- Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has become Big Pharma’s El Chupacabra.
- A reconstructed version of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet classic Battleship Potemkin will be presented at next year’s Berlin Film Festival.
- Producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. goes after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ arcane eligibility rules in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
- Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach Film Society vs. (anti-gay?) puritanism.
El Chupacabra Michael Moore vs. Big Pharma & other December tales
Late December 2004 movie news include the announcements that a) Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, 2002) has become the early 21st century’s El Chupacabra, b) a reconstructed version of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet classic Battleship Potemkin will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival, c) producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. has taken issue with some of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ arcane eligibility rules, d) the Rehoboth Beach Film Society has become embroiled in the fight against (possibly anti-gay) puritanism.
Let’s begin with the curious case of El Chupacabra Michael Moore: U.S.-based pharmaceutical industry leaders are afraid that in his upcoming documentary, Sicko, Moore will depict them and their products in the same way he depicted U.S. President George W. Bush and his products in this year’s epoch-making blockbuster Fahrenheit 9/11.
Employees of some pharmaceutical companies have been warned that El Chupacabra from Flint, Michigan, may come and get them any day now. The Los Angeles Times quotes Rachel Bloom, executive director of corporate communications at AstraZeneca, based in Wilmington, Delaware, as saying, “We have six business centers nationwide, all of which report ‘sightings.’ Michael Moore is becoming an urban legend.”
Reconstructed ‘Battleship Potemkin’ at Berlin Film Festival
From El Chupacabra to Sergei Eisenstein: Considered one of – if not the – greatest motion picture ever made, the 1925 sociopolitical drama Battleship Potemkin was originally commissioned by Soviet communist leaders to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Odessa uprising, during which mutinous sailors rioted at the Ukrainian port.
Eisenstein’s recreation of the massacre of protesters on the Odessa Steps continues to be shown in film schools the world over as a classic example of montage – the art of editing used for greater dramatic effect.
A team led by film historian Enno Patalas worked on the reconstruction of Battleship Potemkin, which includes sequences cut by Soviet censors at the time of the film’s release. The print to be shown at the Berlinale is supposed to be as close as possible to Eisenstein’s original cut.
Sergei Eisenstein classic irked both right-wing & left-wing censors
The Soviet government’s more fanatical left-wing ideologues may not have thought so, but Battleship Potemkin’s pro-proletariat message was deemed so effective that, at some time or other, the film was banned by equally fanatical right-wing rulers in numerous countries, from Brazil to South Korea.
Battleship Potemkin will be presented on Feb. 12 and 13 at the Volksbühne Theatre on Rosa Luxemburg Platz. The German Film Orchestra Babelsberg will accompany the screenings, playing a revised version of Edmund Meisel’s original score.
Written by Nina Agadzhanova (Eisenstein worked on rewrites) and with intertitles reportedly by Nikolay Aseev and Sergey Tretyakov (both were uncredited), Battleship Potemkin features Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barskiy, Grigoriy Aleksandrov, and Ivan Bobrov.
Samuel Goldwyn Jr. vs. the Academy’s arcane Best Foreign Language Film rules
From El Chupacabra and Sergei Eisenstein to the 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: Veteran producer and Academy member Samuel Goldwyn Jr. – whose credits range from the 1958 Alan Ladd-Olivia de Havilland drama The Proud Rebel to the 2003 Oscar-nominated Peter Weir-Russell Crowe collaboration Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – isn’t at all happy with the arcane laws governing the selection of the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film submissions.
“The system doesn’t work. The Academy’s job is to pick the best foreign-language picture of the year. But what happens when two of the best pictures of the year are made in France? Or suppose you had Italy’s The Bicycle Thief [a.k.a. Bicycle Thieves] and La Dolce Vita in the same year. It would be criminal if you could only pick one.”
A decade ago, Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red / Trois couleurs: Rouge, officially submitted by Switzerland, was disqualified because the Geneva/Carouge-set French-Polish-Swiss co-production starring French actors Irène Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant wasn’t deemed “Swiss enough” by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Committee.
This year, among the well-received non-English-language releases not in the running in that Oscar category are Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education / La Mala educación, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement / Un long dimanche de fiançailles. The first two titles star Gael García Bernal; the last title stars Audrey Tautou.
As an aside, the Academy’s movie theater in Beverly Hills is named after Goldwyn Jr.’s father, the producer of classics ranging from Stella Dallas and These Three to The Little Foxes and The Best Years of Our Lives.
Rehoboth Beach Film Society vs. (anti-gay?) puritanism
And at last, sanity prevails: Delaware State Police and the state’s Attorney General have declared that the Rehoboth Beach Film Society did not violate any state obscenity laws during its November 2004 film festival.
A woman had complained to authorities that the Film Society had screened three movies purportedly containing “explicit” gay sex scenes – Miguel Albaladejo’s dramatic comedy Bear Cub / Cachorro; John Palmer’s romantic teen drama Sugar; and Vladimir Vitkin’s thriller X Y – while minors were present in other parts of the cinema complex where the festival was being held.
The movies, however, were shown in an area apart from the main complex; admission to those screenings was also kept separate.
More December news: From Harrison Ford in Iraq to AIDS ambassador Amitabh Bachchan
Below are, in brief, a few more December stories.
- According to reports, veteran actor Harrison Ford – whose movie career goes all the way back to the 1966 crime comedy Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round – will join the Iraq War by way of The Battle of Falluja, a film adaptation of an upcoming book by war correspondent Bing West. The titular battle officially left more than 800 people dead, the vast majority of them Iraqi civilians.
- Saw Teong Hin’s A Legendary Love / Puteri gunung ledang, the most expensive Malaysian movie ever made and a cause of deep embarrassment at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, became the first film from Malaysia in three decades to be screened in neighboring Singapore, where it opened on Dec. 15. Starring Tiara Jacquelina and M. Nasir as star-crossed lovers, A Legendary Love is Malaysia’s submission for the 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
- Veteran Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan (Zanjeer, Deewaar) has been appointed a 46664 Special Ambassador. Clarification: 46664, the prison number of former South African President (and former political prisoner) Nelson Mandela, is an AIDS awareness campaign spearheaded by Mandela himself. Other 46664 Special Ambassadors are former U.S. President Bill Clinton, American talk-show hostess and sometime actress Oprah Winfrey, and Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Will Smith. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.
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- “Iraq War Documentary Gets U.S. Distribution Despite Hollywood Studio Turndown.”
Rehoboth Beach Film Society website.
El Chupacabra Michael Moore Sicko image: Lionsgate Pictures / The Weinstein Company.
José Luis García Pérez Bear Cub / Cachorro image: Manga Films.
“El Chupacabra Terrifies Big Pharma + Soviet Masterpiece Returns + Delaware film society vs. Puritanism” last updated in January 2020.