February 7, 2005

Need To Know: Nobody Knows

Tony Scott gave Hirokazu Kore-eda and his latest film, Nobody Knows, a strong review:

Nobody Knows is not for the faint of heart, though it has no scenes of overt violence, and barely a tear is shed. It is also strangely thrilling, not only because of the quiet assurance of Mr. Kore-eda's direction, but also because of his alert, humane sense of sympathy. He is neither an optimist nor a sentimentalist - like his previous films, Maborosi, After Life, and Distance, this one presents a fairly bleak view of the modern world - but he does keep an eye out for manifestations of decency, bravery and solidarity. These tend to be small and fleeting, and therefore all the more valuable and worth clinging to when his patient, meticulous eye uncovers them.
I found Distance--only available as a Region 2 DVD--to be so carefully hands-off as to be almost boring. And what Scott calls "impending doom," Jonathan Marlow, reporting from Rotterdam for GreenCine, calls "relatively predictable." And "unnecessarily long." Maybe it's a good thing Kore-eda's doing a jidai-geki (period drama) next.

Abandoned Children Stow Away At Home [nyt]
GreenCine at IFFR []
Also: Filmbrain's take on the film, an IndieWIRE's interview with Kore-eda, and an IFP article and the film's production notes.
Previously: Kore-eda on [I mean, on Kore-eda]

  • Advertisers first: See See Arnold Run the triumphant story of an Austrian bodybuilder who overcomes his past Nazi ties, hedonistic Hollywood antics, and widely known and repeated sexual harassment allegations to become a big-time star--of the Republican party. From the director of American Pie 2 and the writer of The Unauthorized Story of 'Charlie's Angels', Inside the Osmonds, and Growing Up Brady (so you know the sex and period details'll be spot on). On A&E Sunday Jan. 30 at 8PM EST. Reportedly based on a true story.
  • Second--although it takes like five minutes, so you could still see it before Arnold--Mark Romanek's incredibly moving video of Johnny Cash's rendition of Hurt, which sensibly beat out Thriller in a music industry poll of the best music videos ever. Finally. Stairway to Heaven, we're comin' for you.
  • [via fimoculous] Jared Hess, the director of Napoleon Dynamite, made a video for The Postal Service's song, We Will Become Silhouettes.

  • My favorite IFP Spirit Awards moment was two years ago, watching some young, dumb AMW whose agent thought she needed some indie cred (it turned out to be Brittnay Murphy, unrecognizable to me as the loozah Jersey girl in Clueless) introdue a nominated film. She lost the teleprompter, and froze.

    After a panicky moment where her plea for help took the form of a narration to no one in particular (and everyone, of course) of her own predicament, they cut away. When they cut back, she'd decided to adlib, and rambled, as wacky as all get out. Quick cutaway again. When they returned to her a final time, she'd obviously been slapped out of it by someone and turned into a pod person. Close call! If Joe Roth had ever seen--or heard of--the IFP, Murphy would never have scored the lead in Little Black Book.

    Now we learn from Richard Rushfield's NY Times report on the IFP's transformation into the practically-the-Oscars, that "presenters are encouraged to ignore the scripts provided them and fumble freely." Uh-huh.

    It All Depends On What You Mean By 'Independent' [NYT]

    Things don't look good--and some things can't be seen at all--in Jacob's critical look at the BAFTA nominations. And the problem is the studios' stupid MPAA-legacy DVD screener system.

    Hero and Million Dollar Baby were left off top-10 lists and didn't get a single nomination for anything, while House of Flying Daggers got nine. One possible reason? Studios didn't send out DVD screeners at all.

    The Life Aquatic didn't get any nods, either, even though Buena Vista Pictures Marketing sent out screeners to all BAFTA members. The only problem: those DVD's had "PROPERTY OF BVPM" and "DO NOT DUPLICATE" burned into every one of Anderson's fanatically composed frames.

    Occasionally, this is amusing--in the last of those images [on], you'll notice that the back of Cate Blanchet's shirt seems to be advertising her new biography, "I, Cate"--but most of the time, it's even more incredibly distracting than you'd imagine from looking at the still images above. In every one of Wes Anderson's carefully planned tracking shots, the most noticeable element becomes those big, unmoving letters at the top and bottom of the screen. Every one of his carefully composed static shots is thrown out of balance by their presence. It becomes difficult to notice Bill Murray's wonderfully subtle performance, or Owen Wilson's understated humor, because your eye keeps being drawn to the giant words hovering in front of them.
    As if it could get worse the texts aren't in Futura, Wes Anderson's font of choice.

    Looking Where The Light Is Good [, via kottke]
    Related: Wes Anderson's Favorite Font [ pointing at kottke. kottke, kottke, kottke!]

    January 15, 2005

    Puppet Masterpiece Theatre

    Umm, I thought the British were supposed to be smarter than Americans. How else would they get all that work narrating documentaries? Yet the Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw gives Team America World Police an ecstatic review. And his Observer colleague Philip French calls it "better sustained than [Parker and Stone's] feature-length animated comedy, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Fundamentally, it's an extended parody of Thunderbirds and centres on a group of super-patriots dedicated to--

    No, fundamentally, Mr Belevedere, it's a sloppy, thin pool of disappointing puke, with a few chunks of humor floating in it.

    Maybe things look different from the other side of the pond. Maybe the movie's obtuse, pig-headed politics look more prescient after the 2004 election than it did last summer. [ummm, indeed.] Whatever. Which country, exactly, is to blame for Benny Hill, AbFab, AND Bean? That's what I thought.

    America, &^*(W$&^ Yeah.

    'hilarious movie' [Observer]
    'Why can't non-puppet films be as good as this?' [Guardian]
    Previously on Smaller, Shorter, and Most Definitely Cut

    December 13, 2004

    DVD Box Set Short(er)list

    What, no Amazon links? The little red critics over at the Voice have put together their list of the best DVD's and DVD collections for 2004, and then they didn't add shoppertainment links. Here's my distilled list:

  • The Alan Clarke Collection (includes the original The Elephant that Gus Van Sant was talking about)
  • The Martin Scorsese Collection, which includes the criminally inclined Goodfellas and Mean Streets, and the criminally underrated After Hours. Raging Bull's finally coming to DVD, though you'll have to wait until Feb. 8... Still no date for Italianamerican...
  • The Ed Wood Box [no, that Ed Wood Box you get from Fleshbot Films]
  • Michael Apted's The Up Series, It seems like just yesterday I was watching 35 Up at Film Forum. Time sure flies.
  • The Wong Kar Wai Collection . Hmm. This list may turn out to be in reverse order of preference.
  • John Cassavetes: Five Films. Yep, it is.

    The Five Distractions: Best DVD Sets of 2004 [VV]
    Another 10 [VV]

  • RSVP to Mondayís screening of AFTER LIFE and on behalf of IFC Films, receive an invitation to the premiere screening of NOBODY KNOWS.

    **Invitations will be handed out at the screening on Monday night.

    When: Monday, December 6th at 7:30pm

    Film: AFTER LIFE (2000, Japan)

    What is the one memory you would take with you?

    Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda

    A group of bureaucrats in a heavenly way station have one week to help
    the recently deceased select their single most cherished memory, which
    they will hold with them for eternity.

    After Life exerted a significant influence on our special guest, Greg Allen's Souvenir Series-- twelve short films exploring different aspects of memory--and on his weblog, [apparently, not enough influence, since I can't narrow it down to just one memory. -g.]


  • Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema - Best Film & Best Screenplay
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards - Best Foreign Language Film
  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards - Best Foreign Film
  • Newport International Film Festival - Jury Award Best Film

    What Else: Kore-eda's upcoming classic, NOBODY KNOWS will be released in theaters on January 28th by IFC Films. Because Greg Allen has chosen to screen AFTER LIFE with The Reel Roundtable, IFC Films graciously extended invitations to The Reel Roundtable audience for the premiere screening of NOBODY KNOWS.

    Tickets for the premiere will be handed out at the screening of AFTER LIFE. If you canít make the January 18th premiere of NOBODY KNOWS, youíll also be able to see it in MoMAís new ten-week "Premieres" series or in theaters on January 28th.

    Special [as in special education, -g.] Guest: Greg Allen of

    Where: The Millennium Theater on 66 E. 4th Street, between Second and Bowery.

    Admission: $5


  • lifeaquatic_poster.jpgFirst they ran a contest for Miramax's Hero which had such obscure questions about Jet Li minutiae that not even his agent--or even Li-fanatic-from-birth Jen Chung--could answer, even with a lifetime subscription to IMDb Pro.

    Now Gothamist gets all Disney publicity sock puppet on us again, this time with a contest for Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic, distributed by Touchstone.

    The prize? Tickets to a 12/7 preview screening of the movie. The contest? Just fill out your name and email already. I guess Wes's fans aren't the kind who pay attention to nitpicky cinematic details. Oh, and this time, Gothamist employees aren't eligible to enter. Jen, I guess you'll have to go to a private screening.

    Gothamist The Life Aquatic Contest []

    Related: Matt goes all Milton Glaser and Dylan on the Life Aquatic poster. [lowculture]

    November 20, 2004

    On The Grey Automobile

    First, a shoutout to all the advertisers, incluging WesAnderson's new joint, The Life Aquatic, Sharp's intriguingly opaque More To See (which contrasts with the crystal clarity of their flatscreens, I'm sure), and the ever-brilliant Daddy Types (ahem).

    With that out of the way, we should hurry and put The Grey Automobile on our calendars for Sunday night. 7 PM. Queens Theatre. It sounds like a fascinating, not-to-be-missed film experience.

    grey_automobile.jpgEnrique Rosas was the Mexican Feuillade, making wildly popular crime serial films in the Teens and Twenties. Made in 1919 with a style we think we discovered ourselves--of verite, documentary footage, staged scenes, and actual historical figures playing themselves alongside professional actors--The Grey Automobile was based on an actual gang of robbers who terrorized Mexico City in 1915.

    It was the made-for-TV miniseries or the torn-from-today's-headlines Law & Order of its day, except that it starred the real investigator in the case and it features footage of the criminals' executions by firing squad, shot by Rosas (the footage, that is, not the criminals).

    The Grey Automobile survives only as a disjointedly edited feature from the thirties; it's a remarkable-looking but hard-to-follow important artifact of Mexican cinema.

    Turning these weaknesses into strengths, however, is director Claudio ValdÈs Kuri, who applies an ingenious solution from the Japanese silent film tradition.

    Benshi were voiceover/storytellers who gave their own colorful narration to hard-to-follow imported films. For The Grey Automobile, Kuri directs benshi Irene Akiko Iida, accompanied with translation and an original score. It's a cinema-meets-theatre spectacle that's gotten bewildered-but-ecstatic reviews all along the festival circuit. You shouldn't miss it, but unless you get your butt to Queens Theatre tomorrow night, you will.

    See El Automovil Gris/The Grey Automobile at Queens Theatre, 11/21/2004 at 7PM.
    Either get baked or study up before you go: The official El Automovil Gris site.

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    Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

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