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My New Job

…is here. Managing the Docs section.

These Kids Today!

A jackass dinosaur of a critic laments the rise of blogger-critics, as yet another extension of this debate.

His entire article has the tone of an crotchety old man indignant about becoming old and useless. Why do old people always do this? I really hope I have better sense when I’m an old crone.

I’ll let Chuck and his commenters do the more eloquent dismantling.


On a conservative talk radio show this morning:

“Who do you think’s gonna win American Idol tonight?”

“As long as they’re both here legally, I don’t care.”

Sofia and Kirsten

Great critique of Sofia Coppola in Bright Lights:

“There’s no doubt that Coppola creates a very rarefied mood, in which unusual music is matched with a specific era of design. Even the last shot, with the palace thrown into disarray, is an album cover. But is this the work of a director with vision, or a good stylist? Coppola has made a career out of mix-ups that sound interesting conceptually — Japan and ennui, royalty and pop — but is there anything beyond the excitement of the initial disconnect? She invents themes which seem intriguing on a production level, but these are rarely followed through, and in my opinion, don’t add up to a film. Marie Antoinette is a less frustrating film than Lost in Translation (2003), in that frivolity is its actual subject, but both movies are odes to pop set against blurry backgrounds. Each film has a mysterious or unexpected setting, with a precedent in music videos. However, in Lost in Translation, Coppola isn’t much interested in Japan, other than as a stylist’s backdrop. The Japanese exist only to inspire deadpan reaction shots from Bill Murray — but as Murray showed in Groundhog Day (1993), one doesn’t need to go to Japan to get a sea of unresponsive faces. Japan merely provides a color scheme, and an opportunity to take neon stills, in the way that a blue-screen Tokyo might be used in a fashion shoot. Like the Versailles of Marie Antoinette, its ceremonies are viewed ironically, by a privileged figure. …Marie Antoinette makes us long for the smashed palace at the end: something to break through its stylish sensibility. What the film needed was a performance which exposed self-involvement, while letting us feel immersed and attracted by it.”

The article also lauds Kirsten Dunst, and I may have to revise somewhat my opinion of her as an idiot:

“Dunst felt Gwyneth Paltrow’s interpretation of Sylvia Plath was incorrect. According to her, Sylvia (2003) failed because Plath was “a girl who wanted to hurt. She wanted to feel terrible…I felt like, in [Paltrow’s performance], it was more like, ‘I’m the victim!’ It should have been more that she liked to create all this shit in her head. She was crazier.”

via Greencine

Canadian Hair-Splitting

An attempt to define a Canadian Cinema.

“True Hollywood Canadians, by contrast, have a Canadian identity only in their invisibility. They are visible, that is, only for Canadians intent on claiming them as their own, alert to hidden signs of those actors’ Canadianness or exercised at the lack of any such signs.”

“Canada is the essence of not being. Not English, not American. It is the mathematic of not being.” — Mike Myers

Back to New York

My circular tour of the East Coast continues: the DC leg is over and NYC beckons again, this time with a job. A good job. A film job. The job I wanted. More soon.

Film Blogger Shitstorm

I’ve been trying to decide for a few days whether to acknowledge this, but it’s getting so big now that I suppose I have to, if for no other reason than to greet the loads of new visitors I am now getting. A blogger made a strange complaint about my Hannah Takes the Stairs post, which I dismissed at the time as quackery. He complained that my post did not contain plot summary and was not a ‘traditional’ review. Something I agree with and do not apologize for, and further if anyone is looking for that they should leave now because you’ll never find it here. I didn’t go to grad school to write movie capsules. And I didn’t start a blog to write newspaper reviews. But then a blogger who should know better picked up the cause and, clearly without reading my original Hannah post, wrote a post fretting over the effect on small, indie films of “inexperienced” bloggers who “might not be qualified” to write about film. This was then picked up again and again and again by bloggers–film bloggers love to write about film blogging, you see, so it’s spreading like wildfire.

So, the original blogger who started it all with his complaint that I don’t water down my posts apologized here and here for making my blog a footnote in a debate about internet quacks bringing down indie film. They say any publicity is good publicity, but in this case I’d happily give up all the new visitors and disagree.

As for the debate itself, or rather the fears of filmmakers that film-morons with blogs now have global power to sink their films with their incoherent rants, I think it’s a non-issue. Any blogger’s writing will quickly reveal itself to be a waste of time or not. If you are a moron maybe you’ll take a moron’s word to heart, but if that’s the case you likely aren’t going to like that indie film anyway.

I Plan to Buy This Book

Filmmaker Miranda July has gone back to fiction-writing and published a new book of short stories. Some people are turned off by her ‘preciousness,’ and I admit she walks a very very very fine line with it, but I agree 100% with this reviewer’s thoughts on her:

“Ms. July is graced with an unabashed love for the basic humanity of her characters. She’s a true anomaly in that she’s able to recognize the fucked-up underbelly of the culture while still having faith in that culture’s ability to survive and, however impossibly, achieve a few moments of shattering beauty.”

And she has a cute hyperlinked promo site for the book, in keeping with her preciousness.

UPDATE: I just looked at her promo site again, she is so fucking cute. 

More on Hannah

From this Salon article about SXSW and Hannah Takes the Stairs: “An entire row of Austin women in front of me got up to leave about half an hour in, and I almost ran after them to hear their reasons.”

I can only hope it was for the reasons I mentioned in this post.

IM Chat w/Adam Roffman, Program Director, IFFBoston

untitled.JPGme: hi
adam: Hi Cynthia
me: how are you doing
me: is the festival stuff over now?
adam: tired!
me: i can imagine
adam: Still doing wrap-up. Gathering the press, mailing back some posters, paying some vendors, etc., etc. And cleaning house for the first time in months.
me: do you live full-time in boston?
adam: yep
me: i read somewhere that you do props for studio films during the rest of the year
me: does that take place in boston?
adam: Well, I do props and set decoration on studio films from May-December. January-April I take off from work to focus solely on the festival. The film work is almost entirely in Boston, RI, and New York for me. The next film I start on Monday in Rhode Island.
me: any films i’ve heard of?
adam: The Departed, Fever Pitch, State and Main, The Perfect Storm, and upcoming films include Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” and Peter Hedges “Dan In Real Life”
me: yep, i’ve heard of those
me: have you made any films, or have plans/aspirations to do so at some point?
adam: I made a one-minute short film called THE TERROR OF THE INVISIBLE MAN which played at 26 festivals and then was acquired by IFC. Now, in addition to my art department work on studio films, I am a producer on Alex Karpovsky’s new feature GENERAL IMPRESSION OF SIZE AND SHAPE and will be producing a few other features in the coming year or so
adam: I plan to direct a feature at some point, but am in no hurry. I’d rather have a great script and do it right than rush into it just so I can say “I’m a filmmaker”.
me: you are a busy man
me: do you also travel around to a lot of festivals?
adam: I go to a few each year, but my filmwork keeps me from going to as many as I would like. I make it to Sundance every year (7 years in a row now) and usually hit a few others each year. I’ve been to Seattle, Newport, Cleveland, Hamptons, IFP Market, and some others. Some of the fest staff go to Toronto every year so we get that covered too.
me: can you describe what exactly is a program director’s job?
adam: I oversee the film and special guest programming for the festival. There are 5 people on our core staff who have input in programming and as Director I make the final call on which films actually get in.
me: would you say yours is a more casual or intimate fest than most others? it seems to be to me, but i’ve only been to a few
me: been to silverdocs, and i worked with the boston jewish film fest
me: silverdocs is very corporate though
adam: I feel like it is definitely more casual and intimate from my experiences and most of our visiting filmmakers tell us the same.
me: yeah it seems like a big film party
adam: I haven’t been to Silverdocs, but hope to make it one of these years. I’m friends with Sky Sitney there.
me: whereas others seem much more professional-oriented
me: iffboston just seems much more open and approachable
me: and there seem to be many more friendships being made rather than just “networking”
adam: I think alot of that probably has to do with the fact that from top-to-bottom our staff is between the ages of 25-35. We just try to give the fest a more casual and youthful vibe.
me: also, the film announcers always take care to note that the festival is entirely volunteer-run
me: what exactly does this mean–none of you get any salary whatsoever for the festival?
me: including the directors?
adam: Yes, festival directors are volunteer as well
adam: We put every dime we make at the festival back into the festival. For the time being we are all living off our day jobs and doing the festival as a passion. We hope it gets to a point where we feel comfortable taking some salary, but for the moment we would rather put that money back into the festival and make it as successful as possible.
me: that’s amazing
me: is that common? i imagine it’s not a big money-maker generally for the staff of any festival and every fest has lots of volunteers but i don’t know how common it is for the directors to be unpaid as well, especially for one as big as iffboston
adam: I think it’s common for very small film festivals to be completely volunteer-run, but I don’t think any other festivals our size are volunteer-run from top to bottom. We’re probably unique in that way.
me: there also seem to be more men doing the organizing, which from what i’ve seen is a little unusual
me: seems like most fests are run by women
me: again, from my limited experience
adam: Umm, I am thinking of all the fests I’ve been to and whether it’s more men or women as organizers before I answer the last question
me: ok
adam: From my experience, it is pretty balanced at most of the fests I’ve gone to. BJFF and Silverdocs is almost entirely run by women and those are more the exceptions. I don’t think any of the other fests I go to have a woman as their Exec. Director or program director
me: interesting that the two i know are the exceptions
me: i also heard at silverdocs, on some panel, a complaint from filmmakers that festivals pretty much only show invited films and rarely show blind submissions
me: does iffboston show many submissions or is it mostly invites?
adam: We show more submissions than invites every year. I would say about 70-75% of the films we are show are submissions. Alot of people would like to assume that if a film played at Sundance and then plays at our festival that is was invited, but that’s often not the case. We had a number of films submitted to us this year that played Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, etc.
me: wow that’s good to hear
me: i imagine the more corporate festivals are the ones that show mostly invited films?
adam: I can’t really say since I don’t know about the inner workings of other fest’s staffs. I would make some of those same assumptions too, but people make assumptions about IFFBoston inviting films all the time and they are usually wrong.
me: is this a common complaint then?
me: sounds like you’ve heard it before
me: it was the first i’d heard of it
adam: no, once or twice a year on a filmmaker messageboard I’ll hear some filmmaker complain about that, but it’s usually coming from a film that has just been rejected so we take it with a grain of salt.
me: always some sour grapes
me: so do you have any favorites from this year’s festival?
me: or do you have a favorite genre in general?
adam: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite genre in general. I definitely lean towards darker material, but I like to mix it up. My faves this year would probably be DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT, MONKEY WARFARE, PROTAGONIST, EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY, and THE PATTERNS TRILOGY, but I am very, very happy with the program overall this year. I definitely think it was our strongest program yet.
adam: I checked your blog last night and I was excited to see that you both saw and liked KINETTA. That was a film I knew the good majority of people that saw it wouldn’t get into, but I thought it was a well-made and challenging film and I like to throw a few of those in the program each year even though I know they will probably not well attended and will get murdered in the audience vote.
me: yeah i really liked that one
me: and saw some bashing of it on some blogs
me: it takes some patience to get into
adam: exactly
me: also a strong stomach!
me: i wish i had one, i can’t handle the shaky cameras
adam: so I read
me: happens frequently in indie film unfortunately
adam: luckily, the shaky camera thing doesn’t get to me. I see alot of it going through the submission process
me: i’m bummed that i missed day night day night
me: but hopefully i’ll get to see it at another time
adam: I know it will come out on dvd at the very least. And probably have a one-week run at the Kendall
me: cool
me: did you go to film school?
adam: I went to Radford University (in Virginia) for undergrad and Emerson College for Grad School, both for video production. Then I left grad school a credit shy and started working on Bill Nye, The Science Guy for a season, and then started working on films.
me: leaving grad/film school early makes sense, especially if there’s work available
me: i was film studies so didn’t get to make any films
me: but i’ve been writing screenplays lately and very much want to make one
me: we need some female mumblecores!
adam: I would advise against film school for most people serious about working in the business, except for the growing up/maturing factor. As far as working your way up the ladder, college only slows that down.
me: that’s what i tended to hear from some people outside of grad school, working in the business
adam: I would love to see some female mumblecores! I enjoy films with female protagonists much more anyway.
me: yeah we really need it
me: i have no problem with male directors we just need to add more females to the mix
me: so i need to get moving
me: and make one!
adam: yeah lazy! Get on it!
me: 🙂
me: so do you have any advice for someone interested in starting a festival, what would be the first thing you would do? (or did)
me: i had for some time been thinking boston needed a doc fest, but iffboston covers docs pretty well
me: and the kind of doc i like isn’t made often anymore
me: a more arty doc rather than the typical doc, which is more like journalism
adam: I don’t know why, but I’m having a hard time answering that “first thing to do” question. We do try to cover the docs pretty extensively at the festival and that has always been the strongest part of the program. I think a doc fest would be cool, but I don’t know that there would be enough good docs in a year to support both IFFB and a separate docfest.
me: yeah that was my concern
me: even at silverdocs there are only a handful that i really like
me: as for the ‘first thing to do’ your response is pretty much the same as i got from some other festival people
me: some said pick a date
me: some said pick a venue
me: but the rest is kind of ummmmm
adam: I was going to say “venue”. That is kind of the most important thing to do when starting a fest. Figuring out if it is in the neighborhood of your target audience, making sure it’s not the stronghold of another festival, making sure it is accessible to public transportation, etc.
me: yeah
me: and having a strong theme would help
me: have you heard of the true/false festival?
adam: of course!
me: i like the idea of that festival
me: have you been?
me: i’d love to go but have never made it yet
adam: no, it’s way too close to our dates for me to be able to attend. Same with Sarasota, Nashville, HotDocs, etc.
me: i met the director of that fest at silverdocs last year he was kind of stumped by my question about starting a fest too
adam: Like I said, I think the venues are key. Part of the reason it may stump people is because they are probably thinking back to what they did when they started their fest, not the important thing they learned by year 2 that they should have done from the beginning.
me: yeah
me: so what’s on the radar for iffboston now, do things shut down or is there work to be done throughout the year?
adam: we are starting our monthly screening series at the end of May with a film called THE HAWK IS DYING starring Paul Giamatti and Michelle Williams. It will be at the Somerville Theatre. Date TBD.
me: interesting
me: we’ll watch for that

On Guy Maddin

“Go fuck your couch, you Canadian!”

Chunklet’s “The Most Overrated Indie/Underground/Art Filmmakers of All Time!”

via Bitter Cinema


Hmmm, my review of Hannah takes the Stairs is noted, misinterpreted, and linked to by the Guardian blog … mine was a negative review, of both the film and the “Mumblecore” movement, but they say I am lauding it? I suppose I alternately laud and chide in that review, and they are merely selectively and reductively referencing me. Thanks for the nod, though.

Zizek, No Thanks

I skipped the doc about Slavoj Zizek at IFFBoston because I’ve already been to grad school and didn’t want to sit through another film-studies lecture, and judging from this post I’m glad I did:

…[I suspect] Zizek’s contrarianism is just a sort of idiotic macho one-upmanship (as in: I can be even more outrageous and anti-commonsensical than anybody else), of the same sort that is routinely practiced by right-wing political economists like David Friedman and Steven Landsburg (who delight in arguring, for instance, that Ralph Nader’s safety regulations caused automobile accidents to increase), or evolutionary theorists like the guys (whose names escape me at the moment) who wrote about how rape was an adaptive strategy.

There is something drearily reactive about always trying to prove that the opposite of what everyone else thinks is really correct. It’s an elitist gesture of trumpeting one’s own independence from the (alleged) common herd; but at the same time, it reveals a morbid dependence upon, or concern with, the very majority opinions that one pretends to scorn. If all you are doing is inverting common opinion, that is the clearest sign possible that you are utterly dependent upon such common opinion: it motivates and governs your every gesture. That is why you need so badly to negate it. Zizek totally depends upon the well-meaning, right-thinking liberal ideology that he sets out to frustrate and contradict at every turn. His own ideas remain parasitic upon those of the postmodern, multicultural consensus that he claims to upset.

via Greencine

IFFBoston: Awards

Once again, the audience at IFFBoston had different priorities than I, as I have seen only one of the festival winners (YEAR OF THE FISH):

Grand Jury Prize:

(Narrative Feature) DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT
(Documentary Feature) THE KING OF KONG
(Short Film) POP FOUL

Special Jury Prize:

(Narrative Feature) MONKEY WARFARE
(Documentary Feature) KAMP KATRINA
(Short Film) SONGBIRD

Audience Awards:

(Narrative Feature) YEAR OF THE FISH
(Documentary Feature) DARIUS GOES WEST
(Short Film) FREEHELD

Dewars Collective Choice Award:


Apple Programmers Choice Award: