Category:film festivals

Suddenly silver mirrored balls are everywhere.

Music video and filmmaker Roel Wouters created the trailer for last year's International Film Festival Breda:

A silver sphere on an endless checkerboard floor is the default for many 3D modeling applications. It can be seen as an icon for a sterile, makeable world. Reality though, is dirty and unpredictable. By recreating this icon in reality the beauty and imperfection of real life gets emphasized.

The recording was the result of 3 people controlling different parts of the installation, Roel controlled the speed of the balls, Benoit (Eurogrip) controlled the speed of the dolly and Sal focussed and zoomed the camera. It turned out to be a play were the 3 of us playing harmoniously together.

It's awesome. Coincidentally--actually, several coincidentallies--a selection of Wouters' work was screened just today in Den Haag, organized by a cinema club called Cinetoko. Cinetoko is a collaborative effort between Motoko, a motion and video design studio, and <>TAG, an art/tech/culture catalyst of some kind. It happens at the Zeebelt Theater, which is safely to the west of any Google Map camo or StreetView complications. [via manystuff thanks andy]

Hah, Michael Govan's kickback public engagement in LACMA's decision to suspend its film program surprised me, but not as much as seeing the museum basically organizing its own netroots opposition.

Now, barely ten days into the LACMA Film Program Deathwatch, The LA Times hears from a vacationing Govan that "potential donors have stepped up, interested in helping underwrite the series." the whole crisis starts to feel like a manufactured fundraising stunt.

The Times has all the pieces of the story, but can't seem to put them together.

Govan had the film program on a three-year sink-or-swim timeline, which runs out now. The museum president said continued funding of the film department has been "an issue" in budget discussions for seven years, which means the board has been interested enough to keep the department around, but that the status quo hasn't been sexy enough to attract dedicated funding.

By floating the idea of killing--sorry, "suspending"--the program, the museum is able to gauge the public's interest. On the off chance that no one cared, the tough budget decision would be that much easier to justify. Meanwhile, an outcry--the louder the better--would bring attention to the program, and would transform a mundane $5 million ask for operating funds into an exciting chance to save and expand a vital, beloved film program. The naming rights of which can be had for--how much would you like, Michael? "I'd love to see $10 million."

LACMA's Govan says donors step forward for film program [latimes]
Previously: On LACMA killing its film program to save it

September 27, 2008

Yeah, Quasi-Reality!

The documentary or at least the naturalistic mode seems to be all the rage this year at the NY Film Festival. I'm all for it, of course; since it's what I do. I just hope all that HD looks alright on the big screen at the Ziegfeld.

Quasi-Reality Bites Back [nyt]

June 2, 2007

WTD: E!-SPAN

Open news conference at the Cannes Film Festival are such absurdist theatrical frenzy, I half wonder if movie publicists didn't cook them up as a job security measure. The event serves up celebrities for an intense, dadaist interrogation by the world's most randomest journalists, whose competitive, provocative questions are designed to elicit a controversial or "newsworthy" [sic] non-scripted quote, something they can use.

In a more rational world they wouldn't be chopped up into meaningless squibs of quotes in the Hindustani Times; they would be televised in their entirety on a C-SPAN of the entertainment business, celebrity reality--no, celebrity verite--television.


The one or two quotes I've seen from the Oceans Thirteen conference, for example, are easily as entertaining as the post-scrum junket sitdown Time's Josh Tyrangiel got with Clooney, Pitt, Damon, and Barkin. Freed from artistic pretense, seriousness, or faux populism, these people sound like what they are: giddy, privileged multi-millionaires who decide to have a good time while doing the more tedious or repetitive parts of their jobs.

That said, what jumps out at me in the Time interview is what's apparently unsaid. Read the whole thing, but check out these parentheticals and tell me why they had to be there:

Are you worried Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are going to start a pogrom?
BARKIN: I worry that every time I go to my hotel room, there are going to be areas that are cordoned off from me.
PITT: What's a pogrom?

It's an anti-Jewish riot. Pretty common in 19th century Eastern Europe.
CLOONEY: [Jokingly] You guys got a long memory. Jeez.

And what went under this one? "Whatsername"? "The Old Ball & Chain"? "Her"?
As we're talking, there are paparazzi in boats out in the harbor taking pictures. Having just been through the celebrity muck of Cannes, who gets it the worst?
CLOONEY: There's no question, it's Brad.
PITT: Well, exponentially, with us together ...
CLOONEY: But even before he was with [Angelina Jolie], we used to chum the water with him.
PITT: This is not a joke. They used to send me out to take the hits.
Lucky Stars [time via kottke]
[not disclosed anywhere because the company's called Time Warner, I guess?: Time and its partner CNN and People and Oceans Thirteen's producer/distributor, Warner Brothers, are all the same company.]

The constroversy over Peter Baxter's decision to pull Super Columbine Massacre RPG! from Slamdance's Guerilla Gamemakers Festival hit the New York Times this weekend, and Baxter has yet another explanation for his actions.

This time, it's not complaints by a sponsor, hypothetical complaints by a sponsor, or even his own personal distaste for the game. It was, as he explains to Heather Chaplin,

because of outraged phone calls and e-mail messages he’d been receiving from Utah residents and family members associated with the Columbine shooting. He was also acting on the advice of lawyers who warned him of the threat of civil suits if he showed the game.
Uh-huh.

Chaplin writes of SCMRPG!'s "champions" and "detractors," which I think misses a major point. In the glare of attention and the fallout surrounding the game, and certainly around the decision to pull it. It's pure media Heisenberg: as events unfolded and garnered more attention, everyone--Baxter, Danny Ledonne, the game's creator, other designers who pulled their games in protest, and observer/critics--adjusted their own positions and justifications for their moral stances in light of what new had transpired.

Greg Costikyan posted a reader's refutation of his legitimating defense/review of the game which is at once perceptive [and not just for using the twee critspeak, "games qua anything"] and entirely beside the point. Whatever Ledonne's ex post facto interpretations of his game, the argument goes, his earliest discussions of it were not ironic metacommentary; they were the rantings of a dumbass who was wallowing in the Columbine killers' actions. The game isn't a self-consciously retro exploration of society, but an amateurish hack by a guy who didn't know how to change the default settings on his RPG gamemaking software.

Conclusion: SCMRPG! sucks as a game and should never have been juried into the competition in the first place. Which sounds true, but irrelevant to this situation.

Sundance's jury let in an exploitative, sensationalistic, controversy-seeking POS starring Dakota Fanning this year, but you didn't see Redford pulling rank and yanking the film. It just got the critical drubbing it deserved and will presumably slip into oblivion as it should.

Instead, the fact that a POS like SCMRPG! got into the competition at all should spur debate over the critical standards for judging games, which seem poorly thought through at best. Get a smarter jury, one which isn't just interested in flamethrowing qua flamethrowing by introducing a crap game to the competition.

But the combination of as-yet unformed critical consensus about what makes a "good" game or a game "good," combined with Baxter/Slamdance's knuckleheaded, ass-covering conservatism only strengthens the case that games need a new, different venue of their own. Whether it's a festival, a competition, whatever, is up to the gameworld to decide.

As for SCMRPG!, I'm still inclined to cut Ladonne some slack. If Trey Parker and Matt Stone had turned tail after their musical Cannibal! was rejected from Sundance, there may never have been a South Park. And there may never have been a Slamdance, for that matter.

Artists are not always clear or conscious of what goes into their work, and they're certainly not in control of the response it engenders when it gets into the world. Whatever the merit (or lack thereof) in SCMRPG!, it still resonates because of its uncanny similarity to a scene in Gus Van Sant's Elephant. The two killers-to-be are loafing around a basement bedroom. One plays the piano [fur Elise] and one plays an RPG on a laptop. It was an effortless kill'em game set in an empty desert.

The targets were dressed like the characters from Van Sant's Gerry. After expressing surprise that anyone had noticed, the producer of Elephant, Dany Wolf, told me that they had to create their own game [using the Doom engine], because they couldn't find a company who'd allow their video game to be used in the film.

Video Game Tests The Limits. The Limits Win. [nyt]

Ian at Water Cooler Games has been writing about an incident at Slamdance. Seems the founder of the alt-alt festival yanked Super Columbine Massacre, a charming -sounding RPG that tells the tale of some innocent, young, all-American scamps, from the Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition.

At first, the line was extreme sponsor displeasure with having a Columbine-themed title in competition. [I mean, just look at what it did to Cannes and Cannes. No one's ever heard of them again.] But now it turns out that it was really just Slamdance president Peter Baxter's own call in anticipation of possible sponsor displeasure--or else his own distaste for the game itself. Either way, it sounds like crap.

There's a lot of heated discussion among gamers and developers about the artistic merits of games vs their "mere entertainment" value. I think that's ridiculous and beyond discussion. Games have as much claim on "art" as film does. If anything, the nexis of creative, literary, and narrative innovation has shifted to games and away from almost any other medium I can think of at the moment.

This just sounds like a dumb-ass move by a blindered geezer whose vested interests are too tied up with the establishment. Exactly the kind of rejection and narrow-mindedness that spurred the creation of Slamdance in the first place. The only proper response, obviously, is for gamers to break off and make their own damn festival in response.

Then after this happens seven times, the Matrix collapses and has to be restarted from scratch.


Slamdance: SCMRPG removal was personal, not business
[watercoolergames.org via boingboing]
the always awesome Greg Costikyan's reponse, plus they posted the game: SCMRPG: Artwork or Menace? [manifestogames.com]

Previously: Gus Van Sant's Elephant is part of the canon around here. Read my interview with producer Dany Wolf about the in-movie homebrewed video game based on Gerry.
Also: the art-movie-as-video-game-at Sundance, Gerry/video game connection.

1/9 update: Costikyan reports that to date, five gamemakers have withdrawn their titles from the festival. Yesterday, it was just one.

halfnelson.jpgYou may know him from such blog entries about Sundance-winning short films as Gowanus, Brooklyn. Now director Ryan Fleck has made Half Nelson, a feature-length adaptation of Gowanus, which debuted at Sundance 06, where ThinkFilm picked it up.

Half Nelson will also be the opening night feature of this year's New Directors/New Films program, which rocks. Both leads, Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps, got huge acting props from critics in IndieWIRE's Sundance poll.

See the full ND/NF 2006 lineup at moma.org
[a big high five to greg.org idol Hunter Gray, who helped produce Half Nelson]

From the Observer report on how publicists are the "real Sundancers":

As crowds exited a packed screening of Wrestling with Angelsóa staid, unthrilling film about Tony Kushner which emblemizes the idea that to be truly successful these days, not only must you be a widely admired playwright, write a musical and work with Steven Spielberg, but you must also be the subject of a documentaryóa small gathering of people were sitting on the tented ground outside the theater, eating cold cuts out of a Ziploc bag and playing travel Scrabble. They were waiting in the cancellation line for a screening of the Shorts Program IV.

These were not your typical Sundancers. Indeed, your typical festival-goers wouldnít know that Bobcat Goldthwait premiered a movie called Stay (about what happens after a woman performs oral sex on her dog) or, perhaps, even who Michel Gondry is (Mr. Gondryís follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, called The Science of Sleep and starring Gael GarcĚa Bernal, has been another festival favorite).

Those festival-goers exist in the Sundance of Robert Redford myth: a place of discovery, a place where filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh could make their names.
Sundance Schwag: Party Promoters Blast Into Town [nyo]

January 18, 2006

The Black Manohla

Wow, it sucks to be Manohla Dargis. Or to be at Sundance. The festival is apparently the same every year, but different. And since that means that mediocre films and deals often hog the spotlight, and actual, honest-to-goodness finds are often left without distribution, it's really starting to bug.

Sundance, for Indies, Soft Kiss Before Dying [nyt]

September 29, 2005

Cinema Paramilitaristo

baghdad_filmfest.jpg

Despite the ravages of war and the censorship imposed by local religious authorities, a lovable young scamp in a rubble-strewn town finds solace, even hope, in the movies.

If only there was a kindly old projectionist to take the place of the boy's father, who'd been disappeared at Abu Ghraib...

Defying Terror, Filmgoers Attend a Festival in Baghdad [nyt]

While half of me says, "Congratulations, Karen Hughes," the other half wonders what the story is in the two movie theaters still operating in Baghdad.

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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Category: film festivals

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