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Entries from Cinecultist tagged with 'the New Yorker'

Items On the Cinecultist Mind

...CC was happy to contribute our $11 to the $37.1 million dollar take for Ocean's Thirteen this past weekend. The boys are back and the nose does play. Also, our love for the Cloon and the Pitt grew even deeper with this exchange in their Entertainment Weekly cover story interview.

You guys have been buddies for a while. When did you first meet?
CLOONEY: The baths.
PITT: On Pico Boulevard. That's right. I forgot about that.
CLOONEY: You wouldn't have recognized me with the leather hood on. [Laughs]
PITT: [Makes a disgusted face] I'm eating here.

...We enjoyed some brisket, sausage and sweet pickles at the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park on Saturday. Brisket outdoors is enough to put anyone in a satisfied summertime mood.

...We're still working on the New Yorker's summer fiction issue but are finding the cryptic summer movie personal essays by such literary stars at Dave Eggers, Miranda July and Jeffrey Eugenides odd but intriguing. Best line award so far goes to Gary Shteyngart for his recollection of ogling young Tahnee Welch in Cocoon: "The fact that my sexual awakening peripherally involved Steve Guttenberg I have gradually accepted."

...On two sad notes for world cinema, African director Ousmane Sembène and French actor Jean-Claude Brialy recently passed away. We added Xala, Black Girl, A Woman Is a Woman and Claire's Knee to our home viewing schedule in memoriam. [via John, thanks.]

...Season premiere of Big Love tonight! Backstabbing, freaky religious types and sexual secrets in suburbia, wahoo.

...Just in case you hadn't noticed, The Movie Binge crew is back to their glutenous summer viewing ways. Last week CC wrote a long rant about how much we hated Mr. Brooks. If we hadn't seen this movie for free at an advance screening, we'd be writing a threatening note to Kevin Costner demanding our admission plus pain and suffering back.

Monks Heart Hobbits

Cinecultist had heard from our friends over at Film Forum that Into Great Silence, the three hour nearly silent documentary about Carthusian monks, has been a huge hit for them but this week's Talk of the Town confirmed it. “We had to turn away a hundred people,” an employee told the New Yorker reporter. “It’s ridiculously popular.”

An even better bit in this piece than the always happy news of sell-out shows at FF was the detail that New York's only Carthusian monk Father Michael Holleran loves Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. When commenting on the noisiness of the city and the quest for spiritual enlightenment in our modern age, Father Holleran totally geeked out thusly: “The battle, like fighting the Balrog in the dwarf caves, is defeating the noise inside you,” he said.

Spiritual dude, that Balrog was totally awesome. I feel you, man. BTW, CC still has in the freezer our novelty sample of Chartreuse*, the emerald green liquor made by the Carthusian monks and named after their home region in France, which we received as a publicity tie-in at the press screening of Into Great Silence. Maybe we should bust it out next time Frodo et al is on TBS, just to give Father Holleran the shout out.

*Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino also like Chartreuse. He name checked it in his section of Grindhouse, as the drink o' choice for his bartender character in Death Proof.

Defending Verhoeven

This week in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane ripped Paul Verhoeven's Black Book a new one and Cinecultist finds ourselves in the unenviable position of feeling the need to defend Verhoeven. If you feel that chilly breeze wafting out of Hades don't be alarmed, that is indeed the feeling of Hell being frozen over with CC standing up for the Dutch schlockmeister auteur but frankly, it must be done. Black Book doesn't deserve the Lane treatment.

Here's the bullet point version of what problems Lane finds in Verhoeven's movie about a Dutch Jewish girl working for the Resistance in occupied Holland.

  • The villainous Gestapo head Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch) isn't that menacing.

  • The double-crosser within the Resistance plot is lame.

  • Verhoeven's continuity skills (in one scene Rachel, our Jewish girl spy, is injured, in the next she's miraculously recovered) aren't so hot.

  • Life under Nazi occupation doesn't look so hard, everyone has plenty to eat and suitably slutty clothes (if you're a girl) to wear.

All in all, here's Lane's major beef: "This is trash pretending to serve the cause of history: a Dirty Dozen knockoff with one eye on Schindler’s List. Everything about it, from the earnest strivings of the musical score to the beery gropings of the Germans, has the whiff of soap opera."

However, this is where CC has to depart from Lane's caustic, but otherwise accurate, observations of Verhoeven's prettified version of Nazi Holland. Verhoeven's main purpose is to create melodrama. Even when he uses the tropes of a thriller, like in Basic Instinct, he wants to draw larger than life characters existing in the realm of grand scale storytelling. Except that his favorite kinds of characters also have a whiff of crass humanism to them--they like sex a little dirty or their drinks extra strong. There must be bawdiness in Verhoeven's movies, but it's all for the sake of fun, entertainment and hyperbole (see Showgirls's exuberant pole dancing or Starship Troopers's shower scenes as examples).

The totally brilliant thing about Black Book in Cinecultist's mind is that Verhoeven actually had the balls to bring his brand of melodrama to a Holocaust story, the ultimate sacred cow in Hollywood. Of course he had to publicly leave Hollywood behind to make that kind of movie, but as the production still above shows, Verhoeven isn't afraid to put some tasty gams on a Jewish girl and let her use them to taunt a few Third Reich soldiers. It's so salacious it can't help but make us think differently about this great tragedy. There were real people involved, who had sex drives and double crossed each other. The Resistance fighters could be as despicable as the Gestapo middle men were noble. Revolutionary, right?

Anthony Lane get off of your fucking snarky high horse. Black Book is an entertaining, sexy thriller that giggles as it snubs its nose in the face of taboo. Now, with that out of the way, Cinecultist is going to go put on a sweater. It's cold here in the Hell of our own making.

Cate Blanchett Doesn't Give It Away

Cinecultist is a bit behind on our New Yorker reading and only just got to John Lahr's great piece in last week's issue about Cate Blanchett (unfortunately not available online now). That woman seriously rocks it on screen, and from this interview appears to be a stellar wife and mother to boot. The following description of her acting process while working on The Good German reinvigorated our interest in seeing Steven Soderbergh's poorly reviewed movie.

"...[S]he began shooting, without any rehearsal, the Monday after she'd completed Notes on a Scandal. The scene Blanchett filmed that day had Lena sitting on a bench with an American military attorney from whom she's hoping to get the papers she needs to leave Berlin. 'I thought, 'The biggest thing I'm gonna do is cross my legs,' she told me. 'I'm not gonna give anything away to this man. I knew everything that Lena was concealing. But it was, like, I'm not going to let Steven Soderbergh know. I'm going to be completely, utterly ambiguous.' She continued, 'Ambiguity is not absence. It's a wildly contradicting series of actions, emotions, and intentions. There was a line where Lena said, 'No one is all good or all bad.' And I thought that she was referring to herself. So I let a tiny little bit of her own self-hatred come through.' (Soderbergh got his shot on the first take.)"

P.S. Please follow Lahr's suggestion to watch Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda if you've never seen it. You'll see why it was such a breakout role for her and Ralph Fiennes is great in it too.