August 31, 2009
The Rooftop screening was perfect, even though weather chased us down from the roof. Which is to say, it was everything I wanted it to be. Everything was cool and grey and misty. I ducked out after the first ten minutes, and then back in again during the Bosque Brown scene, which benefitted greatly from the sound of the rain falling gently in the open courtyard. Lots of good friends and surprise family members were in attendance, and no one left when the credits hit. The promise of free alcohol after the Q&A probably had something to do with that, but I'll keep on pretending that it was anticipation of my attempts at erudition that stayed the masses.
Afterwards we closed out a bar, and then I trekked back to Manhattan and the lovely home of my amazing hosts, which happened to be right off this street:
Saturday saw The Headless Woman and a subsequent malaise which I'll detail in an upcoming post, and then came this perfect New York Sunday, the sort that lazily slips by in a somewhat golden way. There was a barbecue that evening - last night - at Dan Nuxoll's place in Brooklyn, and I think a the majority of friends I have in New York were there (those that weren't had pretty good excuses). We all stayed until midnight; I got to bed by three, was up before six and hopped back on the train headed to JFK, finishing up the new David Sedaris book I bought on Friday for the express purpose of reading on the subway. I was a little bit disappointed to realize that the title was actually When You Are Engulfed In Flames - the sagacity of which doesn't quite equal the blunted naivete of my initial misreading of it: Why Are You Engulfed In Flames? has a much nicer ring to it, I think, although that's probably just my personality seeping through.
Now I'm heading home, 36,190 feet above the ground, wishing that Virgin flew all across the country and not just from coast to coast. Great thanks to Dan and Mark for giving this weekend such a wonderful raison d'etre!
Posted by David Lowery at 9:38 AM
August 26, 2009
Two days until St. Nick takes Brooklyn
This time tomorrow I'll be Eastbound, and this time on Friday I'll be heading into Brooklyn, towards the rooftop of the Old American Can Factory where St. Nick will be unspooling. Depending on several conditions, this may be the version that screened at SXSW and other festival, or it may be the slightly altered version I've been tinkering with these past few months. I've pulled a Terrence Malick and made the film shorter (by about three minutes). I like to think that no one would actually notice the alterations, so maybe I shouldn't say anything about them at all. Too late!
Clay and James and Adam will be in town as well (unfortunately, the cast had to go back to school this week and can't attend). The screening got a nice write-up in the New York Times this past weekend, so hopefully that will help draw out the crowds. But if you're in New York and planning on coming, bring a friend! If you can't make it, tell friends to come anyway. You won't just get to see the film and hang out with a bunch of great people, but you'll be supporting one of the best cinematic institutions in New York City. Like most film festivals, Rooftop is having financial trouble, and every ticket (and/or donation) will help ensure that they'll still be around showing movies and giving grants to filmmakers next summer.
This is our last festival of the summer, or the first of the fall, depending on your point of view. Next up is the Calgary International Film Festival and a competitive spot in that festival that's so perennially dear to my heart, the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. Both festivals have amazing lineups, and while I don't think I'll be able to attend the former, you can bet your top and bottom dollar both that I'll be at Sidewalk. It's one of several things in the near future that I just can't wait for...
August 25, 2009
I'm sitting in the waiting room of an office on the Warner Bros. lot, waiting for a meeting and flipping through my notebook. Here are the sort of notes I take during meetings.
This is probably why I have trouble finishing screenplays.
I'm sitting next to Steven Soderbergh, and find it somewhat comforting to know that he has to wait in the studio waiting rooms as well. Of course, he'll probably leave the building with a greenlight on a new picture, and I'll leave with a handshake and a nice-to-meet-you. But at least we all start in the same place.
Posted by David Lowery at 9:26 PM
The GoodTimes Kid
Two weeks ago this morning saw the release of Azazel Jacob's The GoodTimes Kid on DVD, a format designed to endure the tests of both time and tardy notices from the likes of viewers like me.
This is the film Jacobs made before the acclaimed Momma's Man. People talk about it and bandy about comparisons to Tati or Chaplin or Kaurismaki, or the French New Wave, or punk rock, and you go into the movie thinking about those things and nodding your head as you begin to calculate the sum of all these influences, and then a shot like this one comes along and knocks you right out of that referential orbit.
Or maybe it's another shot. There are lots of them. The film was photographed on the fly, mostly by whichever lead actor wasn't on camera, and it shows (that's not a bad thing at all in this case). It was also shot on 35mm, which really shows.
Not just because the images are big and beautiful, but because they're full of wear and tear and little stray fragments of light sent spinning by imperfections in the lens. The original negative has been restored and scanned by Benten Films, the boutique imprimatur (recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal) under which the film has been released, but they wisely didn't clean it up too much. Its rag tag beauty...
...has so much character that it practically is a character. Just as beautiful: the original score by Mandy Hoffman, and the way lead actor Gerardo Naranjo (whose second feature I'm Gonna Explode just opened) can't quite get his words out of his mouth. In the film's commentary track, he notes that he can speak English and he can act, but can't do both at the same time. This, it turns out, is a recipe for endless comic beguilement!
The Good Times Kid is about two men named Rodolfo Cano (one played by Naranjo and the other by Jacobs) who accidentally, serendipitously take turns letting down the same young woman. Both Rodolfo's are basically the same person, although that insight is my own and not the film's. The film ends with a single static shot in which two of the characters sit and listen to a Gang Of Four song all the way through. I included a similar sequence in a film of my own once; without tooting my own horn too loudly, let me say that it's a brilliant and thankfully underused cinematic technique.
By the way, I stole the following screen grab from We Love You So, because it's just too good not to.
The DVD includes deleted scenes, a trailer that reveals nothing about the film other than that it was a lovingly ramshackle production, a short film by Azazel's father, the legendary underground filmmaker Ken Jacobs, and another short film by Azazel himself, which you should actually watch right now because it'll give you an idea of what you're in for, sort of:
This handsome new DVD can be had right here, or you can add it to your Netflix queue. One or the other or both, but sooner rather than later.
Posted by David Lowery at 2:16 AM
August 22, 2009
Something is grievously amiss!
I went to see the midnight showing of Inglourious Basterds last night, and walked out after twenty minutes. It had nothing to do with the film, other than that I wanted to enjoy it and knew from the get-go that I wasn't in the proper headspace to do so. I wanted to give it my all, which seemed a worthy enough reason to bail - but no! That heavy specific cinephiliac guilt slung itself around neck as I headed home, and brought with it pungent reminders of all the films I've missed the past few months. I don't know quite what happened, but somehow I stopped going to the movies - a malady represented most piercingly by the fact that I still haven't seen Up. I've also missed Julia, Summer Hours, Revanche, Soul Power and just about every other specialty release that I'd been looking forward to. I have yet to make my way out to see 500 Days Of Summer and District 9, and my stack of DVDs at home keeps getting higher. I want to see all of these movies, but I haven't, and I can't for the life of me figure out what I've been doing instead! Spending too much time on airplanes?
All that being said - the albatross that opened those floodgates has been cast off. I landed in Austin this evening, and within two hours was sitting in a theater watching those first twenty minutes again, followed by the remaining 130. I loved it (I didn't even care that I wasn't at the Alamo, where all the screenings had long since sold out). This is what I've been missing.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:24 AM
August 21, 2009
James e-mailed me this lovely image from painter Casey Weldon today. As anyone who's seen St. Nick might guess, it struck quite a familiar chord:
Inspiration, I think, is sort of unstuck in time. It moves backwards as much as it does forwards. I look at a painting like that and feel fortified in the choices and decisions I've already made - it's evidence that other people are paying visits to the same corners of our collective subconscious that I must frequent.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:55 AM
August 19, 2009
Handily beating me at my own attempt at focused discourse, Reverse Shot has just published a symposium on Claire Denis that covers her entire oeuvre and then some. Particularly exciting: Kevin B. Lee's video essay on that most impenetrable of her films, L'Intrus. Synthesizing the film's dialectics through a parallax of words and images, Lee and his collaborators have created an invaluable study guide for a film that's very much worth the cogitation it requires.
On a separate but perhaps equal note: Strand Releasing (they of the best studio logo ever) just put out the trailer for Lucretia Martel's Headless Woman, which I plan on catching in New York the weekend after next. Just enough time, given my lax viewing habits, to finally catch up with her first two films in the interim.
Posted by David Lowery at 3:14 PM
August 13, 2009
Nothing to see here, at least not yet. I've been in Memphis working on the new picture from Kentucker Audley, whose Team Picture I reviewed almost exactly a year ago (that's my insectoid silhouette in the picture above, which was taken during a shoot at the local drive-in). I'm looking forward to the day when anything I write about, say, a Claire Denis film occupies a similar gray area.
It's back to Los Angeles on Monday for pitches, meetings and laundry, and then to Austin on Friday, and LA again the following Monday, and New York the Thursday after that, and Austin once more a few days later. If I had a logical bone in my body, I'd be a member of at least one frequent flyer program. But anyway, to speak of reviews: in an attempt to prepare for at least some variation of promotion for our fall St. Nick screenings, I saw fit to troll the web for whatever press I could find from the past few months. Here's what I turned up. One of my favorites is the new one from Robert Cumbow (whose essay on Glazer's Birth was, is and forever will be incredibly valuable in convincing others of the supreme worth of that motion picture). That's the first one up:
I think that's all I could find. The cineaste in me loves reading them, but these days I'm feeling more the filmmaker, who wouldn't recommend reading a one of them - they work best in list formats such as above, cascading down the page, rather than shooting up like ivy over the red brick edifice of the movie.
Posted by David Lowery at 5:35 PM
August 8, 2009
St. Nick in New York
I've found myself in Memphis - just in time for Elvis week - and am spending this lazy Saturday afternoon soaking up the Southern heat, reading F. Scott Fitzgerald novels and dreaming of the East, where I'll be heading three weeks from last night for the New York City bow of St. Nick. The screening comes courtesy of the wonderful folks at Rooftop Films, and this is probably the one show I've been most excited about since the premiere at SXSW. The details are as follows:
When: Fri 8/28 (8PM) Where: The Old American Can Factory Address: 232 Third Street at Third Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Cost: $9-$25 Buy tickets
I love Rooftop screenings. Sitting under the stars, sending off summer, hearing little bits of Brooklyn seep into all the Southwestern ambience - I can't wait. If you are in New York or the surrounding area, I would love to see you there. James and Adam will be there as well, and the whole event will be a lovely bookend to the little clip from the film that Rooftop showed during IFP Week last year. It will also serve as a nice kick-off to an increasingly busy fall festival tour. If you haven't seen St. Nick on the big screen yet, chances are good you'll be able to sometime between now and November...
Posted by David Lowery at 1:44 PM
August 1, 2009
Watch 45365 on a big enough screen
For the rest of this week, one of the best films of the year is available for free through Snag Films: Bill and Turner Ross' beautiful documentary 45365.
Here's what I wrote about the picture for Hammer To Nail:
I had the occasion to spend some time in Ohio this past week, and while I was there I thought not once of 45365, Bill and Turner Ross’ magnificent ode to the Buckeye state. I strolled through downtown Columbus and sat at a roadside root beer stand in Dayton, and noted no referential asides, thrilled to no points of connection. My experiences there were minimal, and they were my own, and it was only as I sat down to write this review that I realized that I’d been a just hop, skip and a jump away from my subject’s milieu. That would be Sidney, Ohio, pop. somewhere north of 20,000. Its postal code is the source of the film’s title, but: as intrinsic as the place is to their film, the film doesn’t belong to the place, which is why neither sprang to my mind. This isn’t to say that one might fall back on aphorisms such as ‘It Could Be About Anywhere,’ because it couldn’t, and it can’t, and it isn’t. But the specifics of this film’s geography aren’t of a specifically cartographic sort. This isn’t simply a documentary portrait of a small town in Ohio, for the true subject of the film is not the town itself, nor its township, but of the time that passes through the former and around the latter, and the dimensional dialect that is struck up by their conjunction. For a film with its ears so close to the ground 45365 is downright cosmic.
And as to how such a gorgeously composed film like this can be enjoyed to the fullest extent in a tiny embeddable window - Bill and Turner answer this very question in a recent interview with AJ Schnack. "We certainly would concur that 45365 is a film meant to be projected," they write. "We shot it for presentation at that scale, for that environment. That said, however, we want folks to see our work."
So do I. And as is always the case, a really good movie will make a screen of any size as big as it needs to be.
Posted by David Lowery at 7:50 PM