Sunday, August 31, 2008

Confessions of a Bootlegger

I've been a bootlegger for seven years. That all ends tonight when I pull the plug on It will no longer be a viable "grey market" site after tonight.

I got into the bootleg business as revenge. I was in desperate need of a few movies and was unable to trade for them. Instead, I was charged through the nose for them. Rather than see anyone else pay the exorbitant prices I did, I decided to sell copies for cheap in order to make up what I had paid as well as unleash these titles to the world; effectively undermining the guys that ripped me off.

Don't piss me off.

Thus, was born. I had registered the domain years before, not knowing what to do with such a wonderfully-named site other than hosting an animation of a drawing I traced out of a Japanese magazine. Now I could try my hand at making an e-commerce/database-driven site.

Out of the blue, a stranger offered to help me put some of my more popular titles on DVDr - a new format to the time - a home-made DVD that played on most of the new DVD machines. Soon things evolved and this stranger went from a guy converting things to one DVDr to him being my partner in crime -- fulfilling orders from his secret underground lair.

I was the murky face of the business -- buying new titles, making deals for things, and gathering a stock that would make my old tape-trading buddies drool. I started garnering a "name" in the bootleg biz, helped quite a bit by an article in Cinemascope by Jonathan Rosenbaum which lauded the rarities I had amassed.

Meanwhile, my partner toiled in obscurity, his life ruled by the order queue that I maintained.

We had our spats -- my partner always had a knack of misplacing things or having massive harddrive meltdowns. I could never get rid of anything or misplace anything, never knowing when my partner would need me to send it to him. This got fairly frustrating.

I tried to stay within the spirit of the law, if not the letter. I tried to only sell titles that weren't available on DVD in the United States. This became more difficult as more and more titles found their way out. I eventually gave up even trying to carry certain directors as they kept being released by obscure DVD outfits.

In actuality, I loved that the titles on SuperHappyFun were being ousted by legitimate release. My dream is that all of the two thousand films we once carried would be as easy to get as the latest hot release. I want a world where the grey market isn't necessary; where all movies are available via a massive movie server where they could be viewed in their original aspect ratio with their original running time with any/all languages available as audio tracks and/or subtitles. Keep dreaming, I know.

Things got weird a few times when I got cease & desist orders. Matthew Barney's lawyers were not happy about me selling copies of Cremaster when the "artist" could fetch a few hundred grand for copies (no lie). David Lynch's people didn't like that the Rabbits webseries showed up on my site (though they didn't mention the Mulholland Drive TV Pilot -- the video that really started the whole business. Remarkably, I never heard from George Lucas's legal team even with multiple fan edits of The Phantom Menace prominent on the site (the other film that pushed me over the edge, along with Jim Morrison's HWY).

Along the way, I tried to branch out a bit. Read about that fiasco here.

When my partner lost his day job, I encouraged him to start his own site and sell the scads of titles he had that I didn't want to sell (too close to being illegal for me). Oh, what bad advice. A few weeks after his site finally opened I found that he was selling some of the same things I was. Essentially, I was competing... against myself. That wouldn't do.

Rather than going ballistic, I decided that this was my chance to get out of the business. No longer would I have to refuse all registered mail (the way all previous C&D letters had come) and constantly scan New Release lists to find out what new titles I'd have to pull from my site.

This is the year of clean-up, apparently. I pulled the plug on Cashiers du Cinemart and now I'm sunsetting Now I can finally clean out my basement and start getting rid of the hundred of VHS tapes and DVDs that have been cluttering my life for so long. (Be sure to check back for announcements of DVD sales on ebay or something). Time to cut the things that don't make me money or happy.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hot Pix and Trash Flix - A TIFF Revelation

Ah-ha! I just found out why so many of the films to which I was looking forward seem to be missing from the Press/Industry schedule. Apparently, there's a separate schedule called "Priority Press" to which I'm not privy. Privilege to one of these passes "depends mainly on the periodicity of the outlet and the coverage done during the Festival. Most of the daily newspapers and wire news agencies are provided with priority passes."

Sadly, that's not me.

While I may be blogging away on a daily basis, I'm simply not big enough to merit one of these passes. No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm just stating a fact. It's a fair cop that keeps these screenings reserved for the hard working journalists while keeping the rabble away. No more kvetching from Roger Ebert that he didn't get into a particular screening while some schlub like me did.

It is interesting, though, to note what films are being held in this esteem. A lot of them are films which should be getting press screenings around the country over the next few weeks/months including Burn After Reading (opening while the Festival is still in progress), Secret Life of Bees, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (a title which causes me no small amount of duress), Rachel Getting Married, et cetera. Note that all of the "Priority Press" screenings take place during the first six of the ten day screening schedule.

The real puzzler are those oddball titles that merit a "Press Priority" screening without being "A" players. This includes The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World, Still Walking, Soul Power, and Kisses. How odd to limit the audience for these smaller films (not that I'd be banging down the door to see them).

A few of the "Priority Press" screenings are getting secondary screenings for the Press/Industry rabble, sure (including The Brother Bloom and American Swing), and I'll try to fit them into my schedule when possible, though having more opportunities to see them and having any opportunity to see something like Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler would be nice.

I thought that last year I had the chance to see any/all press screenings including those marked as "Priority Press" as I was under the impression that I'm press and am given priority but I've since learned that "The access of the Priority Press screenings are only for the Priority press passes." I figured maybe the "big boys" had first dibs and then we small fries got to fill in the empty seats behind Rex Reed or those AICN blokes.

Regardless, I'd try to queue up for The Wrestler and report back, dear reader, but it's playing against J.T. Petty's The Burrowers and I know that Petty's flick won't be getting a release wide enough to include Detroit any time soon.

Gathering Headlines!

Word from the Drew Barrymore camp is that she's heard Uncle Leon & The Alibis' "Roller Derby Saved My Soul". The verdict? Not sure. But it's pretty apparent that "the people" have spoken! The move to convince Drew to include the song on the soundtrack of her upcoming film Whip It! continues to grow!

Check out all these headlines / postings!

The petition has crossed the 350+ mark. Let the people be heard!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Toronto International Film Festival 2008 - Rough Schedule

It never fails.

Hours... even days (!) go by without anything that I really want to see. And then there's just a glut of films all starting at the same time or a half hour apart.

It then becomes my task to sort out the mess -- trying to find films to fill the holes and then deciding, "Will I be able to see this in a mainstream theater back home in a few months? Will this be on DVD in Malaysia in a few weeks? Has this director let me down before?"

That said, here's my very rough schedule for Toronto. There are still a few holes to fill and still a few times that I need to eliminate. This definitely doesn't accurately express everything I want to see at TIFF08!

Pre-Festival Pick
Either Hamlet 2 or The House Bunny

September 4, 2008
RocknRolla9:00 AMVARSITY 8
Ghost Town2:30 PMVARSITY 8
Two-Legged Horse4:00 PMVARSITY 2
Paranoids8:00 PMVARSITY 5

September 5, 2008
Good, the Bad, the Weird11:15 AMVARSITY 1
Krabat2:30 PMVARSITY 4
Witch Hunt5:00 PMVARSITY 7
Edison & Leo7:45 PMVARSITY 7

September 6, 2008
7915 KM2:45 PMVARSITY 5
Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms5:15 PMVARSITY 5
Empreinte de l'ange6:15 PMVARSITY 2

September 7, 2008
Me and Orson Welles10:00 AMAMC 2
Deadgirl1:15 PMAMC 10
Plastic City3:45 PMAMC 10
Good 6:00 PMVARSITY 3
Peace Mission7:45 PMVARSITY VIP 3

September 8, 2008
Adam Resurrected9:00 AMVARSITY 6
Brothers Bloom10:00 AMCUMBERLAND 3
Dungeon Masters12:00 PMVARSITY VIP 3
Burrowers3:15 PMVARSITY 4
Sauna4:45 PMVARSITY 6
Detroit Metal City7:45 PMVARSITY 5

September 9, 2008
American Swing9:15 AMVARSITY 8
Hurt Locker12:00 PMCUMBERLAND 3
Martyrs3:15 PMVARSITY 3
Acolytes3:45 PMVARSITY 2
Religulous5:45 PMVARSITY 3

September 10, 2008
Not Quite Hollywood9:00 AMCUMBERLAND 4
Sexykiller12:15 PMVARSITY 2

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Taken Online

Thanks to Mike Thompson for pointing out that neoexploitation film Taken has been popping up online. The movie's not slated for a U.S. release until Jan 2009 but it's already available in Europe (also known as 96 Hours) and apparently out on DVD in Japan. I'm sure it'll be taken (hardy har) down soon but, until then, Enjoy!.

Movie Reviews

Two movie reviews from WildSideCinema and three in the Metro Times!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Top Twenty Sequels List Misses Mark

I may have to rethink linking over to TheMovieBlog. Their recent list of the Top Twenty Sequels of All Time list leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, some of the choices are just plain assy.

First off, it's rather lame having multiple sequels of the same movie on this list. If that's the case, it should have been the "Top Whatever Series" list. There should have been a "Choose Only One" disclaimer when the author set this up. Secondly, the "double sequels" chosen don't do much to move me: Return of the King had far too many endings while Star Trek IV gets more embarrassing with age ("Double dumbass on you").

I know it may be a little bit sacrilegious but I gave up my affection for Godfather II a while ago. Watching it again over the last few years left me rather bored with it overall. There are some great moments to it, yes ("I know it was you, Fredo.") but the flashback structure is wearisome. Army of Darkness - Same thing. Some great lines but not cohesive overall. For me, the Evil Dead series is all about Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (and the original, of course).

I've already made my feelings about Indy Jones 3 known, as well as Return of the Jedi (I've written reams about the ways in which that film fails). And, um, Die Hard 3? That's another one I've shredded in the past.

I agree with some of the things on this list. Culling it down, I'd go with:

  • Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
  • Aliens
  • The Empire Strikes Back
These are okay but not sure if they're the "Top of all time":
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Rocky 2
  • X-Men 2
  • Spiderman 2
Movies that should have been on the list:
  • The Road Warrior
  • The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Sanjuro
  • Lone Wolf & Cub 2
  • Drunken Master 2
  • The Bride of Frankenstein
  • For a Few Dollars More
  • Mr. Vampire 2
  • Cannonball Run II
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Singer Screwed The Pooch," Says WB

It's so refreshing when a movie company actually agrees with your opinion and admits that one of its blockbuster hits wasn't quite the right "direction" that the franchise should have gone. That's the word from Warner Brothers who pretty much pimped out Bryan Singer last week, saying that Superman Returns "didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to." In other words, it sucked.

The full story can be read here.

My take on Superman Returns can be found in the pages of Cashiers du Cinemart #15 and are reprinted here for your entertainment:

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006)
Little stands out as being starkly different from the screenplay of Superman Returns to the final film version, except for the lack of explanation for Superman’s disappearance and the scenes of Superman flying (in a spaceship) amongst the ruined crags of Kryptonite asteroids.

The cuts between the Superman (Brandon Routh) story line and the Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) story line are jarring. The film moves from the moody introspective Kryptonian, who’s been dumped by Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) in favor of the boss’s son, Richard White (James Marsden) to the hammy criminal mastermind and his Miss Teschmacher stand-in, Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey). The worst character in the film has to be Superman’s bastard son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), and his awful Adam Rich haircut.

While I can respect the decision to emulate Donner’s Superman films, aping these superior movies just made me long to see the originals. The John Williams score, combined with the unnecessary cameo appearance by Marlon Brando, only reinforced this desire. Overall, I would have rather have seen J.J. Abrams’s version of the story, as it strayed the farthest from the Jon Peters directives, divorced itself from Donner, and actually managed to feel like an original take on the Superman story.

Even if it hadn’t taken over a dozen years and millions of dollars to bring the next chapter of Superman saga to the big screen, Superman Returns would epitomize anticlimactic. Rather than breaking new ground or taking the Superman story in a different direction (see “Red Son” by Mark Millar), the film was just a rehash of a better film that predated it by nearly three decades.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fooling Films Back On YouTube

I re-posted these on YouTube a few months back and haven't posted them on the blog in a while. I think I'm required by law to cross-promote these every once in a while.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How Unoriginal is Disaster Movie?

So unoriginal that it rips off the advertising for Uwe Boll's Postal. That's dishonest...low.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same. I was thinking that tonight as I was driving home, rocking out to "Three Days" by Jane's Addiction. I remember doing the same thing back when I was just a wee lad of 19 or 20. Of course, back then I was listening to the album recorded to a cassette tape while tonight I was full on iPod. I wonder how many more format changes I'll see in the next sixteen years.

It got me to thinking -- remember when the cover art of "Ritual de lo Habitual" was so shocking? I imagine far worse images have been sold in chain stores in the years hence.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brand Upon the Brand (Guy Maddin, 2006)

Similar in structure to Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee, Brand Upon the Brain is “a remembrance in twelve chapters” featuring Guy Maddin (Erik Steffen Maahs) returning to his childhood home—an orphanage his parents ran on a remote island; a gothic setting if ever there was one. Much of the tale is told in flashback, recalling the early days of young Guy (Sullivan Brown) and his Sis (Maya Lawson) who both experience crushes on teen detectives Chance and Wendy Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon). They’re embroiled in a mystery surrounding Guy and Sis’s parents and the immoral experiments being performed on the orphans.

This brooding tale of misbegotten love and overbearing parents is told in split second edits, cutting in the occasional flash of color into the beautiful black & white. The action on screen lives in a world of its own though it’s placed into another realm when screened. At various times and locations, Brand Upon the Brain has been narrated by the likes of Isabella Rosselini, Crispin Glover, Eli Wallach, and more. Scored with live music and foley, the film becomes a cinematic event that will morph into something quite different for home viewers.

Playing like an O’Henry version of Lord of the Flies, Brand Upon the Brain exemplifies Maddin’s brilliant cinema.

Monday, August 18, 2008

300 Spartans Stopped the Persian Invasion...

So what will 300 fans of "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" do? The petition just cross the 300 mark! Keep marching, soldiers! And be sure to get anyone else you know that loves good music and/or roller derby to sign up!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Key Words Don't Understand Irony

Keying off of the term "Tom Cruise," the ad for "" came up on What Would Tyler Durden Do? tonight, not understanding irony whatsoever.

Clone Confusion

Okay, I'm feeling like a real dumbass here. I gave up on Star Wars a few years ago but vaguely recall a cartoon called "The Clone Wars" showing on The Cartoon Network in 2004. What's the difference between that and the theatrical Clone Wars? I need to find out soon or they might revoke my Geek Card.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

OTM Blew My Mind

I'm a fan of "On The Media" on NPR. The latest show was one of the best I've heard. It included two stories about 3-D films (past and present) and a terrific piece about plagiarism -- a subject dear to my heart.

After blatantly ripping off countless authors, the editor of The Bulletin -- a free local weekly from Montgomery County, TX -- inappropriately strikes the 'little guy versus the system' pose in a hilariously misguided diatribe that completely misses the point. Your jaw will drop! "Congratulations on breaking an already fragile soul."

Read the transcript here.

Addendum: I just read that The Montgomery County Bulletin has closed up shop. I can't say I'm too surprised. I imagine that advertisers might have been a might ticked if they found they were paying for, um, "recycled" content. Here's more on the story:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bob Le Flambeur Podcast Now Available!

I've been chatting up the podcast series Out of the Past for months—ever since I met podcasters Richard Edwards and Shannon Klute at the 2008 NoirCon. I spent the early weeks of the summer gorging on their dozen of episodes, enjoying their thorough discussions of films noir old and new.

The well-spoken pair have been steadily creating a conversation about this misunderstood style cum genre through discussion of a motley collection of movies. They've taken on the pillars of noir such as Detour, The Killing, Murder My Sweet, and The Big Sleep as well as underappreciated flicks including He Walked By Night, The Hitchhiker, and I Wake Up Screaming.

Thus, I was honored to be included onto the playing field to speak about one of my favorite films, Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob Le Flambeur. I asked author/screenwriter/mensch Howard A. Rodman to save me from being alone with a microphone (I know how dangerous that can be, having listened to old tapes of me on WCBN). Not only did Howard save me but he came through with flying colors. He's wonderfully eloquent and perceptive in his commentary on the French crime classic. Even if I wasn't involved in this episode, I'd be recommending it for Howard's compelling discussion.

Get to it right here.

Subscribe to Out of the Past via these methods:

The audio editing of this episode is remarkable as I don't sound like too huge of an idiot. I thought I spoke a lot faster and made a lot less sense. I suspect that there's some kind of filter that was used to de-stupefy me.

I highly recommend checking out all of the Clute & Edwards podcasts including their Behind the Black Mask series which takes on crime writing, boasting interviews with several of my favorite authors including Duane Swierczynsk and Megan Abbott (who's hosting the next Out of the Past with a discussion of Nicholas Ray's In A Lonely Place).

The website for both podcasts is

Lights, Camera, Detroit

There's a great list of productions going on in Detroit over at Kind of nice to see so many stars in Detroit -- instead of Toronto or Baltimore (What? Barry Levinson is in town?) -- though none of them have come over for barbecue yet Bastards.

Still hoping to deliver the petition to Drew Barrymore to use "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" in Whip It! -- Please be sure to sign!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Great Goodis Article!

Writer Max Goldberg recently penned a great article on David Goodis for MOMI - read it here and prepare to be blown away!

(Oh, and because I'm such a geek, I created a "Fan Page" for Goodis on FaceBook)

Anything Vous can do, Moi can do better...

Someone call the police! I just found out that there's a crime wave happening in New York City!

From August 8 to September 11, the city of New York will be victim to rabid French criminals. All activity is centered on the Film Forum at 209 West Houston. There victims will succumb to masterful works ranging from Riptide to Muderous Maids with no end of nefarious characters in between. For the full schedule click here.

Again, I bemoan that when I was in NYC earlier this year it was a fucking Godard retrospective--not something you could pay me to attend--but here's a whole group of films that I'd love to see on the big screen (with the exception of Breathless, Band of Outsiders and Pierrot Le Fou, of course), especially the Melvilles (Bob Le Flambeur, Un Flic, Le Circle Rouge, Le Doulos)! And, guaranteed, it's going to be the same lovely print of Shoot The Piano Player recently shown at the Goodis film series at BAM/PFA.

How I wish I was in New York for these six weeks, enjoying the gunplay and heroic bloodshed!

Numbers Going Up!

The numbers for the "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" online petition just keep going up! Thank you to everyone who's signed. And, if you haven't signed, why not? Please take a minute and do so!

This morning I sent off letters to a few of the film's producers and emailed the fellow Detroiter Jim Diamond of Ghetto Records who's recording the film's soundtrack. Now's the time to really make a push for this tune! It's rockin'! (evidence below)

Now, go sign that petition!

Trying Something New

Hey Facebook peeps, I'm trying a new app over there that integrates the blog with FB. I need fifteen people to sign up for it before it will work (otherwise the demand is too low that they won't even turn on the service). If you're willing, please check out the Facebook Blog Network. Much appreciated!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hancock - Aw, Hell No.

As the credits rolled for Peter Berg's Hancock I was overcome by a feeling of loss. The film didn't feel complete.

The story of John Hancock (William Smith), a super being squandering his life in alcohol and a badly decorated trailer (he's just up the way from Martin Riggs's digs), he means well but keeps screwing up little things that are costing the city of Los Angeles far more in property damage than he's saving by fighting crime.

Fate steps in when Hancock saves the life of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a starry-eyed public relations man. He helps instate the "great responsibility" part of the equation to Hancock's great power. He talks the soused superhero to pay for his "crimes" by going to jail and undergoing counseling. When a bank is taken over by heavily armed baddies (think Pacino's crew from Heat), the major relents and calls for Hancock's release.

He saves the day, of course. Then how the people love him as they shouted out with glee, "Hancock, the super-powered smart ass, you'll go down in history!"

It's around this point where the film runs out of gas. Instead of rolling credits, it goes on for another half hour, treading into some fairly ridiculous territory. This is when the big "twist" that you may have read about occurs. I won't let the cat out of the bag as I went in without knowing and it actually surprised me. Surprised and then, ultimately, disappointed me.

Worse than the twist, Hancock failed for me because it--like the title character--didn't live up to its potential. There are few comic books that succeed at really investigating the notion of superpowered beings in the "real world" ("Marvels", "Watchmen", "Astro City", etc). There are fewer films that attempt to tackle this notion, often with dismal results (My Super Ex-Girlfriend, anyone?). Hancock doesn't so much miss the mark as aim for something else.

The first half of the film feels like the description for a better movie. More incidents of Hancock's wrong-headed heroics would have better set the stage for the public's hatred of him. Moreover, in this cynical age it'd take more than one redemptive act to get back into the public's good graces. Exploring the public relations challenges of marketing a superhero could have made for a far more interesting film. There aren't many movies where I really think, "I hope there are a bunch of deleted scenes on the DVD," but this was one of them -- just because Hancock needs more meat on its skeletal structure. Fade it out after Hancock finds his footing and that's the movie. The rest of it, including the utterly unconvincing antagonist, should be trimmed and burned. Don't let me down, fan editors!

My Weekend With Roku

I got my Roku Netflix Player on Friday. As promised, here's my feedback.

It was easy as heck to hook up and configure. Took me all of five minutes. It's got a wide variety of output jacks and even worked with my old school TV/VCR. As soon as it powered up it detected my wireless network and signed in without a problem. I was given a short code that I plugged in to Netflix and, voila! I was off to the races.

The interface was intuitive. Downloading movies was a breeze, and relatively quick via cable modem. My only hope is that Netflix can finagle some more titles for their Instant choices. I've been enjoying "Quincy" and "Dead Like Me" episodes though there are some weird gaps in things like "Columbo" where the first two discs of Season Three aren't available to view but the rest are.

Also a problem is that only the "primary" Netflix account holder can see the Instant Queue. Andrea can't see them at all when she logs in. That's not a good thing. She isn't even given the option of instant views at all. Very odd. I wonder if I should ask her to leave the room when I fire up the Roku...

I have yet to watch anything not voiced in English. That said, I miss the option of having English subtitles on films that offer them on the actual DVD. I tend to watch anything and everything with English subtitles on if they're available.

Is it worth $100? At first blush I might say "no" but I can hope that the service catches up with the technology, providing more of an "on demand" style service. This seems like the beginnings of the long-promised "you can watch any movie you want to see any time you want it" dream. For now, keep dreaming.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Hottest Thing On Wheels!

Keep up the great work! It's been 24 hours and we've gotten 70 signatures on the "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" petition! If you know a roller girl (and who doesn't?) please put her in a full nelson until she agrees to sign the petition. And you should, too!

I've looked up the producers of Whip It! and intend on badgering them next! The more signatures, the more they might take this request seriously!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hey Drew!

I'm not one to get really political but I made an online petition in hopes that Drew Barrymore uses the song "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" by Uncle Leon & The Alibis for her upcoming film, Whip It!.

An adaptation of roller derby memoir Derby Girl by Shauna Cross (AKA Maggie Mayhem), this movie needs Uncle Leon's catchy tune. That the movie's being shot in Ann Arbor, a stone's throw from where Uncle Leon grew up and went to college, is another good tie-in.

Please take a few minutes and sign the petition. Your email address is a required field but it is not visible to anyone nor will it be used for marketing (or so Petition Online promises).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Figuring Out TIFF

The first day in Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival is always a crazed one for me. I run around the city, checking into my hotel, picking up my press pass, and plunking my butt down with the Press/Industry schedule and the big, honkin' programme book to juggle a slate of "must sees", "sounds goods", and "hrm, I guesses".

In order to make this September 3rd task a little easier, I've been trying to sort through the TIFF website and came up with this rough list of some titles I am most likely going to see (if the schedule permits):

  • Acolytes (Jon Hewitt)
  • American Swing (Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart, USA)
  • Appaloosa (Ed Harris, USA)
  • Blind Loves (Juraj Lehotský, Slovakia)
  • Burrowers, The (J.T. Petty)
  • Chocolate (Prachya Pinkaew)
  • Deadgirl (Marcel Sarmiento Gadi Harel)
  • Detroit Metal City (Toshio Lee)
  • Dungeon Masters, The (Keven McAlester, USA)
  • Eden Log (Franck Vestiel)
  • Fear Me Not (Kristian Levring, Denmark)
  • Ghost Town (David Koepp, USA)
  • Good, The Bad, The Weird, The (Kim Jee-woon, South Korea)
  • In the Shadow of the Naga Phawat (Panangkasiri, Thailand)
  • JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri)
  • Martyrs (Pascal Laugier)
  • Not Quite Hollywood (Mark Hartley)
  • Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, USA)
  • RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie, United Kingdom)
  • Secret Life of Bees (Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA)
  • Sexykiller (Miguel Martí)
  • Tony Manero (Pablo Larraín, Chile/Brazil)

If anyone has any early feedback about these or any other TIFF flicks, please drop a comment bomb.

Terror in the Aisles

Sometimes it's really tough to live in Detroit, especially when I see all of the cool things going on in sister cities like Toronto and Chicago. This morning I got word of two amazing events:

  • Toronto - Phantascope keeps coming with great "underground" screenings. Today they announced their latest... members only, though. More details here
  • Chicago - The Movieside Film Festival presents "Terror in the Aisles," a 13 hour marathon of flicks. More details here

If there are cool things like this going on in Detroit... I don't know about 'em.

More on Shoot the Piano Player

Michael Guillen of The Evening Class graciously reprinted the notes from which I worked on Saturday night in my introduction for Shoot the Piano Player. You can find them here. (I was determined not to read anything but talk through things instead, meaning that I derivated quite a bit from my notes but they provided a good way for me to collect my thoughts beforehand.)

Thanks, Michael!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Roku -- Will It Rock Me?

I love my Netflix. I love the convenience and selection. If I had to gripe about one thing it'd be that I wish I could get movies faster from them (due to the USPS turnaround time). That said, I've watched a few things on their "Play Now" service and, yeah, it's okay but I really prefer watching things on my television and not my laptop. It's probably just because that's the way I'm used to watching things.

That may all change, soon, as I picked up the Roku Netflix Player last night. It's a device that's supposed to hook up to my TV and, via my wireless connection, download and play Netflix "Play Now" titles as fast as this little box can download them. That means I won't be "wasting" rentals on some of the lower tier films that are available on the on-demand service because, let's face it, many of the titles Netflix streams are second-rate. Or, at least, it seems that the titles highlighted in my queue that are available to see "instantly" are usually the crappier films. For example; in my top 25 at the moment the titles available to stream are Like Father, Like Son, Vice Versa, and Dead Like Me. Out of the 350 movies I want to watch, 50 of them are available instantly. Not bad. Not great but not bad.

I'll test it out and let folks know if it's a bust or boon.

In Other Words...

Michael Guillen describes the events of the first night of the David Goodis series much better than I could ever hope. He does so here and here. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nit Pickers Anonymous

Why do I have to be this way? Why do I have to be such a nit picker? Why do I take one small bit and make it representative of the whole?

That's the case when I read Nikolas Schreck's The Satanic Screen. Satan's appearances on the silver screen have long fascinated me. I grew up during Satan's heyday -- the '70s. He was racing with Warren Oates and Peter Fonda. He was aiding cheerleading squads. He was popping out progeny like mad. And, he was making lots of girls do lots of naughty things.

Schreck expounds on Satan's many guises since the inception of cinema, starting with his portrayals by George Melies and concluding with his role in The Ninth Gate. Along the way, Schreck breaks down Satan's career by decade with special attention paid to his heyday in the '60s and '70s. Schreck's writing is informative and wonderfully scathing when skewering lower grade demonic fare.

So what's my problem with Schreck's book? It's not the omission of Psychomania, one of my favorite "pact with frog as Devil" films. No, it's his coverage of Boris Sagal's The Omega Man. I can understand reading the vampiric night denizens as a comment on the Manson Family but Schreck errs when he talks about a nuclear war and the protagonist's crucifixion. Yes, Neville (Charlton Heston) ends up in a "Jesus Christ Pose" but it's in a fountain, not on a cross.

Why am I being so picky? Mostly because I'm not familiar with 99% of the movies Schreck discusses. Thus, if he screws up the details of the one film I know then how am I to know that the rest of his coverage is flawless and he only messed up that one time? I can only hope he didn't and believe what I've read is as accurate as it is entertaining. I can definitely make exceptions for older films or movies not available on video -- there are concessions to be made for memory. But, The Omega Man?

Regardless, I recommend this read.

Goodis Film Series Kicked Off

It's official! The David Goodis film series at BAM/PFA in Berkeley, CA has kicked off. The opening film, Dark Passage, was a stellar choice. It represents the highest point in Goodis's short-lived Hollywood career and, moreover, it's one of the few of the pulp author's works set outside of his native Philadelphia. This time 'round the exteriors were shot in nearby San Francisco, prominently featuring Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, etc.

Introduced by Barry Gifford, the author/screenwriter brought Goodis to the masses via his Black Lizard publishing imprint. Gifford pulled some great quotes from Geoffrey O'Brien's words about Goodis to give the audience some insight on the elusive author. Gifford also gave a few anecdotes about David Lynch's reaction to Goodis's work ("Those books are too scary!") and Gerard Depardieu's remembrance of Moon in the Gutter ("Please don't mention this movie, it might give me another heart attack."). A very entertaining/off the cuff beginning to the series.

Barry Gifford (Left) / Steve Seid (Right)
Barry Gifford (Left) with programmer Steve Seid (Right)

Both Dark Passage and The Unfaithful (co-adapted by Goodis as one of his few completed Hollywood gigs) were lovely prints straight from the Warner Brothers vaults. Likewise, the print of Shoot the Piano Player was absolutely spotless, a brand new strike from Janus. This is a real testament to programmer Steve Seid's dedication to quality when putting together this series. I've been talking with Seid for a few months now via email. He's been tirelessly researching and tracking down prints for this month-long extravaganza.

Saturday evening Steve took Andrea and I out to dinner in downtown Berkeley at a great Cajun place.

I'd never been to Berkeley before. From what I heard, I expected that the streets would be knee-deep in crusty hippies. Luckily, that wasn't the case. There were a few odd birds, to be sure, but the atmosphere that of a pleasant college town during the doldrums of summer. The weather couldn't have been better in Berkeley or San Francisco (where we spent our days). For some photos from our trip, click here (only visible to facebook members).

I was nervous as hell before my introduction -- and a bit during. The turn-out for Saturday's screening of Shoot the Piano Player was terrific. It was a packed house. I didn't want to read what I'd written about the film nor did I want to sound completely unprepared. I wanted to end up somewhere in the middle, allowing my enthusiasm for the film and Goodis to come across. Apparently I did an okay job, though Andrea tells me that I said "Um" a lot. I didn't go into the idea of adaptation at all, though I wanted to bring up how much the Fido character rings untrue compared to the Goodis book.

Overall, I think I did a fair job for my first proper film introduction. I hope that I've asked to do more as the years wear on.

There's a lovely write-up on the series and an interview with Steve available at Michael Guillen's The Evening Class blog.