Perhaps one of the reasons that Cinecultist loved Katharine Hepburn is that she had the best choice ever -- Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart? If not in real life, where she actually chose Spencer Tracy, then in the magic fictional world of the Philadelphia Story. It's like trying to choose between chocolate and more chocolate, it is an impossible choice. Actually CC thinks it says a lot about a person whom they think Tracy Lord should be with in the end, the stubborn working class journalist who she sparks with or her dilettante ex-husband childhood soul mate. The familiar or the unknown, which would equal more happiness for the heiress with a heart of gold?
Hepburn's iconic performances gave us the opportunity to ponder these questions about ourselves and our life choices. She also made us laugh at her brilliantly executed pratfalls and cry with her heart-renching delivery. As a devote of the romantic comedy, in particular the screwball variety, CC's mind naturally gravitates towards her comic roles when thinking of Hepburn's career. She personified the screwball heiress, a woman too clueless for words but too charming to resist. Stanley Cavell in Pursuits of Happiness, talks about how in the case of certain actors the camera could create types from individuals, or individualities. Their "mannerisms and eccentricities so satisfied the appetitie of the movie camera" that their "distinctness was the staple of impersonators." Hepburn had a style all her own, even if her physicality could be imitated, one of independence and integrity which shone through her characters like a beautiful inner beacon. Watching her act, we couldn't help but be on her side and identifying with her at every turn. To know she is gone from us now, is to truly feel like a part of us is lost, she so captured the imagination.
Turner Classic Movies will air a tribute on July 10th of Hepburn's movies. Be sure to check out at least a few of them, they are the kind of films that enrich your whole person.
Schedule for July 10th:
6:00 AM Mary of Scotland ('36)
8:15 AM Holiday ('38)
10:00 AM Woman of the Year ('42)
12:00 PM Adam's Rib ('49)
2:00 PM Pat and Mike ('52)
4:00 PM The Lion in Winter ('68)
6:30 PM Katharine Hepburn: All About Me
8:00 PM Bringing Up Baby ('38)
10:00 PM The Philadelphia Story ('40)
12:00 AM Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? ('67)
2:00 AM Little Women ('33)
4:00 AM Undercurrent ('46)
Screen legend and sassy woman inspiration to us all, Katharine Hepburn died today at the age of 96. Check out Caryn James's lovely obit while we collect our thoughts, dry our eyes and think of the best things to say about this favorite actor. Gregory Peck and now Hepburn, it's been a sad summer for cinephiles.
Perhaps Cinecultist's (pretty negligible) testosterone got in the way of critical distance but CC really enjoyed Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. We don't usually do this -- as we prize ourselves on our far-thinking independent opinions 'round here -- but we checked in with the critic roundup on Rotten Tomatoes to see if the rest of the lads agreed. They found it to be 41% rotten so far. Hmmm.
We're talking about such statements as "what the picture represents, in a very real way, is the death of cinema." according to Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central and "the worst movie of the year" according to Chuck Schwartz of Cranky Critic. Who are these people? People with computers and opinions, that's about all CC can tell from a bit of cursory web research. However, even Elvis Mitchell at the Times says,†"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is like eating a bowl of Honeycomb drenched in Red Bull -- a dizzying mouthful of unabashed silliness that leads to an equally precipitous crash once the buzz wears off after the film's first hour." Double hmmm.
Here's the thing -- CC liked it despite being outside the movie's projected commercial demographic. The girls are cute, they kick ass, there's lots of highly stylized camera work (McG HEART slo-mo), a pounding pop soundtrack (including that Pink single, "Feel Good Time" that we downloaded when we got home) and various campy villains. Sometimes, it is okay to like insubstantial crap. It's not going to change the face of cinema or result in any sort of apocalypse if every movie we watch, especially in the summer, isn't particularly mentally challenging. With that said, CC plans to watch Friday Night and Dragon Inn this week, just to balance out the lost brain cells.
After somehow missing its theatrical run last year, PCC finally got a chance to see Tom Tykwer's latest film, Heaven, starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi. Since PCC is a fan of a)Cate Blanchett (who isn't?) b)Tom Tykwer c)the few Krzysztof Kieslowski films PCC has seen and d)the rather odd, but strangely appealing Giovanni R., PCC had high expectations for this film. This is a dangerous thing, since such films often don't perform to PCC's satisfaction (case in point: Karen Montcrieff's abysmal Blue Car). But Heaven was different; for 96 minutes PCC was glued to the screen. As CB explained in a segment of "The Story of Heaven", the story is simple, but its subtle philosophical and poetic depths are what cause us to take a closer look at the characters, and by extension, ourselves.
The simple story, though PCC wants to re-iterate that simple here is a good thing, is complimented by gorgeous, sweeping cinematography by Frank Griebe, who also worked on Tykwer's Run Lola Run. Griebe's ability to blend the actors into the landscape, and vice versa, is truly amazing. An especially beautiful sequence occurs near the end of the film, when CB and GR are facing each other on a hilltop in the Italian countryside. They are filmed from quite a distance away, so that all the audience sees are two almost identical black silhouettes against the rising sun. Slowly, they come together and merge into a single shape. It's incredible. Griebe was nominated and won several German cinematograpy awards for his work on Heaven.
Finally, a note on the acting. Cate Blanchett is perhaps one of a handful of extremely talented actors that could pull off what she did in Heaven: make a woman who bombed a building, killing four people, and shot a man in cold blood look sympathetic to the audience. We root for Philippa, even though we know what she has done is wrong. Perhaps what makes her so compelling is the fact that Philippa herself does not pretend that she should go unpunished for her deeds. She tells Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) that she cannot live with what she's done, that she knows she must pay for her crimes. Giovanni Ribisi is equally compelling as a young carabinieri (policeman) who falls in love with CB during her interrogation. GR mixes just the right amount of puppy-dog devotion with genuine love in his portrayal of the seemingly weak and mild-mannered Filippo who risks everything for love.
When CC attended the Ethan Hawke tribute last month, the celebrity/movie person that was the most exciting to see was Richard Linklater, the indie auteur from Texas. Two years ago, CC saw him discuss his fascinating animated feature, Waking Life at the New York Film Festival along with star/collaborator Wiley Wiggins. Wiggins is very charming, both on screen and on a panel answering sort of inane audience questions. He expresses himself very well (more so than one might expect from watching him as drunk teenager in Dazed and Confused, say.) CC discovered a link to his personal site (via whatevs.org) and wouldn'tyouknow, Wiley has a personal blog called News of the Dead. There's photos, writing and other Wiley-related film stuff on the site.
Cinecultist finds this fascinating, the amount of stuff people will put on the web about themselves. It makes online faux-stalking so much easier. Wil Wheaton, former child star of Star Trek, also has a personal blog that's quite popular. If you know of any other celeb/quasi-celeb blogs send them along, we'd love to compile a list.
Just a few lines to mention an interesting interview with John Bloom, aka Joe Bob Briggs Drive In Movie critic, on mediabistro. Apparently, Joe Bob has a new book out, Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History which CC will peruse soon and get back to you on. (We love Joe Bob here, we used to read his columns in syndication as a wee film critic-in-training. He's a writer who influenced CC from a young age along with Pauline Kael and Dorothy Parker.) In the meantime, check out his site as well, it's a hoot.
Except for three ass kicking girl spies and a few English zombies, it's a light weekend at the cineplex. But, hey cinecultists, look on the bright side, it's time to spend getting caught up on the older releases you still haven't seen and maybe catch a picture at a repetory theater or at an outdoor space. Here's Cinecultist's suggestions on what to watch:
We would be remiss if we did not rhapsodize just a tad on the hotness that is the Charlie's Angels sequel, Full Throttle. Like the first Angels, a kicky cheeky little bit o' fluff with lots of outfits for our babe-licious trio and some fun Asian-style ass whomping, this sequel sounds like just about the same. It has the girls, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, a funny handler (Bernie Mac), some cute boys and various over the top evil characters (the come-back queen Demi Moore and Sir Creepiness Crispin Glover). There's some plot about stealing the angel's database but who cares when there's a car wash scene and those enormous billboards of the girls in bikinis? (Too much summer heat makes Cinecultist into a bit of a dude when it comes to summer films, bear with us.) CC will be there on Friday night with the hordes, not to worry.
We mentioned it last week when it opened in limited release here in New York, but this weekend 28 Days goes wide. It looks real good but also real scary as zombies descend on a diseased London. The kids over at Gothamist saw it a few weeks ago and liked it, and sadly this may be as close as CC gets because really we're wusses. Unless we can find some chatty friend who will first tell us the whole plot and then watch the movie again with us while holding our hand. See, we're big wusses.
That's about all on the big releases, so we'd recommend heading over to AMMI for one of the Polanski movies (Chinatown plays on Saturday at 1.30 pm) or perhaps try to catch one of the unusual action classics screened as part of the Heroic Grace: Chinese Martial Arts films series at Walter Reede. Film Forum also has the very superior double feature of To Be or Not to Be and Shop Around the Corner as part of the continuing Lubitsch Touch fest. Also some of CC's very good friends have been hard at work on MoMA's To Save and Protect series which is showing rare prints from the musuem's collection, in particular a new print of Jean Renoir's Nana with a simultaneous English translation. A very educational experience to be had at the beautiful Gramercy Theater.
Or, you could always go see Nemo again, if only to get in somewhere that has some A/C.
Despite PCC's feelings of revulsion for the Sprecher Sisters latest film, 13 Conversations About One Thing, PCC decided to give their first effort, Clockwatchers, a shot. The first thing that much be mentioned is the fact that this is not a comedy. Yes, there are amusing bits here and there, but nothing knee-slapping, shelve-it-in-the-comedy-section funny. It's sad, depressing even. Instead of a routine write-up on the film, PCC has decided to take this opportunity to provide readers with a must-see list for one of Australia's most talented, yet under-appreciated actresses- as well as the star of Clockwatchers- Toni Collette. Since Australia seems to be PCC's nation of film-viewing choice lately, here are 5 Toni films, both Australian and American offerings, that one should see [listed chronologically]:
Muriel's Wedding (1994). Collette plays Muriel (and sometimes Mariel), a young Australian woman stuck in the dead-end town of Porpoise Spit. A die-hard fan of ABBA, Muriel decides that the only way she'll fit in with the popular girls who routinely reject her is to get married. Family tensions and a desperate search for a husband ensue, with touching, often hilarious, consequences. Don't miss Rachel Griffiths in her film debut as Rhonda, Muriel's quadriplegic new friend.
Velvet Goldmine (1998). Though TC doesn't have a major part, she shines as Brian Slade's (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) ex-wife, Mandy. Gotta love Haynes' homage to David Bowie and Iggy Pop (and of course, who can resist J R-M and Ewan McGregor?).
The Sixth Sense (1999). Collette received her first Oscar nomination (hopefully the first of many!) for her role as the over-worked mother of that kid who saw dead people. She covered up her Aussie twang with a Philadelphia accent and held her own against Bruce Willis and little Haley Joel.
About a Boy (2002). In one of PCC's favorite films of 2002, TC plays the depressed, occasionally suicidal hippie mother of 12 year old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Or, in the words of Hugh Grant's Will, she's a 'barking lunatic'. Labels aside, Collette is brilliant as a mum who truly loves her son, but doesn't always understand him, or herself. [Be sure to read Nick Hornsby's book of the same name, upon with the film is based]
And finally, The Hours (2003). While she only has a supporting role, TC's Kitty Barlowe provides a crucial arena for the audience to learn more about Julianne Moore's Laura Brown (and yes, she gets to kiss JM, which prompted PCC's friend L to exclaim 'oh god, more lesbians!'). Collette is perfect as the vulnerable, yet wary woman who seeks more than friendship from Moore, but isn't quite ready for what she receives.
Cinecultist sat down over IM to discuss the summer blockbuster the Hulk and the consensus was not good for this newest installment in the Stan Lee/Marvel Comics to screen franchise despite its 62 million dollar gross thus far. We discussed the film's lackluster acting, irritating comic book editing style and the confusion over the Hulk's gravity defying pants.
Karen: How much did you dislike the Hulk?
Jordan: SO MUCH
Karen: Wow, all caps.
Jordan: Really, I despised it. Yes, caps were called for.
Karen: I thought it was pretty damn bad too. But, perplexingly so.
Jordan: Yes, I really wanted it to be decent. I liked Ang Lee's framing technique...for about half an hour. And then I was irritated.
Karen: Yeah, K and I couldn't figure out if we thought that was good or not. Interesting but irritating sort of like, we got the idea that it was supposed to be comic book-esque but distracting nonetheless.
Jordan: I think it was the best thing about the film, but it still irritated me.
Karen: Iíd read they spent a lot of time shooting all these angles to get the coverage necessary. But they should have worked on the script instead. (James) Schamus [the scriptwriter and producer] shame on you!
Jordan: Yes, I agree. The dialogue was painful to listen to. Some of the camera work was pretty amazing, and the dissolves were, for the most part, excellent.
Karen: Yeah, I suppose. But I thought it was a little forced in the "Zen-like" qualities of the Hulk. Letís pause for a moment to contemplate the lichen. What was up with that?
Jordan: And what was with Jennifer C.? Did she allergies? People are NOT that weepy all the time --- ummm, connection with nature? Evolution? Self-sustaining? (I think lichens can exist without anything else, they somehow sustain themselves.)
Karen: Some of the scenes she wept from the wrong place. Like they'd put drops in her. I don't think people cry out the corners of their eyes. Tears are supposed to well up and then fall over the cheeks.
Jordan: Yeah, I agree. She has beautiful eyes, but they didn't need to be all teary every second.
Karen: I spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out what makeup they used on her. Eyeliner of some sort, but couldn't determine the color conclusively. White maybe, or pale blue? Something.
Jordan: It was very odd. And her hair seemed to change lengths and texture.
Karen: But can we try to decipher the plot here? Or is it just not worth it?
Jordan: Letís try.
Karen:You go. Iím still at a loss. Something about absorbing ambient energy... Eh?
Jordan: Do we want themes or what happened/plot?
Karen: Whatever. Iím still flabbergasted at the impenetrability.
Jordan: Okay, so crazy Nick wanted to improve on human DNA, somehow make it more resistant to trauma etc. so he experiments on himself, gets his wife pregnant and passes on his Hulk-ness to little Bruce. He gets fired, sets a bomb/explosion thing, goes home, tries to kill Bruce, and ends up turning into the Hulk himself and actually killing his wife when she saves Bruce. Off crazy Nick goes to jail. Bruce grows up. Becomes a scientist. Working with gamma radiation and nanomeds (microscopic medicine?) to try and make cell regeneration work. Doesnít really work. Gets accidentally zapped with the radiation, which make his weird, fucked up DNA "active"...or something. Then Jennifer starts to cry and Bruce looks dense.
Karen: I like your explanation of when it all falls apart. Ok, I think I got all that. Itís just when they try to stop the Hulk but he's unstoppable and then what happens to crazy Nick as the rock man Hulk that I don't get
Jordan: Donít really understand exactly what branch of the military Sam Elliot was in.
Cavalry? What the hell is that?
Karen: Yeah, that sequence, with the helicopters and the ravine, was like King Kong gone very wrong. And why weren't there environmentalists protesting over the senseless disintegration of what surely was a preserved space? Sam Elliot was in the crazy branch of the military, all kinds of crackers in that movie.
Jordan: Okay, here's how I see it: crazy Nick also has fucked up DNA, but his isn't as stable as Bruceís. So, when he zaps himself with radiation, he doesn't become the Hulk, rather some strange, energy-sucking entity whose cells merges and turn into whatever he comes into contact with (metal, rocks, water). He wants to suck up Bruceís Hulk-ness/energy so HE can be the Hulk. I think. And yes, that was a national park they leveled. My mum's been there. He seems like he would be a good mate for Mystique in X-Men.
Karen: See, your mom should have had a picket sign or something out there. But am I wrong in saying that all of this has no narrative logic whatsoever? Like it leaves the realm of sort of plausible and goes somewhere else entirely?
Jordan: Oh, absolutely. Itís a complete blank.
Karen: And that we weren't to expect that? I mean X-Men is far fetched and so is Spiderman but on different plains, no?
Jordan: Well, Spiderman was implausible, but somehow you got sucked in and believed that if a spider bit Tobey, he would eventually become spidery
Karen: Right. It made sense. In comic book world.
Karen: I think it's all this posturing about being scientists that fouls me up. I expect them to be unfailingly reasonable.
Jordan: And Spiderman had definite good guys and bad guys, also a must in comic-book land. I mean, was the Hulk good? Bad? Confused?
Karen: I donít know.
Jordan: I did like the opening science sequence... It was pretty to watch, even though it made no sense.
Karen: Yes. The whole beginning of the film was very tight. But there was this element too to the filmís themes that was pure psychobabble. Like the repressed man just needs to get on the couch to be cured.
Jordan: God, yes. Shall we discuss the acting? Or lack thereof? I wanted to slap Eric Bana. He was so bland and boring. I can read lines better than that.
Karen: But Bana has a nice ass, as we could see. Very shiny.
Jordan: I think they just picked him up off the street after he was arrested for smoking crack.
Karen: His jaw is square too. Does that count for anything? Guess not.
Jordan: No. He's a bit big and beefy for me, more along the lines of Vin Diesel. He looks dumb as toast.
Karen: Now that's dumb
Jordan: And, except for A Beautiful Mind, I like Jennifer. What was she thinking?
Karen: I don't know.
Karen: Sheís pretty but...wow. Talk about phoning it in.
Jordan: I understand wanting to work with Ang Lee, but for god's sake, wait for a better film, woman!
Karen: Now Nick, on the other hand. Was there any scenery he didn't chomp on? What was he exactly? A baboon of some sort?
Jordan: He was crazy.
Karen: My friend S described him as "Norma Desmond" like. I think itís apt.
Jordan: Yes, I can see that.
Karen: But that hairdo -- serious crazy hair.
Jordan: But he was perfect for the part...very mad scientist-esque. I mean, the part sucked, but he did sufficiently nuts.
Karen: But I fear that it's not much of a stretch for him, you know what I mean?
Jordan: Sadly, yes.
Jordan: I think Nick is one of those people I wouldn't want to meet on the street. I think I would be hauling ass the other way. He creeps me out.
Karen:Seriously. Sam Elliot was also completely whack.
Jordan:Yes, yes he was.
Karen: All that growling, it was almost noisier than 2 Fast 2 Furious' cars revving.
Jordan: But he's always growly. Remember the Big Lebowski? Though I agree, his growling was highlighted
Karen:Yeah, but this is a different level of growling. Deeper. Crazier.
Jordan:Crazy cavalry growlin'?
Karen:Something. What else? Iím at a loss. Or should I say lost. In the movie I mean.
Jordan: Well, it was god-awful long, at least it felt that way.
Karen: Dude, way way way too long. 40 minutes, at least, too long.
Jordan: 138 minutes?!!! Thatís crazy.
Karen: Thatís long for Scorsese or something. PT Anderson territory here.
Karen: I think basically our assessment here is Hulk=CRAZY, in caps.
Jordan: Yes, good assessment. Do you think it was worse than Alex & Emma, or can we not compare?
Karen: Different realms of suckage.
Jordan: Yeah, I agree.
Karen: At least Hulk tried. Which almost made it worse.
Jordan: So true.
Karen: Like, Ang meant to make a good movie but somehow the experiment went horribly awry.
Jordan: Did you know he turned down T3 to make this?
Karen: While Rob Reiner just thought we were dumb and would just sit there and take that level of abuse.
Jordan: Good point.
Karen: So, T3 looks like itís going to suck ass too. Iím not looking forward to it. And its ass sucking.
Jordan: True. I like Nick Stahl, though.
Karen: Heís your type of paleness. Needs some serious SPF? Jordanís kind of fellow. Have we abandoned all hope on sorting out the Hulk? Is it unsortable?
Karen: Kaboom, don't mind the plot holes folks, we'll just have some nuclear explosions to distract you...
Jordan: Destroy some Natíl parks; show some bare Australian ass to distract you.
Karen: We were talking a lot about the pants issue today at work, but I think that's the least of the movie's issues.
Jordan: But an intriguing one. They just defied reason.
Karen: Are they on, are they off? Do they expand? Are they made of some sort of spandex? Do they dissolve?
Jordan: I was so confused.
Karen: The whole lack of caring about the Hulkís perspective in relation to everything around him reminded me a lot of King Kong too. Which you can understand explains why the surrealists loved King Kong. But for Hulk that doesn't really work. How big is he exactly?
Jordan: I think he grew. When they shot him.
Karen: Also, what was up with Mr. Sweet Home Alabama? Also crackers?
Jordan: And his streaky hair! He was cute in SHA.
Karen: Does he like Jenny C? Whatís his vendetta about? Is he also a scientist?
Jordan: I think he's military. I think he has a crush-from-afar on Jenny C.
Karen: Why doesn't the beating from the Hulk slow him down more? Does he really think he's getting that pokey thing into the Hulk's head? Logic-less.
Jordan: The hair streaking bleached some brain cells.
Karen: *Snicker* Ok, enough. I wash my hands of the Hulk.
Jordan: Me too.
Karen: We tried.
Jordan: Yup. As the Grinch would say, we puzzled and puzzled until our puzzlers were sore.
Every Friday through September, Rooftop Films will be screening a variety of short and long features on top of a roof in Brooklyn. This is the sort of grassroots screening space that Cinecultist loves to hear about because it's real cinephiles taking to the streets (or roofs) and showing what they want to show, mainstream cinema be damned. Fight the power, and all that. They even have a manifesto. The entrance donation is $6 but they also have a subscription program, and it seems that their programming is quite diverse with evenings devoted to African cinema, movies from Texas and even an anti-American festival on July 4th. Atop the OfficeOps building on 57 Thames Street in Brooklyn sounds like a good place to be during one of these New York summer nights. [via DailyCandy]
Things look good so far for the new Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle movie. A picture courtesy of Reuters from the New York Post at the premier in Mexico City to whet the palette. CC's own "celeb" pictures to come soon (okay fine, it'll just be Cinecultist and friends posing in silly Angels poses) at the proposed screening on Friday.
An annual tradition when Cinecultist lived in Davis, CA a town with *slightly* less cultural opportunity than New York, was the Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation. Held at the Crest Theater in the "historic" part of Sacramento, it was an excuse to get out for a night on the town. Granted CC, as a pretty serious attender of Women's Studies classes in college, shouldn't have been so into the boob-centric humor of S&M's cartoons. CC can't really speak to how good the shorts are (28 this year according to the flyer) but its silly, juvenile fun. That's something we all need from time to time.
This weekend, this year's version comes to the Village East Theater from June 27-July 3. Just a final word to the wise, there are a few entries that rate "the date's all over" on the puke-o-meter, so keep this in mind when choosing your viewing partners. Also, if you missed the viewing dates at your local theater, many past years of Spike & Mike are available on DVD.
What with the new Harry Potter book, the Order of the Phoenix, and obsessively searching for childhood acquaintences on Friendster, Cinecultist has been having difficulty staying focused on the cinema.
But we're going to see the Hulk tonight with K & A and have plans to rewatch both the Heroic Trio and Irma Vep (Maggie Cheung goodness!) on DVD, so your regularly scheduled tirades shall return shortly. Please bear with us through this patch of "technical difficulties."
Things get a little too close for comfort in the plot summary department when it comes to this Hulk write-up in the Post. Looks like other journalists besides Jayson Blair, even those writing about film, know how to creatively cut-n-paste. [via Gawker, via pf.org]
The Criterion collection will release a new DVD of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul on Tuesday, and Cinecultist knows a few Fassbinder fans who are pretty excited about this. The Sunday New York Times ran a nice long article about the film this weekend that's worth checking out.
CC seen this movie a few times, and it really gets better with each viewing. In particular the formal elements, such as the obsessive framing of the doomed lovers by doorways, staircases and other physical intrusions, illuminates the film's themes beautifully. As the Times article points out, Fassbinder was a troubled guy, but watching this movie makes one realize that being fucked up can actually help artistic expression. It is as though through the haze of their unhappy lives, they can see the world more clearly. If you're in a mood to do so, CC would also recommend watching All That Heaven Allows (also on Criterion), the Douglas Sirk film that Fassbinder based Ali on. That's the way CC watched it the first time and it does really contribute to understanding Fassbinder's intentions in his movie.
Just a reminder that the Bryant Park outdoor movie series begins tonight. Since the rain has finally cleared (as of the last time Cinecultist was outside of the a/c today), it might be the perfect evening for a little Bob Redford and Paulie Newman action. If the above picture does not get you in the mood, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, CC doesn't know what will. Be sure to check out the rest of their schedule because picnicing, movies and summer nights are a combination not to be missed.
A question for the (movie) ages -- how can a genre that can be so charming and effervescient at times also be so very bad? Romantic comedies can make you (and when we say you, we mean Cinecultist) thrill to the possibilities of cinema. Or they can make you weep from the sheer number of cliches lobbed in your general direction.
This weekend, Cinecultist watched two rom coms. One which can be considered one of our new all time favorites, Ninotchka. The other which may now tie Three to Tango as the worst romantic comedy of all time, Alex & Emma. Feast or famine, as my mother likes to say.
Greta Garbo, as Soviet diplomat Ninotchka, does her best to escape the siren call of Paris and Melvyn Douglas but she fails miserably. Whether it's the silly hat or his dashing moustache that draws her in, we don't know but Cinecultist couldn't keep her eyes of the great Garbo. She is the most charming one. Granted, Film Forum has its share of noisy, obnoxious patrons (as CC with the opinionated and also charming G discovered) but that's understandable considering the devotion Ernst "the Lube" Lubitsch's movies inspires. With its oh so sophisticated comedic dialogue, Billy Wilder's assured writing hand is all over the script as one liners zing and zang past. Also, Lubitsch sets up these delightful aural jokes where the visualization is left up to the audience but the comedy is clear. Walking out of the theater, CC couldn't help but grin from the pure pleasure of the movie. This is the kind of memorable viewing experience the true cinephile treasures.
Alex and Emma on the other hand, and in particular Ms. Kate Hudson, felt flat like soda left too long open in the fridge. Even the convention of switching between the period story being told and the current time, which can be fun what with the cute costumes and wigs, just seemed desperate. Luke Wilson's character, the novelist who owes the Cuban mob, was completely unlikable. He spews tired literary convention more akin to Jackie Collins than Dostoevsky and all the while Kate sits rapt. Can this steonographer, even with the mousy brown hair and personality probably acquired by correspondence, really be so hard up that the self-absorbed writer looks good to her? Perhaps it's not a good sign when you hope that the lovers don't end up together in the end because to watch the final triumphant kiss would be too cheesy for words. And let CC tell you, the spinning gazebo cross-cutting costumes shot is not worth 10 bucks. Consider CC the martyr who took this one for the team and save yourself.
Here's the final score: Lubitsch/Wilder = 1, Reiner = 0 (or less than).
For her inaugual NetFlix DVD viewing, PCC chose the little-known, but charming Australian comedy Me Myself I, starring one of PCC's favorite actresses at the moment, Rachel Griffiths. The plot is nothing new: successful career woman wonders if she made the right choices in life, i.e. deciding not to become a wife and mum, and then gets to experience how life might have been. What saves the audience from boredom and the face-scrunching puzzlement of 'haven't I seen this before?' is Griffiths' dual performance as Pamela the successful career woman and Pamela, mother of three and wife to Mr. Right. She mixes just the right amount of confusion and resourcefulness for her portrayal of Career Pam who suddenly finds herself being called mum. This is especially apparent in an early scene when, forced to drive her son Douglas to rugby practice, she goes the completely opposite way, but manages to cover up her mistake by asking Doug which way his father usually goes. Hilarious.
PCC was pleased that the film didn't take a stance on which life was 'better'. Over the course of the narrative, we find that Career Pam and Mum Pam are both missing something in their lives. Instead of sending the message that a driven career woman and a mother of three are mutually exclusive, the two Pamelas discover that the two lives can co-exist. All in all, a very sweet, funny film. Another success for the immensely talented Ms. Griffiths. [And with an all-Australian cast, PCC's love of accents was fulfilled!]
Spring, Cinecultist hardly knew ye. (Yes, that's right it is 13 out of 16 weeks now of rainy weekends in New York. Fortunately for cinecultists everywhere, rainy days are good for staying in and watching movies. Or reading the entire Times arts section and listening to movie soundtracks.) [Inspired by the beautiful rain photography on More Than Donuts]
What would the smell of summer blockbuster hype be? Coconut sunscreen flavored popcorn? Anyhow, it's in the air without a doubt. Let's break it down from most bloated to least.
It Must Be Spandex
At least that's the thinking of EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum in regards to how the Hulk's pants stay on when he expands in size. Things in the film's favor: directed by Ang Lee (and supposedly the inspiration for the CGI Hulk's facial expressions), starring the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly (we liked her in Requiem for a Dream). More questionable elements: Nick Nolte doing his crazy man thing and Eric Bana trying to be a superstar. Everyone and their aunt will be there this opening weekend. Will you?
What's it about, From Justin to Kelly? Some say young love blossoming during Spring Break. Cinecultist says, another way for the money whores to cash in on this American Idol fanaticism. We're not on the bandwagon yet, but we did rent On the Line and Crossroads, so it's not like we're not open to being persuaded. And we like musicals.
Sap & More Sap
Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson sap up the big screen with this new Rob Reiner chick flick, Alex & Emma. Cinecultist loves this junk, but it really is terribly cliche of us. Our previous thoughts on the subject say it all.
Not the Sequel to Sandra Bullock Alcoholism Movie
Danny Boyle brings his tale of post-apocalyptic zombies to our side of the pond, 28 Days Later. We like Danny Boyle, despite the Beach debacle but CC is sort of wary of scary movies. Okay, so we refuse to see them for fear of nightmares. CC's former roommate, L, will have to give us a full report because with the creepy looking previews we don't think we can bring ourselves to do it.
Francis Ford Produces
A film perhaps worth seeing for the visuals alone, The Legend of Suriyothai, one that recalls the sweeping spectacles of Cecil B. DeMille. Though drama and narrative continuity may be questionable, how often does one get to watch a film directed by a Thai prince? A.O. Scott gives it a mixed bag but supposedly it's the highest grossing film in Thailand ever and they're already planning the sequel. That could mean something, but we're not sure what.
Can't Get Enough of Claire
The art cinema critic circuit is raving about the newest Claire Denis film, Friday Night, so perhaps this is the best bet for the high art fans. Amy Taubin loved it. Though David Denby did not. Jim Hoberman seems to be torn. Perhaps it's time for you to weigh in.
All in all, avoid J2K and Alex & Emma if you can. PCC will be at Whale Rider and CC will be at Cluny Brown at Film Forum. Full Reports to follow.
Just because we write about movies here at Cinecultist, doesn't mean we have "good" taste. That's our round about way of saying that despite the abysmal tv promos for Alex and Emma, we'll probably see it this weekend. Moviefone has a cute feature comparing the Wilson Brothers (Luke and Owen), whom we think are both adorable. If you haven't seen Bottle Rocket, we recommend it highly as they both star, it's the first Wes Anderson/Owen Wilson collaboration and it's sure to be better than both Alex & Emma and The Big Bounce (Owen's next picture with Morgan Freeman as his co-star) combined.
Just a note of thanks to Aaron at 601am and Jen and Jake at Gothamist, Cinecultist and correspondents headed out to Smithfield last night to meet other NYC bloggers. Boy, are they good people. And serious drinkers to boot. We're already looking forward to the next one. Also, there are pictures (oh the infamy).
Cinecultist has been noticing lately that a lot of bloggers post their Amazon Wish Lists (such as the lovely So Much Modern Time). Except that if you've followed the above link, you can see Cinecultist hasn't worked on her wish list in a while (we already own copies of Pride and Prejudice and 10 Things I Hate About You, just in case you were looking to send us a gift. Hinthint.). As for the Netflix Queue, now that's Cinecultist's recent online obsession du jour and more fitting for Cinecultist.com public airing. Here's a few films soon to be sent to Cinecultist eager DVD player (is it too strange to write in third person and anthropomorphize your electronics?).
Irma Vep (a second viewing of Maggie Cheung in vinyl catsuit. Meow.)
Butterfield 8 (Liz Taylor fest continues)
Happy Together (Tony Leung, *sigh*)
The Straight Story (David Lynch as a G-rated director? Intriguing)
Andrei Rublev (always wanted to see it)
The Lady From Shanghai (Orson, do it to me one more time)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australian new wave)
Heavenly Creatures (More Australian auteurism)
Mommie Dearest (No More Wire Hangers! Need to see the whole thing through after catching the end on tv)
Faces (Cassavettes classic that's still on the to see list)
Cinecultist thinks she's left years of her life in the aisles of Blockbuster wandering around figuring out what to watch. Now, we have a handy-dandy way to keep track of what we've been meaning to see and it arrives in our mailbox, no less. Not to be a commericial for the service or anything, but we love it. Check it out if you haven't yet.
Back in the day, Cinecultist lurved Grease. It was the one that we wanted, ooh-ooh-ooh-honey. We also lurved Grease 2. Michelle Phieffer, we hardly knew ye. But now this American Idol movie, From Justin to Kelly, loosely based on the campy period teenage hormonal fun of Grease freaks us out. We just don't understand the hype. Fortunately, we have the Morning News writer, Sarah Hepola to explain things to us. Her photos and first hand account of a Kelly appearance at the movie theater where Kelly used to work in Burleson, Texas give an intersting insight into the phenomenom of these home-grown celebs.
You can also check out the movie's flash-tastic site, but don't expect any further information other than: Justin meets Kelly at Spring Break, they dance and sing and fall in love and stuff. Go greased lightening go!
The Times reports today on the attempts by University of Southern California's Entertainment Technology Center to make digital projection a viable option for theaters. First, there's the discussion of picture quality -- how to make the thing sharp enough so that it surpasses the beauty of a pristine 35 mm print. Then the issues revolving around distribution -- do you use a hard drive? a feed? what if people hack your feed?
Sure, movie watchers are becoming more and more enamored by the digital tech in DVDs and HDTV, and in our linear way of thinking about technology new does equal better. Why wouldn't we want to see (eventually) the demise of film for digital? Is this really the most profound advancement the industry has seen in a long time? Not one to hamper progress, Cinecultist is not certain that's what digital projection will be. The image as is now, just is not superior. Just because it might be possible to achieve this technique does not mean it would be better for the art of filmmaking. Actually, what would we call it, if now we're not really using film? A strange conundrum indeed.
Here at Cinecultist, we have a few actors that we love in *slightly* unhealthy way. Jake Gyllenhaal. Ingrid Bergman. Nicole Kidman. And of course, international superstar and serious hunk of a man, Alain Delon.
We just found out that Lincoln Center has a few lovely weeks in July programmed with a series of his films, and Cinecultist plans to be there with something to wipe up the drool. Though it's still early, we wanted to let you know the schedule's up so you can head over there to start planning your activities around the screenings. Not to worry, we'll remind you when it gets a bit closer too.
Dirty clean cops, strung-out straight cops, cop killers and killer cops all seem oddly at home in Joe Carnahan's explosive debut film, Narc. Jason Patric, with scruffy hair and an ever-present knit cap, plays Det. Nick Tellis, an undercover narcotics officer with the Detroit PD who is assigned to a cop killing after screwing up a drug bust while high on assignment.
Patric is investigating the murder of Mike Calvess, also a narc, and is partnered with the dead man's partner, Henry Oak, played by Ray Liotta (or Liotta plus a little extra: the actor reportedly put on at least 25 pounds for the part of a beefy detective and it shows!). Without giving away the ending, PCC will only say that each of the twists and turns are believable, lulling the viewer into feeling superior for piecing together the puzzle until...wham! new evidence is discovered and you're back on the edge of your seat, scrambling to keep up.
Carnahan, who is helming the third Mission: Impossible installment as well as a film about the life and crimes of Pablo Escobar, has a surprising ability to balance quiet moments, such as Patric's interactions with his infant son, and in-your-face police violence with amazing ease. The editing, reminiscent of the quick cuts used in the crime flashbacks in Se7en, is extrememly fast, yet somehow avoids coming off as the cliched spawn of an MTV music video. The mini-flashbacks aren't showy: they're effective and keep your eyes glued to the screen.
Overall, PCC was thoroughly impressed with Carnahan's directing, as well as the acting. Always a fan of Mr. Liotta, regardless of size, PCC thought his portrayal of a cop on the edge was excellent, even though PCC would run like hell if she encountered said cop in a dark alley. Mr. Patric (yes, the one who ran off with Julia after she dumped poor Keifer at the altar) was also an excellent choice for Tellis, a good cop who couldn't always keep it together, yet could never really admit he'd lost it.
Cinecultist decided to head over to Film Forum tonight to check out one of the Touch of Lubitsch double features. They're still playing Trouble in Paradise, but only during the day, at night they are showing two movies back to back for the price of one admission starting with the silent features.
After purchasing a ticket, CC went to stand in the line outside and ran into co-worker J. This man knows some serious trivia about old films, is obsessed with the Criterion collection DVDs and a really nice person to boot. He was waiting with another man, who he said he knew "from the movies." After waiting a bit more, we were joined by a third friend, an independent filmmaker, who said they expected to see another friend who was already inside watching the earlier screening. All of these film people J seemed to know only from the film viewing circuit here in New York. It made CC realize she's now plugged into this hub of pretentious film people who attend these festivals and screenings, wait in line with a film book, or run into someone they know who likes to discuss Kubrick or Ozu or Hitchcock. It's like a non-internet Pretentious Film Friendster.
By the way, CC really loved the silent feature, the Oyster Princess. Spoiled brat heiress (she's so happy she wrecks the house!) meets penniless Prince Nucki (pronounced "Nookie") but only after various silly machinations. At one point, a musician plays an unusual instrument -- a fat man that he repeatedly slaps, until the fat man strikes back. Priceless! So, I guess CC will be spending some considerable time at Film Forum in the next few weeks. Maybe we'll see you there.
Often the interests and styles of theater critics and film critics overlap, but in a good way, so that practitioners of both disciplines can learn from each other. Cinecultist grew up, like many current critics, reading Pauline Kael in the New Yorker but also voraciously consumed the theater reviews by Dorothy Parker. Catty and witty queens can be appreciated all around for their ability to entertain and persuade whether they're writing about the stage or screen.
In this interview on mediabistro today, the Times's chief theater critic Ben Brantley touches on the intersection between film and theater writing. He has particular experience in this, having written about film for Elle (yes, fashion mags also can have good critics on their staffs) before writing for the New Yorker and then the Times. Bentley makes an interesting comment about the way that people lament the loss of a "golden age" of an art form, but really we remember things selectively. Arts industries usually put out crud and genius at the same time. It is all business as usual. This is equally true of filmmaking and theater productions. (But that still doesn't mean that CC has any plans to go see Hairspray.)
"Broadway of late has certainly pandered out of a sense of desperation more than it used to, but if you look back to the theater reviews of the turn of the 20th century, you'll find a lot of the complaints made about Broadway then that are also being made todayóthat the shows we see are basically circuses or mere displays of technology. The so-called golden era of Broadway was actually pretty short-lived. We are always lamenting its decline and saying it is no good now, but I don't necessarily think that is anything new. Theater in general is certainly less glamorous than when I first came to New York as a kid, but I am also looking at it through adult eyes. I sit through some bad stuff, but when I get to sit through some of the good stuff, it is still rewarding like nothing else."
Just to show that not everyone can be a film critic, former New York city mayor, Ed Koch has a reviews column in The Villager. Last week, Koch told New York to see L'Auberge Espagnole (which CC liked too but not for it's "surreal quality") and The Italian Job ("far better than 85% of the films released during the last three weeks") but not A Woman Is A Woman. Are you kidding me? By pass one of Godard's classics? Has he no sense of humor? Has he no sense of cinema history? CC is flabergasted. [via 601am]
Everytime CC turns on the television these days, we seem to be inundated with commercials for this series on Turner Classic Movies channel, the Essentials. Hosted by Sydney Pollack, director, producer, actor and generally creepy old man (see Eyes Wide Shut's pool room scene one too many times and you'll agree), its a repeating series of movies shown every Sunday through December chosen by the channel and Pollack as essential viewing for the movie buff.
Here at CC we love lists -- they're so much fun to compile and so much fun to refute. These are the movies on Pollack's list, what would you add or subtract?
Let Cinecultist know via an e-mail, so we can compile our own essentials. (Pollack appears to agree with the famous Peter Bogdanovich sentiment that there are no good movies made after the '70s or made in any other language than English. Can we be more inclusive?)
Turner Classic Movies channel has answered the call for a Gregory Peck tribute festival. Airing today, TCM features a number of Peck classics, including Moby Dick, MacArthur and The Paradine Case. To check out the schedule to set the VCR or TiVo, go to their site. Happy (and mournful) viewing!
In the Internet Movie Database's most recent edition of Movie, TV and Celebrity news, there was a quote from Monica Bellucci (Malena, Irreversible, The Matrix Reloaded) that PCC thinks deserves to be repeated. With all the recent publicity surrounding Renee Zellwegger's announcement of her impending weight gain for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Ms. Bellucci's comments on "childish American actresses" who are "afraid to be real women" is right on the mark. PCC finds it hard to imagine that Renee could look as good as Ms. Bellucci in the skin-tight white dress the latter wore as Persephone in The Matrix Reloaded. PCC can picture said dress falling off the skeleton that tries to pass itself off as a woman. Hooray for Monica Bellucci and her curves!
In honor of actually being in a place where there's SUN, aka Los Angeles, (watching the Today show this morning for a few moments, Cinecultist only felt a little sad for those saps watching Annie Lennox in the rain. In June. Damn Mother Nature), CC thought would scope out the news in some Left Coast publications.
Hollywood Reporter reports today that Chicago director Rob Marshall is first in line for helming the adaptation of the best selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha. CC read Memoirs a few years ago, and liked it but was worried about rumors that Spielberg was set to helm. The film should be beautiful, with all the swirling kimonoes and graceful tea houses, which Steve might have been able to carry off, but CC worried about it not having the novel's slightly bitter edge of objectified women screwed by this ancient system. Marshall could be good, he knows how to photograph spectacle and from his background as a theater director has a visual sense of flair.
Mel Gibson told Variety today that "To be certain, neither I nor my film is anti-Semitic," which is a relief to Cinecultist. Since the Times had reported that Gibson's father has beliefs not endorced the Roman Catholic church and is a Holocaust denier. Eeep, that's not good. There was worry then, that Mel's new film The Passion, about the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, would place blame for the crucifixion on the Jews. But Gibson assures everyone, he doesn't hate anyone and certainly not the Jews. His hatred of the British, though, after Braveheart's smearing, is still up for discussion.
And in the LA Times, Manohla Dargis answers questions about movies from readers in a weekly column. This week's weighs in on a few important issues, Dargis's feelings about Marnie (likes it, but likes it less than North by Northwest, Vertigo and Shadow of a Doubt), why she panned Eddie Murphey's newest (things are down for Gumby but she liked Bowfinger) and how to go about being a film critic.
The best advice I can give you is to watch as many movies as you can - the more you watch, the more you learn. But don't limit yourself to new American stuff; get beyond the 1970s and make a study of the golden age of Hollywood (roughly 1930 through the 1950s). Just as important, watch every type of movie from every corner of the world, from traditional hot spots like France, Italy and Japan to the newer must-see cinemas of Iran, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. Watch a lot, read a lot, keep an open mind and never worry what other people (especially other critics) think about movies. They're usually wrong.
Solid advice, CC thinks. Thanks to the City of Angels for the new perspective.
In addition to CC's admirable list of must-see Gregory Peck films, PCC wishes to add one more, Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 film, Spellbound. Coming in a close second for PCC's favorite Hitch films of all time (trailing only the marvelous Notorious, 1946), Spellbound pairs Peck with the supremely talented Ingrid Bergman, as an amnesiac doctor/murder suspect and a frigid psychoanalyst, respectively. Though the film is a bit heavy on psychoanalysis (supposedly producer David O. Selznick wanted the film to be based on his own experiences in therapy...control issues, anyone?), the lead performances are magnificent. Only Peck could make a suspected murder look so sexy, yet vulnerable. It's no wonder that Bergman's Dr. Petersen began to thaw when Peck's John Ballantine came on the scene. In addition to the strong performances by Peck and Bergman, the film also boasts an incredible dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali. Though PCC does not yet own it (due to the steep price), the Criterion Collection reissue of Spellbound looks amazing, with special features such as an illustrated essay on the Dali dream sequence and hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos and publicity material for the film. If you don't want to shell out $40 just yet for the Criterion DVD, rent the regular one and you won't be sorry.
As Cinecultist flew high over the "middle states" today, en route to Los Angeles (yes, we're a real bi-coastal site) we discovered via DirecTv on Jet Blue that acting legend Gregory Peck died today, at the age of 87.
Looking back at this amazing actor's filmography, it makes CC sad and happy at the same time. Sad that he's gone but so happy that he bestowed upon us so many wonderful roles. Perhaps we should all take a moment of silence, (*sigh*) and then start planning the retrospectives.
Some pictures that must be included:
To Kill A Mocking Bird -- voted just recently by American Film Institute as the greatest hero of all time, Peck plays Atticus Finch, the idealistic lawyer from the South based on the classic novel. A phenominal performance in a truly compelling film.
Roman Holiday -- Audrey Hepburn's debut as a princess let loose on Rome would not be the cinematic milestone it is without Peck, as the slightly corrupt journalist on the make who falls for Hepburn's innocence and charm. The scene at the Mouth of Truth is one for the ages.
Peck also starred in a version of Moby Dick and a number of westerns, war films as well as The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, the original Cape Fear (as well as a cameo in Scorsese's version) and horror classic, the Omen.
Eldred Gregory Peck is survived by his wife, Veronique, his children, and mournful women (and men) everywhere.
As Friday rolls around again, it's time for Cinecultist to weigh in on the weekly batch of cinematic fare Hollywood and beyond is serving up for us. As usual, there is a mixed bag, and CC correspondents would feel remis if they were not to provide proper warning of the almost certain duds that will lurk in your local multiplex. This weekend appears to be the calm before the storm of true summer blockbusters roll in, starting next week with Ang Lee's The Hulk. But here are a few things to catch, and a few to avoid unless paid vast sums of money (preferably in the hundreds of thousands).
WHAT TO SPEND TEN DOLLARS ON
Film Forum kicks off its Ernst Lubitsch festival this Friday, which lasts until July 3rd. Be sure to catch Lubitsch's tale of two thieves, Trouble in Paradise, showing Friday through next Thursday.
In the limited release category, there are two, albeit wildly different, options.
Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams (we've missed you since Rushmore!) and Paul "Mr. Jennifer Connelly" Bettany team up in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's The Heart of Me. Bonham Carter and Williams play sisters, one of whom marries Bettany and the other has an affair with him, with the expected dire British consequences. Shocking!
From Down Under, we have Rachel Grifiths and Guy Pearce in Scott Robert's The Hard Word. Not only is this a gangster film, Aussie style, it boasts two excellent Australians unadorned with fake American accents (though RG plays a believable Yank in Six Feet Under and GP had no problem blending into middle-America in Memento). Accents or no accents, this film looks promising.
AND NOW, WHAT TO WATCH ONLY IF A)FORCED AT GUNPOINT OR B)100 DEGREE WEATHER AND A BROKEN AIR CONDITIONER NECESSITATE IT
Even though he may vaguely resemble the Indiana Jones we know and love, Cinecultist implores you to stay away from Hollywood Homicide. For reasons unknown (can anyone say money?), Harrison Ford and Josh "Unibrow" Hartnett have teamed up for a lame buddy cop film whose previews make PCC cringe. Sadly, it appears that Han Solo has joined the Dark Side.
And finally, a movie that can't even manage to have a grammatically correct title, Cinecultist does not recommend Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd. CC correspondents are trying to ignore the fact that a certain Mr. Eugene Levy costars in this disasterous prequel. Perhaps those eyebrows clouded his judgement. Just remember that the original stars, Jim and Jeff, and the original directors, the Farrelly Bros., stayed away from this one. Beware!
One of the biggest publicity aspects of the push to promote the film Bridget Jones's Diary was the story on Renee Zellewegger's battle to gain weight for the role. This really gets Cinecultist hoping mad, and she can't believe the brouhaha has begun again.
First off, in Chicago and then in Down with Love, the allegedly "normal sized" Renee looks literally emasciated. CC walked out of DWL and wanted to find Renee so she could force feed her a baked potato. Girl needed some carbohydrates, and STAT. Following the release of the first Bridget movie, Renee posed in an elaborate spread for Vogue magazine, where she wore a variety of couture outfits made especially for her prior to that year's Fashion Week. As though to prove to the world of fashion and celebrity that objects may appear larger on the silver screen. Since then, she has seemed to be the incredible shrinking woman.
The reasons all of this media posturing irk CC so much are two fold. One) it goes against all that Helen Fielding's creation of Bridget Jones stands for. Bridget is against all the fuckwittage that revolves around women being told to be a certain size by society, and though she stresses out about it, she comes to realize she shouldn't when achieving her ideal weight means she has less fun. Two) CC used to like Renee, back when she was this indie actress from Texas. She was down to earth, talented and cute despite being compared in looks to Jewel one too many times. Now she's all about free meals at Nobu and making faces like a constipated Marilyn Monroe. Doesn't she know Marilyn was a size 16?
Edge of Reason is a pretty funny sequel to a wonderful character and CC really doesn't want to see it tarnished by Renee's lame behavior. Shape up girl, that's all we have to say about it.
Following closely on his passing in March, the Criterion Collection releases today a compilation DVD of some masterworks by avant garde visionary Stan Brakhage.
Good things about a Criterion release -- extra features. The two discs include an interview with the director, and an essay by Brakhage expert Fred Camper along with 26 films remastered. Bad thing about Criterion -- price. But if you're a Brakhage fan, CC supposes that wouldn't bother.
For those like CC who've seen a few select films, this seems like a good tutorial in the ways of this New York icon as a rental. It includes his hand drawn and hand painted works like Mothlight and also, some of CC's favorites his psychological black and whites such as Dog Star Man. Maybe it seems sort of wrong to objectify a dead artist, but hey, CC does it to the young Orson Welles (we're thinking Orson as the young Charles Foster Kane circa the tabloid newsman days. Yum)! Stan has the same appeal, clean-cut beatnik in white button down and skinny black tie. It is a look that works for CC. For those who've seen Window Water Baby Moving, in which Stan graphically films his wife giving birth, they might find it difficult to find a cute a man who'd do this to his poor birthing wife. But that's all still up for debate.
[Ed. note -- For now By Brakhage does not appear as a selection on Netflix, but should be coming soon. Until then, check out Kim's Video or your local indie acquivalent.]
This sort of saddens CC, even though as Norton points out to Page Six, his private life is his own business. CC thought they looked really cute together when she watched them interact on Saturday Night Live from the plebian bleachers in March. Ed's very tall and Salma's very short but if he'd be willing to wear a bad '80s hair band wig as well as fake an English accent for an openning monologue schtick, this seems like love to CC. Good luck kids, CC hopes you can work things out.
The good people at Gawker reminded us this morning that BAM is screening Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar tonight as part of the Village Voice Best of 2002. How could we have almost missed this, one of Cinecultist's favorite movies of last winter?
The times are 4:30, 6:50 and 9:10pm. To get to BAM from Manhattan, take the 4, 5, 2, 3, or Q train to 30 Lafayette Street between Ashland and St. Felix. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we'll remind you the film stars Samantha Morton as a young Scottish woman who's boyfriend kills himself just before Christmas. Instead of reporting his death, she covers it up (in a particularly grizzly fashion) and takes off for vacation in Spain with her friend. Your usual conceptions of morality, character causation and interiority in movies are suspended here. Prepare to have your world rocked. Enough of a recommendation for you?
If you're not in the New York area, CC supposes you'll have to wait for it to come out on DVD. Or you can consol yourself with the excellent soundtrack available online.
Woody Allen is the sort of director who polarizes people -- you either love him to death, pattern your mannerisms around him and fetishize New Yawk like he does OR you think he's a dirty old man, over-rated director and generally ick. Cinecultist happens to fall into the former category but until recently, had given up on the Wood-man's current work which seemed to be mostly miss.
The man's getting up there in age, 68 this December, and frankly, its just creepy to see him paired with the young and not so young engenue's of Hollywood. Also, real fans of his films tend to just ignore his private life (sort of like Democrats who support Clinton) which seems to be the best policy in terms of appreciating his quirky sensibility. If CC does not fault Woody for some of his characters onscreen ticks, knowing they are part of the albeit flawed yet charming package, then its best to carry this attitude over into the whole view of the man.
If you're looking to get reaquainted with his pictures, might CC suggest Small Time Crooks, a relatively recent production from 2000. Woody plays a paroled bank robber who convinces his manicurist wife, played by Tracy Ullman, to open a cookie shop two doors down from a bank so he and his buddies can tunnel underneath into the vault. Of course, things go hilariously awry. Elaine May, who is one of cinema's most brilliant writers and comedians, plays his dumb cousin and the movie is worth watching for her performance alone. Tracy's also great as is Michael Rapaport, an Allen regular also in Mighty Aphrodite.
While Woody Allen may not be making the series of masterworks that he did as a younger man, its still too early to write him off as a director of merit when he can still churn out Small Time Crooks and Sweet and Lowdown.
Which taudry summer fare will receive our hard earned cash this weekend? Cinecultist weighs in on the contenders like Don King (with less hair but more attitude).
In this corner we have -- THE SCHLOCKY SEQUEL:
2 Fast 2 Furious: CC's editorial board is torn on the issue of Vin Diesel. One member after seeing Pitch Black found that they'd see anything with him in it, knowing they'd be disappointed. Another, after seeing the same performance, liked him too well to be suckered into any further disappointing roles. Verdict on this installment? It stars no Vin, only lame Paul Walker and has no discernable plot. Tough sell.
In the opposite corner -- OSCAR WINNER'S NEW OUTING:
CC drool object du jour, Adrien Brody stars in a new release made in 2001 and a romantic comedy to boot. What's it about? Who knows/who cares. It's called Love the Hard Way. If Adrien can charm us to distraction in a Ken Loach picture (Bread and Roses -- rent it), we're up for his foray into the chick genre.
Wild card competitors:
Capturing the Friedmans. A docu about a family torn apart by scandal who also happened to record most of it on home video. The New Yorker's David Denby called it a "masterpiece," which is a loaded term so tred with caution.
Whale Rider. Sundance darling. Girl power. Pretty whales. Sounds good to us.
Projected Knock-out -- SATURDAY CHEAP MATINEE BABY:
Audrey Tatou in a film about the EU version of year abroad. Cute young Europeans get it on -- like American Pie but with accents. Woohoo. L'Auberge Espagnole.
PCC isn't quite sure why she rented Misery. Perhaps it was a subconscious desire to see the talented Ms. Kathy Bates in something other than the previously railed upon "comic tragedy", Love Liza. Perhaps it was because of the previous night's viewing of AFI's wonderfully mindless '100 Heroes, 100 Villains' special, where Bates' Ms. Wilkes ranked number 17 (amusingly paired with Mr. Clint's 'heroic' Dirty Harry). Regardless the reason, PCC sprawled on her couch in her un-airconditioned house in the 90+ degree heat and watched crazed Annie torture poor James Caan for two hours. If PCC was a)employed in 1990 when the film was released and b)working in Hollywood writing taglines for films, she's pretty sure Misery's would have something to do with Kathy Bates, remote cabins and a big ol' can of whup-ass. Sadly, at the tender age of 8, PCC was not in the running for any jobs other than perhaps manning a lemonade stand.
While Misery focuses on an obsessive fan of romance novels, PCC would hazard a guess that there are just as many film nut-jobs out there today plotting ways to get their favorite actor/actress/director to arrive, bruised and beaten, on their doorstep, where they could then "nurse them back to health". Sure, most of us cinephiles are normal folk, with the occasional star crush or favorite director of the moment, and we wouldn't dream of hobbling our own personal Adrien Brodys or Martin Scorseses with a sledge hammer. But PCC bets that on the fringes of the land of imaginary star boyfriends and girlfriends lurk those people who would, at a moment's notice, turn their spare bedroom- in the backwoods cabin they were saving for just such a kidnapping moment- into a prison for their favorite star. Of course, these weirdos are a small minority of the film-going public. But if PCC ever becomes a famous [fill in the blank], she will steer clear of any slightly frumpy middle-aged women proclaiming to be PCC's "number one fan".
What a radical concept! Some of Cinecultist's best friends are... oh, who are we kidding? Homosexuals making great movies is nothing new under the sun and this year's New Fest, kicking off this weekend, shows just how far we've come baby.
Peruse the entire schedule for all the events but CC wants to point out in particular an evening curated by two of her favorite film scholars, the incomperable Mai Kiang and the brilliant Zhang Zhen who have brought Hong Kong lesbian director Yau Ching to discuss some of her work, including her newest feature, Let's Love Hong Kong.
The Q&A with the director led by Kiang and Zhang will be Sunday, June 15 from 3-6pm at 721 Broadway room 656. The feature film makes its debut Saturday, June 14 at 10:15pm at the Tishman Auditorium of The New School, 66 W 12th St (between 5th/6th Aves).
Be sure to check this out, it promises to be enriching.
In honor of our partly sunny skies and increased humidity here in NYC, CC went to check out the schedule for one of her favorite summer activities -- outdoor movies.
Bryant Park, on 42nd street and 6th Avenue is a great locale for an evening under the stars at the cinematheque and this summer's schedule has some not to be missed flicks.
To kick off the series on June 23, a Western featuring some of the cutest cowboys to ever wear spurs, Robert Redford and Paul Newman star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A few other worthy selections -- The Lady from Shanghai (oooh, Orson. June 30). A PCC Hitchcock fav Shadow of a Doubt (July 21), the previously recommended by CC Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (July 28). An Elvis classic Jailhouse Rock (Aug. 18) and a movie CC seen a few times 2001: A Space Odyssey (Aug. 25).
Check out the schedule for further films starting on Mondays at Sunset.
Sorry folks, CC's a little behind today on the gossip news. We've been trying to keep up on the growing snaps-fest between director Vincent Gallo and critic Roger Ebert but the lame come-backs have been flying 2 fast and 2 furious for us.
Here's the latest links for those so inclined.
Ebert calls Gallo dumb and the video of his colonoscopy better than Brown Bunny.
Gallo calls Ebert a "hamhock" and challenges him to an IQ contest.
Stay tuned for more sad sad breaking news. [via Gawker]
Also of interest: the Village Voice's Mark Peranson weighs in on Gallo's film with a thoughtful review/report. Ok, so Gallo's nuts, but he's artistic nuts. Does this make him less dangerous? Or more?
For sad souls like CC, a new film journal is cause for rejoicing. 'Specially when we know people who write for it. And when we've been asked to contribute.
Check out the site for Reverse Shot, said new bi-monthly journal, its a nice looking little site. They've been distributing their wares at the Tribeca Film Festival and rumor has it that next issue's contributors include Kent Jones from Film Comment and fabu French critic, Michel Chion. Sweet. The current issue covers director Steven Speilberg -- controversial Hollywood-mainstream auteur.
On a rainy Tuesday night, Cinecultist pulled out her trusty little black dress and headed down to the Lincoln Center for the Young Friends of Film tribute to Ethan Hawke after party. Here's a few things that we saw:
Some celebs -- Ethan obviously (in tux, looking a little gaunt with his Auschwitz-chic hair do), Vincent D'Onofrio (sexy/creepy as ever, story is he arrived 20 minutes early, then insisted upon waiting downstairs in his car labeled "Law and Order" until more celebs arrived), Steve Zahn (adorable, the hit of the tribute), director Richard Linklater (nice goatee, almost asked him to "hook a girl up with Willy Wiggins' digits. But didn't.), Robert Sean Leonard (three first names - no waiting, wearing a weird jean jacket with the title of his current play on the back, geeky-chic?).
Notably absent -- Uma. What couldn't find a babysitter? Shooting a film? Not a fan of your husband's early work like Mystery Date?
Mostly, CC stood around inhailing the free food (here's how you know you're an adult: will put things in your mouth without really knowing the ingredients) and drink while chatting with some good people from Film Comment. By the way, CC likes Tanqueray, they must have co-sponsored the event along with Guess because by the end of the evening the gin and tonics were more gin than tonic.
To cap off the evening, CC took home one of the goody bags which included --
A catalog of Guess clothing (mostly arty pictures of slutty looking girls), copy of Film Comment featuring Renee Zellweger on the cover, copy of Ethan's book, Ash Wednesday, copy of NFT: Not For Tourist's Guide to New York City, a free yoga class at Practice Yoga on W. 83rd, 25% off my next Guess purchase, a Guess pocket calendar, discount at Solo Fitness, $100 off my next purchase of $350 at Michael C. Fina on Fifth Ave, the Wall Street Journal Online 60 day site subscription and a tin of Guess mints flavor cinnamon. Item we'll probably use the most -- those cinnamon mints.
Third time's the charm here at Cinecultist. Two other times CC thought she might pop by the old Film Forum to catch up on this Spellbound movie (not the Hitchcock one where Gregory Peck's insane and Ingrid Bergman has to cure him) but it was sold out. As it finishes its run on Tuesday, CC bought a ticket online for a screening today after work and is now ready to report on the hype which has surrounded this little documentary.
The film follows eight middle school children who spend their every waking moment memorizing words for their local and regional spelling bees and are now on their way to the national competition in Washington D.C. The movie sells itself as slice of Americana with the children hailing from all sorts of regions, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, but fortunately for CC's stomach, it doesn't partake in this Bush II-level hypocritical flag-waving sort of patriotism. You really have to admire the pluck and determination these kids have and surprisingly, the parents come across as mostly just supportive and not Mama Rose-esque. Actually, of all the kids I think I liked the spaz-y boy, Harry, who misspells "banns" the best. He keeps insisting that he missed it because the judge mispronounced the word for him.
In conclusion, lines around the block at Film Forum? Worth it.
Two Cinecultist correspondents watched Finding Nemo this weekend, then they had an IM chat about it.
Karen: so, then. Finding Nemo? Whatíd you think?
Jordan: I really liked it.
Jordan: a nice fluffy response, surely the kind you were looking for.
Karen: yeah, that basically says it all.
Jordan: I wish Pixar was around when I was watching all those Disney movies when I was a kid, their animation is amazing.
Karen: but itís not just the animation, itís the story and the characters and the voices. Itís all so amazing.
Jordan: yeah, I like that the characters actually have different facial expressions, not just stock expressions. And they actually resemble the actors who are voicing them.
Karen: I like that about it as well. Although, do you think we read more into that because we can identify the voice's star persona?
Jordan: as opposed to people who don't know either who Albert Brooks is or that he's doing the voice?
Karen: right. But more so, I thought, with Ellen DeGeneres's voice and that her standup has such a distinctive, innocent point of view that translated so well into that character of Dory.
Jordan: yes, I agree. I think the connections that one can -- but doesn't necessarily have to- make between character and actor worked to the film's advantage. I agree that ED's star persona was a perfect match for Dory.
Karen: a review I read, said that they thought Albert Brooks played a similar character of Marlin to the one he has in the In-Laws only Finding Nemo's version was better. Why do you think that happens? Wouldnít you think a less diluted version would be played out by the actor's real face? Or does that just show that Pixar had a better script, editor, etc?
Jordan: I think that in Nemo, and in any well-animated film, the voice/face isn't the only thing that carries a character. I think in this case, In-Laws vs. Nemo, that Pixar was able to integrate Brooks' voice into their visual landscape, so that his voice helped to strengthen what we saw, and vice versa, rather than in a live-action film like In-Laws where Brooks' face and voice had to do all the work.
Karen: how do you feel about digital animation versus hand-drawn? Do you think the difference can be measured, or deemed pejorative? ĎCause Iím torn on the topic.
Jordan: me too. On the one hand, Iím amazed at what can be done with digital animation, how 'real' it looks. But I suppose Iím a bit old-fashioned too, since I like to think of animation as something that literally comes from pen and paper (or animation cell, whatever) But Iím not against digital animation either, as contradictory as that may seem.
Karen: some examples of hand drawn animation that I thought were quite evocative were last summer's Lilo and Stitch and the Iron Giant. There, the style was in the hyper drawn look of the figures.
Karen: but what Pixar does is really beautiful too, its style is distinctive and pleasing.
Jordan: Iíd say then that the difference need not be pejorative, merely different, since I loved Lilo and Stitch.
Karen: I think what makes Lilo and Nemo both so great (besides their rhyming names) is that they both had a sense of an artistic vision. A cohesive concept behind the story, images and characterization that helped the whole thing along.
Jordan: yes, I agree. I also think what set them apart was the fact that they were smart. I know, ironically, that sounds dumb. But I think they were much more multi-layered than the standard Disney fare, and, since we both liked them, appealed to a wider age range than just grade-schoolers
Karen: but that's interesting that you grouped together "Disney fare" as a demarcation of bad animation when Lilo was made by Disney and Pixar is also a subsidiary of Disney. I think the mouse has become an evil force too, but then again they have the funding...
Jordan: yes, but I don't think that L&S or Nemo are examples of 'Disney fare'. I think the upcoming Sinbad or Brother Bear are more along the lines of the cookie-cutter Disney product. But it's true that the mouse does have the money...such a dilemma
Jordan: even though L&S and Nemo are made under the banner of 'Disney'.
Karen: yeah, itís problematic. I group animation this way too, Disney v. non-Disney but I don't think it can be too easy. Maybe itís about the producers. Because Titan A.E. stank and that wasn't a Disney, it was Don Bleuth and 20th Century Fox that put it out.
Karen: so, what else did you like about Nemo? Any dislikes?
Jordan: I liked all the little side characters. They had such personality. I especially enjoyed the sea gulls and the little French cleaning crab in the tank.
Karen: yeah, the gulls were great. They do sound like they say "mine, mine, mine..."
Karen: Iím not sure how I feel about so many animated movies killing parents. Do they really have to do that?
Karen: I imagine it must be traumatic for certain 4 foot viewers.
Jordan: it does seem to be a common theme in animated films to kill off mommy or daddy. but it seems to happen in a great deal of kids films in general, not just animated ones.
Karen: yes, I can understand with movies about teenagers that they can't really do anything with the parents there, but for little kid films it just seems sort of mean.
Jordan: And it seems more common to kill off both parents rather than just one.
Karen: I know my brother (age 6) is very sensitive to this kind of thing. But animation always has an inherent sense of violence in it, the slapstick element, but real bodily harm to the characters we like seems to be around every corner in Nemo.
Jordan: yes, my Mother kept whispering to me "what if Marlin dies too? What if Nemo dies?"
Karen: you could sort of imagine that it might happen in this movie. But then again, I worried that the main guy character in Amelie might die the first time I saw it. Maybe itís just the sign of a film that's really working on us.
Jordan: yeah, I think that's probably it.
Karen: shall we wrap this up? Anything else you want to comment on?
Jordan: no, I think Iíve commented to my heart's content. Just an overall thumbs up.
Karen: from me as well. Good little movie.
Jordan: quite so.
Just when you thought gossip about Cannes might die down... Page Six reports today that director Vincent Gallo has taken off the white gloves re: Roger Ebert and his report that Gallo apologized for his film panned at Cannes (he.he. that rhymes!), Brown Bunny.
Gallo calls Ebert "a fat pig" (as evidence Page Six prints a picture of the critic to accompany the story? Ouch.), claims he was very pleased with the final product, says his quotes were made up, and apologizes for not being a "minority." Can we say, Cashed-the-Distribution-Rights-Check-Already? Gallo has the right to be provocative and/or a jerk but doesn't he have some sort of publicist counciling him not to piss off one of the widest-read critics in middle America? If I were Ebert I would not conscience this flagrant name calling. I see a serious throw-down on the horizon here. [via Gawker]
While wandering through the aisles of the video store last night, PCC came upon one of those films that always prompts the normally shy and non-confrontational PCC to jump up onto the nearby counter, a la Sally Field in Norma Rae, and demand that everyone in the store drop whatever they have in their hand and rent the film PCC is waving above her head (almost the same as demanding a union, right? uh huh.).
PCC thinks that she is the only person she has ever met who has a poster of Ordinary People (all the way from Canada no less) proudly displayed on her wall in college. Of course, PCC likes to be unique and all, but she would gladly join the masses if said proletariat would agree to rent Robert Redford's amazing 1980 film. Very rarely is PCC completely satisfied with a film adaptation- consider Jonathan Demme's bastardization of Toni Morrison's Beloved- but Alvin Sergeant's (Unfaithful, Paper Moon) treatment of Judith Guest's novel is undeniably deserving of the Oscar.
In Guest's novel , first person narration grants us access to Conrad Jarrett's pain, but the film avoids a voice-over, instead allowing us to experience the uncomforatble detachment that permeates the Jarrett house along with Conrad. As Conrad, Timothy Hutton is perfectly cast. For a story with such potential for soapy melodrama, Hutton's performance keeps the film painfully real. One of PCC's favorite scenes in the film, which doubles as one of the most wrenching arguments- on the same level as the plate-smashing screaming match between Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in In the Bedroom- is the fight between Mary Tyler Moore (surprisingly successful so far away from Minneapolis and Rhoda), Hutton and Donald Sutherland. Non-confrontational PCC wanted to simultaneously hide underneath the covers and cheer the Jarretts on for finally saying what needed to be said.
PCC understands that not everyone is in the mood for a depressing film about death, guilt and family turmoil. This is understandable. BUT...Redford's film is a must. Watch it in the middle of the day when the sun is shining. Couple it with something mindless and entertaining like Zoolander (PCC is not bashing Mr. Stiller or his film, merely using it as a point of genre comparison). But watch it, with plenty of Kleenex, and remember it's a good thing when a film can make you feel like the floor just dropped out from underneath you.