Sofia Coppola's Star-Studded Tribute at MoMA; "The Corporation" in Print; African Fest Preview & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Deutsch/Open City principals have promoted Tory Tunnell to vice president. Tunnell has been with Open City for four years, most recently serving as head of development. The company also announced that it has retained agency Franklin & Siegel Associates to scout books for the company.
Laszlo Kovacs has been named Kodak Cinematographer in Residence at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Theater, Film and Television. He will conduct a series of workshops for students.
CELEBS COME OUT FOR COPPOLA: MoMA attracted a bevy of stars on Tuesday night for its event "A Work in Progress: An Evening with Sofia Coppola," which included a chat and clip presentation with the recent Oscar winner at the sold-out MoMA Gramercy Theater, followed by a party at Metronome. Attendees included Quentin Tarantino, publicist Bumble Ward, Sofia's mom Eleanor Coppola, Kathleen Turner, Bill Murray, director Alexander Payne (last year's MoMA honoree), Jake Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst, Marcia Gay Harden (still very pregnant), Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, Rosario Dawson, Anna Sui, Jimmy Fallon, director Mira Nair, Claire Danes, Moby, and Al Maysles. Coppola's not really known for her witty stage banter, but she did manage to engage the crowd at the theater (the mood was helped after mini cans of Coppola vineyards champagne were served). She showed off her humble side when she said that the success of "Lost in Translation" was a surprise: "It was cool that so many people saw it," she said, before adding with a laugh, "It didn't have a plot or anything." Elvis Mitchell prodded her gently with questions about her inspirations, and Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray both came on stage to chat with her as well. In a genuinely touching display of emotion, Dunst (outfitted in fabulous stilettos and a black minidress) nearly broke down in tears as she introduced a clip from "The Virgin Suicides," saying of Coppola, "She is a visionary, she is a guide, and I hope she knows it." In addition to clips from her two features and her short "Lick the Star," Coppola showed her sexy Kate Moss-starring video for the White Stripes' "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," and some early movies she made as a kid (one, "Good Kids, Bad Kids" starring her as a four-year-old, and another, "Doughmain," which she made as a 13-year-old, about a friend's little sister who becomes a monster after eating too much raw dough.
Jarmusch called her films "poetic" (perhaps he wasn't talking about the raw dough one) and charmingly said he worried about all the pressure she'll face after the attention for "Lost in Translation"; Jarmsuch even offered to be the "bodyguard of her imagination." Bill Murray kept the crowd in stitches, as expected, with quips about his golf game, Sofia's unimposing manner that had the Japanese crew wondering if she had a "salt imbalance and that her parents would be claiming her at the embassy," and Scarlett Johansson's lips. One of the more interesting bits of the night was when Coppola revealed that she had originally written dialogue for the film's goodbye scene, but on the day they were shooting, she just asked Murray to whisper something in Johansson's ear instead ("I thought we'd fill it in later," she said.) The kiss was his idea -- and no, Murray didn't reveal to the audience what words he whispered. Some things are probably best to remain a mystery.
Over at the after-party, revelers could sip infamous Suntory whisky and dine on pasta (to the chagrin of the carb-loathing Conde Nast fashionistas in attendance). BUZZ marched into the VIP room as the regular party was winding down around midnight, and got Quentin Tarantino to get us a glass of wine from the bar (they had stopped serving non-celebs by that point). QT didn't even get us riled when he said he didn't know what indieWIRE was -- he evidently doesn't own a computer, so we're not taking it personally. BUZZ also chatted about dive bars with Jimmy Fallon and tipsily gushed to Sofia about how much we loved "Lost in Translation" -- who was very sweet and gracious despite the fact that she's probably heard that same speech hundreds of times now. And then Thom from "Queer Eye" complimented BUZZ on her outfit, which was a nice cap off to a star-studded evening.
THE PASSION OF THE BRIAN: Ah, the Mel Gibson Jesus freaks should have fun with this... Rainbow Releasing will re-release Monty Python's "Life of Brian" to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary. "Brian" will open at New York's Landmark Sunshine and L.A.'s Laemmle Sunset 5 on April 30 and then hit other markets. The film, directed by Terry Jones, stars Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idel, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin in a satire about an unlikely messiah. Henry Jaglom, president of Rainbow Releasing said, "We are thrilled to be handling the theatrical re-release of 'Life of Brian.' For that half of the country in the current culture war who are resisting or repelled by Gibson's violent, bigoted polemic, we offer a much needed dose of humor as an antidote to 'The Passion of the Christ.'"
SLAMDANCE SEARCH: After recently celebrating its 10th anniversary, Slamdance is now searching for a new festival director that will begin working out of the fest's L.A. office in June. The person will helm next January's festival in Park City, Utah, as well as year-round activities. Slamdance said that ideal candidates will have filmmaking and/or festival experience and should understand the job is a "nominally paid position." Resumes or questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with "SLAMDANCE FEST DIRECTOR" in the subject line (no attachments), or mailed to Slamdance, Inc., 5634 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, California 90038 (with "Slamdance Fest Director" in big letters on the envelope). For more info on slamdance, visit www.slamdance.com.
CORPORATE READING: In-the-know doc fans who already caught screenings of "The Corporation" on the festival circuit (Toronto, Sundance, etc.) will want to rush to the bookstore for the recently published book "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" (Free Press). Joel Bakan, the co-creator and writer of the doc, uses the book to trace the corporation's rise to dominance and its corrupt ideals. As none other than Noam Chomsky says, "This fine book was virtually begging to be written. With lucidity and verve, expert knowledge and incisive analysis, Joel Bakan unveils the history and the character of a devlish instrument that has been created and is nurtured by powerful modern states." The film, directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, will hit theaters in June from Zeitgeist Films.
AFRICA ON SCREEN: The Film Society of Lincoln Center will host the 11th New York African Film Festival from April 3-15 at Walter Reade Theater (followed by a run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music), showing more than 40 shorts and features from 10 countries. A Nigerian spotlight will include a retrospective of Yoruba filmmaker Tunde Kelani as well as new Nigerian films and videos. This year's event will also note 10 years of South African democracy with new and classic screenings. Other highlights will include the U.S. premiere of Africa's first animated feature, "The Legend of Sky Kingdom," four films about sexual minorities in Africa, and the African cinema classics "Jemima & Johnny" by the late Lionel Nkagane and "Love Brewed in an African Pot," by Kwaw Ansah.
PROPHESIZING: We all know a slew of religious films are going to hit theaters now that "The Passion of the Christ" has become such a moneymaker. An indie feature film based on "The Celestine Prophecy" has started principal photography in St. Augustine, Fla., The film, starring Matthew Settle, Thomas Kretschmann, Sarah Wayne Callies, Annabeth Gish, and Hector Elizondo, is based on the James Redfield spiritual novel about a man seeks an ancient manuscript purported to be written centuries before the appearance of Christ. Armand Mastroianni is directing from a screenplay by Redfield and Barnet Bain. Barnet Bain, Terry Collis, James Redfield, and Beverly J. Camhe are producing.
OSCAR TIME: The Academy has announced dates for the 77th annual Oscars, so mark your calendars. Nominations will be announced January 25 and the awards show will be held on February 27.
CHANNEL Z: The Independent Film Channel has announced plans to produce Xan Cassavetes' documentary "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession," which the channel will air in the fourth quarter of 2004. The film will look at Jerry Harvey and his L.A.-based controversial cable channel of the '70s and '80s. "Z Channel" marks her feature documentary feature directing debut; she previously directed the short "Dust" and she is in post-production on her first narrative feature, "The Sky is Green," starring Vince Vaughan, Steve Buscemi, Ione Skye, and Mos Def.