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Steven Soderbergh’s State Of Cinema Talk

By | Tuesday April 30, 2013 @ 3:10am PDT

Here is the full transcript of director Steven Soderbergh‘s keynote at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival delivered Saturday. At first he requested the festival ensure no still photographs, audio, or video of his talk at the Kabuki Theater. But instead it was tweeted, blogged, recorded, and put online. Soderbergh promised in advance to “drop some grenades” and he opined about studio executives, indie filmmaking, and cinema vs movies. He did not detail his own retirement:

A few months ago I was on this Jet Blue flight from New York to Burbank. And I like Jet Blue, not just because of the prices. They have this terminal at JFK that I think is really nice. I think it might be the nicest terminal in the country although if you want to see some good airports you’ve got to go to a major city in another part of the world like Europe or Asia. They’re amazing airports. They’re incredible and quiet. You’re not being assaulted by all this music. I don’t know when it was decided we all need a soundtrack everywhere we go. I was just in the bathroom upstairs and there was a soundtrack accompanying me at the urinal, I don’t understand. So I’m getting comfortable in my seat. I spent the extra $60 to get the extra leg room so I’m trying to get comfortable and we make altitude. And there’s a guy on the other side of the aisle in front of me and he pulls out his iPad to start watching stuff. I’m curious to see what he’s going to watch – he’s a white guy in his mid-30s. And I begin to realize what he’s done is he’s loaded in half a dozen action sort of extravaganzas and he’s watching each of the action sequences – he’s skipping over all the dialogue and the narrative. This guy’s flight is going to be five and a half hours of just mayhem porn.

I get this wave of – not panic, it’s not like my heart started fluttering – but I had this sense of, am I going insane? Or is the world going insane – or both? Now I start with the circular thinking again. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s generational and I’m getting old, I’m in the back nine professionally. And maybe my 22-year-old daughter doesn’t feel this way at all. I should ask her. But then I think, no: Something is going on – something that can be measured is happening, and there has to be. When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong. We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret.

So I think that life is sort of like a drumbeat. It has a rhythm and sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slower, and maybe what’s happening is this drumbeat is just accelerating and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t hear between the beats anymore and it’s just a hum. Again, I thought maybe that’s my generation, every generation feels that way, maybe I should ask my daughter. But then I remember somebody did this experiment where if you’re in a car and you’re going more than 20 miles an hour it becomes impossible to distinguish individual features on a human being’s face. I thought that’s another good analogy for this sensation. It’s a very weird experiment for someone to come up with.

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April Film Fests Ready For Their Close-Ups

Pete Hammond

This week the big April film festivals are tripping all over each other churning out announcements of film premieres, starry panels, schedules, events and so much more. Directly competing for attention — and against each other – on opposite coasts are, of course, the ever-growing Tribeca Film Festival in New York and the San Francisco International Film Festival  which seems to be going strong despite the untimely tragic passings of its last two leaders, Graham Leggat and his successor Bingham Ray. Both fests get underway on April 19th after Tribeca offers up their World Premiere opener, Universal’s comedy, The Five-Year Engagement  on April 18.  SFIFF will open the next evening with  Benoit Jacquot’s Farewell My Queen. This week that fest announced  five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh will receive their prestigious Founders Directing Award on April 27th, while Tribeca announced they will be closing their fest the next day with the World Premiere of sure-to-be summer blockbuster The Avengers from Disney and Marvel.  Earlier this week Tribeca announced an intriguing panel with founder Robert DeNiro , Meryl Streep and Judd Apatow discussing Universal’s first 100 years. Tribeca is particularly agressive in trying to move up in the world film festival hierarchy. The whole team was out in L.A. last week for a party touting this year’s fest. Tribeca Fest Director Geoff Gilmore told me they really decided to go for some of the most intriguing titles this year and thinks the effort has paid off in an exciting lineup he thinks will gain strong attention.

It may be hard for Hollywood to compete with these two well-regarded fests but a pair of my favorites are also happening right in the heart of L.A. and right around Read More »

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San Francisco Film Fest Sets Interim Chief

By | Tuesday February 7, 2012 @ 11:30am PST

With the San Francisco International Film Festival little more than two months away, the organization that runs it has appointed an interim director following the untimely death of Bingham Ray. Longtime San Francisco Film Society board member Melanie Blum is taking over as interim executive director pending a search for Ray’s successor. The festival opens April 19.

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