Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something I read when I'm procrastinating


We are like roses that have never bothered to
bloom when we should have bloomed and
it is as if
the sun has become disgusted with

Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If you think you’re da shit, then your stuff is shit.

Giving and taking notes is a tricky business. I don’t read scripts from newbies (who aren’t friends) because most think their stuff is great and that's all they want to hear. How do I know? I was a deluded beginner once too and I expected nothing but praise for my genius.

But try telling that to smug, beginner screenwriters who think they are great writers. As the years go by and the delusion diminishes, I think I’m a horrible writer. For me, self-doubt and self-loathing are directly proportional with improvement. I wondered if this was just me or if it was a commonality among all writers.

I went to a WGA genre panel in July and I had a friend, who was attending via streaming (he asked me what question he should ask and I told him), ask the panelists (Scott Frank, Andrea Berloff and Adam Mazer) when they knew their stuff was good. They all laughed and Frank said “Never. Writers that love their shit it's because it's shit."

I was kinda’ looking for hope that some day I would feel better about my writing. But no, I guess I won't.

Beginners don’t want to hear the truth and they can't handle it very well. They’ll hate you for it and respond with a “Thank you for your opinion.” And they will never listen to advice on market realities. The only notes that are helpful are direct and honest. Sugar-coating makes things worse and it’s confusing as hell. These days, I abhor praise. You see, praise is an empty platitude that may feel good, but does mostly harm to a writer’s progress and improvement. Writers should tell each other what works, what doesn’t work and what needs to be done to improve the screenplay.

Check out this coverage I got from Slamdance years ago. I think I got diabetes just reading it again. It seemed harsh then; it seems sugar-coated now. It took me a while to recognize what was helpful about it.

Slamdance Screenplay Competition
Coverage for All About Akiki (Reader #38191)


Teen wants to be popular in the worst way, and so runs for student body president - her major opponents being a fake cholo and a Ugandan schemer. A story filled with hilarious situations, and telling the blackly humorous story of a school election, that mirrors the muck that is political elections in America today. A probing look at not only high-school cliques and poses/posers, but also the poses that constitute suburban life in America today... even the activists here, are wearing masks of fakery. What we would like to latch on to, is the singe beacon of truth in this sea of political scheming and fakery... but we fail to get it, in the weak, empty, emotionless character that is Franny, who fails to have an arc, and who, as the pages wind down, becomes more and more passive, until she is a mere reactor to events. We can't care about her, because there is no emotional journey, no relationship-in-transition - there's too much plot here, too much chatter, getting in the way. Franny is the core of the piece, and fixing her, will go a long way towards rendering this script into what it so SO could be, a great satire on politics and high-school and the emptiness of all self-serving political aspirations.....

What works:

The script is often hilarious, as we get a black portrait of high-school popularity. Casting this against a political backdrop has roots in ELECTION, another black comedy; it feels more like HEATHERS and GHOST WORLD, however, with Akika reminding us of MEAN GIRLS. We get "types" for all our characters, and that does tell us that this script intends itself to be a satire, much more than a standard comedy feature: every single person here is "flat," in the satiric model as such, and so they do work on that one level. The problem is that they are all so similar, so equally chatty and even appear to have the same motivations... the effect is one of strange confusion, so that one reads this and easily gets lost, amidst a parade of like characters, equally lacking in emotional arcs, equally scheming and hiding their true natures, equally chatting and reacting to others' chatter. The situations are funny, and rich in exploitation; the animals are always funny, and their untimely deaths (is this acceptable to say?) even funnier. Rob is Karl Rove by another name, and perhaps Akiki is supposed to be Rice, but also perhaps not; their scheming ways, couched in the tactics of a Machiavelli, are the best parts of the plot here, as we watch them scheme, claw, and rend Franny along the way to the top. As in good satire, they win, even though they lose; their winning was inevitable, but we are hoping that Franny will win in her own way along the way. Franny is the problem that lies at the core of this script, because - in a welter of types and plot-points - we want an emotionally-based, fully-rounded, arcing character, with a strong relationship-in-transition storyline (see below)... we get, alas, none of that, but instead one more flat type, among a host of flat types. Without a core to hold onto, the whole fails - the whole blends together, in fact, and can't distinguish itself, from itself. It's all very funny... but it's all too distancing, as well.

What doesn't work:

The main problem with ALL ABOUT AKIKI, is the fact that it is too politically based - it is too concerned with the machinations of plot, and of how the characters interacts on a plot basis, rather than with supplying real emotions, that an audience can adhere to. Everyone in here, after a while, begins to sound strangely the same; wether it's parents or students, it's so hard to keep track of everyone, to keep a bead on who's who, because all the characters have blended together. That's because everyone has a "political" agenda of one kind or another: there's no real difference between Rob and Noam, say, except that they are on different sides of the political fence. It's not just what they're saying or who they are with, which side of the story they're on - heroes or villians - it's that their motivations and drives are so similar; perhaps, too, it's the uniform lack of emotion, of emotional arcs and relationships-in-transition, that renders everything into a bland mush. In this respect it is similar to the tone of GHOST WORLD or HEATHERS, except that the first had real teen angst as its core, and exploited it; the second, a funny driving plot, that was emotionally based - and a satisfying arc to its lead character. But here, we get a rather dis-involved Franny: she wants to be class president (10th Grade president, which seems like low stakes at that), but not really - what she really wants, is to be "popular." But she is so utterly empty throughout: she never really emotionally bonds to anyone, not even Noam - Leila wants Noam, and we are moved by her sudden attraction to him, in an otherwise emotionally-distant story. Franny is more a reactor than pro-active, in her long campaign; she is constantly the fall-guy to Akika's and Rob's schemes, and then she finally is brought to bear by the end; she gives a rousing, but too out of the blue speech - during which, secondary characters Noam and Leila, like a deus ex machina, reveal the dastardly deeds of Akika/Rob, and Franny wins. It's a victory unearned, and uncared about. The script's title is itself a confusion: ALL ABOUT AKIKA implies Akika will be the heroine/protagonist... she is not... and again, we are left scratching our heads, at what to make of this ultimately too tedious comedy, that doesn't manage to really draw us in to its world.

How it can be improved:

The author must inject one character, at least, with an emotional arc - that character would have to be Franny, who is the central protagonist. All the other characters at this point are allowed to blend together, into an indistinguishable ball... even the animals, at times, are hard to distinguish. It can still work, but not if the main character blends in with them. We simply can't spend two hours with a lead character that is concerned with things that we, an audience, can't care about - an audience doesn't care about a student body president-ship, it doesn't care about the dirty tricks of one's opponents, it doesn't care about plans to be popular, about a million little plot elements that only serve to confuse ever more... we may *laugh* at these things, or be amused by them, but we don't *care* about them. And an audience wants to care when they see a movie, or at least be presented with a character who seems to care - we can all fake it, that's fine, but there has to be something at least to fake along with. Franny needs, thus, to have an emotional arc: she can want to become popular - as is explicitly stated as a goal of Jennifer Garner's character, in 13 GOING ON 30 - but then it has to, by the end, become the explicitly opposite of what the character needs, and finally turns to (as Garner gradually finds her fulfillment, in loving Mark Ruffalo). A lead character can't just abstractly learn that "being popular" is not a good thing; it's this abstract learning on Franny's part, that probably subconsciously led the author to have Franny's problems ultimately solved FOR her, rather than BY her - the farther we get into this story, the more we realize there is a central ingredient missing, and that's the fully-rounded central character. Now, in a sublime nutshell, movie-stories are about a character/s, who have A) goals to accomplish, subdivided a) external (the plot), and b) internal (the character/s inner "arc," the trajectory of the inner man/woman that changes from what's initially presented, to its opposite, and sometimes back again); and B) a relationship-in-transition, the real life-blood of any movie - wherein the character and another, usually the second lead, go through a relational journey, either evolving (most movies), achieving a new level of gnosis, knowledge (fewer movies), or actually devolving (fewest movies). This is your screenwriting primer, in a nutshell - every movie conforms to this simple formula. And here, we lack A/b), and B): we lack an inner arc for Franny, and we lack the relationship-in-transition - clearly the other in this relationship is supposed to be Noam, but that never materializes; he is more friend, than lover, than future love. And unless Franny becomes a fully-rounded lead, this script will fail to connect to a reader, and an audience. We all know what Franny preaches in her final speech - in some ways it's empty itself, since Leila reveals she was Franny's friend all along. We want to see a love bloom in Franny, the first real life lesson that we all remember: that love and a relationship with another human being, can bring the fulfillment that political gains and being popular, can't. Without that lesson... we know the story is disingenuous. Give the reader what s/he wants, and needs.

Next step:

Bring back the emotion to this piece - really go into Franny's emotional through-line, and tell the story of how, say, she comes to find love in Noam (the obvious choice, though it could be Rob too...); make HER defeat her enemies by the end, make her proactive rather than - increasingly in 3rd Act, as the pages wind down - a reactive, passive lead character, who is simply letting things happen to her until she the curtain falls. Too much talk here, or it feels like it - to much chatter, surface talk, mask talk. Give this some real depth... and make us care, about Franny, if no one else... so that we can really resonate, with her journey....


I’ve bolded the most important and critical note (first paragraph) which wasn’t sugar coated. I didn’t see it then. I didn’t get it. I didn’t write for months. When I read it again, I realized what was the problem with my stories: a lack of emotional connection to the characters.

A professor once gave me great guidelines for asking for notes. He said, first and foremost you have to have trusted readers, those whom you respect and vice versa. Second, you ask specific questions (such as Is this confusing? Does this make sense? Does this work/doesn’t work on page __?). And third, you take in what’s helpful, really take the note to heart if several people are telling you the same thing, and discard what isn’t helpful.

It takes a while to develop the confidence and skill needed to process notes. It takes courage to ask for a read and notes, but it also takes courage to give honest feedback. It takes someone who is serious about improving her writing to let go of needing and wanting praise.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Every girl should be given an electric guitar on her 16th birthday.

The riot girl phenomenon flourished in the 50s and ‘60s with Roger Corman, Russ Meyer, Ed Wood and a handful of forgotten auteurs creating plenty of femme-gangs, savage rich girls, quasi-lesbian teen killers, and other such renegades to torment suburban parents and delight misfit teenagers throughout the country. But unlike most riot girl movies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains was made for a major studio, Paramount. After the studio execs walked away from the movie perplexed by the film’s unusual and embittered tone, they refused to release it. Stains was relegated as a footnote in film history and Lou Adler’s less-than-prolific directing career (his only previous credit was Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke) ended.

Until its recent DVD release, this 29 year-old long lost cult classic was one of the greatest rock ‘n roll movies you never saw and you were never going see. Few have had the opportunity to experience this gem and it probably would have stayed on the shelf had it not been for the TV series “Night Flight” on cable’s USA Network. “Night Flight” periodically broadcast the movie during its four-hour, late-night programming, permanently etching the minds of its drunk, up-all-night and slightly twisted viewers with the story of Corinne and The Stains and gaining a cult following that had been clamoring for it for a long time. With its unique style and story of three angry, oddball girls who find their voice in punk rock, Stains went on to inspire many female garage bands in the ‘80s including riot grrrls such as Courtney Love and members of L7 and Bikini Kill.

First and foremost, Stains is a welcome break from all the air-headed John Hughes teen epics of the time. Set in dead-end shithole Jonestown, Pennsylvania, a town famous for being wiped out by an 1889 flood, it stars the unforgettable, 15-year-old-jailbait Diane Lane as Corinne “Third Degree” Burns, a sexy, anxious, recently orphaned teen who’s ready to take out her angst on an unsuspecting world. She ends up on television after she raises hell and quits her job as a fry cook, declaring: “This town’s been dead for a long time!” She catches the attention of thousands of alienated young rural girls who send letters to the local TV station exclaiming, “She said what I think about all day long.”

As an outlet for her alienation, Corinne forms a band, The Fabulous Stains, with her sister and cousin Jessica (lanky 12 year old Laura Dern, who successfully sued for legal emancipation from her mom so she could go off to Canada to shoot the film). No one seems to notice that the girls can’t actually play or sing. Yet, The Stains, capitalizing on Corinne’s cult status, land a spot on a cross-country tour with two other bands: the appropriately named The Metal Corpses, wretched old rockers from the ‘70s who continue to perform long after their spandex has lost its snap and The Looters, an English punk band hoping to make it big in America. Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast, The Departed), thin and pretty much unrecognizable until he beats up somebody, plays Looter frontman Billy. Stains real punk rock cred comes from the casting of his band mates, Paul Cook and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and Paul Simonon from the Clash. In addition, the film includes songs written by Cook and Jones. Their home is a tour bus painted with Jamaican designs and it's driven by their promoter/manager Lawn Boy (Barry Ford), a Rastafarian "philosopher.

In a world where attitude is everything, The Stains’ lack of talent and skills is no obstacle to success; they surpass the men and become overnight stars in spite of sounding like the early Shaggs. Like the Monkees and '90s boy bands, Corinne and her group are calculated fabrications, however, in this case they’re their own creations. Image trumps talent and The Stains become an overnight success. A newscaster sees the girls on the news—following the overdose and death of Corpses' lead guitarist—and promotes the girls on her broadcast. The guys, once so superior to The Stains, find themselves outdone by the females, and, just as The Looters regarded Corpses as useless old wankers, The Stains consider The Looters (who are in their early 20s) to be aging pussies. The Looters fail to see the irony in this indictment and further role reversal occurs as the once-headlining Corpses fade away and The Stains steal the spotlight from The Looters. This ambitious ascent takes place at Billy’s expense, whose punk style and playlist Corinne shamelessly steals. Fame is capricious and eventually things fall apart.

As a young actor, Diane Lane is a total badass and Stains actually excuses her from being in Must Love Dogs and Nights in Rodanthe. During the Stains’ first performance, clever Corinne walks onto the stage in a red beret and oversized gray coat, and after the girls are booed because they can’t play, she removes her hat and coat to reveal black and white spiked hair, red flame eye makeup, a see through lace blouse, no bra and black underwear, introducing an unforgettable look and captivating the audience and the film's cult following. Lane simultaneously launched the lingerie-as clothing-fashion trend, and the skunk hair that was predominant in ‘80s subculture. Her eyes look a hundred years old, and in this performance she knows no boundaries. Corinne follows up the image by verbally pummeling her audience and with two-note songs such as "I’m a Waste of Time." She invigorates an army of teenage girls, who become her clones adopting the hair, panties and dishonest mantra “We don’t put out!” Lane’s wonderfully pouty, bitchy performance makes her one of the most memorable cinematic riot girls.

Stains is loaded with good pop and punk music — not surprising given Adler’s stature as a music producer, having founded various record labels, managed a string of bands (The Mammas and the Papas among them), and produced the monumental Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The Corpses' lead singer and guitarist are played by The Tubes’ Fee Waybill and Vince Welnick, who also played organ for The Grateful Dead. They provide creepily authentic depictions of pathetic aging rockers. Two lines by Waybill compete for most memorable in Stains. The first, as Waybill reminisces about his steamy night with the group’s one, aging fan, he remarks that she was “like nectar except her kid was screaming all night,” and the second, as he applies eyeliner in his dressing room he discloses that he has so much pent up emotion that sometimes he just has to hit his old lady. He follows it with: “Some women are into that, you know.”

Stains is a unique mix of high/low ideas and visual presentation. As a result, sometimes Adler’s shots are weirdly raw and unpolished and other times surprisingly sophisticated. His on-again, off-again competency perfectly complements the characters’ hunt for rock 'n roll stardom. Adler used few professional actors, which works as an advantage, and the soundtrack is authentic -all songs were performed by the cast members, including the reggae by Ford. And yes, that's Lane doing her own vocals. It took some serious shameless punk aggression for Winstone to get on stage and perform with some of the most intimidating punk legends in the world; he holds his own as Jones/Cook/Simonon rage around him. Lane and Dern's vulnerable, barely pubescent performances are no act and what should be clashing elements in the film – the girls’ inexperience, the genuine rock 'n roll components and Adler’s melodramatic style -- strangely enhance one another.

Adler takes ruthless potshots at many targets, including the opportunistic and brainless media and the music industry. In his view, everyone’s a phony, from the scheming manager to the self-absorbed rockers to the fickle audiences to Corinne herself. Stains could have easily been about young kids searching for stardom and their exploitation, but this film is smarter than that. Yes, Corinne is used by the media for gain and by the tour manager for profit, but she takes what she can from everyone too. Her army of fans predates the Madonna wannabes that popped just a couple years later and one can easily see how someone like Courtney Love would come across Stains and say, "Fuck yea, that's me!" The film was right; pissed-off girls were searching for a new kind of role model that wasn't sweet and who tells everyone to fuck off.

Stains endured obscurity because it was an unsentimental view of the minor-league rock ‘n roll world and the revolutionary idea that three inexperienced, untrained young girls could resolve to form a rock ‘n roll band and do well enough to draw a considerable cult following and become a success. While the first generation of punk rock scared the crap out of the British 30 years ago, in the U.S. people mostly just mocked it and hoped it would disappear. It didn't; it just took a while to catch on. The same can be said for this 1981 film that tries to recapture that era, and does so with a visionary amount of cynicism, attitude, would-be stars and some very '80s fashions. It's mind-boggling that the film was not well received since its style, music and overall concept are still wildly popular, proving its content to be more than just a fad. One has to conclude that 1981 just wasn't ready for Stains.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Finally, a Hollywood movie I'm looking forward to. (Darling Companion)

I just received this press release.  It sounds really good and I hope it is. With that cast, how can you miss? Well, you can if you fuck up royally and the script is no good, but let's be positive and cross our fingers real good, mkay?




Minneapolis, MN and New York, NY (September 24, 2010) – Werc Werk Works, the independent production and finance company helmed by CEO Elizabeth Redleaf, and Likely Story, the New York based production company headed by Anthony Bregman, announced today the complete cast of DARLING COMPANION.

Academy Award® winner Dianne Wiest, Mark Duplass, Ayelet Zurer and Academy Award® nominee Sam Shepard have joined Academy Award® winners Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton, Academy Award® nominee Richard Jenkins and Emmy® nominee Elisabeth Moss in the new film written by Academy Award® nominees Meg Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan and to be directed by Lawrence Kasdan.

The film will be produced by Anthony Bregman for Likely Story, Elizabeth Redleaf for Werc Werk Works and Lawrence Kasdan. Christine Walker, Meg Kasdan and John Kelly will serve as executive producers.

DARLING COMPANION is the story of a woman who loves her dog more than her husband. And then her husband loses the dog.

On a wintry day, Beth (Keaton) saves a bedraggled lost dog from the side of the freeway. Struggling with her distracted, self-involved husband Joseph (Kline) and an empty nest at home, Beth forms a special bond with the rescued animal. When Joseph loses the dog after a wedding at their vacation home in the Rockies, the distraught Beth enlists the help of the few remaining guests and a mysterious young woman (Zurer) in a frantic search. Each member of the search party is affected by the adventure, which takes them in unexpected directions – comic, harrowing, and sometimes deeply emotional.

Dianne Wiest is a two-time Academy Award® winner (Bullets over Broadway,” “Hannah and Her Sisters”) and will next be seen in John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole” opposite Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. Mark Duplass is an award-winning writer, director and actor who most recently wrote and directed “Cyrus” starring Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener and Jonah Hill. Ayelet Zurer was most recently seen in “Angels & Demons” opposite Tom Hanks and “Adam Resurrected” starring Jeff Goldblum. Sam Shepard is an Academy Award® nominated actor (“The Right Stuff”), Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, and director who will next be seen in Doug Liman’s “Fair Game” opposite Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

About Werc Werk Works

Werc Werk Works is an independent film production and finance company founded by Elizabeth Redleaf and Christine Kunewa Walker and is dedicated to the production and financing of high caliber, story-driven films with wide appeal. The company strives to be a consistent supplier of commercial projects for both the studios and strong independent distributors worldwide. “Darling Companion” marks the fifth production for Werc Werk Works, which launched in August 2008 and is based in Minnesota . The company’s most recent title “HOWL” will be released on September 24. The film is written and directed by Academy Award winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Werc Werk Works’ first release, LIFE “Life During Wartime,” written and directed by Todd Solondz, opened on July 23, 2010. The company currently has two films in post-production: Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse;” and “The Convincer”, written by Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher and directed by Jill Sprecher, and starring Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin and Billy Crudup.

About Likely Story

Likely Story is a New York-based production company founded by Anthony Bregman in October 2006. The company recently wrapped production on "My Idiot Brother" starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer; directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall, and “The Oranges” starring Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Leighton Meester, Allison Janney, Oliver Platt, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody and Sam Rosen; directed by Julian Farino and written by Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss. This year, the company premiered Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” and Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s “The Extra Man” at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. “Please Give” was released in April 2010 by Sony Pictures Classics and “The Extra Man” was released in July 2010 by Magnolia Pictures. The company recently signed a first look deal with graphic novel and comic book publisher Tom Shelf Productions. Additional Likely Story productions include Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut “Synecdoche, New York ” (Sony Pictures Classics), Alex Rivera’s "Sleep Dealer" (Maya Releasing), and David and Alex Pastor's "Carriers" (Paramount Vantage). Bregman’s previous producing credits include “Friends with Money,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Lovely & Amazing,” "Thumbsucker," “The Tao of Steve,” “The Savages,” “Trick,” “The Ice Storm,” “The Brothers McMullen," and "Human Nature."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Killer Number Three (with soundtrack gift)

Nothing frustrates me more than not being able to find stuff I want to buy. (I’m still trying to find the pink plaid beret Hedwig wore in the Laundromat scene.) Especially music. I’ve been looking for the soundtracks to Seijun Suzuki’s films for a long time with little luck. And the ones I’ve been able to find are overseas and retail for over $100. I check the internet periodically and never have much success, except for today. I found mp3s of the soundtrack to Branded to Kill (1967) and some other fantastic goodies too (I might share later). It made my year.

Branded is a product of the Japanese studio system, which seems to have been a lot like Hollywood; directors and actors were under contract to churn out movies at an incredible rate. It was Suzuki's last studio film, following a ten year period in which he averaged 3.5 movies a year (he directed 7 movies in 1963 alone!). After this movie Nikkatsu had enough of his radical (incomprehensible and unprofitable) movies and he was fired. I don't know if Branded was profitable or not, but it certainly takes more than one viewing to comprehend.

It's a yakuza film, starring chipmunk-cheeked legend Jo Shishido as a hit man named Hanada. Hanada, the Number Three Killer in the Japanese underworld, botches a murder and becomes involved with the mysterious and deadly woman who hired him to commit it. He then runs afoul of his employers, who send their Number One Killer to assassinate him. It’s a pretty generic crime plot, but it’s the bizarre details and style that make Branded interesting.

Branded is filled with people who replace their desire for one thing with something else, a.k.a. fetishists. Hanada has an obsession with the smell of freshly boiled rice, and is constantly demanding that people cook rice for him so he can smell it. Also, Hanada and his wife are fans of non-traditional sex. With a wife like that, you'd think he wouldn't stray, but he seems to find his wife even too crazy for him. So it's no surprise that when he meets a nice, normal girl named Misako, he falls hard for her. Romcom style, they meet cute: on his way home after killing six or seven people his car breaks down. She drives by in a convertible with the top down in the rain, and offers him a ride. As soon as Hanada notices her peculiar dashboard ornament—a dead bird with a spike driven through its neck—he’s smitten and can’t get her out of his mind. When Misako shows up offering him a job, he takes it. And let’s leave the synopsis at that.

Even though Suzuki's cinematic grammar is truly unique and sometimes bizarre, he does have his own set of rules. It takes multiple viewings to figure them out and it’s obvious he’s having a lot of fun with them. For example, he likes to rotate the camera around a subject in 90 degree increments when the characters anguished and uses non-diegetic sounds and shots that are unrelated to the action of a scene to convey subjective impressions. Most of his techniques work or make a loopy kind of sense, while some don’t. While Branded is not as well crafted or as suffused with an intoxicating loveliness as are some of his other films, it’s still quite memorable and evocative. When it’s good, it’s very good.

Suzuki engages us by drawing us into a strange, almost dreamlike world of terrible wrathfulness and crippling fear, and raises events above the mere shenanigans of nasty thugs and imbues them with a real epic quality. We’re transported to a peculiar, rarefied world of utter cruelty and terrible beauty, so separated from that of ordinary experience that we are further submerged in and entranced by the fear and the wrath manifested by the director's violent characters. Branded is an entertaining and captivating film. By the way, it’s all very funny too.

Damn, this post was just going to be about the soundtrack of Branded, but I’ve gotten carried away. Suzuki does that to me.

Anyway, the great Japanese composer Naozumi Yamamoto created many terrific jazz inspired scores for Suzuki’s films in the sixties and his work on Branded is some of his best. Enjoy. (You’re welcome.)

1. Branded Theme.mp3

2. The Chase.mp3

3. We Are Beasts.mp3

4. Dead Bird.mp3

5. Butterfly Graveyard.mp3

6. Feather Like Thing.mp3

7. To Kill A Butterfly.mp3

8. Goodbye Forever.mp3

9. All Dead.mp3

10. I'm A Beast.mp3

11. Bottle and a Body.mp3

12. Vanished.mp3

13. Killer Bossanova.mp3

14. The Balloon "I'm Champion".mp3

15. Branded to Kill - End Theme.mp3

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A convenient anarchist

I just read this New York Times article where Jean Luc Godard says it’s our right to steal Intellectual Property and, despite my adoration for the man, I really don’t know how to feel about it since my dabbling-in-anarchism days are over.

I have great admiration towards musicians and their work, so I’m definitely against downloading (stealing) music. On the other hand, I’m glad music sharing is changing the music business and has almost put the big music labels out of business. Because they’re evil.

I’m always in favor of a good revolution, but this type of anarchism, although good for the public, is not always so good for the artist. Like most of artists, filmmakers and musicians, I don’t make a living making art and I have a day job. I’m okay with continuing to have a job as long as I’m free to do what I want to do, but it’d be nice to make a living doing what I love. Let’s face it, we all want that.

A few years ago I ran into a friend of mine from Tijuana and he told me he had seen one of my films in Mexican television. My jaw dropped. I thought about it for a second and figured out how they probably got the film. I was mad for about five seconds but then I realized how cool it was that people in Tijuana had seen a short about a lonely shopaholic who can’t cook a chicken and carries a Chia Pet wherever she goes. It would have been nice if they asked permission even if things in Mexico don’t really work that way, but hey, that’s not much of a complaint. The awesomeness of my film getting seen by a wide audience trumped any distribution technicality or payment of any kind. Although getting paid would have been sweet.

I am proprietary towards my work as it relates to its conception and creation, not so much with regards to distribution, but this statement makes me uneasy:

“Copyright really isn’t feasible,” Mr. Godard said. “An author has no rights. I have no rights. I have only duties.”

How can an artist work so hard and then have no rights? I guess it’s easy to believe that if you’re Godard. However, I have to be honest and reveal that I think it’s more than okay to download a Hollywood studio movie without paying for it. Mainly because I’d never do it since I have no interest in Hollywood movies. If you want to see Avatar on your computer screen, hey, be my guest. Seriously, go ahead. Do it. Fuck the Studio System.

So, I suppose, just as I am a convenient feminist, I’m also a convenient anarchist.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Films I’m Gonna Rip Off: Home

There is no art without ambition—ambition in the means an artist has at her disposal, in her desire to try new things, in the way she questions film language and how she will express her unique point of view.  As a testament to this ambition, Swiss-French director Ursula Meier has put in Home everything filmmakers tend to avoid in a feature debut: a well-known cast, sets to build, cars, children, and animals.  Unique and unsettling, Home is a contemporary and enticing tale of spiraling humor and darkness; an environmental "horror" movie on par with Todd Hayne's Safe (1995), where a happy home is transformed into a nightmare due to extreme environmental influences.

Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) is a middle-aged mother and wife enjoying living and frolicking about with her husband Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and their three children in the remote French countryside. Their eldest daughter Judith (Adélaïde Leroux) is a pouty, sultry teenager, the middle daughter Marion (Madeleine Budd) is awkward, bookish and reserved and their youngest son Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) is an energetic rascal. Meier begins by delighting in this warm, loving unit, their quirky antics and the genuine familial affection between them, opening with a nighttime family game of street hockey and a bathing session that turns into a splash fight which establishes the anarchic playfulness of the interactions of this hermitic clan. When the abandoned highway adjacent to their house is suddenly completed and reopened, change is forced upon the family, their peaceful existence drowned out by the continuous noise of the traffic, day and night. At first, the family adapts to the changes, resorting to increasingly lunatic measures to block out the noise and providing for some comedic moments and striking visuals.

With cinematographer Agnès Godard's help, Meier effectively communicates the sense of upended privacy, moving easily from the nighttime intrusion of construction workers dressed in eye-straining orange and yellow uniforms registering as a truly alien presence to the clashing sight of Marthe tending to her garden as blurry streaks of traffic zoom by. Michel, Marion and Julien cope with getting home from work and school on the other side of the road while Judith resolutely continues to sun her bikini-clad body, despite howls from the passing truckers. Nevertheless, they refuse to leave and things start to go downhill when the indifferent Judith disappears, Marion turns into an eco-paranoid basket case, Marthe completely looses it, and Michel cracks under pressure from trying to hold the family together and do right by them. Lost in the middle is Julien. Eventually, paranoia and open hostility develop as a too-close family is forced into even closer proximity.

Gradually the comedy and sunlight diminishes as Meier subjects the family to the tensions of self-imposed isolation and segues from family drama to psycho-drama as life as the family knew it is eroded and they approach meltdown. Huppert's presence once again adds weight and portent to a darkly comic fable, and she avoids dominating the ensemble with another brilliantly modulated performance. As always, it only takes a close up of French cinema's most beloved psychopath to know something very dark is looming. After all, she has sat in a bathtub cutting her genitals with a razor blade; she has held her son in her arms while he masturbates, she has slaughtered a whole family with a shotgun, and she has wielded a power-drill while dressed from head to toe in black PVC in other films. But Meier's script is ambiguous and her direction confident and the darkness revolving around Marthe and the family's past is only hinted at, never explicitly outed. Meier uses this, and the family's previous idiosyncratic idyll, to help explain their increasingly desperate actions, but is never straightforward or heavy-handed or offers an easy illustration. Instead, she mixes tones and genres, jumping from a dramatic scene to another one and unfolds events to their logical and then increasingly twisted and dangerous ends, pushing the story into grim metaphor. Godard starts with a hand-held camera and finishes with still shots, with only movement in the last shot, seen from the road perspective. We therefore go back to the starting point of Home: from a car. Home is a road movie in reverse.

The film is heavily metaphorical so as the events get more and more absurd and harrowing it helps to remember that however timely the environmental themes and raw the emotions of Home are, the film is ultimately a surrealist fable about isolation turning into madness. There are strong intimate ties between the characters that are revealed by the highway, which becomes the screen onto which each of the characters projects their own neuroses. The highway is also a mirror of the world - violent, aggressive, and polluted - which enters the homes of people who thought they would be able to live apart from society. As well as disruption, danger, pollution and intrusion, the highway represents isolation in the face of progress, individualism against authority and monolithic change and the sacrifice of a way of life to modernity. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang once said "When we are in an extreme tragic situation, there is no escape, we are trapped. And that's when we manage to set ourselves free, that's when we find the strength to react." At the film's conclusion, the humdrum passing glances at the house will seem familiar to many and truly underline these themes; the characters have become animals fighting to hold on to the one thing that they have left - shelter - as development and environmental decay completely engulfs them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Summer of Rejection

This has been a wasted summer and I’m very happy it’s going to be over in a couple of days. Even though I intended to accomplish many goals I set forth, I took several wrong turns and have accomplished nothing.

I think that as a result of getting rejected by the major screenwriting competitions I became a bit paralyzed (defeat has had that effect on me before) and I took solace in the entertaining arms of a screenwriter’s board. I have to say most of the people there are wacky, deluded and kind of sad. Desperation is rampant on that board. To most of them, it’s all about writing that one tentpole that will sell to the studios. Except for a handful of professionals, most of them have sold nothing or gotten any assignments. Some of them flaunt that they are represented and/or have placed in contests. Still, they are nowhere. They spend their time on that board giving each other inane advice about writing and the business and analyzing Box Office results, while praising Hollywood dribble (Salt, Inception). And most of them don’t know who Antonioni, Bergman or Herzog are. Even though this may work for them, I still feel bad that their dreams are in the hands of other people. I can shoot a film whenever I want. Doing what I love is in my hands.

In Nostalghia, Domenico stations himself on the scaffolding of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius; he proclaims the need to return to that point in history where we took the wrong path, and to begin again. But Domenico preaches to a mad world, and he takes his own life with a can of gasoline and a lighter to the strains of Beethoven and Schiller’s Ode to Joy (Freedom). At the same time, Andrei fulfills Domenico’s wish and bears the flame—the lit candle for St Catherine—across the emptied sulfur baths. Heartsick, Andrei collapses and dies in the steaming pool of the spa. I suppose right now I’m in the process of my own symbolic burning; and, when it’s over, I will take care of my own lit candle. I cannot afford to let it be extinguished again.

It took visits to the John Baldessari and Ingmar Bergman exhibits to set me straight and hopefully on the right path again. I remembered who I am as an artist and I feel revitalized. I will write what I want and I will make the films I want. And that’s a promise to myself.

"When I'm told that our films are painful, I think, oh God, I know real pain. We soften our pictures so tremendously. We make them almost romantic fantasies, and just barely touch on these things in a more idealistic way than other people do." J.C.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Memories are like flies swarming around me.

The tool of every self-portrait is the mirror. First you see yourself in it, then you turn the other way and you see the world. After creating an eye-popping installation of mirrors on a beach, Agnès Varda remarks that "Imagining oneself as a child is like running backwards. Imagining oneself ancient is funny like a dirty joke," and proceeds to walk backwards (literally) into her past without a single misstep, using the beach as a starting point for her memories and reveries. The Beaches of Agnès is the fetching and haunting story of a filmmaker seen through the eyes of a filmmaker.

Varda's travels prove linear but digressive: she returns to her childhood (which initiates memories of the Nazi occupation and hence her own short film about the French military rounding up Jewish children); visits the home of her youth in Brussels just as it’s about to be sold; and goes back to the Mediterranean coastal town of Sète where she spent her summers. Varda, 81, has retained all the vigor, humor, curiosity, intelligence and sheer cinematic inventiveness that have marked her films since 1954's seminal precursor to The French New Wave La Pointe Courte, which she made on a shoestring budget at the age of 25 when most of the French New Wave directors were still dreaming of cinema rather than making it. She had not attended film school and was hardly a film buff, but armed with only her imagination, she took the plunge. Spanning half a century, Varda's career includes the landmark real-time drama Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), Le Bonheur (1965), a stylized melodrama concerning the unintended fallout from adultery; Vagabond (1985), starring Sandrine Bonnaire as a homeless free spirit, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film and The Gleaners and I (2000) a nonfiction ramble through the world of everyday treasure hunting.

Although there's an elegiac undercurrent to Beaches, it's more of a personal essay in memory than a confessional memoir where the tone sustains an unusual blend of gravity, humor and playfulness. As Varda continues to thread clips and anecdotes about her work throughout, it becomes clear that she is ensuring that she’s properly memorialized. Beaches is a visual burlesque of the serendipitous and unsettling collision between the found and the made. Varda skillfully intercuts photographs and archival footage with clips from her films and whimsical reenactments. Revealing a life inextricably mixed with art through an ingenious juxtaposition of images and wordplay, Beaches is a fascinating document of imagination at work, of fact morphing into fiction. Full of self-deprecating wit, wisdom and whimsy, the film reveals her transition from photographer to filmmaker; her stark early working conditions; her travels to Cuba and China as a photojournalist; and, later, to Los Angeles with her husband and director Jacques Demy. She treats the film as an opportunity for playful wish fulfillment as well as for analyzing her life and filmic experiences. Varda fills the frame with unexpected and often glorious images capturing various journeys, projects and relationships, but it's not really an archival exhibition. Rather, it's a chest of wonders, full of whimsical inventions as well as recovered artifacts and dreamy montages, re-enactments and surrealist set pieces, such as building a beach in a Paris street and placing the staff of her production company outside at their desks wearing bathing suits.

Loss of memory is one of the subtexts running throughout Beaches and Varda doesn’t want us to piece together the narrative of her life; she’s more than happy to hold our hands and take us with her on her journey into the past. Though discursive in its approach, constantly branching off to unexpected detours, there's an emotional fluidity as she merges and breaks chronological sequences, providing several points of entrance to her explicit and direct reminiscences. Several of her friends and collaborators make guest appearances, including the camera-shy Chris Marker, albeit only in the image and voice of his eternal avatar, cartoon kitty Guillaume-en-Egypt, here life-sized and preciously eye-rolling while asking Varda satirically canned interview questions like “Were you a film buff?” and “May ’68 in France, ring any bells”? and Harrison Ford who tells the anecdote of how he was told repeatedly that he had no future as actor.

The warm, intimate relationship Varda shared with Demy permeates the latter part of the film, imparting a bittersweet, poignant quality; as she walks backwards on the Santa Monica pier, she expresses that "Memories are like flies swarming around me and I'm not sure I want to remember." However, Varda is without doubt the strong-willed but gentle protagonist of her own story. She figures in almost every scene, sometimes dressed as a potato or driving a cardboard cutout car, but wherever she is, her eager, inquisitive face searches out other people’s thoughts and whatever information the specific surroundings have to offer.

Beaches is a cinematic memoir of a life lived in, through and for cinema. It's only fitting that she would end her story sitting on cans of film inside a beautiful shack made of 35mm strips from one of her "flops." Varda asks: "What is cinema? Light coming from somewhere captured by images more or less dark or colorful. In here, it feels like I live in cinema. Cinema is my home. I think I've always lived in it."

Forgetting is a form of freedom, but while we live, we always remember.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Movie Utopia on Earth: The Show

Since 2003, Labor Day weekend has meant to me one thing and one thing only: The Telluride Film Festival and the memories of an incredible collection of absolutely fascinating, passionate, and intelligent people that convene upon the tiny Colorado ski town every year to create a cinematic utopia in the midst of picturesque crags, streams, and coniferous valleys.

To be honest, I don't like to think about my time at Telluride that much. It's a rollercoaster of emotions.  Mainly, painful, exhilarating nostalgia because going as a student is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Imagine having the time of your life and knowing that it can never be replicated. Sure, I can always pay the big bucks for a pass or get in with a film (my dream), but I can never go back as a participant in the Student Symposium. And every time I try to put my festival experience into perspective, I get too emotionally overwhelmed.  After seven years, this is my first attempt. Magical does not even begin to describe my experience and it’s a bit unnerving that when I jog my memory in the hopes of grasping it and making it tangible, the effort is futile. You can’t really relive memories. That’s why I’ve decided to share them.

Anyone who has ever attended the festival can attest to the affability of the locals, the friendliness of the festival staff, the dizzying altitude for those who come from sea-level places, the accessibility of life-altering films, and the jaw-dropping moments of passing one of your favorite stars on Main Street or sharing a cigarette and a chat with a world-renowned director. These moments are available to anyone willing to buy a pass and attend the festival.  However, the select few who are fortunate enough to apply to the student program at Telluride are in for the ride of their lives.

What follows is a pictorial recollection of my experience. It's been a while, so I may not get very detailed. I think the photos speak for themselves.  (Please excuse the quality. My idea of scanning is holding the print up to my computer camera since I don't have a proper scanner.)

It's a bumpy flight to one of the three airports near Telluride. I was lucky I got a flight from Denver into the Telluride airport. I sat next to an editor from Los Angeles who was a volunteer. Her job was to inspect the prints and make sure they were perfect for projection. She said she had been doing it for five years and that she would continue doing it as long as they let her. But the competition to be a volunteer was fierce. Her attitude was one I was to encounter over and over again throughout the week.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, was bonkers for this festival. Even the dogs. But more about them later.

Once the 50 students got selected, an e-mail went out with instructions.  The students were responsible with arranging lodging and immediately e-mails started flying back and forth regarding renting a condo.  I hooked up with five other students, at random really, and one of them booked the place.  I was the first to arrive on Tuesday and had to go to the rental office to get the keys.  My roommates arrived one by one throughout the day. The condo was huge. There were only six of us but ten would have fit easily.  We hung out and got to know each other over pizza and beer. Most of them were seniors and one was a grad student.  Luckily, we were a good fit and there was to be no drama.

The next day we headed over to the tent to check in and pick up our badges and goodies; t-shirts, caps, a poster and junk from the sponsors. Do you recognize the tall guy in the puffy blue vest?

The Symposium covers the special pass (a roughtly $2000 value), a small stipend and food if you eat at the Canteen (bellow).  The Canteen is really for the staff and volunteers, but the students are allowed to eat there too.  It's a fun place to have your meals and socialize with the festival personnel over breakfast burritos and turkey sandwiches.

       The Canteen

Telluride is very different than Sundance or Cannes.  Somehow, they've been able to filter out all the silliness and industry bullshit associated with those two larger, manic festivals.  Telluride is by film lovers for film lovers. Period.  The press is present but is not ubiquitous because the festival program is a tightly-held secret that's not revealed until opening day. It’s easy to spot the biz types (they walk and check their smart phones at the same time) and there are clearly deals being cemented, but the focus at Telluride is on the films as works of art.

The best word to characterize Telluride is "intimate". The tiny mountain town, tucked neatly into a box canyon, happily absorbs the swelling crowd of film fans, and anyone new to town would assume this was business as usual, an amazing feat given the pace of the festival. The town is populated with quaint homes and with impeccable lawns and gardens. You really do get a feeling that everyone is the same and that you are genuinely welcome by the locals.  The students were treated like rock stars.  One look at our special orange badge was always followed by "Oh, you're a student! How wonderful!"

As a student in possession of one of the coveted festival passes, I was of course able to access any film by standing in line just like anyone else, but the profound difference between my experience and the experience of the average pass holder was my access to the student symposiums, which were intimate conversations between students and the artists, directors, filmmakers, actors and producers who were generous enough with their time to indulge our questions and passion for film.

The symposium went like this: After breakfast, the students headed to symposium headquarters aka the Elementary School, to discuss the plan for the day with moderators Linda and Howie. (Howie Movshovitz, film critic, professor at UC Denver, and radio personality, and Linda Williams, a professor at UC Berkeley.) Then we headed for an early screening or two, depending on the film schedule, and then back to the school to meet with the filmmaker(s). Then back to watch another film, then back to the school for discussion and so forth. The coordinators of the festival took great care to plan the screenings for all students participating in the symposium and we were discouraged from choosing our own adventures.  Who would want to miss a session anyway?
     The Elementary School

The only free time we got was standing line holding on to our “Qs.” “Qs” are slips of paper that represent seats in the theatre and are offered to pass holders and patrons who wait in line to see the films. Everyone stands in line, even Werner Herzog. However, standing in line is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the festival. I seriously doubt you can watch Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard make out on a bench or have a deep conversation about Ozu with a 10-year old and his grandma anywhere else. That kid kicked my ass, but I’ve caught up. Someday, we’ll face off again. Yeah, Tommy Filmsnob, I’m looking at you brat.
Linda, Ken Burns, and Howie

On Wednesday night, as tradition dictates, the students, staff and volunteers were treated to a surprise preview screening of Lost in Translation at the Palm Theater. Everyone loved it, except guess who? I think I’m still the only person in the world who hates Lost in Translation. A couple of 22-year old Ivy Leaguers fervently tried to convince me of the depth of the film and when I told them that I thought it was nothing more than a few shots of Scarlett Johansson in her underwear and a bunch SNL Bill Murray skits, they literally wept for me. I wondered if I was that silly when I was 22. Being around so many quarterlife-crisis sufferers made me happy I was not in my twenties anymore. The next morning Howie and Linda revealed that Sofia Coppola turned down an invitation to attend the symposium. Well, her people turned us down for her.

    Opening Night Feed

On Thursday evening the festival hosts The Opening Night Feed on Main Street. It’s a catered event with open bar for the pass holders. You stand or sit on the street, eat, drink and talk film with everyone from Leonard Maltin to any filmmaker or movie star who happens to be there that evening and then head over to a screening.

The enigmatic Peter Sellars, an artist who has become a mainstay at Telluride, was a powerful speaker whose inspiring voice set the tone for the students' Telluride experience. He encouraged us to approach him on the street and to speak with him about our individual projects, an invitation more than a few of us accepted.

My rommate Joe Swanberg before he was Mr. Mumblecore

It’s really hard to get a handle on the programmers’ impeccable taste. Especially with the shorts. One thing is for sure, Telluride movies are always discoveries.
Ken Burn's documentary was not on our schedule, but he loves the symposium and talking to students so he took Sofia Coppola's place.  I say we lucked out.

The symposium is sponsored by people with deep pockets. Husband and wife mega-producing team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall paid for it for ten years. (2003 was the tenth and last year before they decided to give someone else the chance.) Every year they brought a mystery guest and we got Tom Shadyac. They were all great and had plenty to say about the business and filmmaking. They told us going to film school was waste of time. That it was good for making contacts, but little else. That it was better to study something else, to travel, to live life and to make films. They confessed that if you could write, you could write your own ticket in Hollywood.
Shadyac, Marshall, Kennedy

The Opera House is one of only three existing year-round theatres in the town, so six more have to be constructed for the Festival. A Victorian-flavored theatre emerges from the town's Masonic Hall, a high school auditorium is transformed into the state-of-the-art Palm Theatre, the middle school gym becomes the Meliés-inspired Galaxy, intimate spaces on opposite sides of town form the Pierre and Backlot Theatres, and the Mountain Village Conference Center becomes Chuck Jones' Cinema. There's even an open-air cinema built in the park to enjoy the films and the cool mountain nights. (I had the great pleasure of watching Buster Keaton's The General al fresco.) Each distinct theatre has its own special character which fleshes out the whole of the film-going experience. That's just another special part of The Show.

Gondola ride to Mountain Village and the Chuck Jones Cinema to see Gus Van Sant's Elephant. By great coincidence, I rode up with Rolf de Heer, Australian director of Alexandra's Project, which we had just seen and discussed with him back at the school.  The film was very interesting and controversial.  People everywhere were arguing about it. To me, the most interesting aspect was how he stretched his budget by combining inventive use of 35mm and video.  Half the film takes place in a television monitor and you don't really notice it. I told him and he smiled and thanked me.  He wasn't very friendly but I think it's because he's shy. During the symposium he seemed a bit wooden and not very comfortable discussing his work.

Turns out Stephen Sondheim is a huge film buff so he was invited to be the guest director.

            Linda, Sondheim, Howie
 Krzysztof Zanussi with Sondheim at Q &A for The Contract

Sondheim programmed Krzysztof Zanussi’s The Contract, one of his favorite films. No, it’s not a musical. Zanussi was a discovery for me. Up until 2003 my knowledge of Polish film was limited to Kiewslowski, Holland and Wadja. Sondheim worked us up by telling us that there was a shot in the film that would make us gasp. It was funny that the shot went over some of the students’ heads.

Krzysztof Zanussi

2003 was a very painful year and the anxiety surrounding the zeitgeist was certainly up on the screens. Political and social issues were in the center of things, with Errol Morris’s Fog of War leading the way.

When Linda and Howie told Morris that Herzog was next after him, he said “Interesting” and let out a guffaw (that's actually him reacting in the picture below). Then he told us the story behind the shoe dinner. When they met, Herzog told Morris he would never make a film, and that if he did, he’d eat his shoe. Morris then proceeded to make The Thin Blue Line and well, the rest is cinematic history. They passed each other on Morris’s way out, and they just mumbled a “hello.”

 Morris reacting to being told Herzog was meeting with us after him.

To say that our session with Werner Herzog was fascinating would be a gross understatement. When someone asked what would be his advice for young filmmakers starting out he told us to stay fit. To play sports like basketball. O. K.

Elephant blew us away.  When the film was over, there was complete silence.  We didn't talk about it until we got to the school and we met with Van Sant. Talk about being a great director who can get great performances out of anyone. That kid was wooden and as dumb as they come. BTW: Gus Van Sant has seen my vagina.

Dogville was my favorite film of the festival with Elephant a close second. Lars Von Trier does not fly, so instead we got Chloe Sevigny, fresh from her triumph at Cannes with The Brown Bunny. We were told to be nice because she was very shy and not to ask her about the blow job. I don’t know about nice, but she certainly wasn’t very bright. She didn’t add much to the discussion and seemed very uncomfortable. This is probably the only negative thing I have to say about the festival.  Damn you Lars.

Denys Arcand after screening of The Barbarian Invasions, which I loved, loved, loved.  He didn't meet with us because his English is bad. At least that's what Sofia Coppola's people said.

I had never seen A Face in the Crowd, but after I felt like W's people must have studied it to get him elected.

 Legenday screenwriter Budd Schulberg being ushered to his screening of  A Face in the Crowd.
The festival concludes on Labor Day with a picnic on the lush, green lawn of Telluride’s Town Park amidst the picturesque, snow-topped San Juan Mountains.

The cutest thing about Telluride is that dogs are allowed everywhere except governmental offices.  There are dogs in stores, boutiques, restaurants, bars...everywhere you look... dogs, dogs, dogs. It's awesome.

The Dogs of Telluride at a bar.

We managed to fit in bar hopping on our tight schedule. We just had to reschedule sleeping until the festival was over. I must admit I had trouble staying awake during those early morning screenings. I literally passed out during the first five minutes of Dans La Nuit.

I look drunker than I am. Honest.

Anyone recognize this guy (below)? I forgot his name. He went to U.S.C. for undergrad and was getting his masters in film at Columbia. He kept on saying how he needed to be a rich, hot shot producer so that he would get a gorgeous trophy wife. I'm just wondering if he ever got his wish.  Let me know.

An intense passion for film sustained me (and everyone else) through the whirlwind of films, discussions and sleep deprivation that Labor Day weekend in 2003.

Linda, me, Howie 
Fifty very lucky students, from around the globe, are chosen to participate in a rigorous five days of screenings and cloistered seminars and I was one of the incredibly lucky ones. If you’re a college student and love film, I suggest you apply. The application process is quick and easy, but you have to write an essay. The essay question really doesn’t vary that much from year to year. It’s basically a variation of “If you could take only one film with you to the future, or deserted island, or the like, which one would you pick and why?"

And no, it doesn’t have to be an obscure or foreign film. Several students in my group wrote about Spielberg films and I think someone wrote about Back to the Future. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s an honest essay that conveys a point of view and a passion for film.

I’ve seriously considered changing my name and going to college again just so I can apply and have that experience just once more. But for now, I can’t wait to go online tomorrow and find out what films 50 new lucky bastards will get to see this weekend. Oh. The. Envy.

 Good bye Telluride. Hope to see you again some day