All posts by Bryant

New Rules (Oscars Edition)

Those who follow this sort of thing might be interested to know that the Academy has tweaked a few of its Oscar rules this year. First, this will be the first year that New York Academy members will have any chance to influence the final five in the best foreign-language category — after the L.A. committee (which watches all 60 submitted films, a task that represents no small time commitment) narrows down a nine-film short list, the process will enter “Phase II,” in which a new committee consisting of 10 members of the original L.A. committee sit down with 10 L.A. Academy members who were not on the original committee as well as 10 New York members to pick the five nominees that will appear on final ballots.

Got it?

Essentially the Academy is trying to get some members involved in the process who haven’t the time, inclination and/or geographical proximity to commit to 60 non-English-language screenings. It’s hard to tell what effect this might have on the final list. Even if New Yorkers have substantially different tastes from their L.A. counterparts, they’ll only make up a third of that second committee. More likely to make a difference is the fact that two-thirds of the decision-makers in the second phase will be more casual viewers — maybe they’re less enthusiastic about unknown quantities, or maybe they’re enthusiasts who are just too busy to make 60 consecutive dates with Oscar. Anyway, whether this ends up making the picks more adventurous or less so, someone in the Academy decided the change was needed.

Gone this year is the requirement that a submitted film must be in an official language of the country submitting it. “So long as the dominant language is not English, a picture from any country may be in any language or combination of languages,” the Academy said in a press release. Any relaxation of arbitrary rules in this category looks like a good thing to me, but I’ve got one question about the “from any country” language above — does this mean the U.S. gets to submit a film? (Hell-o, Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptico?) Or should this more accurately be described as the award for best foreign-language non-U.S. feature film?

The Academy also tightened up some of the docu requirements and knocked the number of films nominated for sound editing from three to five. You can read the full release at the Oscars Web site.

Feeling Bitchy

SupermanI know he’s a super-man and all that, but how much fun is a Superman who can balance a 777 on his shoulders like it was an ice-skating partner, or (SPOILER!) push an entire continent off into outer space with a piece of Kryptonite still stuck in his back? I’ll take the working-class Spider-Man any day, who stops a runaway subway car and then actually looks like he’s just been run over by, well, a runaway subway car. It’s something I can relate to.

The Shawn Colvin cover version of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” featured in Wordplay is probably the lamest piece of music I’ve heard all year. And I’ve been watching some VH1 Classic, so that’s saying something.

Kate Beckinsale is all wet.Is there a talented actress who’s starred in more shitty movies than Kate Beckinsale? I mean come on.

Speaking of shitty movies and the women who make them, Ultraviolet just came out on video. For some reason, I watched it. Praise Milla, when will the movies learn that there are certain things that videogames just do better? And vice versa?

Pitchfork’s “Awesome” Music Videos

PItchfork links to 100 “awesome” music videos at YouTube. Most of them are, in fact, pretty awesome. Since there’s not a chance in hell of anyone getting a chance to legally compile a collection of this scope, well, viva the Internet bootlegs.

Off the top of my head, I’d add the following:

Jonathan Demme’s video for New Order’s “Perfect Kiss”

The Flaming Lips’ “Turn It On”

Monster Magnet’s “Spacelord”

When is The Industry going to figure out a way to make shit like this happen legally, and for a reasonable price? I mean, come on — two bucks to buy a music video at sub-VHS quality just so you can watch it on your iPod? At that rate, the Pitchfork list would run you $200, and that’s just silly. Carry on.

Len Lye on Google Video

So you go to Google video and type “Len Lye” into the search box, and whoomp, there it is. Somebody pointed a video camera at a screen in a darkened room where prints of some of Len Lye’s (wonderful, transporting, mind-expanding) work were showing. Yes, these highly compressed bootleg video streams are a poor substitute for seeing the real thing — but man, how psyched was I to suddenly have a copy of “Free Radicals” that I could watch on my PSP on the train ride home? I can honestly say it elevated my mood. What kind of film snob am I?

More at Cinemarati.

Interviews: An Inconvenient Truth

When I was at Sundance, I avoided An Inconvenient Truth because, you know, hearing that they’ve finally made a movie out of the Al Gore lecture series isn’t exactly thrilling news to a cinephile. But when it finally opened commercially and my wife dragged me to see it, I was pleasantly surprised — it’s not just a competent big-screen presentation of a fairly cogent thesis on climate change, but it has a striking visual presence as well. The slightly soft, lushly saturated HD imagery is easy on the eyes and old Al seems maybe to have had that stick surgically extracted from his butt — he’s never looked looser and more comfortable.

I groused at first about the frequent interruptions for short bits of documentary that meditated respectfully on the man behind the mission — they seemed a little campaign-filmy to me — but on further reflection they started to seem key to the overall experience. These are supposed to be the sequences where you get an idea of Al Gore as a human being rather than a slide-presentation drone, but they also nudge the film into personal cinema territory in terms of what they tell us about the sensibility of the filmmaker and his own relationship to the subject. In other words, it’s a mash note, but a surprisingly compelling one.

Anyway, I talked to director Davis Guggenheim and editor Dan Swietlik about the project for Film & Video. I was a little surprised to learn that Gore himself was involved in the editorial process — I’d imagine that’s a tricky situation for any non-fiction filmmaker to get involved in, where you have to deal with the subject of the film hanging around the editing room — but it’s hard to tell how much influence he might have had, beyond dictating which bits of his presentation could be trimmed and which bits had to stay in the final cut.

World Cup Death Watch

Station Manager Ken is tracking World Cup-related deaths from the world over at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog. One man died after a night of excessive World Cup drinking, six died in Haiti after a gang fight over a generator to power TV sets running World Cup games, and in Somalia, two World Cup fans were shot dead — just for watching the games. And there’s more. Check it out.

Also of interest (maybe — the one with the dog being beheaded I don’t think I’d watch on a dare) are the five titles Ken picked when polled on his top films of all time. The Grizzly Man parody is amusing and the Westboro Baptist Church video (from the folks who brought you, which argues that New York City got exactly what was coming to it (from the hand of God!) on 9/11, is among the most aggressively offensive things I’ve ever seen. (In the same ballpark: the sanctimoniously creepy Diary of an Unborn Child (MP3 link), recorded by “Lil Markie”, is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever heard — it scares the hell out of me.)

Kino Picks Up Old Joy

Looks like the world at large will get a crack at Kelly Reichardt’s gently assured guy-relationship drama Old Joy, which Kino has picked up for a September 20 release at New York’s Film Forum. Depending on its success there, it’ll be rolled out across the U.S. arthouse market through the fall and, if all else fails, will almost certainly be coming to a Netflix queue near you.