The Cinema Lounge
The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, May 12 at 7:00pm. The topic is "Why do bad movies get made?
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 April 14, 2008, we discussed holiday-themed films. I have to admit that there were two surprises for me related to this discussion, the first being how many holidays that there are, especially Jewish holidays. The second surprise was that a disproportional number of horror films are associated with holidays. I should also add that one person commented that "Hollywood will remake anything!" Then he added: that "the remake of Black Christmas was so bad, I wanted to walk out of my own house." I'm still laughing at how funny that comment was.
Overall, it was a lively discussion for our group, probably the liveliest discussion of my 1-1/2 years leading the group. What I learned is that holidays provide an easy tie-in for movies, whereby the plot naturally unfolds around inherent traditions understood by most of the public. (Note: all holidays are approximate, as some change slightly each year.)
Holidays and Films
New Year's Day: January 1.
Three Kings Day (Dia de los Santos Reyes): January 6.
Islamic New Year (Al-Hijra 1429AH): January 9.
Friday The 13th. Friday The 13th (1980).
Martin Luther King, Jr's Birthday: Monday, January 21.
Groundhog Day: February 2. Ground Hog Day (1993).
Super Bowl Sunday. First Sunday in February. Black Sunday (1977).
Mardi Gras: February 5. Mardi Gras (1931, 1958, 1986). The Skelton Key (2005). Point of No Return (1976 & 1994).
Ash Wednesday: February 6.
Lincoln's Birthday: February 12.
Valentine's Day: February 14.
President's Day: Monday, February 18.
Washington's Birthday: February 22.
Leap Day: February 29.
Palm Sunday: Sunday, March 16. Lent (1985 & 2003).
St. Patrick's Day: March 17. The Quiet Man (1952).
Purim: March 20.
Good Friday: March 21.
Baha'i New Year (Naw Ruz): March 21.
Easter: Sunday, March 23. Passion of the Christ (2004).
April Fool's Day: April 1.
Passover: April 19. Ten Commandment (1956). Prince of Egypt (1998).
Earth Day: April 22.
Eastern Orthodox Easter: Sunday, April 27.
Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day): May 1.
Cinco de Mayo: May 5.
Mother's Day: Sunday, May 11.
Declaration of the B·b (Baha'i holiday): May 23.
Memorial Day: Monday, May 26.
Ascension of Baha'u'llah (Baha'i holiday): May 29.
Shavuot: June 8.
Flag Day: June 14.
Juneteenth: June 19.
Father's Day: Sunday, June 15.
US Independence Day: July 4. Independence Day (1996). Uncle Sam (1997). Avalon (1990). Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).
Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha'i holiday): July 9.
Labor Day: Monday, September 1.
Ramadan: September 1.
Rosh Hashanah: September 29.
Eid al-Fitr: September 30.
Yom Kippur: October 8. Wild Strawberries (1957).
Sukkot (Begins at Sundown*): October 13.
Columbus Day (observed): October 13.
Birth of the Bab (Baha'i holiday): October 20.
Halloween: October 31. Most slasher movies are related directly or indirectly to Halloween. Halloween (1978).
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead): November 1.
All Saint's Day: November 1.
All Soul's Day: November 2.
Veterans Day: November 11.
Birth of Baha'u'llah (Baha'i holiday): November 12.
Thanksgiving Day (US): Thursday, November 27. Home for the Holidays (1995).
World Aids Day: December 1.
Day Without Art: December 1.
Pearl Harbor Day (December 7). 1941 (1979).
Bodhi Day: December 8.
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: December 8.
Eid al-Adha: December 8.
Chanukah: December 21. Hebrew Hammer (2003).
Christmas Day: December 25. The Ref (1994). Die Hard (1988). Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987). The Family Stone (2005). Eight Crazy Nights (2002). It's a Wonderful Life (1946). A Christmas Carol (1951). A Christmas Story (1983). Christmas Vacation (1989). Black Christmas (1974 & 2006). Nativity Story (2006). Surviving Christmas (2004). Christmas with the Kranks (2004).
Kwanzaa: December 26 - January 1.
Boxing Day: December 26.
Islamic New Year (Al-Hijra - 1430AH): December 29.
New Year's Eve: December 31. When Harry Met Sally (1989). New Year's Evil (1980). 200 Cigarettes (1999).
Bring Your REEL Friends
"Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Summer 2008"
It’s time to roll out the BIG summer movies – BIG action, BIG comedy, BIG special effects, BIG box office. Check out what’s about to take off at the Washington, D.C. Film Society’s “COMING ATTRACTIONS TRAILER NIGHT, Summer 2008” – and bring your reel friends. Get an early preview of summer’s biggest blockbusters while viewing trailers amongst fellow film fans. It all starts at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 14, 2008, at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (E Street between 10th & 11th St, N.W.).
Once again, you’ll get to be the judge of the film studios’ marketing skills by joining local film critics, Joe Barber and Bill Henry, in a dissection and no-holds-barred give and take of each trailer. PLUS, attendees get to vote on the films they’re most looking forward to (or not) and we pass this information on to the studios. Summertime typically is the season when the top moneymakers are unleashed. Will this year’s selections live up to the hype? You decide if the buzz is believable.
Long-awaited sequels, comic book super heroes, and TV shows readied for the big screen join franchises-in-waiting. Here’s what you might see. Move over Iron Man, Christian Bale reprises his role as Batman in The Dark Knight, while Edward Norton debuts as The Incredible Hulk. X-Files 2, Get Smart, and Sex and the City join Speed Racer in the leap from TV. Laughter abounds (we hope) with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers and in Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express. For the kid in all of us, there’s the second installment, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, sure-bet Pixar’s Wall-E, and Kung Fu Panda. Watch Will Smith’s traditional 4th of July opening with Hancock. For more kick-butt action, Director Steven Spielberg finally reteams with Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie star as law-of-physics-bending assassins in Wanted, and Director Guillermo del Toro returns with Hellboy II.
The evening, bargain priced at $8 for the general public ($5 for DCFS members and FREE to GOLD members), includes lots of movie promotional items, movie posters, and raffles of movie tickets and DVDs. This twice-annual event is like no other. For more information and an update on trailers to be shown at “COMING ATTRACTIONS TRAILER NIGHT” visit the website or e-mail.
Son of Rambow: Q&A with Director Garth Jennings and Producer Nick Goldsmith
This Q&A with Director Garth Jennings and Producer Nick Goldsmith took place on April 14 Landmark's E Street Theater. DC Film Society director Michael Kyrioglou moderated the discussion.
Michael Kyrioglou: Where did the name Hammer and Tongs [production company] come from?
Nick Goldsmith: It was a stupid name--but Jennings and Goldsmith makes us sound like accountants.
MK: Where did the story come from?
Garth Jennings: When I was 12 years old I saw a copy of Rambo: First Blood and thought it was amazing. Here was someone who was incredibly resourceful using just sticks and stones, living in the forest and falling out of helicopters. It was the first thing we saw that was not for our age group. We were inspired by that. I tried to capture that childhood feeling--a time when everything was possible.
MK: How long have you known each other?
NG: 17 years.
Question: Did you know that a "Rambo" sequel was coming out?
GJ: No. The two films [Rambo (2008) and Son of Rambow (2007)] came out within months of each other.
Q: Did the distributor dance around with the opening date?
NG: No. It was pure coincidence. We had a legal problem with the name. There will be another "Rambo" sequel due to come out in 2009.
Q: Is the story based on your friendship with each other?
GJ: No. It's based on the extraordinary bunch of boys and girls I grew up with. We just drifted apart over the years. The two boys in the film are now best friends and go on holidays together.
Q: Is there a real religious sect like The Brethren in England?
GJ: Yes. They are an extremely conservative English religious group.
Q: Do the children go to school?
GJ: Yes. But they aren't allowed any television or newspapers or anything that would distract them from worship. They won't see the film.
Q: Did you have exchange students growing up?
GJ: Yes. This is based on the French exchange program we had. Once or twice a year a bus would come and you would get a student. They were extraordinary--they were cool. We were dowdy. They were so colorful--taller, cooler, exotic. We wanted the character of Didier to embody the French exchange program as we remembered it.
Q: Why Rambo?
GJ: 80s nostalgia. That movie inspired me to make my own movies. We thought of other characters in case we couldn't get the rights.
Q: Did you go to film school?
GJ: We went to art school. I made lots of short films and animations.
NG: We made videos. They were shown on TV; that how we learned.
Q: It seems like a different film genre.
GJ: Nick and I saw films like Stand By Me, Harold and Maude. Films that have universal appeal, the kind studios struggle to sell. Those were our inspiration.
Q: You know each other so well. How do you work together?
NG: We worked together for 17 years. We are a team. Both of us are involved. I'm the producer. He is the director. The lines are blurred, though. But so much of the work is pre-production. Still, I was on the set every day.
Q: Who wrote the script?
NG: He [Garth Jennings] did.
GJ: But the fact is that we never had a story. We had a feeling. We were trying to find a plot line with memories and ideas from the past. It was easy to get distracted by something like Didier [the French exchange student]. Then it could have been about him. We kept going off on different tangents because we didn't have a plot.
Q: Did Sylvester Stallone see it?
GJ: Yes. He loved it.
Q: How are you marketing the film?
NG: We took it to film festivals--we have been to Seattle, Toronto, London. Some time was needed to sort out the rights. The first time we showed it, it went well; we get a genuine response from the audience. So far the response has been wonderful. People like it for the same reason we made it. It was released in the UK a week ago. We are up against Leatherheads and are kicking ass!
Q: How did you go about casting?
GJ: That was the hardest part. Getting the kids was the hardest thing--it took five months. These were regular kids. The two leads had never acted before, only one had been in a school play as a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. They were the most wonderful, most laid back people, just wonderful--naive, open and easy to work with. It was so much fun to work them.
Q: Did anything about them [the two boys] change the script?
GJ: No. We had limited time and limited budget. They were brilliant. I got far more than I bargained for.
Q: Who did the artwork used in the movie?
GJ: A twenty-one year old man from Ireland spent months doing it and had to do a duplicate.
Q: Your previous film [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] was a big budget production. Do you have plans to do another blockbuster?
NG: It depends on the story. We had lots of fun with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Really, we had fun with both. We had just done one that was puppet-driven and didn't want to do another one right away. After this we don't want to do another kids film. Our next film will be animated.
GJ: We didn't need so many people. I always wondered what they were doing. We had a smaller number of people working on Galaxy. It moves faster and is more fun.
Q: Why is the "w" at the end of Rambo?
NG: For legal reasons.
GJ: We didn't want people to think it was a sequel drama. The kid hears "rambo" and spells it phonetically.
Q: How do you think kids will react to the movie?
NG: We made it for ourselves; we are kids at heart. But kids want to see what is not for them. Will they go off and do things in the movie? Kids play make believe.
GJ: I have three boys--5, 3, and 9 months. That's how we remember being that age. We saw Stand By Me, but didn't think we should smoke at age 15. But those issues can be handled honestly.
Q: What about the use of the word "skill?"
GJ: Every generation has its phrase. It's just a word we remembered using. "My itchy bluebeard" was another phrase.
Q: What was the hardest scene to shoot technically?
GJ: You get past the technical problems quickly. You can always get someone to handle the lights, etc. The hardest thing is to come up with a story, something you truly believe in.
Q: Did you model the kids after yourselves?
NG: No, that would have been dull.
GJ: They're not like us. The Lee Carter character is an amalgamation of kids I knew growing up.
Q: After doing Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was it easier to get to do this second movie?
NG: No, it didn't help us. If Son of Rambow had been sci-fi puppets, maybe. But it was low budget and some people were put off--"that's not what you do." No one would give us any money.
Q: What happened to the kids?
GJ: They went back to school. Bill Milner [who played Will Proudfoot] has just done another film with Michael Caine and Will Poulter [the Lee Carter character] has an audition for another movie. They're doing it for fun; it's just one of the many things they do including football.
Son of Rambow will hit DC screens in early May.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
The "China Film Festival", presenting ten new films from China, takes place May 15-19. The titles are Getting Home (2007), Night Train (2007), Curiosity Killed the Cat (2007), In Love We Trust (2007), Lost in Beijing (2007), Useless (2007), Western Trunk Line (2007), Thirteen Princess Trees (2006), The Case (2007), and A Battle of Wits (2007). Check the website for dates and times.
A series of films by French "New Wave" icon Jean-Luc Godard begins on May 22 and runs through July 3. Titles in May are Breathless (1960), A Woman is a Woman (1961), Pierre le Fou (1965), and Band of Outsiders (1964). More in June and July.
The AFI continues its participating in the "Korean Film Festival DC 2008" which began in April and taking place at the Freer, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the AFI. In May is Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Happy End (1999), and Forbidden Quest (2006). More in June.
On May 10 the "United Artists 90th Anniversary Film Festival" begins with Rocky (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Midnight Cowboy (1969), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). More to follow in June and July.
For Caribbean American Heritage Month is films: Africa Unite (2008) with The Harder They Come (1973) to come in June.
A series of films to commemorate Jimmy Stewart's centennial begins May 20 and runs through July 3. In May you can see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Destry Rides Again (1939), Harvey (1950), and Winchester 73 (1950). More in June and July.
The Robert Mitchum centennial series ends in May with Cape Fear (1962) and The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973). You can also catch the end of the Bette Davis centennial with The Little Foxes (1941) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Freer Gallery of Art
"Korean Film Festival DC 2008" continues in May with a Lee Man-Hee weekend: The Marines Who Never Returned (Lee Man-Hee, 1962) on May 2 at 7:00pm and Wildflower in the Battlefield (1974) on May 4 at 2:00pm. On May 11 at 1:00pm is a panel discussion "Love, Marriage, and Family in the New Korea" followed by Ad Lib Night (Lee Yoon-ki, 2006) at 2:30pm. Director Lee Yoon-ki, one of the panelists, will be present for discussion. On May 16 at 7:00pm is Dasepo Naughty Girls (E J-young, 2006) and on May 18 at 2:00pm is If You Were Me 2 (2005), an amnibus movie of short films by well-known Korean directors. More Korean films in this series are at the American Film Institute and The National Museum of Women in the Arts.
National Gallery of Art
"Retour a May 1968" is a series of films commemorating the 40th anniversary of the May 1968 social revolution in France. On May 4 at 4:30pm is May Fools (Louis Malle, 1989); on May 17 at 3:00pm is Tout va bien (Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972); on May 18 at 4:00pm is Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005); and on May 24 at 2:00pm is To Die at Thirty (Romain Goupil, 1982).
"Envisioning Russia: Mosfilm Studio" is a selection of ten Mosfilm archival features from the 1920s through the 1950s. On May 24 at 4:30pm is Bed and Sofa (Abram Room, 1927); on May 25 at 5:45pm is Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925); and on May 31 at 4:00pm is Jolly Fellows (Grigori Aleksandrov, 1934). The series concludes in June.
"In Praise of Independents: The Flaherty" is a selection of films from the Flaherty Seminar now in its 54th year. On May 10 at 2:00pm is Borom Sarret (Ousmane Sembene, 1964), Santiago (Moreira Salles, 2007) and Surviving Sabu (Ian Iqb al Rashid, 1997) shown with Elephant Boy (Robert Flaherty and Zoltan Korda, 1937).
On May 11 at 5:00pm is the Washington premiere of Charly (Isild Le Besco, 2007) with the director in person.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On May 1 at 6:00pm is a program of "performance as art films" with Media Burn (1975-2003) and "Documentation of Selected Works 1971-74) produced by Chris Burden.
On May 7 at 6:00pm is Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) and on May 21 at 6:00pm is The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), both great film noir classics.
"Three Women in Video Art" on May 29 at 6:00pm includes three videos: Nancy Holt's Underscan (1974), Dara Birnbaum's Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-79) and Eleanor Antin's Caught in the Act (1973).
As part of the "Reel Portraits" series on May 30 at 7:00pm is The Fighting Lady (Edward Steichen, 1945), an Oscar-winning documentary film with discussion following.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
As part of the "Korean Film Festival DC 2008" are films by Korean women filmamkers. On May 7 at 6:30pm is a.k.a. Nikki S. Lee (Nikki S. Lee, 2007), a short video tracking events in Lee's own life. On May 7 at 8:00pm is Before the Summer Passes Away (Sung Ji-hae, 2006) about a student's summer in Seoul before returning to her studies in Paris. More Korean films can be seen in this series at The American Film Institute and The Freer Gallery of Art.
A documentary about artist Louise Nevelson Nevelson: Awareness in the Fourth Dimension (Dale Schierholt, 2007) is on May 8 at 12:00 noon.
For this month's "Sisters in Cinema" is Cauleen Smith in person with Drylongso (1998) on May 28 at 7:00pm.
Films on the Hill
On May 14 at 7:00pm is Smouldering Fires (Clarence Brown, 1925) starring Pauline Frederick and Laura LaPlante. On May 21 at 7:00pm is Mississippi Gambler (Rudolph Mate, 1953) in Technicolor starring Tyrone Power and a very young Piper Laurie. On May 28 at 7:00pm is a Lew Landers-Bruce Bennett-WWII-Columbia "B" double feature Atlantic Convoy (1942) with U-Boat Prisoner (1944) both of which star Bruce Bennett who died last year at the age of 100.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On May 12 at 7:30pm is Fugitive Pieces (Jeremy Podeswa, 2007) from Canada, based on Anne Michaels' best selling novel. Rade Serbedzija won Best Actor at the Rome Film Festival for his performance.
On May 19 at 7:30pm is About the Body (Alona Seroussi and Keren Yehezkely-Goldstein, 2006), a video documentary about victims recuperating from the effects of suicide bombings. A discussion will follow with Steve Shafarman.
As part of an Iranian film series is Kandahar (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001) on May 1 at 7:00pm and Osama (Siddiq Barmak, 2003) on May 2 at 7:00pm. Two programs of films by Andy Warhol: I, a Man (1967) is on May 29 at 7:00pm and The Nude Restaurant (1967) is on May 30 at 7:00pm. See the website for others.
"Revolution is in the Streets: The Sixties from an International Perspective" is a film series highlighting some of the events of the 1960s. On May 5 at 6:30pm is Viva Maria! (Louis Malle, 1965); on May 13 at 6:30pm is Students in Revolt (1968), a BBC documentary about the events of "French May" with an introduction by and discussion with Martin Klimke from the German Historical Institute. On May 19 at 6:30pm is Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966) and on May 21 at 6:30pm is The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966).
National Air and Space Museum
On May 1 at 7:30pm is Most Honorable Son (2007), a documentary about Japanese American WWII pilot gunner Ben Kuroki. Call 202-633-2398.
National Geographic Society
"Video Amazonia Indigena: A View from the Villages" is a showcase of award-winning videos by indigenous video-makers from the Brazilian Amazon. On May 9 at 7:00pm is Daritidzé, Trainee Healer (2003) and Imbé Gikegü/The Scent of Pequi Fruit (2006) both short films which will be followed by discussion with the filmmakers.
On May 14 at 7:00pm is Darling (Christine Carriere, 2007). As part of "Europe Week", the French Embassy will show The Ax (Costa-Gabras) on May 6 at 7:00pm.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On May 21 at 6:30pm is Bubble Fiction (Yasuo Baba, 2006), a satirical comedy which takes on the Japanese bureaucracy, family values and the economic bubble. On May 29 at 6:30pm is an anime film Vexille (Fumuhiko Sori).
For the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial is the documentary The Journey of Lyndon Johnson (Robert Pierce, 1974) introduced by Harry McPherson, LBJ's special counsel from 1965-1969.
As part of the "Running for Office" series is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939) on May 31 at 3:00pm.
Embassy of Canada
A compilation of National Film Board of Canada Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning short films will be shown May 17 [time not available].
As part of "Lions of Czech Film" is Citizen Havel (Pavek Koutcky and Miroslav Janek, 2008) on May 14 at 8:00pm. Ambassador of the Czech Republic will present opening remarks.
On May 21 and 22 at 8:30pm is The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring presented in high definition with live symphony and chorus.
Embassy of Argentina
On May 9 at 6:30pm is Intimate Stories (Carlos Sorin, 2002) and on May 30 at 6:30pm is Jews in Space (Gabriel Lichtmann, 2005) both with English subtitles. Registration is required.
The Woodrow Wilson Center
On May 15 at 3:00pm is a screening of the award winning documentary A Walk to Beautiful about five Ethiopian women who suffered from devasting childbirth injuries. Filmmaker Mary Olive Smith will attend a reception following the film. Check the website for reservation information.
Argentina is the focus for May. On May 7 at 6:30pm is Yo No Se Que Me Han Hecho Tus Ojos (Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf, 2003), a documentary about Argentine tango singer, dancer and film actress Ada Ada Falcón. On May 14 at 6:30pm is H.I.J.O.S., El Alma en Dos (Carmen Guarini and Marcelo Céspedes, 2002), about children of the missing during the military dictatorship. On May 21 at 6:30pm is Caja Cerrada (Martín Solá, 2008) and on May 28 at 6:30pm is Pulqui, Un Instante en la Patria de la Felicidad (Alejandro Fernández Mouján, 2007). All have English subtitles.