Thanks to all of the responses and visitors regarding our Vincent Gallo trivia yesterday -- CC heart responses from readers. Jess thought we should request pictures, with hottest guy wins, and though we found Gawker's suggestion intriguing, we thought we'd refrain this time. Envelope please. And the pass for the weekend screening at the Sunshine to Brown Bunny goes to ...our reader Ralph McGinnis. Ralph guessed Yes, and he is correct. Congrats, Ralph you're quick on send button, as you were the first correct answer. We hope you enjoy the movie.
According to Gallo, his uncle in Buffalo owned a limosine service and would get free tickets for all the cousins to the rock shows. At the age of 12, Gallo saw Yes, thought they were faboo and at the Rothko show dedicated one song to guitarist Chris Squires. Is there a guy more unabashedly earnest and romantic as Vincent Gallo, CC doesn't think so.
CC's off to Albuquerque this weekend with Seattle Maggie and her redheaded boyfriend Todd for the wedding of our friends Nicole and Mark. We shall return on Wednesday, god-willing preserved from the turquoise and fringe infestation that appears to be gripping the Southwest, though this information is based soley on research from the back of our two guide books.
We really are looking forward to the few days off, CC's been kinda running ourselves ragged lately. Last night at the final screening of the Leopard at Film Forum, CC sort of nodded off during the ball scene. But that could happen to anyone, right? Fortunately, a sound glitch which provoked upset murmurs from the viewers around woke us up right before Burt Lancaster dances with the smokin' Claudia Cardinale. Our friend Jose thought they timed that quite well, to make sure we all caught that triumphant and heart-breaking sequence. Cinecultist hopes we hadn't been snoring too loudly.
There's a reason why Cinecultist is an obsessive movie goer and not quite so fanatical about the music shows. Those suckers run quite late for those of us who need their beauty sleep before heading off to the Day Job. That's CC's way of saying, we're sort of feeling the pain of attending Vincent Gallo's late performance at Rothko last night in the LES. The crush of the hipsters, that bright red light before the show started, the incessant flash of the digital camera bulbs and the lack of any real pathway to the bar made CC feel a bit old and out of it. Then, we ran into Miss Jen on the way home and she suggested a drink at Piano's. At 1 am. This is what we're talking about. Those music bloggers have the stamina of god knows what and we just can't keep up.
Anyhow, what did we think of Gallo in the flesh, Live at Budaki, so to speak? He's not the best musician, that's the first thing. He's certainly earnest and he does this soft-spoken mumbling with the sheepish grin thing that seems utterly indie. Sean Lennon on the other hand, who played with Gallo last night along with some young fellow named Nick Haas (perhaps the brother of the slightly ana, former child star Lucas Haas?), is quite a good musician. He has a stronger voice, and more of a style when it comes to his compositions, but we'd be hard pressed to say he has more personality on stage than Gallo.
The music really isn't our cup of tea -- sort of noodling, jazzy ambient folky stuff -- but the real reason we were there anyhow was for the personality. Star persona on stage, so to speak. Highlight in that respect: Rothko's a tiny place with no real backstage area so to start the show Gallo and the entourage had to part the crowd with the help of a ginormous bouncer. It was like red sea of greasy hipsters being separated by their Moses. He's shorter than you would expect, by the way. And the kids love him, they kept yelling for Vinnie and that they were there to support him.
By the way, HUGE BJ poster for the film over the bar.
The ticket for the evening came with a free pass for a Brown Bunny screening over the weekend at the Sunshine on Houston but CC's going to be out of town. Thus, we offer the pass to one of our lucky readers who can identify which noodling '70s band the 12 year old Gallo told us he saw in Buffalo and was influenced by. Drop us a line at karen AT cinecultist DOT com with your guesses.
HINT: It's not King Crimson. More classical rock, according to our friend who knows about this sort of thing. One word name. We'll be picking the winner at random from the guesses Friday morning and e-mailing them back.
Just a teeny, tiny request. Could you think about extending the run of the Leopard? We've tried to go twice now, and on Saturday even arrived an hour before the screening, but it's been sold out. Two weeks is just not long enough to get a three hour Italian masterpiece into our busy viewing schedule. You're only showing it three times a day, after all. Alain Delon, Luchino Visconti, the Risorgimento -- we love it so much. So much. Two more weeks perhaps? For little ol' us? Just see if Criterion can help you out with that. We'd appreciate it.
Unless of course, you want to write an excuse note to CC's Day Job. "Please excuse the Cinecultist from work today, as she must watch a three hour Italian film." That'd be good too.
[UPDATE: So Harris Dew wrote to us from Film Forum to say there's not any way to extend the run, as the print has been booked for another venue right after New York. It looks like CC's going to have to advise the use of excessive elbows and the hairy eyeball to get people out of your way in line for tickets betweeen now and Thursday.]
[CC Camera Phone pictures (l-r): Brown Bunny BJ promotional posters on West Broadway @ Canal; across the street from the posh Soho Grand hotel; who also feature this artsy promo photo in their window, though for hair care products not independent film. Soho = grimy, skinny people naked and in compromising positions, kids!]
For a guy who supposedly pays for his own billboards ($37, 773 for five days according to his interview in this week's New York Times magazine) and is touring the country with a print of his film on a shoestring dime -- Vincent Gallo sure seems to be everywhere recently. Cinecultist really ought to stop posting about him but we sort of can't help ourselves. His ability to just spout junk is phenomenal.
And thus we bring you another Vincent Gallo Exchange of the Day:
Deborah Solomon - Why aren't you married?
VG - Intimacy always creates an urge in me that I am missing out on something.
DS - You are. You are missing out on isolation. Do you cultivate isolation for your art?
VG - I don't think in terms of art. I think in terms of getting things done, fixed, cleaned, finished, arranged. I am more of a custodian.
Attending the BlackOut Film Festival last Friday at Office Ops in Williamsburg, got Cinecultist reminiscing about last year's thrilling day devoid of electricity. To honor the anniversary of that night, they screened 11 short films about the black out, some fictional, some documentary and some best just described as "art." The screening was set to be on the roof, which is a lovely space and has an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline but sadly, the August rains kept us inside. Let's just say those industrial fans didn't do much to keep cool a room full of sweaty hipsters drinking cheap bottles of beer but heck, that's how the black out felt too (sweaty and beer-sodden), so it worked for the overall aesthetic. [NYT article previewing the film festival.]
CC wishes we'd remembered more of the titles of the shorts, (we really ought to start carrying around the tiny notebook again) because some of them were quite good. In particular, Stars In The City that consisted of a man's monologue about the hot sex he and his girlfriend had on top of their roof was at once artistically intriguing, humorous and evocative of the moment -- qualities that many of the shorts shared singly but not too many had all of them together. Two of the films starred an actress Diane Davis, whose name CC tried hard to remember so we could go home and IMDB her. But no dice, this seemed to be a strictly amateur affair, friends of the programmers and unfunded submissions sent in with the call for projects.
What CC responded too most strongly though in the evening of shorts was the snapshot quality of the films. Especially the dv footage shot on the dark streets of revelers in the Eee Vee, made CC feel like we were watching vacation movies. Look, that's where the pizza place is on Ave A and Seventh Street that was the only place serving food the next day! Look at the people walking on the bridge or crowding on the slow-moving buses, we were there too!
Sometimes, while living in New York, even if you've been here for awhile, it's possible to slip into tourist mode. As you walk around taking mental snapshots of the landscape, you feel like you are both in the city and merely observing it. CC prefers to do this while wearing the iPod turned up really loud. We call it iPodding. It feels almost cinematic, like you're making a movie of the city with your gaze. The day of the blackout, because it was so freakin' hot and there was nothing to do inside, CC just iPoded our way through downtown Manhattan. It was beautiful to feel so apart of the city and yet to be also observing it so intensely. Watching these Blackout movies recalled that experience and made us a bit nostalgic for it.
By the way, this picture is one we took the day after the Blackout in Astor Place when it was no longer 4:10pm. That only really makes sense if we tell you. Clock says one time, but it's not that time. Oooo, creepy. More pictures we took and posted last year.
As you might have heard, the reviews for Ju-On: The Grudge were a mixed bag, ranging from "Scary" to "Silly", "Boring" to "Inspired", and back again. Seattle Maggie caught a showing at the Varsity Theater in the U-District, where it is playing for a scant week. Compared to the ever-popular Ringu (and sequels, and prequels!) and the truly creepy Dark Water, Ju-On is about a haunted house and those who have the misfortune to come in contact with it. The primary inhabitants of the house are the ghosts of a murdered housewife, her glassy-eyed son and the truly unlucky family cat, and they sure are pissed off. Set up as a series of short stories featuring young women, the mother-son-cat team make sure that all of their victims are pursued by a frenzy of unsettling visions, resulting in a nasty end. In most cases, the final blow is suggested rather than splashed across the screen - this movie is definitely more concerned with atmosphere and building up tension. This is also evident in the thin plot tying it all together which doesn't even attempt to build to a climax, at least none that we could discern.
Does it work? It is hard to say. Having watched a fair amount of this new wave of Japanese horror, Ju-On featured many of the scare tricks we have seen before, including the weirdly lurching ghouls with masses of unruly black hair, the creepily staring young children, and the spiritually warped video tape. This took away considerably from the scare factor, although it may still work nicely for someone seeing them for the first time. Also, we must admit we had a bit of a hard time following the intertwining stories because (saints preserve us from the fury of our Asian sisters!) a lot of the characters just look alike, mostly young women with short hair and stylish clothes. We aren't given the opportunity to get to know them before they are snuffed out, so they get hasty labeled in our minds as "the Sister" or "the Social Worker", which doesn't make us care terribly about their untimely fates. The swift, constant cycle of lurking and dying can numb the viewer, which doesn't help you hold onto that creeped out feeling.
If there is something truly frightening about Ju-On, it is this: Evil doesn't care about you. It doesn't care about your sex, religion or race. It doesn't care if you floss twice a week, or whether you tip the barista every time you order that triple vente mocha, or if you flush live spiders down the plughole for fun. It doesn't care about how old your kids are, or how you met your spouse, or how much money is stashed in your 401K. Your hopes and dreams, your good intentions, your murderous thoughts, your beliefs, your regret, your very life, the essence that makes you an individual - none of it makes the slightest difference. This is the true meaning of fear, when evil does not pause in its rage to recognize you.
The evil in Ju-On lashes out without logic or pity, with no regard for those lying in its path. Whether the characters entered its realm by accident, or on a dare, or just to care for a lonely old woman, they are all cut down in the same unrelenting way. And there is no escape, no silver bullets or crucifixes, no moments of "A-Ha!", no forlorn spirits just waiting to be understood, vindicated and sent on their merry way to a peaceful afterlife. In Ju-On, there is only fear and death and rage, rippling in inexorable waves over anything unlucky enough to cross its path, as boundless as the sea and with as many untold secrets. In the face of her ultimate demise, one character flees to her bed, the only safe haven she has, and pulls the blanket over her head like a child. We wish that this was enough to ward the evil away, this childhood belief in warmth and protection, but it is not. This is the meaning of evil and its ever unsatisfied grudge, and Seattle Maggie found she was, indeed, afraid.
On a Lighter Note: During the broadcast of the Athens Olympics this weekend, Seattle Maggie caught Bob Costas intoning the phrase "Hubris of Folly". Bob Costas, you gotta get over yourself, dude - there ain't no Olympic event for "Thesaurus Abuse".
The really good thing about airing our cinematic fetishes in such a public forum five days a week, is that Cinecultist's movie-going companions really know what buttons to push. After seeing the trailer for Michael Winterbottom's new movie Code 46 starring Tim Robbins and our girl Samantha Morton, CC's friend Ilana turned to us and said, "so we're totally going to see that, right?" And we did, on Sunday at the Angelika.
Let's get the obvious Blade Runner parallels out of the way first -- futuristic government agency controlling the social agenda of the people (check), Asian metropolis with international flavor bleeding into all transactions (check), issues of class and identity explored (check) and an illicit sexual attraction not deemed appropriate by the infrastructure (check and double check). In fact, now that we're thinking about it, Tim Robbins really is channeling a younger Harrison Ford in this movie. He's all about the compassionate masculinity, struggling with his charisma and power, his place within the family unit and his desires outside of it. Like Ford, Robbins is all MAN in this movie, a bundle of post-apocalyptic sexual energy that can't be denied. It buzzes around him on screen. It makes you realize Susan Sarandon's a lucky, lucky woman.
Not that Morton's a slouch in the charisma and appeal department by any stretch of the imagination. She has the most fascinating face and like her roles in Minority Report or In America, her close cropped hairdo only further accentuates the expressive range that can play across her features at any given moment. We've said it before, but we could literally watch this woman read the phonebook for two hours, no problem. She has an amazing innocence about her and yet she's still a woman, with a distinctly womanly body that we found fascinating to watch move on screen. Like we saw in Morvern Callar, Morton looks best under a strobe light in a crowded dance club where she can be lost in her revery, observed and yet sort of possessed. Winterbottom's camera turns her into a fetus grooving in the electronic amniotic fluid, but a sexy fetus if you can believe it.
With performances like these two and the stunning futuristic yet very "real" production design, it was easy for Cinecultist to get caught up in the flow of this film. By which we mean to say, please check your overly fastidious plot concerns at the door because CC suspects much of this movie doesn't really make sense. So much so that you may have noticed we really avoided any sort of plot summary in this review. That was a conscious choice, because we're pretty sure we don't have such a firm handle on that pesky plot. But no matter. Code 46 is confusing and gorgeous and moving and weird and thought-provoking. Not half-bad for a late August afternoon at the cinema.
Though there seem to be no rules, regulations or stipulations which legally prevent (it says it right there, silly us) Cinecultist from entering Gothamist and Miramax's Hero contest, we figure we ought to recuse ourselves based on our contributor status to Gothamist Arts + Events and just graciously point it out to our readers instead. With the playing field now level so to speak, we encourage all of our Asian cinema fanatic friends to send in your answers. And if you think any of the queries seem too tricky, you can drop us a line (karen AT cinecultist DOT com) and we'll send you a recommended viewing list.
Cinecultist is quite excited, as we bought a $19 ticket to see filmmaker/model/provocateur Vincent Gallo on Wednesday night Aug. 25 at Rothko. Apparently, in addition to purchasing billboards over Sunset Boulevard showing himself getting a blowjob, he also is a musician. No kidding. He's put out two records. According to the nice salesperson at Etherea on Ave A, they're "folk-y rock" and that Gallo sings "like Chet Baker," according to our other friend who has seen him perform.
To further peak our interest, the Sunday Times ran this piece about Gallo's tour across America with the film, and they even obliquely referenced our dear Uncle Grambo! NYT unnamed quotation in graf nine buzz, so much hottness.
We promise a full report after Wednesday — not that the web isn't littered with Gallo detritus already, but CC imagines we'll be unable to prevent ourselves from some sort of tirade and a weigh-in on the controversy. For now enjoy the following Vincent Gallo Quote For The Day:
"If you go to see The Brown Bunny without hating me — or resenting me as a filmmaker — then there's a beautiful film there," he said. "But if you can't get past your feelings about me, then you can't see that. Long after I'm dead — which is any day now — this film will still exist," he added. "I feel much better now that I've placed this piece of work in the world."
Having to be at the Day Job until 9pm tonight doing physically inventory has made Cinecultist feel kind of linky and bullet-pointish. Please enjoy these and the other fine links at left and we'll see you on Monday.
• Ben Slater of Harry Lime Theme recommends watching the big big blockbusters on tiny crappy screens in his excellent post about the "bootleg bus." And he quotes in image Jon Routson, an artist Cinecultist also really likes.
• The Defective Yeti creates the ultimate evil characters showdown chart as each movie character battles for the title of "baddest ass." Suitable for printing out and playing along at home! Personally, we're hoping for a Ferris Bueller's principal versus Agent Smith grudge match.
• This week on Gothamist Arts + Events, Cinecultist recommended spending the whole freakin' weekend at Film Forum seeing Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee and then Luchino Visconti's The Leopard. Now that's a twisted double feature.
INT. - VIRGIN MEGASTORE, MANHATTAN'S UNION SQUARE - 10:45 PM MONDAY NIGHT. Your Cinecultist steps into the store for a last minute birthday purchase for our sister.
Salesgirl: Hello, welcome to the Virgin Megastore. My name's Corine. Did you find everything okay?
Cinecultist: (still wearing the iPod) Mhmmm.
Corine: Is that going to be all for you today?
Corine: Kill Bill Vol. 2 on DVD goes on sale tonight at midnight.
CC: (taking out the earphones) Sorry? Did you say Kill Bill 2? (looking around the room for some line of rapid Tarantinoiacs but seeing only a few scraggling music buyers) Are people really lining up to purchase that movie right at midnight?
Corine: (with the belabored look in her that only comes from working retail) Sometimes we get lines for CD releases, but not really movies.
Some industry news about Cinecultist's favorite filmmaker to objectify, Richard Kelly (He's 29! He went to USC Film School! His favorite movies are Road Warrior and Empire Strikes Back! He's like a real life Dawson Leary!). New York magazine reports Richard is "teaming up with director Tony Scott on a new film called Domino." Keira Knightley will "star as Domino Harvey, the Ford model and daughter of original Manchurian Candidate star Laurence Harvey, who made headlines by rejecting her luxurious life to become a bounty hunter. Shooting starts this fall."
Keira as a bounty hunter? Brilliant! Will she get to kick down doors in skimpy clothes yelling obscenities at brutish fleeing cons? Consider us so there.
Thursday night as a part of the Urban World Film Festival, Cinecultist finally saw one of our most anticipated movies for the last two years, Zhang Yimou's Hero. Released in China in 2002 and owned for US distribution by Miramax, the film has been leaking out into festivals for the last few months and is finally going to see the US theatrical light of day on August 27. We weren't able to catch it at the opening night of Subway Cinema's Asian Film Festival though we did hear Zhang speak about the movie to the Asia Society and his comments about making the movie to film the color black plus a kick ass cast had CC waiting with baited breath for this picture.
If you're familiar with Zhang's earlier work when he was the golden boy of the Chinese Fifth Generation, making Oscar favs like Raise the Red Lantern or Ju Dou, you know that for him plot is just a means to the end of production design with his exotic locales, sumptious colors and practically mathematical shot formations. Where those films used these painterly effects (emphasizing visuals over story) for the purpose of historical drama, Zhang has now taken this technique and applied it to the martial arts movie. And wow, it is a stunning thing to behold.
While the fight scenes are fun, in particular an early sequence where Jet Li fights an assassin in a rainy chess house, they aren't something so spectacular and ground breaking. However the spectacle of all of those colors swirling from the screen, the most shocking reds and cooling blues and vibrant greens, made Cinecultist's jaw drop for nearly the full two hours. The most stunning of all though is indeed Zhang's use of black. According to his research, black was the official color of the Qin court, and the sea of baroque courtiers peering around the black columns in the all black receiving room for the Emperor is something really worth seeing.
However, sensory overload visuals wouldn't be enough to make for a wholly compelling movie. Without the performances delivered by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as lovers/assassins Snow and Broken Sword, as well as Jet Li as the stony Nameless assassin, filling the screen with passion and verve, Hero could have easily fallen flat. As our friend William pointed out after the screening, the best martial arts movies combine high emotions with action and watching Maggie and Tony together on screen is like poetry. The feeling of a shared past seems to emanate from them and as they die tragic deaths a bunch of times (the story is a bit Rashomon-y, it's retold a number of times with different details revealed) each one resonates more.
Cinecultist urges you to disregard the pretentious Quentin Tarantino Presents over the title with the single billing of Jet Li on the American posters (he's good but he's not the whole story) and support this movie when it comes to your town. Art house meets ass kicking and it's a happy union, we are pleased to report.
After last weekend's glut of movies, Seattle Maggie is running a little low on inspiration today. Between the ridiculous heat wave and The Man Getting Us Down at our crappy office job, we find solace losing ourselves in the oblivion of so-so movies that one can always find playing somewhere on cable any time of day or night - Kindergarten Cop, for instance, or Mystic Pizza. We paraphrase Cameron Crowe when we say that being with these movies is like being alone - comfortable, undemanding, and reliable to a fault. Background noise, if you please. However, these trifles are less than exciting to anyone not suffering from a summer slump such as we languish under.
Therefore, we turn to Boyfriend Todd, who is enjoying a much needed break from adult life by recently becoming a full time student. As such, he is able to take in an afternoon movie much more easily than us poor working slobs. His latest foray into the theater was to catch Napoleon Dynamite, a quirky indie flick that somehow held little interest for us personally. It seemed to be another one of those pictures that was filled with crazy characters whose main purpose was to be crazy and little else, something which can be interesting, but usually turns into a mess. As luck would have it, BT found that it tickled his funnybone with all the right moves. The following is a transcript of our conversation after the movie:
Seattle Maggie: So, how did you like the movie?
Boyfriend Todd: It was weird, but good. And funny.
SM: How do you mean?
BT: Well, for example, there is this...heh heh...
BT: This llama...heh...and it was...(snort) HA ha...!!
SM: A llama?
BT: It was named TINA....WAH HA HAH HA!!!
Transcript ends in a barrage of hilarity.
Hm. Whether it is the inherent nature of llamas to be humorous or something more, we are not sure (although just writing the word "llama" over and over again does make us crack a tiny grin). It is mystery that will be investigated further, perhaps when this movie makes it to DVD. However, we must say that when a movie causes such an impressive eruption of laughter, there can only be something good going on. Everyone could use a belly laugh like that every now and then. See if Napoleon Dynamite does it for you at theater in your neighborhood.
On A Personal Note: We speculate that another reason that BT found this movie so enjoyable was the opportunity to identify with another film redhead. Apparently, the stigma of the red hair (especially among boys) is something that haunts a person for life. According to BT, who sports some fine bronze curls himself, redheaded men/boys are always portrayed on screen as "nerds, bullies or weirdos like that kid in Children of the Corn". Seattle Maggie challenges you to present us with any examples of Titan-haired leading men of some sexiness, so we can continue in our quest to trump BT's pessimistic views with a hearty "A-HA!"
Gothamist Interview this week is our fellow cinema blogger Aaron Dobbs and his friend Lily Oei. Worth a check out because of Aaron and Lily's obvious bias towards film. Cinecultist is all about the blantent cinema bias.
It's the end of an era. *sniff* Gawker announced today that this will be the last week of snarky posts from Choire Sicha. That's sad, sad news. However! The new Gawker shall be the lovely Jess, of the Blue Print who CC had the distinct pleasure of meeting last week for drinks to celebrate her move along with our editor Jen to the LES. Here's the superficial assessment -- She's smart, she's cute and she's totally manic on a few drinks. We think she's going to do a bang up job. And as Scott said, we expect lots of links to us or else we're revealing her certain penchant for a former WB star's greasy locks. One day as the lame duck Gawkette and the blind items are already flying!
Oh fine readers, Cinecultist comes not to bury Little Black Book, Brittany Murphy's new rom com out this past weekend, but to praise it. And before you click over to one of the fine links on the sidebar in a damn hurry, give us a second here to make our case. First off, disregard the lame tag line and any sort of trailer you may have seen -- it doesn't do this film justice.
Where the story may sound from the premise like it's going to be hysterical and retrograde -- girl investigates boy's exes --, it actually comes out swinging for women's autonomous identity and their value without a relationship. CC likes it when rom com's pander to our feminism. Where Brittany Murphy's knobby knees and sometime skankiness make CC want to poke her with a sharp stick, here she won us over. Plus, the movie has Carly Simon in it. And Carly Simon rocks. "You're so vain. You probably think this post is about you, dontcyou, dontchyou!"
Brittany's character, Stacy loves Carly because that's the music her mother used to listen to when things got too chaotic in her life. Stacy on the other hand, sings Carly songs in the echoing bathroom and loves the Carly track from her favorite movie Working Girl, "Let The River Run," it's her theme song. Like the tennis shoe clad Tess McGill from Staten Island, Stacy too has a dream -- to work for Diane Sawyer. But for now, she works at the Kippie Kahn Do show as an associate producer in New Jersey and practically lives with her boyfriend Derek (Ron Livingstone). All seems to be going swimmingly until Derek let's slip out the supermodel former girlfriend and Stacy's co-worker (Holly Hunter) convinces her to "look under the hood before buying the car."
CC went to see this movie last Friday as a part of our "See Crap on Friday Afternoons" program and we did have excessively low expectations for it. But what surprised us about this movie was the devoted cinephilia, the introspective monologues and the fact that it ends not with a romantic triumph but a career one. Any time a silly rom com takes the road less traveled, CC finds that reason to celebrate. It's so easy for Hollywood to go with the formula and reinforce women's fears about dying alone half eaten by wild dogs. That's why we need sly movies like this, which seem to be about one thing, but really are about Carly Simon theme songs and living your dream.
Thus Cinecultist proscribes putting said theme song on your iPod and listening to it while storming off to work. It does wonders for the complexion.
So Cinecultist inadvertently rented the most popular film of 1950 this week, Cheaper By The Dozen from Netflix. Well, renting the film wasn't by accident, it's been on the queue since we saw the Steve Martin film of the same title last year (notice we didn't call it an update or an adaptation as it was neither). CC just didn't set out to see the most watched movie in the year 1950. That sounds like the most square movie-watching endeavor ever, doesn't it? Like proposing to make your own ice cream with a hand crank ice cream maker on a Saturday night or suggesting knitting socks for the soldiers overseas in your free time.
This factoid about the film came courtesy of an extra on the DVD, a short newsreel film where the president of Universal Pictures and Ernestine Gilbraith Carey, the co-writer of the book Cheaper By the Dozen about her childhood growing up the 20s and 30s, are awarded some sort of prize and $5,000 for making such a lovely family film. The most watched film of 1950 is a designation they place on the film, and maybe CC is too trusting but we believe them, despite being unable to corraborate it with the expert help of Google.
The thing we find most intriguing about the popularity of this movie in 1950, real or trumped up by folksy pre-PR spin, is that even in 1950, an era our politicians love to fetishize as innocence personified, they too were nostalgic for an earlier era. Cheaper By the Dozen tells the "real story of an American family" which is apparently a beautiful cinematic fantasy of democratic family meetings, a self-sacrificing wife and a charming but kind brood of rugrats. But even in 1950 this pure family couldn't exist in their present day, it had to be imagined from their past, as a representation of an idyllic childhood recalled. It's an example of movies as our collective unconscious of what we wished was, not what was actually there.
If like Cinecultist, the novel Cheaper By the Dozen was a part of your idealized childhood, we strongly recommend seeing the 1950 version and leaving the 2003 one to the fans of Hilary Duff Duff, Ashton Kutcher and stupid, formulaic Hollywood filmmaking.
Cinecultist kinda loves it when certain movies turn us into an obsessive fan girl. It's all about the tingling love of cinema buzzing through our veins. The newest installment to the list of films that have this power over us — Zach Braff's Garden State which we saw over the weekend. More The Graduate than The Pallbearer, Garden State details four days wherein the morose Andrew Largeman (Braff) returns from his beige life in L.A. to his hometown in New Jersey to bury his mother. He meets a girl (Nathalie Portman), he goes off the meds, he finds himself AND he's introduced to the music of the Shins. It's a bildungsroman for the emo set, and though we found it sorta twee in the end, Cinecultist has to admit we sorta love twee. We do live in the Eee Vee afterall, ground zero for twee.*
Perhaps what Cinecultist found ourselves responding most strongly to in this movie, is the feeling Braff captures of walking through life with your earphones on. There are moments where the emotionally stunted Large fades away from an experience, disengages himself frozen in his spot as the other players rush around him and the soundtrack swells over the ambient noise. Partially a by product of a MTV-raised moviemaker where the song takes higher precedence over dialogue, but also partially a (seemingly conscious) expression of Large's modern malaise; this is a very effective technique Braff uses throughout the movie. And what a soundtrack this movie has as the dialogue fades away! Not just two tracks by the Albuquerque band the Shins, who Portman's character Sam introduces by telling Large "they'll change your life," but some Simon & Garfunkel, Coldplay, Nick Drake, Remy 7, Thievery Corporation and a cover of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" by Iron and Wine.
But getting back to the whole twee thing, the Postal Service cover is prime example of this movie's tendency to take romanticism just that little bit too far. Ben Gibbard, the emo king and our not-so-secret secret boyfriend, tempers his twee lyrics written for side project the Postal Service with the harder edge techno beats provided by Dntel. However Iron and Wine do the song purely as a folk tune, acoustic style. It's all too much sweetness, once we got beyond the thrill of hearing Gibbard lyrics coming from the big screen, as we watch Large and Sam spoon post-coital. The same can be said for the film's ending, which we'll refrain from detailing, except to say that it's much too tidy for our taste. As a self-avowed devote of Harold and Maude, Braff should have known better in this case. Let's hope for a more ambiguous sophomore effort with all of the wit and heart displayed in this picture.
For your listening pleasure we bring you the eponymous track from Garden State's trailer, Frou Frou's "Let Go." Listen to it loud and do some sort of dance movement that's entirely original, never before done in the history of humanity, just like the too quirky but adorable Portman. The soundtrack comes out August 10 and the film opens wide this coming weekend.
*Courtesy of a Convo yesterday with Jen we bring you a definition of "twee" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Etymology: baby-talk alteration of sweet
chiefly British : affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint
And there you have it. Definitions of obscure British words and movie reviews, Cinecultist is a full service weblog. P.S. to Jen, we'd so go and see this movie again with you. Let's go, right now.
Like the whole infamous Roger Ebert versus Vincent Gallo smackdown regarding Gallo's movie Brown Bunny at last year's Toronto Film Festival, a critical "disagreement" is shaping up on the Interweb that Cinecultist is following with interest. We thought we had our opinion on Brown Bunny all sewn up after Aaron Out of Focus's as always, exhaustive posting after seeing the film a few weeks ago. But now, Uncle Grambo's has weighed in via whatevs.org after a screening in Detroit.
Who will emerge victorious from this (up until now decorous) exchange of ideas? While Mark is taller and uses more slang (CC literally just figured out what bovs on the tees means), Aaron wields the power of DiVo and is a Nor Cal Member of the Tribe (represent!). It's a tough call. May be a photo finish. Drat! Now we may actually have to see this thing after reading such intriguing but differing opinions on Gallo's narcissism and the merits of his most recent project. If Gallo googles himself, Cinecultist would like to receive an invite to one of these cross country screening junket events in Manhattan. Drop us a line Vincent and adjacent PR group, we promise we'll reserve our judgment until after the three hour Q & A.
As previously mentioned, Seattle Maggie loves M. Night Shyamalan, unabashedly and unreservedly. Having claimed the honor as the only person in America who will enthuse about Unbreakable in public (so good! so good!), we hope our readers will see beyond our blind affection for all things Shyamalan and heed us when we say that The Village really is a very good film.
One thing up front - this is not a horror picture. All of the critics currently bashing this film as "not scary enough" is like complaining that crème brûlée is "not chocolatey enough" - of course it isn't chocolatey, you nitwits, it's CRÈME BRÛLÉE, does this mean that the king of desserts is somehow less rich with custard goodness, less crisp with burnt-sugar deliciousness, because it does not hold up to your silly chocolate expectation? Of course not. We even think our dear squeamish Cinecultist would be able to make it through this one, that is how much of a non-horror picture this is.
All dessert allegories aside, The Village is suspenseful, thoughtful, and surprisingly touching. Its fairy tale styling takes many forms, from the striking use of color to the oddly-apt speech used in the dialogue - many phrases get the Capitalization Treatment, such as "Those We Do Not Speak Of" and "The Bad Color," which would be annoying if it didn't work so well in setting the tone of the piece. The love story between the blind Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the taciturn Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) caught us off-guard with its quiet beauty, showing us that the simple act of holding hands can be more emotionally moving than a embrace.
As for Ye Olde Giant Plot Twist, Seattle Maggie feels that Shyamalan's work has been hampered by the expectation of this lumbering beast. While The Village does have a pretty mighty twist revealed at the end, but trying to figure it out ahead of time left us restless and unhappy. Halfway through the film, we abandoned our junior sleuthing and just enjoyed the movie as it unfolded. If this meant jumping at things we felt a little silly about afterwards and being clueless about things we felt a little stupid about not seeing before, it was a small price to pay for a terrific film experience. Please give this movie a chance and try to ignore all the hype, and Mr. Shyamalan will tell you a story that will move you, intrigue you and make you think.
PS Last word on the Harold & Kumar front, we promise. We did catch a matinee this weekend and were suitably entertained and grossed out. However, perhaps even more disturbing was the fact that OUR PARENTS also saw it, enticed into the theater by the idea of seeing a nice Korean boy on the big screen. Erg. This reminds us of the time they saw American Wedding in the hopes that it was like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, at which we could only clutch our heads in disbelief. At any rate, things ended on happy note, with our straight-n-narrow Asian parents pronouncing it "good and funny," although they failed to recognize Neil Patrick Harris from our family sitcom days and thought he was "some famous rock star". Maybe they also thought the giant bag of pot was "special oregano". We can only hope.