Friday, December 30, 2011

The BIFF Saga: Year One (Feb. 17-20, 2005)

Curtis Hannum as God in his and Paul Hannum's "The Real Old Testament," winner of BIFF's first Best Feature Film award.
UPDATE: Jan. 10 -- Got a nice note, posted at bottom, from Richard Roll, who directed BIFF's 2005 Best Short Film winner, "Down Dog." We're happy to post it here!
(Editor’s note: For the next seven weeks, we will offer a capsule history of the Boulder International Film Festival, year by year, written by the Director of Digital Communications for BIFF, Brad Weismann [me]. This first report is taken largely from my lengthy, detailed, pretentious, overly analytical, briar-clenched-between-the-teeth, padded-elbows, omniscient, prescient, and reverberating story written originally for Senses of Cinema [].

As you can tell, I loved Year One – I loved it so much that I joined BIFF in Year Two and have volunteered with it ever since. Enjoy!)

 Film festivals are deceptively easy to stage. They have become part of the popular vocabulary; they are a hot commercial prospect. It seems that these portmanteau events – part exposition, part marketplace, and part critical nexus – are now rising into esteem, at least in America, as revenue-generating operations, opportunities for civic boosterism, and ways to enhance the local social luster.

There is no dearth of material to be screened, either. The consumerization of the filmmaking process means that anyone with a digital filming system and a copy of Final Cut Pro editing software can make a movie (several filmmakers at Boulder’s festival stated, that, without these low-budget tools, they couldn’t have attempted to create something).

This head-on collision of increases in less-than-critical demand and non-professional output is not always congenial. The chances of starting a film festival out on the right foot are financially good but aesthetically perilous. Can Mickey, Judy and the gang put on a show that’s as stimulating artistically as it is financially? And, if anyone can do it then what’s the point of doing it at all?

These questions become more pointed when the event in question is in your own home town, and you have the opportunity to watch it evolve from a fairly close-hand perspective.

The 1st Annual Boulder International Film Festival was an act of gumption pure and simple – the dreamchild of local documentary filmmakers and siblings Robin and Kathy Beeck, who saw the picturesque environs of Boulder, Colorado as the perfect place for yet another film fest.

Tapping the energies of an underutilized, below-the-radar swarm of film talent and appreciators, the Beecks swung into action. Political and business elements chipped in readily, in the hopes of stimulating the city’s moribund economy. Interestingly, there were no late-night sidebars, retrospectives, tributes, special awards, remastered Finnish silents, or other such intellectual catnip. The organizers used a single criterion for a film’s inclusion in the festival – the ill-defined concept of “great storytelling.” They mediated the inherent fuzziness of this approach by leaning on the critical skills of a 20-member panel. The Beecks assembled a cross-section of well-informed and enthusiastic regional directors, programmers, critics, associates and cinephiles, who helped winnow 650 entries down to manageable 55, the programming of which spread over four days in February of this year.
BIFF founders Kathy (l) and Robin Beeck.
The results were refreshingly eclectic. Films of all lengths, styles, and genres rubbed elbows, loosely organized into groups by topic or style.

The opening night gala was devoted to a single film – an upcoming audience-friendly, major-market release from Danny Boyle, “Millions.” The spirit of the premiere was disturbed by Fox Searchlight goons who, zealously preventing unsavory copyists from bootlegging the movie, stripped all and sundry of their cameras and cell phones, which sat in a pathetic pile on a table in the theater lobby like children waiting to be picked up from day care.

“Millions” is a sentimental fable, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (“Hilary and Jackie,” “Code 46”) is a far cry from Boyle’s fare to date (“Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later”). It deals with a widower (the excellent James Nesbitt, “Bloody Sunday”) and his two young sons, whose move to a neighborhood of newly constructed Council houses is whimsically interrupted by the arrival of a bag of pound notes flung from a passing train – ill-gotten booty that wakes the youngest son from a reverie in which he chats with Sta. Claire (yes, folks, the pious boy can see the saints).

Inevitably, the two boys have different ideas about what to do with the money before the British conversion to euros renders their haul irrelevant. Boyle utilizes his full range of cinematic devices – freewheeling cuts, impressionistic fade-ins, stop-motion, and the like – but seems caught between bringing to life a coming-of-age story and an Ealing-era comedy of manners (befuddled dad, eccentric secondary characters, screwball romance). The two don’t blend well, and despite some pleasantly funny moments, it was a bit of a damp squib.

The first year’s programming was mostly made up of two kinds of film – wacky comedies and earnest documentaries. Nothing wrong with that – the decidedly populist approach to the festival’s selections made the lineup a rather accurate reflection of the local zeitgeist. The festival’s entrants were, with rare exceptions, chasing the market instead of leading or ignoring it. Nothing wrong with that -- except that it can lead to predictability.

Of the documentaries, it must be said that most were head and shoulders above the level of angry advocacy that’s been common ever since Michael Moore taught us that loosely documented outrage pays. Leah Wolchok’s short “Living to Work” was a quiet revelation. Focusing on the American obsession with piling up more and more work hours, its beautifully oblique cinematography, punctuated by voiceover quotes, was sleek and understated. It exercised poetic license with restraint, communicating its points without proselytizing.

Another gem was “The Soup Peddler,” a deceptively straightforward film about David Ansel, a young man from Austin, Texas who makes his living making a delivering quarts of a delicious soup of the week for a list of nearby clients (he negotiates these deliveries across Austin’s gentle hills on a bicycle). Especially for a crowd of health-obsessed, vocally left-wing, eco-friendly Boulderites, simply seeing one man integrate so many of these principles without fuss or self-celebration was a refreshing lesson.
David Ansel, the "Soup Peddler"
 David Redmon’s “Mardi Gras: Made in China” was a more traditional documentary, and had a stronger impact. Redmon had the simple idea of finding the origin of the Mardi Gras beads that trinkets revelers fight and expose themselves over during New Orleans’ annual bacchanalia.

He followed his nose to Fuzhou, China, where 500 sweatshop workers grind out millions of beads a year in a sexually segregated, prison-like factory. The head man, Roger Wong, led the camera team everywhere, genially spouting early Industrial Revolution management philosophy. The workers need rules, restrictions and quotas, else they will stray and slack.

Redmon wisely interviewed a number of workers, who offered different reactions – some just happy to have even a menial job, and some who have struck unsuccessfully for better pay and conditions and returned to their posts with resignation.

At film’s end, Redmon gave producers and consumers a chance to check each other out. He took his footage to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and projected it for the party-mad crowd, with typical results: some shrugged it off, others fell into drunken lugubriousness. He also showed the workers huddled around a playback device, watching incredulously as cavorting women collect their handiwork by flashing their breasts. It was a nice way to wrap things up without succumbing to an overtly sanctimonious conclusion.

Then there was the fascinating and disturbing documentary “Searching for Angela Shelton.” The eponymous heroine takes a contrived two-pronged premise – she will speak to and film every woman in America who shares her name, and will focus on their, and her, history of sexual abuse – and makes it work through an overriding sense of evenhandedness and a remarkable ability to listen.

Angela Shelton of "Searching for Angela Shelton." [Photo by Bonnie Chaim]
Shelton’s work suffers from a strain of narcissism. Having started out as a model and an actress, she knows how well she photographs and takes full advantage of it, leading to some forcedly poignant footage. The therapeutic journey is a hackneyed conceit, and the screen is frequently awash with tears, but she makes it work by knowing when to step off the gas and let her interviewees take over. A more diverse set of people could not be imagined, but a surprising percentage of them have been victimized, and the act of comparing notes leads to remarkable open dialogues on the subject.

Her windup and conclusion is a heartbreakingly unsatisfying confrontation with her father and a scathing indictment of his denials of committing incest, despite the on-screen confirmations of Shelton’s step-brother and –sister. Is this now-doughy, soft-spoken older man a criminal? Crazy? Innocent? Despite the questions we’re left with, the blowtorch intensity of the feelings communicated are properly cathartic.
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For all that, the best documentary to my mind was “In the Dark,” a 40-minute work by Sergei Dvortsevoy that simply follows the narrow life of his blind great-uncle, who lives very simply in one cramped room in the company of a surly but beloved cat. The old man patiently weaves knit shopping bags, then gives them away (or tries to) on the street. His brusque dismissal by passersby lends a tinge of Beckettian pathos to this very plainly told tale. There is no exposition whatsoever here, and the old man floats in an atmosphere of unanswered questions – how did he comes to where he is? The relentless camera work plays over his impassive features.
Sergei Dvortsevoy's "In the Dark."
The live-action short subjects were overwhelmingly comic, some exhibiting a TV-sketch-like mentality, others dealing in industry in-jokes and parody. There was Jason Reitman’s “Consent,” (remember Jason? he went on to make "Thank You for Smoking," "Juno" and "Up in the Air," racking up Oscar noms on the way) concerning the legal negotiations of two young people who want to go to bed together; Ned Farr’s “How to Ace an Intervention”; and Travis Peterson’s wry, fatalistic “Indio, USA.”

Several local talents were represented before and behind the camera (nepotism alert: at least three members of the BIFF selection committee enjoyed screenings, and a couple of awards, at the festival), as in the slice-of-life short about an unlikely seduction, “Tiffany at Breakfast”; and “Killing Kevin,” a fantasy by Jeanne Kopeck about exterminating Kevin Costner.

In the same vein is a shaggy-dog fairy story, “I am Stamos,” about a Hollywood character actor who dreams of, and obtains, the good looks of American TV heartthrob John Stamos; and an all-too-easy send-up of virulent homophobia, “Gay by Dawn.”

The outstanding entries in the live short subgenre were both musical in format. Richard Roll’s “Down Dog,” a frenetic send-up of California’s fake, predatory gurus, received its theatrical premiere here and took home the Best Short Film award as well. The real treat, however, was “Pretty Dead Girl,” which has been making the festival rounds since last year’s Sundance.

A dark homage to musical comedy, it compressed a feature’s worth of density and sweep into 22 expert minutes. Shawn Ku’s highly polished work concerns a young, handsome medical intern who can only feel intimate with recent arrivals at the morgue. A revolting premise handled with an almost demure, ’30s-era delicacy, it worked out thanks to an articulate sung-through script and understated performances. Of course, a young nurse loves the mysteriously standoffish intern, and this Romeo and Juliet story plays out its predictable symmetries with verve.

Animation was a mixed bag. The most innovative was Hisko Hulsing’s “Seventeen,” a Dutch entry about the sexual fantasies of a young roofer, the surreal aspects of which were muted by its somber palette. Patrick Mallek’s “Road Raged Rodent,” which took the Best Animated Film award, was as gimmicky as an old Heckle and Jeckle cartoon; and there was Damian Griffin’s well-executed computer animation, “Blink,” which shows a worm saving his apple-dwelling family from a bullet fired by high-speed stop-motion pioneer photographer Harold Edgerton. (In the Q & A after “Blink,” someone asked Griffin if he made the film for use as a carte d’entrĂ©e to the film industry, he replied, “Yes, and it’s worked terribly … as a springboard, it’s got no spring.”)

The runaway hit of the festival was “The Real Old Testament,” a feature by brothers Curtis and Paul Hannum that took the simple premise of giving the Bible a reality TV treatment and ran with it. The low-res digital filming perfectly captured the shaky, lazy style of the popular faux documentaries, and the incessant pulse-taking of the characters similarly skewered the prodding, vicarious nature of the genre.

At the same time, looking at the sacred texts through this lens threw their incongruities into high relief, whisking away the mantle of King James prose and giving us Cain as an insufferably passive-aggressive personality; Abraham as a sycophant; and Jacob as one of the lost Stooges.

A BIFF press release stated, “According to filmmaker Curtis Hannum . . . Boulder has the hippest audiences he’s ever seen. ‘They laughed at every obscure inside-industry joke and every esoteric Bible-verse joke that I had stuck in there that nobody else ever got. It’s as if I had been cloned 800 times, and that was my audience.

‘This is the best film festival I’ve ever been to,” (he) said, “The Beeck sisters and the BIFF staff ran it flawlessly from beginning to end without even a ripple. There was great hospitality, fantastic parties every night, and the theater even had a bar in the middle of it!’”

The festival ended with the documentary “The Liberace of Baghdad.” Filmed and narrated by Sean McAllister, it relates his connection to, and growing involvement with, Samir Peter, a classically trained, nationally known pianist who McAllister finds reduced to playing in the cocktail lounge of his hotel. The two strike up a friendship, a the cagey, suave Peter leads McAllister through the streets of the city, drinking, arguing, complaining, debating with his family, all the while dreaming of escape to America.

McAllister’s fortuitous discovery of this extraordinary personality isn’t hindered by the subject’s self-consciousness – Peter is expansive, terminally charming, a bit of a rogue. To see his bouncy vitality deflated by the stresses of occupation, his love/hate of the Americans, and his very real fear that McAllister’s constant presence will put him on some insurgent’s death list, is to see a portrait of potential stifled.

That McAllister and Peter were present in person was an added bonus. Before pairing up for a boozy onstage Q & A, Peter gave the audience a treat. Clad in a tux, sitting at a grand piano on the stage of the packed Boulder Theater, Peter played and joked for 30 minutes, reveling in the moment. As McAllister wrote later, “I stood looking from the sidelines … I felt proud and happy for Samir that my film had brought him a little closer to his dream.”

Moments such as that redeemed much of the cautious programming and the occasional technical glitches that haunted the festival. The physical presence of so many of the filmmakers (26 in all) and the open, relaxed nature and small scale of the festival’s first outing made it a hands-on experience for all involved, with no hint of separation between the creators and the viewers, who freely exchanged information, drinks and phone numbers until the wee hours of each morning.

The successes of geographically obscure, small-town festivals such as Telluride and Sundance led to complete reconfigurations of the local economies involved, skyrocketing property values, and the exodus of “old-timers” and low-income households. Too quickly, the prerogatives of power and the heavy weight of deal-making begin to overshadow the simple communal pleasure of watching and discussing new work together.

Perhaps the Boulder International Film Festival will grow up into the status of major player someday. I hope it doesn’t happen too fast.

BIFF 2005 Award Winners

Best Student Film

“Pee Shy,” Deb Hagen, director (USA)

Best Short Film

“Down Dog,” Richard Roll, director, Julie Piatt, producer (USA)

Honorable Mention Best Short Film

“Gay by Dawn,” Jonathan London, director (USA)

Best New Filmmaker

Neil Widener for “Subdivision, Colorado” (USA)


Best Adventure Film

“Farther than the Eye Can See,” Michael Brown, director, Kim Morris, Producer (USA/Nepal)

 Best Animated Film

“Road Raged Rodent,” Patrick Mallek, director (USA)

Best Documentary Film

“Seoul Train,” Jim Butterworth and Aaron Lubarsky, directors, Lisa Sleeth, Producer (USA/China/North Korea/South Korea)

Best Short Documentary

“Caught in Paint,” Rita Blitt, director, Chela Blitt, editor (USA)

Best Feature Film

“The Real Old Testament,” Curtis and Paul Hannum, directors (USA)

Boulder International Film Festival Award of Excellence

“Liberace of Baghdad,” Sean McAllister, director (Great Britain/Iraq)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five million minutes to BIFF 2012!

Get ready. We are dreaming and scheming, planning, chatting . . . dealing with logistics, statistics, plans, scans, and Dans. BIFF 2012 is on its way!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ave et vale: 'til BIFF 2012!

Welcome to Boulder: These guys drummed merrily next to our Call 2 Action tent all day Saturday. We kind of liked it! Plus, they set out a lot of instruments for kids to play on as well.
Well, I think we've gathered all the data we can for this year. Thanks to all our field reporters, staff members, festivalgoers, volunteers, sponsors, partners, and outside media sources we linked to as all -- both in the mainstream media and bloggers.

Here are a few more photos I took -- I have plenty of notes for things we can improve upon for next year in terms of social media; one of them is a stronger sense of backstage life. We would love to share more experiences from all levels of involvement in the festival, not just celebrity interviews and sightings. It took nearly 500 people to make this year's BIFF happen! Here are a few you may have missed:

Life in the Call 2 Action Tent -- Mike Carroll from "Hand Held" at far left.

Howdy from some folks at the Info Booth! Info Master Scott Chavkin at far right. (Note the fire extinguisher at far right: not only were we in compliance with city fire codes, we were HOT.)

Check out the merch: biggest sales ever this year!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: the BIFF offices were a hive of activity all weekend.

The numbers are in, and more people than ever before came to BIFF 2011. WE hope you had fun! We did. As always, we welcome your input and feedback -- here, on our Facebook page, or straight to our offices via phone or email.

What was started on a lark seven years ago has turned into an important and vibrant cultural event. We want to increase the size and depth and scope of your filmgoing experience. Tune in next year for the best BIFF ever!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Animation Station at BIFF 2011: We get results!

Check this out, peeps -- the Animation Station workshop held at BIFF 2011 wasn't just a theoretical exercise. The participants made something concrete and watchable -- check out the results here! (Thanks to Workshops and Panels Coordinator Kathy De Bay for the photo and the footage!)

Friday, February 25, 2011

BIFF Photo Gallery Eight -- Bonnie Chaim

James Franco talks to Festival Director Kathy Beeck on arrival.
Long-time BIFF attendee Bonnie Chaim was there for most of the weekend with her camera as well -- in addition to providing us with the best shots of Oliver Stone in action, she produced a nice spread of exposures. Here are some! Thanks, Bonnie!

Franco looks momentarily overwhelmed by his rousing reception at BIFF.

Franco chats with BIFF's Ron Bostwick.

Franco checks out his recent slew of magazine covers.

Franco and Bostwick.

Writer Jeanine Fritz (right) and friend on Saturday night.

VIP Filmmakers Reception at Ted's Montana Grill.

Community Marketing Co-ordinator Mary Ann Williamson (left) and Program Assistant Robyn Schauweker (right) chat up a guest at BIFF's VIP Filmmaker Reception.

Nobody ever gets a picture of him! It's our intrepid BIFF photographer Randy Malone, who never put down his camera, even during cocktail time.

U.S. Representative John Lewis (left) is interviewed by Ron Bostwick after the screening of "Freedom Riders."

Congressman Lewis makes a point during his interview.

The big finish: the awards table, and Kathy and Robin at the podium.

Director Christophe Fauchere and producer Joyce Johnson pick up the award for Best Colorado Film for their movie "Mother."

Jen McGowan cracks a joke as she accepts the award for Best Short Film for her movie "Touch."

Howdy! It's Oliver Stone, with Robin.

Robin Beeck and Oliver Stone negotiate the media frenzy as he makes his way into the Boulder Theater.

BIFF Photo Galley Seven -- Randy Malone

Aron Ralston (left), whose experience was adapted into the Oscar-nominated "127 Hours," gives the Vanguard Award to honoree James Franco, who plays him in the film.
Randy Malone has been BIFF's go-to guy for complete photographic coverage of the festival since its very beginnings. Here's a look at just some of the magnificent images he captured over the course of BIFF 2011. To see all of his BIFF pictures from the festival go to and click on the 2011 Boulder Int'l Film Festival link! Thank you, Randy!

The Opening Night crowd packed the Boulder Theater.

BIFF Executive Producer of Special Events Ron Bostwick (center) after his onstage interview with Opening Night guests, "Troubadours" director Morgan Neville (right) and producer Eddie Schmidt (left).

Boulder animator and Mighty Fudge studio owner Pat Mallek.

Comedian Henry Phillips, who wrote and starred in "Punching the Clown."

Producer Joyce Johnson and director Christophe Fauchere, whose "Mother" won Best Colorado Film Award at BIFF 2011.

The crowd gets all antsy in the pantsy for the arrival of James Franco on Saturday night.

Robin Beeck, James Franco, Kathy Beeck. Hey, when did we get the laminate backdrop with our logo on it? Su-weet!

Congressman Jared Polis introduces the Boulder Theater screening of "Freedom Riders" on Sunday.

Freedom Rider and U.S. Representative John Lewis, who joined us for "Freedom Riders."

Congressman Lewis shared his time generously with the admiring crowd.

Onstage Sunday night, Oliver Stone grasps his Master of Cinema Award, flanked by festival directors Kathy Beeck (left) and Robin Beeck (right).

Oliver Stone.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stone speaks: the BIFF interview

By Brad Weismann

Social Media Director

Boulder International Film Festival
Photos by Bonnie Chaim

“I’m too young for this,” quipped Oliver Stone as he accepted the Master of Cinema Award from the Boulder International Film Festival on Sunday night, Feb. 20 – Closing Night at the Festival.

The big-framed, genial filmmaker joined the throngs at BIFF 2011 -- taking in some films, visiting around town, and then homing in on a Vielehr statuette and a long, fascinating conversation with BIFF Executive Producer of Special Events Ron Bostwick (who intrepidly scanned all 5,400 minutes of Stone’s filmic output as part of his preparation for the tribute).

The 64-year-old director, a three-time Oscar winner (as screenwriter, for “Midnight Express,” and as director of “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July”), said, of his career-achievement honor, “This is not the end. This is the middle of the middle, not the beginning of the end.”

As he moved across the Boulder Theater stage to sit and chat with Bostwick, dozens of little glowing screens popped to life in the audience, viewscreens of cameras and video recorders, snapped on to drink in the sight and sound of the honoree.

Bostwick began the discussion asking Stone about the possible internal conflicts he faced when, as Stone has, he wore the hats of producer, director and writer of a given film interchangeably.

“I am conflicted,” Stone said. He talked about his self-termed Jekyll/Hyde impulses, explaining that his first name is William, his second Oliver, and that “the last psychiatrist I had theorized that William is the good boy and Oliver’s the bad boy. And Oliver does these things that William can’t stand – it creates tremendous tension, and out of that has come some fertility.”

Of his time at NYU, studying partly under Martin Scorsese: “Terrific. To major in film was new at the time, and we were in the first classes about this new medium . . . he (Scorsese) was tough. But the fellow students were the toughest! The chimpanzee bloodbath. It prepares you for the worst – which is what we experienced.”

He cited the incessant practicums in filmmaking at school as essential to his education. Each week, a team of students would make a film, trading functions such as actor, producer, writer, director, cameraman. “It was a good and rigorous way to learn,” he said. Ironically, the older, less wieldy pre-digital technology made the experience more rigorous.

“It was expensive – we couldn’t make many mistakes,” Stone said.

He recalled that it wasn’t until years after his experience as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War that he began to really to process, contemplate and understand it. During the filming of “Salvador” in 1984 the parallels between what was happening there and what happened in Vietnam were disturbing to him.

“It seemed such a repetition of Vietnam,” he said. “South America keeps coming back like a reminder, in my life.” Stone filmed documentaries on the region: “Comandante” in 2003 and “South of the Border” in 2009.

Of his political awareness and contrarianism, which has been stereotyped by the press as a paranoid, conspiracy-theory-ridden mentality, especially after the release of his 1991 “JFK” film: “I didn’t seek it out, it kind of happened. It (his war experiences) gave me a strong sense of outrage, a sense of hypocrisy, of the government’s use of violence. Even to this day I have anger – plus, I have more money now so I pay taxes to buy these fucking bombs!”

He was asked about the remarkable percentage of actors in his films who have nominated for Oscars for their performances. Stone credited the performers for the merit of their work. “Each one of those actors was at the cusp of change,” Stone said. “Actors are always dying to redefine themselves.” Parenthetically, he said, “Never tell an actor he is just not right for a part. He will hate you for the rest of his life.”

Of the Oscars itself, Stone said, “I think of it as a wonderful parade and let it go. It’s very much a fashion show.”

Stone’s credo when it comes to his work is: “Make the movie – lie and steal and cheat – make the fucking movie.” He also reserves the right to go back and improve work that he feels wasn’t up to snuff, citing his 2007 director’s cut of “Alexander” as time well spent getting to tell the story in the way he intended.

He also admitted to being scared off projects from time to time – listing one concerning Martin Luther King, and another concerning the My Lai massacre, neither of which saw the light of day.

Bostwick played a second highlight reel for Stone – one that showed Stone performing in numerous cameo roles in his films. Of them, Stone said: “It’s fun to throw myself into my films. You cross the barrier and see what things are like for the people on the other side of the camera. It helps to loosen you up.”

When asked if he was ready for one more clip of one of his performances, Stone joked, “It’s not a porno film, is it?” It turned to be Stone’s brief turn as a conspiratorially-minded version of himself on Larry King’s TV talk show in “Dave,” the 1993 comedy that involves a nice-guy double for a curmudgeonly President taking his place. Stone is the only one who notices the switch.

“Don’t you think you should point out that I’m the only one in the film that turns out to be right?” Stone said, eyebrows cocked.

Of his experience writing the script for “Midnight Express,” Stone said that part of the script came from his own personal experience. He stated that he had been busted for drug possession eight days after returning home from service in Vietnam. “It’s disgusting hypocrisy – busting people for grass,” he said to great applause.

Stone outlined the underlying themes of his films as interrogations of the American ethos. He paraphrased Roman satirist Juvenal, saying, “Luxury corrupts far more ruthlessly than war,” and went on say that, in many of his films, he is asking “’Who is the bad guy here?’ Who is the bad guy, Nicky and Mallory (the mass-murderer central characters of his 1994 film “Natural Born Killers”) or the state?”

Riffing on his experience in Vietnam and its relation to his film “Platoon,” Stone disagreed with the general worshipful assessment of the “Greatest Generation,” stating “These guys behaved so arrogantly (in Vietnam) . . . And don’t forget, people make money in war – the PX system is corrupt like Vegas. ‘Air America’ (the 1990 Roger Spottiswoode action/comedy that indicted the CIA for enabling drug trafficking during the era) is pretty accurate. Fuck the Wall Street Journal (which published an editorial stating that the film was an affront to the memory of the soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam).”

Stone then declared that he hoped no one was blogging in the audience. Those around me turned to me and laughed nervously. I grinned with clenched teeth and kept typing.

Stone then spoke positively about Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Journal and global media lord, as a person, though, stating that “Nothing’s black and white except maybe Roger Ailes (president of the Fox News Channel).”

Stone continued, “The major mainstream media is really screwed up and has put a bubble over this country. It’s not a democracy. If someone runs for office, he doesn’t have to win us -- if he wins the media, he wins the election.”

How can it be changed?, Bostwick asked.

“Get the airwaves back,” Stone replied. “Don’t give licenses to the biggest barons with money. Keep the real, free airwaves for the people. Media tells you what’s good, what’s bad, what to think . . . down beneath the media, it’s another world.”

Stone stated he was delighted with his visit. “I think Boulder should secede,” he said. “The Republic of Crazy, that’d be great! And then Steamboat Springs would jump in. Before you know it, there’d be a civil war between Aspen and you.”

Discussing his 1993 film “Heaven & Earth,” Stone said it “changed my heart. It was a chance for me as an American solider to look through the eyes of the people of Vietnam. That and ‘Nixon’ were my two biggest commercial disasters.”

He described the critical drubbing he took on “Heaven & Earth” as due partly to the difficulty of reviewers to grapple with overly spiritual material.

“Critics have a very hard time, ‘cause it’s a leap of faith. If they buy into it, they risk looking foolish on a spiritual level,” he said. As to “Nixon,” he said, “A man in a terrible suit glowering on a poster with a bunch of men in bad suits and bad haircuts is not a crowd-pleaser.”

When discussing how technology has changed the practice of experiencing a film, Stone stated first of all that “I loved road shows when I was a kid – four hours with an intermission!” (Roadshow theatrical releases, particularly popular from 1952 to 1971, we one- to two-a-day showings of widescreen epic films such as “The Ten Commandments,” “The Alamo” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”) “I love big dramas, I love Vincente Minnelli.”

Stone called Blu-ray “the last hardware.”

“This is your last chance to own a movie,” he said, surmising that non-theatrical audiences will in future order films online and download them, losing direct access to the created work. With the purchase of a concrete object that contains a given film, Stone said “You’re a possessor, you’re a collector,” and spoke of that warmly, stating by analogy that owning a library of films is satisfying, akin to “having a book on a shelf.”

Stone spoke of his upcoming documentary series for television, titled “Empire: the Forgotten History of the United States.” It tracks America’s military and foreign policies from World War II to today, postulating the errors that led in the view of some to the triumph of the military/industrial complex warned of by Eisenhower.

“We veered off into this national security state thing,” Stone said, and citing presidents such as Truman for their lack of intelligence in failing to prevent the tendency.

“There’s a mythos of Truman as this smart, tough little guy,” Stone said,” but I think we’ll eventually realize that he was as stupid as George W. Bush.”

Questions from the audience followed the interview. When asked by one young filmmaker, “Can you tell me what mistakes you made so that I don’t have to repeat them,” Stone replied, gently, “You have to make your own mistakes.”

Another aspiring filmmaker, now an enlisted person, asked what he should make a movie about. “Go to the Pentagon,” Stone said. “Make a film about what you know.”

When asked what kind of comic-book-character film he might make if were so inclined, Stone reminded the questioner that he had written the original script for “Conan the Barbarian,” and then said, “Why would you want to do that? Aren’t there enough of those films already? Make something else!”

When asked what thought of critics, he said, “Some of them should die,” then revised his statement, saying that writers such as Roger Ebert were to be praised for their intelligence and constructive criticism.

However, he went on, “They’re (bloggers are) looking for eyeballs and they’ll say anything. The thing I want to ask them is, ‘Are you happy in your soul? On your deathbed, do you think how many lives did you fuck up?’ In my mind, love is the only criticism. Think like a parent – point out the ways the child can improve his behavior, don’t trash him.”

After an interlude during which various audience members tried to convince Stone to make a film supporting their beliefs or causes (“I can’t chase every cause,” he explained, again gently), he was asked about the roles of festivals in promoting film.

“I love them,” he said. “Boulder, or Cannes, festivals are great. You get to see things you’d never see otherwise. Films like ‘The Edge’ (by Aleksi Uchitel, 2010) which we saw last night. Plus, it’s a nice place to give awards to old-timers,” referring ironically to himself.