By Kathy Harr

Camus said, "Yes, there is beauty and there are the humiliated. Whatever the difficulties the enterprise may present, I would like never to be unfaithful either to one or the other."

That describes the folksinger-songwriter Phil Ochs as seen in Kenneth Bowser's new documentary, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune. Bowser, who is married to actress Amy Irving and has also made a films about Saturday Night Live, Preston Sturges andFrank Capra, is probably best known for making the film based on Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. His next project may be one based on another Biskind best-seller, Down & Dirty Pictures.

There But for Fortune, which is slowly releasing nationally, including San Francisco'sBalboa Theater this weekend, was called a “A complex portrait of an ultimately unknowable man,” by Peter Rainer http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2011/0107/Phil-Ochs-There-But-for-Fortune-movie-review. “At once an unsentimental portrait of the ambitious singer who thought himself bound for glory, and an affecting elegy for a time when song was a form of revolution,” wrote Lisa Schwarzbaum. Bowser was kind enough to chat with me about art and truth, yesterday's failures and today's wars, and what was left on the cutting-room floor.

Blog entry 03/25/2011 - 10:42am

Continuing Simon Augustine's countdown of the Most Disturbing Movies (Read Part 1 for the first 13). [<< #10]

9. Forced Entry (1974) 5/9
Two years after starring in the most famous X-rated film of all time, Deep Throat, Harry Reems starred in Forced Entry (billed as Tim Long), tellingly the only film that Reems "regretted being in." Reems plays a recently returned Vietnam vet who has been transformed by the war into a psychotic killer. Cruising the fire escapes and alleys of Queens, NY, Reems breaks into the homes of women he has been spying on, rapes them, and then kills them. Unlike most everything being produced then or since, the film combines the explicit and real sex of hardcore with the realistically portrayed violence usually reserved for mainstream slasher films.

Blog entry 11/05/2009 - 4:37pm

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jared Hess, 30, and Jerusha Hess, 29, met in film class at Brigham Young University and together wrote a little independent movie called Napoleon Dynamite, which Jared directed. Released in 2004, the movie was a once in a lifetime success story, earning a genuine cult following and inspiring a generation of dialogue-quoters and "Vote for Pedro" t-shirt wearers. Hollywood loved it too, and it wasn't long before the Hesses were in charge of the bigger budgeted Nacho Libre (2006). Despite considerably less flattering reviews, the film went on to gross over $80 million, more than doubling its production budget.

Both films contained the same kind of off-kilter rhythms and dry, almost-but-not-quite cruel humor that fans seem to love. Their new film, Gentlemen Broncos (opening Oct. 30 and Nov. 6), is more complex in the plot department but still hangs onto these unique rhythms. Michael Angarano stars as Benjamin, a home-schooled teen who is also a burgeoning sci-fi writer. His widowed mom (Jennifer Coolidge) sends him to a writer's camp, where he submits his manuscript, an epic called Yeast Lords, to a contest to be judged by his hero, published author Ronald Chevalier (Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement). Lacking in new material, Chevalier senses the greatness of Yeast Lords and steals it for himself. Meanwhile, Benjamin's new friends Tabatha (Halley Feiffer, daughter of cartoonist/playwright Jules) and Lonnie (Héctor Jiménez) offer to make a low-budget film of the manuscript; Benjamin watches as they makes a royal hash out of it. We also see "footage" from the "real" Yeast Lords, played out as a slightly more expensive sci-fi epic starring Sam Rockwell as hero "Bronco."

The Hesses recently journeyed to San Francisco and took time out to sit down with GreenCine for a discussion about the film.

Blog entry 10/30/2009 - 11:02am

By Jeffrey M. Anderson



A SERIOUS MAN star Michael Stuhlbarg


The major talking point about the Coen Brothers' new film A Serious Man seems to be that it has "no stars," or is comprised of a cast of mostly unknowns. The leader of this unknown ensemble is Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays Larry Gopnik, a tenure-track professor and Jewish father living in 1967 Minnesota. Life doesn't seem too bad for Larry until a nearly unending list of terrible things befalls him, including a pending divorce, a car accident, a gambling brother, ungrateful children, a mysterious letter-writer, a bribery attempt, a lusty neighbor (on one side) and a threatening neighbor (on the other), plus a doctor's appointment and a bar mitzvah under the influence of pot. Larry seeks the help of three rabbis to help sort his life, and finds that their cryptic advice doesn't provide any easy answers. Really, the only thing you can do is laugh. It's up to Stuhlbarg to shoulder all this calamity and turn it into black humor, and he pulls it off.

Before landing this rare leading role, Stuhlbarg appeared in small roles in several films, including A Price Above Rubies (1998), The Grey Zone (2001), Martin Scorsese's short film The Key to Reserva (2007), Afterschool (2008), Ridley Scott's Body of Lies (2008) and Cold Souls (2009). On television, he has appeared on Ugly Betty and Law & Order. But his formative time has been spent on the stage, having earned a Tony nomination for The Pillowman, plus a few Shakespearian turns in Richard II and Hamlet. The very kind and pleasant Mr. Stuhlbarg sat down for a brief talk with me about his new film.

Blog entry 10/05/2009 - 5:59pm

By Simon Augustine, M.Div

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest INTRODUCTION

Moviegoers and Madmen

Men are more interested in what they see when dreaming than what they see when awake.
- Diogenes

The movie theater is a miniature mental asylum. A temporary home made of cushioned seats (and padded, sound-proof walls) for the bereft, the dazed, the longing, the beautiful losers; men and women who need images almost as much as they need real people.

Maybe that explains why some of the most iconic and compelling characters in American cinematic history are those who embody madness in one of its many forms; like we moviegoers who watch and live vicariously through these fictional people, the characters themselves struggle with a relationship between reality and image, trying to find a fulcrum between the outside world and imagination: Randall P. McMurphy, irreverent would-be savior of "The Cuckoo’s Nest;" Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, deranged stalker/fan par excellance, "hobbling" her favorite author in Stephen King’s Misery; Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, "god’s lonely man," dangerous dreamer, epitome of urban social alienation; Dr. Hannibal Lecter, fascinating in his genius brand of cannibalistic insanity; or Sally Field as Sybil, bringing the complexity and pathos of multiple personality disorder to national consciousness. And the list goes on...

Blog entry 09/11/2009 - 11:07am


by Mick LaSalle

hayscodedisclaimer.jpg The story of the Production Code is a special story, in that it's the one time the producers didn't win. They didn't because of a single, dread miscalculation that ended up changing movies and American society, in both cases for the worse. The effects of this miscalculation are still being felt today.

Taking a step back: There's a disease that seizes the imagination of both the right and the left in America, the conviction that if only the side of goodness and virtue had control of the movies, it could rid the world of everything bad. These are people inflicted with an idealism that takes the form of wanting to destroy art, and from the beginning, movie producers have known how to deal with such characters: Humor them. Give them a press conference. Give them a studio tour. Make them feel as if they're being brought into the fold. Never say no to them. Only say yes, of course, we will do that. We've never thought of that. We must make an arrangement, immediately...

Blog entry 07/31/2009 - 1:45pm

by Vadim Rizov

(A GC exclusive; reposted from GreenCine Daily)

Taking-of-Pelham-123.jpgReleased three months apart, Death Wish and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three are twinned images of the subway as a microcosm of 1974 New York City: Death Wish the urban hell variant, Pelham a dystopian playground. Both focus on people with guns infesting the transport system and start a general acceptance of the city being as violent and out-of-control as could be. (The next year, the city almost had to declare bankruptcy, leading to the infamous Ford to City: Drop Dead Daily News headline, which pretty much sums up the overall tenor.) Both have lasted far past their initial sell-by dates as basic programmers. On the occasion of Tony Scott's ill-advised remake of Pelham, it's worth thinking about the ways the films complement each other.

Blog entry 06/11/2009 - 3:18pm

[Hammer in hand, Vadim Rizov (The Village Voice, The House Next Door) makes an astute attempt at nailing down the gelatinous zeitgeist, at least in how the symbiosis of H'wood filmmaking and filmgoing will be affected by the ongoing economic collapse. Kick back with some boot stew and check 'er out. -Aaron Hillis]

Confessions of a Shopaholic In the time between Confessions of a Shopaholic's initial wave of advertising and its release, things have (to put it mildly) changed; a lightweight chick-flick parable about a woman with a spending problem who finds love and a way to pay for her material thrills (a frilly entertainment based on a 2000 book to be released in the middle of a mild economic downturn) is now a dispatch from a different age. Even if, as the Wikipedia page claims, reshoots have taken the recession into account, the question stands: do today's depressed audiences want vicarious materialism? Or will they turn indifferently on the film and run back to the more apropos comforts of Paul Blart and its ilk?

Blog entry 02/11/2009 - 2:32pm

I.ve been working on a television pilot that involves 3D cartoon characters interacting with live action. It.s been a while since I shot with real people as opposed to computer animated creatures.

So on the first day I felt compelled to initiate two new superstitions for myself. I've always found such rituals amusing (as long as they don.t take up a lot of time or effort).

First, I wanted to find a way to fool the great god Murphy...

Blog entry 05/09/2008 - 10:23am

Ladd Ehlinger Jr. produced and directed the 2007 animated cult film Flatland, now available on GreenCine.com here. The first feature film to be completely CGI animated by one person in Lightwave 3D, it received rave reviews. Phil Hall of Film Threat stated that "Flatland is a work of genius, and animation has a new force of power in Ehlinger," and Paul Di Filippo of Scifi.com called it a "glorious mathematical mystery tour."

In this, his second article for GreenCine.com, Ladd prognosticates for us on the future of the film industry.

Blog entry 04/14/2008 - 1:06pm

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