Hollywood Blacklist

No, not that one. This one- ‘Hollywood’s most liked unproduced screenplays published on the second Friday of December each year‘ Now apart from showing short synopses are not a fair way to judge a script (yet nevertheless, oh Jeebus no, corporate Hollywood why do you hate cinema so?) I noticed this one entry-

ALLIES WITH BENEFITS by Elizabeth Wright Shapiro
“The female President of The United States falls for her old college fling, the now Prime Minister of England.”
AGENT United Talent Agency – Blair Kohan, Tobin Babst, Jay Gassner MANAGER Industry Entertainment – Jess Rosenthal
Scott Free Productions producing.

Oh Lordy No! It’s like In The Loop never happened (but Love Actually did, hmmm). Anyways, it is unfair to judge based on this pitch (but um, ‘Prime Minister of England’ do they mean Britain? I might research that a tad before principal photography Liz, after all the Scott brothers are involved, you could ask them). In fact we might be able to look forward to a climatic scene where the PM in a crotchless poodle costume commits to nuking Iran to save Israel & the US the embarrassment as Lady President fucks him relentlessly with a strap on… but enough about my weekend.

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Cultrue For ‘Em: Film Recommendations- Blame It On Fidel & Machuca


I so enjoyed this film I have to pass on how good it is. An absolutely brilliant performance by Nina Kervel-Bey as Anna who is the centre of the story as we view through her 9-year-old eyes her parents becoming increasingly politically engaged and the confusion and obstinacy it inspires in her, until she too grows and becomes her own person. But hey don’t let that worthiness put you off, it really is entertaining, with some very funny moments and some touching ones, the mise-en-scène is virtually faultless from the non stereotype 70’s period detail (something British films usually fail at) to the understated yet strong lighting design. Hilariously right-wing critics misconstrue it is a critique of the left rather than a warm and human story of a little girls bewilderment at her parents awakened consciences and activism. It’s directed and co-written by Julie Gavras daughter of Costa Gavras

I kept the basis of the story, about a wealthy family with a conservative daughter. The father’s from Spain, his sister arrives, and the little girl’s life is shattered. Although I was more at home with Paris than Rome, what struck me was the way the writer talked about that period of the early ’70s from the perspective of a little girl. In the book, the father’s an engineer who becomes a union leader. I changed him into a pro-Allende activist, because my father made a film about Chile called ‘Missing’ , which was the first of his movies that I actually understood. For many French people, Allende represented the hope of a new political system, because he said he wanted to make a revolution within the bourgeois laws. It was something that caught the imagination of the French intelligentsia and a lot of French people went to Chile.

It’s also notable as a female empowered production-

Based on the novel by Domitilla Calamai and written by the film’s director Julie Gavras, it was produced by Sylvie Pialat (widow of Maurice Pialat), shot by Nathalie Durand, edited by Pauline Dairou, costume-designed by Annie Thiellement, cast by Coralie Amedeo, and acted by two splendid leads, Julie Depardieu (daughter of Gérard Depardieu) and first-time actor, little Nina Kervel.

It’s even more enjoyable when you have an awareness of the history as the interpretation through Anna’s experience and family circumstances give it a unique human colour and warmth. Perhaps a perfect accompaniment to this would be Machuca, two boys experiencing the bloody coup against Allende. It’s a while since I saw it but like Fidel it pays some attention to the comfortable middle class lifestyle and the very prosaic reasons why some people might support a fascist dictator just as long as they keep their lifestyle and they can live in denial of the atrocities committed by the government to keep them in fashionable clothes and servants. Machuca does this fairly directly by comparing the two boys, one from a poor slum the other from a bourgeois family who have their friendship tested as the coup unfolds. The Catholic school which brought them together again provides for an examination of the involvement of conservative religious intuitions in the coup and the individual efforts of some clergy to fight the criminal takeover. Unlike Fidel it is not at a remove in Paris so the experience is bleaker, so maybe Machuca first then Blame It On Fidel to leave you a better night’s sleep.


Machuca is also maybe culturally different in terms of national cinema, examining the Pinochet years in mainstream cinema is clearly a loaded issue (although a much earlier film Gonzalo Justiniano’s ‘Amnesia is excellent but almost impossible to see, my knackered VHS copy would be happy to hand over the task to a DVD but none is apparent, please let me know if you have a lead on that), Machuca perhaps uses the children’s story as a way to get to some truths that adults resist admitting. Whereas Fidel does not have that issue and the children’s story illuminates other aspects of resisting dominant paradigms, how doing the right things is not easy on you or those around you. For Anna is Paris it means a smaller apartment and being taken out of divinity class, both of which piss her off mightily which is made very funny through Nina Kervel-Bey’s performance. For Machuca simply his poverty and darker skin gets him in trouble while his richer friend escapes and his family enjoy the fruits of the repression, even the guilt middle class Gonzalo feels is a luxury not afforded to the repressed barrio dwellers.

What both films do is provide rewarding entertainment with real weight to it and …if you can get English speaking children to watch subtitled films they will also give a vitally different view of the world than the Hannah Montana movie, while giving them stories from children’s viewpoints which they can relate to. For adults, the deeper meditations on the costs and rewards of being concerned with social and political justice will gain nods of recognition.

Meanwhile if you fancy Norwegian comedy zombie movies with living dead Nazis erm, there is one- Dead Snow, not great but worth some popcorn, it’s like BNP on Ice!

Corporate Cinema

I am not making this up-

Universal has set July 1, 2011, for the release of “Battleship,” confirming Peter Berg as helmer of the live-action pic based on Hasbro’s naval combat board game. Deal is part of a two-picture pic pact Berg has made with U, where he’ll follow “Battleship” with an Afghan war drama “Lone Survivor.”

Universal’s date declaration positions “Battleship” to become the second film release from the studio’s multiyear deal with Hasbro to turn its classic games into features. The studio previously set an April 11, 2011, release date for “Stretch Armstrong,” with Steve Oedekerk about to deliver a script.

“Battleship” is the latest in Universal’s strong push toward branded entertainment films, and Hasbro has fast become an increasingly important cog in that campaign.

“This is a powerful brand, and in an era where brands have become the new stars, ‘Battleship’ is a big opportunity,” said U Pictures chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde.

Aside from “Battleship” and “Stretch Armstrong,” U is separately developing “Clue” with Gore Verbinski, “Monopoly” with Ridley Scott, “Candyland” with director Kevin Lima, and “Ouija” with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. As a board game, “Battleship” was launched by Milton Bradley in 1967 and has sold more than 100 million units.

Imagine that, one drama drawn from a real occupation, the death of Afghans as compelling as a board game as far as corporate cinema is concerned. And both will sell Empire.

Friday! North by Northwest

The splendid swirling, urgent opening theme (Bernard Herrmann on the choons, Saul Bass on the penz!) to the little seen documentary about the dangers of low flying crop dusters, possibly.

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Shock Doctrine, The Movie!

Whitecross, who traveled to South America with Klein to shoot some of the film, says that those who were part of the military dictatorships there agree wholeheartedly with its premise. “I spoke with one of Pinochet’s ex-ministers and he said everything in the book pertaining to Chile is true and it was good what we did because people need to be told what to do. He said people needed the free market and they weren’t ready for it.”

Winterbottom -“The first reaction to the financial crisis was that the banks were saying: OK we’ve been making huge profits, now here are several hundred billions of dollars of debts, and they’re yours, ” he says. “That is very typical of them trying to use the crisis for their own advantage.”

[more @ Spiegel Online]

Culture For ‘Em- Where It’s At

Not Wales.

A while back in 2004 there was great excitement as Demi Moore shot some of a film Half Light on the island. When I finally saw the film it was  somewhat of a surprise to see our locale was in fact represented as being Scotland. Fair enough they can look similar but actually there was no need in the film for it not be Wales, other than I think to a larger and particularly US audience Wales is some indecipherable place outside of London, they do at least get Scotland is sort of another country attached to England… er probably. It’s just a little demeaning to have your environment chosen for its physical qualities and cinematic possibilities then have it be used as a cheaper stand-in for somewhere else. Then I saw The Dark a film supposedly set in Wales and actually featuring some allusions to Welsh myth (although there is no sign there were aware of Arthur Machen’s work) and certainly its coastal setting could easily be shot in Wales, which is obviously why they shot it…on the Isle of Man. So ok I know, it’s like this- movies cost plenty moolah and cutting local deals on tax and allowances often means a location shoot happens in odd places simply because it made financial sense. But where the location is an important factor in the mis en scene, is even a character almost in the story this business motivated cynicism does preclude chances for some authentic representation of a place and its associations.

Both of these movies were horror/psychological supernatural thriller type things (and both pretty average) and place was a powerful part of the atmosphere and tin The Dark’s case they did specifically include Welsh aspects in the story. Yet both films managed in one way or another not to really have any authenticity. Or maybe I wouldn’t be bothered if they were good, after all I’m not about to be annoyed at Sergio Leone for using Spain and Italy for the US & Mexico, hmmm. There was also the Alien 3 thing, how there were tales of shooting taking place in Wales but until the assembly cut got released these scenes were missing from the original cinema botch job. I always thought I had somehow blanked out with disappointment at the film and in doing so missed the Welsh coast bit, reasoning maybe it was a fun scene where they all decide to be friends and have a beach party chucking a ball around while the Alien barbecued up some vegie burgers to some bangin’ techno. Which really would not in any way of made the film any worse than it was. The assembly cut makes it slightly better and the rainy Welsh bits are a welcome addition and at least in that case it was legitimate to be standing in for somewhere else, off world location shoots so far being limited to doco footage on the moon.

The moviemapnorthwales.co.uk does demonstrate the proud tradition of Wales standing in for other places, (Tibet, India, Scunthorpe) but it peeves me a bit that the genuine beauty and atmosphere remains largely absent from film and it keeps being a case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’. After all it’s always nice to see a place you know get well represented in cinema, Manchester has had a few and as well as the recent well known ones (usually music related) I’d like to mention the Stanley Baker ( a dedicated socialist & the Welsh Sean Connery? He turned down Bond) starring Hell is a City (1960) (Hey wait what are they saying about Manchester?, I mean London I could understand…). A nice black and white depiction of Manchester as a backdrop for a crime drama with the excellent and sometimes forgotten Baker doing a hard boiled cop meeting emerging social realism with great skill. More at this great site levyboy.com with tons of stills and pics of modern Manchester for comparison, excellent.

Now should you catch yourself wondering whether to watch these two films (The Dark, Half Light) I would mostly say don’t bother except the (limited) extras on The Dark DVD do include a brilliantly unintentionally hilarious interview with the director (actually the demon sheep are pretty funny too). It’s like a real life version of The Comic Strip’s The Strike, he recounts how the original script and writer were let go as it was an adaptation of a book and he wanted to do a horror/ supernatural thing and the book /script was not quite in that genre, so he and a new writer ‘re-conceptualised’ the film to suit his desires of a spooky horror job. Then they were shooting before the new script was finished. Which is something you can kinda pick up from the film shall we say. Maria Bello is good in it but perhaps it’s easiest to say Paul WS Anderson was involved, so y’know, you can enjoy it once you lower your expectations to the correct…erm level.

Ps. Weirdly the director of The Dark also directed Ginger Snaps which is pretty spiffy and Emily Perkins he who played the non werewolfy sister (also recently the abortion clinic receptionist in Juno) taught acting at  Aberystwyth, University of Wales between 2005-06. He should have got her on board to advise on location the big eejit. He did at one point in the hilarious interview recount- So Sean Bean’s character moves back to England and gets a house in Wales- clearly not quite up to speed on the Britain/England, Scotland, Wales thang.

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Adam Curtis- The Living Dead

Ta-da! The long sought after 1995 three parter has been notable by its absence from the web, but now thanks to what went on here (thank you JW) I am proud to present for your viewing pleasure-

Adam Curtis’ The Living Dead– Three Films About The Power Of The Past

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 1/3: On the Desperate Edge of Now

Wikipedia– This episode examined how the various national memories of the Second World War were effectively rewritten and manipulated in the Cold War period. For Germany, this began at the Nuremberg Trials, where attempts were made to prevent the Nazis in the dock—principally Hermann Göring—from offering any rational argument for what they had done. Subsequently, however, bringing lower-ranking Nazis to justice was effectively forgotten about in the interests of maintaining West Germany as an ally in the Cold War. For the Allied countries, faced with a new enemy in the Soviet Union, there was a need to portray WW2 as a crusade of pure good against pure evil, even if this meant denying the memories of the Allied soldiers who had actually done the fighting, and knew it to have been far more complex. A number of American veterans, told how years later they found themselves plagued with the previously-suppressed memories of the brutal things they had seen and done. The title comes from a veteran’s description of what the uncertainty of survival while combat is like.

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 2/3: You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough

Wikipedia– In this episode, the history of brainwashing and mind control was examined. The angle pursued by Curtis was the way in which psychiatry pursued tabula rasa theories of the mind, initially in order to set people free from traumatic memories and then later as a potential instrument of social control. The work of Ewen Cameron was surveyed, with particular reference to Cold War theories of communist brainwashing and the search for hypnoprogammed assassins. The programme’s thesis was that the search for control over the past via medical intervention had had to be abandoned and that in modern times control over the past is more effectively exercised by the manipulation of history. Some film from this episode, an interview with one of Cameron’s victims, was later re-used by Curtis in his The Century of the Self. The title of this episode comes from a paranoid schizophrenic seen in archive film in the programme, who believed her neighbours were using her as a source of amusement by denying her any privacy, like a pet goldfish.

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 3/3: The Attic

Wikipedia– In this episode, the Imperial aspirations of Margaret Thatcher were examined. The way in which Mrs Thatcher used public relations in an attempt to emulate Winston Churchill in harking back to Britain’s “glorious past” to fulfil a political or national end. The title is a reference to the attic flat at the top of 10 Downing Street, which was created during Thatcher’s period refurbishment of the house, which did away with the Prime Minister’s previous living quarters on lower floors. Scenes from The Innocents (film) the adaptation of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James are intercut with Thatcher’s reign.

Enjoy, download, share, torrent before some killjoy comes along.

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Into The Zone

People seem to be working themselves up into a lather over something to do with banks and money, go figure. Anyway while I have a queue of things wanting, nay, needing to be watched/worked on I am instead going to slap on Stalker (not decided which soundtrack to select yet -original is best, but just for shits & giggles maybe I’ll dally with the 5.1 remix) and fall to sleep as it mesmerises me. Maybe the leftovers from our picnic of excess will leave some puzzling artefacts for others to toy with.    Watch…….the…….glass…….

Free Movie! DNC 2008 Doco

Nezua, The Unapologetic Mexican has premièred his 25 minute documentary of his excellent adventures at the DNC in Denver. A very different experience from the mainstream coverage and with terrific integration of blogs/im’s into the film itself, it melds lots of new media together into the narrative. And as Michael Moore is giving his latest away only within North America, enjoy this instead-

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Culture For ‘Em- Abbas Kiarostami: Looking at Tazieh

Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian– As he walks down the half-lit stairwell of a Paris cafe where Picasso and Modigliani used to hang out, Abbas Kiarostami takes out his camera and snatches a shot of a painted frieze. “Very nice,” he smiles, with the wonderment of a man abroad.

Kiarostami – the godfather of Iranian cinema, a director who has won so many international awards that he long ago stopped accepting them – still seems very much the outsider in the western cities that celebrate him as one of the greatest film-makers of all time. Unlike other Iranian directors who fled abroad, he still lives in Tehran, despite a regime that has not permitted his films to be shown there for the past 10 years. Yet Kiarostami does not overtly preach politics, saying the regime does its thing, he does his – his thing being to capture Iranians’ everyday lives with a tenderness and gentle humour that makes western audiences melt.

European and US arts supremos have long schemed to get him to direct in the west, for the stage and for screen, hoping he’ll bring with him the poetic, intensely human touch of films such as Taste of Cherry, in which a sad-eyed man about to commit suicide on a hillside tries to convince various strangers to come and bury him afterwards. But Kiarostami, 68, chooses foreign projects with care, wary of stepping outside his own Iranian arena. He has just finished directing his first opera, Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, at the Aix-en-Provence festival in France. “The most moving thing anyone said to me,” he says, “was that it was the kindest, friendliest, most human version they had ever seen.”

Meanwhile, his Looking at Tazieh – a remarkable new multimedia installation about an ancient epic that whips Iranian villagers into a frenzy – opens in Edinburgh this week. When the French actor Juliette Binoche saw it, she bawled her eyes out all the way through, and ever since has buried herself in books on Shiism and Islam, to “understand why these people were crying like that”.

Tazieh is a traditional form of passion play that recounts epic sagas in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. One minute it’s getting belly-laughs, the next distraught sobbing and breast-beating; audiences lose themselves in a kind of ritual mourning and group outpouring of grief. So rapt are the enthralled audience of Tazieh that no amount of hamming or artifice can put them off. Kiarostami remembers watching a performance as a child: an actor dressed as a lion took out a cigarette for a quick smoke without remotely putting the audience off. “The guy who came over to light his cigarette was crying – he was swept away by the rest of the performance.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Extraordinary Rendition on BBC1 23:30 Tonight

Good on the beeb, the terrestrial première of the UK film Extraordinary Rendition (23:35 in some regions). From the filmmaker’s site

Today’s leader column in the Guardian also highlights the film and places it in the context of the wider debate about torture in the war on terror. There’s also an interview with Jim over on the Future Movies website and the Director’s Notes film site have a podcast interview you can listen to as well as clips from the film to view.

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Lose Ben Stein Money

Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary which makes an argument for intelligent design over the theory of evolution, debuted at just number eight among the top ten grossing movies last week.

The film made $1.2 million on Friday in 1,052 theaters. By comparison, Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ raked in $23.9 million its opening weekend from just 441 theaters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 did $23.9 million from only 868 slots.

But note how this stoopid doco with no track record behind it gets placed at over twice the number of theatres as Moore’s Sicko, a film from an Oscar winner with a very good track record of profitable movies. Stein’s shitfest choked but the not from lack of backing by corporate America, that is the real story. Censorship via economic means is often overlooked in capitalist cultures, the tolerance of free speech used to hide the lack of promotion of certain speech versus the over promotion of elite favoured narratives. The powerful will claim- it’s a free country , you can say what you like (which actually isn’t even true) knowing full well it is the means to support and distribute that speech is what holds power, not simply the words. It may be freedom to speak, but it is not the right to be heard. The pretence one is the same as the other is one of the ways democracy has been subverted while people still believe they live in a free society with open media instead of the corporate echo chamber of distracting pap they really inhabit.

Schism Smackdown!

A Saudi blogger has made a short video featuring alleged Christian extremists preaching violence and a Bible passage calling for war, in response to an anti-Quran film that sparked protests across the Muslim world.

Raed al-Saeed told The Associated Press on Thursday that the purpose of his six-minute video is to show Islam should not be judged by watching Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders’ movie “Fitna,” which links terror attacks by Muslim extremists with texts from the Quran.

Erm, look Geert Wilders is not a film-maker, he’s a right wing nutjob making genocidal propaganda and this response perfectly skewers his pathetic work. YouTube should absolutely not be censoring this. It should appear embedded below, if not you know they censored it again, if so go to the link above as RawStory have it hosted at their own server. As the film points out you can find inflammatory rhetoric in any religious text, violent images of any large grouping, but bottom line which religion is dominant in the countries who have killed a million people in Iraq? Which religion dominates the only Empire on earth? Maybe that explains why some people feel a little threatened and why arguments over free speech are deliberately narrowed to exclude that context. Fundamentalist Islamic and Christian and whatever other flavour of god related ancient fairy tales are fucking numbskulls but I really can’t stand supporters of war crimes playing the fucking victim. This guy just punk’d Wilders.

Ps. Is the British soldier who’s voice you hear…y’know, getting off, shall we say?

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So I Guess It’s Now Clear What Sauron & Mordor Represented

Guards have confiscated a “Lord of the Rings” movie screenplay from a former child soldier awaiting trial at Guantanamo, his lawyer and U.S. officials said Thursday. Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, the military-appointed attorney for Canadian Omar Khadr, told reporters he gave the detainee the script to build trust.

In addition to seizing the screenplay, the military said he could no longer play dominos and chess during visits with Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured by the U.S. military after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. Kuebler said the games and the screenplay are essential to his ability to defend his client: “There is an enormous challenge to building a rapport.”

‘The Battle for Haditha’ On UK Channel 4 Mon 9pm 17th March

Nick Broomfield’s ‘The Battle for Haditha’ is on Channel 4 on Monday 9pm (17th March) which is a splendid easy and free chance to catch the film, Dave @ Complex Series of Pipes saw it at a screening and if you need further enticement read his excellent review click here, an excerpt-

The power of TBFH comes, I reiterate, from its ultra-realism. Grieving Iraqi women were played by grieving Iraqi women, bitter and haunted marines were played by bitter and haunted marines. Key scenes were filmed in single, sustained takes for more intensity than any method-acting gimmick, and dialogue was improvised around the director’s instructions. Crucially, though, all of this actually happened. The names have been changed and some imagination must have been used in filling in the details, and there remains some doubt as to the exact order in which the events took place – but Iraqis, marines, journalists and military courts all agree on the substance.

One marine was killed by a roadside bomb, then four marines slaughtered twenty four Iraqis: men and women, from a one-year-old girl (four of the dead were under five years old, as were some of the injured survivors, and numerous others were in their early teens) to a septegenarian grandfather. This kind of violence is something I don’t think anyone would dare put in a film if it weren’t real; I know that if I were making cinematic propaganda against the war, I’d be concerned about keeping it “believable”, and if TBFH were fiction then we’d all be accusing Nick Broomfield of undermining the cause through implausible exaggeration.

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