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The Death of the Star Wars Universe

Recently, Star Wars fans, along with much of the planet’s pop-culture collective, nearly ruptured the internet in their enthusiasm to share set-building photos from next year’s long-awaited new feature film.

But these weren’t shots of just any set. They depicted the construction of the Millennium Falcon.

You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It’s the modified YT-1300 light freighter that rumbled off a Correllian assembly line half a century before being piloted by that space scoundrel Han Solo. It’s the same ship he was flying 50 years later with his granddaughter at his side following the Second Galactic Civil War.

Wait a minute. Correllians? Second Civil War? Han Solo has a granddaughter? There’s a lot more known about that hyperdrive-powered hunk of junk than meets the eye in any Star Wars movie. Thank the Star Wars Expanded Universe for that.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe — or simply the EU, as many fans call it — has been around almost as long as George Lucas’s Star Wars itself, which, for the record, turned 37 years old over Memorial Day weekend. While the core Star Wars Universe consists of the six Lucasfilm feature films released between 1977 and 2005, as well as the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie and TV series that followed, the EU includes the characters, creatures, star systems, technologies and, most importantly, the storytelling in novels, short stories, comics, radio shows, video games, amusement park rides, and any other official Star Wars material created over that time.

That same EU fueled a similar Star Wars internet wildfire at the end of April, one lit by Lucasfilm itself as The Walt Disney Company commenced production on the as-yet-untitled Episode VII of the Star Wars films. In a statement on starwars.com, Lucasfilm declared all of the EU creative material as inconsequential and even irrelevant to films yet to come. To be clear, while screenwriters and filmmakers can and may still look back on that material and draw elements of it forward, no creator must adhere to it and, in all likelihood, they won’t.

While Luke Skywalker’s wife, Han and Leia’s three children, tens of thousands of years of Star Wars history before the first Death Star exploded, and about 150 years of adventures afterward — it’s all out there, in one form of another — still can be read and enjoyed, no one should expect it to appear on screen.

The announcement swept pop culture in much the same way as the Force informed Obi-Wan Kenobi of Alderaan’s destruction by the Empire: Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. It’s just that those voices were not suddenly silenced. Almost two months later, many passionate Star Wars fans continue to view the announcement as Disney’s “eff you” to the EU, feeling betrayed after their devoting time, attention and, let’s face it, money to knowing each detail of the universe beyond the films over the course of three decades.

That material never would have been created in the first place had moviegoers not found the original Star Wars so rich in imaginative detail that begged for elaboration. Force-wielding Jedi Knights and 200-year-old Wookiee co-pilots and howling TIE fighters and rolling, bleeping droids — droids! — proved way too cool to be contained by the screen alone for long.

Consider that for the first 22 years of Star Wars being a thing, movie fans could watch a little more than six hours of storytelling, an amount of screen time surpassed by the Harry Potter films released in fewer than three years and nearly equaled by the first two Lord of the Rings films over just two Decembers. Star Wars fans were hungry for more adventures in that galaxy far, far away, and storytellers delivered — just not with more movies.

Star Wars was only a few months into its theatrical run when the first EU story of Han Solo and Chewbacca hit comic-book racks in issue No. 7 of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars (the first six issues had adapted the movie, while the seventh pits the Falcon crew against the cunning space pirate Crimson Jack). That winter, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 faced none other than Darth Vader in the original novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster. The next year would see a trilogy of Han Solo novels by Brian Daley, who also scripted National Public Radio’s dramatizations of all three original Star Wars films, and the EU was born.

And now, it’s gone. Kinda.

Genre fans and pop-culture buffs are no strangers to such decanonization, as it were, of previously established facts and events for fictional characters. Comic-book publishers pull apart and smash together their internal universes with regularity these days. Star Trek fans have been seeing the TV adventures of Captain Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise crew re-imagined in Episode VII director J.J. Abrams’s feature films for the past five years (even though those films are regarded as occurring in a new time line that protects the nearly 50 years of onscreen Star Trek as still “existing”). Even fans of the primetime TV have witnessed the events of episodes getting swept out of mind as not actually happening to the characters. The 1985–86 season of Dallas, its ninth, became regarded as Pam Ewing’s dream by the start of the 10th season, effectively returning Bobby Ewing from the dead. Series finales of shows such as Roseanne, St. Elsewhere, and Newhart left viewers wondering whether anything in the series had happened at all. (Oh: Spoiler alert.)

The real difference with the Star Wars EU was the effective lengths to which Lucasfilm went to tell fans that it mattered. Events chronicled in novels and comics and elsewhere influenced and depended on each other, weaving it all into one cohesive whole because creators cared enough about it to do so — and fans loved them for it. When something happened in the EU, it affected the whole, and sometimes in ways most fans didn’t like so much. George Lucas himself approved Vector Prime, a 1999 novel by R.A. Salvatore, in which Chewbacca is killed in the destruction of a planet. And poor Chewie hasn’t been seen in any story set since. A suggested reason behind the choice to let the Wookiee lose this time was that authors and editors believed fans were not taking the books so seriously anymore, so a character was chosen to die. Fans weren’t happy about that, either.

To a lot of fans, the move compares more to a college basketball team having a championship season reduced to an asterisk in a record book because of a rule violation. They are not taking kindly to the idea of someone telling them that an experience they cheered and embraced and wore and loved simply never happened.

For those who have explored it, the Star Wars Expanded Universe really matters, not because it simply exists, but because it sometimes offers what they regard as top-quality storytelling within it. Fans point to the Thrawn trilogy of novels by Timothy Zahn, the Dark Empire series released by Dark Horse Comics, and Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated shorts shown on Cartoon Network as Star Wars: Clone Wars among EU highlights they enjoy more than even some of the films.

Now, Lucasfilm has tied up in a bow those years of storytelling as a new generation of fans awaits the next Star Wars film. Up front, they managed the expectations of longtime fans that the sequel we really have wanted since 1983 is not going to be hamstrung by agreeing with the events of a decades-old novel or comic book — and in many ways, fahns should be thankful. Episode VII is unencumbered and in the hands of storytellers bounded by only their own imaginations, and moviegoers won’t be watching a new film with a 25-year-old story some of them already have dreamed up.

Hey, if nothing else, Chewie is alive and well again, and ready to roar into a theater near you.


Kevin Dilmore wrote his first and only Star Wars Expanded Universe story as an eighth-grader in 1978. It remains unpublished.

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Lens Flares and the End of Film

Daniel Mindel, A.S.C., is part of an ever-shrinking population: cinematographers who have yet to shoot a feature digitally. He acknowledges that he “will be forced” to do it eventually by “the corporate entities that drive our industry,” but he believes “there is no need to use an inferior technology at this time.”

Hollywood hardly debated that “inferior technology” before studios, filmmakers, and exhibitors began adopting it over a decade ago. The digital transition is now nearly complete, with 35mm screenings already special occasions trumpeted by fans and preservationists. Proponents routinely cite the benefits of digital photography: the freedom to shoot in low light; smaller, more mobile cameras; the elimination of the laboratory process. But what is being lost, and how do those most directly affected by the change—cinematographers—feel about it?

Mindel is best known for his feature collaborations with Tony Scott and more recently with J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, this decade’s Star Treks). In a phone interview, Mindel told me how he developed the most distinctive feature of Abrams’s visual signature: the analog-specific phenomenon known as lens flare, in which a too-bright light source creates a visible halo on the lens.

“The training that I had as a camera technician was such that we were taught to stop any flares to protect the integrity of the photography,” Mindel explains, echoing wisdom that dates to the silent era. “It always occurred to me that halation is something that we live with on a daily basis. Things halate—car windshields, light bulbs, everything. I wanted to allow that to happen in a way that brought more realism to what I was photographing. J.J. and I were looking at dailies on Mission: Impossible III, where we were getting incredible lens flares. He really loved what was happening, and it was sort of an open invitation to let it happen more.”

The flares became a hallmark in Abrams movies. “With Star Trek,” Mindel says, “it [became] a tool for me to allow the sterility of the sets to be amplified by distorting the light on the lens.”

Lens flare is nothing new; although traditionally considered an error, it can be seen in mainstream Hollywood films from the 1960s onward, particularly those shot by Conrad Hall and Haskell Wexler. As Mindel points out, it is an attempt to lend verisimilitude—to enhance the illusion of reality by allowing a naturalistic visual “flaw” to occur as it would when the right kind of light meets a curved glass surface.

As digital takes prominence, film-like visuals are disappearing, kept alive by filmmakers who insist upon shooting in the medium in which they were trained—the medium upon which the art of cinema was founded. Cinematographers—including those who have shot digitally and like it—are wary of new dangers.

“One of the greatest people I ever worked with, Tony Scott, taught me that magic comes out of the accidents—to never be fearful to try anything,” Mindel says. “The beauty of cinematography was that it was an amalgamation of art and science: the science of photography, or the science of postproduction, or the science of photochemical reaction with light.”

Each year’s new digital cameras are often promoted for their ability to create film-like images, which raises the question: Why switch if only to pursue the look of the original technology? A Photoshop filter allows users to place flare effects in a reasonably accurate way, and CG effects shots in feature films often incorporate digitally created “flare” to mesh with the rest of a film’s look (see Star Trek, for example).

Roger Deakins, A.S.C./B.S.C., has shot three films digitally, including last year’s James Bond spectacular, Skyfall, for which he received his 10th Oscar nomination. He’s best known for his collaborations with the Coen brothers and with Sam Mendes, who directed Skyfall.

“I stayed away from digital for a long time because I’d been in love with film,” Deakins tells the Voice. “It was only when digital had something more to offer—not only in terms of the quality of the image, but in terms of what you could do with a digital camera that you couldn’t do with film. Now I find myself shooting in lower light conditions than I could shoot film emulsion in.”

The celebrated Gordon Willis, who shot the Godfather trilogy, Annie Hall, Manhattan, All the President’s Men, and Zelig, sees digital as having a potentially corrosive effect. “In today’s moviemaking, you have lost the integrity of the original image. You’ve lost the integrity of the person who’s thought things out and wants a certain thing to be achieved on the screen. Because if you don’t have a contract that says no one can change anything, everyone who loves a dial—and they all seem to love dials—gets a hold of it and things turn into magenta, they turn into yellow, they turn into some of the most insane applications of ‘creative thinking.’ There are people who should know better, who have been making movies for a while, who get into this damn room with those dials and they start doing things they never would have thought of doing. They go, ‘Well, we’re here. Let’s blow up seven bridges.'”

Mindel shares these concerns.

“Until very recently, most cinematographers were left alone to shoot and manipulate because people were afraid to engage in any technical conversations—because they really didn’t understand the process,” he says. “What has happened with the advent of Photoshop and iPads is that a lot of people know a little. Therefore they feel, especially directors, that they can manipulate the film in any direction.”

He pauses, the language of this new world having not caught up with the reality. “Should I rephrase that? Not ‘film’—’images.’ So, the relationship between the director of photography and the director has to be built on trust.”

With digital, he says, that amalgamation of art and science doesn’t exist.

“[Digital] is something else, and that’s fine,” Mindel says. “But personally, I love the aberrations that film gives me—the grain exploding under stress from light sources that one doesn’t want to control. It enables me to add texture and sympathy, empathy, something that’s indefinable.”

Digital photography continues to replace film. Physical prints of feature films will no longer be distributed by studios to theaters by the end of this year. So even if directors and cinematographers continue to shoot on film, the result will still end up being projected and seen in a digital format. The larger issue here, as Mindel points out, is not new technology and equipment, but the loss of an art form that took a century to develop on the basis of a particular (analog) medium, and its usurpation by an imitative one that is unresponsive—and, ironically, too responsive—to tactile craftsmanship.

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Star Trek Into Darkness Boldly Goes Where Star Trek’s Been Before

“Who are you?” pleads a doomed man as Benedict Cumberbatch looms into his first close-up in Star Trek Into Darkness. The answer is Khan. And that’s not a spoiler—it’s a selling point. A less secretive director (i.e., all save the ghost of Stanley Kubrick) would trumpet that his $185 million movie stars Star Trek‘s greatest villain, but J.J. Abrams has so suppressed this fact that I suspect if you rearrange the letters in Khan Noonien Singh, you’ll find the location of the Lost island.

Abrams’ mystery-box marketing gave a boost to weaker, cheaper films like Cloverfield and Super 8, but if Star Trek Into Darkness bombs, the trick is on him. Cumberbatch, a tweedy Brit with an M.A. in Classical Acting and a face like a monstrous Timothy Dalton, has beefed up to become a convincing killer. He’s brutal and bold, and the film around him isn’t bad either. In the opening minutes, Khan terrorizes London, then makes like Osama and flees to the mountains of an enemy planet, causing Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller—welcome back, RoboCop!) to make like Dubya and order his assassination, sans trial. Picture Zero Dark Thirty with bright pullovers and laser guns and you’ll have Darkness, whose heavy-handed political parallels just might feel smart in a summer of Vin Diesel crashing cars.

Instead of Jessica Chastain’s overrated ice queen, vengeance here will be served by the blubbering James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), who so bleeds his humanity across the Enterprise‘s deck that it’s a wonder Chekov (Anton Yelchin) doesn’t slip. Again, the central conflict is between the captain’s swaggering impetuousness and the cold-blooded logic of First Mate Spock (Zachary Quinto). Even more than in the first film, Quinto’s Spock is emotionally disjointed—even dangerous. In his first scene, Spock sacrifices himself to preserve Starfleet’s Prime Directive. Kirk breaks the rules to save his life, and Spock is furious, which is to say he pens a memo of complaint. Demoted, Kirk struggles to reconcile his feelings for his friend. “He’d let you die,” cautions Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), while Spock’s girlfriend, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), is so enraged by her boyfriend’s death wish that she threatens to “tear the bangs off his head.”

After setting up its War on Terror allusions, Star Trek Into Darkness becomes Paradise Lost in Space: It’s a battle for the good captain’s soul. Dispatched to Khan’s hideout, Kirk is torn between Spock’s wisdom and Admiral Marcus’s war-mongering. Will he let his crew quit or die in his quest for justice? Can Khan destroy him simply by smashing his moral code? In Darkness‘ darkest scene, our hero beats a prisoner who’s already surrendered. It’s shocking stuff, but Abrams’s screenwriters don’t trust the popcorn audience to get their psychological implications. Instead, they externalize Kirk’s turmoil by making him spend every second scene suffering unsolicited advice about what to do. That even his subordinates treat him like a passive sap neuters the character, despite an early romp where he beds twin hotties with tails. His only real love is for the Enterprise, that hermaphroditic ship shaped like three phalluses and a flattened boob.

To validate his 2009 reboot, Abrams worked in a space-time splice so Leonard Nimoy could cameo as old Spock, or “Spock Prime,” as though he specializes in overnight shipping. Ironically, in 1982, Nimoy (who had already penned the bristling memoir I Am Not Spock) was so desperate to abandon starship that he only agreed to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when promised his character would die. Spock croaked, but Nimoy’s Vulcan heart was so warmed by the fan agony that the actor returned to direct Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and, post-resurrection, has clung to the franchise, even titling his follow-up memoir I Am Spock. Today, while William Shatner is sealed in his pop-culture terrarium chanting lounge covers of “Space Oddity,” Nimoy returns again so that old Spock can advise young Spock on how to defeat Khan decades before the original Khan defeats the original Spock, causing such a doubled-back crimp in the chronology that in our universe, Wrath of Khan may now no longer exist. Thus freed, Abrams lifts Khan‘s climax, thievery that will enrage the devout as it suggests the Star Trek saga is merely a game of Mad Libs into which he plugs characters and catastrophes.

Hey, why not? Trek diehards have long-since proven they’re impossible to satisfy. Instead, Abrams’ glossy relaunch is tailored to fans who don’t care for canon but know enough to grin when Dr. McCoy pokes a Tribble. Darkness is a cheery combo of classic catchphrases and young Hollywood heat, like blond babe Alice Eve as a weapons expert who can only examine torpedoes in her underwear.

Having crumpled up the franchise for kicks—not that I’m complaining—Abrams won’t have the chore of smoothing out the Enterprise‘s future. Pine, who may yet prove to be a leading man in the model of Harrison Ford, will be pressed to return in sequels, as will Saldana, Quinto, and Simon Pegg’s Scotty. (If the openly gay Quinto hasn’t had the same big screen success as his co-stars, I hope it’s because he sincerely prefers the theater.) But their intergalactic overlord will be in another universe entirely. Hey, Luke—who was your father again?


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Welcome to the Planet of the Aping in Paul

Paul, it should be noted up-front, is not the third installment in the so-called Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, though there are indeed servings of both. Note the one key missing element: Edgar Wright, who directed and co-wrote with Pegg both the 2004 zom-com Shaun of the Dead and ’07’s Hot Fuzz, in which Pegg and Frost re-enacted at least one scene from every buddy-cop and Chuck Norris movie ever made. Greg Mottola instead directs Paul, and he’s an escapee from Judd Apatow’s stable, having done several Undeclared episodes leading up to his Superbad night out with Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, whose Arrested Development Mottola also worked on.

Consider this the ultimate modern-comedy crossover, as damp a dork’s dream as when Superman teamed up with Spider-Man or when Captain Kirk met Captain Picard in Star Trek: Generations, among the approximately 382 films referenced in Paul. But Wright’s absence is notable and, moreover, noticeable—for reasons so subtle they almost don’t matter, but which are so evident that they finally render Paul lightweight and less than essential, unlike Shaun and Hot Fuzz, which entertain no matter how many times you see them. It’s the difference between parody and tribute—between Spaceballs and Galaxy Quest.

Shaun is nothing less than a canonical zombie film; Hot Fuzz is a terrific shoot-’em-up-stack-’em-up. They’re top entries in their respective genres, not mere nods of reverence to the tower of reels upon which they were constructed. Paul, however, is a sci-fi movie spoof, half its dialogue consisting of lines lifted from Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens, Back to the Future, and all the other ’70s and ’80s sci-fi comfort-food staples fed to growing fanboys back then. And its plot is pure E.T.: An alien who has phoned home needs the help of humans to meet his ride.

But in this case, the alien is a shirtless, foul-mouthed, dope-smoking ass-flasher named Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen. Paul looks like every alien throughout popular culture— bulbous noggin, wide-screen eyes, rail-thin frame—because, as it turns out, he’s the original pop-cult prototype. As he explains, after he crash-landed on earth in 1947 and wound up in government captivity, Paul’s likeness was marketed via moving pictures and literature in order to get people used to his image, should there ever be an actual alien invasion. And he’s no E.T. rip-off, man; that’s his life story, down to his gig as Steven Spielberg’s uncredited consultant.

Frost and Pegg (Scotty!) are Paul’s ideal chaperones: They are, respectively, stalled-out sci-fi novelist Clive Gollings and his illustrator/best friend, Graeme Willy, traveling across the “extraterrestrial highway” in the Southwest desert in an RV as part of a holiday that begins at Comic-Con in San Diego. Who better to escort an extraterrestrial cross-country than nerds who want to believe (speaking of: Mulder and Scully were also Paul’s invention)?

They’re chased by Men in Black, among them Jason Bateman (as Agent Lorenzo Zoil, one among dozens of cheap gags) and Bill Hader, who receive their instructions from a faceless voice on the other end of the phone. (It’s Sigourney Weaver, which spoils nothing unless you’ve never heard her speak.) Along the way, the trio encounters a True Believer of a different stripe: Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), a cycloptic Creationist who runs an RV park, with her devout daddy, in the middle of nowhere. Wiig’s the revelation here: A screeching sketch artist, she brings rare depth and genuine warmth to the thankless, one-dimensional role of a God-fearing Bible-thumper. Her scenes with Paul—when he reveals to her the size of the universe or introduces her to the simple pleasures of a well-used expletive—are more rewarding than those that the alien shares with Pegg and Frost. Only then does the movie transcend parody and stop being a game of Spot the Reference, becoming its own singular creation.

That’s not to dismiss Paul’s simple pleasures—if nothing else, its fondness for sex and drugs and four-letter words rescues its references from the soft hands of wee ones into which they’ve fallen of late. (Sci-fi cons, for those who haven’t attended one recently, are as filled with three-foot-tall Darth Vaders as they are adult-size models.) This is the smart-ass stoner’s E.T., the movie the fanboy parent won’t be able to hand down like some tattered, squeaky-clean memento to their action-figure-collecting kids. It’s just not quite right without Wright, who could have helped Frost and Pegg stuff Mel Brooks back into their Han Solo Underoos.

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A “Star Trek” Alien Lives in Flatbush

Shelter, a column about New Yorkers and the places they call home, ran in this paper from 1997 to 2006. We’ve revived the feature, which will run here weekly. Last week, we met writers Lois Morris and Robert Lipsyte, “living legend” Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and Australian transplants sharing a 3500-square-foot loft.

Location: Victorian Flatbush, Brooklyn

Size: 900 square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms

Rent: $1800/month

Occupants: Kasia Kowalczyk (film director/production designer/monster), Tal Harris (film producer/actor/office production assistant, Damages)

 

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that what lives inside a Star Trek alien likes sperm, but not kids. But to peel off the mutated-acorn cranium of a Kelvin alien and to discover, underneath that fibrous goo, a former Stein Mart window dresser. . . who collects heart balloons and draws farting deer . . . and has business cards that promise I MAKE SHIT AWESOME . . . ? Well, that’s just the beauty of Kasia Kowalczyk.

Kasia, who rents a two-bedroom nestled among the Flatbush Malls with her husband of eight years, producer Tal Harris (who’s currently employed on the FX production staff of the Glenn Close-starring drama Damages), lists her for-hire talents as, “Director/Production Designer/Monster” on that business card. Her Internet Movie Database profile also credits the actress with the ability to tranform into “Dark Shape #1” (2010’s Grey Skies) and “Headless Woman” (the 2009 short Hungry for Love), but her most recognizable metamorphosis was as Starfleet officer of J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot. The 33-year-old has another cameo in the 2009 Rodenberry retrofit, appearing in a disciplinary-scene crowd shot behind Chris Pine’s Kirk as a squishy-featured creature with jowls she now compares to fallopian tubes (“They kinda had like pubic hair at the ends of them”). But it was the former’s approximately 18 seconds of Kelvin-alien screen-time that inspired a trading card.

“When I went to work on Star Trek, J.J. Abrams was directing, but I didn’t know who he was,” admits Kasia, who Trekkies know best as Alnschloss K’Bentayr (serial number SA-890-0404-DB). “I’d never seen Lost!” In fact, she was more starstruck by Karl Urban, the actor cast as Bones, because he’d starred in an obscure 2000 Kiwi film called The Price of Milk. Fame inversion is a common issue for her. “I have that problem, so I’m probably never going to have a really good career in film.”

Then again, maybe not. In the land of Hollywood prosthetics, a “freakishly small” head may be a far greater asset than a big name-dropping mouth. That’s at least what she was told after modeling for the movie poster for One Missed Call, a corny 2008 J-horror-film remake starring Ed Burns, as a plump-lipped “nanny ghost” with screaming lips for eye sockets. Hired by Academy-Award-nominated special-effects make-up artist Tom Floutz, Kasia later asked what specifically landed her the part. “He said, ‘Well, she has a really long neck and a really small head,” Tal recalls. “That’s really good for prosthetics. You can build up the head and build up the neck without it looking strange—'”

“And you have to be able to handle not being able to eat,” Kasia reports. “Being able to live off cheese and olives really helps you maintain a good prosthetics career.”

Kasia is slightly statured, sylph-like, with long twiggy arms. Slender but not frail, the sometime wardrobe designer is one of those creative-energy bursts who imparts every detail with an extraordinary flourish. On a recent Saturday afternoon in her Victorian Flatbush living room, she both partakes in, and offers, red wine, apple slices, cheese, and misfortune cookies (I HATE YOU one seems to snicker), and leads a tour of their 900-square-foot place with Tal. Their walk-in kitchen is pink and brown with polka dots; snapshots and notes are taped inside cabinet doors. “I like when apartments have of whimsy, when you don’t see things and suddenly you do,” she offers. Except in the lavatory. “I don’t think you should have a surprise when you’re in the bathroom.” But even there, the toothbrush holder is a blue plastic elephant.

Over a decade ago, the indie-filmmaking couple met in Athens, Georgia, later expanded to Atlanta, married (she proposed at the zoo). With her directing and him producing, they collaborated on two short films. The first, 2003’s Replacing Delphine, was an elegantly eerie fairy tale about a man seeking to taxidermy a child who reminds him of the daughter he lost in a fire. “A lot of people didn’t like it,” Kasia admits. “Mostly children liked it, and deaf people.” The other, 2005’s The Bread Squeezer, was a darkly comedic, color-saturated fable of Andrew, a boy who becomes a bread-squeezing addict after his parents die in a tragic Christmas tree accident. (Tal plays the Bread Squeezer as an adult.) But down South, where the two of them splayed out in a 2200-square-feet loft with three levels a private roofdeck, living space was abundant, but opportunities, say, to make the next Pan’s Labyrinth or to get a piggyback ride from Vincent D’Onofrio (a personal fantasy of Kasia’s) or to play a Star Trek alien were not. Los Angeles was just as decentralized as Atlanta, so their remaining choices were Paris, London, and New York.

We are in the one that prevailed. “Everybody told us about Williamsburg and Bushwick,” says Kasia. “We kind of went there and were like, ‘Everybody here is 20. There’s rats in the lofts. I’m not feeling this.”

“But literally nobody was talking about this neighborhood at all,” adds Tal. “It’s quiet, it’s nice. And the prices were good.”

“It also felt ethnically and age diverse,” offers Kasia, who was born in Poland.

“Kasia jokes that we’re like an old gay couple, because we do like things a little sleepier,” says Tal, a 44-year-old who bears a resemblence to Crispin Glover. “And this neighborhood is definitely sleepy.”

Not their place, which is a study in anthropomorphism. When bunny slippers are misplaced, they’re not lost, they “went off on an adventure in the house somewhere.” Packages aren’t just vessels. “I really hate when boxes are really simple in the mail,” Kasia says. “I just drew this winter scene of deer for my friend and they’re all farting in the woods. But then I was like, ‘What if the post office decides that they’re gonna keep this?'” Even a handwritten To Do list posted on the foyer door mixes the mundane (“Transfer photos to computer,” “Clean apt,” etc.) with the fantastical (“Order eyes online” and without explanation, “Puppets”).

In the bedroom, a woodland silouhette is painted over the closet doors. “We did this so that when children come over, they get locked in and can’t find their way out,” kids Kasia, who sort of surprisingly doesn’t particularly like, or want to have, babies. As for the framed Mona Lisa with animal ears on another wall, Kasia first started wearing cat ears after a bad haircut, but now when the filmmaker couple goes to festivals, she brings them so Tal can always find her. And all the heart-shaped foil balloons floating around the room? Well, Kasia swears they’re not just for show. “We always have heart balloons in the house, somewhere,” she insists—they’re a subtle mood-lifter.

On a dresser, there’s a framed illustration of a single sperm. “Kasia loves sperm,” Tal reports. “It’s funny for someone who doesn’t want kids.”

“I just think the idea of sperm is really, just adorable.”

“Dear, where’s your glass sperm?”

“I did get glass sperm,” Kasia giggles. “Do you want to see my penis lamp?”

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J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek

It’s difficult for this long-time Trekkie to review J.J. Abrams’s relaunching of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It’s difficult to dispassionately dole out compliments and complaints per the job description. Because, yes, the professional critic understands: This is Paramount Pictures’ latest effort to jump-start a profitable but long-stalled franchise, to do for James Kirk what MGM did for James Bond. Studio execs know that just enough time has elapsed since the original to engender just enough nostalgia for characters named Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. For the professional critic, this reboot has all the trappings and trimmings of the quintessential summer blockbuster: shiny things that fly through outer space and make boom. Plus plenty of merch: Mommy, can I have a phaser?

Good thing I’m not professional. Seriously, Mommy: Can I have a phaser?

Trekkies and civilians (those for whom William Shatner’s long-ago “Get a life!” jab didn’t have the same sting) alike can rejoice: Not only does this Star Trek proffer smart thrills and slick kicks, but it builds upon the original’s history–from its very first pilot episode to Robert Wise’s 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture and beyond–while creating an entirely new future.

Retooling Gene Roddenberry’s hoary, winded pop-cultural warhorse, Abrams has scrubbed, polished, and turned the volume up to 11 with admiration and affection for the original series, but little of the die-hard’s encased-in-amber reverence. All at once, he’s revived the corpse but wiped clean its memory–a fresh start. Star Trek is like all of the best offerings in the big-screen Trek series: “wonderful dumb fun,” as Pauline Kael wrote in her glowing review of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the franchise’s high point from which Abrams and his longtime collaborators–writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, responsible for everything from Alias to Mission: Impossible III–crib so many plot points that Star Trek almost qualifies as a remake.

Even in a universe altered by that most worn-out of Trek plot devices–time travel–Abrams remains faithful to all of the things that transformed a modest science-fiction series, made popular in 1970s reruns, into a beloved touchstone. Trekkies already know half the dialogue by heart; it’s the sampled soundtrack to a misspent youth in front of a television. Except now, it’s set to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”

The story is no more complicated than that of your best Trek TV episode: A bad Romulan (Eric Bana, sporting the full Mike Tyson face tattoo) has come from the future in a tricked-out spaceship to destroy the past (specifically, planets Vulcan and Earth). His motives are barely explained and even harder to understand–unless one has read the four-part prequel comic book, ahem. No matter: Like most Trek baddies, Bana’s Nero is decidedly besides the point; he’s merely phaser fodder, the latest villain in possession of a doomsday machine who exists solely to threaten Vulcan and bring together on the bridge of the Enterprise Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), who–at warp factor 10, red alert, damn the photon torpedoes–must save the universe, this time for the very first time.

The crew is a bunch of untested Starfleet cadets: Kirk is a know-it-all horndog with a penchant for green-skinned ladies; Pine plays him like he’s starring in an episode of Dawson’s Kirk. McCoy is, well, a simple country doctor who abhors space travel; some things never change, as Urban, among all the cast members, comes closest to spot-on imitation. As for the rest, places, please: Sulu is a guy who likes swords and steers the ship; Chekov is a wunderkind who speaks in a weddy, weddy tick Russian accent; Scotty is working miracles in the engine room; and Uhura is still trying to hail Starfleet on all frequencies to no avail. The more things change . . .

Spock is the centerpiece–not only as played by Quinto as the tormented youth in revolt raised by the Vulcan Sarek (Ben Cross) and human Amanda (Winona Ryder, almost unrecognizable), but also in the form of Leonard Nimoy, the once-dead first officer who’s lived long enough to travel back in time to offer sage advice to old friends in need of–dare one say it–the human touch. Nimoy’s scenes elicit genuine emotion, not just the nostalgist’s thrill of familiarity or the newcomer’s delight at discovery. When Spock tells a young Jim Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend,” or when he realizes a “Live long and prosper” salutation simply will not do, it’s enough to move even a Star Wars fan to tears.

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Chilly Scenes

Ten To Cheer

Affliction Paul Schrader’s tough-skinned, queasy version of the Russell Banks novel opens the wound of the American family once more, and with an unsharpened blade. Nick Nolte is the classic upcountry American doomed to fail everyone around him, including himself; in a fit of brilliant casting, James Coburn is his tyrannical dad. December 30

Babe: Pig In The City Not to be confused with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, or Friday the 13th, Part VIII— Jason Takes Manhattan. Why do sequels so often migrate to New York? Talking animals beside your favorite landmarks: run, don’t walk. November 25

A Civil Action Steven Zaillian directs this potentially rousing social-issue drama, based on fact, about a lawsuit brought against a company accused of toxic-waste dumping and inadvertent deaths. Robert Redford exec-produced, and John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Tony Shalhoub, William H. Macy, and John Lithgow star. December 25

Hilary And Jackie High-strung psychological shouter in which Emily Watson plays famous cellist Jacqueline du Pré, and Rachel Griffiths plays her estranged, less talented sister with whom she reconciles after going terminal. December 25

In Dreams Looks like it might be terrifying: A Bruce Robinson­Neil Jordan script directed by Jordan about portentous nightmares and a real killer. Starring Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Robert Downey Jr., and Stephen Rea. January 22

Little Voice Jane Horrocks reinvents her theatrical triumph as a cloistered Brit girl who
communicates only via her dead-on imitations of Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, etc., and who is beset upon by her blowsy mother’s new talent- agent boyfriend (Michael Caine). Ewan McGregor costars as a shy pigeon-keeper. December 4

My Name Is Joe Ken Loach clocks in with another scabby, breathtakingly naturalistic working-class tale, involving a Scottish alcoholic trying to keep his threadbare life from unraveling altogether. Star Peter Mullan won at Cannes. January 23

Psycho The rumor mill has been just busy enough to suggest that this might not be the stupidest studio undertaking in memory after all; director Gus Van Sant may well have a few distinguishing twists up his sleeve. And even if this turns out to be a scene-for-scene copy, at least it’s certifiably loony D.P. Chris Doyle who’s doing the copying. December 4

A Simple Plan Scott Smith’s riveting, believable novel about small-town brothers discovering a crashed plane full of stolen loot could easily be ruined by Sam Raimi’s vertiginous approach and the out-there styles of Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, but then again, we might all get lucky. The advance word is good. December 4

The Thin Red Line Could Terence Malick ever live up to his hype, his first two films, his mysterious 20-year silence? We all want to find out, and so the lines will be long, at least initially, for this big-balls version of James Jones’s Guadalcanal opus, and the all-star cast doesn’t hurt: Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, John Cusack, Bill Pullman, John Savage, Lukas Haas, Ben Chaplin, and newcomer Adrien Brody in the lead. December 25


Ten To Fear

Celebrity More rancid than Deconstructing Harry and even less funny, the Woodman’s latest has some pretty facile things to say about The Ironies of Fame. Kenneth Branagh’s Woody impersonation is frighteningly spot-on, not to mention acutely embarrassing. Along for the all-too-familiar ride are Judy Davis, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna, and Famke Janssen— all of whom have more screen time than either by-default star attraction Leonardo DiCaprio or Vanity Fair nipple-flasher Gretchen Mol. November 20

Enemy Of The State Source of one of the year’s most confusing trailers, this wrong-man technothriller has Will Smith framed for murder and running for his life from a vast conspiracy. Gene Hackman provides the exposition and Tony Scott the supervision. November 20

Jack Frost A devoted daddy dies and comes back to life as a snowman to watch over his son. (We hope his son lives in northern Canada.) Hollywood’s paternal anxiety and son-love may have finally edged into the realm of madness. Michael Keaton is the unlucky star. December 18

Patch Adams Another messiah-doctor story, about some factual med-school misfit whose “unconventional” approach frustrates the authorities and endears him to patients, and you know without being told any more that Robin Williams is the star. Heartfelt grimaces, booming cue music, tearful healing— enough to make you want to become a Christian Scientist. Williams’s sidekicks include Monica Potter, Irma P. Hall, and Harve Presnell. December 25

Psycho On the other hand, why bother? Vince Vaughn should make for a rather threatening Norman Bates (especially in a dress), but Julianne Moore will certainly be wasted, as was Vera Miles, on the investigating sister role. Killing off the original star, Janet Leigh, 40 minutes in was radical; what’s killing off Anne Heche gonna get you? December 4

Shakespeare In Love Joseph Fiennes plays Bill S. amid romances of his own, the writing of Romeo and Juliet, and intrigues in the court of Elizabeth I, played by who-else Judi Dench. Gwyneth Paltrow dallies once again in the land of bustles and pince-nez. Dench reunites with her Mrs. Brown director John Madden. Watch out (in trepidation) for Ben Affleck’s cameo. December 11

Stepmom Dig this: Susan Sarandon is dying of cancer (is Christmastime the cancer season?), so she must teach Julia Roberts, as the nitwitted girlfriend of her ex-husband, to be a good mom to her mouthy daughter. Of course, everyone ends up hugging. Chris Columbus is responsible. December 25

The Theory Of Flight Diseases and infirmaries are very hot; here, Kenneth Branagh attempts to overcome his monstrous narcissism by playing a shy man (convincing!) in love with a wheelchair-bound victim of neuro-muscular disease (Helena Bonham Carter). With any luck, it’ll end up better than when the two romanced in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and HBC got her head torn off and then sloppily sewn back on. December 23

Virus It’s not Sphere or Deep Rising, but it is a movie about being stuck on a big, storm-buffeted ship that is otherwise occupied by human-consuming aliens. This time, we’re the “virus” to be expunged— get it? Or at least, Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, and Donald Sutherland are, and who’s arguing? Been on the Universal shelf most of the year. January 15

You’ve Got Mail A cyber-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, Nora Ephron’s latest saccharine bid for box office was cowritten by both Ephron sisters and Wendy Wasserstein. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will jump through the same old hoops. December 18


Everything in Between
(in chronological order)

Storefront Hitchcock Robyn Hitchcock plays a downtown space in this perf doc, directed by the only person who can do them right, Jonathan Demme. November 18

Central Station Walter Salles directed this Brazilian entry into the Kolya sweepstakes: antisocial mail clerk woman helps a motherless boy find his father. Grabbed a couple of awards at Berlin. November 20

Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story Of Deliverance This year’s Sick? The doc follows Athey, a performance artist who confronts pain and taboos, as he stages work in Zagreb, Croatia, and Mexico City. November 20

The Rugrats Movie Everyone’s fave cadre of preschool self-starters hits the screen. Count on crude animation and knife-sharp jokes. November 20

Savior Dennis Quaid and Nastassja Kinski continue to give mouth-to-mouth to their fading careers in this Oliver Stone­produced maxi-indie about a Serb-hired mercenary finding redemption in Bosnia by protecting a Croatian newborn. November 20

Sue Amos Kollek is self-distributing this modest New York romance, wherein Anna Thomson (the slashed whore in Unforgiven) struggles to survive after losing her job and her lease. November 20

Waking Ned Devine In good old Ealing style, a winning lottery ticket with a dead owner has the inhabitants of a sleepy Irish village in a tizzy. Twinkle-toed as a case of Lucky Charms, this harmless Full Monty wannabe is a load of blarney, peopled by characters who drink so constantly it’s a wonder they’re not all reeking, brawl-pocked, and incontinent. November 20

Cracking Up An award winner at the New York Underground Film Festival, writer-director-star Matt Mitler’s movie is about a Lower East Side performance artist with self-destructive tendencies. Featuring Camryn Manheim and Antz screenwriter Todd Alcott before they were names. November 23

A Bug’s Life Disney and the Pixar boys try to pick up the scraps left behind by Antz; it’s bound to be wittier than its competition, but we can’t remember anyone ever asking the unmusical question, did we need two digital, celebrity-voiced cartoons about underdog ants saving the day clogging up screens in the same season? With vocal stylings by Kevin Spacey, Dave Foley, Phyllis Diller, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Denis Leary. November 25

Ringmaster Jerry Springer stars in this fictional take on the behind-the-scenes world of a highly controversial talk show. November 25

Steam: The Turkish Bath Here’s an Istanbul-set story involving an inherited Turkish bath and homoerotic desires. Need we say it: hot, hot, hot. November 25

Home Fries A romantic comedy in which Drew Barrymore plays a pregnant waitress whose married lover dies mysteriously. Screenwriter Vince Gilligan is an X-Files vet. November 25

Very Bad Things Actor Peter Berg wrote and directed this worst-day-in-the-life farce, about a bachelor party in Vegas that goes horribly awry. A black comedy with horns; Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern, and Jeremy Piven all line up with cleavers. November 25

Port Djema Echoes of Welcome to Sarajevo: In an imaginary country in East Africa, a Parisian surgeon tries to fulfill a promise made to his friend, a humanitarian-aid worker who has just been killed there, and searches for a child his friend had taken in. November 27

Vietnam Long Time Coming Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams) coproduced this documentary about a 16-day bicycle ride in Vietnam taken by American and Vietnamese veterans. November 27

African Violet and The Land Is White, The Seed Is Black

Two sober meditations on apartheid and its legacy by South African filmmaker Koto Bolofo. December 2

The Last Emperor How about The Longest Emperor? Here’s the director’s cut, all 219 indispensable minutes of it. December 4

The Mirror Jafar Panahi’s acutely self-reflexive follow-up to The White Balloon, in which the child actress of the first film, playing herself, storms off a film set. December 4

Shattered Image Raul Ruiz keeps rapping them out, and this time he takes on La Femme Nikita. Anne Parrillaud is a honeymooner who dreams she’s an assassin, or an assassin who dreams she’s a honeymooner. Raul keeps the balls in the air. December 4

Divorce Iranian Style This doc takes a look at the difficult process by which an Iranian woman can divorce her husband— the other way around is apparently no problem. December 9

God Said Ha! Making the most of her Miramax-via­Quentin Tarantino connection, Julia Sweeney gets a film of her stage monologue about cervical cancer onto the screen.
December 11

The Ogre In Volker Schlondorff’s dark fable, John Malkovich stars as a naive man who unwittingly becomes a key recruiter for the Hitler Youth. December 11

Star Trek: Insurrection The ninth Star Trek movie, with Patrick Stewart’s Picard searching à la Kirk for the Spock-like Data. Those who will go, you know who you are. December 11

Playing By Heart Mega-casted Love American-Style ensemble portmanteau about romance in L.A., with Sean Connery, Madeleine Stowe, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Burstyn, Ryan Phillippe, Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson, Gena Rowlands, Anthony Edwards, and Jon Stewart. December 18

The General John Boorman seems to want to catch up with Neil Jordan and The Butcher Boy with this prosaic comedy about Martin Cahill, a Robin Hood­style Dublin gangster who beat the cops for years until the IRA got him first. Nothing new, and an addition to the serious dip Boorman’s undulating career is stuck in. With an understated Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight managing an Irish-op brogue. December 18

Prince Of Egypt Spielberg and DreamWorks fulfill what may have seemed to be a Hollywood obligation and remake De Mille’s The Ten Commandments, and by gosh, the Pharaoh even looks like Yul Brynner. Will Nefretiri sound like Anne Baxter? Voices by Val Kilmer, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, and Patrick Stewart. December 18

The Swindle As prolific as he’s ever been, Claude Chabrol revisits the international thriller terrain of the ’60s with Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault as two petty grifters caught up in a big transcontinental to-do revolving around a briefcase full of cash. December 23

Zakir And His Friends A documentary about international percussionists and rhythm makers. December 23

Down In The Delta In Maya Angelou’s directorial debut, Alfre Woodard brings her drug-addled daughter back to Mississippi. December 25

The Faculty Another teen-horror Kevin Williamson script, this time brought to life by Robert Rodriguez, so at least we know that before they’re eviscerated, the fabulous-looking teen stars will do a lot of flying through the air and stuff. Elijah Wood, Shawn Hatosy, Summer Phoenix, and Jordana Brewster are some of the kids; Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, and Jon Stewart (nice new agent, Jon!) are the adults. December 25

Hurlyburly David Rabe’s scabrous play finally makes it to the screen, and with a cool cast of frustrated-with-Hollywood actors: Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Meg Ryan, and Anna Paquin. December 25

Mighty Joe Young Yes, but where’s Robert Armstrong? Another stop-animated big-beast movie of the past gets retrofitted for the present. Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron are stuck gazing up at the digital gorilla-to-be-added-later. December 25

Overture The plot is questionable— a baby abandoned on a boat at the turn of the century grows up to be a musical genius. Tim Roth and Laurence Fishburne may save the ship. December 25

Tea With Mussolini Zeffirelli’s semiautobiographical tale— a bittersweet comedy set against
Fascist Italy— looks to go up against Life Is Beautiful come Oscar time. Cher plays an American adventuress and Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Judi Dench a trio of eccentric British expatriates. December 25

The Hi-Lo Country Stephen Frears, whose mixed bag includes The Grifters and Mary Reilly, directs this story about two men who fall in love with the same woman in post­WW II Mexico. Starring Woody Harrelson, Patricia Arquette, Sam Elliott, and Billy Crudup. December 30

Fantastic Planet Rene Laloux’s lurid and lysergic 1973 sci-fi cartoon, cowritten with Roland Topor, gets a swinging rerelease, coupled with a short the two made eight years before, Les Escargots. January

Jeanne And The Perfect Guy Or make that le garçon formidable, which the lovely, lanky Virginie Ledoyen searches for from bed to Parisian bed, dancing through sweet, Jacques Demy­esque musical numbers the entire way. Her journey eventually ends with Mathieu Demy (Jacques’s son), who is gay and has AIDS. Directed and written with a warm sense of homage by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. January

Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore Sarah Jacobson’s touring, low-budget film is about a repressed teenager’s sexual awakening. January

Rock The Boat A documentary by Bobby Houston that traces the trans-Pacific voyage of HIV-positive sailors. January

Analyze This A Harold Ramis comedy in which Mafia don Robert De Niro gets his nervous shrink (Billy Crystal) involved with mob business. Written by a committee made up of people who have all presumably seen Grosse Pointe Blank. January

Office Space Mike Judge’s primary talent seemed to be handling the voices for both Beavis and Butt-Head, certainly not comedy writing or directorial panache. We’ll see how far he can stretch with this live-action debut, in which Jennifer Aniston and other youngish wastrels try to deal with ’90s corporate culture. January

Payback Brian Helgeland, who somehow managed to cowrite the screenplays for both L.A. Confidential and The Postman, makes his directorial debut with this Mel Gibson thriller, based on the novel that inspired John Boorman’s 1967 Point Blank. Maria Bello and James Coburn costar. January

The 24-Hour Woman Nancy Savoca is back with this acidic semicomedy about a hot TV producer (Rosie Perez) whose carefully balanced life is turned upside down by the birth of her first baby. Savoca hasn’t struck out yet; where’s she been? Patti LuPone takes a rare movie role. January

Kiss Me Deadly A restored print of Robert Aldrich’s strange and inspired adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel. At Film Forum. January 1­14

Private Confessions Ingmar Bergman must have a closet of unfilmed scripts based on his parents’ marriage, and here’s the latest, after The Best Intentions and Sunday’s Children, farmed out this time to Liv Ullmann for direction. January 6

A Little Bit Of Soul Geoffrey Rush and Frances O’Connor star in this Australian comedy about an antiaging treatment. January 8

Arlington Road A glossy thriller about average schmo Jeff Bridges beginning to suspect that his new neighbors, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, are… conservatives! Actually, they’re ultra-con militia terrorists with a penchant for blowing up municipal buildings. Let’s hope the families of the Oklahoma City dead appreciate the mileage Hollywood is getting out of the scenario. January 15

Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane Another dirt-cheap indie (costing about as much as a decent Yamaha) about losers on the road getting mixed up with the FBI and murders and comic noir fatalism. January 15

Barrabas A restoration of Louis Feuillade’s 12-part 1919 serial. At the Museum of Modern Art. January 19­21

The Winners A documentary about four musicians who won the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels between 1955 and 1976. January 20

Another Day In Paradise Larry Clark’s downbeat outlaw tale is being touted as a film counterpart to Tulsa. Starring James Woods, Melanie Griffith, and Natasha Gregson Wagner. January 22

The Children Of Heaven Yet another Iranian film with children; this time they are a little too noble and well behaved to be believed. January 22

It Happened Here and Winstanley Two early films by film historian Kevin Brownlow. January 22

Dry Cleaning Anne Fontaine’s film involves a French couple who visit a gay nightclub to spice up their lives. January 29

Mighty Peking Man The notorious 1977 Hong Kong giant-ape epic Hsing Hsing Wang gets an overdue psychotronic release here. Proof if you need it that we have just scratched the surface of HK pulp cinema. January 29

Peeping Tom A new print of Michael Powell’s classic. January 29

She’s All That A romantic comedy about a guy (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who tries to turn a shy artist (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. January 29

Spanish Fly Daphna Kastner writes, directs, and stars in this Spain-set comedy about machismo. Also featuring Martin Donovan, Marianne Sagebrecht, and Rossy de Palma. January 29

Fever Pitch Hot Brit author Nick Hornby writes the kinds of books that take place almost entirely in their protagonists’ sorry skulls, and so filmic translation is dodgy at best. Colin Firth stars in the first, a romantic comedy about a soccer fanatic’s relationship woes. Late January


Series Business

“Cinema Novo And Beyond” At the Museum of Modern Art. November 13­January 21

René Clair retro At the Museum of Modern Art. November 20­December 13

John Cassavetes retro At the anthology. November 27­December 18

“The Lodz Film School Of Poland: 50 Years” At the Museum of Modern Art. December 18­January 10

“Spanish Film Now” At the Walter Reade. December 4­31

“Marcello Mastroianni And The Italian Cinema” At the Walter Reade. January 1­16

“The 8th Annual Jewish Film Festival” At the Walter Reade. January 16­28

Robert Bresson retro At the Museum of Modern Art. January 22­February 7


One of five articles in our Film supplement.