Tag: Werner Herzog (Page 2 of 4)

Great moments in movie star tantrums

A youngish Werner Herzog plays a tape of the late lunatic genius (emphasis on the “lunatic” part), Klaus Kinski blowing up on the set of “Aguirre: The Wrath of God.”

Does anyone know where this comes from? I’m reasonably sure it’s not from Les Blank’s “Burden of Dreams,” about their later collaboration on “Fitzcarraldo.”

Los Angeles Film Festival Recap: The Movies, part 3

Okay, so we’re back one more time to wrap up my series of posts covering my reactions to the movies I managed to see at the Los Angeles Film Festival. If time and my temperament permits, a special kvetching post will be forthcoming. You can see my earlier posts on the films here and here.


* “Cane Toads: The Conquest” — I saw this the same night as I saw “Cyrus” and, while I got a bit tired towards the end, probably because it had been a long day, I couldn’t help but be delighted and impressed by this unapologetically entertaining documentary. Made in high end 3-D, writer-director Mark Lewis told the audience with some pleasure that his film has been dubbed “Avatoad” by several critical wags.  Whatever comparisons there may be to the Cameron film, this one is definitely funnier.

What it actually is a sequel to a twenty-five year old documentary (“Cane Toads: An Unnatural History”) detailing how these toads were brought to Australia to combat an agricultural pest. The amphibians utterly failed at that task, but utterly succeeding at reproducing themselves by the billion and being perceived as a pest themselves by displeased Aussies. The new film explores the various aspects of the creatures and how they interact with humans in Australia, with some making a sport of how many of the creatures they can exterminate, and others fighting to stop the slaughter or studying them, and, in the case of one little girl, making a pet of one beloved and friendly toad.

Full of invention and wit, “Cane Toads: The Conquest” is easily the funniest ecological nature documentary I’ve ever seen — it’s also, easily, the only one that could qualify as a somewhat dark comedy of sorts, a clever combo of science, silliness, and ecological awareness. As much as I liked the film, overall, I do have to admit that that was overshadowed by the fact that none other than Werner Herzog was sitting in front of me, who is said to be working on his own 3-D documentary. Exactly the guy you’d want to be sitting next to you at that kind of doc.

* “Farewell” — This blend of fiction and documentary film is the tale of the 1929 round-the-world trip of the German Graf Zeppelin as reported by its lone female passenger, a real-life English journalist/aristocrat. Written and directed by Denmark’s Ditteke Mensink, the film is mainly a fictionalized story of starcrossed love, and the real-life writer really did have a lifelong secret love affair with a married colleague. Comprised entirely of found footage, mostly from the actual historical trip, which was probably the biggest zeppelin story until the Hindenberg disaster effectively killed lighter-than-air travel, the story is told in the form of a highly emotional narration in the form of a diary.


Although I was as wowed by the amazing footage as many critics seemed to have been, I was somewhat disappointed with the film as a whole. Lacking the informational interest of a more conventional doc, the film didn’t really work as a drama for me either. It’s bit humorless and static — especially since our male lead that our heroine is over the moon for isn’t exactly your usual dramatic leading man — and, like the zeppelin trip, the love story winds up largely where it starts.


And that, believe it or not, is it — for the movies, anyhow.

A chat with Alex Gibney


There’s no doubt that Alex Gibney is on a historic roll as a documentarian. Within only a few years, he’s been involved with probably the largest number of popular and influential documentaries of any single human being not named Michael Moore. Those works would include the outstanding “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and the equally strong, and Oscar winning, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about American use of torture in the “war on terror.” Gibney has also made his share of more historically themed documentaries, including “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.” He was also involved as a producer in two of the other most important and controversial documentaries of recent years, the Iraq-war expose, “No End in Sight” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

If Gibney’s past output is hugely impressive, however, his upcoming list of films is dizzying. At the recently wrapped Tribeca Film Festival in New York, he premiered as a “work in progress,” a new and apparently very revealing, look at former New York state governor, attorney general, and Wall Street watchdog Eliot Spitzer and the sex scandal that drove him from office. He also has a segment in the upcoming film version of the super-hot bestseller, Freakonomics, as well as new films about two very different cultural legends: bicyclist Lance Armstrong and author/super-hippie Ken Kesey of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Merry Pranksters fame.

There’s also the recently completed “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” and the film Gibney was promoting at his publicist’s L.A. office one recent afternoon, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” It’s a work of amazing journalistic detail that also works very hard to be lively and accessible.

Jack Abramoff is


Even if I felt that Gibney didn’t quite master that “accessible and lively” aspect too consistently this time around, his “Casino Jack” reviews so far have been great overall. He’s certainly a filmmaker to be reckoned with and one with an outstanding body of work behind him and much, much more to come. Not my idea of a lazy person.

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It’s everybody’s bag

In cinephile circles, probably no piece of dialogue and visuals have been so widely dismissed as the plastic bag scene from Sam Mendes Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed, but widely cinephile-hated, “American Beauty.” Well, I’m not here to stick up for “Beauty,” a movie that is undoubtedly simultaneously over- and under-rated, but to present a flying-plastic-bag movie that I can’t imagine cinephiles, or anyone else, not taking to their hearts.

Via Anne Thompson comes the simply titled “Plastic Bag,” starring the voice of director Werner Herzog and an unbranded, beige plastic bag. Written, directed, and edited by up-and-coming feature film-maker Amin Bahrani, this roughly 18 minute short subject is both emotionally powerful and beautiful, a commentary on the human condition and testimony to our ability to anthropomorphize anything. I have no idea how Bahrani staged some of  it, so it also has the appeal of a great magic trick.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Bahrani, who is currently teaching at Columbia’s film school in New York, is a relatively new independent director who has flown under my radar so far. Not any more.

Also, just in case it’s new to you, that oceanic plastic bag vortex is not a science-fictional cinematic invention but entirely real.

Midweek movie news

Getting a bit of an early start and catching up with some news we didn’t discuss yesterday.

* In terms of raw cash, the movies had a record March this year, largely thanks to those inflated, and then extra-inflated, ticket prices for “Alice in Wonderland” in 3-D. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Alice in Wonderland

* RIP Corin Redgrave, of one of the world’s great acting families.

* Reading this Nikki Finke item about what sounds like the increasingly fraught auction of MGM, it really does make it seem like a million years ago when MGM was the absolute epitome, for better and for worse, of Hollywood power.

* I’m breaking a confidence here with this super-secret Twitter leak by Jon Favreau, but it appears that Harrison Ford will be in “Cowboys and Aliens.”

* Universal, which hasn’t exactly been rolling in cash lately, has pulled the plug on “Cartel.” It would have been a remake of the fact-based Italian mafia thriller from 1993, “La Scorta,” set admidst Mexico’s drug wars. Josh Brolin was set to play the lead. Mike Fleming doesn’t specifically mention insurance or the cost of security, but considering the topic and what’s been going in throughout Mexico — apparently including Mexico City where the film was to be shot — it must have been through the roof.

* Master cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio checks in and brings word of some cool film fests.

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