February 2009

Last updated on February 1, 2009. Please check back later for additions.


The 17th Annual Oscar Party "AND THE WINNER IS..."
The Best of 2008
Adam's Rib Takes on the Oscar Nominations
The Cinema Lounge
Wendy and Lucy: Q&A with Director Kelly Reichardt
Actor Benicio Del Toro and Producer Laura Bickman Talk About Che
Waltz With Bashir: Director Ari Folman Discusses His Oscar Nominated Film
Coming Attractions, Winter 2008
We Need to Hear From You
Calendar of Events

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The 17th Annual Oscar Party


Throw those recession blues away and join the Washington DC Film Society on Oscar Night for "AND THE WINNER IS..." We may not have Fred and Ginger to dance us back to prosperity, but Hollywood will not spare any expense to make the 81st Academy Awards an entertaining spectacle. Throw those recession blues away by joining the Washington, DC Film Society for another edition of “And The Winner Is….” on Sunday, February 22, 2009 at the Arlington Cinema 'n' Draft House. Doors will open at 6:30pm. Pre-show is at 7pm and the Oscars ceremony gets underway at 8pm.

The 17th Annual FUN-raiser will once again feature the Oscars ceremony LIVE ON THE BIG SCREEN at Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA). But there’s much, much more. Local film critics Joe Barber and Bill Henry will be back to host the event with plenty of commentary. Then there’s the silent auction (cash, check only) where you can bid on many items, including gift certificates, DVDs and great movie posters, including those signed by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, director Danny Aronofsky and actress Marisa Tomei of The Wrestler, TNT’s Leverage director Dean Devlin and actor Aldis Hodge and Nights In Rodanthe author Nicholas Sparks, among others. Then there’s the always popular “Guess The Winners” contest as well as door prizes.

Tickets are $15 for DC Film Society Basic Members, FREE for DC Film Society Gold Members and $20 for non-members and guests.
Purchase tickets on-line.

The Best of 2008

The Washington DC Film Society announces the results of the 8th annual vote for the Best of 2008.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: Tied between Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler and Sean Penn, Milk.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Doubt.

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir.

Thanks to all who voted!

Adam's Rib Looks Back on 2008 and Takes on the Oscar Nominations

By Adam Spector, DC Film Society Member

2008 was not a great year for movies, and sometimes you had to really look for the gems. But they were there. I look back on the year's best
in my annual Top 10 column. In another column, I review the Oscar nominations and grade the Academy's selections in my new Adam's Rib column.

The Cinema Lounge

The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, February 9 at 7:00pm. The topic to be discussed is "First movies of popular directors."

The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the second Monday of every month at 7:00pm at
Barnes and Noble, 555 12th St., NW in Washington, DC (near the Metro Center Metro stop). You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Daniel R. Vovak, ghostwriter with Greenwich Creations.

Last month at Cinema Lounge
On January 12, 2009, we discussed our predictions for the Oscars.

Best Picture: The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Strange Case of Benjamin Button. (With a protest against this one being included).

Best Director: Danny Boyle Slumdog Millionaire, David Fincher The Strange Case of Benjamin Button, Ron Howard Frost/Nixon, Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight, Gus Van Sant Milk. (With protest votes for Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) and Oliver Stone (W).

Best Actor: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino, Frank Langella Frost/Nixon, Sean Penn Milk, Brad Pitt The Strange Case of Benjamin Button, Mickey Rourke The Wrestler. (With a protest vote for Richard Jenkins (The Visitor).

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie Changeling, Kristin Scott Thomas I've Loved You So Long, Meryl Streep Doubt, Kate Winslet Revolutionary Road. With a protest vote for Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky).

Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin Milk, Robert Downey Jr. Tropic Thunder, Phillip Seymour Hoffman Doubt, Heath Ledger The Dark Knight, Dev Patel Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams Doubt, Viola Davis Doubt, Taraji P. Henson The Strange Case of Benjamin Button, Marisa Tomei The Wrestler, Kate Winslet The Reader.

Most Embarrassing Media Moment: Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house"; Blago/Spitzer; Bush "Awesome Speech" to the Pope; SAG threatening to strike; Joaquin Phoenix retiring from acting to pursue music career.

Wendy and Lucy:
Q&A with Director Kelly Reichardt

By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member

Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA, 2008) is the story of a girl, her dog and the open road. Wendy is on her way to Alaska and a job. The following is from an email interview I conducted with Kelly thanks to the press desk at the London International Film Festival.

Question: What was the source of the screenplay?
Kelly Reichardt: It is adapted from Jon Raymond's story Train Choir.

Q: I understand that Lucy is your dog?
KR: Yes, Lucy was cast first. Michelle Williams and I connected through Todd Haynes who is an executive producer on the film. He had just worked with her on I’m Not There. Will Oldham was always Icky in my mind. We have worked together before. Will Patton had seen my super 8 film Ode many years ago and ever since has kept in touch and we have been wanting to work together. The rest of the cast came about through local casting in Oregon.

Q: What was your best memory from making this film?
KR: That would have been the last shot of the movie. I won’t talk about it because I don’t want to give away the ending but I had promised Michelle she would get the chance to do something in this film and she finally managed it on the very last day of shooting.

Q: If you had more funds, would you have changed the film?
KR: That’s an impossible question. I approach every decision knowing what the limits of my budget are – it’s ingrained in the concept from the start.

Q: Was there anything you wanted to film but were unable to?
KR: There were things I wasn’t able to get during the core part of the shoot but I made several trips back west and worked with just a very tiny crew and went back to certain locations with Michelle and in the end we got what we needed. A man named Greg Schmidt kept shooting trains for me and sending me footage while I was editing.

Q: How did you arrive at the character Wendy?
KR: I’m not sure we ever arrived at her. She was a work in progress all the way through shooting. She was first conceived by Jon Raymond and myself. And then as he went about writing the short story she took more shape and then of course Michelle brought so much to her. She is in transition in the film and so she was forever evolving for us all.

Q: Were there any scenes you had to suddenly change?
KR: Well whenever there is a scene with the dog – who is just my dog and not a trained animal the scenes can not be completely planned because we don’t know what Lucy will do until she is doing it.

Comments from the press notes

The following comments by Kelly Reichardt are from the press notes.

Question: How did you and your writer Jon Raymond work together on this project?
KR: Two elements were there from the beginning: the dog and economics. We knew we had to have Lucy in the movie, since she came along anyway, and we felt like the times were right for a real financially driven plot-line. Jon wrote a few drafts of the story, with editing and commentary from me. And then I wrote the screenplay, making additions and subtractions, with editing and commentary from Jon. Once shooting began, the actors also made their own contributions to the dialogue and characterization.

Q: What is it about Jon Raymond’s writing that attracts you as a filmmaker?
KR: There is something elliptical about his writing. His stories are very open and leave a lot of room for the reader to bring their own experiences to the subject. This translates well to my approach to filmmaking. He also is very good at setting people into their environments so that whatever is going on with them internally is linked to where they happen to be. The landscape becomes more than just a place, but something like a character in the story. Which fits with my own long-term interest in representing the American landscape.

Q: Were there any restrictions, which worked out well for the film?
KR: Wendy’s limited monetary situation was certainly relatable as far as the production went. It’s just a very fragile situation making a film on such limited funds, there’s not a lot of room for mistakes. Anything that goes wrong, if any bad decisions are made or any unplanned events occurs, then everything is in jeopardy. And that’s true for Wendy as well – the stakes are different for her but the whole fabric of her plan can easily fall away. It’s either a really good idea to head off to Alaska, or to make a film, on a miniscule budget or a very stupid idea – in both cases it’s a gamble.

Q: How did you decide on working with Michelle Williams as Wendy?
KR: It was easy to decide to work with her, I knew I needed someone who could be very still without coming across as emotionally dead or absent. In all her roles, Michelle seems to have a lot going on internally. She just has that thing where something is always coming through in her eyes.

Q: The politics of the film say a lot about how people on the fringe of society are treated by the rest of us. Through the film, are you trying to say something in particular about today's real-life socio-political situation?
KR: There’s a Fassbinder quote that Todd Haynes likes to trot out sometimes. It's something about cinema "not being able to give you the revolution." Which is to say, film can show you the conditions that might make politics necessary, but it can't actually accomplish politics itself.
Wendy and Lucy opened in the Washington, DC area on January 30.

Actor Benicio Del Toro and Producer Laura Bickman Talk About Che

On January 22 Landmark's E Street Cinema hosted two sold-out screenings of Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008) with actor Benicio Del Toro and producer Laura Bickman taking questions. This Q&A is from the 1:00pm show.

Question: There has been some criticism that your film glorifies Che. Why did Che become an icon?
Laura Bickman: It doesn't glorify Che. His ideals are universal, to make the world a better place. What is controversial is how he implemented those ideals. Why was there armed struggle in the 1960s? This is not a recruiting film. He became an icon because his values symbolize youthful rebellion.

Q: Che had five children; the oldest has died. Did you meet any of them?
Benicio Del Toro: We met three of the four surviving children. The oldest surviving child is a pediatric allergy specialist. The oldest male works for the Che Guevara Research Center; he and his mother established that historical center. The third is a veterinarian at a zoo in Cuba. We didn't meet the fourth, Ernesto. All live in Cuba.

Q: I appreciate the historical accuracy of the film.
LB: Thank you.

Q: What was it like, showing the film in Cuba?
BDT: We showed it at the Havana Film Festival in December. It was a hit, both parts. People were vocal and supportive. It was positive for the production to be invited by Cuba and for the US let us go.

Q: How did you prepare for the role?
BDT: I started by reading what Che Guevara wrote. Then I read what others wrote. We met lots of people who are still alive who knew him. You learn more from them than by reading about it. Once you get the knowledge you have to let it go. I understood what the scene was about, then did that based on my understanding and what I had learned about Che.

Q: What would Che think about being a cultural icon today--a picture on a T-shirt?
BDT: That's a good question for Che to answer! I think he wouldn't care but would get back to work on poverty in the world.

Q: Was there discussion on how much to show about the Batista regime? Why nothing on the Congo and Venezuela?
BDT: This is the shortest movie we could make about Che and it's more than four hours.
LB: Congo was a failure but so was Bolivia which we covered.
BDT: Funds were limited. We did talk about a third installment.
LB: We can't do it all. Batista's atrocities were huge. We did have a few scenes to show that side of Batista's brutality. We were also doing Cuba's poverty. We didn't want to do a "greatest hits" with the superficial biggest scenes. We wanted to take one piece and do it in detail. He was at the height of his fame when he made that "rock star" trip to New York. We tried to do it like Traffic but then decided to do it linearly.

Q: How confident was Steven Soderbergh working in Spanish?
BDT: He does understand it. He had lots of people around [to translate] but he got it all the time. His Spanish is good enough. He could see when I omitted a line. Then I would argue and he would get it. He said he would do another film in another language. We debated--English or Spanish. It was Steven Soderbergh's idea to do it in Spanish.

Q: Is the film about Che, the revolution or his motives?
BDT: It was not an easy movie to make. There were obstacles everywhere. People said it was impossible, but we like to prove people wrong. It's an important story and we had passion for the story.
LB: When the money would fall apart, we would make another trip and meet more people. But I didn't think it would take seven years.

Q: You used a special camera [the RED, a high peformance digital cine camera].
BDT: It saved money. We spent 40 days on each part. Steven Soderbergh was the DP [director of photography] as well as the director. We used all natural light.

Q: How did you [Benicio Del Toro] get started acting and how did Laura Bickman get into producing?
BDT: By accident. I took an acting class in college (University of California at San Diego) to make my schedule easier. I fell in love with it, and wanted to go to class. Then I pursued it, travelled to Los Angeles and met with an agent. She said there was a scholarship at the Stella Adler conservatory. So it was due to laziness and an accident. There is a science to acting. It's hard to explain and teach. But there is a logic to it.
LB: I went to Sarah Lawrence and then tried to get any job in film, as a production assistant for example. I started doing little short pieces. Then I went to London and said I was a poducer. And no one questioned me!

Q: How do you get into the character?
BDT: The hardest is the history of a real man. The whole country knows him. I had to convince the Cubans that I could play him and it was extremely difficult.

Q: Did you get any inspiration from The Motorcycle Diaries?
BDT: Yes, but the Che I was working on was different, a revolutionary Che. You could draw a parallel between the two men. I didn't watch it to study him.
LB: I was glad it was a different aspect of our Che and a section of Che's life we weren't covering. But it was good for us because people who ask "what's next?" and that was a set up for our movie.

Q: How concerned were you about the four hour length of the movie?
LB: Not concerned enough. We had a tough moment. Five distributors had just shut down. We are on video on demand starting today. And we are in 30 theaters. I think theaters are afraid, yet many people like to see it in a theater, as a community. But millions will see it on video on demand.

Q: What about Che's relationship with and friendship with Fidel?
BDT: I can see it from Che's writing. His admiration for Fidel is humongous. In African Dreams he says he will not ever be the leader Fidel is: "my last thoughts will be of Cuba and you." He had deep admiration for Fidel who was his mentor. I tried to look for all the angles.
LB: There's controversy since Fidel didn't get him out of Bolivia. But it was impossible. Che died thinking they were friends.

Q: What about Che's other revolutionary endeavors?
BDT: In Congo he went in as an advisor to Africans fighting the Belgians. He was pulled out against his will by Fidel. He wanted to stay and fight. In Bolivia he went in too early and gets discovered. He had to do political work at the same time as he was doing war. That's what we are doing here--trying to get you to see the movie. But he was exposed and open for what happened.

Q: What is Che's overall legacy?
BDT: In Bolivia the legacy is huge. People voted for an indigenous president [Evo Morales]. That is a Che thing. He had a soft spot for the people he fought for; he didn't forget them.

Che is currently playing in Washington, D.C.

Director Ari Folman on Waltz With Bashir

From the press notes

Question: Did you start this project as an animated documentary?
Ari Folman: Yes indeed. Waltz With Bashir was always meant to be an animated documentary. For a few years, I had the basic idea for the film in my mind but I was not happy at all to do it in real life video. How would that have looked like? A middle-aged man being interviewed against a black background, telling stories that happened 25 years ago, without any archival footage to support them. That would have been SO BORING! Then I figured out it could be done only in animation with fantastic drawings. War is so surreal, and memory is so tricky that I thought I’d better go all along the memory journey with the help of very fine illustrators.

Q: What came first – the desire to make a documentary or the desire to make an animated film?
AF: It was always my intention to make an animated documentary. Since I had already made many documentaries before it was a real excitement going for an animated one. I made an experiment in my documentary TV series The Material That Love Is Made Of. Each episode opened with a three-minute animated scene introducing scientists talking about the “science of LOVE”. It was basic Flash animation, but it worked so well that I knew a feature length animated documentary would eventually work.

Q: What can you tell us about the animation process used in the film?
AF: Waltz With Bashir was made first as a real video based on a 90-page script. It was shot in a sound studio and cut as a 90-minute length video film. It was made into a story board, and then drawn with 2300 illustrations that were turned into animation. The animation format was invented in our studio “Bridgit Folman Film Gang” by the director of animation Yoni Goodman. It’s a combination of Flash animation, classic animation and 3D. It’s important for me to make clear that by all means this film was not made by rotoscope animation, meaning that we did not illustrate and paint over the real video. We drew it again from scratch with the great talent of art director David Polonsky and his three assistants.

Q: Is the film based on your actual personal experiences?
AF: The story is my very personal experience. It follows what I went through from the moment I realized that there were some major parts in my life completely missing from my memory. I went through a major psychologic upheaval during the four years I worked on Waltz With Bashir. I discovered a lot of heavy stuff regarding my past and meanwhile, during those years, my wife and I brought three kids into this world. This makes you wonder, maybe I am doing all this for my sons. When they grow up and watch the film, it might help them make the right decisions, meaning not to take part in any war, whatsoever.

Q: Was the making of Waltz With Bashir therapeutic for you?
AF: A journey trying to figure out a traumatic memory from the past is a commitment to long term therapy. My therapy lasted as long as the production of Waltz With Bashir: four years. There was a shift from dark depression as a result of things discovered to being in euphoria over the film finally being in production with complicated animation being done by the team at a pace better than expected. If I was the type of guy who believes in the cult of psychotherapy, I’d swear the film had done miracles to my personality. But due to previous experience, I’d say the filmmaking part was good, but the therapy aspect sucked.

Q: Are all the interviewees the actual people portraying themselves?
AF: Seven out of the nine interviewees in the film are the actual people. They were interviewed and filmed in a sound studio. For personal reasons, Boaz (my friend who had the dream about the dogs) and Carmi (my friend living in the Netherlands) did not want to appear on camera, so they were played by actors. But their testimonies are real.

Q: Are there others like you who have had similar experiences?
AF: Of course. I am not alone out there. I believe that there are thousands of Israeli ex-soldiers that kept their war memories deeply repressed. They might live the rest of their lives like that, without anything ever happening. But it could always burst out one day, causing who knows what to happen to them. That’s what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is all about.

Q: What are your feelings about the Sabra and Shatila massacre today?
AF: The same as I’ve always felt: it’s the worst thing that humankind can do to each other. One thing for sure is that the Christian Phalangist militiamen were fully responsible for the massacre. The Israeli soldiers had nothing to do with it. As for the Israeli government, only they know the extent of their responsibility. Only they know if they were informed or not in advance about the oncoming violent revenge.

Q: And your feelings about war?
AF: Having made Waltz With Bashir from the point of view of a common soldier, I’ve come to one conclusion: war is so useless that it's unbelievable. It’s nothing like you’ve seen in American movies. No glam, no glory. Just very young men going nowhere, shooting at no one they know, getting shot by no one they know, then going home and trying to forget. Sometimes they can. Most of the time they cannot.

Waltz With Bashir is currently playing in local Washington, D.C. theaters.

An Evening of Hot Films on a Cool Night
Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008

By Charles Kirkland, Jr., DC Film Society Member

On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, Landmark’s E Street Cinema hosted a wondrous night of fun and frivolity for film aficionados and novices. Critics and casual viewers both came together to partake in the DC Film Society’s Trailer Night program. Film critics Joe Barber and Bill Henry moderated with a style that would rival that of Jennings, Brokaw, Ifill, and McLaughlin.

As I passed the tables of swag: kickbacks of shameless film promotional items like t-shirts for Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, and Burn After Reading, DVDs of College Road Trip and Step Up 2, hats from Milk and Quantum of Solace and movie posters galore. I heard the distant voices of Barber and Henry outlining the rules of engagement for the evening.

Barber and Henry made it clear that the night is about trailers, not the movies themselves. During that night, we were instructed to judge the trailer and its effectiveness in promoting the movie it represents through a poll for applause. Each category would have a winner and there would be a final winner picked from the category winners.

The evening began with the usually joyful holiday fare. However, as the clips began rolling, it quickly became a Silent Night.

Family Flicks for Holiday Time

A Christmas Tale was a quirky little French holiday trailer that focused around a mother, her two sons, and their significant others as they reunited for the holiday. The clip was very hard to decipher and understand. Maybe French with subtitles was not the best idea for the trailer.

Four Christmases united Reese Witherspoon and the eternally funny Vince Vaughn. Witherspoon and Vaughn attempt to escape their families for a tropic Christmas. Their plan gets publicly foiled and their families request their presence for Christmas. The trailer was funny although many in the audience winced at the pairing of Vaughn and Witherspoon. Joe Barber pointed out the presence of Peter Billingsley (the kid from A Christmas Story) playing the part of an airline reservation agent.

Not Easily Broken stars Morris Chestnut in a movie from T.D. Jakes. The best comment about the trailer was that it seemed to be a clear knock-off of a Tyler Perry movie. However the trailer quality seemed to be a knock-off as well. Not Easily Broken was not easily received.

Nothing Like the Holidays was much like the last clip. It too seemed to be a bite off the same Tyler Perry apple. This time there’s a side of salsa. Starring John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, and other familiar faces in a trailer that tried to show the cultural differences in celebrating the holidays. Unfortunately, cultural diversity does not make for an interesting trailer.

Revolutionary Road was the last trailer in the first grouping. The trailer showed a tale of a husband and wife who want more from their mediocre suburban lives. The trailer did not emphasize the reunion of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but the audience picked up on it. A comment after the trailer ended was “What if there were no iceberg?!”

Despite the lack of interest in the films of this category, the chosen best of the worst was Revolutionary Road.

Let’s Not Go to the Dogs (or Other Livestock) Tonight

The second grouping of the night was a much better, well-received, grouping that seemed to redeem the slow opening group of the night.

The first trailer was for Disney’s new non-Pixar animated offering Bolt starring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. The trailer seemed to be enjoyed with a few giggles eminating from the audience. After it ended, there was a small spattering of applause. Despite clearly being children’s fare, the entertainment value of the film seems high. Besides, how can Disney go wrong?

Next up was the foreign language film Slumdog Millionaire. The trailer for this film was excellent. It highlighted the storyline with fantastic scene selections and a moving soundtrack. After it played, there was a round of applause. After the applause, a poll was taken of people who have had the opportunity to see the movie. In general, the feeling was that the trailer was a fair representation, but left out some of the darker scenes of the film. (Who would believe that a trailer could be a little misleading?)

The Tale of Despereaux was the third clip of the field that attempted to the redeem the night for well-produced trailers. Tale is the animated story of a big-eared mouse who finds adventure through his lack of a usual mouse trait…fear. Well-edited and organized, the trailer drew cheers from the crowd.

But as quickly as the category created excitement, it disappointed too. When the trailer for Underworld 3 began, there were a few groans. When the trailer ended, nearly the whole audience was groaning. The trailer looked like it was filmed in tri-color film (black, white and blue). The movie is a prequel. Besides the close-ups of Kate Beckinsale, the trailer seemed to be centered around a Maximus-like speech by the Lycan leader. I am positive I heard the word “dreck” mentioned at least once.

Thankfully, the applause-o-meter selected Slumdog Millionaire as top of the category.

Guess the Third Reel Revelation – Win Valuable Prizes

The strongest group of the night proved also to be the shortest. Any one of the trailers of this category could easily win any of the other categories.

Doubt was the first trailer of the group. Based on the hit play, Meryl Streep portrays a nun who dislikes the new priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and then suspects him of inappropriate behavior toward a black child. Amy Adams (Enchanted, Junebug) plays a nun caught in the middle of the power struggle. A powerful play produced a powerful-looking movie with a powerful trailer. Did I say “powerful” enough? How about multiple Oscar nominations?

The next trailer was for Seven Pounds the latest outing from Will Smith. In the trailer Smith plays a mysterious benefactor to several mysterious people, one of whom seems to become a love interest (Rosario Dawson). The trailer was intense yet did not reveal anything important about the plot. Afterwards, the comment was made by our hosts that Smith has been lately carving out his career by being Mr. Melancholy. A retort came from the audience, “Don’t worry, July is coming!”

The final trailer in the set was a surprise hit. Waltz with Bashir was a virtual unknown animated film that used a 3-D style to deliver a strong story about surviving war. The clip and its slow, simplistic narration were powerful enough to win the category.

The first break of the night led to the question from the audience about release dates and the strength of the movie. The question was simply, “Why are movies that are released in January usually so poor in quality?” The illustrious hosts of the night explained. One major event occurs in the month of January… the OSCARS! The Academy is usually reviewing and voting on the nominations for the winners during this time. They do not have the time to see new movies and possibly forget excellent performances because they are at the beginning of the qualifying year. The studios release their movies that are more for “entertainment” value meaning the leftovers and possible project movies. So for the rest of the night the release date became a pretty significant indicator of the quality of the movie.

Remember When These Guys Used to be Stars?

Baz Luhrmann’s Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman began the next set of trailers. The trailer had gorgeous scenery and a grand orchestral soundtrack. The clip was well received until it was pointed out that the clip told nothing about the movie. It was even stated that the end of the movie has not been filmed. It was quickly pointed out that the movie is scheduled for a December release.

Bedtime Stories featured Adam Sandler as a babysitting uncle who tells stories to his niece and nephew that somehow come true. The clip is formulaic, but it works well. It tells the story of the movie and entertains as well. The question, however, was Disney and Sandler… did that work?

Brad Pitt plays the titular character in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The trailer moved at a deliberate pace and slowly unfolded the story of a child born into the body of an old man. As the boy grows, he gets younger. Curious Case is also a love story between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett who “grow up” together. Beautiful trailer that was put together well to give information and still left you wanting more.

The Day the Earth Stood Still trailer made one thing very clear. This is not the movie that you know. There is very little resemblance to the old film. Dramatic tension appears to be traded for special effects. The movie moves at a speedy pace after a lie detector test is administered to the alien played by Keanu Reeves. A comment rose after the screening that Reeves has finally found a role that fits him. Looks like a good action movie.

Just how many times can an actor go to the same well? They say in comedy it is all about the timing. You can be either Will Ferrell and people get tired or you can be Jim Carrey. In Yes Man, Jim plays a man who for some unknown reason has to say yes to everything. The trailer is remniscient of Carrey’s Liar Liar, which was released over a decade ago. Nevertheless, the clip was funny, but not exactly inspiring.

The winner of this category, to little surprise, was the The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

They Keep on Coming Back Until You Drive a Stake Through Their Box Office

The first trailer in this category was Frost/Nixon the second trailer of the night of a movie adaptation of a hit play. This trailer pulled no punches. The movie, like the play, is about the famous Frost/Nixon interviews held after Nixon had resigned from office. Michael Sheen reprises his role in the play as a very convincing David Frost and Frank Langella does the same playing Richard Nixon. Langella and Sheen do a great job in capturing the spirits of their characters. The drama created by the trailer is tight and undeniable. Oscar nominations are sure to abound from this film if the trailer is an accurate depiction of the film. December release!!

Uh oh. It had to happen. After smash hits with the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises and most recently with Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios falls down the well with Punisher: War Journal. In this third incarnation of the Punisher, Ray Stevenson becomes the third person to don the costume of the unmasked vigilante. Unfortunately, the trailer is poor in quality. There is no outlined motivation for the Punisher so that he appears to be killing indiscriminately. Where the last movie did an excellent job of fleshing out the character played by Thomas Jane, this trailer returns the Punisher to a buffoon like the one played by Dolph Lundgren. Dark with poor visuals, the trailer was a dud. Believe it or not, it’s a December release!

Last but not least is Transporter 3. Jason Statham is back at his hard driving, butt-kicking, no-shirt-wearing best. Frank Martin, the super skilled courier with a heart, is back and up to his old ways. However, this mission comes with an explosive surprise courtesy of Robert Knepper (the one-handed guy from Prison Break). Trailer is slick, quick, and cool and should keep the “Transporter” franchise in the money.

Despite the catcalls from the female contingency, Frost/Nixon” beat out Transporter 3 for best in the group.

Boys Will Be Boys

Dangerous Minds. Lean on Me. Stand and Deliver. The Steve Harvey Show. All cornerstones about the taking on the educational system. What more can be said? How about a French version? The Class was that familiar looking of a clip. Francois Begaudeay plays a teacher who tries to make a difference with a group of tough Parisian youth. A quiet uninspiring trailer that left the audience unmoved and silent. One can only hope the movie is better.

Last Chance Harvey shows us the story of Harvey Shine, played by Dustin Hoffman. Harvey is going through a bit of a rough patch. He’s been fired. He’s alone and he’s fought with the airline check-in to fly him to London for his daughter’s wedding. Oh by the way, his daughter has asked her stepfather to give her away instead of him. Can Emma Thompson revive his spirit and help him find his way again? As the trailer stated “It’s never too late….” Good trailer with a simple song soundtrack. Drew some applause.

Milk is the inspiring movie based on the true story of San Franciscan politician Harvey Milk who has the distinction of being the first openly gay elected official in the United States. Simply mesmerizing trailer does an excellent job of showing how Sean Penn transformed himself in order to portray the man. The trailer cleverly foreshadows the story without giving it away. This one drew raves from the crowd.

Notorious is the tale of the rise to fame of the Notorious B.I.G. (nee Christopher Wallace) not to be confused with the excellent Alfred Hitchcock vehicle from 1946. The clip tries to portray Wallace in the bad-guy turned superstar good-guy story. Unfortunately, despite its detail, the clip does not make its point. The music is good though and unlike Cadillac Records, only done by the original artists.

Milk edged out Last Chance Harvey for best in the group.

Girlie Girls

Bride Wars is the story of two lifelong girlfriends (Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway), who plan their dream weddings for the same venue and the same day and time. No it’s not a double wedding! The trailer is full of sabotage and subterfuge. Who will win the day? How far will these women go to get the wedding of their dreams? How did Hudson get top billing over Hathaway? Look out for this January release.

Cadillac Records features Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, the owner and founder of the Chicago legend Chess Records. Chess Records was famous for finding hiding talent and paying for their success. Talent included Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) and Etta James (Beyonce). The movie is based on a true story but the trailer reminds one of a recent fictional Oscar-nominated musical movie. Did somebody say Dreamgirls 2?

Confessions of a Shopaholic stars Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) as a young college graduate with a severe shopping addiction that puts her in a severe financial crisis. She desperately searches for a job and lands one as a financial journalist! After the trailer, there were groans and one voice that named it “Legally Blonde 4”.

Up and coming star, Odette Yustman (TV’s October Road, Cloverfield, Walk Hard) stars in the trailer of The Unborn. Yustman plays a young woman who finds out she is haunted by the ghost of her dead brother who “wants to be born now”. Gary Oldman, Idris Elba, and Meagan Good round out the cast of the trailer that seems eerily similar to The Exorcist.

Somehow the original-looking trailer for Wendy and Lucy fell into this category. Michelle Williams plays Wendy, a young woman on her way to Alaska with her dog Lucy. The reason for the trip is unknown. But adventure occurs along the way. The clip was not very descriptive of the plot of the movie, but it showed a lot of critical quotes of praise. When it ended, there was silence.

Congratulations to Cadillac Records, which won the “Haven’t I Seen This Before?” award.

James Bond Will Return (and So Will Dirty Harry)

The first trailer in the category was of Defiance, the World War II piece starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell. Craig, Schreiber, and Bell portray brothers who band a village together to teach then to resist and fight off the Nazis. Screams of excitement fell as Craig showed himself to be the King of the forest. It’s good to be the King!

Dirty Harry returns to the big screen, sort of, in Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this retro movie. Eastwood plays an aging war veteran who becomes the hero of the community when he intervenes in a gang attack of his neighbor and stops the gang from stealing his car, a Gran Torino. Did I say Dirty Harry? Maybe I meant Death Wish? Interesting clip received favorable applause.

The trailer for The International featured international superstar Clive Owen as a... what was he? Anybody? O.K. Clive Owen starts as a guy who finds out that his favorite local bank is a major financier of terrorism throughout the world. Somehow it becomes his mission to take it down. Owen plays an agent of some kind. The clip is exciting but don’t try to make sense of it, enjoy!

Liam Neeson has an action role in Taken. Neeson plays a mysterious father with a mysterious past. For some reason his daughter travels across the ocean to Europe. While on her vacation some terrorists attack and kidnap her. During the ransom call, Neeson channels Mel Gibson and informs the captors that he will hunt them down and make them pay for taking his daughter. After that all the fun begins and the questions as well. Do these terrorists know what they are doing? What is daddy’s little secret? When did Liam Neeson become an action star? Good trailer, just a little on the unbelievable side.

Defiance was the clear favorite of the category of course (come on, there were squeals and screams during the preview!).

The bonus trailer for the evening was Dreamworks latest animated offering, Monsters vs. Aliens. When the world is visited and threatened to be conquered by evil aliens, the government responds by organizing a special team with special talents designed for just such an emergency. MONSTERS! The Missing Link, Insectosaurus, B.O.B. and Ginormica reluctantly are joined together to take on the aliens and save the world. A little over the top, this trailer was enjoyable.

The trailer of the night contest pitted Revolutionary Road, against Slumdog Millionaire, Waltz With Bashir, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Cadillac Records, Defiance and Monsters Vs. Aliens. After a few runs of the applause-o-meter, the trailer of the night was voted Defiance.

After raffling off a few more items, Joe Barber and Bill Henry bid a hearty good night to all who attended and those who enjoyed themselves. And just like that… it was over.

Thanks to the DC Film Society coordinating committee for their time, energy and enthusiasm in pulling together this twice-annual event, especially Karrye Braxton, Cheryl Dixon, Larry Hart, Ky Nguyen, Annette Graham, Charles Kirkland Jr., Billy coulter, Jim Shippey, Adam Spector and our volunteers.

Special thanks to Joe Barber and Bill Henry, Allied Advertising, Landmark’s E Street Cinema and staff, Terry Hines and Associates and all the participating film studios.

We Need to Hear From YOU

We are always looking for film-related material for the Storyboard. Our enthusiastic and well-traveled members have written about their trips to the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Palm Springs Film Festival, the Reykjavik Film Festival, the Munich Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival. We also heard about what it's like being an extra in the movies. Have you gone to an interesting film festival? Have a favorite place to see movies that we aren't covering in the Calendar of Events? Seen a movie that blew you away? Read a film-related book? Gone to a film seminar? Interviewed a director? Taken notes at a Q&A? Read an article about something that didn't make our local news media? Send your contributions to Storyboard and share your stories with the membership. And we sincerely thank all our contributors for this issue of Storyboard.

Calendar of Events


American Film Institute Silver Theater
A series "Screen Valentimes: Great Movie Romances" is a selection of movie romances ranging from 1930s screwball comedy to the postmodernism of today. Titles include It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Say Anything, Moulin Rouge!, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, An Affair to Remember, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Annie Hall.

"Carole Lombard: A Screwball's Centennial" celebrates the centennial of Carole Lombard with Twentieth Century, Hands Across the Table, My Man Godfrey, Virtue, White Woman, Nothing Sacred, Mrs. and Mrs. Smith, Made for Each Other, True Confession, and To Be Or Not To Be.
The films of Max Ophuls includes films from Hollywood, France, and Germany. Titles include The Exile, Liebelei, The Reckless Moment, Letter From an Unknown Woman, Caught, The Earrings of Madame De..., La Ronde, From Mayerling to Sarajevo, Lola Montes and Le Plaisir.

With Benjamin Button receiving a slew of Academy Award nominations, it's timely to look at David Fincher's other films. This month you can see Alien 3, Se7en, Fight Club, The Game, and Zodiac.

To celebrate African-American History Month is Nothing But a Man (Michael Roemer, 1964).

Other special events at the AFI include Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (Bestor Cram, 2008), a documentary about the 1968 concert, shown on February 26; and We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee (Stanley Nelson, 2008) with the director and producer Sharon Brimberg in person on February 2 at 7:00pm.

Freer Gallery of Art
The Freer's 13th annual festival of Iranian film concludes in February with Loose Rope (Mehrshad Karkhani, 2008) on February 6 at 7:00pm and February 8 at 2:00pm; Over There (Abdolreza Kahani, 2008) on February 13 at 7:00pm and February 15 at 2:00pm; and Santouri: The Music Man (Dariush Mehrjui, 2007) on February 20 at 7:00pm and February 22 at 2:00pm.

National Gallery of Art
"Barcelona Masters: Jose Luis Guerin and Pere Portabella" focuses on the films of two directors. On February 1 at 4:30pm is Innisfree (Jose Luis Guerin, 1990); on February 7 at 4:00pm is Shadow Train (Jose Luis Guerin, 1997); on February 8 at 4:00pm is Cuadecuc, Vampir (Pere Portabella, 1970) introduced by film historian and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum; on February 14 at 2:00pm is The Silence Before Bach (Pere Portabella, 2007); on February 15 at 4:30pm is Warsaw Bridge (Pere Portabella, 1990); on February 22 at 4:30pm and February 28 at 3:30pm is In the City of Sylvia (Jose Luis Gueron, 2007) and on February 28 at 2:00pm is "Some Photos in the City of Sylvia" (Jose Luis Guerin, 2007).

Other special events at the Gallery include "Emile Cohl, Animator" an assemblage of line drawing animations from the Gaumont Pathe Archives on February 7 at 2:00pm and introduced by Bernard Genin, author of Emile Cohl, the Inventor of the Animated Film. The art film Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Master of American Sculpture (Paul Sanderson, 2007) is a documentary introduced by the filmmaker on February 15 at noon, with another showing on February 12 at 12:30pm. "New Shorts From France" is a program of five films including 2000,000 Fantomes (Jean-Gabriel Periot, 2007), La derniere journee (Olivier Bourbeillon, 2007), Mic Jean-Luis (Kathy Sebbah, 2007), Pina Colada (Alice Winocour, 2008), and L'Enfant borne (Pascal Mieszala, 2007) on February 13 at 1:00pm. Show Life (Richard Eichberg, 1928), shown on February 14 at 4:30pm is a silent film starring Anna May Wong with piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Selections from "The Black Maria" will be shown on February 21 at 2:00pm including the DC premiere of Ice Bears of the Beaufort (Arthur C. Smith, 2009), winner of the Black Maria's "Grand Prize-Documentary."

National Museum of African Art
On February 28 at 1:00pm is Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998), an award-winning animated film about a West African folktale.

On Thursdays in February is "Africa in Reel Time," an African Diaspora Film Festival. On February 5 at 7:00pm is a special sneak preview; on February 12 at 7:00pm is A Dios Momo (Leonardo Ricagni, Uruguay, 2005); on February 19 at 7:00pm is Cousines (Richard Senecal, Haiti, 2006); and on February 26 is the documentary Favela Rising (Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary, Brazil, 2005). Call 202-633-4633 to register.

National Portrait Gallery
On February 17 at 7:00pm is Lady Sings the Blues (1972) starring Diana Ross as Billie Holiday.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
On February 12 at 6:00pm is a documentary from the award-winning series Art in the Twenty-First Century, featuring behind the scenes conversations with contemporary artists.

Films on the Hill
On February 4 at 7:00pm is The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (Ernst Lubitsch, 1927) starring Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer. Orson Welles stars in Black Magic (Gregory Ratoff, 1949) shown on February 13 at 7:00pm. Comedian Leon Errol will be seen in one of his rare feature films on February 18 at 7:00pm What a Blonde (Leslie Goodwins, 1945) plus a two-reel comedy with Leon Errol Should Wives Work? (1937).

Washington Jewish Community Center
On February 2 at 6:30pm is Zrubavel (Shmuel Beru, 2008), about Ethiopians struggling to become Israeli. Ethiopian music and coffee and a discussion with the filmmaker accompany the film. On February 15 at 3:00pm is Arusi Persian Wedding (Marian Tehrani), a documentary about the filmmaker's brother who traveled to Iran to have a traditional Persian wedding ceremony. On February 23 at 7:30pm is Lansky (John McNaughton, 1999) about the mobster, starring Richard Dreyfuss.

Goethe Institute
On February 2 at 6:30pm is Eye to Eye: All About German Film (Michael Althen and Hans Helmut Prinzler, 2008), a documentary celebrating the 100th anniversary of German film with interviews, film essays and montages from more than 250 German films. "A Deeper Look" features earlier films by some of the directors whose work was shown in last month's "Film Neu." On February 9 at 6:30pm is Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007) and on February 23 at 6:30pm is Cuba Libre (Christian Petzold, 1996). More in March.

On February 11 at 6:30pm is "Leprechaun Film Festival," award-winning European short films.

On February 14 at 2:00pm is "Love," first in a series of film seminars about emotions in European cinema. (In March is "Laughter" and April is "Fear." Starting at 2:00pm is a seminar presented by former Washington Post movie reviewer Desson Thomson, followed by a champagne reception at 5:00pm and Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939).

National Geographic Society
See all five films nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. On February 13 at 7:00pm is The Baader Meinhof Complex from Germany; on February 14 at 5:00pm is The Class from France; on February 14 at 8:00pm is Departures from Japan; on February 15 at 2:00pm is Revanche from Austria; and on February 15 at 6:30pm is Waltz with Bashir from Israel.

French Embassy
On February 11 at 7:00pm is The Joy of Singing (Ilan Duran Cohen, 2008), an "urban spy comedy." on February 1 at 3:00pm is part of "The Best of INPUT" is Stark Versus Stark (Vassili Silovic, 2007), a documentary about designer Philippe Stark.

The Japan Information and Culture Center
On February 18 at 6:30pm is Happy Flight (Shinobu Yaguchi, 2008), a comedy-chaos about an accident-prone airplane flight. On February 27 at 6:30pm is Jungle Emperor Leo (1997), an anime film presented on the 20th anniversary of the death of Osamu Tezuka, the founding father of Japanese animation.

National Archives
The fifth annual screenings of the Academy Awards nominees in four categories (Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film) will be shown from February 18-February 22. Documentary Features: on February 18 at 7:00pm is Man On Wire (James Marsh and Simon Chinn); on February 19 at 7:00pm is The Betrayal (Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath); on February 20 at 7:00pm is Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog); on February 21 at 7:00pm is Trouble the Water (Tia Lessin and Carl Deal); and on February 22 at 4:00pm is The Garden (Scott Hamilton Kennedy). The Live Action Short Film nominees are shown on February 21 at noon. The Animated Short Film nominees are on February 21 at 3:30pm. The Documentary Short Subject nominees are on February 22 at noon.

As part of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial is Young Lincoln (John Ford, 1939) starring Henry Fonda on February 14 at noon.

The Avalon
"Lions of Czech Film" presents Václav (Jirí Vejdelek, 2007) on February 11 at 8:00pm. As part of the "French Cinémathèque" series is Shall We Kiss on February 18 at 8:00pm.

Italian Cultural Institute
On February 3 at 6:30pm is The Tree of Life (Hava Volterra, 2009), a documentary in honor of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The filmmaker travels to Italy, the place of her father's birth to trace the roots of his family tree and Jewish ancestors.

Anacostia Community Museum
On February 25 at 11:00am and 7:00pm is Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959) based on the Greek Orpheus-Eurydice legend with an all-black cast.

The U.S. Navy Memorial
On February 3 at 6:00pm in commemoration of Black History Month is a showing of Proud (2005) starring Ossie Davis in a story about the first U.S. Navy ship to be crewed by African Americans. Special guests include writer/director Mary Pat Kelly and Lorenzo Du Fau, a surviving crewmember of the World War II Destroyer Escort USS Mason. RSVP 202-737-2300.


Thai Film Week
Twelve Thai films will be shown January 15-February 27 at the Royal Thai Embassy. All have English subtitles and all are shown at 7:00pm. Those showing in February include Chocolate (Prachya Pinkaew, 2008) on February 5; Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2000) on February 6; Nang Nak (Nonzee Nimibutr, 1999) on February 19; Mekhong Full Moon Party (Jira Makigool, 2002) on February 20; the documentary The Siamese Connection (Joshua Gibson, 2008) on February 26; and the animated film Khan Kluay (Kompin Kemgumnird, 2006) on February 27. See the website for more information, a pdf program and reservation information.


Smithsonian Associates

"Giggles and Sniffles" What Makes a Movie Great?" is a two-part lecture by film critic Desson Thomson illustrated by film clips. Part I is on February 12 at 6:45pm and explores what makes us laugh and why. Part II is on February 19 at 6:45pm and will examine what makes us cry. Call 202-633-3030.

Previous Storyboards

January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008
July, 2008
June, 2008
May, 2008
April, 2008
March, 2008

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