In this morning’s roundup of movie news ‘n’ notes from around the web, reports come in from China, Venezuela, New Zealand and outer space.
Is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez now learning the fine art of movie marketing? The controversial leader, who rarely grants interviews to outside media, spoke for an hour to the BBC Hardtalk program – and the Guardian says that the interview was “arranged to coincide with the Caracas premiere of Oliver Stone’s new documentary” about Chavez, “South of the Border.” Stone appeared with Chavez in the interview, and when the president grew agitated over questions about his country’s many restrictions on free speech and on the press, Stone was the one who urged Chavez to calm down. (The Guardian)
Reporting from Shanghai, Jonathan Landreth says that Chinese director Feng Xiaogang (left) did some vintage Harvey Weinstein-bashing as soon as the Weinstein Company mogul abruptly left a Shanghai International Film Festival forum to catch a plane. “Let me talk about Harvey now that he’s gone,” said Feng, who called Weinstein “a cheater in the eyes of many Chinese filmmakers” for offering, then withdrawing, financial backing. But Feng, who enjoyed his best North American sales figures with the Weinstein-released film “Curse of the Black Scorpion” didn’t make any specific charges. While he was at it, Feng criticized Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hero” for being “Hollywood movies,” not Chinese movies. Before he left and got bashed in absentia, Weinstein spoke glowingly of the artistry and economic potential of Asian films. (The Hollywood Reporter)
According to the New Zealand Herald, the government’s Treasury department thinks that tax incentives given to filmmakers have cost the country “tens of millions of dollars,” and can’t be justified economically. At issue is the 15 percent rebate given to filmmakers who spend money in New Zealand, a rate that was increased from 12.5 percent in 2007. “Avatar,” for instance – which did much of its special effects at Peter Jackson’s company, Weta – received almost $45 million in subsidies. Critics of the confidential paper, which the Herald obtained through the Official Information Act, say that if not for the subsidies, moviemakers would simply take all of their work elsewhere. (New Zealand Herald)
Closer to home, Germain Lusser reports from the L.A. Times’ Hero Complex Film Festival, where director Ridley Scott screened “Blade Runner” and “Alien” and spent time between the two films talking about a variety of things, including two “Alien” prequels. Scott said the films, the first of which has been written, were inspired by a shot in the original film in which John Hurt’s character sees a giant skeleton sitting in a chair; the origin of that character (called “The Space Jockey”) drives the two planned prequels. He also pointed out that he was never asked to direct any of the “Alien” sequels – and, in fact, didn’t even know that James Cameron was doing the second film, “Aliens,” until that film was in production. (Collider)
The Los Angeles Film Festival’s new artistic director, David Ansen, tells Steven Zeitchik about his programming philosophy: movies should give pleasure, subtitles shouldn’t be scary, and it’s okay if films have already played at other festivals – as long as they’re not unadventurous middlebrow indies, which don’t interest him. And if all else fails, lure ‘em downtown with “Twilight” and hope they stick around for one of those foreign films they might otherwise avoid. (Los Angeles Times)