Posts Tagged '2011'



Indie Roundup: ‘Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,’ ‘Weekend’

There’s a scene in “Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” which opened earlier this month in New York and is just starting to make its way around the country, where Angela Davis, one of the most influential and articulate leaders to come out of the Black Power movement, is being interviewed by Swedish journalists. She was in prison awaiting a murder trial that, in hindsight, was based on pretty flimsy evidence, and her usual poise and reserve started to crack a bit. As she recounted the violence that she witnessed at the hands of whites during her upbringing in Alabama, she looks worn down and tired, her eyes edging with tears. This icon of the time — lauded by some, vilified by many others — suddenly seems very human.

Culled from a treasure trove of film shot by Swedish journalists who flocked to the U.S. to cover the movement, “Black Power” is a fascinating mosaic of interviews and footage. There’s footage of other African-American leaders at the time, like Black Panthers Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver in their trademark leather jackets and black berets. Stokeley Carmichael is seen both giving acerbic, witty speeches and having a drink with friends. On a larger level, the movie captures the energy, enthusiasm, and impatience of the movement in the mid-sixties that collapsed into confusion and disillusionment in the ’70s, due to assassinations, race riots, war, and the spread of drugs. For anyone remotely interested in history, this movie will prove to be mesmerizing.

Also opening this weekend is Andrew Haigh’s “Weekend.” The movie concerns two gay men, Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), in the English city of Nottingham, who meet in a club, hook up, and spend the weekend together talking about love, sex, and what it means to be gay, before Glen permanently decamps for Portland, Oregon. It sounds like the sort of movie destined to appeal to a small specialty audience. At one point, Glen seems to channel the frustrations of the director when he describes one of his upcoming gay-themed art projects.

“Gays will only come because they’re hoping to see some [male genitalia] and they’ll be disappointed, and straights won’t come because it’s about gay sex. They’ll come to see things about famine, rape, disease, whatever. But not gay sex, not that!”
“Weekend” is too well shot, acted, and written to just be written off as the gay “Before Sunrise.” It quietly builds to a surprising, poignant, and heartbreaking portrait of two people struggling to communicate that transcends its niche.

Indie Roundup: ‘Drive’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn Talks About Being a ‘Fetish Filmmaker’

“I am a fetish filmmaker,” said Nicolas Winding Refn, director of this week’s movie “Drive.” “I just make films based on what I like to see, on what arouses me, and not try to analyze them, because if I do, then I can destroy it.”

“Drive” certainly feels like a fetish movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. The whole movie is sleek, heightened, and charged with something akin to eroticism, from the inscrutable expression on Ryan Gosling’s face to the gleaming surfaces of his car; from the languorous tableaux of nocturnal Los Angeles to the shot of Albert Brook stabbing some hapless gangster in the eye with a fork.

Though Ryan Gosling’s stoic visage appears on the poster, the true star of this flick is Refn. The movie’s opening sequence shows Gosling’s character — he doesn’t have a name in the film aside from monikers like “driver” and “kid” — plays getaway driver for a pair of nameless thieves. The virtuosity that he displays evading the cops — hiding under a bridge here, bolting into a parking structure there — is matched by Refn’s virtuosity behind the camera. In an age when actions scenes have devolved into incoherent camerawork strung together by spastic editing over a blaring soundtrack, the economy Refn uses here is remarkable. “Drive” might just be the best-directed movie you’re going to see this year. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Drive’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn Talks About Being a ‘Fetish Filmmaker’’

‘Restless’ Lead Henry Hopper Is In No Hurry to Be a Star

Henry Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper, stars in Gus Van Sant’s latest movie, “Restless.” This is his first film, though you wouldn’t know it based on his performance. He has the intensity, wildness, and vulnerably that is reminiscent of, well, a pre-“Easy Rider” Dennis Hopper. He has that rare ability to connect with the camera.

Yet, despite his talent, pedigree (his mother is actress Katherine LaNasa), and movie-star good looks, the 21-year-old was initially reluctant to enter the family business.

“I resisted being an actor for some time,” Henry Hopper told a news conference at the Cannes Film Festival.
Continue reading ‘‘Restless’ Lead Henry Hopper Is In No Hurry to Be a Star’

‘Restless’ Director Gus Van Sant Talks About Death, Movies, and ‘Twilight’

Gus Van Sant has had a peculiar cinematic career. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, he made his name with a series of indie movies such as “Mala Noche,” “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho.” They were groundbreaking tales of hustlers and drug addicts on the gritty down-and-out of side of Portland Oregon, but told with a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

With the huge critical and commercial success of “Idaho,” Van Sant was soon wooed by Hollywood. His 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting” got him his first nomination for an Oscar. Instead of following up this success with something that would solidify his standing as an A-list director though, Van Sant made one of the most curious studio flicks in Hollywood history: a shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho.” The end product baffled audiences and was largely panned by critics. It felt more like an expensive art project. Continue reading ‘‘Restless’ Director Gus Van Sant Talks About Death, Movies, and ‘Twilight’’

9/11 and the 2001 Toronto Film Festival

What happened on 9/11, as they say, affected everyone. My 9/11 happened far from the smoke and rubble in Manhattan. Instead, I was at the Toronto Film Festival. On a normal year, the place transforms into a concentrated version of Hollywood press machine, with all its hype, hubris, and self-regard. That day, though, the wheels came off. Movies suddenly didn’t seem all that important. Continue reading ‘9/11 and the 2001 Toronto Film Festival’

Indie Roundup: ‘Gainsbourg’

It’s hard to find an equivalent to French singer/songwriter/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg in American society — he’s part Bob Dylan, part Dean Martin, and part Johnny Rotten. He managed to get a teen pop star to sing a double-entendre-laden song about lollipops; he got a pair of international movie stars to orgasmically moan for two versions of the song “Je t’aime… moi non plus”; and sang a duet with his daughter about incest. And yet when he died in 1991, President Francois Mitterrand described Gainsbourg as “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.” The French recall his passing of a heart attack in the same way Americans might recall Kurt Cobain’s or John Lennon’s; it was a moment of national mourning.

Twenty years later, Serge Gainsbourg seems to be going through something of a renaissance. He had a tribute show at the Hollywood Bowl last month, featuring the likes of Beck and Sean Lennon. A documentary called “Gainsbourg and His Girls” — which centers around Gainsbourg, who was more charismatic than handsome, and his numerous gorgeous lovers, including Brigitte Bardot — is making the rounds on the film festival circuit. And, now, Joann Sfar’s surreal biopic, “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” hits the silver screen in the States. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Gainsbourg’’

‘Circumstance’ Director Maryam Keshavarz’s Tale of Risk and Forbidden Love

“What else could this film go through?” joked Iranian-American director Maryam Keshavarz. If current forecasts are correct, Hurricane Irene is set to slam into the East Coast the same weekend her movie, “Circumstance,” is slated to open.

“We couldn’t shoot in Iran. Then I was editing in Chile, we had an 8.8 earthquake. And now, after 25 years, there’s like a hurricane hitting New York City,” she said with a laugh.

Keshavarz talked to me while navigating Los Angeles traffic — always a dicey proposition. But, then, she is not someone to shy away from risk: She shot her debut feature in a politically hostile part of the world; she managed to tick off the oppressive government of her ancestral homeland; and she faced down at least one natural disaster. In comparison, talking on the phone while driving down Wilshire Boulevard is a cinch. Continue reading ‘‘Circumstance’ Director Maryam Keshavarz’s Tale of Risk and Forbidden Love’

Indie Roundup: ‘The Last Circus’

The Last CircusCult director Alex de la Iglesia’s latest movie, “The Last Circus,” opens with dizzying montage that includes shots of Spanish dictator Franco and clips from the notorious 1970s exploitation flick “Cannibal Holocaust” before settling into the movie’s prologue. Set in 1937, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, a militia of rebels coerce a clown midperformance to fight for their cause. Armed with a machete and still in costume, the clown charges straight into a platoon of government troops and manages to single-handedly dispatch all of them. There are few images more unnerving than a close-up of a clown in the thrall of pure, unadulterated bloodlust. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘The Last Circus’’

Director Robert Rodriguez Talks About Making ‘Spy Kids’ in Aromascope

“The ‘Spy Kids’ series has really just kind of been scrappily innovative,” director Robert Rodriguez told me recently. And indeed it’s true. “Spy Kids 2” was one of the first mainstream movies to be shot in high-definition video back in 2002. Now, of course, HD is an industry standard. Rodriguez’s 2003 follow-up, “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over,” was the first 3D flick made in 20 years, which for better or worse, presaged cinema’s current 3D boom.

So for the fourth movie in the franchise, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World,” Rodriguez wanted to mix it up a bit.

“If we are going to come back with [a fourth movie], we can’t just come back and just do 3D again. We might as well go one louder, go to 11.” Continue reading ‘Director Robert Rodriguez Talks About Making ‘Spy Kids’ in Aromascope’

Harrison Ford: The Hat Makes the ‘Cowboy’

“Costume is character.”

So said “Cowboys & Aliens” star Harrison Ford during a recent video interview with director Jon Favreau. And who can really argue with a man who’s brought so many cinematic icons to life? After all, what would Han Solo be without his trusty blaster and that black vest, or Indiana Jones without that bullwhip or his trademark fedora?

So when it came to picking a hat for the screen legend’s character in “Cowboys,” the film’s seven producers (including Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg) had opinions on the matter. Continue reading ‘Harrison Ford: The Hat Makes the ‘Cowboy’’


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