May 31, 2003

Waiting For the Loach Ax to Fall

Will Ken Loach's new film Sweet Sixteen be depressing? Well, sure of course. Cinecultist knew this before she laid down her money. But honestly, its the waiting that kills us every time, waiting for that ax of tragedy to fall on the unsuspecting working class Scots.

Liam (arresting new-comer Martin Compston) gets kicked in the face by his mother's boyfriend and grandfather but not to worry, his sister, Chantelle takes care of him. He hatches the plan to sell heroin lifted from the evil boyfriend so to save enough money for a caravan to live in with his soon-to-be-released jailed mom. On paper, this sounds like a hair-brained scheme of a deluded young boy but Liam's smarts, charm and loyal friends like Pinball actually bring it all off. Until, of course, the fateful denoument. (*Sniff*). Just when CC got caught up in Liam's struggles, it all goes wrong in a moment.

Clear the schedule. See it. Bring the tissues. Go home and bury yourself underneath the duvet afterwards.

Posted by karen at 11:50 PM |

May 30, 2003

On This Weekend

No real theme this weekend for the suggested viewing, as its all sort of scattershot. Here's some things CC correspondents will be looking into:

Asian Film Releases --
Together. Chen Kaige's new movie. Can this old school Fifth Generation director beloved for Farewell My Concubine et al. top the new mojo put out recently by the Sixth Generation bad boys?
Vampire Hunters. Hong Kong action expert Tsui Hark wrote and produces this bogey man epic. Supposedly the Vampires can suck from their victims at a distance. Cool.

Film Forum Stuff --
Spellbound still playing until June 3.
New additions include Chris Marker's latest Rememberance of Things to Come and a print of the Good, Bad and the Ugly, the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western classic. I know a few people who will be out there for that. Also BAM in Brooklyn is screening some Village Voice favorites from last year. So, if you missed the new Godard or the new Hou Hsio Hsien, here's another chance.

Best Bet --
Finding Nemo. The geniuses at Pixar bring us a little fish and his friends. Adorable.

CC Does Not Recommend --
Italian Job. Charlize Theron, Marky Mark Wahlberg and car thieves in Italy. Looks dumber than toast.

Posted by karen at 2:25 PM |

Anna Karina Winks

There's something comforting to this Cinecultist to know that New York contains more people besides CC and friend, E, who would attend a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's A Woman Is A Woman on a Thursday night. Actually, the theater was packed, although the really big line snaking around Film Forum was for Spellbound.

CC's been a little self conscious about her art house film watching after seeing Cinemania last week, so it was nice to run into E at the theater. Somehow knowing other (seemingly) sane people who find the thought of Anna Karina on screen lure enough on a Thursday night rationalizes CC's fandom.

Something new CC learned recently which influenced the viewing this time: when Godard started out he was quite the MacMahonist. According to J. Hoberman's Midnight Movies book, the MacMahonists were '60s French cinema cultists just like the Bazin disciples at Cahiers du Cinema but they were a bit sexist, to say the least. Godard actually wanted Jean Seberg to pick Jean-Paul Belmondo's pocket after she turned him into the police at the end of Breathless.

Watching A Woman Is A Woman, you could see how Godard might not have the best opinion of women with Anna Karina harping on her husband to get her pregnant then cheating on him with Jean-Paul. Yet, Anna Karina's complete charm and effervescience wins out over any trace of misogyny. Her final wink to the camera is so lacking in malice, we can't help but fall for her. How could Godard hate women when Anna's in the world as our representative?

Posted by karen at 1:32 PM |

New Yorker Meets Mr. Ringu

Tad Friend (aka Mr. Amanda Hesser) writes this week in the New Yorker about Hollywood producer, Roy Lee, the shylock responsible for the influx of Asian remakes to grace American screens. And when CC calls Lee a shylock, she's actually being kinder and more direct than the way Friend depicts him. Not that CC condones this sort of cultural poaching that Lee seems to be infamous for. Basically, Friend reports that Lee convinces the Asian producers that their films won't have an audience in the states because "Americans don't like to read subtitles" and they should sell their stories as remakes which Hollywood producers then slick up and reshoot for big American grosses.

Interestingly though to CC, which Friend doesn't really touch upon as he details the machinations of a Hollywood production deal with Sam Raimi, the remake of the Ring seemed to create an audience, among cinephiles at least, for the originals. Maybe this is just among the Kim's-frequenting freaks CC associates with, but most people CC knows who like horror went out of their way to see at least Ringu if not the prequel and sequel on DVD. As much as CC liked to see Naomi Watts get some good press, the really good think would be for more international market where all kinds of films get distribution. But honestly, when's that going to happen? Not while guys like Roy Lee rise to the top of the industry. Sigh.

Posted by karen at 9:22 AM |

May 29, 2003

A Comic Tragedy? Ha.


As an avid fan of Mr. P. Seymour Hoffman, CC's Portland correspondent (PCC) finally got around to renting Todd Louiso's Love Liza. Taking a cue from Brooklyn CC's earlier entry on Mr. Martin and the out-of-sight-out-of-mind disaster that was Bringin' Down The House, PCC is trying to willfully erase Love Liza from her memory and concentrate on the brilliance of the perpetually rumpled Philip Seymour in Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999).

PCC is especially disappointed by Love Liza since it had so much going for it:
1. Not only did it star the aforementioned PSH, but it was written by PSH's brother, Gordy. One would think two Hoffmans would be double the fun. Wrong.
2. It was a 2002 Sundance darling, winning the Waldo Salt screenwriting prize (always of interest to PCC-the-fledgling-screenwriter) and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.

So what went wrong? To begin, PCC felt absolutely no sympathy for PSH's Wilson Joel. While she empathized with the overwhelming pain he must have experienced after his wife's suicide, PCC felt as though she spent the entire film in some sort of gasoline-induced haze, never really getting close enough to the action to experience any real compassion for the characters. And speaking of gasoline, PCC was left utterly in the dark as to why Wilson decided to begin huffing gas and model airplane fuel in the first place. The quick shot of WJ catching the whiff of gas from a taxi's open fuel tank after his impromptu vacation did not logically merit the next hour or so of film, consisting of Wilson burying his face in a grimy, gas-soaked rag at any opportunity. PCC has experienced her share of gasoline fumes at the gas station, but she doubts that, even if her spouse commited suicide, she would make the jump from grief to huffing.

PCC feels that she must lastly address the film's tagline, proclaiming Louiso's film to be a "comic tragedy". Perhaps PCC is dumber than she once thought, but after sitting through 90 minutes of an increasingly doped-up and dirty PSH sniffing gas and crying, PCC failed to find the comic elements of the film. Is PCC overly sensitive or are suicide, grief-induced huffing habits, unemployment and overall hopelessness more aligned with straight-up tragedy than "tragicomedy" (PCC apologizes since she hates the phrase 'tragicomedy' almost as much as she despises 'dramedy', but the situation seemed to merit its use)? Perhaps if PCC took up sniffing gasoline herself she might find more humor in Louiso's film, but after a sober first viewing she encountered only hazy tragedy.

Posted by jordan at 8:51 PM |

The Grey Haired One

A viewing of the classic comedy All of Me reminded Cinecultist (and trusty roommate LS) how much we love Steve Martin. We began to play the game "Have You Seen This Steve Martin Movie?"

Some CC favorites include: L.A. Story, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

LS is partial to The Jerk and The Man With Two Brains as well as All of Me because Lily Tomlin is so delightfully queer.

Steve Martin is the kind of comedic performer who doesn't rest on his laurels, he writes books, plays and has graced such classic television programs as "the Smothers Brothers" and "Saturday Night Live". He's even been in a Muppet Movie (credited as the Insolent Waiter). This alone allows CC to pretend that Bringing Down the House didn't really exist. Up next for Steve: film versions of his novel, Shopgirl and his play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile as well as an adaptation of one of CC's favorite childhood books, Cheaper By the Dozen.

Posted by karen at 1:57 PM |

May 28, 2003

Rom Com Recycling

alexandemmaposter.jpgCinecultist has been seeing these ads for a new Kate Hudson/Luke Wilson picture, called Alex & Emma, that feels a bit like deja vu. In said film, opening June 20, Wilson plays Alex a novelist in trouble with the mafia who must finish his book in 30 days. He hires stenographer, Emma, to help him type the story he dictates but of course she's fiesty and stuff so her personality influences the characters and the story. Along the way the actors play both the imagined characters in the novel and the writers in various fantasy sequences. In the end, they fall in love.


This story sounded quite like an Audrey Hepburn movie, where Audrey plays a typist helping William Holden finish a screenplay where the actors play both themselves and the characters in the fantasy sequences from the resulting fictional movie. CC went to look it up on trusty IMDb, who informed us the movie is called Paris When It Sizzles, from 1964. On the official website, Alex and Emma's screenwriters, Jeremy Leven, Adam Scheinman and Andy Scheinman say the story idea came from Dosteovsky having to finish The Gambler in 30 days under threat from the mob and in the process falling for his typist. Dosteovsky, hmm?

Any Russian lit experts out there who can confirm or deny this story?

(Don't get CC wrong, I'm still going to go see the film. CC loves rom coms. But it all sounds a little strange.)

Posted by karen at 1:41 PM |

May 27, 2003

Elmore Leonard Meets TV

Announced in ABC's Fall line-up, a spin-off of the kick ass Elmore Leonard character, U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco will be appearing on Wednesdays at 9/10c in a show called Karen Sisco.

Friends of CC know she digs Soderbergh's movie Out of Sight and this character as depicted by booty-licious Jennifer Lopez. On the tv show, the character will be played by Carla Gugino, who's also good people (CC like her particularly in the miniseries of "The Buccaneers", an Edith Wharton adaptation). The question, of course, is whether the snappy fun from the film can translate into a compelling tv series. As we know, for every M*A*S*H, there's a My Big Fat Greek Life. Check back in the fall for an assessment from CC.

Posted by karen at 9:49 PM |

Claws Out at Film Comment

This year the Pulitzer organization awarded a prize to a film critic, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post. First off this made Cinecultist very happy. When CC was a little kid, she wanted to win a Noble Prize, but when she realized you needed to be discovering a cure for cancer or brokering peace accords to get that, she gave up. But to know that she could continue with this film critic thing and maybe someday be a Pulitzer Prizer winner? That just rocks.

Okay, so granted, CC had never heard of this Stephen Hunter but whatever. Then, this bit appeared in the May/June issue of Film Comment in the front of the book, unsigned. They call Hunter a bad reviewer, a hack and a pompous read, all in three paragraphs. Yeouch. The last paragraph just reads like sour grapes to CC.

"That he won the Pulitzer Prize, alas, reveals the prizes for what they are, which no one without a printing press can say: a brokered agreement among a few principal news corporations to divvy up awards amongst themselves without regard to merit or professional standing. Hell, the Oscars do better than that—they let members vote."

Posted by karen at 7:11 PM |

Gallo Apologizes for Film

CC promises this is the last mention of Cannes. CC is sick of Cannes but this is just too good to not mention.

Ebert reports on Vincent Gallo's apology regarding the existence of his new film, Brown Bunny.

"I accept what the critics say," Gallo told Screen International, whose panel gave the bunny its record low rating. "If no one wants to see it, they are right. I apologize to the financiers of the film, but I must assure you it was never my intention to make a pretentious film, a self-indulgent film, a useless film, an unengaging film."

Yeah, right, no one is going to distribute this film. I expect to see it in theaters in time for Christmas.

Posted by karen at 2:24 PM |

Sex On Legs


Cinecultist began her mini-DVD series on Elizabeth Taylor yesterday with the Tennessee Williams classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Prior to the Society for Cinema Studies Conference, CC had a long talk with eminent film scholar and friend, Lucas Hildebrand about his upcoming paper on the grande dame, Liz, which prompted CC to add a number of her films to the Netflix Queue.

Hildebrand told CC some pertinent things about Liz: first off, she doesn't like being called Liz. Secondly, she may be a camp icon but she really does act her little heart out. She does not mean to be arch and ironic, like say late Judy Garland, but is really just larger than life. As evidence, Hildebrand urged CC to rent Butterfield 8, which is on it's way soon. But speaking just to Elizabeth's performance and her larger-than-life persona in Cat, CC thinks she's just mahr-ve-lous.

That body, that hair, those eyes, those torpedo-shaped boobs -- she is truly sex on legs as Maggie the Cat. Her drawling accent just oozes around the room enveloping the scrumptious Paul Newman as Brick. When he barricades himself in the bathroom to escape her, but then begins caressing her nightgown hung on the door, you really have to sympathize with the poor guy. CC watched Cleopatra relatively recently as well and when Elizabeth is on screen, she's hypnotic. Previously, CC was only familiar with Elizabeth through her tabloid headlines following her marriage and divorce with that construction worker and her manic, deluded announcement at the Oscars that the winner for best picture was Gladiator. It makes one realize that certain gorgeous people should just die young, so we don't have to watch them deteriorate. Luminous, crazy Elizabeth Taylor is one of them. Sad, but true.

Posted by karen at 1:46 PM |

May 26, 2003

'Elephant' Wins d'Or

The final results: Gus Van Sant's new movie about a Columbine-esque high school murder spree, Elephant wins the big prize. Congrats to all.

Elvis Mitchell reports.

Full awards list.

Posted by karen at 1:20 PM |

May 25, 2003

We're All Cinemaniacs

You know when you see someone so terribly awkward and embarrassing but that you see a modicum of yourself in and thus you can't help but cringe? This is the experience CC had as she realized she could name on sight all the screening spaces captured in Cinemania, a documentary about five extreme New York cinephiles. These fans find they must juggle their schedules to fit in all the screenings they'd like to attend, watching up to 5 movies a day, and consider themselves serious collectors of movie trivia.

There are bits of the movie where it drags, and parts where the film seems to unfairly mock their subjects making them seem particularly nutso. In these moments, the film seems to unnecessarily narrow its scope, separating these fanatics from those in the audience who might call themselves just fans. At the screening, CC attended with J a member of the audience turned around after the credits to ask who had seen more than one movie that day and everyone tittered, uncomfortably I might add. But really, what makes the director of AMMI, featured in the film who comments on the cinemaniacs, who's deemed legitimate for his cinephilia so different from these obsessives? Because he doesn't memorize running times of every film screened at his museum?

As J pointed out, it might have been more interesting to use these insular people to further understand the impulses that lead to cinephilia. Do they, and also us "normal" movie watchers, crave the escape? The perfect image made real? Or just the singular feeling of being in those seats as the house lights go down and the screen begins to flicker?

Read a good introspective review in the Press by Matt Zoller Seitz.

Posted by karen at 11:24 PM |

More News from Cannes

J.Ho's article this week in the Voice features his report from the festival in France.

Here's why I love Jim, (as a critic) and think that his writing is always worth reading, whether I agree with him or not: He uses a reference to The Matrix: Reloaded (a big premier, it sounds like, at Cannes this year) to contextualize an Afghan film that he really liked. In other words, to really get his meaning, the reader needs to be versed in the mainstream to understand his assessment of the obscure. Wonderful.

Also worth reading, is the tail end of the review when he describes Dogville. Damn, psyched to see that, especially as he says the feature has similiarities to Breaking the Waves Lars van Trier's breakout film with Emily Watson. Nicole Kidman has been doing no wrong lately with her choices in roles, she seems to understand that its most important to work with these serious directors since she wants to be considered a serious actor. I think someone needs to set up a coffee date for Nicole and Gwyneth, where the hell has she gone lately? Oscar award does not give one carte blanche to punish their viewers with View from the Top. ANYHOO, Dogville = psyched.

CC is thinking of J. Hoberman lately because his summer class at NYU begins next week and CC told him she would be attending a few lectures as an auditer again this summer. Will report back soon on the screening list for "Dawn of the Digital" (the title of this year's course).

Posted by karen at 3:58 PM |

What's Going On With Those Fezes?

Things I learned about They Might Be Giants that I never knew before from their documentary, Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns:

They were the first indie band to have videos on the fledgling MTV.

They came up in the performance art scene in the East Village.

They wrote the music to the opening of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, as well as a theme for the Austin Powers movie and Malcolm in the Middle (okay, I knew about Malcolm but not the others).

They play a huge stick with a mic on it in their live show (had heard the song, but guess I didn't see this stick at the shows I've attended).

They graced the cover of Paper magazine back in the day and had their first major review in People magazine before they'd even released their first full album.

Very cool people are fans of TMBG like Sarah Vowell, Ira Glass from NPR, Harry Shearer, Andy Richter, Jon Stewart, Michael McKean and they appear in the docu.

Gigantic is the best kind of music documentary in that it gives you information, behind the scenes access and a feel for what it's like to be at a show. Flansburgh and Linnell are wacky guys and it's a real testiment to their dedication to music and their prodigious talents that they've stayed so vital for so many years. The docu also made me desperate to see them live again, which I plan to on June 8 at Joe's Pub in the city. Yeah, TMBG! You've let loose the birdhouse in my soul. Again.

Posted by karen at 12:12 PM |

May 24, 2003

God's A Yankees Fan

Cinecultist has said this in the past but, Comedy gets no respect. Your Russell Crowe or your Nicholas Cage can chew the scenery from here to kingdom come and get Oscars up the wazoo but a good comedian never can rest. Now, granted, Jim Carrey gets his share of accolades (ie. $20 million plus per picture) but it seems to be much easier to deride what he does, which he does very well. It's comforting, the way that Carrey's manic energy can overwhelm and yet be completely in control of the scene, it feels like an old funny shoe. Bruce Almighty is like a favorite pair of loafers. We've worn them loads of times before and we still like how they feel. But, as Owen Gleiberman argues in his review, it may be time for Carrey to break out into some new territory. However, for the time being, let's enjoy what we've got here: sweet little story about whining guy who get to be God for awhile. It's a Wonderful Lite. Jennifer Aniston = adorable. Morgan Freeman = wise God, likes the Yankees. Steve Carrell = steals this one scene with his Pentacostal speaking in idiot tongues. One particularly classic Carrey moment entails his heaving milk from a pitcher on a line of waiting children with very small cups. In slo mo. Dear me, these shoes sure are comfie.

Posted by karen at 12:07 PM |

May 23, 2003

Weekend's Viewing

Cinecultist thinks the theme of this week's viewing activities shall be documentaries, as there are a number of good looking ones in theaters right now. On CC's list:

Cinemania: a documentary about all the freaky, obsessive movie watchers in Manhattan. As a (slightly) obsessive watcher herself, CC has seen these people in action and is thrilled to see them immortalized in the medium they so adore. Check back for review, CC is set to see this little picture with her favorite cinemaniac, J., on Sunday.

Gigantic: Bloggers love They Might Be Giants (see Gothamist for evidence) and CC is no different. She still recalls that first concert at Stanford U. with L, B, B's sister and the infamous JR, when she was a mere 14 years of age. Between CC and L, they have all the albums produced by TMBG, and let me tell you, that's a lot of records. Various famous people like Janeane Garofalo and Dave Eggars support John and John in the docu and from the trailer CC saw last weekend, it also features a kick-ass soundtrack. A must see.

Spellbound: little kids in a national spelling bee has been the runaway hit at Film Forum. CC's going to go down to check out what all the hype's about and will report back.

Also on the list, if CC gets time:
Bruce Almighty (CC likes Jim Carrey, weird but true.)
Blue Car

Posted by karen at 12:58 PM |

May 22, 2003

Can you cannes cannes?

Spring has sprung and that means movie time in the sunny South of France. Film festivals, like Cannes, are an opportunity for films without distribution to show their wares and hopefully get bought by a big studio who can promote them like they should. But increasingly more festivals, especially State-side ones like Sundance or Telluride, have become these insane media circuses where the celebs flock to be photographed and the movie-goers flock to see the celebs and who really remembers they are there to look for some good movies? Today Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times argues that Cannes is the kind of festival where by nature of it's International-ness it still offers an opportunity for some serious movie watching. His evidence? That he saw Memento there and that back in the '70s they screened Bruce Lee's breakout Fists of Fury. Sigh.

But I am excited about Dogville coming out. With the fervor surrounding Nicole, that film doesn't have to worry about being bought.

Posted by karen at 12:23 PM |

May 21, 2003

Lynne Ramsay fetish continues

After much ballyho, Cinecultist watched Lynne Ramsay's first feature length film, Ratcatcher and loved it. Like Movern Callar, her other film released last winter which CC thought was one of the best thing she'd seen all season, Ratcatcher shows us a slice of working class Scotland, this time set during the garbage collector's strike in the '70s. Like Kubrick, Ramsay was a photographer before she became a filmmaker and it really shows in her exquisite shot compositions. The one where the young protagonist jumps through a window and runs out into a field of dry grass reminds CC a bit of Citizen Kane, only better, as the color just swallows you up. A word to the wise though, watch the film with the subtitles on. This seemed to be the default from the Criterion copy CC rented from Netflix but despite the film being in English, its necessary with the characters thick Glaswegian accents. Everything little is wee in this film and such forth. CC prides herself on being able to understand Brad Pitt in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but Ratcatcher would have been an unintelligible mess with out the subtitle translation. A beautiful mess but a mess nonetheless.

Posted by karen at 1:45 PM |

May 20, 2003

In the Beginning...

As today is the first day of publication for CC, we think this merits an entry in the category of News and Gossip. Because the final launch of this brave site, devoted to cinephilia and consumption of the media variety, is certainly newsworthy to us.

We firmly believe that new publications need manifestos, because a good manifesto connotes commitment and a little bit of healthy zealotry, two things we prize here at CC. Here's a few entries in our MANIFESTO:

CINECULTIST devotes itself to the pursuit of movies. We will chronicle our New York based viewing activities, offering first person accounts and opinions.

CINECULTIST is not afraid to be snarky about movies, even though we deeply love cinema. Isn't it true that you can make fun of your family, but no one else can? What is cinema? Film is art. But film is also a business, an industry, a cash-cow. As someone snarkier than CC said about pop culture web publishing, "We're just in the tall grasses taking pot shots at Katie Holmes." And so what?

CINECULTIST strives to be part of community of writers, smart writers who are contributing thoughtful commentary on our hectic media saturated world. CC is all about the shout out.

CINECULTIST understand that fandom is just as important as erudite criticism. CC will whole heartedly embrace both tactics.

Posted by cinecult at 4:54 PM |