El Chupacabra Michael Moore vs. Big Pharma
Late December 2004 movie news include the announcements that a) documentary filmmaker Michael Moore 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 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ arcane eligibility rules.
Let’s begin with El Chupacabra Michael Moore: U.S.-based pharmaceutical industry leaders are afraid that, in his upcoming documentary Sicko, the Oscar-winning filmmaker (Bowling for Columbine, 2002) 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 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.”
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Berlin Film Festival to Present Restored ‘Battleship Potemkin’
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 portrayal 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.
Pro-proletariat message irked right-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.
See below a few more late 2004 cinema news bits.
Harrison Ford in ‘The Battle of Falluja’?
According to reports, veteran actor Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Working Girl) will join the Iraq War by way of The Battle of Falluja, a film adaptation of correspondent Bing West’s upcoming book No True Glory: The Battle of Falluja.
The titular battle officially left more than 800 people dead, the vast majority of them Iraqi civilians.
‘A Legendary Love’ in Singapore
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.
Malaysia’s submission for the 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, A Legendary Love stars Tiara Jacquelina as a 15th-century Javanese princess who falls in love with a Muslim warrior (M. Nasir) from the Malacca Sultanate.
Rehoboth Beach Film Society vs. puritanism
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.
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Amitabh Bachchan named AIDS awareness ambassador
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 (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for The Color Purple, 1985), and Oscar-nominated Hollywood performers Brad Pitt (as Best Supporting Actor for Twelve Monkeys, 1995) and Will Smith (as Best Actor for Ali, 2001).
South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.
James Cromwell vs. animal abuse
“They have no straw with which to root, which is what they do instinctively,” Cromwell explains, “so we have managed to frustrate every bit of instinctive and genetic behavior that they have developed over eons. All because we reduce animals to commodities and individuals who buy it into consumers.”
The problem is: Do most individuals – or “consumers” – give a damn about the suffering of other living beings?
Rehoboth Beach Film Society website.
El Chupacabra a.k.a. Michael Moore image: Lionsgate Pictures / The Weinstein Company.
Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford Hollywood Homicide image: Miramax Films.
“El Chupacabra Terrifies Big Pharma + Soviet Masterpiece Returns + Harrison Ford Goes to War?” last updated in May 2019.