Cinecultist loves His Girl Friday, the Howard Hawks interpretation of the ultimate fast-talking journalist couple (Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell) apart and then back together again over the ultimate scoop. In fact, the laptop on which most of this blog is written is called Hildy, the character Russell plays who thinks she wants a "real" life with insurance salesman Ralph Bellamy but the excitement of the chase brings her back to her true place as a writer and married to Grant.
The MoMA Gramercy Theatre screened one of their prints of this film over the weekend as part of their Summer Reperatory series and though it's always wonderful to rewatch a movie that CC holds dear to her heart, the state of the print sort of detracted from the experience. The first reel had obvious sprocket hole damange over the titles, as well as a terribly scratched soundtrack and the second reel suffered from serious fading, so that the black and the white parts of the image seem to be blending together. It was a sad state of affairs for this raggedy 16mm print. As we walked out of the theater, CC commented to her friend William, who worked on curating this series with MoMA and knows all too well about the scattershot state of their extensive print collection, that her DVD at home would've been more clear than this print.
This brings us to a much debated point among our cinephilic friends and collegues — how important is it to see a film print? Is a good DVD, one taken from a remastered print for instance, a trade off? As a former projectionist, CC knows that viewing a good print can make a movie watching experience exponentially better. But when the option is a faded scratched 16mm, is it just better to stay home? Some people we know would say yes, for sure, but CC's can't say it is so cut and dry. Don't hate us for bringing up these important issues and then not answering them in a simple rule, but it really is quite the conundrum for the true cinecultist. It's important to see as many films on film as possible, but it's painful to watch a good movie on a bad print. Do with that prescription from a film lover what you will.
File it under creative but entirely useless movie promotional objects, this weekend's edition of the New York Times features a folded glossy two-sided poster for the Peter Weir and Russell Crowe movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. What the hell is CC, and the rest of the weekend paper subscribers, supposed to do with this thing? Hang it on our wall? Use it for wrapping paper on some unsuspecting birthday gift? Ponder the rugged manliness of one Mr. Crowe caught in a driving rainstorm but still joyful because he sails for God and Country or something? Baffling.
While this is not the type of movie CC would be first in line to see when it comes out on Nov. 14, we hear from our friend MD, who read all of the novels in the series that this movie is based on when he was but a wee lad, that they're some stirring stuff, so we're still reserving judgement. Also, a cover story on Russell in EW's Fall Movie Preview a few weeks ago, began to persuade us that he's not the obnoxious hot head diva we used to believe. Perhaps, he's just an ah-ctor. Method and Serious and Stuff. But sending us useless shiny unrecyclable poster paper doesn't make for a favorable first impression. Consider yourself forewarned M 'n C publicity people.
Is it verse or is it fiction? What a question. The most drulogies essential fact is that this vioxx is a story, a love story told ambien by poet and novelist Carson (Men in the Off Hours, 2000, etc.) in 29 brief, lyrical "tangos" (which are kind of like stanzas, only a lot more romantic) that have little
PCC is always wary about proclaiming a film to be the 'best' of anything. That's the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' job and look what a fine mess they've made of it lately (A Beautiful Mind, anyone?). That said, PCC is going to go out on a limb and say that Australian director Ray Lawrence's debut film from 2001, Lantana, is one of the best films PCC has seen in a long time. This is not the first time PCC has viewed Lawrence's film, but, like the proverbial fine wine, it only gets better with age. Anthony LaPaglia (currently the star of CBS' excellent show Without a Trace), Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey head an amazing ensemble cast in a story that is as tangled and prickly as the flowering Australian shrub of the title.
A simple plot summary is not only difficult to come up with, but is also a disservice to the richly layered script, adapted by Andrew Bovell from his play 'Speaking in Tongues'. On the most basic level, Lantana weaves together the stories of Leon (LaPaglia), a police detective in Sydney who's having an affair and Valerie (Hershey), a missing American psychiatrist living in Sydney with her husband, John (Rush). In addition to these principal players, throw in Leon's wife Sonya (Kerry Armstrong); his secret lover Jane (Rachel Blake) and Jane's neighbors (Vince Colosimo and Daniella Farinacci), who may or may not be involved in Valerie's disappearance. But Lawrence's film isn't just a mystery/thriller; far from it. Instead, it is a meditation on the circular nature of love- how we move from passion to betrayal, and often grief, and how we're all desperately trying to reconnect with that love we may have lost.
The primarily Australian cast, as well as the American Hershey, is superb. LaPaglia is the perfect match for the brooding, self-described 'numb' Leon. We know he has flaws and yet, while we don't want him to go unpunished, LaPaglia's perpetually downturned lips hiding beneath his hooked nose and his sad, dark eyes make us root for him, even as Leon makes choices that we know will hurt him in the end. Rush, a charismatic performer in most of his other film roles, is decidedly understated here, and it works to his advantage. There is hardly any emotion on his face, even when he's confronted with the fact that his wife has gone missing late at night from a deserted highway. Rush's John is the kind of man you can't decide whether to slap or hug, and would gladly do both if the situation permitted. Hershey, in contrast, is a wonderful emotional counterpart to her stone-faced husband. You can't help but feel for the woman as she tries to connect with John emotionally, and yet at the same time try to maintain the professional, intellectual distance she has perfected as a psychiatrist.
Overall, this film is for all of us who need more than a straight-forward dramatic romance, police procedural or mystery, because Lantana has a little bit of everything. And more.
Last night, for the first time in years, CCC chose to not fall asleep listening to music. Instead, we popped in Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter. This beautiful film is one of our top three, and C3 implores you to rent it if you've never seen it, or rent it again if you have.
One of the rare Canadian films to capture the world's attention (barring anything made by Cronenberg), The Sweet Hereafter is, simply put, the tale of the devastating effects of a school bus crash on the inhabitants of a town.
But that's simply put. Egoyan makes masterful use of a mixed chronology, fracturing events and people throughout the film so that we see both the before and after before we see the crash, the quiet centerpiece of the movie. The Sweet Hereafter is a meditation on guilt, revenge, and the clarity that can come when tragedy strikes.
Featuring ridiculously good performances from Alberta Watson, Ian Holm (replacing Donald Sutherland at the last minute!), Gabrielle Rose, and especially Bruce Greenwood and Sarah Polley, The Sweet Hereafter started CCC's obsession with Atom Egoyan, Canadian film, and Sarah Polley.
*PCC apologizes but www.comingsoon.net has yanked the trailer for Campion's film for some unknown reason. As soon as it returns, PCC will re-post the link*
As a loyal fan of Academy Award-winning director/writer Jane Campion (okay, we really wanted to like Portrait of a Lady- we liked it in theory!), PCC is quite excited about the newly released trailer for her upcoming film, In the Cut. Starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh, In the Cut tells the story of a New York professor (Ryan) who becomes entangled in a string of homicides that take place in her neighborhood, as well as the detective investigating the murders (Ruffalo). Is PCC a bit skeptical about Ms. Ryan tackling such a complex, psychological role? A bit. Do we secretly wish Nicole Kidman didn't have to pull out of the lead due to scheduling conflicts? Of course. But do we have faith in this astonishingly talented New Zealand director who brought us The Piano and Sweetie? Absolutely.
For all of you Clive Owen fans out there (remember him? the best part about Gosford Park?), PCC felt obliged spread the word about his latest film, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. This is Owen's second collaboration with British director Mike Hodges, who brought us the wonderful Croupier. The film focuses on the life of a London mob boss (Owen), who has 'retired' to the country for a simpler life. But, as is always the case, he's pulled back into his old life, returning to London following his brother's mysterious suicide. Joining Owen is a truly amazing cast, including Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Malcom McDowell. What causes Hodge's new film to stand out, argues Stephen Chinball of the British film journal Sight & Sound, is the fact that the catalyst for the narrative is male rape, and the subsequent rape revenge. Chinball argues that "though several Hollywood scenarios have tackled male rape (notably John Boorman's Deliverance)...this subject has never before emerged in British cinema" (from the Sepetember 2003 issue which PCC would gladly link, except that she is reading a hard copy).
Sadly, US audiences will have to wait until April 2004 to see Hodges new film in theaters. It premiered at the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. Also be on the look out for Mr. Owen in September's Beyond Borders, with Angelina Jolie, and next year's King Arthur, with Pirate queen Keira Knightley.
Every year, the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado (which runs every Labor Day weekend) invites a guest to curate some of the festival's films and in today's Times Elvis Mitchell talks with Steven Sondheim about his involvement this year. Telluride began this tradition after festival co-founder and NYU Cinema studies prof William K. Everson retired.
Cinecultist is particularly fond of anything Everson related because we've been working on organizing and cataloguing his monstrously huge book collection for the last year. The man collected books on everything from Bollywood and classic Westerns to catalogues of Swedish cinema and trashy star biographies up the ying yang. Everson had incredibly ecclectic taste in movies, so it seems fitting that a movie lover with self-avowed equally goofy taste like Sondheim should be assuming his duties this year. As he tells Mitchell in the times:
"I just thought I'm being invited as a freak of nature, as someone who's from another profession who happens to love movies," he said. "I am always stunned when anybody under 50 knows what I do. Because the theater is, as we say, not the province of young people. Movies are."
That's right kids, the MTV Video Music Awards are tonight and that means all sorts of sundry celebs and movie stars are in town. Gothamist's posting has links to where the hot after parties will be, if you're feeling a little gawker stalker-y. Unless, of course, your opinion of celebrity falls closer to that of the sticker artist who defaced the advert pictured above (which ironically, CC took just across the street from the Loew's movie theater on Third Ave).
Speaking of My Boss's Daughter, CCC has something to admit.
We don't hate Tara Reid.
There, we said it. In fact, we kind of like her. She was the best thing about The Big Lebowski (You heard us! Bring it!), and Josie and the Pussycats was one of the better, and more clever, of the teen movies of its time. Yes, yes, we acknowledge that most of what Tara Reid has acted in is a blight to the cinema landscape, but she's managed to be in a couple of "eh" things. Cruel Intentions, for example, was another great teen movie of its time (shhh...she's only got a small role). And Dr. T & the Women was..um..directed by Robert Altman. And until we discovered taste, we though that Urban Legend was a pretty scary movie.
Alright, alright! She sucks, ok? Tara Reid hasn't contributed anything to the history of film. But she's kind of pretty, in a plain way. And she's been slinging dirt at Colin Farrell, with a real actual factual point. And she's got that voice! That raspy voice. That sexpot without trying, I-just-woke-up-from-a-deep-sleep-and-now-I-gotta-sing-the-blues voice! Please, someone, give her a worthy role! It's not like most actors and actresses really deserve the accolades the receive for plum roles! Just...someone...please. Please. And we still stand by what we said about The Big Crapowski and Josie and the P-cats.
Other Raspy Voiced Actresses We Like (and some we don't. guess which, it's fun!)
My Boss's Daughter? "Say it ain't so Cinecultist, say it ain't so!!!" Is the resounding cry we can hear across cyberspace into our comments box. But tell us the following quote from Ed Park's review of the movie in the Village Voice doesn't sound intriguing.
"Restricted largely to a single evening and place, Daughter is an accident corridor, a pleasurably intense burst of anarchy with no moral in sight, thank God, though we do learn that there's absolutely nothing funny about a leaky head wound, unless several cheese puffs happen to be attached to it."
Let's just hope that's only good criticism at work. Although you know we do love the Ashton here at CC...
A thoughtful essay by Tobias Seamon in the Morning News today on the growing maelstrom surrounding Mel Gibson's film The Passion and its implications in regards to the recent rise in worldwide anti-Semitism.
Our previous posting on the fawning quotes from folks who've seen a rough cut.
A wonderfully snarky list of 50 suggestions to the movie industry from two cranky Canadian critics who think Toronto should get its due (#48 Give credit where it's due. As in "And Also Starring Toronto as Cleveland.").
Some particularly good ideas:
#8 Now that gay marriage is legal and all, have Frodo marry his adoring sidekick Sam atop Mt. Doom, in the final instalment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. All this heavy breathing is driving us crazy.
#36 Change the locks on Jerry Bruckheimer's office. Drop the keys in the Grand Canyon.
#47 All sequels should be called "Again." As in Spider-Man Again. Then Spider-Man Again And Again. Then Spider-Man Again And Again And Again. And so on.
Just to put things in perspective -- when things feels low remember, at least your mother isn't Joan Crawford. Cinecultist thanks her lucky stars that her own mother/daughter relationship is free of powder cleanser, mixing drinks for her "uncles" and banishment to convent schools. Watching Mommie Dearest this weekend, CC realized her own mini-dramas pale in comparison to what Christina Crawford put up with on a regular basis.
Good mother/daughter melodramas can be an excellent catharsis. Weep your way through a few boxes of Kleenex while watching a DVD and everything else seems so much lighter in comparison. Also, the high camp melodrama is always good for an ironic giggle. CC amused herself all evening arching her eyebrows and trying to do her best Faye-Dunaway-doing-Joan-Crawford impression while screeching "No More Wire Hangers!"
Here's a list of some of Cinecultist's favorite Mother/Daughter Movies:
Stella Dallas -- The original weepie with Barbara Stanwyck will leave you bawling as she peers in at her daughter through the window and then walks away.
Terms of Endearment -- The little kid sobbing as he watches his mom, Debra Winger dying of cancer kills us every time. Shirley MacLaine does a legendary freak out at the on call nurse in her daughter's hospital, that you must see at some point to complete your cinema education.
Stepmom -- Even if you're not a child of divorce, this movie is charming modern example of the women's picture. Susan Sarandon makes a good film mom, too bad she has to get cancer.
Postcards from the Edge -- Does it get much better than Meryl and Shirley? These women play off each other like the consumate professionals they are. Funny and sad.
The Joy Luck Club -- CC just reread the Amy Tan novel this film's based on and the intersecting stories of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their Americanized daughters is really wonderful. This movie reminds us that Wayne Wang used to know how to make a solid movie before he sold his soul to the devil (see Maid in Manhattan for evidence to this effect).
Steel Magnolias -- Another movie with Julia Roberts, fiesty women characters and illness although technically most of the movie focuses on the friendships between the women. We just think Sally Field makes a good mom, pushy but tender.
Gypsy -- In the movie version of this hit Broadway play, Rosalind Russell is the penultimate stage mom. Nathalie Wood is her kid, the burlesque star with a heart of gold.
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom -- Holly Hunter stars in this originally aired on HBO movie that's worth a rental for it's wicked campy goodness.
Imitation of Life -- Douglas Sirk directs a story of two mother/daughter relationships with Lana Turner as a dysfunctional mom/former actress and Sandra Dee as her daughter, who meet an African American mother/daughter team also high on the dysfunction scale.
Hard, Fast and Beautiful -- About a tennis stage mother (Claire Trevor) who wants her daughter to have everything she never had. Directed by Ida Lupino, it is exactly what the title advertises.
[Ed. -- Thanks to Rabecca, Sanjit, Jeff and Mai for the assistance compiling our probably incomplete list!]
Occasionally, Cinecultist likes to use our quasi-insider view of the New York film scene to bring you observations of the industry's wheels in motion. This past week, CC attended two press screenings -- our first New York ones -- so rather than offering reviews of Demonlover and Lost in Translation (yet), we bring you reviews of the reviewing process.
Both of the screenings organized by the film's public relations firm (Palm Pictures and Focus Features, respectively) were in high rise office buildings in midtown on Broadway, a block from each other. This is a distinct prestige advancement from the odd places CC previously attended press screenings in Davis, California, where the *slightly* smaller film scene results in passes to radio station promotional screenings, 10 am viewings in sketchy downtown Sacramento theaters or isolated suburban cineplexes. Each of the NY press screening theaters were small, seating about 30-45 and in perhaps the most comfortable chairs possible, short of our own individual barcalounger. We're talking soft velvet coverings, cushy seats and wide arm rests. Also, no sticky floors -- a serious improvement on any Davis area screening space.
Unfortunately, unlike the time CC saw Orgazmo with a crowd of mullet-sporting, flannel-wearing hard rock fans, it was a bit harder to gauge the other viewer's reactions to these movies. Probably because these people are critics. Don't want to tip their hand or something. The elevator ride down afterwards is uncomfortably and unnaturally quiet, provoking us to want to say things like "boy, wasn't THAT a weird movie?" appropos of nothing, just to break the silence. Especially when we rode in the elevator with Elvis Mitchell, a critic for the New York Times. CC will admit, we were a bit star struck with those dreadlocks but a few feet from us. Not because he's our favorite critic ever, but just that he's sort of famous for doing this writer thing.
Reviews of both movies to come closer to their respective release dates, but if this is any indication of the potential reception -- at Demonlover, someone stalked out slamming the screening door 20 minutes before the end and at Lost in Translation, a few people clapped as the credits began to roll. In-teresting. [Ed. -- Thanks to Reverse Shot and Michael for the hook up!]
In theory, damning reviews aside, PCC had high hopes for Ed Solomon's latest film, Levity, starring Billy Bob Thorton, Holly Hunter, Kirsten Dunst and Morgan Freeman. It seemed like the perfect cast- Thorton as a recently released murderer, Hunter as a tough single mother harboring a dark secret, Dunst as a party girl who isn't as strong as she seems and Freeman as a preacher. But even a stellar cast couldn't save this film from deteriorating into a mess of disparate characters, repetitive voice-overs and puzzling messages.
Thorton- who has made a career of playing quiet loners with dark secrets- plays Manual Jordan, a recently parolee who killed a teen during a robbery 23 years ago. He is obsessed with the boy and has kept a newspaper article about the crime in his cell. Somehow, he thinks that by 'helping' (we're not quite sure what this means, even after the film is over) the dead boy's sister (Hunter), he'll somehow be forgiven. But here's where it gets tricky. In one of many rambling, overly philosophic voice-overs, he explains to us that he read a book detailing 5 steps to salvation/redemption/forgiveness...but he doesn't believe in these steps or in the God who will supposedly forgive the sinner after the completion of said steps. So what exactly is it that Manual is seeking?
Hunter does the best she can with an underdeveloped character, but even her considerable acting skills aren't enough to flesh out the improbable caricature of Adele Easley. What is perhaps the most irritating aspect of Hunter's character is the complete lack of plausible motive. Why would she, a single woman living in a rough neighborhood (Solomon goes to great pains to show us that the action takes place on the 'wrong side of the tracks'), allow a creepy looking man like Thorton, who's been following her no less, into her apartment? And, without spoiling the ending (though there isn't much to spoil), why would Hunter did make the final choice she did concerning Manual's 'situation' with her son, Abner?
Dunst and Freeman are completely extraneous characters who add nothing but confusion to the narrative. In theory, they are supposed to provide 'examples' of redemption. But we don't care about them. They have no backstory, no real traits other than the stereotypical girl-who-parties-to-escape-her-homelife and the strange preacher that no one seems to listen to, but whose message somehow pervades the film. Perhaps that's the glaring problem with this film: there is a heavy-handed message flashing in figurative neon lights in every scene. But we're not sure what exactly it is and why we should care.
This is such a giant disappointment for all of us here at Cinecultist. This was one of our most anticipated films of 2004! We LURVE Dude, Where's My Car ("a dadaist masterpiece," says Ms. Cinecultist herself) and not even ironically! So, to mourn this never going to be, we present Ashton Kutcher, flagrante delicto:
Ok, he's not boffing someone. But still, hot.
As Gawker says regarding the tricky game of determining cultural "buzz", one reference may be an anomaly but now two references that's a trend. On that note Cinecultist decided to look into the oddly placed positive reviews popping up for Don't Tempt Me, a 2002 movie from Spain with Penelope Cruz, Fanny Ardent (8 Women) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien) now getting a release here in the States. Daily Candy likes it (yes, they occasionally take a break from touting miniscule Nolita boutiques to cover movies) as did a writer for Free Williamsburg (there's your hipster vote). Although the reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes are not super hot from the major sources, the movie still might be worth checking out for curiosity alone. Buzz buzz.
Cinecultist may not be able to jet off to Toronto, *sigh* but there's still loads of things to see in town this weekend, including a tribute to our nabe and its cinematic roots put on by the Federation of East Village Artists, Howl: the 1st Annual East Village Arts Festival. There's masses o' culture to be consumed at this fest, (including the infamous Wigstock on Saturday @ 4:30 pm) but Cinecultist is particularly looking forward to catching the Jack Smith Tribute (Friday, Aug. 22 @ 8 pm; Millennium Film Workshop, 66 E 4th St.) and Live from Shiva's Dance Floor (Wednesday, Aug. 20 - Tuesday, Aug. 26. @ 6 pm; Pioneer Theater, 155 E 3rd St.), a docu wherein "Richard Linklater follows Timothy “Speed” Levitch as he tours lower Manhattan and Ground Zero, musing upon how we as a city and a society can mourn yet move forward." Sounds sort of like Waking Life, but minus the animation.
The full schedule of films through Aug. 26. Prices vary for admission. Time Out New York (as one of the sponsors of the event) has a long article on East Village culture this week that's worth checking out, although sadly it's not online so we'll have to direct you to the newstand. The coverage in the Times.
Following close on the heels of the NYFF, IMDB reports today that the Toronto International Film Festival has announced its lineup for the 2003 event, taking place September 4-13. If PCC were a bit closer to Toronto, she would very much like to attend screenings of the Isabelle Adjani/Gérard Depardieu film Bon Voyage and Jane Campion's latest venture, In the Cut, starring Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, who was wonderful in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me. PCC might even be persuaded to check out the new Richard Linklater/Jack Black film, The School of Rock, since trustworthy K8 gave it a thumbs up. But alas, PCC will have to attend the festival another year...perhaps with a film of her own? One can always dream.
Cinecultist can go on and on about our recent favorite Asian actresses but there's really none like Maggie Cheung. She can make us laugh. She can make us cry. And she can make it look like she could knock us out with one hand tied behind her back. This woman's a powerhouse.
If you only know her from In the Mood For Love, we implore you to check out some of her other work. Here's our top five Maggie-liscious favorite performances:
1. Center Stage (aka the Actress) -- In this wonderful self-reflexive movie, Maggie and director Stanley Kwan reconstruct scenes from the life and performances of Chinese silent film star Ruan Lingyu. Intercut with footage of the original Ruan and interviews with her contemporaries, Maggie gives a delicate performance as the melancholy diva.
2. Song of Exile  -- Director Ann Hui wrote this script partially based on her own experiences returning to Taiwan after studying abroad in England. A complex look at the complicated issues of migragation between the Mainland and the islands, Maggie plays a young woman trying to reconnect with her emotionally scarred mother. The kind of movie that will make you weep and reach for the phone just to tell your own Mommy you love her before it's over.
3. Irma Vep  -- Playing "herself," Maggie arrives on the tumultous set of a French film cast as Irma Vep, the leader of the crime gang the Vampires. The director (played by French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Leaud) has become obsessed with Maggie after seeing her in the Heroic Trio but everyone else in the cast and crew is a little less convinced she can do the job. Maggie wears a latex cat suit, do you need more convincing? Yeow.
4. White Snake, Green Snake  -- A Tsui Hark directed film (Once Upon A Time in China) where Maggie plays one of two snake spirit sisters who transforms into a woman. Based on a reworking of a classic Chinese fable, she's the Green Snake who battles priests, seduces men and does this amazing snake walk that left CC flabbergasted.
5. Comrades, Almost A Love Story  -- A bittersweet melodrama about Mainland immigrants trying to make it in the urban bustle Hong Kong, this movie is When Harry Met Sally meets Far and Away only really really good. Silly Cinecultist got so caught up in this story, we actually thought sassy Maggie might not end up with the guy in the end. Another three Kleenex box movie with Maggie's luminous face as the central attraction.
Coming soon for this beauty queen turned serious actress and international sensation, a new collaboration with Wong Kar-Wai in a sci-fi flick called 2046, a winter release of Zhang Yimou's historical drama Hero already a huge hit in Asia, and another film with former husband Olivier Assayas. All of these movies (plus many more! except Song of Exile) are available on Netflix and MoMA will be screening Irma Vep as part of the Assayas retrospective next month (Sept. 21).
So CCC finally got around to seeing 28 Days Later. Much later. Yes, yes, we're lame and pathetic for taking such a long time to see the summer's second giant indie-baby smash hit of all time 2003 (the first being Bend it Like Hot Jonathon Rhys-Meyers. which, um, we haven't seen either). C3 almost turned in his film student card, but finally gathered the energy and money to go see it with his best pal, Jason.
For the most part, we loved it. And by love, we mean it made us pee ourselves in fright. Just a little. HOWEVER, there were MAJOR problems.
WARNING, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD (for those 3 people left who haven't seen the movie)
1) How the hell did the disease spread to other countries? It takes 20 seconds for people to go from normal to zombie after infection, so how would the disease cross the English Channel, much less the Atlantic Ocean? I suppose that a boat being boarded could become infected and then leave, fleeing in terror. Same with a plane. The captain could lock him or herself in the navigation room thingie until they got to where they wanted to go, but A) that would mean that the zombies wouldn't be able to break down a door, B) the person navigating would have to be scared stupid to think it smart to dock or land somewhere, and C) wherever they would try to go would have to be really fucking stupid to not shoot the hell out of anything coming from Zombie Town, UK.
2) The alternate ending. What the bloody hell? If we’re going to be forced to sit through some very loud credits, we damn well best be handsomely rewarded (Matrix Reloaded, you could take perk your ears up). And while CCC does think that a writer/director's vision (in this case, presenting the original ending to the film as a "What if...") is more important than the whims of stupid audience members, the slightly open-ended alternate original was wholly unsatisfying compared to the new, shot on film, w00t w00t happy ending. And the new ending isn't really much of a "What if...", so much as an "Or...". The difference in the two is that a "what if" should produce a definitively different ending (which it didn't), whilst an "or" just shows some small differences (which it did--ok, the death of a character isn't so small, but still, the two endings aren't mutually exclusive, which is what was expected).
3) "I hate you!" What!? Why is this zombie demon baby child saying this? In case you don't remember, when Jim enters the hamburger stand (a stupid movie decision in the first place) a young kid attacks him, only to be beat down by Jim and his trusty bat, Zombie Smasher. The kid, silent when sneaking up on Jim, jumps on him and shouts, "I hate you!" Yes. He says this. Despite seeing many a zombie in the movie, and knowing that they're infected with "rage", this is the only time one of them speaks. And in our opinion, being able to say "I hate you" denotes a certain amount of intelligence. In fact, knowing grammar gets you pretty high up there. The zombie didn't say "Me hate you," or "Me hates you," or "Hate," or "We hate you, my precious." It had subject-verb agreement and correct first person singular going on. And le zombie said "I hate you" in a clear, loud voice. No grumble or mumble or growl. WHAT THE FUCK?!
4) A small thing, but what happened to all the cats and dogs? Can they catch "the rage"? Why were chimps chosen in the first place? Their immune system isn't the closest one to ours, is it? If they can catch it, why not other/all animals? CCC supposes the scene in the tunnel with the wave of rats outrunning the zombies explained that animals were afraid of zombies, but we think that there should be some zombie animals around. Like zombie horses. How completely awesome would it have been if that pack of horses had turned out to be zombies and descended on our band of travelers? Eh? Eh?
5) Why the hell must all end of the world movies (which this wasn't, it turns out) hit us over the head with the "man kills man, left-over man must rebuild society, oh, wait, left-over man is actually crazy and re-enacts Lord of the Flies, left-over man is beaten by other, hotter left-over man and we all see the evils of our ways". This one really didn't need much of the third act. They could have just left it there and not turned Jim into...
6) ...The Terminator. Where did Jim get all these skillz-with-a-zed? Just because your kinda woman and your kinda daughter are about to get raped and crap doesn't mean you’re suddenly imbibed with all sorts of atheletic abilities and a death grip. And why does the movie bother making us think he's a zombie? It serves no purpose. Unless he were to become a zombie with a gold heart. Awww...
Ok, writing all this has made C3 dislike the movie a little bit more than he thought he did. So here's what's good about 28 Days Later:
-Well thought out "what would happen if the world were ending" scenarios involving food, water, and the way people find each other
-Blowing up zombies with land mines
-Pretty red dresses (for girls about to get raped :-/)
-A satisfyingly heartwarming ending
-Selena (played by Naomie Harris) being an ass-kicking chick
-Jim and his hot ass
-Zombies, now with vomiting action
-Some beautiful videography
-Scary scary zombies that wiggle funny because they're angry
On Monday, Variety ran a small feature on the films submitted to the 2003 New York Film Festival, being held from October 3-19. While the actual schedule is not set as of yet, the opening and closing night films have been announced. PCC apologizes for not including the link to the aforementioned article, but she is reading it in a physical copy of Variety (for free), rather than online (for hundreds of dollars). But without further ado, here are the films submitted to the festival:
Mystic River USA Dir. Clint Eastwood (opening night)
21 Grams USA Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (closing night)
The Fog of War USA Dir. Errol Morris
The Barbarian Invasion Canada Dir. Denys Arcand
Bright Leaves USA Dir. Ross McElwee
Crimson Gold Iran Dir. Jafar Panahi
Distant Turkey Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Dogville Dennmark Dir. Lars Von Trier
Elephant USA Dir. Gus Van Sant
The Flower of Evil France Dir. Claude Chabrol
Free Radicals Austria Dir. Barbara Albert
Good Morning Italy Dir. Marco Bellochio
Goodbye Dragon Inn Taiwan Dir. Tsai Mingliang
Mansion by the Lake Sri Lanka Dir. Lester James Peries
Mayor of the Sunset Strip USA Dir. George Hickenlooper
PTU Hong Kong Dir. Johnnie To
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine Cambodia/France Dir.Pithy Panh
Since Otar Left France Dir. Julie Bertuccelli
A Thousand Months Morocco/France Dir. Faouzi Bensaidi
Young Adam Scotland Dir. David Mackenzie
Sometimes Cinecultist likes to play a little game, what do these movies have in common? The pictures in question, screened in the last few days, are Hidden Fortress (a Kurosawa/Mifune at BAM), Double Happiness (a Canadian indie on IFC) and Charlotte Sometimes (a recent indie at Cinema Village). After some brain crunching we decided what makes these movies interconnected (besides the fact that CC watched them all within a few days of each other), are their puzzling Asian women characters. Jet black hair, defiant eyes, murky motives and ready to kick a little ass, we can't take our eyes away.
CC really loved watching Yojimbo last week, an earlier entry in the BAM series, but CC and our samourai-loving friend MD agreed that the Fortress left a little to be desired. A half hour too long, a meandering plot and not enough fight scenes left us itching for other Kurosawas we'd loved before. But the film does contain one serious Princess Yuki in some serious short shorts. She'd as soon smack you with her bamboo switch as look at you. Perhaps our general disappointment in the movie springs from wanting the fortress to be more blatently like the Death Star, since it's established among sci-fi geeks that Lucas drew extensively from the film for the Star Wars trilogy. We decided hashing out how bits from each movie coincided was a little too dorky, even for us.
Sandra Oh, one of the Canadian thespian elite, should be experiencing some serious US cross-over soon as she's set to appear in a bunch of new releases including Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane and she's married to indie auteur Alexander Payne. Also, she kicks some serious ass. Her performance is this 1994 release, Double Happiness is really delightful and will make you forget she ever graced the HBO small screen in Arliss. CC shudders to even think of it. Here Oh plays an actress caught between her Chinese parents traditional expectations and her aspirations for independence. Check it out on tv or from your local video store so you too can say you knew Sandra when.
Our third intriguing Asian chick is Jacqueline Kim, the eponymous Darcy/Charlotte in Eric Byles's Charlotte Sometimes. What's she doing? Where's she going? Who will she screw over next? We're puzzled but still incredibly intrigued. One of the sexiest movies Cinecultist has seen in a long time, as the currents of tension flash between the four leads CC could almost see the air crackle. We'd liked the trailer but really went after reading Mike D'Angelo's rave in Time Out New York a few weeks ago. About loneliness and family and desire and all those good things, it's the bet kind of independent filmmaking. And though the Asian-ness of the actors and director is on the narrative's periphery, it's still intriguingly essential at the same time.
This weekend the Times ran a special section examining the wonderful world of DVD and its influence on current moviemaking. In the front piece, Elvis Mitchell discusses some of Cinecultist's own favorite features of the medium -- letterboxing, commentary tracks and the Criterion Collection.
But the question remains, are there really more film geeks (or cinecultists) just because the products to consume film culture are available in brightly packaged rows at your local Virgin megastore? As someone who came by film culture through academia, CC is still skeptical of the pretension which springs up from these self-educated video store clerk cineastes. Certainly we do know some amazing self-educated filmmakers, like our new friend John Walter who uses extracted stills from movies by Antonioni or Godard to get ideas for shot composition and editing. But for every John there's a Quentin-wanabee or Kevin Smith-has been and those guys bug, plain and simple.
More DVDs does mean it's easier to rent all of the Scorsese filmography over and over again from Netflix but perhaps we could just excise all unnecessary pretention from cinema consumption? Although perhaps that dream is like hoping that Michael Bay would stop calling himself an auteur -- completely wishful thinking.
As the title demanded, PCC, CC and K8 trekked uptown on Saturday for a evening screening of Uptown Girls. The theater was surprisingly full, and not with the target teen girl audience. Most of the audience was composed of people around Cinecultist et. al's collective age, which PCC found amusing. Overall, the consensus was a moderate thumbs up, though it was agreed that the skeleton that has invaded the artist formerly known as Brittany Murphy should eat several platefulls of carbs. Aside from her off-putting sinewy-ness, Ms. Murphy had surprising chemistry with her small costar, Dakota Fanning. All agreed that the scenes between Murphy's Molly and Fanning's Ray were the best parts of the film. Many of their interactions were surprisingly touching, especially since PCC had envisioned a large portion of the film to be comprised of various cute montage sequences of the girls bonding and frolicking in Central Park. But the script actually touched on some larger, more thought-provoking issues, such as the death of a parent, the relationships children form with adults and how to deal with grief. This is not to say that Uptown Girls was a deep, art-house drama. But it was more serious than PCC had bargained for.
Finally, a good word must be put in for the phenomenal Dakota Fanning. Unlike many child actors who seem to have a limited emotional range, Fanning is as expressive as any adult. When she's mad, she's mad! She wasn't overshadowed by Murphy- far from it. Fanning isn't a showy actress, but she has an amazing screen presence for someone so young. Comparisons to a young Jodie Foster come to mind...
PCC would be remiss if she didn't take the opportunity to wish one of her favorite actors of all time a happy 60th birthday. Yes, he's made some rotten films of late, but no matter how many bad mob comedies the man makes, Robert De Niro will always be Travis, Vito and Jake to PCC. In case you've missed some of the biggest films of the last three decades, here are five De Niro films you must see.
Taxi Driver (1976). Yes, the majority of people on the subway will have some idea what you're talking about if you burst out with 'you talkin' to me?'. Yes, if you've taken a film class, chances are you've seen it. But just because it's not obscure doesn't make this Scorsese-De Niro collaboration (thankfully, for those of us who are fans of both, the first of many) any less gritty, raw and ultimately powerful. As Vietnam-vet-turned-crazed-cabbie Travis Bickle, De Niro practically oozes tension and alienation. His co-stars are also phenomenal, especially 12 year old Jodie Foster as a prostitute and Harvey Keitel as her pimp.
The Deer Hunter (1978). This is truly one of the best Vietnam war films ever made. Though less than a third of the story actually takes place during the war, its portrayal of three friends (De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage), both before, during and after combat, is so powerful you feel as though you've been in jungle along side them. The climactic scene between De Niro and Walken (who won a much deserved Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the troubled heroin junkie Nick) in a Saigon gambling den is one of those moments when you want to both cover your eyes and watch at the same time. Also look for Meryl Streep in one her numerous Oscar-nominated roles.
Ragin Bull (1980). Usually not a fan of boxing, and especially boxing movies, PCC loved this Scorsese-De Niro film precisely because it wasn't only about boxing. Instead, it tackles larger issues - such as obsession, violence, love - all of which are intertwined in the intensely complicated Jake LaMotta. And even though PCC thought she would never utter these words, the boxing scenes were simply amazing, especially when accompanied by Pietro Mascagni's 'Intermezzo' from the opera 'Cavelleria Rusticana'.
Cape Fear (1991). Yet another Scorsese-De Niro collaboration, this one a remake of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 film of the same name starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. De Niro is at perhaps his creepy-psycho best as Max Cady, a rapist who's just been released from jail and is hellbent on wreaking havoc in the lives of his lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte, who, for once, isn't crazy!) and Sam's family (Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis). A bit gruesome for the faint of heart, it's a damn good remake and even features cameos by the original stars, Peck and Mitchum!
And finally*, Ronin (1998). Directed by the late John Frankenheimer, Ronin follows a group of freelance thieves handpicked to steal a mysterious package. The title comes from the Japanese word for samurai who have no masters. Of course, nothing goes as planned and double-crossings, elaborate car chases and hesitant new alliances ensue. Co-starring Natascha McElhone, Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgård, Frankenheimer's film transcends the run-of-the-mill heist movie and gives us real, developed characters to root for. De Niro plays Sam, a former CIA agent and the focus of the story. And even though PCC is biased in favor of action movies, this one actually delivers suspense, as well as amazing car chases through Paris and the French countryside.
*Since it was so hard for PCC to narrow down her favorite De Niro films down to a paltry five, she's slipping in a few last-minute recommendations, though she doesn't have time to write about each and every one. That said, go rent The Godfather: Part 2, Casino, Goodfellas, Midnight Run, Backdraft and Copland.
While perusing her junk mail-filled Hotmail.com account, PCC came across this amusing article from MSN entertainment. It lists the ten biggest film flops of all time, accompanied by snide comments and a bit of useless trivia that might impress someone, someday...maybe. PCC is glad to report that she has seen only a few of these duds (Michael 'The Deer Hunter' Cimino's sophomore feature, Heaven's Gate, unfortunately being one of them). Are your favorite cinematic turkeys missing from this list? Tell us!
Because we had no freaking power for over 24 hours! Argh, no electricity means no movies. Cinecultist took to the streets with her digital camera and brings you the following images. This space shall return to its regularly scheduled cinema obsessions as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.
Dancing and drumming on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side.
Watching and waiting. Stanton Street.
The traffic is brutal out there. Lower East Side.
What can you buy in this town tonight? Melting ice cream and luke warm beer. Yum.
Cinecultist traveled to darkest Queens (with our only friend who could get us to venture this far into the boroughs, W) Wednesday night for a little summer outdoor movie watching. Socrates Sculpture Park and American Museum of the Moving Image have been doing this Wednesday night series, On The Waterfront: Celebrating The Cultural Diversity of Queens and tonight's movie was Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding.
An Indian funk band played as the sun set, and a local Indian restaurant provided tasty vegetarian dishes to put the audience in the culinary mood. Projecting a pretty nice 16mm print spooled onto one enormous reel to allow the projectionist the luxury of no dual projector change-overs (although there were a few minor soundtrack splice issues), the only draw back to the picturesque setting were the aggressive East River mosquitos. CC's seen Monsoon Wedding a few times now and this delightful family picture still completely engages. We particularly love Vijay Raaz as wedding planner P.K. Dubey, who has a penchant for munching on marigolds and who's romance of Alice is so very charming.
Next week's (Aug. 20) film will be Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kurturica and begins at 8 pm. Well worth the trek out there on the N or W train and the 20 minute walk to the park from the train. Promise.
Torn Curtain (both -- Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in a thriller together seems like a good idea...)
Google's icon today when clicked on reveals an Alfred Hitchcock search. In 1999, NYU's Cinema Studies hosted a conference for Hitchcock's centenary and resulted in a collection of essays to mark the occasion.
A mysterious stranger wanders into a deserted town. The fearful innkeeper informs him that two rivals gangs are at war and that the stranger best eat his meal quickly and get the hell out while he can. The stranger eats his food in silence and then informs the innkeeper that he's here to stay. A premise that sounds like it could be the start of any number of Westerns, this is the opening of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo which played as part of the on going Return of Kurosawa & Mifune (originally shown at Film Forum last year) at BAM Rose Cinemas, a series well worth checking out as it continues throughout August.
Kurosawa has this wonderful ability to create real characters out of his motley crew of actors, many with mugs only a mother could love, like the seriously furry brows on one gangster's dumb brother (Daisuke Kat). Unless of course, you're a mother in a Kurosawa movie, then you're a complete domineering bitch. Unlike Throne of Blood or Ran (both excellent Kurosawa's in their own right but very earnest), Yojimbo and its main character Sanjuro the mercenary samurai (Mifune), both have an excellent wit and sense of comic in the tragic. The plot winds around the large cast as Sanjuro double crosses and then double crosses again the townfolk, getting them to act just as he plans, but constant throughout are the unexpected laughs.
Most curious perhaps in the movie is the fight scenes, wherein the bumbling thugs hack at each other with their swords as though they were brutal machetes, not skilled instruments. Even Sanjuro wields his as an object to be used with power, not finesse, but only after he's worked every mental machination possible first. Another ronin carries a gun, a long thin phallus he aims from out of the middle of his robe, but he comes off as a misguided hot head not playing fair having a fire arm. Like all good Westerns, his death can be read as oddly homoerotic, as he pleads for Sanjuro to hand him his gun. He feels naked without it, he gasps. Sanjuro obliges but that's because he doesn't need a penis substitute, he's a real man who saunters out of town as the credits roll. It's true, Westerns just are better when they're set in the East.
Here at Cinecultist, we love Asian cinemas. But sometimes, those Asian national cinemas that aren't the big guns from Japan or Hong Kong or Mainland China get the short shrift. This weekend you can broaden your eastern horizons by taking in a few of the eighteen Korean pictures offered at this year's New York Korean Film Festival: Secret Wonderland.
Eleven of these eighteen films are US premieres and all are brought to the Quad Cinema (August 15-21) and BAM (August 22-24) by a collective of New York based Korean film students and enthusiasts. We hear that LEE Chang-Dong’s Oasis ("a powerful, often startling story which charts the romance between an ex-con and a woman with severe cerebral palsy in a painfully indifferent and cynical society") was a big hit at this year's Seattle International Film Festival but really all of the film's descriptions sound intriguing. Directors JANG Jin (The Spy) and JOO Kyung-Jung (A Little Monk) will be in attendance at the festival for brief Q&A sessions with the audience. Full schedule posted on the website. [thanks, Maggie!]
Apparently, so do many other film-going New Yorkers. The Times reports.
Cinecultist wants to know, will you go out of your way to avoid seeing a movie at the Angelika? Do you still think it has some indie cachet (apparently Drew Barrymore, Zoe Saldana and Maggie Gyllenhaal do, we've spotted them there)? Will the renovations draw you back/keep you happy? Tell us in the comments.
On Friday, PCC and friend K8 trekked uptown to the somewhat swanky arthouse venue, the Paris Theater, for a showing of the new Merchant-Ivory film, Le Divorce. PCC had that familiar tension in her stomach, the tug-o-war between her sky-high expectations of the film, owing from her recent completion of the Diane Johnson novel upon which it is based, and the subsequent fear that since she was so excited, the film in question would be worse than a Russell Crowe double feature. That said, Le Divorce wasn't half bad. In fact, it was damn enjoyable.
This is not to say that there weren't some minor irritations and plot confusions. But overall, when the curtain closed (and at the Paris Theater, it really did!) on Friday night, PCC's anxious stomach was placated. But first, let's get complaints out of the way. PCC and K8 both agreed that the narrative was a bit choppy. Not so much that one's enjoyment of the film was significantly lessened, but enough that there were several moments of puzzlement, of head-scratching and double takes: "now, how did that happen?" "how does that fit in?" PCC bets that most of these narrative hiccups are due to the fact that Johnson's novel is so replete with details and subtle plot points that transferring them all into a two hour film would be impossible.
On a related note, PCC and K8 both noted the fact that Kate Hudson's Isabel was rather one-dimensional. This is sad, since in the book she was well-rounded-a heroine you felt you could relate to. But again, the task of condensing a densely detailed 300-page novel into a two hour film is most likely to blame. It should also be noted, in the film's defense, that the novel is told in first person by Isabel herself, while the film (thankfully) avoids a similar voice-over narration. So, while Hudson did an excellent job with what she was given, PCC can't help but wonder how amazing she would have been if the entire book had been made into a film, albeit one several times the length of The Godfather.
Enough quibbling about adaptation problems, on to some praise! PCC must congratulate Naomi Watts for another stellar performance. As Roxie, the 'American in Paris', Watts is able to convey all the hurt and rejection she feels when her French husband, Charles-Henri, leaves her unexpectedly for a strange Russian woman named Magda, as well as the increasing anger over the perceived sexism of the French legal system when it comes to divorce. And all this is accomplished with a tilt of the head, a stray tear, a concise yet biting speech in the lawyer's office. There are also the instances that are just as brilliant, though nowhere near as subtle. PCC's favorite is when the diminutive- and pregnant!- Watts launches a purse-attack on poor Matthew Modine, the slightly psychotic American husband of Magda. Just when you think Roxie has taken the high road and walked away from the situation, back she flies, almost leaping onto Modine's back and giving him one last thwack over the head with her bag. Priceless.
Overall, with its lush shots of Paris and the French countryside, Le Divorce should be chalked up as another hit for Mechant-Ivory. Sure, it might not be as critically regarded as the several E.M. Forrester adaptations Ismail and James have to their credit, but this latest venture has a terrific cast, an intriguing story and, of course, Paris. What more can you ask for?
We know that movies about the internet are so-very-2001 but Cinecultist has to say we're sort of excited about the idea of a docu on Craig's List. Produced by Zealot Pictures, the movie will follow a day (Aug. 4, 2003) in the life of people who use the site, including a posting for a flash mob(!). One thing's for sure, this movie has to be more compelling than Startup.com. Can we say "navel-gazing?" [via Gawker]
[Ed. -- we'd like to take this opportunity to direct our readers to Black Table's Week in Craig column, currently penned by Amy Blair. While not related to movies, this roundup of Craig's List postings is freaking hi-larious and CC is official addicted to consuming it every darn week.]
Sorry, we'll stop now.
At this year's 56th Annual Cannes Film Festival, the selection was reportedly so terrible (Dogville, Mystic River, Elephant, Swimming Pool, and The Barbarian Invasions were so terrible? Oh, right. Brown Bunny and The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story.) that everyone was eagerly looking forward to the VFF. Evidence here and here.
Erm...keep on lookin', ladies and germs. Okay, okay, maybe CCC doesn't know who most (any) of these movies/directors are, but has there been any buzz about any of these? Yes, yes, C3 is excited about anything that Michael Winterbottom works on (the man is a machine! 14 films in ten years! many of them critically acclaimed! all made differently [that CCC is aware of]! madness!), but we haven't heard much about Code 46 (Samantha Morton, though, is enough to pique somethin'). And though we haven't seen anything by Mr. Beat Takeshi, we know the name, we know the respect, and we tremble at his imdb trivia page. As for the only 'American' film in competition, 21 Grams doesn't really seem that interesting, but it's by the director of Amores Perros and has Charlotte Gainsburg in it. And some unknowns or something. WINK!
As for the rest. Um..color us ignorant. But look at the Out of Competition! The Human Stain, The Dreamers (why, Jakey, why?), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, um..The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Intolerable Cruelty, Matchstick Men! It's a veritable cornucopia of..movies. By Americans. And a bad Woody Allen movie.
Beware of the water. And Venice. And dwarves. And little red macs. These are important lessons PCC learned after watching Nicolas Roeg's beautiful, yet haunting, 1973 film, Don't Look Now. Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as John and Laura Baxter, Roeg's film chronicles the couple's new life in Venice following the accidental drowning of their little girl, Christine back in England. John buries himself, almost literally, in work restoring an old Venetian church, while Laura tries to adjust to life without her child.
After meeting two strange British sisters in a restaurant, one of whom informs Laura that she has 'seen' Christine, despite her blindness, Laura emerges almost a new woman. She is cheerful, strangely calmed by the pyschic's vision. John, on the other hand, is skeptical and tries to convince his wife that Christine is gone. Depending on whom you belive, the couple either spirals further into madness or begins to shake loose from its grips. Since it would be a crime to reveal the ending, PCC urges you not to get discouraged by the deliberately paced plot and stick around for the shocking final scene.
Let's get the sex scene out of the way first. Please refer to CCC's earlier entry on Belle du Jour for an interesting commentary on celebrity nudity and the like. It's true, the love scene between Sutherland and Christie is amazingly realisitc, with full nudity for both. But what makes it fascinating to watch is that it doesn't feel extraneous, like many modern-day scenes of hoppping in the sack. There is an element of fear that is evident as their hands move up and down each other's body, holding on as if the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate. This isn't sex for sex's sake: it's survival and connection and safety in contact.
Apart from the truly creepy plot, adapted from a Daphne Du Maurier (the literary source of several Hitchcook films, including Rebecca) story, the combination of Anthony Richmond's cinematography and Graeme Clifford's editing is a story in and of itself. The repeated use of water, from the pond where Christine drowns to wine dripping off the table after Laura faints to the Venetian canals themselves, is gorgeous. The audience never feels hit over the head with the imagery; it isn't merely added to remind us that 'hey, remember, the little girl drowned!' The dripping and pooling and flowing of the various liquids adds another layer to already dream-like quality of the film.
Finally, a note on the acting. Always a fan of Donald Sutherland (though he seems to lose his cinematic children to water accidents a bit too often for comfort- remember Ordinary People?), PCC was thoroughly impressed by his performance as a grieving parent. There's something in his eyes that can signify more pain than sobbing ever could. A new member to the Julie Christie fan club, PCC wonders why she never joined before. The woman is both subtly talented and not so subtly gorgeous. We completely buy the notion that she has really lost a child and is trying desperately to hang on to her rapidly vanishing husband. And as an acting pair, Christie and Sutherland have the audience utterly convinced that they really are married, they are that compatible and seemingly effortless together.
Just what Cinecultist's hometown state California needs -- another movie star governor. As you may well know, Ah-nold has thrown his hat into the gubernatorial ring along with various other odd duck celebs like Gary Coleman, Arianna Huffington and Larry Flynt. For now, read the coverage in the conventional news sources (LA Times, NY Times, CNN, USAT) but CC promises a report from the streets, told from mouths of the real people (aka the Wilsons/Dalzells/Deans), as we're heading out to San Francisco this weekend. Boy oh boy, you leave a state for a few years and it all goes to hell in a handbasket...
As per a discussion this afternoon with CCC and CC on the lack of press about this year's New York Film Festival, PCC did some searching and discovered that Clint Eastwood's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's best-selling novel (which PCC is in the middle of reading) Mystic River will open the festival this year. PCC hopes to be first line!
Greg Lindsay at Black Table talks with Mike "Cut Up the Frame" Figgis about issues of DV and current film distribution trends. He does not discuss why anyone would want to make a film based on the Duchess of Malfi (a 16th Century play that's the metatext inside his 2001 movie, Hotel) or why he cast David Schwimmer in it.
Cinecultist doesn't tell a whole lot of people this, but since we're so close, we think we're ready to share. In high school, CC was a Thespian. We even had a card from the Thespian Society to carry around in our wallet proving to the world that we were a theater geek. With this background, we expected to enjoy Camp, a movie about a performing arts summer camp.
But J and CC agreed that Camp is perhaps one of the worst movies we've seen in a long time. Like an episode of 7th Heaven or other After School Special ilk but with bad singing, two hours long and no commercials was the consensus. For such a supposedly queer-positive teen movie (one character's introduced in high drag at his junior prom), there's nary a real homosexual encounter. Not even some pretty boys kissing, just lots of awkward hetero lip lock and terrible, terrible musical numbers. The Stephen Sondheim cameo comes too late to salvage any of the hackney emoting and the ten odd minutes of charming bits throughout seem only to be insulting the audience's intelligence.
Even more shocking than Sondheim's participation, we noted such current musical luminaries as Stephen Trask, John Cameron Mitchell, Christine Vachon and Paul Thomas Anderson credited or thanked in the credits. Someone needs to remind the writer/director of this horror show, Todd Graff, that to fulfill Susan Sontag's prescription for camp of "failed seriousness," the production need to be as self-aware as it is embarrasingly earnest.
It's always painful to watch someone do a lackluster impression of the great physical comic from the silent era, Buster Keaton. One has to wince when it becomes apparent that there wasn't a whole lot of 'prat' in the prat falls. On the other hand, watching someone- be it a stand-up comic or an actor- execute a flawless cane twirl or practiced flip of a top hat is mesmerizing. Luckily, Johnny Depp's performance in 1993's Benny and Joon falls into the latter category. Depp plays Sam, an illiterate but sweet social misfit who is used as betting fodder in a poker game and as a result moves in with brother and sister Benny and Joon (Aidan Quinn and Marty Stewart Masterson). Benny has been caring for the mentally unbalanced, but brilliantly artistic, Joon since their parents' death 12 years prior.
Luckily, Benny and Joon avoids the tired cliche of the protective, sacrificing older sibling who cares for a handicapped brother or sister, while wanting nothing in return. Benny and Joon feel like real people: Benny worries about Joon's safety, but also longs to be able to play poker with his friends without dragging his sister along. The pair obviously love each other, but they fight like real brothers and sisters do. Benny isn't the perfect caregiver and Joon isn't a model patient. But that's what makes them interesting.
And then there's Depp's Sam. The extended sequences of physical comedy are truly amazing. Even simple things like rolls and forks in the town diner are put to comedic use by Sam, who makes little legs and feet out of the food and utensils and dances them to the background music. It's one of those things that look easy, but admit it, when was the last time you made your food dance?
Joon and Sam's romance is tentative and touching at the same time. We want them to be together, but we also understand Benny's concern for his sister. We root for Joon to become independent, but we worry about her penchant for starting fires. In short, director Jeremy Chechik paints characters that come alive for us and who we genuinely care for. And it doesn't hurt that one of them is the supremely talented and versatile Mr. Depp.
Oh sure, Radiohead says that Meeting People Is Easy but they're an international pop sensation. Perhaps you should head down to the Warsaw in Greenpoint tomorrow night for this documentary on the band's 1997 OK Computer tour and pick up a few pointers.
Cinecultist remembers enjoying the film when we saw it with CM at UC Davis's excuse for an on campus theater, Chem 191, during its initial release. Thom Yorke spends most of the movie looking cranky and pensive indie rocker but the footage showing the making of the video where he sings from a diver suit as it fills with water is fascinating. Poor guy looks like he's about to drown before they yell cut on each take. Also, there's something delightful about watching the Japanese fans go nuts for the band, it is too cute. Just thinking about the movie makes CC nostalgic for those days when the design guys on the California Aggie newspaper made us listen to OK so many times we thought we might turn into a computer. *Sigh* college. [via Flavorpill]
Reviews panning Gigli? Shocking. Gawker rounds up a few of the choice quotes but just remember that you read a trashing (citing Godard no less) here first. Cinecultist goes to the bat for you, our readers, doing the leg work, watching the really crap movie in the theaters, so you can have your own snarky opinions to share 'round the water cooler. You're welcome.
Cinecultist did indeed attend a Saturday afternoon screening of Gigli, damn that alien-implanted J.Lo-lovin' chip. CC thinks that, like most of the people who's hard earned money contributed to the movie's mediocre grosses for the weekend, we wanted to see if it really would be as bad as we'd heard. It was. Gigli's a train wreck. Martin Brest is asleep at the wheel. Jen and Ben have little on screen chemistry to speak of and if CC ever hears the phrase "the Baywatch" again, we might have to hurt somebody.
If CC were Elmore Leonard, we'd be expecting a royalty check right about now because Gigli wants so desperately to be a quirky and fanciful gangster tale like Get Shorty or even Out of Sight. Yet Gigli never fills in its characters' back stories, so the charisma of the actors and the alleged wackiness of the situations is expected to take up the slack. Kidnapping the mentally handicapped = crazy. Lesbian new age gangster = wacky. Reading the promotional packaging labels as bedtime story = hi-larious. Yet none of these supposed screwball scenes have any punch or momentum, they lie there on the screen with vast silences and odd looks passing between the actors which could have easily be excised by a good editor.
Gigli's filled with disjointed moments and bizarre encounters with ordinarily passable character actors. Al Pacino (as the bad ass gangster in a horrid grey ponytail) and Christopher Walken (as a suspicious cop) wander on screen, gesticulate a bit, explicate some plot, gnaw some furniture then disappear without a trace. Lanie Kazan (the mother from My Big Fat Greek Waste of Time) plays Gigli's mother and upon learning of Ricki's lesbian leanings leers at her like a love-starved sailor, and at the same time urges her to give the penis another try, since Mom can tell Ricki has dabbled in the past. Huh?
But the award for weirdest moment in this movie has to go to Jen's extended vagina monologue wherein she rhapsodizes on the merits of "that hole, those lips, the source of all life." While doing yoga. In a bra top and short shorts. It is like the red, white and blue Bardot body in Contempt, in terms of spectacle but without Godard's cynicism. For the fans of J.Lo's insured assets, she does wear a parade of ass-tastic outfits like ultra low rise pants and a practically indecent jean skirt but the capper is her Britney-style safety pin top. People around CC in the theater literally gasped when seeing her in this top as all thoughts of the plot flew out the window. The lesbian ex just tried to kill herself in the kitchen? Who cares when we can see Jen's not wearing a bra.
Luckily for anyone concerned that Jen might persuade a whole generation of impressionable young women to dabble in the dark side, her co-star is Ben the original cinematic sapphic converter. Normative heterosexuality reigns as the couple single-handedly keeping US Weekly in business ride off into the sunset. Now, will the alien chip please leave CC alone? Until Jersey Girl comes out anyway.
An article in today's Times comments on the increased profitability of the Regal theaters around the country resulting from renovations in older theaters, such as the advertising opportunities before the film. The article also links the disposible income of teenagers to movie theater profits because kids are more apt to spend $4 on a gi-normous soda. Towards the end of the piece though, some of those rich teens talk about their creative responses to the 2wenty, that pesky series of conversation-killing advertisements that has been really bugging CC lately.
For their part, the teenage girls attending "Pirates of the Caribbean" with Sara Fanning were unimpressed with Regal's 2wenty showing. "It was pretty irritating," said Nina Simons, a 14-year-old from Denver who tried not to pay attention to the ads while chatting in her seat with friends. The group was even less appreciative of the free mini-CD's, featuring the singer Rachel Farris, that were attached to soda lids. Most of the girls put the CD's in their microwaves, Nina said. "They come out kind of crackled and melty. It's pretty nifty."
See what can happen when you give somebody an Oscar? The Times reports today (on the front page, no less) that controversy regarding Mel Gibson's new Jesus movie, The Passion is heating up as Mel begins screening the rough cut to friendly audiences. One such hand-picked person made the following statement, sure to be a pull quote on the movie's publicity poster:
"Mel Gibson is the Michelangelo of this generation," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Why is this story so newsworthy months in advance of the release of a movie rumored to be screened in Aramaic and Latin with no subtitles (nothing says good popcorn flick to CC like dead languages)?
Mr. Gibson's vision "pays tribute to Judaism," Mr. Lauer said, by underscoring Christianity's roots. The controversy, he added, has built a considerable buzz about the movie. "You can't buy that kind of publicity," he said.
And why would Mel need to, when he has the Times and Matt Drudge for that?
CCC moved into his new apartment last week, and finally got his beloved cable internet back last night, prompting him to do the most logical thing. TRAILER BINGE.
Brother Bear: The saving grace of this trailer comes at the very end, and we have the feeling that the saving grace of the movie lies in the sharp claws of those moose. Grade: C+
Cheaper by the Dozen: What the fuck is going on here? Why have Shawn Levy and Craig Titley (hee) ruined one of C3's favorite children's book? Why have they set it in modern times, without a hint of the actual storyline? Why is Ashton Kutcher in 60 percent of the trailer, when he doesn't appear to be one of the actual children? And, for God's sake, why doesn't Hotty McHottlestein Tom Welling appear (shirtless) in more of the trailer? Grade: D-
The Haunted Mansion: Sadly, CCC kind of liked this trailer, if only because Terence Stamp is kind of in it, and because Jennifer Tilly is actually spooky cool as the gypsy/ghost/crystal-head-thingie. Grade: B
The Human Stain: Okay Nicole, here's how you play it. What you want to do is plant the seed for a supporting role in The Human Stain and a lead actress role in Cold Mountain. Forget about Dogville, it's crizazy and out there. Play it straight, play it cool, play it sexy, and you'll be adding two more nods, and maybe a statue to join your lonely, lonely man. Grade: B+ (oh, wait, an actual analysis to back this up. In short, non-telling trailer that still seems interesting but is too fractured to be of use).
Intolerable Cruelty: Mmm..We love the Coen brothers. Their recent films make us happy. They're so smart and smooth and not silly or dumb at all. Their most recent trailer doesn't reduce us to tears or waste Catherine Zeta-Hot at all. It isn't lumbersome and un-funny and long in the very least. Grade: F
Master and Commander: Yawn. Why does this seem like such a boring movie? Maybe because Russell Crowe hasn't made anything interesting since L.A. Confidential (and before that, only a scant few [sorry, The Insider]). Maybe because no one cares about the high seas. Maybe because this seems to be as crappily sentimental as A Beautiful Crap. Only Peter Weir's name at the end implies potential. Whereas the full title, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, implies crapqeuls. Grade: C-
The Rundown: Please kill us and eat our body. Grade: B(+?!?!)
Timeline: This one's been around for a while, but Apple is a liar and says that it just appeared. Good for them, because I can only trash new trailers, and boy is this one a stinker. Let's fax people to the past! Let's "Virginia Woolf in The Hours decimating Richmond" the Middle Ages! Let's make France O'Connor really work for her crack money! Let's not take off Paul Walker or Gerard Butler's shirts! Let's give this trailer a D+!
Underworld: CCC had already seen a good trailer for this film a few months ago, but this newer, longer one is filled with even more hot vampire preening. And not much else excites CCC more than hot vampires preening their hot selves (maybe if Nicole and Jakey were in a hot vampire movie). Plus, Scott Speedman has sensitive eyes. Grade: A- (if we weren't filled with shame, we'd give it an A)
Wonderland: For all it's not-really-anything-we-haven't-seen-before-ness, this trailer is actually kind of cool, though it both tells you nothing and everything about the story. The bevy of stars could be more capitalized upon, though we get enough cameos to pique our interest. Plus, Dylan McDermott is in it, looking totally wacko and not his usually steely hot self. Curious. Grade: B+
Want to get the hell out of town, but the eminent downpour this weekend seeming like it will keep you confined to the couch? Solve this quandry the cinecultist way, as an armchair traveler via the road movie. Nerve's staff offers a few suggestions, and CC thinks their sexiest pick has to be not Y Tu Mama Tambien but the Muppet Movie (wherein we learn that Fozzie learned to drive via correspondence school).
Your favorite movies from the road? Tell us in the comments.