Quickie reviews on three movies Cinecultist watched this week, which when put next to each other have no obvious relation other than their proximity of viewing. Any connection inferred would be entirely of your own doing.
Dead Ringers (1988) -- Cinecultist finds David Cronenberg intriguing but we'd never had a chance to see this feature, despite having read a bunch about it. Jeremy Irons gives such a bravura performance as the twin brother gynecologists, we're definitely going to be creeped out through next week just thinking about him and those tools for mutant women. What puts Cronenberg above and beyond your usual horror director is his sense of aethetics in terms of production design -- their futuristic examining room, the all red operating clothes, the lush appointments of their favorite restaurant all could not be more perfect. An excellent example of mid-80s technological paranoia, we highly recommend this movie if you can catch it on tv as we did or add the Criterion version to your Netflix queue.
Donnie Darko: Director's Cut (2004) -- As Josh Cultivated Stupidity and CC walked out of this movie we turned to our budding director friend to say, "Now let that be a lesson to you to know when to leave well enough alone." "Yup, sometimes less really is more," as Josh said. We still really admire Richard Kelly for producing this high quality film on a first outing and Jake Gyllenhaal still totally cute as ever, but the obviously added effects and the quotations from The Philosophy of Time Travel do nothing for the picture as a whole. Honestly, more explanation did not make for a more pleasurable viewing. CC still recommends catching it on the big screen in a midnight screening but be sure it's the old version rather than this director's cut. Unless you're a die-hard Jakie fan (and we know you're out there, we've seen our stats) and must consume all things Jake G.
Shaolin Soccer (2001) -- Our biweekly movie group (it's like a book group, only we watch movies), Cinema Ahh*some met this week to watch Matty's pick, the Chinese kungfu soccer comedy directed by and starring Stephen Chow. We know we've implied this before but now we're going to say it out right -- Miramax sucks. They purchased this movie for distribution ages ago, they sat on it and then released it as a dubbed version in the theaters for about two seconds. And it's hilarious. You really should see it if you haven't and you even just a little bit like kung fu movies. Although sadly, when you see it you probably won't get the patent-pending Cinema Ahh*some running commentary to enhance your viewing experience. If CC could bottle up some Fiona giggling and ship it to you with a copy of this DVD, we totally would.
As suggested to you Manhattan based cinecultists last week, Cinecultist attended a midnight screening of the Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) at the Sunshine Landmark theater on Friday night and thus, brings you a little mid-week, gratuitous Muppet action. Why? Just because we feel like it. To love the Muppets needs no rhyme or reason, dear friends, no reason at all.
Something we never noticed before when watching this movie, how odd are the names of the rats in Manhattan? Rizzo (which comes from Midnight Cowboy of course), but Masterson, Chester, Tatooey and Yolanda? Wacky. The music in Manhattan isn't as strong as some of the other features, probably its most famous track is the Muppet babies theme whose doo wap refrain (mama, dada, boop boop, shewawa) had the hipster kids singing along as we crossed Houston after the movie. CC finds this song annoying to skin itching levels, despite the utter cuteness of the baby Scooter, so in the On The Soundtrack section at left we bring you 5 minutes from the finale, "Somebody's Getting Married." There's quite a chorus of Muppets on this track, the whole freakin' gang is here.
From a fashion point of view, Miss Piggy's early 80s hairdos look quite dated but the scene between her and Joan Rivers at the makeup counter, where Rivers gives Piggy a makeover to cheer her up is utterly classic. CC wonders if someone has that overly rouged and eyebrowed Miss Piggy puppet somewhere?
Sadly, there's not too much Waldorf and Statler in this picture, but hey as they say in The Muppet Christmas Carol and as Cinecultist quotes to her sister Laurie all the time, "It's good to be heckling again." To which she replies, "It's good to be doing anything again."
Who's your favorite Muppet and why? Let us know in the comments (extra points for quotation).
Have you ever finished a book, sighed deeply, put it down longingly and then seriously thought about picking up again to start over at page one? This is how Cinecultist felt upon completing Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me by Craig Seligman over the weekend. As a personal friend of film critic Pauline Kael's and a long time obsessive reader of both hers and cultural critic/novelist Susan Sontag's work, Seligman sets out to compare them despite their having written at the same time though not ever about each other. What follows is a thoughtful ramble through their writings, not an autobiographical tour or even a strictly plotted argument, but an exploration of some common touch points that illuminates their distinct approaches to the same goal — making criticism an art.
What Cinecultist found ourselves responding to the most in this book was Seligman's combination of intellectual inquiry with personal response. A 200 page blogging entry if you will, Seligman begins and ends his argument with his own feelings about reading Kael and Sontag, namely that he admires Sontag's writing but he adores Kael's. Though that's not to say that he bashes Sontag by any means, rather he analyzes her detractors and offers a historiographic approach to her most controversial opinions like the support of North Vietnam and Cuba's socialist regimes. Unlike most books of criticism, Seligman very prominently inserts himself into the accounting, though not in an intrusive or self-aggrandizing way. The book's final chapter catalogues where he was when he read each of the writer's major works and really there can be no more loving a tribute than to imply that reading certain works counted as milestones in your own development.
We'd love to quote for you some of our favorite passages in the book, to whet your appetite but CC didn't take notes or mark up our copy while reading it and without titled chapters or subheadings, it's difficult to find a particular memorable bit in all of that mass of writing. Seligman's ideas flow in an organic way, giving the impression of meandering through his thoughts, which is why on finishing the book we wanted to pick it back up again, to get back on that literal train of thought. While it would probably help to appreciate Sontag & Kael if you've read a little Sontag and Kael before picking it up, CC wouldn't say it's absolutely necessary to enjoying Seligman's work. Though if you've not at least perused I Lost It At The Movies and Against Interpretation, we would heartily recommend them. As Seligman argues, to make criticism a part of your way of thinking is to truly elevate it to an art form. And we think that should be the goal of any person calling themselves a cinecultist.
Imagine a TV show that's IFC's Film Fanatic meets Blind Date but without Roger Lodge -- sounds brilliant to us. But maybe that's because Cinecultist has been known to rule out potential dates based on their DVD collection. CC received the following call for submissions in our inbox yesterday and so we pass it along to our readers in hopes that one of you cuties will get cast on this thing, so we can get the inside dirt. We have the contact name and address, so if you'd like to submit yourself drop us an e-mail or IM.
"Movie Match" for AMC hooks up men and women based on their movie compatibility. Very fun, very classy movie-themed dating interstitial. Looking for real people, actors, comics (all are welcome!). Each week someone is selected as "host" and interviews fellow movie lovers of the opposite sex during commercial breaks. After each break the host gives candid asides to camera. Picks favorite during last commercial break and they are rewarded with a movie date. Pays $250 for up to 3 hours of shooting + $100 bonus to "winner" and host + all expense paid movie date.
Movie Lovers should be very attractive, charismatic and altogether interesting, must have great sense of humor and strong opinions about Movies and Life, and know what they're looking for in a potential mate.
Shoots week of August 19th in NYC.
No union jurisdiction.
While we admit that we are getting a bit Harold & Kumar'd out at this point (scroll down to see Cinecultist's, er, Gothamist's take on it), we thought we would post this letter that has been filtering through the various Asian American Entertainment email lists that we have somehow gotten ourselves entangled in. From all the good press, Seattle Maggie would swear that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was the greatest step for mainstream Asian entertainers since Tamlyn Tomita got to snuggle on film with the Karate Kid (in Part 2, of course). However, we are getting the feeling that all the feel-good vibes might be a little...well, too feel-good to be true. Since when do Asian Americans need to star in silly, frat-boy humor movies to feel normal?
As a practicing Korean American, Seattle Maggie sometimes wishes that more "normal" roles could be given to Asian actors, but we don't lose any sleep over it (we leave that our old high school chum, Angry Asian Man). A great example of this would be Canada's Premiere Korean Actress, our darling Sandra Oh. Indeed, she shines in the entertaining, yet predictable culture clash Double Happiness, but her merits burst into supernova brightness with Last Night, as a young woman facing the literal end of the world. Last Night never directly mentions her ethnicity, which somehow makes it all the more remarkable. She is just a face in the crowd, dealing with the same problems that everyone else is coming to terms with. We love that there are no tired chicken feet jokes, or tedious plotlines about old-fashioned parents, or gratuitous "uptight-Asian-girl-gets-drunk-and-cuts-loose" scenes. And so, we think that perhaps Harold & Kumar might offer the same kind of graceful transition, by letting young Asian guys just be young guys. Silly, yes. Asian, yes. Normal, a big yes. We are totally in line for the opening this weekend.
As for the whole "wacky tobaccy" aspect of the film, which has been discretely glossed over by mainstream journalists, Seattle Maggie remains both tolerant and mildly amused by those who pay homage to the Mighty Weed. While we hope this movie does not revive that ridiculous "Pot Promotes Terrorism" ad campaign, we do not enjoy the stuff ourselves. Most of our experience with the herbage comes from helping our college dorm neighbor to flush his stash down the toilet after he mentioned wanting to cut down on his consumption in a moment of weakness, much to his profound regret the next day when he realized what he had done. Ah, well, to each his own, and as long as no one loses a limb. And now, a word from Harold & Kumar:
Dear Friends, Fans, Haters, Players, and True Money Makers,
Hey! This is Kal Penn (aka Kalpen Modi) and John Cho writing to encourage you to go see our upcoming comedy from New Line Cinema, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," opening nationwide on July 30th. This film marks the first time a major studio is releasing a project with two Asian American males as the leads. We don't have stereotypical accents, we don't passively tread through the story, we're not asexual or hypersexual, there are no martial arts scenes, one-dimensional cab driver segments. We play a couple of all-American guys who happen to be of Indian and Korean descent. Our characters (Harold and Kumar) are post-collegiate buddies who get the munchies and end up going on the adventure of their lives as they set out to satisfy a spontaneous craving for White Castle burgers. Ebert and Roeper just gave our movie "Two Thumbs Up"! We hope you will too. Read on.
The opening weekend for any film is extremely important. Studio executives (the people who make big decisions about movies) track the numbers from that first weekend's ticket sales and make all kinds of decisions based on that data. They decide if they will add more screens to show a film, if they will spend more money in promoting it, if they will start investing in a sequel... but most importantly, they decide if elements of the film work and whether they should do it again. In our case, that means they will be asking, "Will a strong script and story succeed or fail with 2 Asian American guys in non-stereotypical roles?". We personally think it will succeed, but we need your help! This film is our chance to prove that realistic, nonstereotypical depictions can make an audience have a blast, and take in enough money to make this happen in the future.
By buying a ticket to "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle", you aren't just gonna get to see a really funny movie with two dudes who look like you. Nope. You're also going to be saying to media outlets, "I support accurate representation of Asian Americans and would like to see more." You have the power to change things simply by buying a ticket to a film that we believe you'll have fun watching anyway!
Please go to the theaters on the weekend of July 30th, and watch "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle". We look at this awesome opportunity like we do voting in an election. Every movie ticket someone buys is a VOTE, and the cool part is, you're allowed to vote as many times as you want. With your support of the film, we will show decision-makers in Hollywood that supporting movies like these is not only the right thing to do, but is also good business. We'll also show YOU what it's like to ride a cheetah, hang glide off a cliff, pick up a hitchhiking Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser), tell off a bunch of ignorant punks, get love interests, and sing Wilson Phillips at the top of our lungs.
So just hold on for one more... week, and check out the website at www.HaroldandKumar.com. This film opens the weekend of July 30th! Send this email to all of your friends. Throw parties. Order food. Make a night (or weekend) out of it and go see "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle"! This is a landmark opportunity for the Asian American community, and we are proud to be the faces involved. With your support and the success of this film, we hope that it's only the beginning of many more Asian Americans on screen...
Enjoy the movie,
Kal Penn and John Cho
"Kumar" and "Harold"
New Line Cinema's "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"
The Associate Press reported yesterday that George Lucas's camp announced the new title for the third installment of the Star Wars prequel series as, "The Revenge of the Sith." Announcing the news to the sci-fi fans at this year's convention, according to the AP the Star Wars geeks cheered for the title seeming to be more pleased with this than previous prequel titles. They also had t-shirts ready for sale at the announcement, a picture of which you can see following the next link.
Our question -- how do we really know that the fans are happy about the new title? Is the guy inside this storm troopers suit in this AP photo from the convention smiling as he holds up this t-shirt? No imperical evidence in this photo, is there?
(Self Promoting) Remainder: Our friends at Daily Gusto interviewed Cinecultist for their Day Jobs Interview Series and it's up today. Find out the shocking details about what CC does from 9 to 5! Actually it's not shocking, we just want you to click over. So click already, okay?
Though it has nothing to do with movies, Cinecultist wanted to point out Philip Gourevitch's really wonderful profile of John Kerry "Damage Control" in this week's New Yorker. We knew which way our vote was going come November, but this article gives us real reasons for it. Intellectual inquiry in the White House, what an amazing concept.
Ok, enough of that partisanship. Enjoy the weekend cinecultists -- may it be popcorn and A/C filled for you!
If you're in the Manhattan area this evening, might Cinecultist suggest two unorthodox but intriguing sounding movie activities?
An interactive screening of Showgirls in Chelsea to coincide with the release of the V.I.P Edition of Paul Verhoeven's 1995 film. It sounds sort of like Rocky Horror Picture Show only with thongs, Kyle MacLachlin and lesbianism.
Go to see Un chien andalou four times in a row with the Ensemble Sospeso accompanying them with four different contemporary music pieces at the Walter Reade. The 8 pm screening is a part of the Lincoln Center Festival 2004.
And while we're in a suggesting mood...
Might we also suggest reading every last article of the new Reverse Shot on Richard Linklater? It will make your brain happy.
For tomorrow, the midnight movie at the Sunshine theater on Houston will be Muppets Take Manhattan, a huge Cinecultist favorite. Perhaps even one of our childhood inspirations for moving to New York, though we soon discovered that Rizzo the Rat = cute, actual rats in the subway = not cute at all.
Remember last summer when there was nothing but sequels out and they all pretty much sucked? Notice how this summer the studios have done a complete about face on the whole "sequels = money in our pockets" thing? And yet, the big budget non-sequels this summer like Catwoman look totally lame and/or like I, Robot has had mixed reviews? Goofy, n'est pas? Almost makes you want to advise the studios to just, you know, make good movies and not worry so much about formular? Just a suggestion from a cinecultist.
Anyhoo, this is all a lead in to saying, Cinecultist is sort of surprised to be really looking forward to a Friday afternoon screening of The Bourne Supremacy with our friend Ilana, the ultimate target audience for all things big budget and explosion-y. (We bring you the still at left from the first film.) The hype on this one has actually hit us where we live, good marketing at work there folks. CC enjoyed the first installment, in particular the performance by Franka Potente as the most ordinary but believable girl caught in the cross fire of international espionage who gets to make-out with Matt Damon. Also suspect though in the new one, is the introduction of a new director as Doug Liman of Go exited the project after the first film because of reported problems with the studio. CC liked his frantic style, it added to the paranoia and unease. So we're officially excited but with a tinge of trepidation thrown in to counter balance it.
It's hot these days in Seattle - that's right, we said HOT. While Seattle Maggie knows that she would probably be instantaneously reduced to a puddle of goo by one tiny whiff of NYC summertime humidity, the fact that the temperature hovers in the 80s is enough to make her droopy with heat. While we have been reduced to periodically sticking our head in the freezer and going to sleep splayed out on the floor like a water buffalo, nothing beats the heat like a little shiver up the spine.
While surfing our beloved Encore channels, we came across Below, a good old-fashioned supernatural thriller. While we were originally drawn to it from catching a glimpse of Scott Foley in the previews, aka Noel from Felicity (yes, once again, the WB rears its perfectly coiffed head), we were pleasantly surprised to find a gripping story and one or two inadvertent yelps of surprise. Below takes place on the American submarine USS Tiger Shark during WWII. After a long seven weeks at sea, the crew is instructed to pick up three survivors of a recently torpedoed British hospital ship. Once the survivors are aboard, among them a lone female nurse, the obligatory strange and creepy things begin to happen. As the bodies and the questions begin to pile up, the claustrophobic confines of the sub and the dark water around it presses in, unrelenting. It is a neat set-up, and it works for this movie. There are several nail-biting moments, including a depth charge sequence so exquisitely excruciating you will only realize you have been holding your breath once you let it out.
With an impressive creative team, including director David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick), writer Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), and some great character actors including Olivia Williams (Rushmore) and Dexter Fletcher (the reluctantly crazed chef from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), it is a shame that this movie basically slipped by without notice.The tone and style of this movie really makes it a winner, with a supernatural evil in the movie that is definitely present, but not all up in your face with a chainsaw. It is refreshing when a horror film makes the your skin crawl without resorting to all-out bloodfests, in the style of the much-abused Blair Witch Project and the masterful films of M. Night Shyamalan. Another great film we can't recommend enough (also ignored in the box office) is Session 9, with the creepy, yet compelling David Caruso in an abandoned insane asylum filled with asbestos. If anyone is looking to beat the heat on either coast, take a chance with these chills n' thrills - but don't blame us if you need to sleep with the lights on.
PS Seattle Maggie was so inspired by this film that she paid a visit to a real live Russian submarine docked at Pier 48 - All we can say is, we really hope all the sailors were short, as even our squat Asian stature didn't get us out of bashing our noggin on various pipes and valves on more than one occasion.
Cinecultist is now referring to ourselves in the third person in yet another location on this here Intraweb, ie. Gothamist Arts & Events. We'll be covering film and other sundry New York arts events with the lovelies Jen, Janelle and Mindy. To get started, we've reviewed Harold and Kumar Got To White Castle, a screening of which we caught on Sunday at the Asian American International Film Festival.
Our review? In a nutshell, it's totally stupid. And we mean that as a compliment.
Following a day of sweaty hipsters, soft serve ice cream and sunscreen residue at the Siren fest on Coney Island (CC <3 Ben Gibbard!), Cinecultist exited the Q train at 14th Street to do the Union Square to Eee Vee movie lap in search of something to watch. At the 14th Street Loews theater the Anchorman screening for 10:10 pm was sold out and I, Robot only barely looks HBO-worthy. Down 4th Avenue we walked, pausing briefly for a fortifying slice at Pie then over 12th Street to 3rd Avenue to peruse the Loews Village VII options. Fahrenheit 9/11 we'd seen, Cinderella Story (see Avowed Moratorium), De-Lovely looks shudder inducing. Crossing 11th Street and heading back up 2nd Avenue we made a little prayer to the Movie Gods. "C'mon something decent to see at 10:30-ish." Bingo! Badassss at 10:20 pm at the CC Village East, we have a winner.
Cinecultist wishes we had seen this movie sooner, just so that we could have had more time to urge you to go and see it before it slips away from theaters. Directed by and starring filmmaker Mario Van Peebles, Badassss is a historiographic film, telling the story of the making of his father's seminal '70s blaxsploitation Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song. After completing Watermelon Man and receiving a tempting 3 picture deal from Columbia, Melvin Van Peebles wanted to make a movie about the black community, to represent the real struggles of the black man on the silver screen and to capture the national unease of the late '60s. But without the backing of a studio for his picture, he had to literally borrow, beg and steal to get his movie made with independent funding. No action was too sneaky and roundabout for Melvin in his unrelenting quest to get this picture made. He pretended to the unions it was a porn, so he could make it with an interracial crew. He enlisted an actress to do a nude scene by inviting her on a date to the set. He even almost shaved his son's beloved Afro to make it look like ring worm because Mario was playing the young Sweetback.
What makes Badassss such thrilling filmmaking and more than just a movie about moviemaking is the cross-over of people who were there and those retelling the tale. The script is adapted from Melvin's memoirs about the movie's creation, but the film shows how much a part of the film Mario was at every step and his own recollections of events must have heavily influenced his directing and performance as his father. In fact, it's surprising how sympathetic Melvin is, despite his depiction in the film as completely single-minded and kind of an asshole. Badassss shows a film who's filmmaker felt it politically and socially imperative that it be made, and his passion elevates the fictional drama to a level where you're literally on the edge of your seat to see if he can pull it off. Over the credits, Mario alternates footage of the actors and the real people they portray, and when we finally get to see a shot of the real Melvin with his beard now gray but still chomping away on his iconic cigar, you want to cheer. Here's a movie maker who strove to make a difference with his films and to tell stories about his own life experience. As the soundtrack reprises the musicical theme of "you bled my Mama/ you bled my Papa/ but you won't bleed me" it sounds like a real rebel song. And there couldn't be a more loving tribute from an artist and a son indebted to his trailblazing.
Based on our track record in the "paying good money to see crap movies" department*, it might be fair to wonder if Cinecultist plans to see the Hilary Duff movie opening this weekend, A Cinderella Story. But Cinecultist has decided to make a stand. We're putting our foot down. We're saying no to Chad Michael Murray and his dandelion fluff hair. We're saying no to the talented Jennifer Coolidge underutilized in yet another inconsequential comedy. We're saying no to what looks like a ridiculous plot with text messaging on cell phones as a mistaken identity device, unfunny jokes about Botox and the premise that Hilary Duff is not the type of girl to get noticed in high school. Even the four fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes will not dissuade us from our resolution. (Who are these people?!?) Cinecultist will stand strong — especially since our DVD rental of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen should be on its way soon.
*We did call Mandy Moore's movie Chasing Liberty the best movie of the year in this space, and we watched Gigli, Jersey Girl and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. It's a strong case against us and our "taste," that's for darn sure.
People often ask us, "hey Cinecultist with your cool gig as the Cinecultist, what kind of way cool stuff do you get to score?" Well kids, we've not got the swag coming out our ears but occasionally we do get something interesting in our mail, like yesterday's invitation to enjoy 4 Free Issues of Star magazine. Star magazine? Bonnie Fuller's recently revitalized, newly glossy but still getting trounced by US Weekly celebrity rag? Right away, we wondered which rat bastards had sold our mailing address. Probably not the liberal mailing list we appear to be on, what with our New Yorker subscription which lead to the inundation of requests to donate to Planned Parenthood, public radio and sundry soup kitchens. Could it have been that evil hillbilly Sallie Mae? We don't think so. Does being a subscriber to Lucky, Vogue, TimeOut New York and Jane magazine put us automatically into the demographic interested in the dieting lives of Oprah, Anna Nicole and Carnie Wilson? Seems unlikely. Maybe the invite is care of those bitches at New York magazine, though we do love our Deborah Schoeneman and our Lizzie Spears, there is a strong line in the sand between their delightful carping and pictures of the emaciated Mary-Kate. Perhaps not them either.
Cinecultist was all ready to just toss it out because for most movie star news we have the old online standbys Page Six and E! Online as well as Uncle Grambo and Stereogum for your Brit Brit in cut off shorts and what not. However! We began actually reading their pitch and realized a free four issue mini-subscription to Star magazine was just too good to pass up. First there is the picture of Colin Farrell with the caption "Nude This Summer" next to it. Is this on screen somewhere, perhaps in his new movie or it will it be in CC's apartment perhaps? Intriguing. Then the promise of Exclusive Interviews under a picture of Anglina Jolie that has the headline "Her Casual Sex Romps." And we'll be getting More Inside Scoops! according to one of the florescent pull quote features. Plus there are "wall-to-wall celebrity pictures sprinkled with juicy newsy [ed note. like news, only sorta] captions. The fast-breaking stories that Hollywood will be talking about tomorrow, YOU are reading in Star today. 'No way!' you say to yourself as you read about the iffy doings of one of your favorite celebrities." There's little CC likes more than iffy doings. We're not obligated at all so says the literature, so CC's sending off the reply card. It has to be good for a laugh or two and then we'll cancel at the first bill. We'll keep you posted cinecultists on the findings of our sociological dig into mainstream pop media.
Granted, we are concerned about now who Star will pass our address along to — do they publish a Ultimate Evil Weekly nowadays, or is it still just called People?
Though it's quite early to be talking it up, the next movie on the summer release schedule that Cinecultist is really looking forward to is Mira Nair's production of Vanity Fair due out September 1. (Did you need to even ask if CC's already completely over and done with I, Robot and Catwoman? Well, we are. ZZZZ...) Put out by Focus Features (a detailed plot summary available in their coming soon section), adapted from the William Makepeace Thackeray novel and starring Reese Witherspoon, James Purefoy, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (swoon), Romola Garai, Gabriel Byrne, and Jim Broadbent, it looks like CC's favorite combo of great story with creative adaptors. We're speaking of course of all of the saris and elephants evident in the preview, which we don't recall at all from the novel's English and French countryside during the time of the Napoleonic Wars setting. But we trust Mira to steer us right and for now will have to be content with paparazzi photoes of Reese from the set and the trailer viewable here. Good news by the way for those who are Rhys-Meyers fans but don't know the book, he plays another sexy but mean character. CC likes it when he's evil (ie. Gormengast), it's so much more exciting than when he's supposed to be good (Bend It Like Beckham).
As CC suspected in our previous Doinel posting, the extras on the Stolen Kisses DVD did inspire Cinecultist to wax a little poetic on Henri Langlois, founder of the French Cinemathéque and inspiration to the Nouvelle Vague and many other cinephiles. Stolen Kisses began shooting just days before the French government fired Langlois from his post, as well as ousting a bunch of his loyal underlings, and sending the French cinema going community into a tizzy. They took to the streets, protesting outside of the cinemathéque mobilizing an otherwise insular group into social action. As the revolutionary spirit of May '68 swept Paris, this group of cinephiles moved to act by their love for Langlois, spread their idealism to shutting down the Cannes Film Festival that year in solidarity for striking workers in the capitol.
While there's no overt political message in Stolen Kisses, Truffaut made the film alternating between his work in defense of the cinemathéque and shooting footage for his movie. The extras on the DVD are ostensibly home movies made by participants at the rallies and at Cannes, then narrated by historians, otherwise known as someone else who had been standing there in the crowd. It's the kind of organic history that's so fascinating to Cinecultist, giving you a tiny glimpse of how it must have been at that moment. That youthfulness and vitality are certainly a part of Stolen Kisses, even if politics aren't, as Doinel tries to keep a number of different jobs after being discharged from the service, including as an investigator for a private detective firm. It's a pretty fluffy film to be honest, as Doinel seduces a married women and gets fired from one job after the next, but its creation within this historical context is intriguing.
But what about Langlois, how does he fit into all of this excitement and youthful intensity? He was the conduit for their initial cinephilia and it is his work as the programmer for the cinemathéque, screening the American and other foreign films, along with the mentorship of Andre Bazin of course, that led to the New Wave in the first place. As you can see from his picture, Langlois wasn't the kind to hog the spotlight, especially when there were guys like the outspoken Godard and Truffaut around (both quite cute as young men, by the way). But from the footage on the DVD, you can see so clearly how they all revered him and how much his tastes in movies, everything from Chaplin and Louise Brooks to the Russian masters, influenced them. The ability to guide another's movie viewing is a powerful thing, from the littlest suggestion or review to planning a full-blown film series and educating your audience about the films' interconnections. To see films out of one kind of context (the studio system juggernaut) and in another (as art forms to be studied) can be a mind-expanding experience which leads to new discoveries about the film at hand.
While wandering the crowded streets of the Chinatown/International District Summer Festival yesterday, Seattle Maggie witnessed a surreal sight - Ronald McDonald cruising serenely through a sea of Asian folks on a Segway. Given the rave reception that Super Size Me has gotten, especially in health-conscious Seattle, we would have expected Mr. McDonald to have to peel out of there in haste, pelted by mobs armed with granola and spiky lychee nuts. Instead, he was followed by a Pied Piper-esque throng of small Asian kids, all clamoring for Grimace headbands. Sorry, Morgan Spurlock, it looks like America is still a little slow on the uptake.
In other news, today marks the first day of the annual Badwater Ultramarathon, in which participants make the 135 mile trek between Death Valley's lowest to highest points in 60 hours or less. Obstacles include dehydration, exhaustion, an 8080 foot elevation climb, temperatures cresting to 130 degrees and blisters the size of...well...feet. And did we mention no prize money? Anyone looking to learn more about this event can check out the documentary Running On the Sun, where even those of us who save running for catching the bus can experience the journey firsthand. The spirit and stamina of these runners is amazing to say the least, but props must also go out to the faithful road crews who feed, hydrate and cheer them on every step of the way. Doubly amazing is the ability of runner Gabriel Flores to simultaneously run, talk, and puke without breaking stride, as well as the guy who removed his toenails in order to be a better runner. Yikes.
In other other news, Seattle Maggie swears on her honor that she heard the lady on the Weather Channel tell the nation that South Dakota should expect "Nipple-Sized Hail" today. In order to link this to movies, let us say SM is badly torn on going to see Anchorman - 75% says yes, 20% says we should stay home and read some Proust and a rogue 5% says it just wants a milkshake and a nice, long nap.
Some movie viewings are a rite of passage — long, drawn out and nearly as painful as a bris. But you have to admire the filmgoer for surviving to tell the tale, and often the amount of numb ass is proportional to how good the story/review is. Case in point, Aaron Out of Focus's detailed posting on Vincent Gallo's controversial Toronto Film Fest entry Brown Bunny. We highly recommend spending the time to read the entire thing — especially since Aaron saves you the trouble of actually seeing the thing but still arms you with enough details about most of the scenes to talk about it at cocktail parties — but we'll reprint the following quote because we can't help ourselves. Heh. Vincent Gallo is like a stupider version of Salvador Dalì and Luis Buñuel; he's so surprised the audience liked his film, he forgot to throw the rocks at them that he brought to the screening.
"I suppose the most important thing I learned from watching The Brown Bunny is that I now understand Gallo's purpose as a filmmaker. He wants to antagonize his audience. He wants people to hate him and his films. It's really the only explanation. In fact, I'd bet that he was shocked at how warmly so many indie film folks received Buffalo 66. Maybe he is really intelligent after all. Maybe he said to himself, "Well, if that piece of crap couldn't get the audience to hate me, maybe I'll go one better and show my erect penis on screen. Or better yet, I won't show that much of it because it will be gagging my good friend Chloe at the time." He did a magnificent job of antagonizing me and plenty of other audience members (at least two left about 30 minutes in … and this was a press screening, I believe), although I would by no means speak for everyone, and I did overhear one woman say, "I really liked it."
"Those two fucking deserve each other."
— mini-review from two elderly ladies leaving a screening of Before Sunset, as overheard by CC's sister Laurie in Los Angeles.
[Ed. note: Which is more disturbing? That the ladies cursed so blatantly in front of our sister? Or that after a certain age, the romance between Jesse and Celine seems utterly juvenile and self-indulgent it's worthy of this level of derision? Toss up.]
Taking a page from Stereogum, Cinecultist has instituted a new feature to the site, Right-Click-Save-able files from our favorite film soundtracks, called Playing On The Soundtrack. In keeping with our promised viewing of the entire Antoine Doinel series this past week, we offer to the left in the sidebar the theme song from Stolen Kisses, and the inspiration for the film's title, Charles Trenet's lovely jazz ballad, "Que reste t'il de nos amours." If this song doesn't just sound like '60s Paris to you to a T — all cloudy days, trench coats and high heel pumps, lingering espressos in cafés, longing looks from across the discotheque — then you have no sense of cinematic imagination.
Apologies loyal cinecultists for our lackluster posting schedule this week, we'd like to blame the now concluded week of paid vacation from the Day Job. It's been great vacationing here in the Eee Vee but it has made us a little lax on the posting front and for that we're sorry. However! It doesn't mean we haven't been up to stuff, some of it cinema related no less.
Highlights included —
• Volunteering for the up coming Asian American International Film Festival beginning next Friday, July 16. If you haven't ever had call to visit the Asia Society on 70th and Park Avenue, the festival is a great opportunity as they'll be screening a whole host of shorts and features from Asian filmmakers in their beautiful space here and at the new ImaginAsian Theater on 59th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues as well. The non profit Asian Cinevision has the whole skinny on their website, including a full schedule of screenings and ticket reservations. More detailed info from us as well, as the fest nears.
• A (non-cinema related) posting on Daily Gusto regarding NYC humidity, Lush products, and the brilliant idea of freezing bath gel into ice cube sized servings. Try it! Brilliant!
• Attending a Thursday early afternoon CC matinee in Times Square of Antoine Fuqua's new King Arthur, produced by the evil?-evil-genius-more-like Jerry Bruckheimer. We wanted to post a big ol' picture of Keira Knightley and maybe a smaller but still prominent one of Clive Owen but those marketing minions have made the site stills un-Right-Click-Save-able. But let CC rest assure you Keira fans out there, girlfriend is gorgeous and fierce in this film heavy on the liberties with historical accuracy front. And we mean "fierce" not in the gay definition way (thanks, Jason!) but in the sooner shoot you with an arrow while wearing Celtic tattoos and woven leather straps on her breasts, than look at you sort of way. Brilliant!
• Drinking free drinks with a few bloggers in the LES, hearing a little gossip and discovering there are actually two girls who are in fact bigger Ben Gibbard fanatics/stalkers than ourselves. Crazy! This evening was a preface to further postings CC will be doing for other venues, but more on that when it comes to pass. Vague, vague, etc.
To come before the return to actual work on Monday some serious dental work (insert sad face) but also David Cross with Tinkle performing at Southpaw and the release of Anchorman in the theaters (very happy face)! Silver lining, cinecultists, silver lining.
Cinecultist doesn't know about you but we own a few DVDs that we've never watched. Mostly this comes from the lure of the Criterion collection — "our own personal collection would just not be complete without this title in it," we argue to ourself in the video store. The biggest offender is The Adventures of Antoine Doinel box set which CC purchased for ourselves as a graduation gift from cinema studies grad school over a year ago and has sat forlorn on the shelf since then. This week during the vacation from the Day Job, we've vowed to watch one film each day from the set and also to explore all of the extra features. It will be a daunting but enjoyable task — four full length feature films, two shorts dozens of made for television features, newsreel footage, promotional spots, trailers and then a 72 page booklet. It's like a mini-François Truffaut festival on our home DVD player.
In the last few days we've done all of disk one, which includes the 400 Blows and the short film Antoine and Colette, read the relevant pages in the supplement book plus watched interviews with Jean-Pierre Léaud as a kid after the film screened at Cannes, a slightly older but still precocious Léaud at the release of L'amour à vingt ans, interviews with Truffie and Truffie's life long friend and inspiration for the character René, Robert Lachenay for French television. It's a cornucopia of Nouvelle Vague information and frankly, it has made Cinecultist a bit giddy. So much wonderful late '50s French goodness fills up the movie-viewing soul. It's the perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster malaise we've been edging into of late.
Antoine Doinel is the character Léaud plays in this series of Truffaut films starting when he was 14 through his 30s and his fictional experiences are a sort of composite of Truffaut and Léaud's lives. The 400 Blows (1959) in particular details a number of Truffaut's biographical details from his difficult childhood including being sent to reform school by the police. Léaud then contributed his own dialogue phrasing to these events, as Truffaut would dictate the scenario, some of the blocking and the camera placement but leave the actors to improvise the words. Everyone comments on and it really is remarkable, the freshness and immediacy Léaud brings to Doinel. What an amazing thing to really get to see a young person grow up on screen. It's the most natural thing in the world, maturing to adulthood and falling in love, but it is so rarely captured in such a singular way as Truffaut does here.
After seeing Antoine and Colette, CC is now anxious to watch the rest of L'amour à vingt ans (1962), an omnibus Truffaut contributed to which has five short films about love at 20 from five different countries. It's easy to see how much Bertollucci borrowed from this 30 minute short, what with the young lovers meeting at a concert, the depiction of an insular Parisian family life, the production design of a romantic young man's hotel room apartment, and even the two shot using a mirror. Colette stands in the doorway and tells Antoine lounging in bed, who we see reflected in a mirror next to her, that doesn't want to continue their relationship. Shades of the Dreamers, anyone?
Stay tuned for our impressions of Stolen Kisses, wherein Doinel becomes a private detective and has a series of misadventures (according to the back of the DVD). We'll also probably be compelled to rhapsodize about Henri Langlois because the extras on disc two feature him very prominently.
It is a truly strange and rare phenomenon - seeing a great movie without actually meaning to. Seattle Maggie has only happened upon this a few times, usually in a film festival-ish setting (let's face it - watching movies at a film festival is like picking chocolates out of a box blindfolded on a moonless night) but when it happens, it is truly a wonderful event. The last movie SM can remember this happening with outside the SIFF was an out-of-the-blue screening of When Brendan Met Trudy with our good friend CC, of which neither of us can remember exactly why we went to in the first place. There is something about watching a movie knowing nothing about it and letting the story surprise and entertain you without the benefit of previews, reviews or directional Thumbs that makes it so much better, thus elevating it from a good movie to a great experience, a happy accidental discovery of the unknown. This is all understandable, as it is rare that someone will pay good money to rent or walk into a film without the slightest assurance that it will not be a complete waste of time. However, it was my good fortune to discover They Shoot Horses, Don't They? on video this weekend, completely by accident.
First, some background - Ye Olde Boyfriend Todd has recently become quite good friends with local Seattle jazz legend Hadley Caliman. When Mr. Caliman mentioned that in his youth he was hired to be in a band for a movie, YOBT promptly ran out and rented it. However, as YOBT has no TV or VCR, Seattle Maggie was cajoled into watching it on her TV and VCR. Hence, the "by accident" part. (By the way, if anyone is interested, Mr. Caliman is the 2nd saxophonist from the left in the front row - apparently he had sported a magnificent Afro back in the day and was asked to cut it for the film.)
While YOBT promptly proceeded to doze off, as he is wont to do during late-night video watching, Seattle Maggie was captivated by the film's powerful, almost brutal story. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? takes place during a Depression-era dance marathon, at which that SM immediately showed her pop-culture saturation by exclaiming over and over, "It's just like that episode of Gilmore Girls!" Er, sort of. Instead of a 24 hour charity event, the dance marathons of yore were grueling affairs that would go on literally for weeks and even months, with the contestants trying to be the last ones standing in order to win a cash prize. With the Depression knocking on everyone's door, this might mean the difference between eating and starving. Presiding over all is Rocky, the emcee, who is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to keep the audience rolling in. Jane Fonda plays the tough, brooding Gloria, a girl with nothing left to lose, who is paired with wide-eyed innocent Robert, Michael Sarrazin, who has wandered into the marathon on chance. As the contestants become more and more disheveled and desperate, you are drawn in by the inhuman lengths at which they push themselves - swollen limbs, 15 minute rest breaks, the endless hours of monotony - and as Gloria becomes more and more disillusioned by what is going on around her, you feel that the movie can only end in tragedy.
Interestingly, we could not help noticing similar this event is to the influx of Reality TV that we have today. SM is known to take in an episode of Fear Factor every now and then, and we admit to the guilty pleasure of watching others compete and win for our entertainment, rooting for those we deem "good" and booing those we deem "sucky". However, a few minutes of choking down horse rectum is nothing compared to the hellish 10 minute Derby Sprints endured by the hapless dance marathon contestants - all those reality show tax accountants and bartenders would have departed crying to their respective mommies in an instant. At the end of the day, the Fear Factor folks go back to their 9 to 5's with a few scrapes, while the only thing that faces the marathoners is unemployment, homelessness and starvation. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? shows facets of the human condition that we often do not consider in this day and age, and it was enlightening, frightening, depressing, and a really good film. But don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself, hopefully by accident.
Cinecultist really shouldn't begin the week without acknowledging the passing of one of our great actors, Marlon Brando who died on Friday at 80. An obituary and complete coverage of his career (including reviews of his work on their release) ran in the New York Times over the weekend, though for our taste, CC wouldn't have stressed from the get-go in the obit his later life deterioration to Fat Crazy Marlon. Like the whole Elvis stamp issue (wherein we voted for the young Elvis), we prefer to remember him as the daring, svelte Marlon in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) or the larger-than-life Marlon in the Godfather (1972), or the enigmatic Marlon of Apocalypse Now (1979) or the witty, self-referential Marlon from The Freshman (1990) or maybe even all of the above. In Memorium, we've added On the Waterfront (1954) to our Netflix queue because CC's never seen it but we know we should. We probably won't get around to seeing it for months because of the Netflix build-up, it feels right to have it on there. Goodnight Marlon, r.i.p.
Nothing says long holiday weekend like blockbusters, baby! Can't you feel the hype in the air? Inhale that smell of popcorn mingling with the musk of sweaty teenage geeks on line for the latest comic book adaptation or senseless actioner. Mmmm, smells like America.
Actually this weekend is surprisingly tame in terms of the big openings, save for Spiderman 2 which apparently everyone loves so far. But CC is most thrilled for Richard Linklater's newest Before Sunset which we're seeing tonight with some grad school buddies. Here's the geek-out schedule: leave work exhausted but exhilarated for the vacation, eat a take out dinner from Wogies Bar and Grill in the West Village (mmm, cheese-steak with real American cheese) while watching Before Sunrise on DVD, AND THEN go see Before Sunset at the Angelika. Sweet.
While this sounds like the ultimate in good time to CC, we do want to offer a plug for Robert Redford's new picture with Helen Mirren also out this weekend via our conversation with Ilana, organizer of the "Befores Marathon." When asked if she thought we should buy some tickets online for Sunset, she argued nah, most people would probably be rushing out to see Bob in The Clearing. "I really want to get back to Robert Redford," she told us. "But he's so old now," we argued. "Still, it's Robert Redford," she countered. And there you have it, the only reason we can think of to eschew either Tobey Maguire or Ethan Hawke or both, this long weekend. Enjoy the Fourth, cinecultists.