April 30, 2010

(Movie) News You Need to Know: The Human Torch Was Denied a Bank Loan

"Paramount Cancels Anchorman 2" - Cinematical

Two years ago I pondered the rumors of a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (among my Top 10 Movies of the Decade). I'd forgotten about this idea entirely until I heard that writer/director Adam McKay recently tweeted that Paramount "basically passed" on a sequel (unbeknownst to me a deal was apparently imminent).

I think this is probably for the best. Anchorman came along right when pop culture was obsessed with the 70's (Starsky and Hutch, anyone?), when Will Ferrell was a red hot commodity, and when Steve Carell was known only (if he was known at all) as the gibberish-talking Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty. None of those three elements are true anymore, and besides, I'll be the first to admit that Anchorman is a one-note tune that doesn't need to be diluted by a sequel. 

What else does this all mean?
1. I still find it ridiculous that news is legitimately released via Twitter.
2. Adam McKay can go back to making awful movies that aren't Anchorman.
3. Everybody who hates Anchorman can celebrate. Their wrongness.

April 29, 2010

May Lineup @ The Trylon microcinema: "Before Tokyo: Comedies of Bill Murray"

I seem to remember Bill Murray being in dozens of comedies from my childhood, but the fact is that it was more like only a half dozen films, each of which I saw dozens of times. Three of those comedic classics will be presented by Take-Up Productions as part of Before Tokyo: Comedies of Bill Murray, with the fourth, Quick Change, being one that I have not seen. If you haven't either, it's the only film in the series discounted due to the Trylon's impeccable film formatting standards.

Anyway, here's Take-Up's cleverly sarcastic explanation of the series' title:

"Bill Murray burst onto the dramatic scene as the taciturn Bob Harris in 2003's Lost in Translation, for which he received an Oscar nomination. Since then, he's starred in numerous blockbusters and critically acclaimed dramas.

But few are familiar with his great comedies from years past—until now. Take-Up Productions proudly presents Murray's obscure classics, four comedies from the 80s and early 90s, including his rarely-seen supernatural burlesque Ghostbusters. Won't you join us as we rediscover the "other" side of Bill Murray—philosopher, social critic, and clown."

The schedule:

Painful Moments in Movie History #1: The Animal Cracker Scene

Michael Bay
Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno

You know  what I was thinking?

Grace Stamper:

I really don't think that the animal cracker qualifies as a cracker.

Grace Stamper:

Well cause it's sweet, which to me suggests cookie, and, you know, I mean putting cheese on something is sort of a defining characteristic of what makes a cracker a cracker. I don't know why I thought of that, I just...

Grace Stamper:
Baby, you have such sweet pillow talk.

I got like a little animal cracker, Discovery Channel thing happening right here. (affects Australian accent) Watch the gazelle as he grazes through the open plains. Now, look as the cheetah approaches. Watch as he stalks his prey. Now the gazelle is a little spooked. He could head north, to the ample sustenance provided by the mountainous peaks above. Or, he could go south. The gazelle now faces mans most perilous question: north...or, south...way down under. Tune in next week.

Grace Stamper:
Baby? Do you think it's possible that anyone else in the world is doing this very same thing at this very same moment?

I hope so. Otherwise what the hell are we trying to save?

April 23, 2010

MSPIFF 2010: Week 1 Roundup

I made it to only three films during the first week of MSPIFF 2010 - significantly fewer than any other year in recent memory, but a major feat nonetheless considering all things (moving, working, wedding planning, etc.). I still have ambitious plans to make it to ten total films before the festival wraps up next Friday, though it may require booting up my time machine or employing the Zack Morris Time-Out.

Thoughts on the first three, in order of viewing:

Bananas!* - That both the exclamation point and asterisk in the title go entirely unexplained during this documentary is a curiosity, as is the fact that it's really not about fruit at all. While Swedish filmmaker (emphasis on Swedish, because this film is produced and titled in a decidedly non-American way) Fredrik Gertten presents an admittedly interesting legal drama about the Dole corporation's use of a controversial pesticide that rendered sterile a significant number of the company's banana farmers in rural Nicaragua, the film is the victim of unfortunate timing as it exists as simply a lesser version of last year's Crude, which had an almost identical story to tell about ExxonMobil and a community in Ecuador (including a championing American lawyer using the "David vs. Goliath" analogy). 

I'm glad I saw Bananas!* because the courtroom scenes are engrossing and issues like this deserve to be shared with the world, but at the same time I don't feel I received a complete picture of the banana industry.The film boasts the already tired claim that we'll "never look at ______ (insert bananas) the same way again", which is partly true. I'll never look at them the same way again without wondering, "why didn't I learn more about bananas from Bananas!*?"

The Oath - Leave an Oscar nomination slot open on your ballot next year for Laura Poitras' riveting documentary about Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard, Abu Jindal, and his ideological struggle to remain loyal to the al-Qaeda oath without advocating terrorism. As I've already mentioned, Poitras was previously nominated for My Country, My Country, an underrated film about an Iraqi doctor in the months following the U.S. invasion in 2003 (Poitras, an American, was reportedly placed on a no-fly list because of the film's critical stance). This is the second film in her planned "trilogy" about Iraq, and I'm here to tell you that the positive buzz out of Sundance in January was warranted. Summarizing the storyline is not really helpful, but suffice to say it is extremely rare that you will see a documentary cover this much material and still remain grounded in its primary subjects.

If you have any interest in international relations, history, war, terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, the Supreme Court, Islam, or the Middle East, The Oath may be considered required viewing. Not surprisingly, it will be broadcast as part of the upcoming P.O.V. season on PBS (My Country, My Country was a selection during the 2006 season). If you miss it theatrically don't miss the chance to see it for free at home. 

Night Catches Us -  I noted in my festival preview that Night Catches Us is an example of a film rarely screened as part of MSPIFF (no doubt the influence of guest programmer Linda Blackaby), and sure enough there were only a couple dozen people at the Wednesday night screening. Oh well, those who missed it missed out. On the surface, Tanya Hamilton's directing debut doesn't necessarily transcend the familiar trappings of other racial-historical dramas, but there's no denying this really is an unique story that lingers in the mind for further reflection. The Hurt Locker standout Anthony Mackie shows impressive leading man potential as a former Black Panther re-acclimating to life in 1976 Philadelphia. Kerry Washington holds her own as his moral compass and love interest, but the film belongs to Mackie whenever he is on screen, almost to a distracting degree. To boot, the cinematography is beautifully absorbing and the original music by Philadelphia natives The Roots adds immediacy and authenticity.

The film does not dive headlong into the history of the Black Panthers, but then this is a film about relationships, not politics. Nonetheless, it's easy to view the Panthers' militant spirit in the context of the brewing social unrest in America in 2010 (earlier in the day I'd listened to a local right-wing conservative radio host justify violence on behalf of the Tea Party by quoting JFK: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.") . In any case, whatever Tanya Hamilton's motive was in telling this story I hope she receives a deserved amount of attention for it.

April 14, 2010

Ten to See at MSPIFF 2010

Hmm...what to see, what to see...

Do you go for...the hip new movies that are likely to be audience favorites but are being released here soon anyway (The Square, The Secret of the Kells)? The Minnesota-made films and documentaries that will likely have appearances by local producers and directors? The "sleeper" hits that you can find and tell everyone else about afterward? Or simply the films that you know are getting just this one screening in the Twin Cities before never being heard from again (Blind Loves and Heart of Fire last year, tragically)? Don't ask me - I'm as overwhelmed with choices as the next film nerd.

But of course you are asking me, so here are ten films that I hope to see during the next two weeks of the 28th Annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). For other recommendations heed the wise words of Kathie, Joe, Erik, and Jim. Reviews of all of the first week's films will also run in tomorrow or Friday's Star Tribune. I'll list the screening dates here, but you'll have to click through for times and tickets.

April 11, 2010

MSPIFF 2010 - New AND Improved

Conventional wisdom would hold that something cannot be both new and improved, but the 28th edition of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) has the potential to actually qualify for both descriptions. The films are new (well, maybe not all of them - several have already screened in the Twin Cities), and the organization of the festival appears to be much improved.

One of the elements of any good film festival is making an actual schedule of films available for people who are planning to attend. This may sound like the most obvious thing since The Hurt Locker's Oscar sweep, but when it comes to MSPIFF a schedule is rarely a given - at least not until a day or three before the two week-long festival starts.

To take nothing away from Minnesota Film Arts' excellent organization of the festival over the last couple of years, this year's edition appears to be a quantum leap ahead of any other in terms of user-friendliness. For one thing, the vast majority of the films - and their screening times! - was listed on the festival website more than two weeks before the festival's opening night, this Thursday, April 15. This fact in its own right was cause for raucous celebration among festival loyalists, but that wasn't all.

Secondly, the website itself was reconfigured (although, tragically, not completely redesigned) to allow for a full assortment of sorting options never before available. You can now look through the 150+ film titles by topic, country, and even language. Incredible!

Moreover, the festival ticketing structure was reconfigured with the addition of discounted punch packs and also discounted matinee tickets - $6 for all shows before 6:00 PM. This way you don't have to pay $100+ for a pass but you can still save money if you see a half-dozen films.

Having acknowledged all of these improvements, there is still one thing that could use improvement: the Drupal-based website is just not up to par when compared to other major festivals of this size (e.g., Chicago, Seattle). If we're going to be encouraged to create user accounts, they ought to at least serve a purpose. Perhaps movie-goers can vote for the films online instead of using the pesky ballots in the hallway. Or, in my dream world, maybe website users could actually save movies to their profile and receive email reminders of when their preferred films are screening. This may be a luxury (though I believe Chicago offers that), but in any case I'm still hoping for a better website platform in the future.

I'll hold most of my complaints about the festival because it's already upon us (however, if you're interested you can read my thoughts in a festival preview in today's Star Tribune). I'm still definitely looking forward to this year's festival and all of the now-standard perks that come along with it being held at St. Anthony Main: free parking, nice sidewalk cafes, mostly organized line management.

The only problem remaining is that I have only a fraction of the free time I normally set aside for movies during this two-week period. I'm a little disappointed I won't be able to take full advantage of these new festival improvements this year, but everyone else who plans on going every day or even every other day ought to be very pleased.

April 6, 2010

300 Words About: Dirt! The Movie

Dirt - a surprisingly fertile subject for a documentary

In writing about the best documentaries of the last decade recently, I made a comment that the 2000's ushered in a new era of documentary filmmaking. These days anyone, seemingly anywhere, can get funding to choose any subject and claim to be the "first" one to fully explore an issue, historical event, person, animal, or what have you. What this has led to, of course, is a great number of television documentary series ("Ice Road Truckers"?!) and feature-length documentaries (The Real Cancun) about rather inane subjects. I thought dirt might be one of those inane subjects. I was wrong.

I can't claim that Dirt! The Movie kept me riveted for all 86 minutes of its running time, but I can't claim it's ever boring, either. On the contrary, it's so subject-dense at times that it can be disorienting. Who knew dirt was such a complicated matter? Or rather, who knew dirt could be used as a jumping-off point to talk about complicated matters (e.g., agriculture, religion, politics, history, science, biology, world cultures)?

April 3, 2010

Get Hitched in Minneapolis this April

On the heels of a successful retrospective of Ray Harryhausen films, Take-Up Productions presents its second annual Alfred Hitchcock series: "Alfred Hitchcock: Across the Decades". Last April's series ("First, You Need a Crime") was a massive success; I only made it to To Catch a Thief at the Riverview, where I had to sit front row, right side, with a capacity crowd of 700 bursting the theater at the seams.

Expect the same this year with five new Hitchcock films at the Riverview and five more at the beloved Trylon microcinema, which holds, you should remember, only 50 people. You'd be foolish to show up at the Trylon day-of-show to get in (they've been sold out this first weekend), so buy your tickets now. You could get away with not buying in advance for the Riverview shows, but if so, arrive no later than 7:00 PM to get decent seats.

Here's the lineup with a few highlighted trailers:

Related Posts with Thumbnails