital contortions to improve the chances of conception, we both jokingly complained that the fertility experts hadn't told us about that method. The next time we did the deed, my wife jokingly tried it afterward, but just that once (let's face it, the joke is only funny the first time). A few weeks later, we found out she was pregnant and, when we checked the dates, we realized that the conception must have happened that particular time. She never tried the "method" again, and we never conceived again (although we did adopt twice and have a beautiful family). Our daughter is ten now—too young to be told the story of course—but we still wonder if we should even explain this to her when she's older. After all, what kind of trauma could result from finding out that you owe your existence to a Coen brothers' movie.
Screen Africa on Africa First film Pumzi
Posted October 09, 2009
The new issue of Screen Africa magazine has an article on Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu's short film Pumzi, which was produced as part of Focus Features' Africa First program. (We wrote about Wanuri and her work on the FilmInFocus site last year, when she described the 20-minute movie as "a futuristic short set in Nairobi when the outside is extinct and has been outlawed.")
In her interview with Screen Africa, Kahui talks about her working relationship with Kudzani Moswela, the debutant actress from South Africa who plays the lead role of Asha in Pumzi:
"She breathed into the film unimaginable softness and courage. She became the heart of my heart. Her interpretation of Asha and the story was painfully tender and through it new, undiscovered layers of the film came alive."
There is a short preview of the article on the Screen Africa website, with the full interview available in the print edition.
Stuhlbarg Talks to GreenCine
Posted October 06, 2009
For actor Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man has been his coming out party. When Stuhlbarg was cast by Joel and Ethan Coen in the movie's lead role, modern day Job Larry Gopnik, he was a highly respected actor on the New York stage who had appeared in smaller roles in films such as Body of Lies, Cold Souls and Afterschool (which, ironically, came out the same day as the A Serious Man.
Now, however, he is winning glowing praise for his performance and the spotlight has well and truly been turned on him. "Who is Michael Stuhlbarg?" is one of the questions being asked by critics and average moviegoers alike, and in an interview feature over at GreenCine Daily Jeffrey M. Anderson asks this and other questions.
Here's an extract from their chat:
Does it offend you when people describe this movie has having "no stars" or "mostly unknowns"?
[laughs.] It's filled with actors! On one level, it allows the audience to really invest in these characters as who they say they are. One of the treats with having stars in films is getting to watch really talented people do different kinds of things. But another side of it is to watch people you don't know, and go, "Wow!" There's a lot of us in this film who have never done this kind of stuff, who have never had the chance. So it's a treat for all of us. And an oddity. And a gift.
You can read the full interview here.