November 30, 2004

Twelve Days of the Cloon

george_clooney.jpgWe're not sure if you have this properly marked on your calendars or not, but just in case you weren't aware, it's only 11 more days until the release of Ocean's Twelve. For the casual Soderbergh or nouveau caper fan this is of passing interest, but if like Cinecultist's friend and colleague Ilana you pray to the altar of the Cloon, aka George Clooney, this is a red letter day indeed. Ilana's so psyched about the new movie, she has organized a small, private screening series devoted to the actor who launched a thousand Roman haircuts.

While there really isn't enough room to fit all the potentially interested attendees in her West Village studio, CC did want to post Ilana's excellent and well-researched screening schedule after the jump. Perhaps our readers may want to watch along at home, or could just use some suggestions for good eats in the Double U Vee, as Ilana programmed theme-accompanying food selections for each screening as well. Good food, some snarky commentary and the Cloon's permanent five o'clock shadow with that rakish debonair charm? We are so there.

The Cloon Calendar

Week 1: The Early Years
Monday, November, 29th

6:00P “Combat High” (1986)

George’s first movie – well, made for TV movie. “Police Academy” meets “Private Benjamin.” A training ground for “The Thin Red Line” AND the second-best character name George has had. (Number One is Chic Chesbro – I’ll let this one be a surprise.)

Food – A Salt & Battery

Tuesday, November 30th

2:30P “Bodies of Evidence”, Season 2 (1993)
Episodes: “Shadows” (1); “The Formula” (2); season/series finale “Flesh and Blood”

Airing the same year as the much renowned “Body of Evidence,” this was one of George’s many early attempts at TV-series stardom and his second time out as a cop. In a word, brilliant.

Food – Variety of Krispy Kreme Donuts

Wednesday, December 1st

8:00P “The Harvest” (1993)

Credit – lip-synching transvestite.

“Roseanne”, Season 4 (1991) Episode “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down”

G.C.’s last ep. On “Roseanne.”

Food – Burritos

Thursday, December 2nd

2:00P “Red Surf” (1990)

Seen “Point Break?” It’s kind of like that only with Doug Savant, Dedee Pfeiffer and Gene Simmons.

Food – Lobster Rolls and Blueberry pie

The Quadrilogy (aka the best four movies of all time)
Friday, December 3rd

8:30P “Ocean’s 11” (2001)

The best heist movie ever? Only until December 10th maybe… George and Steven’s (Soderbergh) second pairing – a match made in heaven (minus “Solaris”).

“Waiting for Woody” (1998)

A short-film with G.C., Jennifer Aniston and Samantha Mathis; I think the director has friends.

Food –Da Andrea

Saturday, December 4th

4:00P “Three Kings” (1999)

Possible the greatest movie ever? This was back when George was in love with Marky Mark and wanted to make every movie with him – until Ocean’s and Matt Damon came along.

Food – Wogies

Sunday, December 5th

5:00P “Out of Sight” (1998)

Truly, the best movie ever (and a great soundtrack). J. Lo can act!

Food – Joe’s Pizza

Monday, December 6th

7:00P “From Dusk till Dawn” (1996)

Seriously, it’s really good.

”ER”, Season 1 (1994) “Episode”: Motherhood

Directed by Quentin Tarantino and featuring Dr. Doug with the Caesar

Food – Mexicana Mama

Tuesday, December 7th


Director’s Fortnight
Wednesday, December 8th

8:00P “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2002)

Great cast, great script, great cinematography, pretty good movie.

Food – Sushi

Thursday, December 9th

2:00P “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” (1999)
“South Park”, Season 1 (1997) Episode: "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride"

Food – Gray’s Papaya

Friday, December 10th

TBD “Ocean’s 12”(2005)

Posted by karen at 11:53 PM |

November 29, 2004

Your In Flight Movie Today...

Like Seattle Maggie, Cinecultist also headed to the Cali for the holiday but our travels brought us to Southern California rather than Northern. Sadly, there were less movies to be had in Palm Desert than there were golf courses, gated communities and desert jack rabbits. Oh, and don't forget the palm trees. There were loads and loads of palm trees.

However, we did have the fascinating social experiment that is the in flight movie to observe and that always amuses CC. On the way to California were two movies we'd seen before, and on the way back two we hadn't. In flight does everything possible to butcher the film viewing experience -- terrible sound quality through the split headphone jacks, grainy picture either projected with a four color projector or on those miniscule screens in the back of your chair, pan and scan to fit the screen plus editing for content. With quality like this, CC often thinks its better just to read a book or listen to the iPod or stare at the back of someone's head instead.

Westbound was the Manchurian Candidate, something we liked well enough in the theater but didn't think we could bear the creepy Meryl Streep on Liav Schreiber action again. We did however, enjoy rewatching the Bourne Supremacy with Matt's steely jaw. The small screen did well with the purposeful crappy color correction and grainy industrial settings. Eastbound was I, Robot and Anchorman which were both perfectly craptacular and thus fine for the bad picture and even worse sound. Will Smith and Will Ferrell, it's sort of a fittingly incongruous bookend, no? It certainly wasn't CC thought this first but isn't it fun to see things which don't belong together back to back? Plus, with the flood of wonderful things in the theaters right now, literally one top tenner after another, its sort of nice to revel in a little cinematic mediocrity as a respite.

Posted by karen at 12:14 PM |

63 Lbs: The Ghost in The Machinist

Seattle Maggie trusts that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, hopefully involving more than one type of pie. During our obligatory trip to visit the family in Silicon Valley with Boyfriend Todd in tow, we found ourselves shockingly drugged with turkey and various starches, so much so that it took a heroic amount of effort just to drag ourselves out for a cup of coffee the Friday after. What is there to do amidst such food-drenched sluggishness? Why, go to the movies, of course! Luckily, while the Bay Area seems to be drowning in strip malls, big box stores and Applebees, it does boast a good number of theaters with a fine selection of independent films. While vaguely tempted by Nick Cage’s Great American treasure huntin’ hijinks in Indiana Jones IV, er, National Treasure, we instead opted for something a little less frenetic in The Machinist.
machinist.jpg In the film, machinist Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) hasn’t slept in a year, leaving him in near-skeletal shape. After a horrific accident at the machine shop, things begin to conspire against him – anonymous notes stuck to his refrigerator, dark looks from his fellow machinists, and the appearance of a shady fellow named Ivan. Good thing he has the reliable embrace of hooker with a heart of gold Stevie and the confidence of beautiful airport café waitress Marie…but why is it always 1:30am?
First things first – Seattle Maggie is aware that the 63 pounds that are missing from Bale’s hunky frame are being bandied about like the cry of carnival freak show barker: See the Man Who Lost A Bunch of Weight! Never mind that director Brad Anderson has already proved himself to be a thoroughly creative and absorbing director/writer. We know you have heard us rave about Session 9, a symphony of quiet horror that plucks each taut nerve to the perfect screaming pitch, but Anderson’s work in other genres, such as the sweetly romantic Next Stop Wonderland and the weirdly affectionate Happy Accidents, also makes us a huge fan. Never mind that cinematography is beautiful, both stark and full of portentous dread, much like the dark storm clouds that linger throughout the movie. One feels sucked in by the oppressive remoteness, from the soulless whirling gadgets of the machine shop to the impassive faces of the other machinists to the pale, dreamily unreal color palette, broken up only by the flashy cherry red of a mysterious car, the dribble of crimson blood down a refrigerator door, or the smiling ruby lips of the friendly Marie. Never mind that the film is engrossing, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining. But no – what about those 63 pounds!
Okay, we admit it – even though we scoff at the hallowed weight loss trumpeted in ads and reviews, we found ourselves completely and utterly shocked by the first sight of Bale’s emaciated naked body. It is impossible not to be. And as the film progressed, it became clear to us that the dramatic weight loss was not the product of a publicity stunt or because Oscar favors the bodily-altered. Trevor is a character who is being wasted away by a force beyond his control. He is being gnawed at by sleepless nights and a past that he cannot bring himself to face. His body is the physical definition of guilt, gnarled and fragile, nibbled away to the core. The machinist is on the verge of becoming the machine, with no past, no feelings, no regret and no hope. For this bold statement, we applaud The Machinist, and even those of us sodden with the aftermath of holiday feasts can relate to the all-too human feelings of regret and longing to escape our mistakes. Seattle Maggie hopes to escape that extra helping of chestnut stuffing that is currently making our jeans so snug.

P.S. Our impromptu Primer competition a few weeks ago yielded a less than enthusiastic response. This leads us to believe that our fellow cinecultists have:
a) not seen it
b) seen it, but like us, did not get it
c) seen it, understood it completely, but are trapped under some thing heavy, mostly likely an expired equine beast that is still being unmercifully beaten
Ah well, we knew we were geeky, but we suppose this indicates a new low. Big thanks to reader Craig, who was kind enough to point us in the right direction to find some answers to our questions. The poster is yours if you want it, dude – otherwise, it will most likely end up as ultra nerdful wrapping paper for our holiday gifts.

Posted by seattle maggie at 8:07 AM |

November 23, 2004

Too Darn Hot

Cinecultist never noticed before but Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his book about the American male's sexuality was such a cultural phenomenom that his name appears in the Ella Fitzgerald standard, "Too Darn Hot." According to the Kinsey report, every average male you know..." That's the power of good movies, like Kinsey, they shift your view just slightly to allow another intriguing person into your field of vision, so to speak.

What we loved the most about Kinsey -- though there's lots there to adore, not least of which is the performances by Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard -- is the way that it shows the mistakes made by a brilliant, and at times perhaps too passionate, scientist. There's been a bit of an uproar trying to get this movie banned it certain places because of the frankness of its sexual depictions, and one might think to a liberal, free-thinking Manhattanite like ourselves, there'd be nothing in Kinsey that rankles. However, writer/director Bill Condon finds a way to make even CC feel uncomfortable and judgmental (in the form of Kinsey's interview subject who's catalogued his vast life long sexual exploits including animals and children -- eww) and we respect him for that.

Kinsey pushed boundaries because he believed that the understanding scientific inquiry brings could ultimately make people happier with themselves and in their relationships. While this is a beautiful idea, the movie shows how blind devotion to an idea can be important but not always perfect. Oh, how CC loves these Winter movies that make us think!

Posted by karen at 8:40 AM |

November 22, 2004

Maggie Cheung Done Gone Cra-azy

Even before this article in the Times magazine last week, Cinecultist has been on a kick to watch all the Maggie Cheung available DVDs on Netflix. It's not such a daunting task in the face of her whole career's output, we suppose in these small cases its an advantage that the US doesn't import all of the Asian movies to our region's players. There's 26 of them and CC's now seen half, what with our Friday evening rental, Farewell, China.

This movie was brutal, we wouldn't necessarily recommend it to those who like to see their Maggie upbeat, preferably kicking ass in black latex, or even looking longingly at Tony Leung in a vintage cheongsam. Actually, Maggie does pine for a Tony Leung is in this movie, though it's not the one that CC usually thinks of when we think TL goodness. It co-stars Tony Leung Ka Fai, who was also in Ashes of Time and loads of other stuff according to his profile. He's very good in his own right, but he's not TL Chiu Wai just so you know.

Anyhoo, Tony confusions aside, this movie is about the process of illegal immigration to the states from China. A young wife finally gets a student Visa and leaves her husband and aborable chubby son to seek her fortune in New York. However, when the letters start being returned unopened, the husband sneaks into the country as well via South America and searches all over scummy '80s Manhattan and the outer boroughs for her. When he finally accidentally discovers her after a protracted journey and an introduction to the underbelly of poverty, the rendezvous is bittersweet. Living all alone in a foreign country has done something to her and it's not good. We don't want to give away the upsetting ending but let's just say CC loves Maggie even when she's nutso and wielding a screwdriver.

13 more to go on the list, and we're loving every minute of it. Next up: exhausting the extensive collection Kim's Video!

Posted by karen at 8:31 AM |

November 19, 2004

Becoming An 'Incredibles' Idiot

In the last week, Cinecultist has sort of turned into an Incredibles idiot. We keeping working it into the most random and unrelated of conversations. "Have you seen the Incredibles yet? No? You're waiting? Why?!? No don't save it until Thanksgiving when you're visiting your family and want something appropriate to see at the cineplex. Go now! See it twice! Run to the theater!" We've been known to be evangelical about the movie going experience, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Even as we sat in the theater watching it, we kept turning to our sister Laurie to ask, "isn't this so good? Don't you just love it?" She didn't appreciate that. She shushed us. Then as the credits began to roll, we thought we'd watch it all over again right then, if we could. See what we mean? This movie has done some strange voodoo on the Cinecultist.

Though obviously there's much to love in this movie, our favorite character would have to be Edna Mode, the super fashion designer to the supers, voiced by the film's writer/director Brad Bird. Those glasses. That old fashioned cigarette holder. The fact that she's only about three feet tall. Beautiful stuff, darling. Apparently, she's based on award winning costume designer, Edith Head, who did the Hitchcock movies and many more. She's an icon, darling.

Needless to say, if you see the Cinecultist soon and we either push a ticket for the Incredibles into your hot little hand or start calling you "darling," you'll know what's up. Don't mind us, we're just an I.I.

Posted by karen at 8:41 AM |

November 18, 2004

A Full Time Job


In preparation for the upcoming House of Flying Daggers release (Dec. 3 in NYC and LA), Cinecultist has been on a little bit of an Andy Lau kick. We don't want our first love, Tony Leung to be jealous or anything, just sometimes CC needs a little variety in our HK viewing. Recently, we rented Fulltime Killer, a movie Lau made with director Johnny To in 2001. To be honest, we couldn't remember when we put this flick on our Netflix queue, the queue got a little unwieldy there for awhile, but when it arrived it was a lovely little surprise of ass-kicking cinephilia.

Lau plays Tok, an upstart assassin who wants to be known as the best hitman, but he has to battle O (Takashi Sorimachi) for that illustrious title. Kelly Lin is their shared love interest, she runs a video store and cleans O's apartment for a little extra cash. Tok capitalizes on her movie love to win her over, in a weird little scene he shops in the store in a variety of rubber American President masks, just like the bank robbers in Point Break. She agrees to go on a date with him, even before she sees his face, so we see this adorable bookish Asian girl holding hands in the cineplex with one of the ex-Presidents. Bizarre and cute, all at the same time.

Later, when Tok reveals his plan to Chin asking her if she'd like to be a hitman's girl, he takes her to an abandoned building to learn to shoot. He thinks his moves are too smooth for words, but Chin pointedly tells him that she knows this scene is from The Professional. CC's a fan of anything smartly self-referential from the outset, but this movie's transformation of a simple hitman rivalry actioner into something more by its cinephilia is great. Could this be because Johnny To gets tired of churning out the same shoot-em up plots? Or is the savvy HK audience in need of a little meta infusion to get through the day? All interesting possibilities for us.

Two other Hong Kong cinema bullet points of note:
* If you love HK film, you should bookmark into your favorites list, it's quite the compendium of info with reviews, features and loads of photos.

* Also, Kino is having its Christmas sale, 25 to 30 % off, on their DVD catalog right now -- including some stellar silents and the Wong Kar Wai lovelies. Want to make a cinecultist happy this season? The Kino Ultimate Box Set Collection in the Chrismakkah stocking is sure to do the trick.

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

November 16, 2004

Bay-yone, Baby

This one goes out to our former roomie, the original Jersey Girl, Lauren who taught us all we know about the fair state on the other side of the river. The NYT has an article today about the War of the Worlds production, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, which is shooting in Bayone.

Please enjoy the following quote from resident Marie Folger who was pretty psyched to make coffee for Tom Cruise. We understand Marie, as a barista in a previous life, we would be too. There's a picture of her too, holding up a portrait of herself with Mr. Cruise if you click through to the article.

"I had taken the day off, and my husband was in the store," said Ms. Folger, an outgoing 51-year-old. "He called me and said: 'You better get your butt down here, because Tom Cruise is here. I'm steaming his milk right now, but I'm taking a looong time.' "

"It's just something positive," Ms. Folger said. "You're always hearing the negative. That's what I said to Tom Cruise when he was leaving: 'We get a bad rap here. This is a nice town.' "

" 'This is a really nice town,' " Ms. Folger said Mr. Cruise responded.

Posted by karen at 3:41 PM |

We're All About The 21st Century

Ugh. This much linked to and seriously cringe inducing article is why the Cinecultist tries to keep the writing limited to our movie-going life. Rather than dwell on what was a shocking train-wreck of Too Much Information in the Fashion & Style section of last weekend's New York Times, we turn instead to Manohla Dargis's essay in the magazine on The 21st-Century Cinephile. As our friend Matty who directed us to the article pointed out, that's us! The Cinecultist is so the 21st Century Cinephile. It could be our subheading description for this blog, if we weren't already enamored with the tag-line, "Crazy For Movies."

We couldn't put it better, as Dargis codifies what she sees as the current cinephilia:

Today, movie love means buying DVD's online, joining virtual communities on the Web and filling seats at regional film festivals. At once global and local, the new cinephilia simultaneously embraces old and new, avant-garde and mainstream, live action and animation, drama and documentary, celluloid and video. It supports modernist snobberies and promotes postmodern egalitarianism, worships dead masters alongside the living and takes film's aspirations to art as a matter of course. Its adherents use the Internet to track down cult directors and post reviews of films famous and obscure. For these new movie lovers, old divides like trash versus art, Hollywood versus the world have given way to an expansive inclusion of cinemas from around the globe.

The only place where our opinion on modern movie love diverges from Dargis's is with her emphasis on cinephilia as movie collecting. Later in the essay, she describes walking out of a theater and buying a difficult to find Japanese movie on Region 3 DVD to play on her hacked region-less DVD player. (Quite easy to do via Kim's Video, by the by.) To love movies now, according to Dargis, is to want to possess them, perhaps in little plastic packages on your shelves or in neatly catalogued review entries on your website. While CC sees that hoarding tendency in some of our friend's movie libraries, it's not our essential drive. Rather the "expansiveness" of our interests we think, has to do with cultivating taste, a more Sontag-ian model actually. How can a person say they love movies, if they don't take in and can weigh in on all the myriad possibilities of current cinema? If you can't find a bit of value somewhere in all of it, then how can you hold any of it close to your heart?

This is our roundabout way of saying in the coming months, CC will be thinking more on films and blogs in preparation for a discussion with the Reel Roundtable group during their season this winter on "Popular Culture and Film." Organizations such as Women Make Movies, Atom films and bloggers like Greg Allen of will be talking every Monday night about the convergence of music, the internet, anime and blogging with film. Plus, yours truly will be talking about film blogs on January 17. Mark your calendars now, but more details as we get closer to the date.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

November 15, 2004

Back With Bridget

Bridget Jones' DiaryEven with family visiting, Cinecultist still was able to work in two movies. But then again, that's what happens when you have two California visitors in New York during a cold, rainy, windy November weekend. In the Saturday afternoon screening at Kips Bay of Bridget Jones's Diary: The Edge of Reason, it was chick lit city, so we fit right in. We weren't really looking to see if there were any fellows in the audience, but our guess would be nary a one. Which is fine really, unless a movie wants to venture outside of its expectations for a niche audience, a goal this Bridget Jones installment doesn't appear to have.

CC's a big, big fan of the first novel and thus, it's difficult to evaluate the movie as purely a film. Everything we tend to think and write about this movie lapses into literary criticism, so if that's not your bag, forgive us.

BJD is a redux of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Marriageable and witty young woman meets stuffy, uptight man at party and instantly hates him. He doesn't find her attractive either. She also meets another rogueish young man, who is not a suitable match but charming. He treats her poorly. Young woman's family member commits social faux pas, uptight man swoops in to help thus winning the heart of the witty woman.

While The Edge of Reason, the follow up novel to the wildly successful BJD, wasn't as good it still had things going for it, namely the plot's redux of Persuasion, another classic Jane Austen story. However, the movie version has jettisoned that structure in favor of the salacious plot points like the silly trip to Thailand (which we guess was intended by author Helen Fielding to satrize the runaway success of another British novel turned movie, The Beach) and a reappearance of Hugh Grant. However as lovely as he is, a Bridget fan can not live on Hugh alone. (Sidenote -- has Hugh's chest always been so hairless? V. noticable on the Today show interview with a twitter-pated Katie Couric this morning. Check with Four Weddings to be sure.)

There's no meta to The Edge of Reason, no further purpose of being besides more silliness on the part of Renee Zellweger -- prat falls, weight gain, lesbian kissing, etc. It's tough to convince people that appreciation of the rom com as a genre in literature and cinema is worthy of inquiry when this is the drivel the industry puts out. Sure, the movie had a few laughs but in the end for CC that's just not enough.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

November 12, 2004

Don't Worry, CC's Not Dead

Sorry about the lightness of the postings this week cinecultists, we've had family in town and various projects in the works that have kept up too busy. More exciting and fun Cinecultist-related news soon, we're not just being coy. Promise. We'll be back with more next week, but for now a few thoughts CC has expressed to our Gothamist Arts + Events readers lately —

* This weekend Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason hits theaters, and we'll probably be going to see it despite the fact that it looks pretty bad.

* If it were still Thursday, you could go see the 25th Annual Asbury Shorts of New York. (Since time travel is still a thing of sci fi fantasy, you might just wait until it hits the 92nd Street Y, another NYC screening venue in the works.)

* On Monday, we recapped our Movie Binge with Matty. Speaking of which, the Cinema Ahh*some blog, an online presence for our bi-weekly movie group, is live over on Capn' Design. If you've seen the movie we watched, or even if you haven't, feel free to throw out some inflammatory commentary. Mix it up. We like that 'round these parts.

* One more Gothamist plug — be sure to snap up a ticket for Movable Hype, the Gothamist sponsored rock show at the Knitting Factory next Thursday. The proceeds go to a good cause (NYC public school kids and their musical aspirations), there'll be good booze, good music and lots of good people, including CC there. Come on down!

Posted by karen at 11:56 PM |

November 9, 2004

From Through The Tunnel

New Jersey's Star Ledger has caught on to the blog/film fanatics connection in today's paper. We always thought there were cinecultists on the other side of the tunnel.

Personal gratification time from the above article -- CC gets top billing over Harry Knowles and Ain't It Cool News. And our work here is done.

Posted by karen at 10:59 AM |

Don't Get In The Bathtub, Nicole

As a part of Cinecultist's movie binge with Matty, aka Capn' Design, documented on Gothamist yesterday, we saw as our first film the new Nicole Kidman movie Birth. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, who did Sexy Beast which we've heard lots of great things about, CC found the mise en scene from the trailer's totally intriguing. It feels quite a bit like Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's last movie, all baroque old money New York with secrets simmering just below the surface. But like Eyes Wide Shut, Birth has a number of intriguing elements which don't coalesce into a cohesive movie.

Perhaps the real problem is that despite our collective fascination with the idle rich and their wily ways, our current screenwriters or even novelists don't tend to be the idle rich. Someone like Edith Wharton or even Henry James knew what went on behind the closed doors of the upper eschelon, but did Stanley or does Milo Addica and Jean-Claude Carričre, Glazer's co-writers of the screenplay? The set-up (rich woman still mourns the loss of her husband 10 years ago when a young boy comes into her life claiming to be him reincarnated) is an intriguing one, but the third act twist is far too simplistic. While CC can't necessarily suggest a better ending, the one offered by the film seems to be too pat and thus disappointing.

The gorgeous opening sequence -- with a voice-over by the husband suggesting that if his wife Anna died and a little bird then came to him and said she was Anna he'd believe it, and then his final silent run through the snowy Central Park shot from behind -- is so evocative, that the let down from the rest of the movie was quite palpable.

Posted by karen at 8:32 AM |

November 8, 2004

What's It All About?

photo_037.jpegOkay, this picture at left is the most craptacular thing we've tried to capture with our camera phone yet but it is supposed to be a souvenir of seeing our dear friend Ilana's name scrolling past in the credits for the most recent Jude Law winter release, Alfie. A very exciting thing to see someone you know in the credits, even if its pretty low on the list, hovering somewhere below Craft Services but above the musical track listings. It's also pretty exciting to the Cinecultist to see Alfie finally in our local theaters because our beloved nabe, the Eee Vee hosted some of the exterior shooting last winter. While the film's overall production design of New York looks more like England standing in for the quaint West Village/Meatpacking areas, rather than our less than picturesque, pungent smells of garbage in the streets Eee Vee, we still caught a few glimpses of what looked like our 'hood. It's like seeing your kid in the Christmas pageant dressed as the last goat on the left, you can't help but swell with pride. However, when one gets past the whole "look there's our kid!" knee-jerk response, is Alfie actually worth recommending? We're not entirely sure.

Certainly, Jude Law is winning as the cad about town limo driver, Alfie Elkin, despite the number of times CC had to put our head in our hands over the self-absorbed, deluded, and at times close-minded things spewing from his confessional mouth. In the first five minutes alone, he tells the audience he's calls his penis "Big Ben" and it goes down hill from there. Alfie wants to be Dick Lit via the Sex and the City model, with metrosexual consumption alternating with Penthouse letters scenarios. Except that no matter how self flagellating Alfie's pity party becomes as the film winds down, he never finds salvation. This makes for a supremely unsatisfying, though perhaps "realistic" downbeat ending. We mean, lordy, even Carrie got her Mr. Big in the end, but Alfie gets bupkiss. CC doesn't feel sorry for him exactly, but it still seems unfair by Hollywood standards.

As for the other elements in the film, Nia Long is smoking, as is Susan Sarandon, and for those into the decidedly small niche market of aging Italian American starlets, rest assured that Marisa Tomei looks great too. Her final outfit inspired CC to go heavy on the upper lid mascara and to look around for a kicky, tomato red mod coat with over sized buttons. Though as far as Sienna Miller goes, the current object of Mr. Law's real life affections, we don't get the attraction. Sure, she looks like a sex kitten with those smokey eyes and those swishy long bangs, but there doesn't seem to be much there there. Maybe she read Proust in her trailer between takes, CC couldn't tell you for sure, but she seems dopey on screen. We predict flash in the pan for Ms. Miller, though her more talented paramour should continue his rise to further fame.

The soundtrack's is pretty good too. Make like the Cinecultist and download via iTunes the film's title track, "Alfie" by Joss Stone, which we added to our growing list of kooky covers.

Posted by karen at 8:40 AM |

November 5, 2004

Looks Just Incredible


How much are we looking forward to seeing the Incredibles, the new Pixar/Disney movie out this weekend? Quite a bit, actually. As an animation studio, Pixar's releases seem to be the best hitting theaters in the last few years. They're clever and fun and heartwarming and lovely to look at. Incredibles also has, besides its cast of geek-alicious voices like Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Wallace Shawn, the writer/director Brad Bird who made the Iron Giant, a delightful and underappreciated animation feature with '40s style pulp comic drawings about a giant who falls to earth and befriends a young boy.

Apparently in their redesign, New York magazine lured Ken Tucker away from Entertainment Weekly where he was their lead tv critic to write about movies for their new Culture Pages. Sure, it's a little text heavy for our weary urban eyes, especially since CC also tries to read the New Yorker every week, but if they're going to have great reviews like his insightful and entertaining take on the Incredibles this week, we'll keep our subscription. We expect our New York mag to be salacious and filled with weird information about New York real estate, but also great film critics? Who would have thunk it.

Posted by karen at 8:43 AM |

November 3, 2004

Whichways, Thataways, Sideways

In the tumult that is the days surrounding a presidential election, it's a good thing we have movies, to you know, distract us from everyday life. And fall 'tis the season, as you well know, cinecultists. So far, one of our favorites has been Alexander Payne's newest, Sideways which we watched last weekend. Solid adult filmmaking with complex characters, quirky circumstances and a third act which defies Payne's previous difficulties with resolving his baroque set-ups, Sideways is the kind of movie going that makes Cinecultist happy to be fueling this biz. Movies like this one, which makes us grin like an idiot all the way home, muttering "damn, that's a good ending," is something we want to recommend whole heartedly.

College buddies on a bachelor party road trip through the Santa Barbara area wineries, Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) geek it up with soliloquies about pinot grapes but that doesn't prevent them from hooking up with wine pouring locals Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Like in their previous film Election, Payne and co-screenwriter Jim Taylor revel in the awkward moment born from inherent character traits, the ordinariness of our inabilities to be smooth much of the time. In a Woody Allen-esque take on romantic comedy, Payne finds the most drama in those moments when people can't connect. When the romance is palpable and we're practically jumping from our chairs yelling "kiss her you fool" but he can't. Hilarious and heart-breaking, no?

All four leads give quiet but stand out performances. Seattle Maggie got Cinecultist hooked on the bad ass mojo spun by Sandra Oh a few years ago, and if she were posting here, she'd urge you to run out and rent Double Happiness (1995) and Last Night, two of her other previous excellent roles. Oh is also married to Payne, so let's assume that means he will continue to write her excellent roles and we'll do a little happy dance in celebration.

Again as in About Schmidt the cast of extras or bit characters feel like authentic Americana, you expect them to be carrying around shopping bags film with stuff from Wal-Mart or ordering Franklin Mint commemorative coins off camera. Also a Payne trademark in evidence here, the perfect production design. Close-up of real live barbecue in a cheesy steak house — it's comic gold. The filthy red Saab the guys road trip in couldn't be more perfect either and that's just two minor but memorable details in a finely crafted production.

In the days ahead, we're going to need things to cheer us up and lots of good fall movies is one way Cinecultist fills the void. Might we also suggest doing like Giamatti in the Talk of the Town piece on him in this week's New Yorker and spending lots of time at Junior's in Brooklyn eating cheesecake? Nothing assuages election grief like fat, carbs, sugar and le cinema.

Posted by karen at 10:41 PM |

November 2, 2004

Don't Forget To Vote


Happy Election Day Cinecultists! Don't forget to leave the movie theaters long enough to stand on line at your local polling stations and cast your vote. Who knows what bud of a presidential cinematic archetype as imagined by our collective unconscious is waiting to sprout? Guess we'll just have to wait with baited breath to see what comes, in the real and imaginary White House.

Is it still too late to nominate Jon Stewart? We'll be watching his live election day coverage tonight starting at 10 pm.

Posted by karen at 8:00 AM |

November 1, 2004

Breillat v. Breillat: Smackdown!

catherinebreillat_02.jpgOne of Cinecultist's favorite games ever is "make our friends squirm with plot descriptions from edgy European art films." Have you ever played? It's a blast. The rules are thus — 1) be the first on your block to see X controversial and sexually explicit subtitled feature film, 2) have friendly but detail-laden movie conversation with friends is crowded public place and/or work (watch out for that sexual harrassment thing, though!) and then 3) watch your acquaintences squirm away. What fun.

Anything with our girl Isabelle "Hoopie" Huppert in it is good for this game, as was that novel from a year ago, The Sexual Life of Catherine M. But the best for causing the impressionable and weak stomached mens to scurry is the directorial work of French filmmaker, Catherine Breillat. Rife with complex sexual dynamics, unabashed full frontal nudity from both genders and graphic humilations galore, Breillat's work is about exploring the female sexual subjectivity. If it's unpleasant and disturbing and difficult to watch in the realm of sexual relations, chances are Breillat has included it in one of her films.

CC had been wanting to see her film Sex Is Comedy from 2002 for a while, and even discussed reviewing it for Reverse Shot about a year ago, but the US distribution was so up in the air, we put it off. Then, it began a run here in New York at the Film Forum around the same time as her more recent feature, the Anatomy of Hell was released. CC intended to go see it straight away with Josh but as his job has swallowed him whole, it's been difficult to schedule an agreeable time.

This seemed to be okay though, because Aaron Out of Focus told us he thought it was one of the worst movies of the year. But then, we read J. Hoberman's review of Anatomy of Hell and his review of Sex is Comedy, both quite positive and though-provoking. Now, sadly it's a bit too late. We saw Sex Is Comedy before we posted our recommendation to catch it at Film Forum on Gothamist before it leaves on Tuesday. But Anatomy of Hell is now gone-zo from New York. Would CC have liked it as well as we loved Comedy? Or could it have been the intriguing set up of the same director making one of our top 10 favorites and least favorites of the year in the same year?

Our review from the archives of Breillat's Perfect Love which involves broom handles going where broom handles shouldn't.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM |