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Friday, June 19, 2009

Cannes
Over this past week, our DT correspondent Brian Tran (W'10) has talked about how he got into screenings without too much begging, how tears welled up in everyone's 3D-glasses-covered-eyes, and the hot and not-so-hot movies of Cannes.

In today's post, Brian sums up his Cannes experience, reveals something that made him squirm and scream, and reveals how begging got him the hottest ticket in town!

Click here to read on!

Every year at Cannes, there is a film that raises the ire of cinephiles and critics alike, prompting outcry and controversy. Last year, we had the divisive Serbis, directed by Brilliante Mendoza. This time, crazy/brilliant auteur Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville) brought the goods and thrilled audiences with his aptly titled Antichrist. Known as the film that got Von Trier out of his clinical depression, Antichrist was probably the hottest non-Hollywood ticket at Cannes. Although I certainly had perks with my festival badge, I was not able to net an invitation using the online invitation system meaning I had to resort to alternative means. Once again, I pulled out my blank sheet of paper and my Sharpie and drafted up a quick sign asking for an extra “Antichrist” ticket.  As I staked out my old begging corner from last year, I realized how odd it must have seemed to see a student in a tuxedo holding a sign that read ANTICHRIST on the streets of Cannes. Fortunately, it was my lucky day and I was given a fantastic orchestra ticket within fifteen minutes.


Willem Dafoe
Inside the Grand Lumiere Theater, I was thrilled to discover I was sitting in the same row as the filmmakers and actors, just on the aisle. Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsborough, and Lars Von Trier were seated only feet away from me during the film. Mick Jagger was mingling with his guests in the row in front of me (see picture below). During this intense psychological horror film, an unnamed couple (Dafoe, Gainsborough) deals with the grief of losing their only child. There were several scenes that drew visceral reactions from the audience, causing me to squirm and scream. The filmmakers of Hostel and Saw could learn a few lessons from Von Trier in terms of torture and pain. After a particularly horrific moment when I jumped and shrieked aloud, I hear faint laughter coming from my left. I turn my head to discover Lars Von Trier himself watching me curiously and giggling at my expense.  Probably not a film I would ever see again, I would recommend Antichrist to fans of Von Trier’s previous work and those who wish to subject themselves to psychological and emotional scarring. The film is gorgeous and well made, but I definitely recommend with caution.


Mick JaggerOn another note, I do wholeheartedly recommend this year’s Palme d’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, a subtle, yet riveting look at the everyday lives of a small Protestant German village on the eve of World War I. The austere black and white cinematography matches the reserved emotional oppression found in the faces of each child that would eventually grow up to become a Fascist. Definitely a slow burn film in which events gradually build over a two-hour plus length, The White Ribbon takes its time revealing its cards but every moment is used exquisitely and no frame is expendable.


The 2009 Cannes Film Festival certainly had its highs and lows, but it was a completely different experience this year compared to last.  I had a different agenda that did not require me to watch films wall to wall and I was able to access areas of the Festival that were not available to me previously. At last year’s Festival, I met my close friend and collaborator Courtney Terwilliger (C'10) who involved me in the making of her latest short, “The Power of Freedom.” Our film was entered into the Short Film Corner and the Film Market of the Festival, allowing me a unique insight into the innards of the Festival. Although the glamorous competition films attract the most attention from the media, the Market was definitely the iceberg beneath the red carpet waters. I watched independent filmmakers clamor to arrange meetings with buyers and potential backers to fund future projects. There is so much involved with getting a film made that goes unseen by audience eyes. Perhaps one of the ambitious directors I met in passing could become the next Palme d’Or auteur.


Cannes has given me the motivation to continue on my path toward a career in entertainment. Before coming to France last year, filmmaking seemed a distant dream, one that was almost impossible to achieve. Now, after meeting with Penn alums such as CAA head Rick Hess (C'84) and Geoffrey Gilmore (C'74)  who have made fantastic careers in this industry, I have renewed aspirations and high hopes for the future. This summer, I’m interning at International Creative Management (ICM), an option I discovered last year when our class met with ICM CEO Jeffrey Berg, a Penn parent. Although I’m far from a Cannes veteran, I learned a thing or two about film festivals and the entertainment industry in general. Hopefully, I will be visiting the beaches of the French Riviera for many years to come.


P.S. While you’re catching glimpses of Penn in this summer’s Transformers 2 (see photos from shooting on Penn's campus HERE, keep an eye out for me too! I’m an extra in the college scenes, so look out for my big screen debut!

Check back soon for actual advice given this year from Penn alumni Rick Hess (C'84), Geoffrey Gilmore (C'74) and Penn parent Jeff Berg!



Check out all of Brian's posts about this year's (2009) Cannes Film Festival

Check out last year's (2008) Penn in Cannes posts HERE




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Thursday, June 18, 2009

UPenn in Cannes
Yesterday, our DT correspondent Brian Tran (W'10) talked about the opening night of the 2009 Cannes festival and his take on the Pixar film Up.

In today's post, Brian reviews some of the good and not so good films that people were buzzing about.

Click here for the inside scoop!

"Hollywood’s presence at this year’s Festival was definitely affected by the recent Writer’s Guild strike and the poor state of the economy. Parties were scaled down, the glamour was more restrained, publicity stunts were on the smaller side and there were only a couple Hollywood films in the Official lineup.  Besides the Pixar offering, Up, Hollywood only brought two other films to the Competition: Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  Sundance darling I Love You, Phillip Morris found its way into the Director’s Fortnight sidebar and Terry Gilliam’s fantastical Health Ledger starrer, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus screened out of competition on the last Friday of the Festival.
*
Ang Lee
I was fortunate enough to catch all of these films during the Festival and some of the films certainly fared better than others. Taking Woodstock took a critical beating by the relentless Cannes reporters, yet I felt Ang Lee took the right approach to this film, detailing the comedic coming of age story of Elliot Tiber with tenderness and just enough psychedelic trappings to evoke the feel of the legendary music festival. Comedian Demitri Martin fends well for himself in the lead role, balancing the toll Woodstock is taking on his family life and his newfound popularity as the ringleader of the hippie circus that rolled into town. Although we never get to see much of the concert itself, that’s quite all right with me, given that you could always rent the documentary Woodstock (which incidentally also screened at Cannes in 1970) if you need a nostalgia kick. Ang Lee deserves this refreshing break from his recent darker material, such as Lust Caution and Brokeback Mountain.
*
I Love You, Phillip Morris is gaining more attention as the “gay Jim Carrey film” and while that might be an accurate description of the movie, the filmmakers do not dwell much on the sexualities of its two lead actors, instead piling on the laughs in this improbable yet true story.  Carrey plays a con man who falls in love with another inmate (Ewan McGregor) while serving time in prison.  Before long, Carrey is breaking his lover out of the penitentiary using a variety of ingenious guises, each of which is more ridiculous than the last. The film seems to also have an identity crisis, like its main character, and it isn’t until the last reel does the film find its footing and delivers a tragic yet hilarious ending.
*
Terry Gilliam
During an interview at the American Pavilion, director Terry Gilliam (see picture to right) explained the tremendous difficulties he and his crew had to overcome during the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.   Of course, this film will attract the legions of Health Ledger fans that undoubtedly will want to see the last footage of the late actor.  Gilliam said that Ledger filmed about 50% of his footage before he tragically passed and Gilliam instinctively did not want to finish the film. He told the audience that he wanted to wrap that very day and put the film away for good, but he realized that Ledger would have wanted him to finish the film, in the most creative way possible. To do so, Gilliam enlisted the A-list trio of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law to film the scenes that were left unfinished. This works extremely well in the film and without knowing any of the backstory, I would assume that the film was written in this fashion. Unfortunately, I felt like the film relied a little too heavily on the effects to impress the audience as opposed to drawing them into the emotional world of the characters. The exposition was lengthy and convoluted and some of the characters seemed very one dimensional, not adding much to the plot or the other’s characters’ arcs. This is not a very showy role for Ledger and at times it appears as if he is channeling Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, which caused me to double take when Johnny Depp replaces Ledger in one scene. However, the film pulls it together for a thrilling final act that throws caution to the wind and turns everything on its head, which is fitting for the wonderland-like feel of the Imaginarium.
*
Eli Roth
Finally, the arguably most anticipated film of the Festival (or at least for me) was Quentin Tarantino’s latest epic, Inglourious Basterds. In his most international effort to date, Tarantino ambitiously films entire scenes in French and German, which nary an English word for large chunks of time. If it weren’t for the rag tag team of Jewish Americans led by Brad Pitt, I would be tempted to label this film as a foreign effort. Hopefully the subtitles won’t turn off too many viewers because I thought this was a fantastic return to form for Tarantino and it was a thoroughly entertaining romp through Nazi-era Europe.

The film is broken into five chapters, each of which is really just one long scene. Tarantino’s witty and self-conscious dialogue translates remarkably well into other languages and the subtitles seem to have been written by Tarantino himself, with all of his humor infused in the words. Like Pulp Fiction, “Basterds” features multiple storylines that weave in and out of each other, culminating in one grand event that takes place in a Parisian movie theater which only highlights Tarantino’s self proclaimed love for the art of filmmaking. In fact, he uses the movies as a way to rewrite history and he is not above completely changing the end of World War II in the most graphic and strangely satisfying way. I’m being purposefully vague because I would not incriminate myself of giving away a single second of this film. I will say, however, to watch out for an actor named Christoph Waltz, who plays the sinister but poetic Nazi Colonel Hans Landa. Waltz never fails to steal every scene he is in and probably takes the cake for the best villain in recent cinema. He also won the Best Actor Award during the closing ceremony of the Festival, thus cementing his fantastic performance in history. (picture above: Brian Tran and Hostel director turned "Basterds" actor Eli Roth)"

Check back tomorrow as Brian wraps up his experience in Cannes from this year and talks about something that caused him to squirm and scream!



Check out all of Brian's posts about this year's (2009) Cannes Film Festival

Check out last year's (2008) Penn in Cannes posts HERE




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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UPenn in Cannes
Yesterday, our DT correspondent Brian Tran (W'10) talked about how this year's Penn in Cannes experience was more promising than last year in terms of not necessarily begging to get into films as he had done last year. In today's post, Brian talks about the opening night of the festival and his take on the Pixar film Up:

"The opening night film of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival was Disney-Pixar’s 3D film, “Up.” First, it was hilarious to see all 2,300 film-goers, dressed in their Armani tuxes and Dior gowns, donning heavy unwieldy 3D glasses. I don’t know if these will be the glasses used in theaters across America when the film is released on May 29th, but these glasses were definitely at the forefront of 3D technology. They had thick polarized lenses that were actually light sensitive based on a little black area in between the eyes. When the theater got dark, the glasses would switch on and the lenses would turn blue, then green, then clear. Very cool.

The film itself was an absolute delight, capitalizing on all of Pixar’s many strengths to create a smooth, quickly paced, emotional journey that never failed to amaze. “Up” tells the story of Carl, a cantankerous old man, who when evicted from his long time home, decides to take matters into his own hands. He attaches tens of thousands of helium balloons to his house and takes flight to South America, meeting fascinating and hilarious characters along the way.

Definitely the funniest Pixar film yet, “Up” is still grounded in very real emotions and the filmmakers never shy away from putting their characters in real danger. The first ten minutes of the film are pure brilliance, using a montage to tell the story of Carl and his wife.  It showcases how they first met, through their happy marriage, their struggles with childbearing and ending with her death. Like Wall-E, this montage doesn’t use a single word of dialogue, yet by the end, many audience members were wiping tears out from under their heavy 3D glasses.

UPenn in CannesThe 3D itself was a showstopper, with the audience breaking into applause the second Cinderella’s castle appeared in the opening credits and the fireworks explode out into the audience. It’s obvious that Pixar put a lot of effort in redefining what 3D movies are meant to evoke in an audience. Instead of cheap gimmicky “pop out” moments, the entire film is in complete 3D at all times, creating the effect of looking “into” a window and watching the events unfold, instead of seeing things come “out.” Of course, there are still exciting moments that utilize the technology to great effect, such as a chase sequence where bees and rocks fly out past your head. Also, the 3D was used to emphasize the emotional baseline of the film. When Carl is alone in his house, constricted and solitary, the film is quite flat. However, when the house busts free of its foundation and the multicolored balloons erupt into the sky, the film suddenly draws much more depth to create a sense of freedom and giddiness.

Overall, I loved the film and that opinion is clearly shared by the Cannes audience, which included actresses Aishwarya Rai, Tilda Swinton, and Penn alum Elizabeth Banks (C'96)."

Check back tomorrow as Brian talks about more of the must sees and the must skips!




Check out all of Brian's posts about this year's (2009) Cannes Film Festival

Check out last year's (2008) Penn in Cannes posts HERE




UPennUPenn



Did you like this article? You can get the latest articles at DuelingTampons.com in your email inbox each afternoon by entering your email address below. Your address will only be used for mailing you the articles, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.



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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yesterday, I introduced Brian Tran (W'10), our special Penn in Cannes DT correspondent. In today's post, Brian talks about how this year's Penn in Cannes experience was more promising than last year...

"I step onto the velvety red carpet, taking in the building atmosphere of paparazzi hysteria and star-struck glamour. The flash bulbs are blinding and the photographers are screaming. I fix my black bow tie, ensuring its perfection in the event that I end up in the background of some Hollywood starlet’s photographs. Quentin Tarantino walks right by me and I nearly melt. Elizabeth Banks (C'96) is posing fabulously to my left. I begin my ascent to the top of the Palais de Festivals, marking each famous red step along the way. Like the celebrities, I stop on the first landing, turn and look over the crowd, grinning. When I make it to the top, I took it all in, breathing in the entirety of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival and all I could think of was, “I’m back.”

I participated in last year’s Penn-in-Cannes program, run by the fantastic Nicola Gentili and Meta Mazaj. During my time here, I walked 18 red carpet premieres and watched around 25 films, with only a Cinephile badge, the lowest of the colored badge hierarchy. I accumulated much knowledge about the festival and its inner workings, making many brilliant international contacts along the way.

This year, I’m back with a film in the Short Film Corner (a subsection of the Festival) and the Marche du Film (the Film Market, the other half of the Festival that goes unnoticed by civilian eyes). With my new Festival badge, I have official access into the Palais, which was a forbidden grand fortress last year, and I hope to uncover more information and details about the Festival from the inside. I’ll be sharing everything I learn and hopefully illuminate the machinery behind the world’s largest and most glamorous film festival.

Last year’s correspondent, Felisha Liu (W'09), revealed the tricky games we had to play to gain access to the much sought after red carpet gala screenings. These screenings all took place in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, right in the heart of the Palais de Festivals. There are normally two gala screenings a night, one around 7pm and another around 10:30pm, with the occasional midnight screenings reserved for genre films such as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. We had to hold up signs and beg for sparkly invitations that would get us into these screenings, wearing our tuxedos and evening gowns, hoping a kind soul would come by and unload any extra tickets on us."

Click HERE to find out what Brian's new accreditation allowed him to do, what degree of "begging" he had to do this year ...and with which big celebrity he had a close encounter!

"This year, my new accreditation allows me to sign up for these invitations online, so I can avoid the begging as much as possible. Each badge holder is given a certain number of initial points, as well as a maximum amount of points that person is allowed to accumulate. He or she is also told how quickly his or her points refresh. The website then lists all the screenings available for that person. Nothing was more satisfying than entering the Palais and picking up my invitation for Jane Campion’s newest film, “Bright Star”, free of the hassle of begging. However, there are drawbacks. People with higher-level accreditation are allowed more screenings to choose from and at earlier times. For example, one of the most coveted screenings this festival is next Wednesday’s premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” starring Brad Pitt. For a low level badge like mine, that screening is already sold out. When this happens, I have to go back to begging like last year to get into some of the best screenings.


Speaking of Brad Pitt, I was window-shopping down the Croisette, the main boulevard in Cannes, and I noticed a small crowd of people outside of an upscale store. This reminded me of a similar scene last year, when a crowd mobbed the Gucci store because Sean Combs was shopping inside. I peered inside the window and couldn’t see anybody for about thirty seconds, before Brad Pitt walks right in front of me. He was checking out a very cool leather jacket. Suffice it to say, the next day, I went back to that store and found that very same jacket. Too bad it didn’t fit me.


Check back tomorrow to find out about the first film to open in Cannes and Brian's take on it!



Check out all of Brian's posts about this year's (2009) Cannes Film Festival

Check out last year's (2008) Penn in Cannes posts HERE




UPennUPenn



Did you like this article? You can get the latest articles at DuelingTampons.com in your email inbox each afternoon by entering your email address below. Your address will only be used for mailing you the articles, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.



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Monday, June 15, 2009

Cannes

Last year we had our special Penn in Cannes correspondent Felisha Liu (W'09) providing us with coverage from the festival.

This year, Brian Tran (W'10) just wrapped up his week in Cannes and is this year's special Dueling Tampons Correspondent giving us the exclusive early scoop about some of the great (and not so great) films to come out of the festival. Plus how this year's festival has changed somewhat from last year...

Brian will be a Senior in the Wharton School this fall, studying Marketing and an individualized concentration in Media and Entertainment. He also attended the Cannes Film Festival last year as part of the Penn-in-Cannes program, but this year he's back with a film in the Short Film Corner and Film Market (he was a Producer and Director of Photography for a short film directed by Courtney Terwilliger (C'10) called The Power of Freedom). Brian also writes film critique for 34th Street Magazine and is Business Manager for Penn Singers.

Check back tomorrow when Brian tells us about:
  • his red carpet experience
  • the much better access he had with his higher "festival badge accreditation" 
  • whether he had to "beg" this year
  • which big star walked right in front of him

Check out last year's Penn in Cannes posts HERE

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Did you like this article? You can get the latest articles at DuelingTampons.com in your email inbox each afternoon by entering your email address below. Your address will only be used for mailing you the articles, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.



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