38th Telluride Film Festival

In case you missed it, the Telluride Film Festival had its 38th bash last Labor Day Weekend, September 2-5. It included the latest films by Aki Kaurismäki, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Béla Tarr, David Cronenberg, and many more. But the reason I still love Telluride is not because it delivers the newest works from so many talented directors, but because they also focus on the past (showing silent films, archive prints, and various repertory titles), along with some unexpected programming courtesy of guest directors who are given Carte blanche to select anything they like, no matter how esoteric that might be. (This year the guest director was Brazilian composer, singer, guitarist, writer, and political activist Caetano Veloso, who has worked on soundtracks for Michelangelo Antonioni and Pedro Almodóvar). Telluride also eschews the competitive awards-system that drives so many other festivals and has managed to sidestep being mobbed by industry professionals, brand-obsessed sponsors, or party-obsessed socialites. In sum, Telluride has managed to still be that rare festival that bends over backwards to bring obscure 35mm movies while simultaneously providing viewers with cinematic experiences that challenge them to broaden their horizons rather than simply pandering to market whims or popular taste. And, yes, I say that despite the fact that this year its tribute star was George Clooney.  [...MORE]

Parting Thoughts with Director Alex Cox

In my last blog post I transcribed the first half of an informal interview I had with Repo Man director Alex Cox a couple weeks ago. In this second half of that interview we talk about movies he’d select for TCM if he were a guest programmer, what it’s like to work on the other side of the camera, some specific thoughts about Walker (his radical western starring Ed Harris), along with discussing other directors from Jim Jarmusch to John Carpenter. [...MORE]

Sleep Dealer

Sleep Dealer. Did you see it? Probably not. But you should. Do you like Bladerunner? The Matrix? If so, you should check out Sleep Dealer. All three are inspired in their own way. Bladerunner and The Matrix are equal parts smart fun and existential queries. Sleep Dealer is both smart and political. It can’t help but be a bit existential too as, to some extent, that is unavoidable when covering a protagonist’s struggle in the near-future where the question is: how much of your life are you willing to sacrifice to make a better living? [...MORE]

Bad Movies I Love: Kings of the Sun (1963)

Yul Brynner and George Chakiris trying to work out the survival of the fittestIf, like the rest of us peasants, you can’t get enough of ambitious movies set in Mesoamerican times, you might want to check out Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006). I’ve tried to watch that recent movie about three times now, but somewhere around the time that the words “I am Jaguar Paw. This is my forest. And I am not afraid” are spoken, I tend to nod off, even when these lines are spoken in the Yucatec Mayan language. My excessive snoring is the only thing that kept waking me up as Mr. Gibson‘s earnest attempt to dramatize the decline of Mayan civilization unfolded into the expected gore-filled spectacle. But enough of those stabs at historical accuracy in the movies–give me an engrossing, epic-sized if ill-conceived distortion to get me through the dog days of summer.

Happily, I’m here to report that no attacks of narcolepsy occurred while discovering the utterly delightful, nearly unknown Yul Brynner movie, Kings of the Sun (1963) recently. That 108 minute movie, shot in richly textured hues of De Luxe Color, is one of those being aired today, August 26th at 1:30PM EDT on TCM as part of Yul‘s moment in the Summer Under the Stars annual August event. An audacious movie–befitting an American financed re-imagining of the rise of a hypothetical ancient Mayan culture—was crafted with enormous professionalism in every frame, from the gorgeous cinematography of Joseph MacDonald to the rousing score from Elmer Bernstein and a cast of Oscar honorees and an industrious troupe of artists and craftsmen. The only problem is the script, darn it!
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