Wayne's World, but not really.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Getting ready to leave

I've got a few more stories to tell and several more reviews to write, but I doubt I'll get to them before I leave Cannes.

The trip has been fun and educational, if not overwhelming at the beginning. Fortunately, I know that if I ever come again, I'll be able to hit the ground running. In fact, I'm going to see what my chances are next year of returning with some freelance gigs in place to pay for the trip.

I've also made several friends who I'll stay in touch with -- that alone makes the trip worth it.

The best part about my trip was that I was able to stay motivated to produce some original reporting and blogging -- my main worry before I left. The stories aren't terribly great, but it's a good start.

I'll post more photos and pictures when I get back to Chicago. Maybe I'll write a few more entries, as well.

It's been a long 12 days, and I'm somewhat burnt out. It will be nice to go at a slower pace again.

Thanks for reading.

"Clerks II" offers wit and charm

I saw the 12:30 a.m. screening of "Clerks II" at the Palais de Festival on Saturday, and Kevin Smith and the stars from the movie were in the audience.

"Clerks II" is a great film. For those not familiar with "Clerks" or the cartoon series of the same name, the plot consists of two convenient store/fast-food clerks, Dante and Randall, who banter about everything from Star Wars to sex while on the clock. Lots of jokes about homosexuality and lots of swearing also are staples of the films.

The movie succeeds by offering original jokes -- such as why the term "porch monkey" is a racial slur and why the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy is boring -- and also because it has a heart. The relationships among the characters are surprisingly touching in some scenes. Finally, there's some good discussion about how to live your life -- especially if you're a clerk.

3.5 stars
Wayne's star system
1 star --> avoid at all costs
2 stars --> watch on TV when nothing else is on
3 stars --> rent it eventually
4 stars --> must see before you die

Friday, May 26, 2006

List of films

Many of the foreign films I saw at Cannes were disappointing due to their slow pace and lack of plot. I guess it's because films selected for Cannes are more artistic rather than commercial. Some of these films likely never will see commercial release, especially in the United States.

Good films I screened
"Pan's Labyrinth" directed by Guillermo Del Toro (Spain).
"Clerks II" directed by Kevin Smith (United States).
"A Scanner Darkly" directed by Richard Linklater (United States).
"Sketches of Frank Gehry" directed by Sydney Pollack (United States).
"Shortbus" directed by John Cameron Mitchell (United States).
"Babel" directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (United States).
"Uro" directed by Stefan Faldbakken (Norway).
"X-Men: The Last Stand" directed by Brett Ratner (United States)
"Volver" directed by Pedro Almodovar (Spain).
"Akeelah and the Bee" directed by Doug Atchison (United States).
"Fast Food Nation" directed by Richard Linklater (United States).
"Paris, Je t'Aime" directed by various (France).
"This Film is Not Yet Rated" directed by Kirby Dick (United States).

Not so good films
"Re-Cycle" directed by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang (Taiwan).
"Election 2" directed by Johnnie To (China).
"Marie Antoinette" directed by Sophia Coppola (United States).
"Selon Charlie" directed by Nicole Garcia (France).
"Over the Hedge" Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick (United States).
"Il Caimino" directed by Nanni Moretti (Italy).
"Destricted" directed by various (United States).
"Suburban Mayhem" directed by Paul Goldman (Australia).
"Southland Tales" directed by Richard Kelly (United States).
"Red Road" directed by Andrea Arnold (United Kingdom).
"977" directed by Otar Litanishvili (former Soviet Union).
"Taxidermia" directed by György Pálfi (Hungary).
"Manhattan Minutiae" (United States).
"Life Remote Control" (United States).

"A Scanner Darkly" sheds light on drug abuse

I'm behind on my film reviews, and I doubt I'll ever catch up, but I do want to write something about Richard Linklater's film, "A Scanner Darkly," which was screened early Friday morning.


"A Scanner Darkly" takes place in the near future in Anaheim, Calif., and features Keanu Reeves as an undercover drug agent whose goal is to find out who sells and manufactures the mysterious drug known as Substance D. Reeves secretly is taking Substance D because of job stress and finds that both hemispheres of his brain are competing with each other to fill in the brain lobes destroyed by his drug use.

Although it isn't the best film in competition, it is one of the best. It's not really a commercial film, if only because it spends a lot of time on conversations between paranoid drug users, has little special effects or quick plot developments. I haven't read Phillip K. Dick's book, which the film is based off of. However, several reviews have noted that the movie is so true to the book that it's not commercially viable.

The ending, however, is more commercial and surprisingly touching and definitely redeems a lot of the movie. If this sees a wide release, I'll be surprised, but it's definitely worth watching.

3.5 stars
Wayne's star system
1 star --> avoid at all costs
2 stars --> watch on TV when nothing else is on
3 stars --> rent it eventually
4 stars --> must see before you die

If I had to pick one movie to see at Cannes, it would be "A Scanner Darkly." The film has intrigued me ever since it was announced in 2003. I saw "Waking Life," and really liked the animation process -- called interpolated rotoscoping. The technique involves filming the movie in DV and then painting over each cell one by one.

Highlights from the news conference

At the news conference Thursday, Linklater said the movie was delayed from its original September 2005 release, because the animation process ended up taking more than 500 hours. Downey Jr. joked that animators worked under sweatshop conditions to get the film completed.

The film was shot on a really low budget in Austin, Texas, in just 23 days, Linklater added. No company even would fund it until stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson were attached to the project, he said.

Downey Jr. joked that "the 25 years of drug research I've been doing" helped him prepare for his role as a paranoid drug user. This generated lots of laughs.

One reporter asked whether Linklater thought the media made people paranoid.

"I don't think the media is paranoid enough or they are about the wrong things," Linklater said. "They report on a person that could break into your house but give a free pass to what's really affecting things. Healthy paranoia is good for dialogue, but they're made to think it's bad to be paranoid."

Meanwhile, Downey Jr. said that just because he has roles liberal films such as "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "A Scanner Darkly," doesn't mean he "is some left-wing Larry."

"I like George Bush," he said. "I have a nice picture of Bush with my wife on top of my refrigerator. I think he's a shitkicker and gets things done. Is that OK?" he asked.

Too funny.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


In response to the comment on my previous post about my lack of celebrity encounters, I guess I'd say there are celebrities everywhere in Cannes, but many of them are inaccessible unless you're a key player in the movie industry or a journalist from a prominent media outlet.

Most celebrities stay outside of Cannes and only venture in for premieres and parties. When they do cone in, they are closely guarded and cordoned off from the public.

I've seen lots of movie stars at news conferences and on the red carpet, but none of them just walk around Cannes -- mainly because they would be mobbed.

Parties are a good way to meet celebrities, but invitations are scarce and only go to key industry people or prominent entertainment journalists.

Meanwhile, I haven't really gone out to clubs or bars at night, if only because I'm on a budget and can't afford a $45 taxi ride home after the trains stop at midnight.

I've heard a few funny stories, such as one case where someone pointed out that a homeless guy playing the harmonica looked a lot like Nick Nolte. It turned out that it was a shaggy bearded Nick Nolte dressed in shaggy clothes.

But really, celebrity sightings just aren't my thing.

Director Richard Linklater, Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. participated in a news conference Thursday about "A Scanner Darkly."

Video footage of the trio arriving.

Highs and lows

With a festival like this, there are bound to be highs and lows -- mainly because I have expectations since I'm paying my own way to be here.

Wednesday sort of was a bust until the last part of the day. Sophia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" was disappointing, even though it got lukewarm reviews by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

In the afternoon, I tried to watch the Australian film "Suburban Mayhem," but it was too stylized rather than engaging -- I slept through the majority of it and eventually walked out.

Then I tried to get into the press screening of Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly" and waited in line for 45 minutes, only to watch people with higher priority badges fill up the theater.

I called the Weinstein Company later to see if there were any advanced screenings for Kevin Smith's "Clerks 2," but was told that a screening in the evening was invitation only.

I tried to get into a foreign press screening of "United 93," only to be rudely turned away at the door, because I was domestic press.

Afterward, I ran into a student from UPenn who said he and several other of his classmates attended the "Clerks 2" screening. Apparently, someone was handing out flyers for it, and you could bring as many people as you wanted to the theater!

Finally, I went to see a low-budget documentary called "Life Remote Control," but the production values, story and editing were not up to par, so I walked out.

So I sat in the wifi cafe, wishing I had made different choices throughout the day -- even though it's impossible to do everything and you can't expect to be on top of everything always -- and called a friend to tell him about my crappy day, which made me feel a little better.

Fortunately, the end of the night redeemed some of the disappointments.

Because I had to carpool back with a friend from Variety, I went to meet her over at the American Pavillion and found out that the Queer party was open to the public. Many cast members from "Shortbus" were around, and I was able to talk to one of the main actors Sook-Yin Lee. Director John Cameron Mitchell, who is known for his other movie, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," also was present, although I didn't get a chance to speak to him.

John Cameron Mitchell, left, and Sook-Yin Lee, right, attend the Queer party at the American Pavillion.

"Hedwig" is about "a transexual punk rock girl from East Berlin who tours the US with her rock band as she tells her life story and follows the ex-boyfriend/bandmate who stole her songs," according to IMDB.

"Shortbus," meanwhile, is "an exploration of relationships in New York City through gender, sexuality, art, music and politics," according to IMDB.

That's putting it lightly -- "Shortbus" has some of the most sexually graphic scenes I've ever watched. It likely never will be released in theaters -- although there was a successful bidding war for it at Cannes, according to Variety.

Mitchell's next film, "Oskur Fishman," is for child audiences -- I find that hilarious.

The highlight of the party was the fantastic fireworks display. Because the American Pavillion's back yard is the beach, partygoers got a fantastic view.

Below is video footage of some of the fireworks I saw.

More photos of the fireworks show outside the American Pavillion early Thursday morning.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Babel" will win the Palm D'Or

"Babel," by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is the best movie I've seen at Cannes so far. In fact, it's so good that I predict it will win the festival's top prize, the Palm D'Or, or Golden Palm.

The Tower of Babel "was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. Because man had it in his heart to be like God, God stopped this project by confusing their languages so that each spoke a different language. As a result, they could no longer communicate with one another and the work was halted. The builders were then scattered to different parts of Earth. This story is used to explain the existence of many different languages and races," according to Wikipedia.org.

MIñárritu, director of "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams," gave the film its title because it weaves four different story lines in four different languages from four different countries -- Tunisa, Morroco, Mexico and Japan. Eventually, the audience discovers that each story is connected in some way.

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett lend their starpower in the Morocco storyline, where they play American tourists. But despite their notoriety, all the actors and actresses are good.

I'm not going to give away the story, because it ruins the film -- but the style, acting, editing and directing are top notch. It's sort of like "Amores Perros," if you've seen that.

3.5 stars
Wayne's star system
1 star --> avoid at all costs
2 stars --> watch on TV when nothing else is on
3 stars --> rent it eventually
4 stars --> must see before you die