Art, Life and Politics

Art, Life and Politics

With the arrival of Sarah Palin, American politics has strayed deep into Wag the Dog territory, but it wasn’t until last night, as even ad hoc members of Alaska’s First Family were lined up for her speech, that I realized that if I were Levi Johnston, I’d be very, very worried. Squinting your eyes, you can just about see the future of Sex on Skates:

His Face Book profile (in which he says he has no plans to get married) has already been taken down. Next, I think he’ll be out drinkin’, prolly with Track or some other buddies, get bleary, blotto drunk, and wake up the next morning to find that somehow, although he can’t remember it, he has enlisted in the U.S. Army.

His protests will get him nowhere; in record time, he’ll find himself in a still-dangerous corner of Afghanistan where, suddenly, somehow a stray bullet will end his young life.

This casket will be photographed. His pregnant grieving widow will meet the plane, most likely still hauling around Trig, since that seems to be her job; his (would-be) mother-in-law will meet the plane; the honor guard will be there. God knows John McCain will be there. There’ll be talk of burial at Arlington Cemetery, although in the end, Alaska will win with its claims of unlimited fuel reserves for the Eternal Flame.

All of us who know and love Wag the Dog will recognize this as the Old Shoe moment brought to life. For the rest, there’s Netflix.

Love and Death – Ira Sachs on ‘Married Life’

Ira Sachs’ Married Life arrives on DVD this week. His follow-up to his Sundance Grand Prize-winning breakthrough film Forty Shades of Blue is an ambitious challenge: a 1940s melodrama of adultery and murder played as wry comedy of manners and directed in a naturalistic style with a modern sensibility. Perhaps comedy is a misleading label. Call it an irony, and a deftly played one at that: a cool, wry noir cast in a sleek yet understated period décor and played with a maturity and introspection in place of overheated emotions. In April, I talked with Sachs about the film, his great cast (Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, and Rachel McAdams), the period and that subtle alchemy of tone and genre (the biggest revelation was the film’s never-identified setting: “Married Life” takes place in Seattle!). A digest version of the phone interview ran in the Seattle P-I as a “Moment With Ira Sachs” featurette. Here is the complete interview.

What was it about the book, “Five Roundabouts to Heaven,” that made you say: “This is my next project.”?

I’ve always been interested in psychological stories and character-driven stories. Right before I started working on this, I’d seen a lot of Joan Crawford movies and Bette Davis movies and Barbara Stanwyck movies and Fred MacMurray movies, a kind of old-fashioned storytelling that was usually over-the-top and larger-than-life in terms of the plot, but something about them really resonated for me personally. So I decided that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to make one of those kinds of films without being a retro film. I just liked the way those stories were told. I spent a summer reading old pulp mysteries. People often say that you can make a movie out of a pulp fiction better than a movie out of a classic and I think there is some reason for that because there’s something more you can play with. And what I liked about this book particularly was that in the course of the story, when you learn more about each of the characters, you realize that, at its heart, it’s a really humanist story about relationships. Even though it’s a genre film, it’s also a humanist film. What I thought was quite true about the emotional stakes of these people within their marriages, even again if it’s over the top in its structure, it resonated for me personally within my own relationships.

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The Last Round-up: Budd Boetticher’s Great Westerns Coming to DVD

Last year, in a piece I wrote for GreenCine, I dreamed up my fantasy list of box sets and special editions I wanted to see (heck, I wanted to OWN) in the coming years. Less than year later, two of those dream DVD sets have been announced. (I doubt my piece had much to do with them, but hey, it was a dream list and I can fantasize about its impact.)

Universal is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil with a two-disc special edition featuring all three versions of the film (the 1958 release version, the longer preview cut discovered in the mid-seventies, and the 1998 Walter Murch reconstruction), plus commentary on each disc by different folks, the complete Welles memo, a couple of featurette, interviews and such. This will be the first time either of the those earlier two versions have actually been home video in their original state (the old VHS and laserdisc releases of the film were of a studio job that combined footage from both of those old versions into one hybrid version). The anniversary branding explains the delay in the release, something fans have been expecting ever since the Murch-helmed reconstruction. The release date October 7. See the press release for the complete details on the release.

Paramount's DVD release of "Seven Men From Now"
Paramount's DVD release of "Seven Men From Now"

A release sure to receive less publicity but one that is equally exciting to me, however, is Sony’s Budd Boetticher Box Set, a collection of the Columbia “Ranown” films directed by Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott. The release has been long in the coming as only a couple of the films had been released to VHS (and those on substandard Goodtimes videos). Paramount’s 2005 DVD release of Seven Men From Now, the first collaboration between Boetticher, Scott and screenwriter Burt Kennedy, only whetted my appetite for the rest of the films.

Seven Men From Now (1956) set the tone and lean style for series, as if it was carved it in the stone-like visage of Randolph Scott’s weatherbeaten face. Boetticher had just come off a two-year stint with Universal, where he cranked out journeyman assignments (including his first westerns) with a muscular sense of action and place, and the austere little crime thriller The Killer Is Loose when producer John handed him the terse script by Burt Kennedy. More than perfect fit with Boetticher, it brought the best in the director. Boetticher pares himself down to the rugged essentials and wrenches up the tension between the central characters, isolated in the empty desert, with remarkable economy. He makes Kennedy’s dialogue sing like lyrics and turns Scott “limitations” as an actor into an expressive element of character: inexpressive and inflexible, hard, his voice that masks his feelings and his lanky body is perfectly at ease setting a horse or handling a gun but less sure in moments of emotional intimacy.

Producer/star Scott realized that he had a winning combination and immediately signed Boetticher up to direct for his own company at Columbia Pictures, where he cranked out low budget westernsthat made enormous profits. The made five films together at Columbia – The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), Ride Lonesome (1959), and Comanche Station (1960) – three of them scripted by Kennedy. From The Tall T to Comanche Station, you can see Boetticher and Kennedy honing the style and structure established in 7 Men to a laconic austerity. That cycle stands next to the greatest works of Anthony Mann and John Ford: tight, taut, often savage little pictures that are both graceful and visceral, direct, and rich in character.

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‘Redbelt’ on DVD – A second round with Mamet’s magnificent martial arts drama

David Mamet’s Redbelt arrives on DVD this week. I take the occasion of reviewing the film to work through some of my thoughts on what I believe is the smartest, sharpest and most unashamedly pure melding of personal filmmaking and genre filmmaking since Walter Hill’s Undisputed, another magnificent fight film. I don’t know that the film was misunderstood and I haven’t sifted through the critical reception, but the film was a financial underachiever (it earned less than $3 million in ticket sales in he U.S.) with few champions. Here’s my shot at championing it.

Mamet's honorable warrior in a dishonorable world
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike Terry: Mamet's honorable warrior in a dishonorable world

Mamet’s stage reputation is built on male dramas of wit and wills and one-upmanship, battles fought almost exclusively through his glorious dialogue, pushed far beyond any sense of realism into a verbal symphony of intertwining solos built on staccato bursts of profane words elevated to terse poetry. As a filmmaker, however, his most interesting films are his genre picture – heist films, murder mysteries, con movies, all generally male-centric narratives with a strong physical component (from subtle sleight-of-hand to bold showings of strength) that he reworks with his own brand of professional pride, machismo and male honor. It’s a man’s world and he revels in it.

In many ways, Redbelt is both a revival and a complete redefinition of the kind of film that Jean-Claude Van Damme cranked out in the eighties, the kind of thriller that pit fighters in matches in underground leagues and our honorable hero overcomes his disdain for such bloodsport to take revenge for the murder of a brother/friend in the ring. It’s a fight film, in Mamet’s own words, but in the distinctive martial arts world of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. And it’s a kind of samurai film, with Iraq vet and poor but proud Jiu-jitsu instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor, all quiet dignity and modesty) as his honorable warrior in a dishonorable world.

Mamet, of course, latches on to the philosophical grounding of martial arts that is always given lip service in such films, and then either ignored or bent to fit the revenge plots. But he also embraces the machismo of the genre in his own distinctive way: the confidence of strength, the courage of modesty, and the professional grace of a fighter who uses the least amount of effort and movement to achieve his goal. Mamet is a devotee to Jiu-jitsu and he gives it all his respect.

It’s glorious pulp fiction elevated to genre art, full of both Mamet’s cynicism about the corruption of big business (just substitute Hollywood for the martial arts league) and his romantic ideals of men in military service and men dedicated to a higher purpose. Mamet never manages to capture the fiery fury of a great martial arts battle; he’s no action director and shoots the choreography largely from the perspective of a TV spectator, direct and functional. But the screenplay is pure Mamet: characters trading questions that never get answered, lines repeated like a mantra, conversations like twin monologues in parallel dimensions that always manage to wind up back in the same universe.

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Steve Coogan: “Can we get away with this?”

I first “discovered” Steve Coogan through his film roles, first in The Wind in the Willows (aka Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, directed by and starring Monty Python’s Terry Jones) and then taking the lead in Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People. It was only later that I finally saw the creation that made him famous in Britain: Alan Partridge, the unctuous, self-absorbed wannabe TV personality flailing in the brilliant parody of a talk-show train wreck Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. (The title refers to the Abba song – but of course – and is pedantically worked into his every guest introduction. Ah-ha!). The series was one of the many he has created, written and starred in for the BBC but only recently finding their way to the U.S., thanks to BBC America and BBC DVD releases. (His latest show, Saxondale, is slated to run on BBC America in late 2008.)

I just want you to like me... and watch my show
Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge: I just want you to like me... and watch my show

I had the opportunity to interview Coogan when he came through Seattle to promote Hamlet 2 (opening August 22) for a small “A Moment With” piece for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a “What’s In Your DVD Player?” feature for MSN Entertainment. I wound up with a generous 45 minutes with Coogan, a man very serious when it comes to the business of comedy. That meant that, after carving out those little slices of interview, I still had more than half an hour of enlightening conversation with Coogan about Hamlet 2, his work with Michael Winterbottom and the business of creating shows for British TV. Here it is.

You made two films with Michael Winterbottom, 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy. There had to be a lot of challenges on those two films, where there were so many levels of engagement with the character, and then stepping back and commenting on the portrayals.

With Michael Winterbottom, in those films, there’s a very simple thing I do that I don’t do in other films and other work I do. In other films I do, especially comic films, there’s a lot of control and craft involved in what I’m doing, whereas in those movies with Michael, I trust him enough to, if you like, let go of the controls and see what happens. And I’m never quite sure what I’m doing and that’s quite liberating because I can trust him. So I just sort of forget about almost everything and go with whichever way the wind blows and whichever way he pushes me and just dive in and don’t think about it too much. It’s just an organic, instinctive thing, there’s not much of an intellectual process going on for me in those movies. When I’m talking to the camera, I’m just talking to someone about what’s happening to me. I don’t over think it, I trust him. It’s a very different way of working.

In addition, you write and produce so many of your own projects for television. Do the Winterbottom projects give you a chance to stretch yourself in other ways?

It does. It allows me to because I don’t have the responsibility for what I’m doing, which is quite liberating, as long as you trust the person you’re working with and trusting them to be responsible. It enables me to do things I wouldn’t normally do because it’s a way not, even though I’m proud of working with Michael, it’s not my voice, it’s not my vision, it’s his and I’m just there to facilitate that and to help render that, which is nice, whereas when I’m doing my own stuff it is my point of view, it’s from me.

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Cinematic Archeology on DVD – “Orson Welles’ Don Quixote”? Not Even Close

Don Quixote on DVD
Don Quixote on DVD - Finally?

Don Quixote is one “lost” Welles film that is surely doomed to remain that way: unfinished, fragmented, a puzzle with pieces that have been recut so many times they simply don’t fit together. Welles jokingly renamed the film “When Are You Going to Finish Don Quixote?” because he continued to rewrite and reconceptualize the film as he went along. It’s as if the act of creating in the moment was the point, not the finished production. Financed solely by himself, it perhaps became a project so personal that he couldn’t finish, and it remained in fragments when he died in 1985.

The DVD release of the 1992 “reconstruction” haphazardly cobbled together by legendary exploitation director turned indifferent B-movie hack Jesus Franco (he was an assistant to Welles during some of the principle photography) isn’t about to change that. Oja Kodar, Welles’ muse/partner/collaborator for the final decades of his life, sold the rights to the footage in her possession to Franco and producer Patxi Irigoyen (they also acquired the footage from Suzanne Cloutier), but was terribly disappointed at the resulting film. According to longtime Welles cameraman and friend Gary Graver, Franco and Irigoyen used practically every scrap of footage they had, including sequences he had shot for a Spanish TV documentary he made in the middle of production (another little project to get more production funds). Certainly it’s hard enough to guess at Welles’ intentions from the notes and partially-edited footage (in various stages of rough cut) left behind over the course of a decade of shooting on the run and dragging the footage around from country to country as he tinkered with the editing, but there is little evidence of any serious attempt at a legitimate reconstruction from the film on display, and it’s missing vital footage that remains in the possession of the film’s original editor, Mauro Bonanni, who was not invited to participate in the project.

From what I know about Welles and the history of the film, Franco’s version is not even an approximation, never mind a reconstruction. There’s no story here, simply a random succession of events and images and a whole lot of narrative detours. But even as a visual record of Welles’ raw footage it’s a travesty. It’s a given that much of the existing rough cut footage is in rough condition, showing the signs of wear and tear from years of tinkering on moviolas and dragging the reels from country to country. But Franco and company have, if anything, compounded the problems with hazy, blurry copies of the master footage and video noise introduced as a result of the project’s most egregious crimes against Welles: the video manipulation of footage to layer images one on another. At one point, the sails of a windmill are stretched across the screen (to suggest a windmill come to life and reach out to Quixote? was that in the notes, Franco, or was it all your inspiration?). The soundtrack is no better. Franco uses fragments of recorded dialogue (with Welles providing the voices of both Quixote and Sancho as well as the narration) and fills in the rest of the film with voices that barely resemble Welles’ work. You have to have to watch the mouths move just to pick out the speakers in this dissonant audio mess.

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Topical Thunder: Why I Love “The Ringer”

I was tempted to title this posting “When the f**k did we get ice cream?” to honor one of the funniest, most surprising lines of dialogue from The Ringer, the underrated, frequently hilarious Johnny Knoxville comedy from 2005. Like many of the best lines in the film (and kudos to screenwriter Ricky Blitt for providing them in abundance), this one’s delivered by a character who is developmentally disabled. It has to be heard in context to appreciate the perfect delivery by mentally challenged actor Geoffrey Arend, but one of the main reasons it earns a big laugh is because it implies a certain degree of fast-thinking wit (and in this case, a gentle hint of oblivious distraction) in the character Arend is playing. Like most of Knoxville’s co-stars, Arend’s character (named Winston) is a competitior in the Special Olympics, and with his fellow athletes he’s a well-chosen foil for Knoxville’s character, Steve, a relatively normal (i.e. not “special”) underachiever who has reluctantly agreed to pass himself off as mentally challenged in order to fix the Special Olympics — the assumption being that Steve’s a guaranteed winner against a roster of “feebs” and “retards,” as the Special Olympians are crudely defined by Steve’s crass and classless uncle Gary (perfectly played by Brian Cox), who concocted the fraudulent scheme to pay off a high-stakes gambling debt.

Knoxville (center) with his highly capoable co-stars in "The Ringer"
Knoxville (front and center) and his very capable co-stars in "The Ringer"

I mention The Ringer, of course, because it’s the antidote to the poisonous “retard” humor in Tropic Thunder, which I wrote about in my previous post. Where the developmentally disabled are concerned, the humor in Tropic Thunder is not intentionally offensive, but anyone who sees the film would have to agree that it’s insensitive and unnecessarily cruel. Oh, sure, I get the joke…it’s just not funny. So why is The Ringer so praiseworthy in comparison? It all has to do with the attitude behind the humor, and the context within which the word “retard” is being used. It’s very easy to laugh at “Simple Jack” and the other (relatively brief) scenes of “retard” humor in Tropic Thunder, but there’s no escaping the fact that the attitude behind that humor is derogatory, dismissive, and damaging. There’s nothing positive or even remotely understanding in the film’s attitude toward the developmentally disabled. Now, you could argue this is Ben Stiller’s right as the film’s co-writer and director — that he’s free to be offensive with no apologies necessary. I’m OK with that, because I despise any form of censorship on the basis of political correctness. But when a popular comedy promotes a destructive attitude, or perpetuates a negative image of a minority group with no apparent consideration for the potential consequences, well…that’s when I start feeling uneasy about the “comedy.”

With regard to understanding, accepting and appreciating the developmentally disabled, The Ringer is everything that Tropic Thunder is not. From start to finish, Ricky Blitt’s screenplay and Barry Blaustein’s direction are based on progressive assumptions consistent with the pro-disability attitudes found in the comedies by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who co-produced The Ringer. Warm-hearted, open-minded and altogether refreshing in its accurate and sincere embrace of the developmentally disabled, The Ringer presents its central squad of Special Olympians as smarter than we assume them to be; possessing skills and intelligence that defy our expectations (and those of Knoxville’s character); and prone to precisely the same emotions, desires, foibles, and faults of “normal” people. Granted, most the actors chosen to co-star with Knoxville are “high-functioning” (in the parlance of disability experts), so we’re not witnessing the full spectrum of mental retardation, but the movie’s message is clear: Underestimate these fine, respectable people at your peril. Knoxville’s character learns that lesson with appropriate humility, setting up a feel-good ending that’s well-earned and infectiously progressive in its attitude.

Tropic Thunder is never intentionally offensive toward the mentally challenged, but that doesn’t get Stiller & Co. off the hook. Even if its “retard” humor is relatively brief — and even though it’s implicitly understood (by most viewers, I hope) that there’s a “wrongness” about its underlying attitude — it’s still hard to escape the film’s not-so-subtle suggestion that mental retardation is a curse on humanity. That gives Tropic Thunder the stench of bad karma — the polar opposite of the big-hearted acceptance that graces every frame of The Ringer.

George Lucas: The Last Champion of Colonialist Cinema

Way back in the original Star Wars (before it was branded with a “IV” and subtitled “A New Hope”), it did not escape notice that at the end of the film, it was human heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo who got the glory while the non-humans – the wookie, Chewbacca, and the two robots – stood to the side to watch the royal blessing laid upon the Republic’s two great white hopes.

What does a wookie need to do to get a little respect?
What’s a Wookiee need to do to get a little respect?

After six feature and countless spin-off reiterations, not much has changed. The Jedis (mostly human, though at least those ranks are not completely Caucasian) roam around the galaxy like the master race, swooping in to save the lesser races with their gift of protection and leadership. There are a few token races sprinkled through the supporting parts, mostly providing exposition and exclamations, and only Yoda has any real authority or distinction among them. The droids are essentially happy slaves. These robots talk and offer opinions and often suggest emotions, while R2D2 and C3PO have distinctive personalities. They’re offered up as characters as real as the humans, but in the scheme of this enlightened era of interstellar unity, they are treated as servants or pets at best and cannon fodder at worst. Decades after Blade Runner and Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s a little arrogant to give a robot personality and self-awareness without suggesting they might be, in their own way, people.

All right, maybe that’s picking apart a little point, but the last two Star Wars features introduced the Clone Army, a race of genetically hatched humanoid soldiers designed solely to fight. They are treated, essentially, as organic robots, flesh and blood slaves sent to fight the Republic’s battles.

I’m sure Lucas never thought any of this through, which is really the point. What began as his paean to the innocent attitudes of the old sci-fi serials and the swashbuckling thrills of classic Hollywood adventures and pirate movies feels more and more like Rudyard Kipling’s imperialist adventurers in the stars. Keep Reading

Going “The Full Retard”: How Far is Too Far?

"Tropic Thunder" protestors in Middleton, CT
All they want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T: “Tropic Thunder” protestors in Middleton, CT

Many thanks to Roger Ebert and his website editor Jim Emerson for posting my letter to the editor regarding the protests by some disability advocates over the “retard” humor in Tropic Thunder. As stated in my letter, I think most people will see the film and understand that its target of satire is not the developmentally disabled but rather the silliness of Hollywood, specifically the spoiled-brat nature of pampered stars and the venality of devious agents and greedy producers. As far as it goes, the Hollywood satire in Tropic Thunder is spot-on and, for the most part, hilarious. Ben Stiller really knows what he’s doing here, and clearly this is his most ambitious film to date. Which is to say, I enjoyed the film on its merits and I’m pretty much aligned with Ebert’s 3 ½-star review. And while I have no intention of using this blog as a political forum, it must be stated that these protests — over the frequent use of the word “retard” and the film’s demeaning depiction of developmental disabilities — are worthy of serious mainstream attention. But, as always happens with protests by minority groups that the majority don’t appreciate or understand, the objections over Tropic Thunder have already been swept under the carpet, as far as the public and mainstream media are concerned. It’s obvious (from Stiller’s promotional appearances on “The Daily Show” and elsewhere) that DreamWorks publicists have declared the protests off limits for discussion — either that, or the talk-show hosts have no desire to prod Stiller (and others in the film) with questions about the controversy. One way or the other, discussion of this matter has been effectively squelched by those in charge of the film’s promotion. As a result, it’s not much of a controversy as far as the public is concerned; it’s already risen and faded in the course of the past few days.

Now, I happen to believe that when it comes to humor, nothing is sacred and nothing should be sacred. Everything and everone is fair game, and we (the public) have the luxury of deciding what’s funny and what’s offensive. I’m not easily offended, so most of Tropic Thunder was right down my alley…and really, isn’t it about time someone applied some satirical payback to Willem Dafoe’s Christ-like death in Platoon? One of the joys of watching Tropic Thunder is seeing how Stiller & Co. dismantle the symbolic excess of that scene and Oliver Stone’s heavy-handed direction of it.

So, when Stiller first shows us a clip from “Simple Jack” — this movie’s answer to Sean Penn’s Oscar-baiting performance in I Am Samit seemed clear (to me at least) that the satire was (1) way over the top and devoid of malice, and (2) the target of satire is the fact that Stiller’s character, whose film career is slumping, has made a last-ditch effort at respectability by playing a character who’s mentally retarded, since everybody knows the running joke that playing disabled is a fast-track to an Oscar nomination.

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Is that Downey? Okey DoQui

Is it just me, or does Robert Downey, Jr., seem to be channeling the the great character actor Robert DoQui (of Nashville and Robocop fame) in Tropic Thunder? Mind you, I haven’t seen the film yet, but I do know that he plays a method actor in the movie who goes to extreme measures to play an African American (in the movie within the movie), apparently drawing his examples from American exploitation cinema of the seventies. But all I saw in the previews was an uncanny resemblance to Robert DoQui, who passed away in February of 2008.

About Parallax View

Parallax View is a loose collective of like-minded professional film writers in the Seattle area. We like to get together and talk about cinema. This site is a place to put some of those discussions, as well as essays, reviews, interviews and other thoughts on movies, out to a wider audience. And hopefully have some fun with it.

Winners Announced in 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards

Forget about a recount! There will be no manual tally, no divining of intent, no lost ballots “discovered” behind the polling booth. The Seattle Film Critics have determined in no uncertain terms (okay, there is one tie) their choices for the best films of 2004.

The Puget Sound area’s fourteen most prominent print critics have fallen for the gym-rat nobility of MILLION DOLLAR BABY, naming it their best picture and giving the director nod to Clint Eastwood. We are pleased to encourage this fresh young face in his filmmaking endeavors.

Acting honors went to Jamie Foxx, for his dazzling diddy-bop through the life of Ray Charles, and Imelda Staunton, for her finely-tuned VERA DRAKE portrait of a housewife whose homely ministrations include back-room abortions. Supporting awards went to the lovingly re-discovered SIDEWAYS duo of Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen.

The Seattle Critics Awards are unique in bestowing a “Living Treasure” award, given to a long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s winner is Henry Bumstead (born 1915), one of Hollywood’s greatest art director/production designers, whose astonishing catalog of films includes VERTIGO, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, TOPAZ, THE STING, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, THE FRONT PAGE (74), THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, CAPE FEAR (91), MYSTIC RIVER, and MILLION DOLLAR BABY.

(Previous “Living Treasure” winners: Maureen O’Hara, Christopher Lee.)

A “Special Citation” for restoration work went to Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson, for their efforts in restoring 50 previously-unseen minutes to Samuel Fuller’s splendid 1980 film THE BIG RED ONE.

With that, the winners and runners-up in the Seattle Film Critics Awards. See below for voting members.

BEST PICTURE

Million Dollar Baby
Runner-up: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

BEST DIRECTOR

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Runner-up: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

BEST ACTOR

Jamie Foxx, Ray
Runner-up: Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor

BEST ACTRESS

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Runner-up: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Runner-up: Clive Owen, Closer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Runner-up: Laura Dern, We Don’t Live Here Anymore

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman)
Runner-up: Vera Drake (Mike Leigh)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Sideways (Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor)
Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby (Jim Haggis)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

(tie) Control Room and Touching the Void

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Maria Full of Grace
Runners-up: Blind Shaft, Hero

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Incredibles
Runner-up: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Hero (Christopher Doyle)
Runner-up: Collateral (Dion Beebe, Paul Cameron)

BEST MUSIC

The Aviator (Howard Shore)
Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)

LIVING TREASURE

Henry Bumstead

SPECIAL CITATION

Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson, THE BIG RED ONE

The voters in the 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
Tim Appelo – Seattle Weekly
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – Seattle Times
Robert Horton – The Herald
Richard T. Jameson – Queen Anne News
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Paula Nechak – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bradley Steinbacher – The Stranger

Winners Announced in Second Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in Second Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

December 18, 2003

Jack Valenti be damned! The second annual Seattle Film Critics Awards are here, despite Hollywood’s notorious ban on screeners. Fourteen of the most prominent print critics from the Puget Sound area have voted on the best in the film year, perhaps naively believing that movies should be seen on the big screen anyway.

The Seattle critics, all from print-only publications, handed major awards to small movies–yet found room for hobbits, too. AMERICAN SPLENDOR, the pixillated tale of Cleveland comic-book creator Harvey Pekar, won Seattle’s best picture award. The film’s screenplay, and leading lady Hope Davis, also got the nods in their categories. Meanwhile, Bill Murray won the best actor prize for LOST IN TRANSLATION, which makes us wonder how you say, “Now get outta here, ya knuckleheads” in Japanese.

In a category unique to the Seattle critics, a “Living Treasure” was also named, an award that honors some long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s award went to Christopher Lee, the magnificently suave and sinister English actor whose work is gloriously associated with Hammer horror films, notably as perhaps the finest screen Dracula. No stranger to straight roles (THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE THREE MUSKETEERS), Lee has lately found acclaim in both the newest STAR WARS trilogy and THE LORD OF THE RINGS…even if he was unceremoniously cut from THE RETURN OF THE KING. (Last year’s “Living Treasure” was Maureen O’Hara.)

A Special Citation was awarded to Rialto Pictures, for their stirring restorations and/or re-releases of a series of French classics in the past year, including LE CERCLE ROUGE, QUAI DES ORFEVRES, and TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI.

Without further ado, the winners of the Seattle Film Critics Awards:

BEST PICTURE

American Splendor
Runners-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Lost in Translation

BEST DIRECTOR

Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

BEST ACTOR

Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Paul Giamatti, American Splendor

BEST ACTRESS

Hope Davis, American Splendor
Runners-up: Charlotte Rampling, Swimming Pool, Charlize Theron, Monster

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Runner-up: Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River
Runner-up: Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
Runners-up: Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds); A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson)

DOCUMENTARY

Capturing the Friedmans
Runner-up: Spellbound

ANIMATED FEATURE

The Triplets of Belleville
Runner-up: Finding Nemo

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Man on the Train (France)
Runner-up: The Man Without a Past (Finland)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Andrew Lesnie)
Runner-up: Girl With a Pearl Earring (Eduardo Serra)

MUSIC

A Mighty Wind (songs by Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Annette O’Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston)
Runner-up: Lost in Translation (Brian Reitzell, Kevin Shields, William Storkson)

LIVING TREASURE

Christopher Lee

SPECIAL CITATION FOR FILM RESTORATION

Rialto Pictures

There is no Seattle film critics “group,” but a poll of the area’s top print film critics. The poll is organized by Parallax View: A Film Society, a group of film enthusiasts, professionals, and critics. The members of Parallax View are NOT the voters in the awards.

Critics voting in the 2003 awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
Tim Appelo – Seattle Weekly
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – Seattle Times
Robert Horton – The Herald
Richard T. Jameson – Queen Anne News
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Paula Nechak – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bradley Steinbacher – The Stranger

Winners Announced in First Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in First Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

December 19, 2002

Alarmed by the dearth of year-end movie awards, the film critics of the Puget Sound area have raised their voices in unison for the first time. Twenty-four of the area’s top critics have been polled for the first annual Seattle Film Critics Awards, and the results are in.

Todd Haynes’ FAR FROM HEAVEN proved close to critics’ hearts, winning in six categories, including best picture. The homage to the 1950s melodramas of director Douglas Sirk also won for Julianne Moore as best actress and two awards for Haynes, for best director and best original screenplay.

The Seattle critics also created a special annual category, the “Living Legend” award, which honors some long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s award went to Maureen O’Hara, the Irish-born, flame-haired Hollywood star whose long career included her many collaborations with both John Wayne (THE QUIET MAN) and John Ford (HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY).

The awards were organized by a new Seattle organization, Parallax View: A Film Society, a group of film enthusiasts, professionals, and critics. The members of Parallax View are NOT the voters in the awards. A committee formed by Parallax View polled the area’s leading critics.

Herewith, the results of the 2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards – Winners

Best Picture

Far From Heaven
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Best Director

Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven
Runner-up: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Best Actress

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Runner-up: Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Runner-up: Michael Caine, The Quiet American

Best Supporting Actress

Bebe Neuwirth, Tadpole
Runner-up: Toni Collette, About a Boy

Best Supporting Actor

Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Runner-up: Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven

Original Screenplay

Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes
Runner-up: Y Tu Mama Tambien; Alfonso Curaon, Carlos Curaon

Adapted Screenplay

The Hours, David Hare
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair

Documentary

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Runner-up: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Foreign-Language Film

Y Tu Mama Tambien
Runner-up: The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)

Cinematography

Far From Heaven, Edward Lachman
Runner-up: Gangs of New York, Michael Ballhaus

Music

Far From Heaven, Elmer Bernstein
Runner-up: Punch-Drunk Love, Jon Brion

Editing

Femme Fatale, Bill Pankow
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, D. Michael Horton

Production Design

Gangs of New York, Dante Ferretti
Runner-up: Far From Heaven, Mark Friedberg

Living Treasure

Maureen O’Hara

PARALLAX VIEW: A FILM SOCIETY is a newly-formed group of Seattle film professionals, enthusiasts, teachers, and critics. Our goal is to champion the cause of film literacy, foster public discussion of the place of movies in society, and promote the serious, sometimes delirious cause of film as art. To that end, we sponsor public events featuring filmmakers and critics, publish provocative writing about film, and present the annual Seattle Film Critics Awards, voted on each December.

Critics polled in the 2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – freelance/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – freelance/Seattle Weekly
Jim Emerson – freelance/cinepad.com
Gillian Gaar – freelance/Tablet
Shannon Gee – freelance/Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – freelance/Seattle Times
Robert Horton – Everett Herald/KUOW-FM
Richard T. Jameson – freelance/Pacific Press Newspapers
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Michael Medved – freelance/syndicated
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Kathleen Murphy – freelance/SteadyCam
Paula Nechak – freelance/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Nelson – The Stranger
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bruce Reid – freelance
Jeff Shannon – freelance/Amazon.com
Steven Shaviro – freelance/shaviro.com
Keith Simanton – Internet Movie Database
Andy Spletzer – freelance
Tom Tangney – KIRO-AM