Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Obsession

Crime writer James Ellroy and Zodiac director David Fincher have formed a mutual admiration society while sharing insights about obsession. And make no mistake about it: Obsession, not slaughter, is what Zodiac is all about. In Ellroy's view, "This movie is a whole metaphor for men and how we all go assertively into the world and how we countermand our own personal chaos by trying to impose order on external events."

It's Showtime!

Porn connoisseurs doubtless are delighted that Vivid Entertainment is remaking the classic sex flick Debbie Does Dallas. And their interest likely has been aroused... excuse me, I have to laugh hysterically for a few seconds... OK, I'm back. Their interest has been stroked... er, stoked, by news that there will be a reality TV series devoted to actresses auditioning for the lead role. But it appears that the pay-cable network airing it "got cold feet when it came time to get the publicity machine fired up."

A man after my own heart

Even her husband can't keep his eyes off her...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Helen Mirren: Hottie

Speaking as someone who has long had lust in his heart (and several other vital organs) for Helen Mirren, I must admit that I enjoyed Sunday's Oscarcast musical interlude that had Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly admitting they, too, wanted to pay homage to The Queen. (Can you imagine that sort of gag in an Oscar show even just five years ago? I mean, a gag in which an older lady is genuinely appreciated by younger guys as the hottie she is? Truly, 60 is the new 40.) But had I known beforehand that Dame Helen would go commando for the evening's revels -- well, let's just say that I might have invested in a Hi-Def TV. And maybe a Tivo.

Viewer alert!

West Coasters, take note: Watch Law & Order: Criminal Intent tonight. The episode is an inspired commingling of ripped-from-headlines immediacy -- and knowing allusion to the film noir classic D.O.A.

A super night of Oscar ads

The New York Times notes that advertising spots aired during Sunday's Oscarcast "seemed better than the commercials that appeared during the Super Bowl," perhaps because, unlike the NFL, the Motion Picture Academy "reviews the spots for appropriate content and tone before they run." Which may explain why GoDaddy.com was nowhere to be found.

More Ellen, more viewers?

According to Variety, ratings for Sunday's Oscarcast are up from last year's edition by one million viewers. Money quote: "Host Ellen DeGeneres seemed to especially boost female viewership, with this year's 16.2 rating in women 18-34 a big 15% increase over last year's 14.1." Do not be surprised if she's asked back.

Less hype, more Oscars?

Some observers are wondering if the key to Martin Scorsese's long-overdue Oscar victory was his non-campaigning campaign. Others are questioning whether it was the right award and the right director, but the wrong movie. My opinion? I'm just thankful he finally got the freakin' gold.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blogging Oscar, 11:16 pm

A satisfying rush to conclusion. Forest Whitaker obviously heeded all the snippy critics who complained about his rambling remarks at other awards events, and brought along a very moving scripted acceptance speech to deliver when he was named Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. (It was a bit sad, however, to note Peter O'Toole's expression -- as though the poor guy thought, "Oh, bloody Christ! Not again!" -- when he realized he was an eight-time loser.) Funny bandying among Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas as they prepared to give Martin Scorsese his long-overdue Oscar for Best Director. And just a few minutes later, it was hard not to laugh at Scorsese's unabashedly incredulous expression -- Spielberg looked like he had to snap him out of a shocked daze -- when The Departed was announced as Best Picture.

I can't really complain about any of the Academy's choices. But damn! Why did it take such a long time to dole out the gold?

I suspect some cynics will dis Ellen DeGeneres' turn as Oscarcast host. But, truth to tell, I thought she was swell. And one more An Inconvenient Truth comment: Is this the first time the Best Documentary also copped the prize for Best Song?

Blogging Oscar, 10:58 pm

Helen Mirren is the epitome of class while accepting her "the biggest and the best gold star" as Best Actress for The Queen. And I'm very happy for her. But is this the longest freakin' Oscarcast ever?

Blogging Oscar, 10:48 pm

Sorry, but Michael Mann's montage of clips meant to represent how America is represented in the movies must rank among the most muddle-headed efforts of its kind in Oscar history. The customary "obituary reel" was, as usual, classy and respectful. (Good to see Philippe Noiret featured so prominently.) But where was James Brown, singer of "Living in America" (which figured in Mann's montage)?

Blogging Oscar, 10:30 pm

"I Need to Wake Up" fully deserved to win Best Song, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Yes, it's a political statement -- from the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth -- but what's so wrong with that?

Of course, there will be some right-wingers who will use Melissa Etheridge's on-stage thank-you to her "wife" as a cudgel with which to beat the film and its message. Those folks should be beaten with sticks.

Blogging Oscar, 10:17 pm

Not exactly a shocker: Little Miss Sunshine gets the Best Original Screenplay gold. But is this a portent of a Best Picture win? My Magic 8-Ball says "Yes."

Blogging Oscar, 10:02 pm

Well, of course the folks at the first "Green Oscars" would give the Best Documentary award to An Inconvenient Truth. And I love the way the filmmakers blithely ignored the rules about how many people could go on stage to accept the prize, and how many of them could actually speak. Good for them.

As for the lifetime achievement award for composer Ennio Morricone -- well, I would have included "The Ecstasy of Gold" from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in the retrospective montage, but what the hell. A grand gesture, a deserving honoree.

Blogging Oscar, 9:15 pm

Random thought: Could Pan's Labyrinth wind up winning more Oscars than any other movie tonight? Inspired lunacy: Ellen DeGeneres asking Steven Spielberg to snap a picture of her and Clint Eastwood for her MyPage.

Blogging Oscar, 8:54 pm

Enjoyed the montage of scenes depicting writers in the movies. (Lord knows, I've always been able to relate to the scene in Julia where a frustrated Jane Fonda throws her typewriter out the window.) But after the well-deserved Adapted Screenplay win by William Monahan for The Departed, that lame "horse race" bit with the chintzy wooden-horse icons was pretty shameful. Kudos to Tom Hanks for his not-so-subtle critique with the most sarcastic rely I've ever heard him give a stupid question in public.

Blogging Oscar, 8:37 pm

Al Gore and the producers of the Academy Awards prove they have a sense of humor about themselves. Priceless.

BTW: I suddenly feel much better about the Best Song chances for "I Need to Wake Up."

Blogging Oscar, 8:25 pm

Upset No. 1: Alan Arkin over Eddie Murphy for Supporting Actor. And I predicted it days ago. I'm feeling real good about my Oscar pool bet right now. Also feeling good about Best Picture chances for Little Miss Sunshine.

Blogging Oscar, 8:06 pm

Will Ferrell (who should have been nominated for Stranger Than Fiction), Jack Black and John C. Reilly made the most of a clever comic premise in their musical number bemoaning Oscar's lack of respect for comedy performances. And they're right -- Helen Mirren is a hottie, and Mark Wahlberg could kick their asses.

Nice presentation of Letters from Iwo Jima as a Best Picture nominee. Hope the other four will be presented in this nontraditional manner.

Blogging Oscar, 7:48 p.m.

Great opening sequence -- Errol Morris' artfully arranged snippets of Oscar nominees -- and genuinely amusing (and self-effacingly low-key) opening monologue by host Ellen DeGeneres. (Loved the coupling of "loser" Jennifer Hudson and "winner" Al Gore for a very funny -- and conspicuously well-received -- punchline.) But I'm sorry to see that Nikki Finke may have been right -- looks like the Supporting Actor awards will come later in the program.

Dishonorable mention

To the surprise of absolutely no one in attendance at the 27th annual Golden Raspberry Awards in Los Angeles last night, Basic Instinct 2 earned top dishonor as Worst Picture of 2006. The conspicuously unerotic and non-thrilling erotic thriller also earned booby prizes for Worst Actress (Sharon Stone), Worst Prequel or Sequel, and Worst Screenplay. Still, it could have been worse -- the movie didn't win in the category of Worst Screen Couple. "Sharon Stone's Lop-Sided Breasts" had been considered the leading nominee(s), but the award wound up going to even less worthy contenders: Shawn Wayans and either Kerry Washington or Marlon Wayans for Little Man. (Fortunately for Washington, she was seen to much better advantage in another 2006 release, as the most unfortunate of Idi Amin's wives in The Last King of Scotland.) Razzies founder John Wilson made no apologies for dissing Little Man in two other categories as well. "I will admit there is `So stupid, it's funny,'" he said. "But there is also `So stupid, get out of my face.' And that's what this movie is." So he and his organization gave it the Golden Raspberry.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Countdown to Oscarcast, Part 1

According to the Associated Press, the Best Picture race is still very seriously wide open. And Nikki Finke has some so-called "spoilers" for those planning to watch the Oscarcast Sunday night. (I sincerely hope she's wrong about No. 4.)

'Sunshine' Scores Spirits

The Little Movie That Could wins big time at the Spirit Awards. Can an Oscar be next?

Friday, February 23, 2007

OK, this really, REALLY is my last Al Gore posting until Oscar night

Yet another writer wonders whether Al Gore will follow his presumptive Oscar victory with another Presidential campaign. Well, that sure as hell would beat following an Oscar win with Gothika and Catwoman, wouldn't it?

Rat here, rat now

OK, did someone already start shooting Willard II: The Revenge?

Tom Hanks on horseback

Next on Tom Hanks' to-do list: Boone's Lick, his very first Western. Co-scripted by Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain scribes Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana -- and based on McMurtry's novel -- the film will co-star Julianne Moore as "a headstrong woman...who drags her family on a rickety wagon from Boone's Lick, Mo., to the Wyoming fort where her husband lives. Her brother-in-law (Hanks) escorts her on the dangerous journey and along the way falls in love with her." Guess that will complicate things, you think?

Esquire's Eighth Annual Alternative Oscars

Here's my fave of Esquire's Alternative Oscars:

Best One-Two Punch: Spike Lee
Clint Eastwood received far more attention for his ambitious, if blunt, Iwo Jima diptych. Richard Linklater tackled a muckraking best-seller (Fast Food Nation) and a dystopian Philip K. Dick nightmare (A Scanner Darkly). But only Spike Lee, recovering from the career-low debacle of She Hate Me, scored solid line drives both times at bat. Inside Man proved that Lee can superimpose his flinty New York attitude upon a conventional genre vehicle without letting it overwhelm the narrative; it also served as a reminder that Denzel Washington does his best, most relaxed work in this filmmaker's hands. And When the Levees Broke, Lee's mammoth four-hour documentary chronicling the Bush administration's inept response to the Katrina disaster, is cinejournalism at its most scrupulous and impassioned -- all the more impressive for the degree to which Spike muffles his own bitter voice. (Listen to the DVD commentary to learn just how bitter.) Neither film is a masterpiece, but together they suggest that he's growing comfortable with his transition from tyro to master.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No more clowning around

I am glad Federico Fellini didn't live long enough to hear about this:

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Two clowns were shot and killed by an unidentified gunman during their performance at a traveling circus in the eastern Colombian town of Cucuta, police said Wednesday. (more)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

News flash: Best Picture race is wide open

And just in case you forgot, David Germain is here to remind you. (But seriously: A textbook example of a good writer making lemonade when saddled with a moldy lemon of a pre-Oscar story assignment.)

I can't... resist... Overwhelming urge... Must offer Oscar predictions...

My track record as an Oscar prognosticator is, to put it charitably, uneven. On the other hand, I did manage to predict the Best Picture win by Chariots of Fire a quarter-century ago. And I think there may be two similarly surprising upsets on Sunday night. For what they’re worth – which, trust me, likely isn’t much – here are my guesstimates, along with some second-guessing.

BEST PICTURE

WILL WIN: Little Miss Sunshine
SHOULD WIN: The Departed
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Marc Forster’s exquisitely spare yet emotionally resonant Stranger Than Fiction

ACTOR

WILL WIN: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
SHOULD WIN: Peter O’Toole (for, I freely admit, purely sentimental reasons)
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Aaron Eckhart, for his ferociously funny and fearless performance as an amoral PR spinner in Thank You for Smoking

ACTRESS

WILL WIN: Helen Mirren (The Queen)
SHOULD WIN: Helen Mirren
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Gretchen Mol, for her tantalizingly ambiguous portrayal of a ‘50s pin-up queen who may be innocent and knowing in The Notorious Bettie Page

SUPPORTING ACTOR

WILL WIN: Alan Arkin (a.k.a. Upset No. 1) for Little Miss Sunshine
SHOULD WIN: Alan Arkin
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: James McAvoy, if only because he hasn’t been given sufficient credit for his shrewdly nuanced performance as the callow Scottish doctor who’s all-too-easily seduced by a gregariously psychotic Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. (It can be argued, of course, that McAvoy actually was the lead, and Whitaker was the supporting player – but, hey, that’s showbiz.)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

WILL WIN: Abigail Breslin (a.k.a. Upset No. 2) for Little Miss Sunshine
SHOULD WIN: Rinko Kikuchi for Babel
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Maggie Gyllenhaal for either World Trade Center or Stranger Than Fiction

DIRECTOR

WILL WIN: Martin Scorsese (The Departed)
SHOULD WIN: Martin Scorsese
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Robert Altman for the deeply affecting long goodbye of A Prairie Home Companion

Michael Moore wins another one

No, the Academy didn't give him another Oscar. Instead, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio gave the firebrand filmmaker a favorable ruling in a lawsuit stemming from Bowling for Columbine.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another shameless attempt to drive readers to this blog with additional snarky commentary about Ralph Fiennes

An Aussie writer complains about the tattletale who spilled the beans. A funny piece. The story, I mean.

In the interest of full disclosure: Since I've been making sport of Ralphie Boy's entry into the Mile High Club, I suppose I should fess up to my own... What's that? Too much information? You don't care to know? OK, I can accept that.

By the way: Did you know they're giving out Academy Awards this weekend?

In her L.A. Times article about campaigning for Academy Awards, Mary McNamara offers a textbook example of how a good writer can uncover fascinating factoids and memorable admissions while mining familiar ground. The distinctive novelty of this year's Oscar sweepstakes -- the Best Picture race appears unusually wide open -- makes the piece all the more interesting. Money quote from Amanda Lundberg, founding partner of the PR firm 42West and former head of publicity at Miramax: "The Oscars are about honoring the people who make the films... but also about getting people excited about going to the movies. It wasn't started by the committee for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Elsewhere: Stephen Schaefer offers a handy-dandy guide to Best Foreign Language Film nominees, Richard Corliss waxes euphoric about the great Ennio Morricone -- who'll be honored with a lifetime achievement award during Sunday's Oscarcast -- and Tom O'Neil sees a groundswell of support rising for Babel in the Best Picture category.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Speaking of Ralph Fiennes...

I did an interview with Mr. Sky Stud last year for MovieMaker magazine (the world's greatest film magazine, edited by a goddess of uncommon discernment). The tagline on the cover takes on a whole new meaning now, doesn't it?

Ralph Fiennes: Sky Stud (Or: I'm Lisa, Fly Me)

You know, it's getting increasingly difficult to remember that this story started out sounding like it would be bad publicity for Ralphie Boy.

(And don't think I'm not a little jealous. I mean, "an evening of almost non-stop lovemaking" in a lavish Bombay hotel room? Damn. I would need a fistful of Cialis and a bowl of Wheaties before I could handle that.)

Another sign of intelligent life in the blogosphere

Now that Jack Mathews has joined the party, I have another daily must-read.

Reviews? Reviews? We don't need no stinkin' reviews

Ghost Rider didn't need the critics to open at No. 1. (Big surprise, right?)

R.I.P.: Ray Evans (1915-2007)

Along with songwriting partner Jay Livingston, Ray Evans was nominated for seven Oscars, and won three -- for "Buttons and Bows" (in the 1947 Bob Hope comedy The Paleface), "Mona Lisa" (in the 1950 Alan Ladd vehicle Captain Carey, USA) and, most famously, "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" in Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much. (Livingston died in 2001 at age 86.) And if that's not enough to guarantee their place in the pantheon of pop culture history, consider this: They also wrote the themes for Bonanza, Mr. Ed -- and The Bugs Bunny Show. And a-one and a-two and: "Overture! Curtain lights! This is it! The night of nights! No more rehearsing and nursing a part! We know every part by hearrrrrrrrrrrrrt!"

Sorry, got carried away there for a second. I'll be quiet now, and maybe the dog next door will stop barking.

At least she didn't have to deal with Joan Rivers' catty commentary as she cavorted on the red carpet

Thai actress Chotiros Suriyawong caused quite a stir when she appeared in a skimpy black dress at the Feb. 9 Golden Swan awards ceremony, Thailand's equivalent of the Academy Awards. Unfortunately, officials at Thammasat University -- where the 22-year-old Suriyawong is a liberal arts major -- were not so amused. Which is why, as punishment for making such a titillating spectacle of herself, she's been ordered by the university to do 15 hours of community service (reportedly, she'll be reading to the blind) and make a public apology for her attire.

Actually, I think the producers of the Oscarcast should hire her immediately as a fashion consultant.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ripped from the headlines

Remember when I said that Adrienne Shelly's murder would wind up being the basis of a Law & Order episode? Well, that is precisely what has happened -- tonight -- with a little bit of Theo van Gogh thrown in. If you're on the West Coast, the episode airs at 10 pm on NBC.

How low (budget) can you go?

The love and talented Christy Lemire talks to the makers of five ultra-low-budget movies -- including two of my faves from last year, Mike Akel's Chalk and Arin Crumley and Susan Buice's Four Eyed Monsters -- that are nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at this year's Spirit Awards. Among the revelations: Akel and Crumley, who based their movie on their real-life relationship, admit that blending fact and fiction meant the stress didn't stop when they switched off the vidcam. Says Crumley: "[W]e're in a relationship making a movie about the relationship and living together and using the space where we live as the set, so basically we didn't have a place to live.

"In the scenes where we're bummed out or going crazy or losing our minds, that's us losing our minds."

Speaking of the Spirit Awards -- which will be handed out Feb. 24 -- I've still got my fingers crossed for Michael Kang's The Motel in the Best First Feature category. And no, not just because I'm an old school Marvel Comics fan. On the other hand, yes, getting to title a blog post "Kang the Conqueror" would be pretty neat.

MySpace case

I’m most familiar with MySpace as a tool for marketing movies. But, then again, I’m 54 years old, and not a sexual predator. (Really. Honest.) Folks much younger than me are accustomed to posting the most intimate details about themselves on their MySpace pages. Other folks – including some my age, and older – are accustomed to trolling those MySpace pages in search of fresh prey. A Texas judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by angry parents who claim MySpace didn’t do enough to protect their 13-year-old daughter against an alleged predator. Unfortunately for all parties involved, the Internet likely will never be safe enough to suit everyone. As an L.A. Times editorial notes, no matter what filtering systems and protective devices are installed to prevent minors from contacting (and being contacted by) adults, “the most vulnerable youths often are the most resourceful ones.” But not nearly as resourceful as those who would exploit them.

Flying high with Ralph Fiennes

Looks like, contrary to initial reports, Ralph Fiennes had a very willing partner when he joined the mile high club.

Al Gore: A party kind of guy

When he accepts the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth, maybe Al Gore will plug this instead of a Presidential bid.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You can call them Al

Nikki Finke links to two pertinent pieces about politics: A fictional Hollywood agent's hilarious "open letter" to Al Gore regarding the latter's post-Oscar career, and a serious announcement by satirist-turned-candidate Al Franken.

Four more years! Four more years!

Keith Olbermann -- the only man in TV today who's a natural heir to Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Kovacs -- will have a steady gig at MSNBC (and some new duties at NBC) through 2011. Let joy reign supreme. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the parks.

Still easy riding

Nice interview with Peter Fonda by Susan Carpener in today's L.A. Times. But I wonder if the piece appeared today primarily because Fonda's the only person attached to Ghost Rider who's willing to talk with the mainstream media this close to the flick's opening day?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The apocalypse is nigh!

Remember what they said about "dogs and cats living together" in Ghostbusters? Well, truly, the end must be near.

But seriously, folks, let's talk about Hugh Grant

Carina Chocano offers an insightful appreciation of Hugh Grant, "an under-rated comic talent" who, for better or worse, appears to be maturing at a time when "demand for maturity in American comedy is low." Perhaps the actor should try slightly more serious roles? After all, he was exceptionally good in (here's that term again) the under-rated Extreme Measures. And he's perfectly capable of bringing a touch of gravitas to witty byplay, as he did in Sense and Sensibility and About a Boy.

Reports about the death of newspapers may be greatly exaggerated

Despite my entry into the universe of on-line commentary, I must admit that I remain an ink-stained wretch at heart. So it warms my soul to learn data compiled by the World Association of Newspapers indicate that, despite what you may have read in newspapers, newspapers most certainly are not in a terminal state. Money quote: "The fashion of predicting the death of newspapers should be exposed for... nothing more than a fashion, based on common assumptions that are belied by the facts."

Spike and Soledad and Katrina

Spike Lee and CNN's Soledad O'Brien -- who made a memorable appearance as an interviewee in Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts -- have reunited to keep the country's eyes affixed on post-Katrina New Orleans. Good for them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith's last laugh

Her final movie -- in which, apparently, she's game for some high-spirited self-parody -- will go directly to video in May.

The Egyptian Stallion

This is the second time I've heard about Omar Sharif punching out somebody who yanked his chain. Geez. He seemed like such a sweet man when I spoke with him three years ago. Who knew he was such a brawler?

Hale and Hardy

Here's hoping that Hardy Men -- the upcoming comedy-adventure set to co-star Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller as grown-up Hardy Boys -- fares much better than The Boys in Autumn, a Bernard Sabath play that re-introduced Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as senior citizens. (Never a favorite of critics, the drama nonetheless attracted some very impressive actors -- including, for its 1981 San Francisco premiere, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, who wanted to re-team in the lead roles for an often-proposed, never-produced movie adaptation.) But I have to ask the obvious question: How many people under the age of 35 actually have read any of the Hardy Boys novels?

Of course, I'm sure the makers of Nancy Drew are asking a very similar question.

Ladies and gentlemen, the hardest working woman in show business...

After hosting an Oscarcast, most people would want to take a few days off for rest and recuperation. Right? But not workaholic Ellen DeGeneres. Damn. The woman makes me feel like a slacker.

Clint Eastwood and Tony Bennett make beautiful music together

It's true: At this stage in his career, Clint Eastwood really can do any damn thing he pleases.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cold sweat

Just in time for Valentine's Day: Maybe this explains why nobody had any air conditioning in Body Heat.

Mainstream Media continue their relentless toboggan slide into hell

You had to know this was coming, right? I mean, once they figured anyone could sub for Roger Ebert on the TV show that still bears his name, why not replace an entire TV newsroom with amateurs?

Awards central

The Dixie Chicks scored at The Grammys -- where, not incidentally, Walk the Line copped the Compilation Soundtrack prize, Memoirs of a Geisha won for Soundtrack Score, and Randy Newman's "Our Town" (from Cars) picked up the award for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media. Meanwhile, over at the WGA awards, kudos to The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine. It's all good.

Bears in trees

To ask the same question I always ask whenever I read a story like this: Who weighed the bear? I mean, is that the sort of job Rob Schneider might have in his next movie?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gore for President? Fat chance!

From Nikki Finke: Don't expect Al Gore to announce the start of another Presidential campaign at the Oscars, even if An Inconvenient Truth brings home the gold. Money quote: "As one news report said, 'Gore's weight, which has ballooned since he left office, is widely seen as a barometer of his ambitions, and the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns have been studying his girth closely.'"

As Jeffrey Wells notes, this ties in with a theory about Gore's fighting trim offered last November by Mick La Salle. Does the mean that -- gasp! -- density is destiny?

Royal flush at BAFTA

From the Associated Press: "A gracious monarch and a charismatic dictator took the top prizes Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards."

BTW: At this point, Helen Mirren is such a favorite in every awards competition that even her competitors are starting to joke about it. As the AP reports: "I'm a betting woman, so I'll put money on Helen," [Judi]Dench said before the ceremony. "I'm just here for the show."

Keep on hustling, keep on moaning

From the New York Times, via Movie City News: Is Scott Bomar to Craig Brewer what Nino Rota was to Federico Fellini? Black Snake Moan may provide an answer to that burning question.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Handicapping Oscar, Take 3

Roger Ebert thinks Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker are mortal locks. And in the Best Documentary category... well, let's just say, you've already read a lot about it on this blog.

BTW: Whitaker is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight. Seems to me I recall that Jeremy Irons did the very same thing right before his Best Actor win.

Early weekend b.o. report

From Nikki Finke: Eddie Murphy is big. Really, really big.

R.I.P.: Ian Richardson (1934-2007)

Ian Richardon's resume included a 15-year stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company (under Sir Peter Hall, no less), scads of high-profile performances in prestigious British TV dramas, and a co-starring role opposite Oscar-winners Halle Berry and Martin Landau in... well, B.A.P.S. All in all, a pretty damn full life, I would say. And I love what he said about his dear wife, former actress Maroussia Frank, who traveled everywhere with him: "Without Maroussia I cannot function. I don't even know which bank my account is with, the name of my accountant or how to work the Aga." (Yeah, I had to look it up, too: I think he means a stove.) He'll be missed.

First impressions

Jake Paltrow gets the stars to confess: Leonardo DiCaprio was moved to tears by King Kong. Penelope Cruz loved Billy Wilder. And Cate Blanchett was scared witless by Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Friday, February 09, 2007

They're lucky he didn't throw phones at them

Russell Crowe objects to scantily clad women. Really.

Clint Eastwood speaks his mind (and doesn't give a damn if you or Neil Cavuto or Michael "Mad Dog" Medved agree)

A few years back, Clint Eastwood told me: “You know the greatest thing about getting old? You can do anything you want. Really. I was talking about this with a friend one time, and he agreed. He told me: ‘You get to be 65 or 70 — you can do what you want, and you don’t have to take any more crap. Because what can they do to you if you fail?” When I reminded him of those comments in a subsequent interview, he chuckled heartily, then added: “And you know what?He’s right. I mean, what can they do if I fail? Take back the Oscar?”

Obviously, this self-assured, straight-talking, take-no-crap attitude informs his approach to political discussions as well.

Handicapping Oscar, Take 2

Again from Anne Thompson: Why An Inconvenient Truth may indeed be a lock for Best Documentary. (Yeah, I know: I said I wasn't going to post anything else on the film until Oscar night. I misspoke myself.) BTW: Here is what the folks back home have to say about the possible Oscar acceptance speaker.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

R.I.P.: Anna Nicole Smith (1967-2007)

No snarky comments, no disrespect for the deceased. She was a punchline often enough while she was alive. I hope she is at peace, wherever she is, and enjoying a last laugh.

It's not over until the fat lady sings

I swear: I was just kidding a few days ago when I speculated whether Eddie Murphy might be better off if Academy voters remain blissfully unaware of Norbit. But other people are taking the unfortunate timing of that comedy's release very seriously.

Handicapping Oscar, Take 1

Anne Thompson sizes up the Oscar race, seeing potential for Peter O'Toole to pull an upset in the Best Actor race, and more or less anointing Helen Mirren as Best Actress. Best Picture? The industry-savvy Thompson says that, even at this late date, "it's anyone's guess." But she does venture this: "Babel has art and gravitas and emotion. And a sprawling ensemble like Crash."

Speaking of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston...

I'll be introducing a special screening of John M. Stahl's 1934 version of Imitation of Life -- starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers -- at 8 p.m. Friday at MFAH, as part of the museum's Black History Month: Three Movie Classics film series.

Mira + Johnny = Must See

Mira Nair, a fine director who also happens to be a great-looking babe, has signed on to do a movie with Johnny Depp, a fine actor who's considered quite attractive by most women (and a few guys) that I know. Sounds like a match made in movie heaven. Makes me wonder just how beautiful their offspring might look...

OK, let me be serious (and reasonably non-sexist): I've been an admirer of Nair's work since the early 1980s, when she brought her first two films -- the documentaries Jama Masjid Street Journal and So Far from India -- to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I think her version of Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon was criminally under-rated. And I'm really looking forward to The Namesake. But, hey, she's a hottie, and I can't help noticing that.

Anyone else out there care to name their choice for World's Most Babe-o-Licious Filmmaker?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Everlasting love

I cannot rationally explain why this story makes me so deliriously happy. Maybe I'll have to wait until someone is inspired to make a movie about it.

Ripped from the headlines

David Hinckley waxes nostalgic for the not-so-golden age of made-for-TV movies, an era when news of a possibly homicidal astronaut would have sent scriptwriters rushing to their word processors, and programmers racing to schedule a docudrama for the next sweeps month.

"The Jackass Generation"

In the new issue of MovieMaker, the greatest film magazine in the known universe, writer David Roos offers an interesting take on how YouTube and Jackass are greatly influencing contemporary movie comedies. And, mind you, I'm not plugging it just because I'm quoted in the piece, or because I have my own article in the same issue -- an interview with Black Snake Moan director Craig Brewer -- that you'll actually have to buy the magazine to read. (Look for it at fine bookstores everywhere.)

A PLuG for MOViES The Store

Of course, if I'm going to get all misty-eyed and sentimental about small bookshops, I should also say something about indie video stores as well. So here's an unsolicited plug for MOViES The Store, Houston's newest homevid outlets for discerning cineastes. It's a labor of love for Rob Arcos, formerly the local ramrod for Landmark Theatres. He's a real fan, and he stocks his shelves accordingly.

First the bookstores, then...

David Streitfeld's insightful and ineffably melancholy Los Angeles Times article on the decline of book shops is well worth reading by anyone who loves to spend long afternoons paging through potential purchases in boutique-style independent stores or cozily funky second-hand outlets.

Money quote: "Technology changes behavior, which reshapes the physical landscape. The era of repertory movie houses playing Casablanca and High Noon ended with the VCR. The telephone booth was replaced by the beeper, which was made obsolete by the cellphone. And the newspaper is under siege by the Internet's ability to recombine and distribute news without leaving ink on your hands."

And: "Even in an entertainment-saturated age, people still buy books. But the casual reader has many other places to get bestsellers and topical books, from warehouse stores to the mall. Meanwhile, book nuts — the ones who simply must buy several volumes a week — are lured online. Few businesses can survive that lose customers from both ends of the spectrum."

Are megaplexes next on the endangered species list?

R.I.P.: Frankie Laine (1913-2007)

Many will remember Frankie Laine best for singing the Rawhide theme. ("Movin', movin', movin'/Though they're disapprovin'/Keep them doggies movin'/Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw-hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!") But others will cherish more dearly the utterly serious silliness of his rendition of Blazing Saddles -- a movie theme that, lest we forget, actually was nominated for an Academy Award. Legend has it that when Mel Brooks advertised in the trades for someone with a "Frankie Lane-type" voice to sing the the title tune, Lane himself showed up to audition for the gig. If that story isn't true -- it should be.

'Ghost Rider' spooked by critics?

From Lou Lumenick comes word that Ghost Rider will not be screened in advance for critics (just like the last Nicolas Cage flick, The Wicker Man). Trust me: This is not a good sign. Can another Golden Raspberry Award nomination be in the offing?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

From 'Homicide' to Grand Theft Auto?

Things aren't going well for Daniel Baldwin these days.

The complete feature lineup (well, complete until they start making last-minute changes) for the 2007 SXSW Film Festival, March 9-17 in Austin

Here's the press release:

Austin, TX – February 6, 2007 – The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival is thrilled to announce its complete lineup of features, for the 14th edition to be held in Austin, TX on March 9-17, 2007. The festival is scheduled to screen 110 feature films, in various sections and sidebars, over those nine days. Of those 110 features, there are 61 World Premieres, nine North American Premieres, and seven U.S. Premieres. The festival will open with the previously announced World Premiere of Scott Frank’s The Lookout, on March 9.

“This year, we received a record number of submissions and thankfully that also means the quality was higher than ever,” says SXSW Film Festival Producer Matt Dentler about the approximately 3100 submissions. “People will probably look for themes in the program, but no theme rings more true than just a great batch of films we’re eager to screen for our audiences. It’s going to be a fun ride.”

The newly announced additions to the “Spotlight Premieres” section of the festival, include: Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, Katy Chevigny’s Election Day, Jonathan Levine’s All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Mike Mills’ Does Your Soul Have a Cold?, Michele Ohayon’s Steal a Pencil For Me, Doug Pray’s Big Rig, and David Wain’s The Ten. In both the Narrative and Documentary Feature Competitions, SXSW announced eight films each, including new work from acclaimed filmmakers. They include, in the Narrative Feature Competition: Jamie Babbitt (Itty Bitty Titty Committee), Ryan Eslinger (When a Man Falls in the Forest), Michael Lehmann (Flakes), and Adam Rapp (Blackbird). In the Documentary Feature Competition, audiences will see new work by acclaimed nonfiction filmmakers including: Macky Alston (Hard Road Home), Andrew Berends (When Adnan Comes Home), and Marlo Poras (Run Granny Run).

SXSW is scheduled to announce its complete list of short films, retrospective screenings, and panels/seminars, on February 13. Information on attending SXSW, can be found online at: http://www.sxsw.com/. The full lineup of features follows:


SXSW 2007 FEATURE FILMS LINEUP

SPOTLIGHT PREMIERES

638 WAYS TO KILL CASTRO
Directed by Dollan Cannell.
This documentary examines the incredible and controversial story of 638 alleged plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro. From CIA agents to Cuban exiles, exploding cigars to femme fatales, the film also provides a startling glimpse into the evolution of Cuban politics. (North American Premiere)

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE
Directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Jacob Forman. Featuring: Amber Heard, Anson Mount.
Popular teenager Mandy Lane seems to have it all, including a deadly killer who will stop at nothing to get to her. (U.S. Premiere)

BELLA
Directed by Alejandro Monteverde, written by Monteverde, Patrick Million, and Leo Severino. Featuring: Eduardo Verastegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez, Ali Landry.
A soccer star and a waitress meet, and explore the world that surrounds them and connects them as they spend a day together in New York. (U.S. Premiere)

BIG RIG
Directed by Doug Pray
A mesmerizing and beautiful look at the relatively unknown experience of the Ameircan “big rig” truck driver, as they struggle to stay relevant in today’s digital age. (World Premiere)

DOUBLETIME
Directed by Stephanie Johnes.
This documentary reveals the divided world of competitive jump roping. The two top American teams belong to separate leagues that do not compete against one another. After 20 years of separation they finally meet at Apollo Theater in Harlem, to face-off. (World Premiere)

ELECTION DAY
Directed by Katy Chevigny
A verite examination, following a dozen voters (including an ex-felon, a poll worker, and more) over the course of November 2, 2004 - from dawn until long past midnight. (World Premiere)

ELVIS AND ANABELLE
Written and directed by Will Geiger. Featuring: Max Minghella, Blake Lively, Joe Mantegna, Mary Steenburgen, Keith Carradine.
A young mortician and a small-town beauty queen become unlikely romantic partners after the latter makes a mysterious return from the grave. (World Premiere)

EVERYTHING'S GONE GREEN
Directed by Paul Fox, written by Douglas Coupland. Featuring: Paulo Costanzo, Steph Song, JR Bourne.
Ryan, twenty-something and not getting any younger, is tempted into a money-laundering scheme but struggles with his ill-gotten gains while trying to find happiness. (U.S. Premiere)

EXILED
Directed by Johnnie To, written by Kam-Yuen Szeto and Tin-Shing Yip. Featuring: Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Nick Chueng, Simon Yam.
An exciting and modern gangster tale of brotherhood and betrayal on the streets of Hong Kong, To’s latest also pays homage to the classic American western. (Regional Premiere)

DOES YOUR SOUL HAVE A COLD?
Directed by Mike Mills.
An artful documentary look at the issues facing modern Japanese citizens as they battle the reality of depression in a culture that only recently started to embrace it. (World Premiere)

EAGLE VS. SHARK
Directed by Taika Waititi. Featuring: Jemaine Clement, Loren Horsley.
The tale of two socially awkward misfits and the strange ways they try to find love. (Regional Premiere)

HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS
Directed by Joe Swanberg. Written by Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kent Osborne. Starring: Greta Gerwig, Kent Osborne, Andrew Bujalski, Mark Duplass, Ry Russo-Young, Todd Rohal.
A group of Chicago writers are embedded in a tempestuous love triangle when Hannah inadvertently steals the hearts and minds of two close friends. (World Premiere)

HE WAS A QUIET MAN
Written and directed by Frank Cappello. Starring: Christian Slater, Elisha Cuthbert, William H. Macy.
An office drone returns from the brink of madness to become an unlikely savior and partner, to a beautiful co-worker, in need of the ultimate favor. (World Premiere)

HELL ON WHEELS
Directed by Bob Ray.
The nonfiction tale of ambitious women who band together, doing their part to resurrect roller derby for the 21st century. (World Premiere)

KNOCKED UP
Written and directed by Judd Apatow. Featuring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann.
On the heels of 2005’s blockbuster The 40-Year-Old Virgin, writer/director Judd Apatow again mines hilarity from the relatably human in a comedy about a one-night stand with unexpected consequences: Knocked Up. Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, Roswell) joins Virgin alums Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann for a comic look about the best thing that will ever ruin your best-laid plans: parenthood.

KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON
Directed by AJ Schnack.
Juxtaposing stunning cinematography of present day Washington state and audio interviews with rock legend Kurt Cobain, this poetic documentary scratches beneath the surface of anything you think you know about this icon. (Regional Premiere)

A LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR
Directed by Eric Chaikin.
A broad look at America's love/hate relationship with lawyers, and our fascination with suing one another. (World Premiere)

THE LOOKOUT
Written and directed by Scott Frank. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Isla Fisher, Matthew Goode, Jeff Daniels.
This intelligent crime drama is centered around Chris, a once promising high school athlete whose life is turned upside down following a tragic accident. As he tries to maintain a normal life, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank where he ultimately finds himself caught up in a planned heist. (World Premiere, Opening Night Film)

MANUFACTURING DISSENT
Directed by: Debbie Melnyk & Rick Caine. Featuring: Noam Chomsky, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Hamper, Christopher Hitchens, Harlan Jacobson, Dave Marsh, Albert Maysles, Michael Moore, Errol Morris, Ralph Nader, John Pierson, Roger Smith.
A documentary that seeks to separate fact, fiction and legend tracks Michael Moore on tour during the release of the explosive Fahrenheit 911, all the while chronicling the politically supercharged climate in America that has fueled Moore’s transition from mere filmmaker to icon of the political left. (World Premiere)

THE PRISONER, OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR
Directed by Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein.
Using a comic-book motif, this documentary tells the story of an Iraqi journalist who was unjustly held captive at Abu Ghraib for nine months. (World Premiere of final version)

RUNNING WITH ARNOLD
Directed by Dan Cox. Narrated by Alec Baldwin.
Why did Arnold Schwarzenegger run for governor of California? This documentary seeks to answer that question, as well as reveal some of the behind-the-scenes tactics that created his unexpected political career. (World Premiere)

SISTERS
Directed by Douglas Buck, written by Buck and John Freitas. Featuring: Chloe Sevigny, Stephen Rea, Lou Doillon, Dallas Roberts.
A pair of conjoined twins are separated, and forced to live under the guidance of a controlling psychiatrist. (U.S. Premiere)

SMILEY FACE
Directed by Gregg Araki, written by Dylan Haggerty. Featuring: Anna Faris,
The hilarious saga of one woman’s journey through an otherwise normal L.A. day, except she is very, very stoned. (Regional Premiere)

STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME
Directed by Michele Ohayon.
The touching true story of a man and woman forced to keep their love affair secret, while staying alive during the Holocaust. (World Premiere)

SUFFERING MAN’S CHARITY
Directed by Alan Cumming. Written by Thomas Gallagher. Starring: Alan Cumming, David Boreanaz, Henry Thomas, Anne Heche.
Alan Cumming’s latest directorial effort features a stellar cast in this darkly funny portrayal of unrequited love and unfulfilled artistic ambition. (World Premiere)

THE TEN
Directed by David Wain, written by Wain and Ken Marino. Featuring: Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder, Jessica Alba, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen.
In a series of vignettes, an all-star cast offers up new and hilarious interpretations of The Ten Commandments. (Regional Premiere)

WHAT WOULD JESUS BUY?
Directed by Rob Vanalkemade.
From producer Morgan Spurlock comes this entertaining and enlightening documentary look at the commercialization of the Christmas season. The famous Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping serve as the anchor for a disturbing and humorous portrayal of the way Christmas has evolved over centuries in America. (World Premiere)


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION

AUDIENCE OF ONE
Directed by Michael Jacobs.
A Pentecostal minister receives a vision from God to create an epic science fiction movie based on the bible story of Joseph, sending he and his followers on a journey of extreme faith. (World Premiere)

BILLY THE KID
Directed by Jennifer Venditti.
By turns humorous and disturbing, this portrait of a 15-year-old outcast named Billy, transcends diagnostic labeling and challenges the viewer to understand a triumphant teen on his own terms. (World Premiere)

CAMPAIGN
Directed by Soda Kazuhiro.
Can a candidate with no political experience and no charisma win a Japanese city council election, if he is backed by Prime Minister Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party? (North American Premiere)

CAT DANCERS
Directed by Harris Fishman.
The mysterious and bizarre story of Ron Holiday, an exotic animal trainer and performer who, along with his co-star/wife and their co-star/lover, found big fame until great tragedy struck in 1998. (World Premiere)

GREENSBORO: CLOSER TO THE TRUTH
Directed by Adam Zucker.
Despite extensive television footage of the Greensboro Massacre of 1979, involving the local KKK and Communist Workers Party, no one was ever convicted. The film portrays a number of the participants - five of the survivors and two Klansmen - who reveal their scars when the town decides to re-investigate the case 25 years later. (World Premiere)

HARD ROAD HOME
Directed by Macky Alston & Andrea Meller.
A cinema verite documentary that tells the story of the Exodus Transitional Community, an organization that was founded and is run by formerly incarcerated people, whose mission is to help recently released folks find their way back into society and keep them out of prison. (World Premiere)

RUN GRANNY RUN
Directed by Marlo Poras.
With just four months until the election, 94-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock and her motley crew of political aces and amateurs, begin a grassroots campaign for U.S. Senate and defy all expectations. (World Premiere)

WHEN ADNAN COMES HOME
Directed by Andrew Berends.
After a prison fire leaves him horribly burned, 16-year-old Adnan makes a plea for his family’s forgiveness and aid, despite their resistance to assist their troubled son. (North American Premiere)


NARRATIVE FEATURES COMPETITION

BLACKBIRD
Written and directed by Adam Rapp.
An unlikely, junk-ballad-of-a-love story that follows a displaced veteran of the first Gulf War, and a 17-year-old Midwestern runaway amid the tough, lovelorn streets of mid-1990s New York City. (World Premiere)

FLAKES
Directed by Michael Lehmann, written by Karey Kirkpatrick & Chris Poche. Featuring: Aaron Stanford, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Lloyd.
The slacker manager of a New Orleans cereal bar must face his adulthood when a rival cereal shop threatens to steal his business and his girlfriend. (World Premiere)

FROWNLAND
Written and directed by Ronald Bernstein. Featuring: Dore Mann, Mary Wall, Paul Grimstad.
A comedy frayed at the seams, about a door-to-door coupon salesman who eats popcorn & eggs off the folded-out door of his kitchen oven. (World Premiere)

ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE
Directed by Jamie Babbit, written by Tina Mabry, Abigail Shafran. Featuring: Melonie Diaz, Nicole Vicius, Carly Pop, Melanie Mayron, Guinevere Turner.
Dumped by her girlfriend, rejected from her college of choice and wearing an A cup in a C cup world, Anna soon joins a radical punk-feminist group that may end up leading to more disenchantment. (North American Premiere)

ORPHANS
Written and directed by Ry Russo-Young. Featuring: Lily Wheelwright, James Katharine Flynn.
Two estranged, twenty-something sisters reunite five years after the death of their parents, and soon revisit their treacherous history. (World Premiere)

PRETTY IN THE FACE
Written and directed by Nate Meyer. Featuring: Meagan Moses, David Reynolds, Theresa Dyer, Nathan Amadon.
United through anxiety, 26-year-old Maggie and 14-year-old Daniel help each other recognize the ways in which they sabotage their potential, either through sexual exploration or weight concerns. (World Premiere)

SKILLS LIKE THIS
Directed by Monty Miranda, written by Spencer Berger. Featuring: Berger, Gabriel Tigerman, Brian Pheland, Kerry Knuppe.
In this inventive comedy, three friends have their lives turned upside down as soon as one of them realizes that larceny might be his best skill. (World Premiere)

WHEN A MAN FALLS IN THE FOREST
Written and directed by Ryan Eslinger. Featuring: Timothy Hutton, Dylan Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Sharon Stone.
Three former schoolmates reconnect during their mid-life crises, as they seek the road less traveled before life’s cut short. (North American Premiere)


EMERGING VISIONS

AMERICAN ZOMBIE
Directed by Grace Lee, written by Lee and Rebecca Sonnenshine. Featuring: Austin Basis, Suzy Nakamura, Al Vicente.
Two filmmakers team up to shoot a documentary about high-functioning zombies living in Los Angeles and their struggles to gain acceptance in human society. (Regional Premiere)

ARRANGED
Directed by Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo, written by Schaefer. Featuring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Francis Benhamou, Daniel London.
Two young women - one an Orthodox Jew, the other Muslim - meet and become friends as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common, not least of which is that they are both going through arranged marriages. (World Premiere)

AUGUST THE FIRST
Directed by Lanre Olabisi, written by Olabisi and Shawn Alexander. Featuring: Ian Alsup, Dennis Green, Joy Merriweather, Kerisse Hutchinson.
The party to celebrate Tunde Ibirinde's graduation is the backdrop for a far more momentous occasion: the return of estranged father Dipo, after over a decade of absence. Each family member must face their feelings before they face Dipo. (World Premiere)

CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO
Directed by Matt Ogens.
A documentary on the lives of four mortal men and women, who work as characters on the sidewalks of Hollywood Blvd. This deeply personal view into their daily routine reveals the hardships, and triumphs, that these characters endure in pursuit of becoming famous. (World Premiere)

CRAZY SEXY CANCER
Directed by Kris Carr
An irreverent and uplifting documentary about a young woman looking for a cure and finding her life. Taking a seemingly tragic situation and turning it into a creative expression, the filmmaker shares her wild journey with exuberance, humor and sass. (World Premiere)

FALL FROM GRACE
Directed by K. Ryan Jones.
The first documentary to explore the hate-filled world of Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS. (World Premiere)

FISH KILL FLEA
Directed by Brian Cassidy, Aaron Hillis, Jennifer Loeber.
Once thriving, a dead mall in upstate New York is now home to a ragtag flea market, living proof that the American Dream is in perpetual decay, as depicted in this engaging documentary. (World Premiere)

GREAT WORLD OF SOUND
Directed by Craig Zobel, written by Zobel and George Smith. Featuring: Pat Healy, Kene Holliday, Robert Longstreet.
A young man answers an ad, thinking that he will be joining the music business and discover new talent until he realizes this new job isn’t what he expected. (Regional Premiere)

HELVETICA
Directed by Gary Hustwit.
A documentary exploration of typography, graphic design and global visual culture that looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. (World Premiere)

KAMP KATRINA
Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin.
A disturbing documentary portrayal of the makeshift camp constructed in a married couple’s backyard, as a means of creating a safe haven and community in post-Katrina New Orleans. (World Premiere)

KING CORN
Directed by Aaron Woolf.
Two recent college graduates travel to their ancestral home in rural Iowa, plant a single acre of America's most powerful crop, and attempt to follow its fate as food in this probing nonfiction account. (World Premiere)

LOST IN WOONSOCKET
Directed by John Chester.
A group of filmmakers conducting a humanitarian experiment for a TV series find themselves helping two homeless alcoholics found living in a tent. The question of how deep to go with their help is tested as the series is cancelled but the mission is called on to continue. (World Premiere)

MONKEY WARFARE
Written and directed by Reg Harkema. Featuring: Don McKellar, Tracy Wright, Nadia Litz.
A bohemian couple does its best to make due with their slacker selves and a new revolution, while living in the modern Canadian cityscapes. (Regional Premiere)

THE PRICE OF SUGAR
Directed by Bill Haney.
Breaking a centuries old taboo, a charismatic Spanish priest working in the Dominican Republic, ventures into the sugar plantations and makes a shocking discovery: thousands of dispossessed Haitians tirelessly working the cane fields under backbreaking and inhumane conditions. (World Premiere)

QUIET CITY
Directed by Aaron K atz, written by Katz, Erin Fisher, Cris Lankenau. Featuring: Fisher, Lankenau, Sarah Hellman, Joe Swanberg.
Jamie meets Charlie when she asks him for directions after arriving lost in Brooklyn. Nothing to do and nothing but time leads them to bowls of coleslaw, footraces in the park, art shows, and after-parties. (World Premiere)

SCRAMBLED BEER
Directed by Cristobal Valderrama, written by Valderrama and Carlos Labbe. Featuring: Diego Munoz, Nicolas Saaverda, Manuela Martelli.
Vladimir lives a highly chaotic life, while Jorge is very neurotic about order and control. Their two visions of the world collide as Vladimir starts time-traveling, waking up every day on a random date, and getting involved with Jorge's girlfriend. (World Premiere)

TRIGGER MAN
Written and directed by Ti West. Featuring: Reggie Cunningham, Ray Sullivan, Sean Reid.
Inspired by true events: The story of three hunters who mysteriously became the hunted. (World Premiere)

TWISTED: A BALLOONAMENTARY
Directed by Sara Taksler and Naomi Greenfield. Animated segments narrated by Jon Stewart.
A documentary uncovering the world of balloon-twisting conferences and competitions, while exploring how eight balloon twisters' lives are dramatically changed by a little piece of latex. (World Premiere)


24 BEATS PER SECOND

1 MORE HIT
Directed by Shauna Garr. Featuring: J Swift, Kelly Zhander, Paul Mooney, Jamie Kennedy, Method Man, Steve-O, Akon.
The filmmaker finds her friend, a once-successful rap producer, homeless and addicted to crack. For two and half years, the two try everything to overcome the musician's 10-ton habit. (World Premiere)

COMPANERAS
Directed by Matthew Buzzell and Elizabeth Massie.
An intimate profile of America's first all-female mariachi band: Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Taking on a male-dominated culture and musical tradition, this group has been shatters stereotypes while expanding the popularity of mariachi music. (World Premiere)

DIRTY COUNTRY
Directed by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher.
Meet Larry Pierce: a small-town factory worker and family man who happens to be the raunchiest country music singer in America. (World Premiere)

THE GITS
Directed by Kerri O’Kane.
The story of a promising underground Seattle band, fronted by charismatic vocalist Mia Zapata. Poised to explode onto the national music scene, a cold-blooded killer destroys their dreams. (World Premiere)

JAMES BLUNT: RETURN TO KOSOVO
Directed by Steven Cantor.
Platinum-selling musician (and former soldier) James Blunt, returns to the battlefield at which he served, for an emotional journey of reflection. (World Premiere)

THE LAST DAYS OF LEFT EYE
Directed by Lauren Lazin.
An in-depth look at the sad tale of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, from revolutionary pop act, TLC. Weaving video-diary footage of Lopes’ last days before dying in an automobile accident, with the story of her personal and professional roller-coaster ride, this new film is both a memorable music doc and a personal account of the fragilities in fame. (North American Premiere)

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: SEX, FOOD, DEATH, AND INSECTS
Directed by John Edginton.
British singer/songwriter Hitchcock and band The Venus 3, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Bill Rieflin (Ministry, REM), and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, REM, The Young Fresh Fellows), as they spend a week in July of 2006 recording an album of new material at Hitchcock’s house in West London. (World Premiere)

SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN
Directed by Stephen Kijak.
A journey into the mind and studio of reclusive musician, and modern-rock hero, Scott Walker as he continues to make acclaimed recordings decades into his career. (North American Premiere)

SILVER JEW
Directed by Michael Tully.
An intimate portrait of reclusive poet/musician David Berman and his band the Silver Jews, in the midst of their first-ever world tour. Berman, his wife Cassie, and the rest of the group traveled to Israel to play two shows and visit Jerusalem. (World Premiere)

WETLANDS PRESERVED: THE STORY OF AN ACTIVIST ROCK CLUB
Directed by Dean Budnick. Featuring: Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler, Warren Hayes, ?uestlove.
The story of a truly original New York rock club, which fused music with activism, earning an army of famous fans in the process. (Regional Premiere)


‘ROUND MIDNIGHT

BLACK SHEEP
Written and directed by Jonathan King. Featuring: Nathan Meister, Danielle Mason, Tammy Davis, Peter Feeney, Oliver Driver.
Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop injects dazzling effects in this New Zealand black comedy about a herd of mutant sheep on the rampage in a quest for human blood. (US Premiere)

BORDERLAND
Directed by Zev Berman, written by Berman and Eric Poppen. Featuring: Starring Brian Presley, Jake Muxworthy, Rider Strong, Sean Astin.
A road trip vacation becomes a nightmare, as a trio of young graduates run afoul of an ancient blood cult looking for human sacrifice. (World Premiere)

THE DEVIL DARED ME TO
Directed by Chris Stapp, written by Stapp and Matt Heath. Featuring: Stapp, Heath, Bonnie Soper, Andrew Beattie.
A stunt-fuelled action-comedy from the Kiwi cult-comedy team Back of the Y, this is the story of daredevil stuntman Randy Cambell, and his quest to follow in his late father’s footsteps and become New Zealand’s greatest daredevil stuntman. (World Premiere)

FIDO
Directed by Andrew Currie, written by Currie and Robert Chomiak. Featuring: Carrie-Ann Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker.
Young Timmy Robinson’s best friend in the world, is a rotting pet zombie named Fido. (Regional Premiere)

GRIMM LOVE
Directed by Martin Weisz, written by TS Faull. Featuring: Keri Russell, Thomas Huber, Thomas Kretschmann.
An American student living in Germany becomes obsessed with a cannibal killer who advertised on the Internet for a lover willing to be murdered and devoured as the ultimate act of love and self-sacrifice. (North American Premiere)

KENNY
Directed by Clayton Jacobson, written by Jacobson and Shane Jacobson. Featuring: Shane Jacobson, Jesse Jacobson, Ronald Jacobson, Eve von Bibra.
We follow Kenny Smyth, as he juggles family tensions, fatherhood, and his sewage business with charm, humor and unflinching dignity. (Regional Premiere)

MULBERRY STREET
Directed by Jim Mickle, written by Mickle and Nick Damici. Featuring: Damici, Kim Blair, Ron Brice, Bo Corre, Larry Fleischman.
Something is changing in this New York neighborhood. A virus is spreading. A rat attacks someone in the subway. Another victim is bit downtown. And slowly the community faces a big problem. (North American Premiere)

MURDER PARTY
Written and drected by Jeremy Saulnier. Featuring: Chris Sharp, Macon Blair, Paul Goldblatt.
A random Halloween invitation leads a lonesome man into the hands of a rogue collective intent on murdering him for the sake of their art, sparking a bloodbath of mishap, mayhem and hilarity. (Regional Premiere)

SEVERANCE
Directed by Christopher Smith, written by Smith and Jason Moran. Featuring: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens.
A teamb-building exercise in the woods becomes a hack-and-slash nightmare when a mysterious presence lays often-hilarious waste to a group of co-workers.

THE SIGNAL
Directed by David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush.
Its New Year\'s Eve in the city of Terminus and all forms of communication have been jammed by an enigmatic transmission that preys on fear and desire, driving everyone in the city to murder and madness. (Regional Premiere)

THEM
Written and directed by David Moreau & Xavier Palud. Featuring: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen.
When darkness falls one unsuspecting night, Clementine and Lucas will come face to face with THEM. They are everywhere, even in their home, and they will stop at nothing. Who are they? What do they want? Based on true events. (U.S. Premiere)

UNDEAD OR ALIVE: A ZOMBEDY
Written and directed by Glasgow Phillips. Featuring: James Denton, Chris Kattan, Navi Rawat.
When two misfits rob the corrupt sheriff of an Old West town, they have no idea that a plague of zombies is sweeping the country, or that Geronimo's sexy niece may be their only hope of survival. (World Premiere)


LONE STAR STATES

FORFEIT
Directed by Andrew Shea, written by John Rafter Lee. Featuring: Billy Burke, Sherry Stringfield, Gregory Itzin, Wayne Knight.
An ex-con tries to manage his way back into society, reunite with his high school sweetheart, and commit one more crime. (World Premiere)

INSIDE THE CIRCLE
Directed by Marcy Garriott.
In this kinetic documentary capturing the raw power of a home-grown Texas hip-hop movement, we follow the journey of talented “B-boys” Josh and Omar (best friends turned rivals), as they struggle to keep dance at the center of their lives. (World Premiere)

LOVE AND MARY
Written and directed by Elizabeth Harrison. Featuring: Lauren German, Gabriel Mann.
Struggling businesswoman Mary is forced to find a decoy for her fiancé, so that she can return home to Texas and collect what promises to be a valuable gift. (World Premiere)

THIRD WARD, TX
Directed by Andrew Garrison.
After more than a decade of building a community that is safe, livable and desirable, they’ve attracted forces that may destroy what they made-- real estate development and gentrification. Will it survive the blind force of gentrification playing out in Houston and across America?

THE UNFORESEEN
Directed by Laura Dunn.
The controversial saga of one community’s struggle to come to terms with business developments on a beloved natural landmark. (Regional Premiere)

WEAVING WORLDS
Directed by Bennie Klain.
Navajo tales of how the west was spun, exploring the personal stories of Navajo weavers and their complex relationship with reservation traders. (World Premiere)


SPECIAL SCREENINGS

AFTER THE WEDDING
Directed by Susanne Bier, written by Anders Thomas Jensen. Featuring: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgard, Sidse Babett Knudsen.
A Danish man returns home after 20 years to attend a wedding that becomes a landmark meeting between past and future, putting him in the dilemma of his life. (Regional Premiere)

AUGUST EVENING
Directed by Chris Eska. Featuring: Pedro Castaneda, Veronica Loren.
We follow an aging undocumented worker, Jaime, and his young widowed daughter-in-law, Lupe, as their lives are thrown into upheaval. Lupe is more of a daughter to Jaime than his own children, and the two try to stick together... but change is inevitable. (Sneak Preview)

BLINDSIGHT
Directed by Lucy Walker.
An emotional account of one visually-impaired man’s journey to climb Mt. Everest, with a collection of visually-impaired children. (Regional Premiere)

CALL OF THE HUMMINGBIRD
Directed by Alice Klein.
A documentary look at a gathering a thousand earth-lovers who have come together to experiment with a new sense of politics that aims to break out of old-school boundaries by politicizing the spiritual, and spiritualizing the political. (World Premiere)

CASHBACK
Written and directed by Sean Ellis. Featuring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Shaun Evans.
To pass the long hours of the night while suffering from insomnia, an English art student starts working the late-night shift at the local supermarket. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own “art” in dealing with the boredom of an eight-hour-shift. (Regional Premiere)

CHERRY VALLEY
Directed by Patrick Steward.
Three film students travel to the small town of Cherry Valley to investigate a ghost in their friend’s house. Expecting to find nothing, they arrive to find that the entire town may be haunted. (World Premiere)

THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK
Directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern.
A politically-charged documentary look at the conflict in Darfur, through the eyes and camera of one disillusioned American soldier. (Regional Premiere)

DIGGERS
Directed by Katherine Dieckmann, written by Ken Marino. Featuring: Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose, Ron Eldard, Josh Hamilton, Sarah Paulson, Ken Marino.
The story of two generations of hard-living clam diggers, trying to maintain their way of life in the midst of the enormous changes swirling around them. (Regional Premiere)

ELECTRIC APRICOT: THE QUEST FOR FESTEROO
Written and directed by Les Claypool. Featuring: Claypool, Adam Gates, Brian Kehoe, Jonathan Korty, Jason McHugh.
In the spring of 2005, a UCLA graduate student gets more the he bargains for when he sets out to document an aging Northern California Jam band on the cusp of an apparent career break-through. (Regional Premiere)

EVERYTHING’S COOL
Directed by Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold.
A documentary about America finally understanding global warming, in the wake of the most dangerous chasm ever to emerge between scientific understanding and political action. (Regional Premiere)

IMPRINT
Directed by Michael Linn, written by Linn and Keith Davenport. Featuring: Tonantzin Carmelo, Michael Spears, Carla-Rae Holland, Cory Brusseau.
A contemporary Native American dramatic supernatural thriller that tells the story of Shayla Stonefeather, a prominent Native American attorney who has turned away from her people and the dreams of her youth. (World Premiere)

THE KING OF KONG
Directed by Seth Gordon.
An entertaining nonfiction glimpse at the rivalry that brew between two men as they battle for the world record in the Donkey Kong video game. (Regional Premiere)

THE LATHER EFFECT
Directed by Sarah Kelly, written by Kelly and Tim Talbott. Featuring: Connie Britton, Sarah Clarke, Tate Donovan, Peter Facinelli, David Herman.
On the eve of the sale of her parents\' home, thirty-something Valinda throws an 1980’s rager, reuniting high school friends for one last chance to relive their wild youth - and the hangovers that went with it. (Regional Premiere)

TRUTH IN TERMS OF BEAUTY
Directed by Vince DiPersio.
A documentary journey with acclaimed photographer Herman Leonard, as he guides us on a tour through his adventurous life: the jazz scene in New York, high fashion in Paris, Ibiza the Spanish island, and New Orleans in its full glory. (World Premiere)

WHO LOVES THE SUN
Written and directed by Matt Bissonette. Featuring: Lukas Haas, Molly Parker, Adam Scott.
An innocent misunderstanding reveals a family secret, which suggests that the younger generation is much like the older one, and that the human problems don't get solved. They simply get handed down. (Regional Premiere)

ZOO
Directed by Robinson Devor.
An artful and beautiful documentary that weaves stunning cinematography with audio interviews detailing what led to the controversial evening in the Pacific Northwest, when a family man died after engaging in sexual acts with a horse. (Regional Premiere)