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Earlier that day Murphy guest DJ'd on NPR. He talked about forming LCD Soundsystem in 2001, and how with their three albums the band spanned the full emotional arc of a big band -- hit first album, second album that beat the sophomore slump, and then the rock star decadence of a third album recorded in a Laurel Canyon mansion. (Except the decadence was, I think, a pose -- I have no doubt that Murphy wanted to sample that louche vibe by replicating its breeding ground, but the resulting album is too focused for me to believe he actually behaved that way. His workaholic tendencies shine through.)
How many artists -- musicians, filmmakers, writers, playwrights -- have purposefully called it a day when they're at the height of their powers? How many recognize that after a certain point they'll be repeating themselves? How many periodize their lives, saying, "This was my thirties; it's time to reinvent myself again"?
Soderbergh says he's going to do it. He says he's retiring from the film business and will become a painter. Tarantino has talked about doing it -- stopping before he turns into Richard Donner and opening his own art house theater. But, for now, James Murphy has done it. I look forward to his next act.
ENVISION: ADDRESSING GLOBAL ISSUES THROUGH DOCUMENTARIES, APRIL 8TH AND 9TH Harry Belafonte, artist, humanitarian, and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and George McGovern, Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme (WFP), will deliver keynote addresses this weekend on addressing the goals of eradicating hunger and poverty and the power of media to effect change. ENVISION, presented by IFP and the United Nations Department of Public Information, kicks off Friday evening with a screening of the HBO documentary The Sound of Mumbai - A Musical, directed by Sarah McCarthy and a musical performance by the PS 32 Chorus. Additional screenings include Phil Grabsky's The Boy Mir and Lucy Walker's Waste Land, preview selections from Steven Cantor's Tent City for OWN, and from Jehane Noujaim's Solar Grandmothers and Brian Hill's Welcome to the World, both in production for the "Why Poverty?" international series. Organizations represented in the discussions and presentations include The Global Poverty Project, Earth Institute, City Harvest, Africare, One Acre Fund, Pro Mujer, Gardens for Health International, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Food Programme. Advance online sales end Friday at 10 am. For additional details on the program and ticket information, click here.
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MEEK'S CUTOFF By Michael Tully
As much as I approve of Kelly Reichardt’s Meek's Cutoff in every single way, I've been finding it incredibly difficult to write a review of it. Not that I don't have anything worthwhile to say. It's just that everything I've come up with so far sounds like film school pretension. Though term papers could -- and hopefully will -- be written about how Reichardt revises and revitalizes the traditional Western in her most ambitious production yet, I worry that this type of treatment will keep Meek's Cutoff relegated to cinephile circles, when this is a perfect example of a vital American independent film that should be used to help broaden less adventurous viewers’ horizons. read more CEREMONY In Max Winkler's (Henry Winkler's son) directorial debut, Ceremony, this comedic drama follows the antics of Sam Davis (Michael Angarano) who invites his best friend to spend a weekend with him at an estate owned by a documentary filmmaker (Lee Pace) with the hopes of wooing the filmmaker's fiancee played by Uma Thurman. Naturally, his plans don't work out and has to confront his own issues amidst a weekend getaway. Touching, with beautiful cinematography by William Rexer, Ceremony shines with wonderful performances by Angarano and Thurman. HANNA Saoirse Ronan reunites with her Atonement director Joe Wrigh to make Hanna, a dark action film about a teenage girl (Ronan) trained by her father (Eric Bana) to be an assassin and ends up on the run from a relentless intelligence agent played by Cate Blanchett. Ronan gives a standout performance; the film also includes a pulsating score by The Chemical Brothers. KATI WITH AN I Finding attention on the festival circuit and being nominated for the Gothams' Best Film Not Playing At A Theaters Near You award in 2010, Robert Greene's doc Kati with an I is an intimate look at a teenage girl named Kati (Greene's half-sister) who is graduating high school in Alabama. Dealing with an uncertain future with her boyfriend and the final days of hanging out with friends who will go off to college, Greene's subtle storytelling takes you inside the life of a modern teen, all captured beautifully by d.p. Sean Williams (Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, Frownland). MEEK'S CUTOFF Kelly Reichardt's latest Meek's Cutoff follows a small, westward-moving wagon train of three couples (headed by a feisty wife played by Michelle Williams) being led, perhaps astray, through 1840s Oregon by the charismatic Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood). Loosely based on true events, Reichardt's "Western" examines the woman's role in the 1800s as well as how two words -- Manifest Destiny -- motivated so many to blindly embark westward. Subscribe to our digital subscription to read our interview with Reichardt from the Winter 2011 issue. YOUR HIGHNESS For the first half of the 2000s, David Gordon Green directed quiet, darkly funny but reflective indie dramas like George Washington and All The Real Girls. But with Pineapple Express and working on the HBO comedy Eastbound and Down, his interests have now ventured towards Hollywood. That continues with Your Highness, starring James Franco as a prince who goes on a quest, along with his lazy brother (Danny McBride), to rescue his bride. The film also stars Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel and Justin Theroux. Green says the biggest challenge in making his latest Hollywood project was to create a story that audiences can grab onto, not just laugh at. "I needed these characters to do [certain actions], and this plot twist had to show up here, and it had to have degrees of tension and suspense," he says, "all these things that go into making a genre movie like this work. Then I could make it funny." Read the rest of Green's interview from the Winter 2011 issue by subscribing to our digital subscription. This week on the blog, Gregory Bayne uses his film JENS PULVER | DRIVEN to spark a populist film movement (pictured left); Sarah Palin defends film tax incentives; and our April VOD calendar is up.
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MATT HARLOCK & PAUL THOMAS, AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY By Damon Smith
Until a few weeks ago, I'd never heard of the Texas stand-up comedian Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 at age 32, having found resounding success overseas and little more than professional respect at home. Since then, I've devoured several hours of his comedy specials on my Netflix Instant account, marveling at the way this artist managed to blend blisteringly caustic commentaries on sex, politics, rock music, religion, and drug addiction with a weirdly humane, almost holistic philosophy of life. Stand-up comedy in any form is not normally my thing, but I've become rather attached to The World According to Hicks. read more
Maryland International Film Festival
Early Deadline: April 15
Regular Deadline: June 4
Festival Dates: Oct. 13-16
Ohio Independent Film Festival
Final Deadline: April 15
WAB Deadline: April 22
Festival Dates: May 18-22
Detroit Windsor International Film Festival
WAB Deadline: April 17
Festival Dates: June 22-26