Having watched about a dozen films now for the Denver International Film Festival, I’m going to pitch coverage for the site at about ten select capsules with any interviews that I might do there (none through the DFS in any case) going live in conjunction with the official releases of the films in question. DIFF has never attracted much national interest and the extent that we’ve covered it here at FFC has been, I think, mainly Bill indulging my hope that my hometown festival would evolve into a festival for people knowledgeable about film rather than an annual fundraiser (and a wildly successful one) for the Denver Film Society.
Reading an interview (give it a look, a good read written by friend and colleague Robert Denerstein) with DFS president Ron Henderson in this weekend’s Rocky Mtn. News, I was disappointed to see that the emphasis (after the dubious proclamation – and dubious pride accompanying it – that had the DIFF not moved back a month in the year that it wouldn’t have been able to obtain such barnburners as The World’s Fastest Indian and Casanova for its opening night and centerpiece presentations) seems to be that presale tickets to Society members this year more than doubled from the same period of time for last year’s edition. What that makes me feel is a lot of hopelessness and apathy: if the champions of our film culture are going by box office in the assessment of quality – well, yeah whatever – maybe I’m just naïve and it’s always been this way. In any case, give the article a look because even if the DIFF isn’t even a blip on the radar for you (and why should it be?), it’s a pretty fascinating insight into why some festivals soar and why others just sort of wander around.
Two questions and I’m done asking questions: why would fewer people come if the movies were great? and if the audience in Denver is unusually gullible, then who if not the DFS is entrusted to provide educational opportunities for the rest of the year?
Was shut out of a screening of Brokeback Mountain at a festival screening this week by what I’m told is Focus Features because they didn’t want any Internet press to see it. I’m not sure, in that case, how Slate and Salon got to see it (probably why it wasn’t so-restricted at TIFF, which we also covered, oddly enough) - but I do know that what it meant was that I didn’t get to go while people that no one in the critical community has seen at any other screening: ever (calling into question who the hell they are, of course, but it’s not an urgent question), along with a few members of dubious local print outlets with microscopic distributions. Probably just answered my own question - but what’s strangest is that there are no such restrictions (how could there be?) on me attending the closing night presentation of Brokeback Mountain as a civilian guest of the festival. I guess that means that we’re going live with a full-length review of it in a couple of weeks independent of the DIFF (ditto Breakfast on Pluto). Besides, there’s no embargo on this fucker anymore – and what the hell is the point of an embargo, but to allow industry rags like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety first shot? What if everyone threw a mutual admiration party and we didn’t show up?
Oh, right, no more questions.
Also denied an interview with the suddenly media-shy Ang Lee who will, however, be interviewed on-stage by Lisa Kennedy
You kid yourself that you’re doing something that matters by covering a minor festival in detail when really what you’re doing is putting people to sleep (and torturing your editor) by talking about bad movies that will most likely never see the light of day. It isn’t that there aren’t good films that don’t get distribution (like almost all of Hao Hsiou-Hsien’s films – or Beat Takeshi’s – or Edward Yang’s), and if I find any, I’ll talk about them – it’s that most films that don’t get distribution are bloody horrible. I mean, Christ, look at what does get distributed. It’s unconscionable that people are charged cash money to see something like Duck (and you wouldn’t be hearing about it from me, either, if it weren’t a major screening at this fest – lambasting indie pics that you will probably never see again in any format is a lot like potting clay ducks) - and that, more, it’s up for an award for new filmmakers offered at DIFF along with the deeply suspect Bittersweet Place (which we reviewed at the Tribeca Film Festival).
It’s not that most anyone in this audience will feel cheated, it’s that it strikes me as amoral in a way (and bound to backfire sooner or later) when you take your audience so for granted.
Here’s this week’s mystery capture (Contest 2, Capture 1/7) – The Captain has graciously offered to sit this one out (and I accepted that offer initially) – but, you know what, that’s ridiculous – he’s the king right now, and what fun is it if there’s no one to knock off the hill? Fair game, in other words, all in – let’s start with an easy one from one of my favorite pics:
Hot off the presses - updated 11/09/05
The first of my DIFF caps, this one Philip Baker Hall's jaw-dropper Duck
Travis talks about big swords in Blue Underground's new double-dipper of Fire and Ice
I talk about Jennifer Jones' embalmed and melted to Rock Hudson in A Farewell to Arms
and Travis again about Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills 2.0 Parent Trap I & II
Also, absolutely do not miss Bill's thoughts on Fox's new (hopefully short-lived) practice of defiling review copies of their screening DVDs. (Scroll past the Mr. and Mrs. Smith review to get to the chewy goodness.) Not the smartest move, says common sense, and Bill's articulate outrage starts a conversation we all should be having.
Hot off the presses - updated 11/10/05
Joe Wright's almost post-mod Pride and Prejudice is better described as Impressionistic, I guess - but no great loss, it not being meta, as, having seen Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy and Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there's no paucity of po-mo epics in the pipeline.
In DIFF news, an old Anthony Hopkins rides an old motorcycle across the Bonneville Salt Flats. But not before spreading his pixie dust over a collection of stock sad-sacks in Roger Donaldson's The World's Fastest Indian.
Also check out a little blather about a little pittance: Marcus Nispel's Frankenstein: a failed pilot for an ill-conceived USA Network television series. Main miscreant responsible? Dean Koontz. Millionaire. Idiot.
Hot off the presses - updated 11/11/05
Not going to write on the Jim Sheridan/50 Cent pic because I need to see it again. Audience I saw it with was awful and, more, for the first time ever it was presided over at either entrance by two armed policemen in full uniform (in addition to the usual security retinue). Yep, it's racism. Distracting and, worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy - lots of unpleasant anxiety in the air and I found myself not able to concentrate for long stretches. It didn't seem like it was worth a shit, but I want to be sure.
Here, however are new reviews for Derailed: Jennifer Aniston's attempt to break into mainstream flicks by slutting it up a little, tiny, bit. Am I alone in thinking that Aniston's sexuality is so bland and chaste that she couldn't get a rise out of a ten-peckered owl? In any case, she's so bad in this film that she sort of undermines it - what there is to undermine, that is. Also a review of Shane Black's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: a film that's easy to hate. But I didn't.
On the festival circuit, find a capsule for Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.
Travis, meanwhile, throws down the gauntlet before Jerry Lewis' entire filmography - or as much as he can stand.