When we laid out a slew of contenders for next year's Oscar season recently, we left off David O. Russell's currently untitled project revolving around the FBI's ABSCAM public corruption investigation of the 1970s and early 1980s. The reason was we weren't quite sure the film would make it out in time. Turns out, at least for now, that it will.
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So, the ladies are back in Los Angeles, and that means no jogging by the Siene, no beheading ducks, none of Kyle's terrible fake French accent. Thankfully, drama follows these women around like vultures after a wagon train or high school chicks after Justin Bieber. It doesn't matter where they are, they can find something to scream, argue or cry about. Remember, Kyle and Kim managed to have a physical altercation in a limo. I mean, that takes some effort.
When Warner Bros' announced last year that they were shifting Baz Luhrmann's lavish 3D interpretation of "The Great Gatsby" from Christmas 2012 to an early summer release date, my first thought was that a Cannes date had to be on the cards. Then, when the film's US release date was nailed down as May 10, five days before the festival begins, I was both puzzled and doubtful: with US projects of that magnitude, Cannes tends to secure the world premiere.
Turns out I overthought things, and that my initial instinct was correct. "The Great Gatsby" has been selected as the curtain-raiser for this year's Cannes Film Festival, 12 years after Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge!" performed the same duty.
AUSTIN - No horror movie has ever given me the same amount of anxiety before seeing it that "Pink Flamingos" did.
The first time I read about the film, I remember recoiling completely at every single part of the description. It was in Danny Peary's book "Cult Movies," and when I picked that book up in 1981, I read through it in about three days, and it started me on a search to see all the films in the book as quickly as possible. The only film that I hesitated about in any way was "Pink Flamingos." It didn't help that I read the J. Hoberman/Jonathan Rosenbaum "Midnight Movies" not long after that, and their chapter on John Waters only made me more sure I was afraid of everything that film stood for. I was still in my early teens, and while I was drawn almost innately to the wilder fringes of film, my own personal life experience was so alien to what it sounded like Waters captured in his films that I just cringed at the idea of seeing them.
Now, at the age of 42, I laugh at the idea of ever having been afraid of Divine or John Waters or the films they made together. I may not love every one of their collaborations, but I love that they collaborated. I love that they found each other, and that along with the rest of the lunatics who were part of Dreamland Studios, like David Lochary or Mink Stole or Edith Massey, they made movies that didn't capture a subculture so much as they launched one. John Waters has been so thoroughly embraced by the mainstream at this point that it's hard to remember a time he was considered a purely underground artist, but the new documentary "I Am Divine" does a great job of showing how Glenn Milstead went from being a nice Baltimore kid to being a drag icon who shocked the world.
AUSTIN - Normally, when we're at festivals the news from the outside world gets turned down to background noise, and we focus on the films we're seeing here. In the case of this year's SXSW film festival, it's hard to tune out rumblings about what might happen with the future of the "Evil Dead" franchise, particularly since there are so many different reports of what's supposedly going to happen. In order to help sort out the rumors, I am going to discuss some spoilers for the new film, so be warned.
The simple truth is that there are no official firm plans in place yet for either project, but there are conversations going on that could end up in a number of different permutations of films depending on how things come together. Sorting out fact from fantasy isn't easy especially considering some of the sources of the confusion, but it's sort of maddening to see fandom get worked up when it sounds like the things that they're discussing aren't worth getting upset about… or at least not yet.
When Fede Alvarez did the Q&A after the "Evil Dead" premiere on Friday night, he revealed that there is already work being done on a script for "Evil Dead 2," and that it's not going to be using the 1987 "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn" as inspiration. Makes sense. Despite some confusion during production, I think it's clearly inaccurate to call this new movie a remake in any way.
OMG! Can you believe it? Sean is going to pick either Lindsay or Catherine! Or neither! And, if he picks one of them, he'll probably break up with her in a few months! Okay, that was a little negative, I know, but let's face it; the odds are rarely in anyone's favor on this show. Yes, it's very romantic, it's fun to watch, but it doesn't usually translate into actual, you know, nuptials.
AUSTIN - It seems fitting that Joseph Gordon Levitt's first feature film would play at the SXW film festival. There's something about this fest that feel different than any other I attend. I think of Sundance as a festival that likes to anoint the "next big thing." Cannes seems to me to believe that the people they invite are already anointed. Toronto is a glut of movies, pretty much everything that's ready at the time, and everything you can imagine is represented there. But South By Southwest feels to me like a party, like as long as you have a camera and you made something, they're interested in having you here so you can see how it plays. Everyone's invited, and that same attitude seems to be built into the DNA of Levitt's entire HitRECord initiative, which is more than just a website. It's a community of people who are constantly playing with the tools that have transformed filmmaking for the 21st century.
When actors direct, there's obviously a version of that which is more vanity project than anything, and while I've seen painless versions of that, it's always a little frustrating to me to sit through. The good news is that you'd have to be openly hostile and simply not watching to think that what Levitt's done here is anything less than a genuine work by a real filmmaker. He's got a strong sense of voice, and he is exceptionally good at communicating visual information clearly. This is a film where every cut is an additional brush stroke, where he's trying to paint a very specific portrait of the way things work between men and women. Just as I think Joe Swanberg's "Drinking Buddies" offered up some real wisdom about a particular dynamic, Levitt has a very specific idea about the relationship between the porn that men watch and the romantic comedies that women watch. It's not a connection I've ever directly made, but once you see the way Levitt makes the connection, it's a hard point to argue.
MIAMI - Whether it's the brisk climes of his native Sweden or the lush comforts of rural New England, there are any number of landscapes one might associate more immediately with director Lasse Hallström than the balmy shores of Miami. Yet when I meet him, looking suitably relaxed in the retro-chic breakfast room of my hotel, he's quick to say it's not just Florida hospitality making him feel at home: Miami, or more specifically the Miami International Film Festival, is where the Oscar-nominated Swede, director of such films as “What's Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Chocolat” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” believes his Hollywood career actually began.
We still have about a month to go before the April 7th premiere of "Mad Men" season 6, and given Matt Weiner's penchant for secrecy, don't expect much, if any, information about what's happening — or even, as usual, when it's happening.
AMC did release one set of clues today, in the form of the season 6 key art, drawn by veteran illustrator Brian Sanders. It's an intriguing image that raises all sorts of questions and theories about the new season, like:
AUSTIN -- At the top of the film "Good Ol' Freda," Beatles fans get hit in the face with one of the rarer, frequently bootlegged pieces of the Fab Four's history. It's the sound of the first Beatles Christmas recording, from 1963, of John, Paul, George and Ringo singing bits of "Good King Wenceslas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," with scripted and improvised bits on wishing fans a happy holiday. It and all the following years' records were sent only to members of the Beatles fan club.
"Good Ol' Freda's" namesake Freda Kelly was the president and leader of the Beatles fan club for their entire career. And as director Ryan White said in the Q&A session after the documentary's premiere, it was a real testament to Kelly's integral role in the history of the Beatles' music career that the filmmakers were able to secure the sync rights to include that Christmas record for the movie.
In fact, there were four Beatles songs besides the Christmas recording that were weaved into Freda's chronological narrative: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Love Me Do," "I Feel Fine" and "I Will."
While Kelly's story is small, contained and another (albeit unfettered) look into the history of the Beatles, the securing of those licenses is epic in scope. As the music industry has splintered and merged and evolved in the past 40 years, so have the issues of copyright and ownership of Beatles master recordings. White said, "On my death bed... these will be the four proudest moments of my life, getting those four songs," conceding that it's "well known" that there are "countless circles of people" who must grant permission for these recordings. Publishers, labels, songwriters, estates and other rights holders make up these "countless" stakes.
It reminds me of Soundcloud and other music sharing technologies utilized by artists big and small today. On Soundcloud, a performer can share a snippet of work, or demos or unfinished, unmastered, unclaimed bits of music, just in order to connect with their audiences or workshop through their artistic ideas. They could put out their own Christmas recording of "Rudolph," just to say hi and thanks. Years later, what is the value of that work, when it is easily attained? "Rare" music is now so rarely rare.
We're in gawky, awkward teenaged years of music sharing (just ask the guys at Napster and the film "Downloaded"), and the intrinsic and net value of music is in a raw flux, due to the fact that artists make one-off and "exercise" material available readily. Some don't. In either case, were the artist to retain all rights to their material and exercise control over it -- as copyrights holders have done in the case of the Beatles -- good night and good luck, because from YouTube to Soundcloud to filesharing networks, they're everybody's at this point.
There are few artists that will ever be as famous and as "valued" as the Beatles, and for those that are, there's no such thing as the "rare Christmas recording" anymore. "Good Ol' Freda" is an inadvertent lesson in what rare even means to the current music consumer. That, on its face, is worth a trip to see "Freda."
Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 172: '30 for 30: Survive and Advance,' 'Justified,' 'SNL' & more
Last week, we thought the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast would be short. Instead, it was our longest ever. This week, we also thought it would be short, and it was — but only by the absurd F&I standards, in that it still clocked in around an hour. Another slow week brought with it more check-ins, a review of the latest "30 for 30" documentary, some listener mail and even a few minutes of sports talk! The lineup:
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.