Movie Natters

A summer time move

Posted at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2009 by Euan Kerr

It's time to take a break, and make a change. I am off to have a few days of vacation, and then when I am back Movie Natters will be folded into the new State of the Arts blog on MPRNewsQ.

Thanks to everyone who has read along over the years and I hope you will keep joining us at States of the Arts.

"Public Enemies" is a movie for the times

Posted at 5:51 PM on July 1, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Michael Mann's retelling of the John Dillinger story is deliberately unsettling. It's not the shoot-outs and the gangster swagger, although that's there aplenty.

Johnny Depp hardens his jaw as Dillinger, displaying the dark edge to the outwardly gallant Dillinger. Mann sets him against the dogged FBI special agent Melvin Purves (Christian Bale) who has been charged by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) to "take off the white gloves."

The government agents become more and more violent in Hoover's war on crime, particularly as Dillinger evades them time and again. Meanwhile Dillinger finds himself squeezed from the other side as organized crime making steady money from gambling and booze decides his headline-grabbing bank heists are bad for business.

What's unsettling is how Mann presents the story as oblique and direct references to the times of the Tommy gun wielding mobsters and our own.

Life in a depression changes ideas about heroes and villains. Dillinger, for all his violence, was cheered by ordinary people for sticking it to the banks. The FBI is working to end a public menace, but their methods lead to prisoners being beaten and bystanders being gunned down. The story is 75 years old, but it's all a little too close for comfort.

Mann's use of HD video gives the look of the film a contemporary cast which also breaks down the safe cocoon of history. We all know what's going to happen to Dillinger in front of that Chicago movie house, but Mann and Depp bring us right into the center of the horror.

St Paul history buffs will be disappointed by "Public Enemies" only passing reference to the Saintly City. Maybe that's a film for another day.

It would seem that there could well be another day though as Mann has breathed life back into what was a moribund genre, and brought history into the present.

Take the Movie Natters poll: what will you see this weekend?

Posted at 3:09 PM on June 30, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay take a moment out from filming "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" to decide their selections in the Movie Natters poll. (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures.)

There's lots of choice this weekend: dinosaurs, Dillinger, a lonely astronaut, or a French barrister being chased by a vampish young lady.

A little more Edinburgh: Sir Sean gets shirty, and "Moon" wins big

Posted at 6:32 PM on June 29, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Following up on my earlier post on the EIFF, Sir Sean Connery made news by going after the BBC for not covering the event. He made his comments after discovering the Beeb had sent hundreds of staffers to cover the Glastonbury Festival.

Of course it sets one wondering about the possibility of more extended coverage of film here which seems even more remote.

On a happier note Duncan Jones who was here for the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival won the Michael Powell Award for Best British film for "Moon.". Jones, who had presented the film at the EIFF and then travelled to Moscow for another screening raced back to Scotland to get the award.

Chinese remake of Coen's "Blood Simple" in production

Posted at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Just in case you missed it, the AP reports Zhang Yimou (director of "Raise the Red Lantern," "Hero" and the "House of Flying Daggers" amongst others) is shooting a remake of the Coen brother's debut feature "Blood Simple."

The AP reports filming on "San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi, which roughly translates as "The Stunning Case of the Three Gun Shots, kicked off June 9.

The AP report continues:The "Blood Simple" remake also marks Zhang's first movie since the 2006 imperial court drama "Curse of the Golden Flower," starring Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li. After that film, Zhang took a break to focus on the Beijing Olympics ceremonies.

Zhang's stunning opening ceremony -- which featured a retired Chinese gymnast who seemingly ran around the rim of the stadium while suspended by wires before lighting the Olympic cauldron -- won a Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media.

You can read the full report here.

Movie criticism in the modern world - at the gas pump

Posted at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2009 by Euan Kerr

We have heard a great deal about the shrinking numbers of movie critics as a result of the great 21st century journalism crisis.

Yet I was still unprepared for my gas pump to spontaneously begin pontificating about movies when I filled up the family car this afternoon.

As part of what might be described as the in-flight entertainment on the monitors in the pumps at my local filling station, suddenly some guy from Access Hollywood blasted out a recommendation that I skip "The Land of the Lost." This was the culmination of an in-depth review which must have lasted a good 15 seconds, max. Just about as soon as he began he was gone.

A couple of minutes later he was back to make the same recommendation as the recording looped around.

Of course, being told to do something suddenly without warning makes some of us want to do the exact opposite. I had never planned to go see Will Ferrell being chased by a T-Rex, but there I was thinking maybe I should.

Then the sheer ridiculousness of taking advice from a gas pump sank in. Chastened, I drove home.

Random thoughts for the weekend: Depp, Klein, and Maddin

Posted at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Depp There were huge crowds at the screening of "Public Enemies" at the Mall of America last night. They filled two theaters and still had to turn people away. I'm mulling over the film in my mind, and will write it up closer to the opening on Wednesday. It's fair to say that Johnny Depp does put in a great performance though.

Klein Make sure you check out my colleague Jim Bickal's chat with William Klein who will be the subject of a Regis Dialog tonight at the Walker Art Center. It sounds like he will have a lot of stories. Jim says they talked for an hour, but he has distilled it down onto a great feature which you can hear right here.

Maddin And I have been meaning to post a link to Kathie Smith's fun account of "Saddest Music in the World" director Guy Maddin's recent appearance at the Talkies in the Twin Cities.

So did Wisconsin get it right with 'Public Enemies' ?

Posted at 5:35 PM on June 25, 2009 by Euan Kerr (1 Comments)

I'm off to see a preview of "Public Enemies," the Johnny Depp John Dillinger film.

It was one of the films which some folks thought should have been shot in Minnesota, but lost out to Wisconsin because of a more film-finance friendly package.

The film is based on the book by Bryan Burrough, who will read from the book at the Landmark Center in St Paul on July 10th (free but reservations required here.)

Anyway I'll let you know what I think.

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Ten Best Picture Nominees: pleasure or pain?

Posted at 4:32 PM on June 24, 2009 by Euan Kerr (1 Comments)

So the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has returned to its practice of before 1944 and decided to have 10 nominees for best picture. President Sid Ganis told All Things Considered it'll mean a greater diversity of nominations, waving the possibility of a documentary, an action film, a comedy or even - gasp- a foreign film as a best picture winner.

It seems though that most people immediately think it just means the Oscar Broadcast will be even more interminable. Ganis (right) made the announcement standing before the list of nominees for 1939, which he says was a halcyon year for Hollywood. Seeing all the names inevitably produces the cynical question as to whether there will really be 10 films worthy of competing for the Oscar.

On reflection though, given the number of films being produced nowadays, this has to be a welcome development if only because it will give a nomination box office bump to more movies which undeservingly sink beneath the waves during Oscar season having not made the cut. It might also give a little more of a chance to films released earlier in the year.

The nominees will be announced on February 2nd 2010.

But what do you think? Ten nominees: pleasure, pain, or otherwise?

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Football Under Cover takes on a new resonance

Posted at 4:07 PM on June 24, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Members of the visiting women's soccer team from Germany sign autographs for Iranian women in Teheran in 'Football Under Cover (Image courtesy Walker Art Center

Ayat Najafi and David Assmann's documentary "Football Under Cover" takes on new bite as a result of the current situation in Iran.

The film follows the convoluted journey which a German women's soccer team embarks upon when it learns there is a similar team in Teheran which has never been able to play against another team.

A seemingly simple desire to play a friendly game becomes a bureaucratic nightmare where months of preparation could be undone at any moment by any one of the myriad of officials in Iran. At one point they set a date for the game and make travel arrangements, only to learn the Iranian government has moved the game four months later without telling them.

On top of that the team has to prepare to play in 'modest' uniforms, including specially designed sports headscarves. They also have to get ready to play before the largest crowd they have ever had at their games, who because of strict religious rules is all women.

The film makers also follow some of the Iranian women who are hoping to play in the game. What comes to the fore is their overwhelming love of the game is really what causes them to go through the restrictions and indignities so they can play.

At times funny, and others sobering, the film is ultimately a celebration of the human spirit. It screens tonight at 8.45 at the Walker Art Center as part of the Queer Takes series.

July 2009
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About the Author

Euan Kerr was born into the movies in a way, at least the presentation side of the business. His grandfather and great-uncle started what was to become the largest independent chain of cinemas in Scotland. His grandfather once claimed to be better than Napoleon because he had two empires: one in Dundee and one in Coatbridge. Euan didn't go into the family business, but his first job was tearing tickets at the Edinburgh Film Theater. It didn't pay much, but allowed him to see movies for free.

Throughout his journalistic career, Euan has pursued his interest in film, interviewing many directors, actors, and screenwriters including Richard Attenborough, Dennis Hopper, Tilda Swinton, Hector Babenco, Tom Stoppard, Sally Pillsbury, Bill Forsyth, and Neil Jordan. Nowadays he wishes he could go out to see more movies, but has to settle all too often for the DVD and the couch at home.

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