Friday, December 22, 2006


Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, the concert doc featuring the words and songs of the great Canadian poet, novelist and tunesmith, was out in theaters this summer, and is just now out on DVD. The film begins with the Icon Productions logo -- a face-in-a-box image that's also affixed to the first reels of the controversial and bloody The Passion of the Christ and the super-violent Maya chase pic, Apocalypto. Yes, Icon is Mel Gibson's company, and Mad Mel helped make I'm Your Man.

"Leonard Cohen is this wonderful poet," Gibson says of the Montreal gentleman behind such plaintive ditties as "Sisters of Mercy," "Suzanne" and "Tower of Song." "I grew up listening to that stuff. We’d listen to it and loved it and saw the truth of it, but we laughed at it, we also cried at it. He’s an amazing person."

So, when fledgling filmmaker Lian Lunson came to Gibson's company with the idea to do a Cohen doc, and invite musicians Antony, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, Bono and The Edge to pay tribute, Gibson said yes. "She laid this thing out and I said, `Lets go for it.'... And boy, nobody thought it would do well, but she made it, and she made it on a shoestring, and it's done really well. It endears you to him, and you can see the wide range of music and poetry… I just dig him. He’s a very private, very reclusive man, very humble man. I was proud to have been a part of putting that piece of entertainment and insight on the screen."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Irv Slifkin, a walking encyclopedia of film facts, factoids and trivia, has a new book in stores, and anyone who loves movies, and loves Philadelphia, should check it out. Filmadelphia (Middle Atlantic Press, $17.95) is a handsome soft-cover survey of movies made in, set in, or somehow significantly connected to Philadelphia and its environs, from homegrown megahits (M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, Sylvester Stallone's Rocky) to obscure noirs (Paul Wendkos' 1957 Dan Duryea-Jayne Mansfield caper, The Burglar) and gritty blaxploitation (Larry Yost's 1973 all-over-Philly Trick Baby).

Slifkin devotes page-long essays to scores of Philly titles, including Brian De Palma's Blow Out, with its Wissahickon Creek crime scene and famous City Hall chase sequence. About the 1981 John Travolta starrer, Slifkin writes: "Like a mad scientist in an old Boris Karloff movie, Brian De Palma mixes the premises of Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 arthouse puzler Blow Up and Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 paranoid masterpiece The Conversation with a dose of Watergate conspiracy, a healthy sprinkling of cynicism, and images reminsicent of the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick incident to make one helluva Frankenstein thriller." (Phew!)

The book includes sidebars on key Philly area locations, a history of the town's storied screen past, and mini-bios of famous filmmakers, screenwriters and stars that hailed from these here parts (John and Ethel Barrymore, Bill Cosby: Philadelphia; John Forsythe and Bruce Willis: Penns Grove, NJ; Joanna Cassidy and Steven Spielberg: Haddonfield, NJ).

For more info, click on To check out Slifkin's "Movie Buzz" webzine, go to

Monday, December 11, 2006


In short order (the weekend of Dec. 9-10), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, The New York Film Critics Circle and the American Film Institute released their respective year-end lists .

A quick rundown:

Best film: Letters from Iwo Jima
Best director: Paul Greengrass, United 93
Best actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Supporting actor: Micheal Sheen, The Queen
Supporting actress: Luminita Gheorghiu, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Best doc: An Inconvenient Truth
Best foreign: The Lives of Others (Germany)
Best animated: Happy Feet

On the other coast, the NYFCC:
Best film: United 93
Best director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best actor: Forest Whitaker
Best actress: Helen Mirren
Supporting actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Supporting actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Doc: Deliver Us from Evil
Foreign: Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 French resistance drama
Animated: Happy Feet

American Film Institute Top 10 of 2006 (alphabetical)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
The Devil Wears Prada
Half Nelson
Happy Feet
Inside Man
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
United 93

Glad that United 93, which came out April 28, was remembered amidst the post-summer onslaught of releases. Greengrass' taut, terrifying film is so much more than just a TV-style docudrama. In smart, subtle strokes the filmmaker asks us not only to think about what we would have done if we were on that 9/11 flight, but also -- and this is the heavy stuff -- what is the nature of God, is there a God, and if there's a God, is he/she/it heeding the prayers of Christians and Muslims alike?