When Bob Rosenthal, executor of Allen Ginsberg’s estate, first approached filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman in 2005, asking them to do the seemingly impossible – adapt Ginsberg’s 1956 epic poem Howl for a movie – they immediately accepted his challenge. But how to do it?
“There was no way we were going to make the 50th anniversary, but we made the 55th,” says Friedman, 59. He and Epstein, an Oscar-winner for 1984’s The Times of Harvey Milk, had previously directed The Celluloid Closet, a 1995 documentary chronicling the history of gays in cinema.
Perhaps the greatest validation of Wall Street, Oliver Stone’s eloquent 1987 take on big-business corruption, was the eventual exposure of white-collar con men like Kenneth Lay and Bernie Madoff, whose unchecked greed would, years later, cost those who trusted them – and America – dearly.
Stone could at this point have let the facts speak for themselves, but instead chose to resurrect Gordon Gekko, the reptilian corporate raider, made famous by Michael Douglas, whose credo – “greed is good” – became the unofficial mantra of the Me Generation.
The constant wrangling we see in The Romantics, directed and adapted from her own novel by Prozac Nation screenwriter Galt Neiderhoffer, might leave us emotionally drained if only we cared more, or perhaps knew more, about the characters at the heart of her talky melodrama.
This much we do know: A group of well-to-do Yalies have gathered along the picturesque Long Island shore for the marriage of ruggedly handsome Tom (Josh Duhamel) and his spoiled, emotionally distant bride-to-be Lila (Anna Paquin).
The second Oakland Underground Film Festival kicks off tonight at the historic Grand Lake Theater with South by Southwest Film Festival favorite Thunder Soul, about the charismatic band leader who turned an inner-city Houston high school's jazz band into a powerful funk outfit, and American Grindhouse, a revealing documentary about cheerfully trashy exploitation cinema. Elsewhere:
Founded in 2003, San Francisco's Irish Film Festival takes over the Roxie this weekend, kicking off the three-day festivities with the regional premiere of Ian Fitzgibbon's A Film with Me in It, a black comedy about a struggling actor (Mark Doherty) who seeks counsel from his hard-drinking best friend (Shaun of the Dead's Dylan Moran) when a series of freak accidents turns his run-down flat into a mass grave. Doherty, who wrote the script, will be on hand to field questions following the 9 p.m. screening.
The 34th Toronto International Film Festival, billed by organizers as "the most important festival after Cannes," concluded Sunday, Sept. 19, with the announcement of this year's Audience Award winner: The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's account of Bertie (A Single Man's Colin Firth), the man who overcame a humiliating stutter to become King George VI. (Bay Area moviegoers will get a sneak peek of Speech when it opens the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.) Here's an account of the 10-day Toronto festival's highlights, lowlights and (almost) everything in between.
San Francisco's Latino Film Festival, featuring contributions by emerging and established filmmakers from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the U.S., runs through Sunday evening at the Roxie, while House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou's darkly humorous new thriller A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop arrives at the Embarcadero. Elsewhere:
Doug MacRay could have been a contender. He robs banks and armored trucks for a living, moonlighting as a blue-collar construction type. Once upon a time he had a chance to escape the mean streets of Boston’s clannish Charlestown neighborhood, and with them the legacy of his father, a career criminal wasting away in Walpole’s Cedar Junction prison.
Doug (Ben Affleck) was a hockey player with a scorer’s touch, but instead of going pro he fell into the family business, emptying vaults for the neighborhood crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite) and setting aside just enough cash to harbor dreams of a better life. He has a tight-knit crew and a guiding sense of principle, though the two are often at odds.
It begins as a roundabout version of a classic Internet love story, if such a thing can be said to exist. Eight-year-old Abby Pierce, an aspiring artist from small-town Ishpeming, Michigan, contacts Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, a 24-year-old New York photographer, on Facebook, asking permission to paint one of his photos. He gives it, and soon receives a copy of the painting in the mail.
The story doesn’t end there. Intrigued by Abby’s precociousness and her 19-year-old half-sister Megan, a striking blonde singer, Nev pursues a relationship with the Pierces, first online and later on the phone. He gets to know their mother, Angela, who tells him she’s capitalizing on Abby’s talents by opening her own art gallery.
An Oxford alumna who studied film in graduate school at New York University, Jann Turner has traveled a long, circuitous path to White Wedding, her acclaimed directorial debut. Already a commercial hit in South Africa, it won the Audience Award at last year’s Mill Valley Film Festival and is now playing at the Opera Plaza Cinema.
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