After its eleventh, successful year, it seemed like all was going well with Cine las Americas, the annual April film festival celebrating Latino and Native American films from across the Americas. But this week, a small bombshell was dropped when it was revealed that Programming Director Jacqueline Rush Rivera is leaving the festival after five years.
During Rivera's short tenure, and in tandem with CLA Executive Director Eugenio del Bosque, a small staff, and a host of volunteers, the festival and its related programs surged forward in content, breadth, and scope. So why leave when things seem to be on the rise? The dreaded budgetary concerns.
While offering nothing but praise for Rivera and her contribution to CLA, del Bosque explains, "one of [Cine's] key challenges has always been funding of year-round programming operations." He further states that the board has been working over the summer "to increase the membership base for our film exhibition programs, expand our education schedule, and strengthen and diversify our sources of income. As part of this work, we made the difficult decision to combine the Executive Director and Programming Director positions, while realigning responsibilities among other staff roles. I remain in the Executive Director position and will once again assume the programming responsibilities that I previously held at Cine Las Americas."
That's little solace for a person who has been integral to the success of, not only the festival, but to the year-round programs that give CLA visibility throughout the year. But not to worry, Rivera will land on her feet. She is currently looking for work here and abroad and has already "been contacted to run the local campaigns for two film openings," she says via e-mail. Rivera expects to be in Austin at least through October. Read More | Comment »
So, I was all ready to celebrate your concession and my very first victory – the wine was open, my socks were off, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band were playing quietly on the hi-fi – when I looked at the day's vote tally and saw that I was still losing by 50%. My spirits sank. If a man can’t win a debate even after his opponent concedes then what good is he? And what choice does he have but to assume the Fates are conspiring against him and drop himself down a well?
But I’m not going to do that. Mainly because I have no idea where to find a well. But also because I’ve been looking forward to Round Four all week. So I’ll do this now and drown my sorrows in a bowl of moonshine later.
Round Four! The Speed Round! The Awards Round! Round of Champions!
We’re going to try something new here. Instead of going back and forth on a particular topic – straining credulity and intellectual probability in the process – Kim and I will spend the day handing out awards to the various actors and actresses we’ve come across during our time watching Shakespeare on film. Best Male. Best Female. Worst Male. Worst Female. Best Mixed-Doubles. Best Horse. That sort of thing. With any luck, our choices will inspire discussion and debate and, eventually, vicious personal attacks. Read More | Comment »
It’s nearing time for me to truck off to bed, but I realized in all this back and forth about Love’s Labour’s Lost (and honestly I’ve got such LLL fatigue I can hardly bear to type the words – thanks for sucking the fun out of a film that was nothing more than a happy lark for me) that I’ve neglected to say anything at all about another comedy that surprised me for being, well, pretty good – the Michael Hoffman Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Hoffman shifts the action to lush Tuscany. (Another comedy, Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, moved there, too – remember how ruddy and bosomy and positively athletic about their attractions to each other everyone seemed?) Midsummer’s ladies are Gibson girls in high necks and flouncy skirts, and bicycles are used liberally throughout, but otherwise it’s a pretty conventional rendering. Nothing earth-shattering, but a moving turn from Kevin Kline, a fun mixed-partner roundelay, Alf’s surrogate dad playing the moon… It was sweet, don’t you think?
Yup, that’s what I’ve been reduced to: It was sweet, don’t you think? Who am I kidding? I drew the short straw. The comedies are crap. Tragedy wins. I’ve done your work for you.
But don't expect any freebies from me tomorrow... Read More | Comment »
First of all, I’m not interested in canonizing anything or anyone. Quite the opposite, actually. If I had my way, we’d drop the classics down a well as soon as we’d taken from them what we needed. As far as I’m concerned, there’s way too much reverence in the world for the things that came before us, too much gushing over the past. Respect is all well and good, but if we honestly believe things were better when so and so was making movies or thus and such was writing books or this and that was recording albums, then we’re doing so and so, thus and such, and this and that enormous disrespect. In fact, the most respectful thing we could ever do for those who came before us is leave them behind.
“This past doesn’t influence me,” said Willem de Kooning, “ I influence the past.”
So, by all means, use Mr. Porter and Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Sting and do with them what you will. Cut ‘em up, mash ‘em up, whatever. The past is ours to do with as we please. The newness is all. Read More | 1 Comment »
I'm well aware I'm about to pop the top on a whole can of worms here, and don't take this as a blanket endorsement of the picture, but...
My point: Art inspires art. Art informs art.
Why put Cole Porter on a pedestal and and say, your work here is done? Why put the Police in a box and say no else can take what you've done and try to make new meaning from it? And why, why, why would you want to put Shakespeare behind glass and tut-tut at anyone who has the audacity to put their own idiosyncratic print on a play? Read More | Comment »
First let me say that watching all this Shakespeare is having an odd effect on my brain. There was a moment the other night when some actor was soliloquizing on love or murder or truth or beauty or footwear, and all those antiquated words just turned to jelly in my ears. I could have sworn I was listening to Hungarian.
A few quick things about Love’s Labour’s Lost before I go to the dentist. Then I’ll be back, grouchier than before.
It’s amazing to me that anyone could look at that clip you put up and not want to thrown him or herself off a bridge. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow Timothy Spall actually manages to out-ham his costar Nathan Lane. I didn’t realize that was possible. In a movie that prides itself on chewing its beautiful scenery to dust, Spall is the undisputed heavyweight champion of scenery chewing, a living, breathing testament to the extremes of human behavior, a theatrical canary in the coal mine gauging just how far an actor can go into the realm of the antic before audiences riot in their seats.
I love musicals – love them – and I’m perfectly fine with the notion that they often come with outsized characters doing outsized things on outsized soundstages. But there’s a difference between playing things broad and playing them omnivorous. And Spall, under Branagh’s watch, has created a character that goes beyond cute and into the realm of the cartoonishly absurd, a giant and terrifying beast of musical comedy, crying out for attention and willing to beat its audiences into laughter and enjoyment if it has to. Read More | Comment »
The quality of that clip is terrible – if you gave up on it, here's the gist: it's the terrific character actor Timothy Spall zipping through "I Get a Kick Out of You" (he's singing about the country wench who stole his heart, anti-women proclamation be damned). It's one of the better production numbers of the film, and I think it's fairly representative of the charms of the piece. It's silly, yes, but also funny and inventive and affectionately recalling the old MGM spectacles of the 30s and 40s.
Despite the era/costume tweak, it's Branagh's most literal adaptation. Case in point: In case you didn't get it, post-monologue, that he totally loves the lady Rosaline, he slips into the "Cheek to Cheek" to hit the point home, and in case you still didn't get it, when he gets to the line "Heaven, I'm in heaven..." he actually sails toward the ceiling on an invisible wire.
It's impossible to watch the scene without a good guffaw... and also a gentle twinkling in the heart. Like I said, it's an imperfect film, but it's got a remarkable spirit about it – and it's funny, sometimes really funny. Nathan Lane plays Costard the clown as if Groucho Marx took a wrong right turn into Shakespearia, and he nails it, using sight gags and cheeky asides to help us along in getting humor that plays more woodenly on the page. Read More | Comment »
"But, I know you’ll protest that Shakespeare’s language, though elegant on the page, becomes heavy and purple onscreen and that otherwise likable actors become bloated and declamatory when they’re forced to speak it."
Actually, I would argue the opposite: that, yes, Shakespeare's language is elegant, but on the page it reads rather heavily, so bogged down with words that have fallen out of favor (I suppose "cock-a-hoop" had to go if the OED was gonna make room for "thingamabob"). While I get a kick out of all those old words, it doesn't always make for an easy read, checking the footnotes every few lines... which is why Shakespeare feels so alive and so relevant when transposed to screen (and stage, of course). Hearing the cadences, coupled with visual cues, the language stops feeling faintly foreign.
The comedies, especially, I think, benefit from being loosed from the page. I wasn't very familiar with Shakespeare's comedies prior to this little experiment of ours (I've only read Much Ado About Nothing). After weeks of cramming the tragedies – one after another after another – all that murderous plotting and tortured speechmaking had sent me into something of a tailspin of dour, which is why it was such a blessed relief to watch two modern takes on the comedies. Read More | Comment »
I know I’m a snob. In my defense, I came by it honestly. My father was a snob; his father was a snob; his father’s father was a snob, and on and on, traversing time and space, to Brooklyn, to Minsk, to Russia, to Palestine, through vast history to the Garden of Eden, which a relative of mine chose to leave because it “lacked imagination.”
Speaking of snobbery, I’m here, at this late hour, to introduce round three, in which our heroes battle it out over the relative value of tragedy versus comedy. Being a snob (and a morbid soul) I’ll be defending tragedy, which would seem, in the case of Shakespeare movies, to be the lighter load, as I don’t know anybody – anybody – who likes Shakespeare’s comedies.
But, since you’ve been brave enough to take the burnt side of this particular piece of toast, the least I can do is provide you with fodder for your morning post. And here it is: Read More | 3 Comments »
Actually, I said I’d rather watch 10 Things I Hate About You over Zefferelli’s Taming of the Shrew, and I stand by that statement – for the reasons I mentioned earlier, about the sometimes-tedium of slavish adaptations high on their mightiness, and also because I’m more interested in watching how a modern film explores through humor a teenaged girl’s budding feminism in a genre too-often consumed with the particulars of how a teenage boy gets his cherry popped – and the crowd goes wild! – than sitting through another rehash of an utterly antiquated, utterly misogynistic play. The Taming of the Shrew was of a certain time – a long, long time ago, I might add – and why would anyone want to faithfully re-create that? 400 years on, can’t we do something a little more interesting than that?
But no, my larger complaint is with your “Take note, world! Kim Jones likes crappy teen comedies!” I don’t have any insecurities about my taste, or my ability to differentiate between quality moviemaking and a more disposable entertainment. But I’m not gonna sniff at the value of plain old entertainment – I’m just going to feel especially blessed when the twain do meet.
And since you asked:
Say Anything, Fucking Amal (Show Me Love), Igby Goes Down, Brick, Flirting, Running on Empty, Murmur of the Heart, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Pleasantville, Heathers, Stand and Deliver, Hoosiers, Splendor in the Grass, Pump up the Volume, Hoop Dreams, But I’m a Cheerleader, Breaking Away, and – wait for it – Can’t Hardly Wait
All ten fingers, and almost ten toes. You, sir, are a snob.
Isn’t this fun? Read More | 1 Comment »
Real quick: Kim and I are always looking for ideas for future Film Fights, and we'd love to hear any suggestions you might have.
So please send us your ideas via the "comment" link at the bottom of each entry, and if we use one of them, I bet there'll be something in it for you.
Not something you want, probably, but still ...
Now, back to barracks ... Read More | Comment »
It would be hard to sit here and argue against Throne of Blood and say that simply because Kurosawa chose to ignore Shakespeare’s language, his movie isn’t as good as it could be. Throne of Blood is so beautiful and so terrifying and so intense and so dark and dreary and so totally idiosyncratic that to take a position against it would be pure folly. Not that I’m against pure folly, mind you. In fact some of my shining moments have been acts of pure folly (in fact, most of my moments in general have been acts of pure folly). But I’m no sucker, and I try not to walk into punches if I can avoid it, so I’ll leave Kurosawa alone.
But that doesn’t mean that other, mere mortal filmmakers can take the storyline of a Shakespeare play and hope it will provide the framework for great entertainment. Like I said earlier this afternoon (when I was young), Shakespeare the storyteller leaves a lot to be desired, so it’s best when adapting his work to the big screen to rely on Shakespeare the poet, get yourself some actors who know what to do with his words, and go from there. It’s the surest way to glory.
But, I know you’ll protest that Shakespeare’s language, though elegant on the page, becomes heavy and purple onscreen and that otherwise likable actors become bloated and declamatory when they’re forced to speak it. Which, of course, is true. But let’s face it: Any writer’s language is insufferable when the wrong actor is using it. Remember watching Kenneth Branagh stumble and stutter his way through Woody Allen’s Celebrity, trying vainly, and with all his customary classical bombast, to capture the stuttering New York wit and self-flagellation of the classic Allen schlemiel? It was as excruciating as listening to Keanu Reeves botch up Branagh’s own Much Ado About Nothing five years earlier ... and not half as funny. Read More | Comment »
First of all, Kim, let me say that it’s a dirty trick using what a man tells you in confidence against him on a public blog and I applaud you for it.
But now I have to take back my applause back because I don’t know how else to show my disappointment with someone who’d rather watch 10 Things I Hate About You than Romeo and Juliet. You’d rather watch 10 Things I Hate About You than Romeo and Juliet. I’m not even sure what to do with a sentence like that except hope it’s actually some foreign language I’ve never seen before.
I’d like it written somewhere in the official record that Kim Jones – film critic, film fan, Film Fighter – likes 10 Things I Hate About You, a movie that stars Julia Stiles. Surely that’s got to be worth 15% of today’s vote in my favor.
As for that scene you chose to broadcast, I can’t decide if it’s a bigger slander on Shakespeare or Frankie Valli. I’m going to say Frankie Valli because Shakespeare can take care of himself and because Frankie Valli could use the press. And also because “Sherry” is a fantastic song. As is “Rag Doll.” And because I’m big enough to look past “Grease.”
To make matters worse, the scene takes place in a high school, and high school movies, I’ve decided, are the lowest rung of the cinema ladder, the dregs of the medium, right behind movies starring little kids. In fact, I think I could count the number of good high school movies on two hands if I had to.
Which I guess I now do:
Rushmore, Election, Rebel Without a Cause, Risky Business, Friday Night Lights, Back to the Future, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Blackboard Jungle, Dead Poets Society, Donnie Darko, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Dazed & Confused.
All right, two hands plus two fingers.
And I challenge you, and I challenge anyone reading this, to come up with any others. If anyone can make the argument that there are 10 more good high school movies out there, I’ll gladly concede today’s round; plus I’ll sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” on the floor of the Texas State Senate dressed as Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.
Which reminds me: John Hughes movies don’t count because they’re John Hughes movies and you all need to grow up. Read More | 1 Comment »
After reading your snarky cut-down of West Side Story – and, jeez, what did Russ Tamblyn ever do to you anyway? – I thought long and hard about whether or not it was ... hmmm... sporting of me to take things that you've mentioned, whether in casual conversation or the strictest of confidences, and then use them against you here in this public forum.
In short: to exploit our friendship in an attempt to win a silly little thing called Film Fight.
Do you really need to ask which side I came down on? Thusly:
Don't be an asshat, Josh. I know you love West Side Story. And I think our readership deserves to know, too. Read More | Comment »
Did you really just respond to my calling you out by referencing a movie starring Richard Beymer, whose greatest role since has been as Harry Williams in a one-episode story arc on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?
I mention Ian McKellen, and you come back with Russ Tamblyn?
I speak of Shakespeare, and you reply with Sondheim?
Here’s the thing. Shakespeare didn’t tell particularly good stories. Try as I have during my life to defend every part of Hamlet and Othello, the simple fact is that there are enormous narrative holes is Shakespeare’s plays that he fills in with absurdity. Remember Act V of Hamlet? The house of cards is on the table and ready to fall: Hamlet knows Claudius killed his father, Claudius knows Hamlet knows, and Hamlet knows Claudius knows he knows (and little lambs eat ivy). Hamlet has killed Polonious (which everybody knows) and in response Ophelia has killed herself by excessive clothes-wearing (which everybody but Hamlet knows). Laertes – knowing all of the above – wants to kill Hamlet, and Claudius – knowing Hamlet knows he killed his father, has tried to kill Hamlet using Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who don’t know anything. So … Hamlet is out to kill Claudius, Claudius is out to kill Hamlet, Laertes is out to kill Hamlet … and everybody knows everything.
The perfect time for an all-out brawl (or "rumble," if you prefer), right?
So what do they do? Read More | 2 Comments »
First of all, you're too quick to belly-ache -- you're winning, bucko.
Back to business:
So, yes, with West Side Story, I opened with the big guns. But I've got more ammunition, so here goes.
Let's remember we're not arguing the merits of Shakespeare, per se, but rather the films adapted from Shakespeare. Do I think the script for 10 Things I Hate About You is superior to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew? Of course not. Would I gladly watch 10 Things – a surprisingly sparky little teen comedy – over Zefferelli's shrill, theatrical version any of the day week? You're damn right I would.
How about Macbeth? I haven't yet been able to track down Orson Welles' take, nor have I seen Polanski's version since high school (all I remember, with a shudder, is a decapitated head), so I can't say much of anything about either.
But I have seen Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, which shifts the action to feudal Japan, adopts its aesthetic from Noh theatre, and doesn't include a lick of the original Shakespearean language. Is it a lesser film for it? Or a more inspired one? (By the way, do you think Kurosawa's stand-in for the three witches – a spooky dead warrior spinning a sewing wheel – inspired Wanted's doofy Loom of Fate?)
And what about some more contemporary takes on ye olde Bard? The BBC's Shakespeare ReTold series rejiggered Macbeth to riff on cutthroat kitchen culture. And the terrific, totally underappreciated indie comedy Scotland, PA transposed the action to a Seventies-era fast food restaurant and crafted, in Maura Tierney's oversexed, foul-mouthed Lady Macbeth, the sexiest scheming-bitch portrayal of Lady M I've seen.
Read More | Comment »
Son of a bitch!
When I went to bed last night/this morning, I was ahead in the voting. God, I slept so well – better than I have since the end of last month’s Film Fight – secure in the knowledge that I had finally gotten the better of Kim Jones and that, at long last, Chronicle readers had come to their senses. All was right with the world:
God was in his heaven
The dew was on the grass
Six preceded seven
The priest was at his mass.
The dove was softly cooing
Alone up in her tree
And girls were fit for wooing
The world had voted “me.”
Then I wake up this morning/afternoon to find that somehow, some way, somewhere I’m behind again.
This is treachery! I’m convinced of it. I doubt some foul play. Get me Warren Christopher! Get me Ron Klain! Get me Katherine Harris!
Something must have happened in the interim, but I can’t see what it was. The only thing that changed between then and now (unless the moon somehow came too close to the Earth) is that I posted my latest two entries. Nothing strange there, right?
But then I got to thinking: It appears the more I write the less I win. Every time I post some 3000-word essay on the relative merits of Laurence Olivier vs. Claire Danes, I somehow come out with the fuzzy end of the lollipop. I think I see a pattern.
So, being no fool, I’m taking a new approach to winning Film Fight. Convinced the more words I write the fewer votes I get, I will now be the first person in Western history to attempt victory in a debate without saying anything. I will be silent as the stars, quiet as the sand, clammed up as the clam.
I shall speak no more forever.
Starting tomorrow. Read More | Comment »
The rumors were out there, thanks to some loose lips at a cocktail party I attended last year, so when Paul Saucido, the VJ Host of Sonido Boombox sent the word last week that he was laid off from ME Television, I wasn't surprised -- sad, but not surprised.
The Los Angeleno turned Austinite has worked hard to raise the profile of Rock en Español in Austin -- an uphill climb Saucido didn't expect. Challenged by those who refuse to see that Latino music is not bound by boundaries of any kind, Saucido was quick to see that some of the most exciting Latino acts in this town are not recreating the wheel, but spinning out their own music, embracing all their influences -- from heavy metal to yes, the rhythmic ranchera music pulsing from the radios in the kitchens of their youth. As a longtime Los Angeles resident (by way of Arizona), he came to Austin skeptical that Austin was really all that. He soon discovered it is. Here's set down roots here and says he has no plans to leave.
Saucido was not the only VJ to be cut loose. Hip hopper and fellow VJ Bavu Blakes was also shown the door, two of the "temporary layoffs" to occur in ME TV's programming and production departments, according to Connie Wodlinger, President and CEO of ME Television, via e-mail. She further states that Saucido and Blakes "will continue to be invited to make on-air appearances ... [and] "we hope to be back to full staff by year-end." Read More | 18 Comments »
As Josh mentioned in his 4am dispatch, we previously agreed that today's fight would come down to Shakespeare adaptations which use the Bard's language versus pictures that are "merely" inspired or suggested by him. Josh is pro original-language, and I'm ... against it? Sheesh. I guess I never meant to say non-Shakespearean language is better per se -- only that they're just as worthy adaptations as the classical ones -- but you know what? Fine. I'll go with it. You know why?
Because I have West Side Story on my side, and you don't. Read More | Comment »
True, I loved McKellen’s Richard III. It was absolutely brilliant from beginning to (almost) end.
And true, it was always going to be hard for me to claim that old Shakespeare movies are always better than new Shakespeare movies, come what may, especially when you’ve got new movies like that one on your side.
So, you’ve backed me into a bit of a corner (insidiously, as you admit: inviting me over to watch a movie in the middle of our first day of debate, knowing full well that movie was an ace up your sleeve – a modern interpretation on a par with the best of Orson Welles). But, as the fella once said, “’Tis the sport to have the enginer hoist with his own petar,” and so Kim, I’ll delve one yard below this mine of yours and – to kick off day two’s battle - see if I can’t turn this treachery back on you:
How can you relish so much McKellen’s Richard and then turn around and claim that movies based on Shakespeare’s plays but that don’t use Shakespeare’s language are better than those that do?
I look forward to waking up to your answer. Read More | 1 Comment »