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.]

Super Columbine Massacre NYT!

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]

How To Tell Cannes And Slamdance Apart

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.

New Director, Familiar Film: Ryan Fleck Turns Short Into Feature

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]

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.

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.

What Cannes I Do

Fear and self-loathing in Cannes [guardian]
A step up from when they the Guardian crew would just complain about the shortage of open bars, Mark Lawson looks for the big themes in Cannes. The result: 1) guilt, 2) loser fathers. And the Palme d’Or goes to: Loser Fathers. The Dardennes’ doc-style filmmaking wins again.
I [heart] Manohla Dargis, whose Cannes Journal with Tony Scott was very funny. Plus, she namechecked daily.greencine.com. I’d say more, but I can’t; it’s off the record.
The film US TV networks dare not show [guardian]
BBC series-turned-feature at Cannes by the “anti-Michael Moore” examines US origins of fanatics: Strauss (and Strauss begat Wolfowitz) and Qutb (and Qutb begat Al Zawahiri and Al Zawahiri begat Bin Laden). Let’s see, BBC-produced, Moore-invoked, Cannes-premiered, Al Jazeera-aired, and yet no giant media conglomerate in the US wants to air it? Go figure.
That cranky Galloway testified before Congress and all he got was press coverage in the UK–and mysteriously, no officially published transcript. Your tax dollars at work. [senate.gov, via robotwisdom]

We’re Going To The Pan Pacifics, Fran!

“‘We’ve been given the mandate to compete on a more aggressive level,’ says [Paramount Classics co-pres David] Dinerstein, who also helped orchestrate the reported $2 million purchase of Mad Hot Ballroom, a Slamdance documentary widely described as Spellbound meets Strictly Ballroom.”
1) One of the odd, still-annoys-me things was that Strictly Ballroom was vaguely a documentary, too. The early scenes were all “talking-head-and-captions,” and then it just disappeared. Weird, edgy, or sloppy, whatever, it got him to Romeo+Juliet.
2) Every group with more than five adolescent dorks in it should get an agent, or at least look up “life rights” on Google before the cameras descend. Drill teamers, pep clubbers, band members, chess clubbers, debaters, science fair entrants, video gamers, D&D/RPG players, and incessant IM’ers, this means you.

Strictly Business
[Village Voice]

What Sharon Waxman Heard At Sundance

As people were rushing away from her or avoiding her while they were caught up in a bidding war at Sundance for the Craig Brewer-directed, John Singleton-produced Hustle and Flow:

“The adrenalin is flowing,” David Dinerstein, co-chairman of Paramount Classics, tossed over his shoulder as he hurried out of the screening…
Specialty movie executives went barreling from the hall to their cell phones, then back into the hall to make initial offers to the United Talent Agency agents…
“This is torture,” mouthed the Focus executive John Lyons…

In the true indie spirit of Sundance, the previously unknown Singleton–who financed the $3.5mm film himself–got a $17 million, three-picture deal with scrappy upstart distributor Paramount. Reports Ms. Waxman, “Mr. Singleton gleefully boarded a charter jet, paid for by Paramount [obviously, Singleton has points against gross, not net] to return to the set of his movie Four Brothers in Toronto.
Note: Heisenberg’s Principle is obviously suspended for the two weeks at Sundance; the NY Times Hollywood correspondent’s attending the crew’s pre-screening dinner, the screening, and the afterparty, and chasing down the principals during negotiations in now way influenced the outcome.

Wee-Hours Wheeling and Dealing at Sundance
[NYT]

IP Documentary Contest Finalists

In a bit of tail-eating snake-ism, The Arts Project at The Center for The Study of The Public Domain at Duke sponsored a contest as part of this year’s Full Frame Documentary Festival [got all that?] for the best 2-minute or shorter film about intellectual property’s impact on art, specifically music or documentary film.
Well, the finalists are in, and you can view and vote for them online.
The Arts Project Moving Image Contest [Duke Law]

US Film Festival Goes International, Changes Name

Apologies for the scarce posts lately; I’ve been busy with offline writing and real work. Still, I don’t know how I missed this: The US Film Festival is now called the Sundance Film Festival?? I guess since they added two world cinema competitions for docs and narrative films, the USFF name just didn’t make sense anymore.
Here’s this year’s list of films [minus the shorts, set for release Monday] which all sorts of folks are unpacking. Meanwhile, David Hudson unpacks the unpackers at GreenCine.

I Scoopa de World, Chico, ‘n everthin’s’innit

These are the first color photographs released of Les Arenes de Chaillot. They’ll be running this weekend in Le Monde.
Supposedly, the staff of La Mexicaine de Perforation are dressed like this for the screening of Mister Freedom and Sgt Kabukiman.
That, or this whole underground cinema thing is really a publicity stunt for Fox’s upcoming The Tick: The Musical.

Muchas gracias por todo, Mexicaines!
Previously on greg.org:
Les Arenes de Chaillot: complete programme guide
Exclusive: La Mexicaine Le Interview
Search results for “Mexicaine”

Les Arenes de Chaillot: The Complete Programme Guide

If greg.org were a magazine, this would be the big sidebar. But you can call it what it is: whoring for traffic. Here, for the first time in the indexable media, are the programmes–complete with my poor translations of their film descriptions–of La Sesion Comoda and Urbex Movie, the 2003 and 2004 series, respectively, organized by La Mexicaine de Perforation.
Screenings began at midnight in Les Arenes de Chaillot, the group’s underground cinema adjacent to la Cinematheque Francaise.

lmdp_logo.jpg

Continue reading “Les Arenes de Chaillot: The Complete Programme Guide”

Exclusive: La Mexicaine Le Interview

palais_chaillot.jpg

While the discovery of an underground cinema in the center of Paris has been widely covered, little or no attention has been paid to what the films actually played there. Les Arenes de Chaillot (The Chaillot Arenas) was created by La Mexicaine de Perforation, a group of self-labeled urban explorers who, for the last five or so years, have used the invisible and forgotten infrastructure of Paris as their own curatorial venue, putting on exhibitions, concerts, and, beginning last year, film screenings.
Early Sunday morning I spoke with Lazar Kunstmann, a filmmaker, editor, and the public spokesman of LMDP about the group’s objectives, ideas, and inspirations. Turns out there were at least two weekly film series, including Urbex Movie, the one that someone narc’ed out this past summer. Here’s what they showed and why:

Continue reading “Exclusive: La Mexicaine Le Interview”