'Picasso' hopes to get into Oscar race

Film screening Sunday in Toronto

Docu discussion: In Wednesday's column with Arne Glimcher about his impressive new documentary "Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies" we'd gotten to what seemed like the end of our conversation when he brought up a few additional thoughts I want to share with you today.

Particularly interesting is Glimcher's concern about whether his movie will still qualify for Oscar consideration based on an Academy inquiry he said he had just received asking for more information about its theatrical runs and what cities they were in. (The Academy's eligibility requirements, according to a news release it issued Aug. 26, are that "documentary features must have completed a seven-day commercial run in at least one theater in both Los Angeles County and in the Borough of Manhattan in New York between Sept, 1, 2007 and Aug. 31, 2008.")

We wound up discussing the film's Oscar potential after I mentioned to Glimcher that when it plays Sunday (7) at the Toronto International Film Festival it will reach only a very limited audience. How will other people be able to see it? "Well, what we're looking for is a distributor," he replied. "Isn't that what every documentary is looking for? The package for distribution is this one hour and nine minute film and then there's a thirty minute reel that will come with this of three of the movies in their totality that you saw in the film (to bring the total running time to) an hour and a half."

Clearly, what a film like this is looking at is a limited theatrical run, he added, "but my hope is that in five or six of the major cities this could run for two or three weeks. I think there's a lot of information there that certainly film students will love -- and art students and people who like film and people who like art, not only (students). It is a nice educational document in that it deals with a new idea that has never been dealt with before."

If you missed Wednesday's column, which covered the making of the film and its subject matter, you can read it by clicking here:

Moreover, Glimcher added, it's a movie with excellent "DVD potential and, what I hope is, eventually television. I would love to sell this to something like Bravo or one of the networks that keep replaying films like this." His passion for the project is evident not only from his comments about making it, but also from the fact that he self-financed its production.

"When we started out I wasn't financing it," he explained. "It started out as an American Express project and they were committed to the film. Their idea for the distribution of the film was to give it away to Platinum Card holders and also to give it to schools as part of their philanthropic projects. But I want this movie seen in theaters and I want it to be on television. I don't want it to be given away as a Platinum Card prize. That's not what this is. So I took the film back. We were already practically through production and I took the film back myself.

"I like it a lot. I usually don't feel that way after I've made a movie -- you never want to see it again. But I've seen this one now several times in the editing and I've shown it several times to friends in the art world, as many as 20 at a time, and the responses were terrific. So what I guess we will plan is either at the Met or the Modern (the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art) doing some big screening the beginning of October where we can invite a lot of people to see the movie."

Of course, what would really help a film like "Picasso" at the boxoffice would be receiving an Oscar nomination in the best documentary feature category. The movie's already been shown, Glimcher pointed out, "in Los Angeles and New York for two weeks theatrically to qualify for the Oscars. We have done everything (the Academy required). You know, they're trying desperately now with the Oscars to stop documentaries from coming in because, I think, there's so many of them to see. So they're upping the qualifications. I just got a thing today saying, 'Who is your distributor and where is this going to be shown -- because we're interested in theatrical release movies.' Well, we've already had the theatrical releases on the West Coast and the East Coast that were required and the movie isn't sold yet (to a domestic distributor). That's why we go to festivals (like Toronto).

"But I'm really annoyed with the Academy for the manner in which they're treating documentaries because young people can't afford to change the medium (to film) as they demand. This is an HD TV (movie) and there are theaters all over the country that show films in this (medium) and a lot of filmmakers are working this way. If I make another feature, I'd make it this way, too. But they demand that that be changed (from digital to film) for Academy screening -- for their own screening -- in Los Angeles. It costs about $10,000 to make that change, which is unnecessary because they can see it the same way it can be theatrically released. And it makes it impossible for young filmmakers to even qualify -- and there's great stuff being done out there independently by young people. So the Academy making it more and more difficult for a documentary to be a contender is really sad."

It's a situation that's of deep concern to Glimcher. "It's really not fair," he complained. "If I four-walled a theatrical release of a movie it would be fine if it ran in two cities like that. But now they're asking for more (theatrical runs) for a documentary. That's ridiculous. They're doing that so they don't have to watch so many documentaries. That's why. They're doing it so that documentaries made for television don't contend with documentaries made for theatrical release.

"You know, when I first cut this film it was two hours. Then it was an hour and a half and then it was an hour and a quarter. An hour and nine minutes was the right length for this film. And this falls into the category of full length (feature) documentary. Anything over 40 minutes is a full length documentary as far as the Academy is concerned. They just are making it very hard for a film like this to be a contender."

Reflecting on the situation, Glimcher observed, "A film like this that has shown in two cities and that is now looking for a distributor should qualify. We've qualified. After we sent everything in and have done everything they wanted, yesterday the thing came saying, 'Who's the distributor? And what are the theaters and (the) cities it's going to be shown in?'"

His response, he explained, is that "Picasso's" already been shown theatrically in New York and L.A. "as they required and the film now is looking for a distributor. It's going to be in the Toronto festival and there are a couple of other festivals that we'll be in, also, and we will find our distributor. It's an idea that's been really accepted by film critics who've seen it and by the art world.

"The response has been, 'Aha! Why didn't we think of this before this.' And then you look at the way film continues to influence art. Now video is a huge thing amongst young artists and there probably are as many young artists making videos as painting. So it continues. Film and art began this joint journey in 1900 and it gets stronger and stronger."

Documentary directory: Arne Glimcher's "Picasso and Braque Go the Movies" is the latest in a stream of excellent documentaries to arrive this year. We've seen documentary filmmakers focusing on a wide range of fascinating subject material lately -- everything from election fraud to the 1950s blacklisting of screenwriters to a daredevil walk between skyscraper towers to preparing to run a marathon.

A number of these films arrived during the summer popcorn movie season, which was really good news as they provided great alternative viewing for moviegoers. Here's a quick look at a half dozen docus that are worth checking out -- if you haven't already seen them -- and links to my columns about them.

Trisha Ziff's "Chevolution" examines a famous photograph by Alberto Korda Diaz of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. In 1968 the photo surfaced as a symbol of protest and dissent, achieving global fame as an image on tee-shirts worn by protesters and revolutionaries everywhere. To read my Apr. 25 column click here.

Doug Pray's "Surfwise" focuses on the Paskowitz Family of surfers. In the mid-1950s Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz and his wife abandoned the material world and raised their nine children as ultra-health conscious surfers. To read my Apr. 29 column click here

Peter Askin's "Trumbo" is the story of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. In 1947 Trumbo was one of 19 witnesses who declared themselves "unfriendly" to the House Committee on Un-American Activities and were, as a result, blacklisted from being employed in Hollywood. To read my June 24 column click here.

Alex Gibney's "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" recalls the life of the legendary 1960s writer who's remembered especially for his freewheeling articles about politics and American pop culture in Rolling Stone and other magazines. To read my July 1 column click here.

Dorothy Fadiman's "Stealing America: Vote by Vote" is an especially timely analysis of election fraud. In examining U.S. elections going back to 1998 it reveals how widespread election "glitches" have been and still are. To read my July 31 column click here.

James Marsh's "Man On Wire" looks at Philippe Petit's 1974 high wire walk between the World Trade Center's twin towers 110 stories up without a safety net or harness. It's impossible to view the film without thinking about the destruction of those towers in 2001 although that's not something the movie gets into. To read my Aug. 7 column click here.

Jon Dunham's "Spirit of the Marathon" studies the lives and journeys of six marathon runners from around the world as they face the challenges of participating in the Chicago Marathon (a 26.2 mile race like all marathons). To read my Aug. 12 column click here.

See Martin Grove's Zamm Cam movie previews on www.Zamm.com