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MoMA's (Still) Missing Film Stills? Not Exactly.

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 11, 2012 7:52 PM
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In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art closed off its venerable Film Stills Achive--an essential resource for archivists and academics--and fired its chief staffers Mary Corliss and Terry Geesken, causing rancor among cinephiles everywhere. I covered the story for the Village Voice almost exactly ten years ago this week ("Freeze Frame"). Now Time Magazine critic (and Mary's husband) Richard Corliss has resurrected the issue of the Archive, and its relocation to MoMA's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center in Hamlin, PA, also known as the "bunker." On Wednesday, he wrote a column, protesting the continuing "inaccessible" nature of the archive's some 4 million photographs.

Indie Theaters Left in the Dark by 3-D Boom

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 11, 2012 9:40 AM
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With the releases of 3D documentaries "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Pina," and an increasing number of auteurs considering the format, the question inevitably arises: Can arthouse theaters accomodate the expensive new digital projectors, and if they can't, will they be further left in the dark as the industry propels forward? There's a story in Variety today (behind the paywall) that addresses this issue, which I think is a worthy one to explore. Shouldn't independent theaters be able to benefit from higher ticket prices and a new wave of 3D art projects?

Prop-docs: The Rightwing Media and "When Mitt Romney Came to Town"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 10, 2012 9:36 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Ever since Fox News arrived on our cultural scene, the rightwing media has cultivated an aesthetics of clumsy propaganda and broad cliched imagery that has spread like a virus among conservative content creators. You can see it in Stephen Bannon's Sarah Palin hagiography "The Undefeated," you can see it in the dozens of docs that Newt Gingrich has produced, directed by DGA member Kevin Knoblock ("Rediscovering God in America," "America at Risk"), and, of course, you can see it in the latest new G.O.P. doc "When Mitt Romney Came to Town," currently making headlines (see the trailer below).

(UPDATED) Will Oscar Shaft Truly Indie Docs? They Already Have.

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 8, 2012 7:46 PM
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  • 2 Comments
It's hard to believe that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and its Oscar documentary branch are instilling a new rule that docs would have to receive a review in the New York or Los Angeles Times to be eligible, thereby excluding plenty of worthy indie nonfiction work. Part of the proposed changes for next year also include a major shift on who votes for the final award -- rather than the documentary branch, the entire Academy will now vote for the winner. Despite support from Michael Moore and Steve James, the revisions suggest a move further toward the middlebrow and mainstream.

4 Ways to Keep the Indie Film Biz Thriving

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 6, 2012 8:23 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As part of Variety's celebration of Sony Pictures Classics' 20 year anniversary, I spoke to co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard ("Steady as she grows") after their best year in a decade (driven by their release of "Midnight in Paris.") But for the purposes of ReelPolitik, I wanted to single out a list of things that the duo came up with that they believe can help keep the specialized business in good standing. You might not agree with everything on their agenda, but they're all worth discussing.

With Firing of Film Critic J. Hoberman, Indie Film Biz Loses Out

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 4, 2012 9:29 PM
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  • 8 Comments
When the news came out that longtime critic J. Hoberman had been fired from the Village Voice, the Twitter feeds and film blogs immediately went aflutter with praise for Hoberman and fury at the weekly paper. While it's a damn shame that readers won't be able to read Hoberman's critical and deeply informed historical perspective on movies on a weekly basis, the major story here is that the indie film industry has lost another one of its most important champions. Without critics like Hoberman, they've lost their best advocates. And as anyone in the specialized industry will tell you, taste-makers are key to the survival of their business.

Iran's Hardliners Shutter Filmmakers' Guild

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 4, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
At a time when Iranian cinema is once again being heralded for its artistry and universal appeal -- with the release of Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation" and expatriate Rafi Pitts' "The Hunter" -- the country's Culture Ministry is taking a controversial move in closing down the independent Iranian House of Cinema. According to the Associated Press, artists say political reasons are behind the decision.
More: Iran

Occupy Sundance? Park City Activists Embrace Coming Media Storm

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 3, 2012 8:16 PM
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  • 0 Comments
What better place for the Occupy Movement to gain further publicity than the liberal-minded, media-inundated ski slopes of Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival? Long a haven for films with potent social causes and political agendas--see "An Inconvenient Truth," "Super Size Me," and a slate of important docs in 2012--this year's Sundance will play host to a group calling itself Occupy Park City, which has been encamped since November, according to ParkRecord.com.

The Top 7 Overlooked American Indies of 2011

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 2, 2012 4:00 PM
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  • 5 Comments
One more list as we leave 2011.... From Filmmaker Magazine's blog, I've included a list of my favorite Overlooked Independent Films from 2011 that I've crossposted here. While the world doesn’t need another list of the best films of the year, after considering my own recent lists, I realized there were a handful of movies -- excellent independent work that has largely flown under the radar -- that even I initially overlooked. So here are seven bold American low-budget movies from 2011 that may have been forgotten in theatrical release, but should make for essential home viewing in 2012.

Despite Searchlight Apathy, Lonergan's "Margaret" Reappears in New York

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • December 21, 2011 2:45 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Critical supporters of Kenneth Lonergan's little-marketed "Margaret" are rejoicing, as the film, which some have hailed as a "masterpiece" (and others "a mess") is returning to a New York movie theater this Friday (the Cinema Village, with shows at 3:50pm and 9:15pm). After 685 advocates signed a petition asking distributor Fox Searchlight to make the film available to critics, a Twitter group called #teammargaret spread the word, and the movie began appearing on top ten lists -- it ranked the 7th best film of the year on the Village Voice's annual poll -- you'd think Fox would have gotten the hint. But the company actually had little to do with the Gotham booking.

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