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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Constant Gardener Opens Today
Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener opens today, and it's sure to be one of this year's big Oscar contenders. I, however, think it's a very bad film. Read why here.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/31/2005 Comments (1)
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Philip Noyce On Sound (and more)
Peter Cowie has a great interview with Philip Noyce (The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence) in the current issue of Kamera. Noyce, speaking of his fondness for the 2.35 to 1 'scope format, says "I think the art of big-screen framing has almost been lost, and I always try to remind myself of the framing that David Lean would give to a scene, or Akira Kurosawa, as opposed to Alan Parker or Ridley Scott, both of whom have come from television. They're magnificent film-makers, but they have contributed towards a TV style of film direction in terms of framing and shot size."

And on sound, he says "The two soundtracks that had the most influence on me date back to the late 1970's, and they stand the test of time...The first was Apocalypse Now, where Walter Murch revolutionized the way sound was used in films, and the second was Days of Heaven... I don't think [they] have been excelled, in either their subtlety or indeed their bombast, by the advances that have been made in technology in the intervening years."

[Via GreenCine Daily]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/31/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

B-Movie Review Weblog
Formerly a weblog of miscellaneous kitschy links, Exclamation Mark is now dedicated solely to reviews of kitschy b-movies such as 1962's Kiss of the Vampire. I love it!
:: posted by Matt, 8/30/2005 Comments (3)
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Hollywood's Suckage Now Scientifically Proven
According to a story: "The main factor responsible for the current boxoffice slump is the quality of the movies themselves, according to a new study by research company Brandimensions, which reached that conclusion after compiling moviegoers' opinions it found in Internet chat rooms and posted on message boards."
:: posted by Matt, 8/30/2005 Comments (0)
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Review: The Brothers Grimm
by Ian Dawe

The best thing about The Brothers Grimm is that it was directed by Terry Gilliam. The worst thing is that it was produced by the Weinsteins. Slightly sloppy storytelling and an uneven pace mar what could have been a strong return to the style of Gilliam's early fantasy films.

Continue Reading >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/30/2005 Comments (0)
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More Money Troubles for Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam further cemented comparisons between himself and Orson Welles this week. According to a report from Entertainment Weekly, U.S. studios refused to pony up a measly $15 million for an upcoming Johnny Depp/Robin Williams project. Based on Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's book, Good Omens would star Williams as an angel and Depp as a demon. Like Welles and all manner of maverick filmmakers through the ages, Gilliam sparked interest with overseas investors and managed to scrape up $45 million starting money. But the U.S. completion money was nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm has only performed modestly at the box office, coming in at #2 with a weekend gross of about $15 million. Like many of Welles' productions, The Brothers Grimm fell under the unkind scissors of those less talented -- this time producer Harvey Weinstein -- and the conflict shows in the final film. Not to mention that Weinstein "dumped" the film in August, where unwanted films go to die.

Fortunately, there is hope. Gilliam has another film coming out later this year, Tideland, and he is optimistic about finishing his Don Quixote.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/30/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, August 29, 2005

DVD Review: Layer Cake
You can probably count on one hand the number of reviews of Layer Cake that don't either compare it to Guy Ritchie's Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or talk about its star Daniel Craig as a strong possibility to succeed Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. In case you're keeping track, this review is not one of them.

The comparison to the two Ritchie films is a fair one, since Layer Cake's director, Matthew Vaughn, was the producer for both of those movies (though most people seem to forget he also produced Ritchie's Madonna-starring Swept Away). With Layer Cake, Vaughn obviously borrows from Ritchie's slick visual style, although he drops a lot of the humour, replacing it with a much cooler demeanor.

Craig plays a man with no name who is lured away from an early retirement as a drug dealer by his boss, Jimmy Price, to find the daughter of Jimmy's boss, Eddie Temple. There's also the matter of one million ecstasy pills he has to deal with.

In a sense, however, it's two MacGuffins for the price of one, as it's not the goal that's important but the getting there. And in the case of Layer Cake, the getting there is an intense and intricate affair, not to mention a lot of fun.

Continue Reading >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/29/2005 Comments (0)
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Premiere Magazine's 20 Most Overrated Films
The new issue of Premiere Magazine arrived this weekend with another list, and one that's been a long time coming: the 20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time. Not surprisingly, "all time" seems to consist mostly of the last 20 years or so. Fourteen of their choices are reasonably apt: American Beauty, A Beautiful Mind, Chariots of Fire, Chicago, Easy Rider, Fantasia, Forrest Gump, Field of Dreams, Gone with the Wind, Good Will Hunting, Jules and Jim, Monster's Ball, Moonstruck and Nashville. However, such lists are often meant to provoke, and it also includes five genuinely great films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, An American in Paris, Mystic River, The Red Shoes and The Wizard of Oz. The final film is Kevin Smith's Clerks, and I can't possibly begin to guess how that got on the list. (It's more of a cult film.)

To replace those misplaced six, I suggest the following: High Noon, My Fair Lady, The Graduate, Rain Man, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and City of God. How's that for provocation?
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/29/2005 Comments (1)
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ebert and Herzog
Roger Ebert gets in on the resurgence of interest in Werner Herzog with a new appreciation of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and an interview with the director conducted at last year's Overlooked Film Fesitval. If you haven't yet experienced Herzog's wonderfully mad work, there's no better place to start than Anchor Bay's fantastic Herzog/Kinski Collection, which includes Fitzcarraldo as well as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (my personal favorite), Nosferatu, Woyzcek, Cobra Verde, and the documentary My Best Fiend.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/28/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, August 26, 2005

Milestone opens rare 1972 doc Winter Soldier
Though it only received a sporadic art house release in 1972, Milestone has picked up Winter Soldier, a truly unbelievable documentary about soldiers returning from Vietnam.

At a press conference, these men adorned with long hair and beards tell their harrowing stories of atrocities and the process by which they allowed themselves to commit them. One soldier described himself and his colleagues as turning into animals. Upon returning to the U.S., these men found it difficult to reconcile the things they had seen and done.

Take the most shocking scenes from Full Metal Jacket, Casualties of War or any other Hollywood Vietnam movie, and they become so much powdered sugar compared to what really happened. Most astonishing of all is that, simply by changing the dates, names and places, Winter Soldier could very easily happen today. Indeed, it's absolutely impossible to watch this film without thinking of Iraq and the effect that much-debated war is having on people today.

Winter Soldier
will open at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema on Friday, September 2, and it has already played in New York's Quad Cinema. Look for it soon in Tucson, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, Huston, and other major cities. For more info, check out the film's official site.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/26/2005 Comments (0)
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New Movie/DVD Reviews from Combustible
It looks to be one of 2005's less explosive weekends, with a bunch of mediocre material opening at the box office. Even though it's minor Terry Gilliam, and was clearly butchered by the studio and hamstrung by a weak script, The Brothers Grimm is your best bet. Pretty Persuasion is a weak teen black comedy, while Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a gruesome Korean revenge flick from the maker of Oldboy but not nearly as good. Finally, The Talent Given Us, a comedy starring members of the director's real family is both amusing and irritating.

In new DVDs, Oliver Stone put together a "director's cut" of Alexander, even though I don't recall anyone caring. Paramount has unearthed some of its better recent films and repackaged them in new Special Editions, including Clueless: The 'Whatever!' Edition, which I still love. Also from Paramount, we have the obscure and much-hated Robert Aldrich film Hustle, which I liked, and the really bad surprise hit from earlier this year, Sahara. I also checked out Fellini's penultimate film Intervista and found it a delight. I'm probably the first one to review the powerful doc Libby, Montana, about a town nearly destroyed by asbestos. Lastly, my colleague Rob Blackwelder weighs in on the underrated rom-com A Lot Like Love.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/26/2005 Comments (0)
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Films That Got Away
Not Showing At A Theater Near You - in a series of articles, The LA Weekly explores the difficulty that most foreign-language films run into with American distributors. The bad news: even the most well regarded of foreign films go unseen in the U.S. The good news: the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association is organizing a festival of such overlooked films (here's hoping they'll get a home video release as well).
:: posted by Matt, 8/26/2005 Comments (0)
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BBC Offers Films On-line
Here's a very Mindjack-esque story: BBC is now offering a selection of films, and film-related features, as broadband video for free on-line. These include the usual interviews and trailers, but also some indie short films. It's worth a look.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 8/26/2005 Comments (0)
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Free DVD of La Chambre des officiers
Just a heads up to our Canadian readers -- the current issue of La Semaine magazine comes with a free DVD of La Chambre des officiers (the magazine itself is only $2Cdn). The film, directed by Francois Dupeyron, was nominated for the Palm d'Or at Cannes and won two Cesar awards. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles on the DVD but, even if you can't understand French, it is a visually striking film and a good opportunity to test Alexander Mackendrick's theory that you should be able to understand 60-80% of a film without subtitles. The DVD is 16x9 enhanced, however, and has 5.1 surround sound.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/25/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Movie's thrust upsets censor
Unfortunately, that headline is not mine, it's The Guardian's, talking about the NC-17 rating that's just been slapped on Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies. Said Egoyan: "I guess I'm naive. I really had no idea it would be a problem...I just heard the deciding factor could be thrusting. Apparently, anything over three thrusts and you're in trouble."

[Via The IFC Blog]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/24/2005 Comments (0)
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Peter Weir Talks Witness, Truman Show and Pattern Recognition
DVD Talk Radio has an interview with director Peter Weir where he talks about Witness and The Truman Show, which have just been released on DVD in new special editions, as well as his upcoming adaptation of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/24/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New Movie Reviews from Combustible Celluloid
Once again I've been delinquent in posting my new movie reviews, but here they are. My friend and colleague Rob Blackwelder stepped in to review Asylum, which I missed. Rialto Pictures has re-released a new print of Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows, which means (hopefully) that a new Criterion DVD will follow. The halfway decent The 40 Year-Old Virgin came in at number one at the box office, which surpised me, since Wes Craven's Red Eye is actually a pretty decent, solidly constructed movie. Finally, Wong Kar-wai's great new 2046 opened in theaters, and Sony Pictures has done their best to stifle all those import DVDs that have been floating around.

I was also lucky enough to speak briefly with Mr. Craven about his new movie.

In new DVDs, I checked out the long awaited DVD debut of Eric Rohmer's masterpiece Autumn Tale, which is a Region 2, PAL import copy of only middling quality. It'll do for now. I also checked out a new homemade short film called Broken that some action fans might want to look into. John Ford's Drums Along the Mohawk finally hits DVD, but where is his great Fort Apache? New Yorker released a pair of superb Mohsen Makhmalbaf films from Iran: A Moment of Innocence and The Silence, appropriate since they opened in U.S. theaters as a double-bill in 2000. Remington Steele: Season One is a cheesy preview of Pierce Brosnan's James Bond charm, Sin City skimps on the extras, and The Truman Show: Special Edition is as good as I remember it being when I reviewed it in 1998.

Until next week...
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/23/2005 Comments (0)
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Ebert on The Age of Innocence

"The Age of Innocence" is one of Scorsese's greatest films, improperly appreciated because, like "Kundun" (1997), it stands outside the main line of his work. Its story of a man of tradition who spends a lifetime of unrequited love resembles one of Scorsese's favorite films, Michael Powell's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp."
So says Roger Ebert in his latest Great Movies column, this time highlighting Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence [Amazon | IMDb], the fifth Scorsese film to be featured (after Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas).
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/23/2005 Comments (0)
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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Off to Photograph the Next World
Master Cinematographer Tonio Delli Colli has been found dead at the age of 81, according to this BBC report. He shot the very first colour film in Italy (Toto a Colori) as well as many films for Sergio Leone, including the entire "Dollars" trilogy, right up until Once Upon A Time in America (which, ironically, I was enjoying tonight before I read the news of his death). He went on to direct such distinctive looking films as The Name of the Rose (1984) and ended his career in 1997 on an exceptionally good note with Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful.

A man of great humour and exceptional skill, he was loved by many of the European film community and will be missed.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 8/20/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, August 19, 2005

A New Trend for TV on DVD?
I only own a handful of sets of TV shows on DVD, and most of those are one's I've picked up fairly cheaply (including the first seasons of The Simpsons, 24 and NYPD Blue). That's not to say I have anything against TV shows on DVD -- there's lots I'd love to have -- but there's two big reasons I don't own more: they're expensive and they take up a lot of room. But if the latest moves from Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox are any indication, at least one of those problems may soon be solved.

In November, Warner Bros. is releasing a box set containing all ten seasons of Friends for about $200US, and Fox is releasing a set with all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for only $140 (both of those are current Amazon prices -- the list prices for each are $300 and $200 respectively). By comparison, a single season of The X-Files, which contains about the same number of episodes as a season of Buffy, currently has a list price of $100, meaning you're lucky if you're able to find it for less than $70 at most retailers -- we won't even talk about the price of Star Trek sets.

Now, Friends and Buffy aren't exactly two series that I've been itching to buy, but here's hoping they're a sign of more to come. How about some smaller packaging now?

Update: It looks like Warner is, in fact, releasing TV sets in more sensible packaging, starting with the complete Sex and the City series in a slim, book-size volume for $300 list, or about $200 at Amazon.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/19/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'm Walkin'
The Onion AV Club blog posits an intriguing question: have you ever walked out on a film? They're also running a hilarious Michael Bay fake-editorial this week: "I simply cannot accept that March Of The Penguins is the big summer hit everybody's talking about. Hello?"
:: posted by Matt, 8/17/2005 Comments (0)
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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Antonioni's Passenger Hits Theatres This Fall
Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975) starring Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider and Jenny Runacre will begin a limited theatrical run on October 28th, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. Although one hasn't been announced yet, it's probably a safe bet that a DVD release will follow.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/14/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, August 12, 2005

New Movie & DVD Reviews
It's been another brutal week. I interviewed Wes Craven on Monday, did a radio show on Tuesday and had a phone interview with Mickey Spillane this morning. On top of it I did a bunch of writing, saw a bunch of movies, and raced against the clock the whole time. I took Tuesday night off, so I missed Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo and The Skeleton Key, though I'm guessing there wasn't much to miss. Here's what I did see: 11:14, Four Brothers, Funny Ha Ha, The Great Raid, Grizzly Man, Junebug and 9 Songs. And in new DVDs: The Best of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Kansas City, Kung Fu Hustle and Steamboy. Finally, I wrote up a new interview with Great Raid director John Dahl and a quickie Q&A with Four Brothers star Andre Benjamin. Finally, I wrote a little about the new San Francisco Asian Film Festival, including notes on Kiyoshi Kurosawa's amazing Pulse. Next week is just around the corner. (Sigh.)
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/12/2005 Comments (0)
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Warner Releasing Budget Double Feature DVDs
Warner Bros. is releasing a series of budget-priced double feature DVDs at the end of the month -- scroll down this page to see all of them. A few of the more notable ones include a Harrison Ford thriller double bill with Frantic and Presumed Innocent, two Hammer horror classics, The Curse of Frankenstein and Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Shaft and Shaft's Big Score! (shame they couldn't squeeze Shaft in Africa in there as well). Suggested price for these is $14.96US but some online retailers are offering them for quite a bit less than that -- they're $10.47 at Amazon and only $8.04 at Deep Discount DVD.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/12/2005 Comments (0)
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Gilliam Speaks

With two new films in the works, one of which, The Brothers Grimm, has already been visited by controversy, Terry Gilliam took some time to give this illuminating and far-ranging interview.

It interests me to see that he's had issues with Harvey Weinstein's interference in his art. He's not the first person to complain about his influence. One has to wonder to what extent obtaining financing from Weinstein is making a pact with the forces of darkness. He's willing to bankroll some of the greatest directors working (Scorsese, for instance), but treats them as if they were working in the old Hollywood studio system. Is this really the best that we can do by our filmmakers in 2005? Perhaps it is.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 8/12/2005 Comments (0)
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Restored 'Baby Face' On Tour
Yowza. A restored version of Barbara Stanwyck's raunchy pre-Code Baby Face is currently touring the U.S. This version contains recently discovered footage that was deemed too racy after its original 1933 release, along with a more realistic ending. Expect a DVD release following the tour.
:: posted by Matt, 8/11/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Titles Designed by Saul Bass

The people behind Not Coming to a Theater Near You have assembled a nifty tribute to Saul Bass. Click-through demos of the graphic design maestro's best title sequences - from Carmen Jones to Casino - are complemented with writeups explaining Bass' role in each film. Lovely stuff. (thanks, Donald!)
:: posted by Matt, 8/10/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, August 08, 2005

Connery Still Full of Bluster
In a recent BBC article, Sir Sean Connery claims that he's fed up with the "idiots" running Hollywood and may not appear in any more films. It's refreshing to hear frank talk from a movie star who clearly has nothing to prove. Good on you, old boy. He also claims that he was offered, and turned down, the role of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's the Lord of the Rings. Again I say - well done, Bond.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 8/08/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, August 05, 2005

Peter Jackon working on extras for original King Kong DVD
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Peter Jackson is working on special features to be included with the upcoming King Kong DVD release, not the least of which is the two-hour, seven-part documentary "RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World".

According to the report, part of the documentary will focus on the famous spider pit sequence, which will be recreated for the doc. Warner Bros. will release two different editions of the DVD, a regular two-disc special edition and a two-disc collector's edition packaged in a tin case, including a 20-page reproduction of the original souvenir program as well as a mail-in offer for a 27-by-41-inch reproduction of the original movie poster. Both versions will be released November 22nd, convienently just a couple of weeks before Jackson's remake hits theatres. A boxed set including The Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young will also be available at the same time.

[Via Movie City News]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/05/2005 Comments (0)
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Thursday, August 04, 2005

New Movie Reviews on Combustible
I've had a really busy two weeks (including minor surgery), so I'm just now getting back up to speed. Here are the latest movie and DVD reviews, including my four-star rave for Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Also: The Dukes of Hazzard and Secuestro Express. In DVD, I checked out Crossfire from Warner Home Video's new Film Noir collection, John Waters' Cry-Baby director's cut, John Wayne's The High and the Mighty and Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation - The First London Tour 1987.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 8/04/2005 Comments (0)
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Bond, James Bond
The new online issue of Bright Lights Film Journal contains an excellent reappraisal of the 1969 James Bond entry On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This has always been my own personal favorite Bond film, the one with the coolest gadgets, the most exciting set pieces, and the loveliest leading lady in the entire series. Sure, George Lazenby leaves a vacuous impression, but even that aspect works. Having the role played by a not-so-charismatic actor somehow makes James Bond seem more human and infallible.
:: posted by Matt, 8/04/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

QT6 Quentin Tarantino Film Festival Announced
The Austin Film Society recently announced that the sixth Quentin Tarantino Film Fesitival (QT6) will take place September 9-17 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Badges for access to all nine days of the fest will go on sale August 12 for AFS members only (but anyone can become a member). Tarantino hasn't revealed his film selections yet but you can see his choices for the previous five film festivals at the above link. Needless to say, if you're anywhere near Austin, you won't want to miss it.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8/02/2005 Comments (0)
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