'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising.' - Pauline Kael


Paul Robeson With Oakland, Ca. Shipyard Workers, 1942

Black August

So in order to best cover all bases, progressive film critics tend to consider three categories of assessment, rather than two: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The first two are self-explanatory. And the third category is reserved for movies that may have been impressively put together, but there's just something offensively anti-humanistic about them.

Stay tuned......

The Organizer

Monday, December 13, 2010

Johnny Depp: Tonto Si, Pancho Villa No?

Johnny Depp has been approached to play the legendary Mexican hero Pancho Villa but the RANGO star has second thoughts on playing the famous revolutionary.

Online sites reported that Serbian director Emir Kusturica is helming a movie on the Mexican Robin Hood with Johnny Depp taking on the role and Salma Hayek co-starring. However, during a press conference for his animated film RANGO on Saturday, Johnny Depp revealed the project "is up in the air," for him as he is facing a "dilemma" in playing one of the "great heroes of Mexico". While he admires his friend and filmmaker Kusturica, he feels he is not the right choice to play the leader of the 1910 Mexican revolution. "I feel like it should be played by a Mexican not some mug from Kentucky. I feel very strongly about that."


On The Other Hand....

Johnny Depp rides Into The Unknown As Tonto In Remake Of The Lone Ranger

...There is also potential controversy in the role of Tonto itself. The original character, with his pidgin English, has long been seen by many Native Americans as an insult. Later versions of the character – in comic strips and the 1981 film Legend of the Lone Ranger – gave Tonto more depth, making him an equal partner of the Lone Ranger. However, it still might irritate some that Tonto will be played by a white actor, mirroring the controversial practice of many early films that put Native Americans characters on screen but did not use Native American actors to play them....


Noah Zweig
JACC News Desk

"It is a sad and beautiful world." -Roberto Benigni
"Yeah, it's a sad and beautiful world, buddy." Tom Waits, Down By Law (Jarmusch,1986)

Noah is working on a dissertation tentatively entitled The Cultural and Media Politics of the Bolivarian Revolution. The project analyzes state-backed film and TV productions in Venezuela under the government of Hugo Chávez. He has an essay, "Foregrounding Public Cinema and Rural Audiences: the USDA Motion Picture Service as Cinematic Modernism, 1908-1938," in the forthcoming (fall 2009) issue of The Journal of Popular Film and Television. His interests include Latin American national cinemas, critical globalization studies, and critical cultural policy studies. Noah received a BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in Moving Image Archive Studies from UCLA. In addition to academic work, he has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in East Los Angeles.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Texas Refuses to Pay ‘Machete’ Producers

WSJ Washington Wire

By Russell Gold

Let’s get this out of the way first: Robert De Niro looks nothing like Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Or Sen. John Cornyn. Or any other Texas politician we can think of.

However, Mr. De Niro’s portrayal of the fictional Sen. John McLaughlin in Machete, an B movie shoot-’em-up released in September, has apparently made some folks in Austin upset.

The Texas Film Commission says it will refuse to pay $1.75 million in state incentives to the movie’s producers citing a state law that allows the state to refuse to pay incentives for “content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.”

But what exactly is the “negative” portrayal the governor’s staff object to? Most commentators assume it is Sen. McLaughlin’s character, a virulently anti-immigration politician whose faux ad supports an “electrified border fence” and pledges “no amnesty for parasites.”

Or is it the fact that at the end of the movie, the main character – an ex-Mexican federal police officer played by Danny Trejo – gets legal status? This is after he leads a group of Mexican immigrants in a confrontation with border vigilantes.

Calls to the Texas Film Commission were forwarded to Gov. Perry’s press office. Katherine Cesinger, the governor’s spokeswoman, said the letter to the filmmakers didn’t specify why the movie ran afoul of the “negative” portrayal criteria. “The totality of the project is what the office takes a look at,” she said.

In this era of states hemorrhaging red ink, will others follow Texas’s lead and play film critic, only handing out incentives to Hollywood for movies and television shows that meet certain content guidelines? The Motion Picture Association of America told The Wall Street Journal this summer that no other state reviews the content of films before awarding subsidies.

At any rate, the loss of $1.75 million won’t bankrupt the aptly named Troublemaker Studios, the production company that made the film. The production budget was $10.5 million and it’s domestic gross was $26.6 million, according to website Box Office Mojo.

One big winner: Machete and Troublemaker Studios. The movie has yet to be released on DVD and, as they say, all publicity is good publicity.

Machete was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.

Noah Zweig
JACC News Desk

Saturday, December 11, 2010

JACC Awards 2010 Discussion On The Air

Woman Rebel: Maoist Female Guerrillas In Nepal - Small Screen, Big Picture

What do Hugo Chavez, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Abramoff, Charlie Chaplin, Norman Finkelstein, Dalton Trumbo, Evo Morales and Elia Kazan have in common? The James Agee Cinema Circle Awards 2010, of course. Tune in to Arts Express Radio on WBAI Radio in NY for a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in movies this year, with Prairie Miller and special guest film commentary provided by Louis Proyect, alias The Unrepentant Marxist.