The House


Richard Linklater backstage

I have to make a screening so this has to be a short one. Insert acknowledgement of the double entendre. Insert acknowledgement of the double entendre. Meta!

Ebertfest is going splendidly. As always, the social aspect of the festival overshadows the films, even though the selection is great. Two nights ago—or was it last night—(the amalgamation of time is a direct result of sleep deprivation and a Klingon plot to destroy the Federation) a large group, including yours truly (you can't have a wedding without the bride), went karaoke-ing. And when I say a large group, I believe there must have been fifty of us. The following day, Matt Singer of IFC and Ebert Presents At the Movies, remarked to me and Kevin Lee, of Fandor, that karaoke has become an intrinsic part of the NY film festival experience, and that it was fun to see it adopted by people from all over the country, and, in fact, the world. Matt, by the way, delivered a searing rendition of a Michael McDonald tune, as the ladies of Champaign flocked to his feet, Pied Piper of Hamlin-like was his hold on them. Everyone sang. Including Chaz Ebert, who knows all the words, and the moves, to Superfreak. She's a very sexy girl, that Chaz. The one you don't take home to your mother, etc.

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TAGS: chaz ebert, ebertfest, ignatiy vishnevetsky, kevin b. lee, matt singer, me and orson welles, mike leigh, orson welles, richard linklater, roger ebert, superfreak, topsy-turvy


Wong Kar-wai

[Editor's Note: The Conversations is a monthly feature in which Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard discuss a wide range of cinematic subjects: critical analyses of films, filmmaker overviews, and more. Readers should expect to encounter spoilers.]

Jason Bellamy: "When did everything start to have an expiration date?" That's a question posed by a lovelorn cop in Wong Kar-wai's 1994 film Chungking Express, and in a sense that line is a snapshot of what Wong's films are all about. In the 20 years and change that Wong has been directing, he's developed several signature flourishes that make his films instantly recognizable—from his striking use of deep, rich colors, to his affinity for repetitive musical sequences, to his judicious use of slow motion for emotional effect, and many more—but at the core of Wong's filmography is an acute awareness of passing time and a palpable yearning for things just out of reach. In the line above, the cop in Chungking Express is ostensibly referring to the expiration dates on cans of pineapple, which he's using to mark the days since his girlfriend dumped him, but in actuality he's referring to that failed relationship, to his (somewhat) fleeting youth (he's approaching his 25th birthday) and to the deadline he has created for his girlfriend to reconsider and take him back. In the cop's mind, at least, whether they will be together has as much to do with when as with why. Or put more simply: if timing isn't everything, it's a lot of it.

That theme pops up again and again in Wong's films. Roger Ebert zeroed in on it in his 2001 review of Wong's In the Mood for Love when he observed of the two lead characters, "They are in the mood for love, but not in the time or place for it." While that's particularly true of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, it could readily be applied to almost all of Wong's lead characters. In this conversation we're going to discuss Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love (2000), 2046 (2004) and My Blueberry Nights (2007), and over and over again we'll see characters united by emotion but kept apart by timing. So I'd like to open by asking you the following: Do the recurring themes of Wong's body of work strengthen the potency and poetry of the individual films or water them down? Put another way, are Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express enhanced by In the Mood for Love and 2046 or obliterated by them, or are they not significantly affected one way or the other?

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TAGS: 2046, andy lau, brigitte lin, cat power, chan marshall, christopher doyle, chungking express, david strathairn, days of being wild, faye wong, in the mood for love, jacky cheung, jude law, leslie cheung, maggie cheung, my blueberry nights, natalie portman, norah jones, rachel weisz, takeshi kaneshiro, the conversations, valerie chow, wong kar-wai, zhang ziyi


Fabolous

[Editor's Note: "The Blender" is a new series dedicated to highlighting notable new releases in the mixtape world.]

A rhymer no less gifted than T.S. Eliot once said that April is the cruelest month, and the first couple weeks' worth of rap releases seem to bear him out. Not only did rap fans receive word that Weezy's latest Carter joint would be shelved for at least another two months, but the mixtape game is looking sadly stagnant after a dynamite run of March offerings. If I wanted to wait for music (or, God forbid, pay for it), I wouldn't be listening to mixtapes to begin with. I like mixtapes because they're all about instant gratification: no endlessly pushed back street dates, no pesky copyright lawyers standing between that unsigned MC and the hot Bo1da track he or she was somehow destined to rhyme over.

And in that spirit, we start this edition of "The Blender" by going straight for the "most anticipated"—that is, the most aggressively marketed—mixtape to drop in the last couple weeks. Fabolous landed a surprisingly solid hit with last year's "You Be Killin' Em" (from his There Is No Competition 2 EP), but the single's unexpected ascent on the rap-radio charts came at a bad time for the NYC rapper, who, pursuant to Def Jam's characteristically sluggish release schedule, wasn't planning to push an album until late this year. The minor viral offensive launched on behalf of The S.O.U.L. Tape is pretty clearly an attempt to maximize his exposure, and being that the holdover album has been downloaded nearly 200,000 times in the last week, I'd say the campaign has paid off. The mixtape itself? It's not so clearly a success.

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TAGS: a-mafia, benjamin flocka, black thoughts 2, covert coup, curreny, donnis, fabolous, sinatti pop, southern lights, the blender, the making of, the s.o.u.l. tape, tyga, waka flocka flame, what the streets made me


Steve Carell

Matt Zoller Seitz says farewell to Steve Carell's Michael Scott.

Portishead's Adrian Utley on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and his soundtrack work.

John Paul II's beatification proves polarizing and how the sex abuse scandal stained his papacy.

A queer endeavor by Nathan Lee.

She Monkeys and Bombay Beach top Tribeca Film Festival jury awards.

Peter Bogdanovich reviews A Star Is Born.

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TAGS: a star is born, adrian utley, bamcinemafest, bombay beach, david bordwell, donald trump, imogen smith, john paul ii, kevin b. lee, martin scorsese, matt zoller seitz, nantucket film festival, nathan lee, observations on film art, oxhide ii, peter bogdanovich, portishead, seattle international film festival, she monkeys, steve carell, taxi driver, tribeca film festival


Safe Area GoraždeWith everything that's been going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, etc. of late, it could occur to a restless young person that it would be a good idea—because it's exciting and morally justifiable—to go to such places and report on what's happening, to record the stories of war and revolution. An idea like that—specifically, to go to Benghazi, Libya—occurred to this reviewer only a couple months ago. Some people said it was a brilliant idea, exactly what a young journalist should be doing, heading to where the news is with a laptop, a camera, and a satellite phone, while others (family members) said it was an awful, disgusting idea, horribly selfish, and reckless.

While my plans have been tossed into the garbage, for the time being, the cartoonist Joe Sacco is someone who's done such things, has gone to hot spots and reported—artistically, seriously—on what life was like there. He first traveled to the Middle East in the early 1990s, and his experiences there became fodder for his graphic novel Palestine. After that, he went to the Balkans. Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition is not just a repackaging of Sacco's illustrated report on the Bosnian War; it's practically a DIY instruction manual on alternative journalism, a primer that reveals not just how someone gets into an isolated hot spot like Goražde, but how that person can believe he or she is capable of doing so in the first place.

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TAGS: fantagraphics books, gary groth, george orwell, goražde, hunter s. thompson, joe sacco, safe area goražde, safe area goražde the special edition, srebenica, werner herzog


The Motherfuckin' Natural Selection Q&A

If you're like me (and everyone should try to be at least once in their lives), you enjoy that hearty, full-bodied, elemental component of language that is the swear word. There is nothing quite as satisfying as an ebullient FUCK, in all senses of the word. Peppering it over your daily conversation might not make you more friends (though it certainly should), but it does make everything that much more bearable, and, such as it is, sincere. All of which is a convoluted way of saying Robbie Pickering, the writer-director of Natural Selection, one of the two films that opened Ebertfest 13 on the evening of Thursday 27th, is, officially, my hero. The fucker swears like a fucking sailor. During the Q&A after the screening, I tweeted just that, only to receive a reply from someone who said: "How does the lack of skilled use of English language make panel better?" Well, firstly, that's "a panel." Let's not forget the indefinite article: after all, we're not louts. And, secondly, it just fucking does.

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TAGS: chaz ebert, ebertfest, fritz lang, ignatiy vishnevetsky, karen hoffmann, kristin thompson, matt o’leary, matt zoller seitz, metropolis, michael phillips, natural selection, rachael harris, robbie pickering, roger ebert, the alloy orchestra


Barack Obama Birth Certificate

President Obama releases "long form" birth certificate.

Is Chris Colfer a genius? Matt Zoller Seitz thinks so.

The death toll from severe storms that punished five Southern U.S. states jumped to a staggering 178 Thursday after Alabama canvassed its hard-hit counties for a new tally of lives lost.

The Drama League nominations were announced yesterday in New York.

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TAGS: barack obama, chris colfer, chris matthews, claire denis, claire denis film scores 1996-2009, dennis lim, glee, julianne moore, matt zoller seitz, pitchfork, sam nzima, sarah palin, tea party, the drama league, tindersticks


Coming Up in This Column: Certified Copy, Win Win, Potiche, The Lincoln Lawyer, White Savage, Key Largo, The Starter Screenplay (book), The Escort (play)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Fan Mail: As I suspected, my comments on Uncle Boonmee pissed off some people. Both the ever-vigilant David Ehrenstein and "JF" felt I was not appreciating the complexity of the film. The problem I had was that it was not complex enough. I was ready, willing and able to deal with those elements. As I made clear in my opening comments, I was greatly looking forward to seeing the film precisely because of the elements critics have liked. What bothered me is that "Joe," as Apichatpong Weerasethakul likes to be called in the West, had not done enough of that sort of thing. As for David's comments on many people finding Imitation of Life (1959) emotionally overwhelming, I know that they do, and for a great variety of reasons. The script problems I pointed out make it difficult for the film to work that way for me.

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TAGS: certified copy, key largo, potiche, the escort, the lincoln lawyer, the starter screenplay, understanding screenwriting, white savage, win win


Marie LosierMarie Losier is an experimental filmmaker and the film programmer at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) who has brought both her unconventional, intuitive filmmaking methods and her vast film knowledge to the making of her first feature film, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a documentary about the unconventional love story between Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV musician Genesis P-Orridge and his—and then her—wife, Lady Jaye. It's a heartfelt and unusual masterpiece, and one of the strongest films in this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Marie is a charming blend of otherworldly and gently down-to-earth. She was a pleasure to talk to about the process of finding the form for this unusual and moving film.

There are so many great songs to choose from, and you chose such beautiful ones. How did you end up with those?

I had 15 layers of sounds, so there's a mix of tons of sounds. There are the environment sounds where I would put the mic in the house, then there's sound of rehearsals, and I use a lot of this music because it was live and it doesn't exist on record, it was just that moment that they were practicing and playing. And with those, I chose a lot of the songs that were free, that were from Psychic TV3, the band that I spent time with, because I knew I could use these songs. And then from Thee Majesty, which is Bryin Dall and Genesis. And Bryin also helped me mix the sounds, and he does all the mixing for Psychic TV. So that's how I chose. But I knew I didn't have the rights for the last song which I love, "The Orchids," so that's the one song I had to pay rights for, with Sony. Because, with Gen, there's so many songs that she just sold the rights for over the years, just to live. So it was a complicated process. But sounds and music were as important to me as the editing of the image.

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TAGS: bryin dall, genesis p-orridge, guy maddin, lady jaye, marie losier, martin marquet, pandrogyne, psychic tv, psychic tv3, richard forman, sony, steve holmgren, the ballad of genesis and lady jaye, the orchids, thee majesty, throbbing gristle, tony conrad, tribeca film festival


The Normal Heart

Following showings of the new Broadway revival of The Normal Heart, audiences are handed a letter written by the play's author, Larry Kramer. Titled "Please Know," this epistle is, like the play itself, a provocation—a cutting indictment of the bureaucratic greed, political self-interest, and apathy within the gay community that continues to stand in the way of AIDS research and education. Why is The Normal Heart still relevant? Because Kramer, in his own words, has "never seen such wrongs as this plague, in all its guises, represents, and continues to say about us all."

The subject of this remarkable play isn't only AIDS and what it says about us all, from gays and our friends to politicos and Big Pharma; like Kramer's brilliant Faggots, a hilarious, fiercely intelligent, stinging, heartbreaking account of gay life in post-Stonewall New York City, it's also about Kramer's brutalizing anger and how he righteously turned it into a call to action. The play's lead, writer and activist Ned Weeks, is a stand-in for Kramer, just as the nameless organization he founds, and from which he's removed on the eve of finally getting face time with the city's mayor, is the Gay Men's Health Crisis. He isn't the play's hero exactly, but his volcanic, justified rage is very much heroic, and it fuels the text's most devastating, customarily articulate, takedowns of the people and organizations—Koch, Reagan, The New York Times, the Centers for Disease Control, even the very gays Faggots helped to liberate—that allowed AIDS to happen.

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TAGS: brad davis, centers of disease control, ed koch, ellen barkin, faggots, gay mens health crisis, george c. wolfe, jim parsons, joe mantello, joel grey, john benjamin hickey, larry kramer, lee pace, luke macfarlane, ronald reagan, the new york times, the normal heart







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