16 items from 2009
It's hard to believe that we're almost a full decade away from the year 2000, the new year wrongly destined to bring down the world with computer failure and chaos. A lot has happened in the last ten years, not only with the world-at-large, but also in Hollywood. In 2000, Sofia Coppola was kicking off her career with The Virgin Suicides, Christian Bale became an American Psycho, and we finally got a taste of the X-Men. As it all winds down, we've got James Cameron creating amazing technology for Avatar, a blockbuster franchise for teen girls, and the seemingly unfilmable Watchmen in full, blue-penis glory.
But what now?
As we head to the next decade, I find myself looking hopefully forward more than back. A lot has changed, but so much has stayed the same, and so much can still be improved. Of course, at the forefront of my mind is more »
- Monika Bartyzel
Whit Stillman hasn't made a lot of films. In fact, there are only three: Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco. All filmed in the '90s, his trio of movies morphed from upper-class teen Manhattanites, to heading out into the international working world, and finally to a look into the end of disco. Unfortunately, the last was sadly overlooked because another big disco fest hit the big screen -- 54 -- which may have been terrible, but with the likes of Mike Myers and a big-name cast, it was the flick in the spotlight.
Nestled in the shadows was The Last Days of Disco, starring Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale as two young book editors who fill their nights with dance and banter while looking for romance. Each night, as they head to the club, they come across a myriad of faces, from the Stillman pro Chris Eigeman, to the likes of Mackenzie Astin, »
- Monika Bartyzel
Last week, America's indie film community took a long, hard look at its precarious state.
After industry pros flew back home from the Toronto International Film Festival -- heads throbbing from too many drinks, not enough sleep and the lackluster marketplace, where few films were bought and sold -- many headed straight to the Ifp's annual Independent Film Week and Conference, a 31-year-old event where people like Jim Jarmusch, the Coen brothers, Michael Moore, Whit Stillman, Todd Haynes and Todd Solondz first stepped through the industry's door. Capping off the run of whining and redefining was an "Indie Film Summit," a meeting of some 60 significant distributors, producers and other insiders at the Museum of Modern Art, all looking for answers in these tumultuous times, when economic and technological changes have irrevocably shattered the conventional models of making and distributing movies.
For first-time filmmakers entering the business during this moment of upheaval, »
- Anthony Kaufman
Director/Writer: Whit Stillman
Cinematographer: John Thomas
Studio/Run Time: Castle Rock Entertainment, 113 mins.
Whitewashed disco comedy as tasteful as a polyester suit
Near the end of this woefully ahistorical 1998 comedy about yuppies hooking up at an opulent disco, one guy rants: “Disco was too great, and too much fun to be gone forever! It’s got to come back someday. I just hope it will be in our own lifetimes.” Out of print for a decade, and recently restored by Criterion, the film follows two shallow roommates, Alice and Charlotte (Sevigny and Beckinsale), as they listlessly shake their groove things with other uptight professionals in the early ’80s. In Stillman’s envisioning of this seedy decade, New York was already like an episode of Friends: squeaky clean subways and back alleys; whitewashed, unfunny characters; totally bereft of the gay Latinos and African-Americans that made »
If asked to make a movie about how the yuppie ascendancy of the early ’80s helped squeeze the funkiness out of New York, most filmmakers would make the yuppies the bad guys. Not so Whit Stillman. Stillman’s 1998 comedy The Last Days Of Disco follows a group of privileged young New Yorkers as they strive to cobble together a social life and an identity while embarking on careers in advertising, publishing, law, and nightclub management. Stillman makes them the heroes of his story, though he doesn’t let any of them off the hook, exactly. Like the characters in »
It's not easy being a fan of Whit Stillman's. We fall for Metropolitan in 1990, get an international treat 4 years later with Barcelona, and then The Last Days of Disco another 4 years after that. Eleven years since, we're still waiting for a fourth -- for any of the many projects on Stillman's plate to come to actual fruition and reach our eager eyes. Granted, it could be worse. Three fun films and silence is probably better than filmmakers who continue to throw out work that doesn't begin to meet their early success, or directors who jump into an entirely different path and leave behind the beloved work that gave them their name.
All this said, there is a new treat today for Stillman fans -- Criterion's release of The Last Days of Disco.
It's perfect for a double-header with the previously released Metropolitan, but I wonder about other possibilities. What »
- Monika Bartyzel
- Tons of stuff out on DVD worth watching, collecting, seeing for the first time, seeing for a second time and seeing for one time only (Duplicity). We begin with one of the best pictures of the year in Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo (which comes equipped with a commentary track from the filmmaker and cinematographer Michael Simmonds). After bringing out films such as Branded to Kill, Criterion continues their further interest with a 5 film box set from Japan's Nikkatsu Noir period (I'll let their page do the heavy talking). Whit Stillman receives more Cc treatment, this time for his The Last Days of Disco and the one that is definitely worth checking out is Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (check out the clip on the Criterion site). The Last Days of Disco New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Whit Stillman Audio »
I had no idea what to expect from The Last Days of Disco. My experience with Kate Beckinsale began with Pearl Harbor and only goes back as far as Brokedown Palace (a film I don't even remember her in). Chloe Sevigny I didn't really know until 2003's Shattered Glass and have hardly gotten to know her since, outside of her role in Zodiac. On top of all that I had not seen a Whit Stillman feature. So to say I was approaching this one cold is an understatement. Actually, it was as if I was seeing Beckinsale and Sevigny for the very first time as they don't even resemble the actresses they have become, especially Beckinsale. Taking place in the early 1980s, The Last Days of Disco centers on Charlotte (Beckinsale) and Alice (Sevigny), two recent Ivy League college grads working in book publishing and spending their evenings in Manhattan's Studio 54-esque night club. »
- Brad Brevet
This week I caught up with one television show and ventured into Whit Stillman territory for the first time... Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Quick Thoughts: Recently I asked a group of critics prior to a film screening what they thought of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Everyone seemed to say they enjoyed it and one person said he thought it was funny. This was my second time watching this movie as I still have the HD DVD from Universal and wanted to give it another chance after not particularly taking to it the first time. When it comes down to it I have no real opinion one way or the other. The film is okay and I really want the Criterion edition for the three separate commentaries, but other than that it's simply a'ight. There is, however, one thing I did take away from it, which was »
- Brad Brevet
- Closing out the week we have word from Wall Street, news from Criterion, casting news for a vampire lesbian pic and we are getting ready for Tiff - a full 26 days in advance. Here is a look at eight and 1/2 news items that we didn't have enough time to cover but are worth mentioning here for the 14th of August. 1. Take a Pill Status of Bradley Rust Gray's in development Jack & Diane is Alison Pill replaced the more expensive, busier Ellen Page. (Thanks to Slashfilm.com for pointing it out) 2. Passion Before Profits Benten Films' Andrew Grant and Aaron Hillis aren't giving up either of their day jobs in tough economy. (Via Wall Street Journal) 3. Wasn't this Already in the Bag? Carey Mulligan joins Gekko in co. (Via THR) 4. Ideal Bed Partners IFC and Criterion Collection coming together for Gomorrah & A Christmas Tale. (Via Fin de cinema »
DVD Playhouse—August 2009
Watchmen—Director’S Cut (Warner Bros.) Director Zack Snyder’s film of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ landmark graphic novel is as worthy an adaptation of a great book that has ever been filmed. In an alternative version of the year 1985, Richard Nixon is serving his third term as President and super heroes have been outlawed by a congressional act, in spite of the fact that two of the most high-profile “masks,” Dr. Manhattan (Billy Cruddup) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) helped the U.S. win the Vietnam War. When The Comedian is found murdered, many former heroes become concerned that a conspiracy is afoot to assassinate retired costumed crime fighters. Former masks Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) and still-operating Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley, in an Oscar-worthy turn) launch an investigation of their own, all while the Pentagon’s “Doomsday »
- The Hollywood Interview.com
I've learned my lesson on not falling into excitement about Whit Stillman news. As much as we've been asking over the years for more Whitty fare, all news seems to fade into development nothingness. But this bit of news -- this is only a few steps away. Following in the steps of the wonderful Metropolitan (a film that scored New Line its first Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay), The Last Days of Disco is going Criterion.
The release, which will hit shelves on August 25, 2009, is a director-approved special edition that has a whole bunch of goodies that are just about the best thing for a fan wanting more Stillman. There's a new digital transfer, but that's nothing compared to: An audio commentary with Stillman, Chloe Sevigny, and Chris Eigeman (score!), four deleted scenes also with commentary, an audio recording of the director reading a chapter from The Last Days of Disco, »
- Monika Bartyzel
It's been a while, but if you have a good memory, you might remember that I quite like The Tooch... Stanley Tucci. He whipped up magic as Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, but more importantly, he's the man behind Big Night -- one of the best foodie films Hollywood has seen. (Of course, he's also heading back to food with the upcoming Julie & Julia, but that's not the same.)
Now Variety reports that Tucci is gearing up to film a comedic drama called The Hunter, and he's grabbed Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson, and Julianne Moore to star. Written by The Tooch himself, the film is a coming-of-age story set in the aristocracy of New York's Upper Westchester County. Brosnan will play a middle-aged man clinging to the memories of his "once-charmed life and world." The Whit Stillman fan in me wants Chris Eigeman in a role like that, but I can dig Brosnan, »
- Monika Bartyzel
There’s a fairly clever bit of dialogue in Whit Stillman’s Barcelona where Chris Eigeman’s character wonders aloud about sub-text. It’s a wonderful, seemingly random bit of conversation that remarkably solidifies Eigeman’s character. The upshot is that Eigeman’s character is lost as to all this ‘sub-text’ nonsense people keep bandying about, and he eventually asks what is the part of the story that isn’t the sub-text. The text, comes the quick answer, naturally. It’s a strange bit of conversation that probably sounds useless, but in the context of the movie it speaks volumes for the way the character thinks, and his reaction to the answer he’s given says even more. If that character from Barcelona had only ever seen one movie, and that movie was Dragonslayer, his confusion might not be at all surprising. Dragonslayer is a film so completely riddled with sub-text, »
- Marc Eastman
A scene from Kagemusha
Photo: Criterion Collection Back at the end of March it was sadly announced Akira Kurosawa's Ran would not be able to be release on Criterion Blu-ray due to some sort of a rights issue. This meant Criterion's only May Blu-ray release would be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which -- if you read my review -- was fine with me, but I am more interested in old classics rather than the new ones from Criterion and it now appears a Kurosawa gem is taking the place of Ran, with a much better selection if you ask me. A scene from Kagemusha
Photo: Criterion Collection While I am sure most people would rather see Yojimbo, Rashomon, Ikiru or Seven Samurai as the first Criterion Blu-ray, the just announced August 18 release of Kagemusha is fine by me. A scene from Kagemusha
Photo: Criterion Collection Just look »
- Brad Brevet
After the films of Whit Stillman and a little slice of Sussudio mayhem, I'm a sucker for films that dip into 1980s Manhattan. There's this harsh yet ethereal quality to the projects; they're removed from the largest thrush of '80s cheese, yet somehow balance the remaining media with this pensive and other-worldly lifestyle. But what happens when a woman decides to enter the world?
The Hollywood Reporter posts that Julie Anne Quay, "a fashion-world figure and former executive editor at V magazine," has grabbed the rights to Lee Tulloch's satire Fabulous Nobodies, for Braveheart producer Elisabeth Robinson to adapt. The book focuses on a shallow and superficial Manhattanite named Reality Nirvana who works as a "Doorwhore" (picking who gets into a trendy club), "allowing in the flashily dressed but turning away more classically elegant types like Jackie Onassis."
Sigh. There's certainly promise for the project, especially if it lives »
- Monika Bartyzel
16 items from 2009
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