We really should've seen this coming. As reported by our anonymous tipster last week, we knew Christian Slater likes to frequent the Upper East Side watering holes. But apparently, he's also into the ol' "grab and dash." But dearie, that don't fly in Yorktown. No, sir.
The only thing lingering in the Cinecultist's mind: in the era of limelight relationships and well-timed gadget thefts, we really hope this isn't a pathetic promo tool for Mindhunters.
(from left) from Gohatto; beauty shot of some kind; from Ichii the Killer
Really, you might think this weblog has become an Asian cinema site but it's not true. Cinecultist watches other national cinemas, why today we even watched the New York foodie documentary Eat This New York on the Sundance Channel instead of doing the huge pile of laundry we needed to attend to. (PS. Remind us never to decide to open a cafe in Williamsburg, it looks like a lot of hard, hard work.) But when it comes to films on our list of to sees, the bulk are from parts of Asia. Take for instance Taste of Tea and Cafe Lumiere, two movies we've been thinking/reading about lately and both of which star the Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu. So fascinating, so brilliant -- we're hard pressed to think of an English-speaking actor working so prolifically and also so thoughtfully.
With an Asano movie, you put it in the DVD player and you wonder, "Who will he be this time? What will he do?" You have no idea and there's something so exhilarating about that. He could be an obsessive gay samurai, or a charismatic, womanizing yakuza or a masochistic underworld kingpin. But even more than changing costume or hair color or character detail, Asano has the ability to transform on screen and yet remain completely compelling. To watch Ichii the Killer (as we did a few weeks ago) and then Last Life in the Universe (which CC saw this afternoon), you'd barely know they're the same leading actor. And the guy makes 4 or 5 films a year to boot. It seriously boggles the film-going mind.
Plus, he has this adorable and weird pop star wife, Chara who is really the cutest thing ever, despite not understanding any of the content on her website. They met on the set of Shunji Iwai's movie Picnic and... All right. Enough. You get it. We're a bit obsessed. The problem is that this world of Asian cinema is so beautiful and varied, once you learn a little bit you can't help but want to know more. And also, they're constantly making more so really there's no end to our potential consumption. It's a problem that isn't really much of a problem.
Subway Cinema will be screening Taste of Tea, directed by Katsuhito Ishii, the director Asano made Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl with, exhibition date tbd. Lumiere was at last year's NYFF but doesn't seem to have US distribution yet. Drat. An interview from a few years ago with Midnight Eye editor Tom Mes. And of course, you should buy a copy of this month's Interview magazine devoted to culture in Tokyo. There's an interview with Asano inside and we worked our ass off on it, so that's certainly worth the $3.95.
The saddest part about this story, wherein director Oliver Stone was arrested for DUI, again? That they nabbed the Stone-ster in a routine Memorial Day traffic stop. At least Mickey and Mallory Knox would've gone down in a blaze of glory. Or Jim Morrison would've gotten into a tussle with the fuzz. And even Ron Kovic might've at least picketed or something. Oh, how the
mighty fucked up have fallen.
In not entirely unrelated news: the director's cut of Alexander will actual feature less of a homosexual subtext. Boo! Hiss! (Here's where CC throws virtual tomatoes and lettuce heads in Stone and co's general direction.)
Here it is, the half-day Friday before a long holiday weekend and Cinecultist can feel ourselves stretching our wings like a long dormant moth. One of those pretty moths, not the ugly, super furry ones but a moth nonetheless, because while we appreciate our freedom, what we really want is to be back in the dark (at the cinema, of course). Sure enough, post our 1 pm Day Job let out today CC slipped on the flip flops, donned the sunglasses, popped into Jamba Juice for a 16 oz smoothie and then thought about what movie we were going to see this afternoon.
Now, last weekend CC (like most other suckers born or living during the late '70s) had gone to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith but we couldn't really bring ourselves to post something about it before now. In fact, we even had difficulty talking about it amongst our friends who wanted to know what we thought of George's supposed final chapter. Generally, we liked it but we didn't love it and we really couldn't figure out why. Sure, it's better than the other two prequels but is that really a reason to recommend a movie? It could suck at the level of one of those fancy schmancy Dyson vacuum cleaners but instead it just sucks like my Mom's 25 year old upright Maytag? Is this a real review?
Then today, CC went to see The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and suddenly our opinion on SW: part trois was made clear. Hitchhiker's is a sci-fi movie that knows how to have fun. Star Wars used to be fun. Remember when it was just a screwball comedy with cinnamon bun hairdos and over-grown laser pointers? It didn't take itself so seriously, and it certainly didn't expect its audience to think it was the most profound thing since Goethe. But somewhere along the way, perhaps after the zillionth interview with Joseph Campbell about the leitmotifs, Lucas lost his sense of humor. The only laughing in our theater happened when Nathalie asked Hayden hold her like by the lake on Naboo. This most recent installment has plenty of explosions and an army of Wookies which would ordinarily give CC much pleasure, but there's no sense of fun in the proceedings. George, where did the "yahoo!" go?
Hitchhiker's by contrast is silly and real and fanciful and wry and has tiny talking mice seeking world domination. Unlike our Seattle Maggie, who's a long time fan of the book and saw it before its release, CC didn't really know anything going into the movie but sitting there in the theater, we couldn't have been more contented. The film's also filled with charming performances, particularly from four of the most likable yet grossly underrated actors working today (ie. Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def and Sam Rockwell), though we also loved Alan Rickman's voice of the depressed robot, Marvin (pictured). Here's a movie that exists in a "real" place, one that despite its gadgets and intergalactic space travel, seems rooted in humanity. Cinecultist is all for geeking out, but the way that Lucas has come to express it, there's no room for something plausible. It's too refracted.
Perhaps the most telling moment for us was when the film cut away to Ewan McGregor walking down a hallway and we thought "crap! That's a real hallway set that they're walking inside! Weird." If your movie world is so removed that even an actual hallway looks out of place, there's something seriously wrong with your cinematic technique.
At one point last weekend, as we watched a madman merrily whacking off a concert pianist’s fingers with a hatchet, each blow punctuated by a jangle of piano keys, Seattle Maggie wondered exactly how we got into these types of films. There was a more innocent time when we have gone for a bit of Freddy Prinze Jr. fluff or maybe even some Disney ballads. It is probably our own fault for booking a double header of the latest and greatest Asian horror goodies that SIFF has to offer; after we purchased our tickets, we plaintively asked ourselves, "How the heck did we become such sickos?"
Starting on Saturday night, we caught Three...Extremes, a collection of short horror films: Dumplings by Fruit Chan, Cut by Park Chan-wook, and Box by Takashi Miike. Of the three, Dumplings proved to be the best offering. A middle-aged TV actress turns to extreme measures to regain her youth - all we can say is, you won’t be having a hankering for dim sum anytime soon. With the sinuously sexy Bai Ling as dumpling dealer Mei, Dumplings will shock you even if you’ve already guessed the horrible secret ingredient. Master cinematographer Christopher Doyle once again flexes his keen eye to capture the thin line between the grotesque and the painfully gorgeous: the quivering translucent gleam of the dumpling skins, the careless porcelain smudge of flour across the delicate base of a woman’s throat, the restrained rage of a boiling pot of water, the tiny trickle of blood that whispers of the final descent into madness. Kudos to the sound engineers for capturing the perfect squishy crunch of the hideous dumplings, an indescribably awful sound that is enough to make your skin want to crawl away and hide under the covers.
In Cut, Park Chan-wook once again exercises his familiar brand of poetic brutality. A famous director is kidnapped by a disgruntled extra and forced to make an agonizing choice: murder an innocent child or watch as his wife’s fingers are cut off, one by one. While the tension does run high in a “What Would Jesus Do?” sort of way, it seemed a little too staged and unlikely for our tastes (don’t they have security guards in that studio? And where did he find the time to string up all that elaborate piano wire?) Also, the plot is slammed with a random twist at the end that left us feeling more annoyed than anything else. However, Cut successfully manages to weave in some very black humor with its gore, and we giggled even though we felt kind of dirty about it.
As a horse of a different color, Takashi Miike’s Box is a slow meditation on a more personal horror. A withdrawn writer suffers from suffocating guilt over the unwitting part she played in her sister’s death as a child, when they were both acrobats in a rustic circus. A mysterious invitation calls her back to face her past, and her nightmares, once and for all. After making it through Miike’s shocker Audition, we were surprised by the quiet beauty of this film. Many of the scenes were shot in the silent snow, leading to an effective use of sound; noises felt more startling and insistent after the muffled serenity of the swirling white flakes and frozen meadows. Unfortunately, even though we could appreciate the beauty of Box, we found ourselves puzzled by the increasingly inscrutable plot, perplexing characters, and bizarre conclusion. In the end, it seemed safest to declare, “It was all a dream!” and not ask too many questions.
The next evening, Seattle Maggie came across two of the perilous pitfalls of film festival screenings: a 45-minute delay and being trapped in line behind an especially flatulent film enthusiast. We should have known what to expect when the tall fellow in front of us announced to his buddies, "Man, I've been burping up chili all day!" Unfortunately for us, that was not the only escape route that the chili was employing. The minutes ticked on, interminable and stinky; it seemed a screening of Joan Allen's new movie Yes was running over schedule. Suddenly, a chauffeured car pulled up out of nowhere and hovered expectantly in the street. Imagine our surprise when the side door of the Egyptian opened and Ms. Allen herself magically appeared, radiant and impossibly tiny, clutching a mournful little dog. She swept into the waiting car and was driven away before we knew what hit us. We silently cursed our missed opportunity to act like celebrity-crazed fans, perhaps bursting into hysterical tears or rubbing our bodies against the tinted car windows, screaming, "Joan! We love you! But why did you hold up our movie?!"
Once inside, seated far, far away from our chili-loving friend, we were treated to The Ten Steps, a surprisingly effective little horror short from Ireland. We still get a delicious shiver up our spine thinking about the truly eerie climax, as a young girl counts the ten long steps into the darkened cellar. Simple, but still a damn good scare.
This was followed by the feature Marebito, a film that Seattle Maggie shamelessly admits being seduced into seeing by the word "Lovecraftian" in the festival summary. While we are sadly aware that most movies labeled Lovecraftian usually just throw in some tentacles, a passing Necronomicon reference, and call it a day, Marebito does not fail our Cthulhuian sense of a good time. Directed by Takashi Shimizu of The Grudge cycle, the film uses digital video has a diary device, much as Lovecraft’s protagonists would use a journal or a series of letters. Masuoka is a cameraman obsessed with recording every aspect of life. One day, after recording a horrific suicide in a subway station, he decides to investigate the ultimate terror he captures in the dying man’s face. This leads him on a fantastical underground journey to the Mountains of Madness (‘nuff said) deep below the Tokyo city streets, where he discovers a strange young girl shackled to a cave wall. He takes her back to the surface, and things start to get really peculiar as he becomes consumed by his quest for the ultimate terror. The creeping, oppressive, obsessive, elusive horror is classic Lovecraft, and we found this film to be a refreshing change from the usual Scary-Hair-Girl Japanese fright fest. Instead of being helplessly chased around by mysterious evil forces, Masuoka walks into it with both eyes open and camera at the ready. He becomes a victim to terror by choice and eventually becomes comes to embrace it, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. While the somewhat slow pacing, jittery camera, and occasional hokey voiceover may not be for everyone, we applaud Marebito for truly embracing the Lovecraftian spirit. Although some of our questions remain unanswered, the terror remains very real – we’re pretty sure old Howard Phillips would have approved.
Meet us back here again next week for more updates from SIFF!
Via instant messenger on Monday evening, 10:29 PM.
Upper East Side Cinecultist Tipster: Hey Chica! I hope you had a nice birthday evening Saturday!
CC: Thanks I did. How was your thing?
C.T. : I'm sorry I couldn't make it. [u.e.s.c.t boyfriend]'s thing was an all nighter! It was fun. Too funny actually. We were at a bar way the hell up town at 95th and 3rd ave -- and so was Christian Slater.
C.T.: He was there for two hours. He's kinda short and when he left, he left his Parliament Lights Pack with 4 cigarettes in it, so 3 girlfriends and I smoked them, then I stomped on the box to flatten it and put it in my scrap book. What can I say? I was a little drunky.
CC: Did you tell him, "I loved you in Pump Up The Volume?"
C.T.: No, I didn't even talk to him. Not Heathers?
CC: That's what I would've said. He was such a 13 year old crush of mine.
C.T.: For all of us, I'd say!
CC: He's not as hot in Heathers. Creepier. Can I post about this? What was the bar?
C.T.: Yeah, totally ... It's called Merrion Square, an Irish style pub on the NE corner of 95th and Third. Here ... I'll give you a couple more deets: So Christian was talking with a friend ... quite a nobody ... kinda pudgy middle-aged guy. They went outside to smoke, I don't actually remember if he was drinking beer or not ... but he does do that funny thing from Pump Up The Volume where he runs his hand through his hair.
CC: That's awesome!!!!!
C.T.: Apparently, it's a personal habit and not an actual character thing.
CC: Even better!!!! Is he seriously loosing his hair?
C.T.: Didn't notice that ... I mean, he's always been receding a teensy bit on either side ... but not in the front middle. Nothing alarming ... No large shiny spots.
CC: Does he sound like he's doing a Jack Nicholson impression in real life? Did you listen to his voice?
C.T.: I heard him speak ... he kinda does .. Mostly it just sounds the way he talks in his movies. Maybe he's not that great of an actor? Maybe he just acts like himself? I think so.
CC: I would've paid one of my drunk friends a bunch of money to have walked past him and said "Gleaming The Cube, dude. Right on."
C.T.: What does that mean?
CC: Don't you remember that movie!?! It was his big break. He plays a rebel skateboarder. He gleams the cube. Which I guess is a skateboarding term.
C.T.: No, I don't remember that.
CC: I'm looking at his IMDB profile right now. Remember Bed of Roses? Gawd, that was a terrible one.
C.T.: With Mary Stuart Masterson. That's right. Alright, well, I'm at work, so I'll chat with you later.
Annoymous Upper East Side Cinecultist Tipster has gone offline.
Champagne, roast chicken, homemake chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries and lots of friends, both film geeks and not -- could a Cinecultist ask more from a birthday? (That question is rhetorical but the answer of course is "no!")
Thanks to everyone who came out to help us celebrate and made sure we had a fresh vodka tonic in hand throughout the evening. More digital pictures after the jump.
Adriane, awesome cook and last-minute organizer, prepares the cake.
A blurry John and CC pose with the cake.
Josh and Ilana, two people who know a good steak frites when they see it.
Fiona, James and Jen, the original rockstars.
Alex and Kate, an Anglo and his phile.
Darren, Kristi and Ilana, back from travels in the country made famous by Peter Jackson's hobbits.
Kristi, CC and Ilana (part of the dinner club, reunited).
Aaron, who is that random guy? oh right, it's Sean, CC and Matty.
Sean and Matty, perhaps discussing grass roots film exhibition. Or maybe not.
Self-portrait before the evening began. We don't look any older do you think? Didn't think so.
No, we haven't developed a charming girlish lisp. Whilst moviegoers all around the country, swigging Darth Dew out of their Yoda-head Slurpee mugs**, will be queuing up this weekend with their handcrafted Wookiee suits and telescoping plastic light sabers to either bury or praise George Lucas's missing link, Seattle Maggie is happy to report that the Seattle International Film Festival has officially opened. We're looking forward to 25 days, 347 films of all sizes, and 2 toilet stalls in the Ladies Room at the Harvard Exit (although we hear they've recently added a few more). From our own experiences of the past few years, SIFF has always had a great mix of films: international, domestic, documentary, shorts, mainstream, and living-above-the garage independent. The Opening Gala on Thursday night featured a screening of the aforementioned Me and You and Everyone We Know with director Miranda July in attendance, as well as whatever film celebrities happened to be lurking around downtown. Seattle Maggie fondly remembers lingering over pricey cocktails with our own dear CC at the W Hotel a few years ago, and catching a glimpse of the ever-suave Hector Elizondo, as well as the back of what we were told was Raquel Welch's head. We still get a thrill just thinking about it.
While the long lines in drizzly, pee-stinky alleys and the occasional dull or incomprehensible movie are both inevitable and regrettable, we still always find our spirits to be lifted by the coming of SIFF. There's something about all of these films being given a chance to be seen that makes the world seem like a brighter, more interesting place, and we always come away having seen at least one or two really great movies that we never would known existed.
By the way, Seattle natives, a great way to see movies for free at SIFF is to volunteer. The last email newsletter we got implied they were still looking for ushers. Alas, our cramped schedule does not allow us to lend our time in the coming weeks. To be totally honest, we also must admit that our pride is still stinging somewhat from the fact that we were apparently not cool enough to make the cut for their Volunteer Proofreading Party. Yeah, whatever - Seattle Maggie is going to throw our OWN Proofreading Party. And, we're going to be Prom Queen. Yeah.
Keep it tuned here for more updates from SIFF, Cinecultists!
**By the way, we aren't knocking the Darth Dew - we've tried it, and it tastes sugary and cold, the way a good Slurpee should. It's the Yoda heads that we find so unnerving. Chilled monkey brains from Temple of Doom, anyone? Ew.
Thursday style remainders:
Miranda July is an amazing person and an equally intriguing artist. CC's psyched for her Sundance and now Cannes fave Me and You and Everyone We Know to hit the theaters. (BTW, it's June 17 in NYC.) She also has a blog which includes some fascinating pictures from her trip to France, particularly the one of her blistered foot and her subsequent trip for more comfortable walking shoes. TMI blogging from famous people is so the best thing ever.
Our filmmaker buddy Fritz Donnelly and some of his compatriots are throwing a Final Night and Farewell party for their FilmCartel Short Movies at the Glass House in Williamsburg (38 South 1st St. near Kent Ave) from 7 - 9 pm tonight. There will be films by Fritz, Ben Coonley and Natalie Neptune as well as music, and even the opportunity to perhaps screen your own film as a last minute entry. Check it out, as anything Fritz and camera related is always thought-provoking.
Filmmaker Tommy Davis kindly sent us a screener of his documentary Mojados: Through the Night which is playing at the Two Boots Theater in the East Village through Tuesday of next week. The trailer and the fact that he spent 120 hours with these Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border sounds intriguing to us. Our schedule hasn't allowed for a screening yet, but that shouldn't stop you from attending.
Un-movie related remainder: This Newsweek thing is wigging Cinecultist out. Once again we're blaming the conduit and not the actual problem. It's enough to make a paranoid liberal concerned for the continuing well fair of free speech. More fodder for the fire in this New York Times editorial, which appropos of nothing uses the awesome word "cloud-cuckoo-land" properly in a sentence.
U-m. R. R. part two: A hamburger blog, aka A Hamburger Today. You didn't know you need it, but you do. We're two days behind on the linking buzz but click through anyway. [This is not a shameless ploy to get their Senior Editor to invite us along for his next Kobe slider tasting. No sir.]
U-m. R. R. part three: CC went to the Radar launch party last night and had a few free drinks on Mort Zuckerman, though not at the location of this fracas but at the second tier Marquee spot. Sadly, this venue didn't have any visible free issues. Maybe if we ask nicely via linkage, someone will send us one. One can always hope.
Cinecultist isn't sure exactly what the revenge of those crazy Sith is yet, but it could very well be the complete and total domination of all movie theater screens in our galaxy. After reading this article in the New York Times today with the quotes from studio execs and Fandango.com employees being described as "giddy" about the box office potential tonight at midnight, CC headed over to Fandango to see the lay of the land.
At midnight and one minute tonight nine screens at the Union Square theater will be unspooling George Lucas's newest and then at 3:10 am, 3:20 am and 3:30 am, five more theaters will be available for screenings. That's nutso. That's Darth Vader fever. That's scarier than Jabba the Hut at a Vegas buffet. Of course all of this buzzy movie-going makes CC feel we should be there to be there. Staying awake at work be damned! We need to pull our plastic light saber out of storage and congregate with our fellow geeks! After all, we did the camp out for nearly all of the rereleased ones when CC was in college and we do so love going to movies where people are dressed up in the audience. It's so festive.
Sitting in the Cinema Village East on Monday evening eating birthday desert number two (banana pudding) with two friends up for some last minute birthday hanging (Matty and Jori), Cinecultist got to thinking about children's movies. Those live action family friendly tales, some featuring Don Knotts, that occupied our not-so-state-of-the-art VCR while growing up. The trigger to this nostaligic musing? A pretty sweet trailer for the movie version of a tv show we lurved as a kid, Dukes of Hazzard (is it just us or is the casting of Sean William Scott and Johnny Knoxville kinda inspired?), and then the travesty that was the Will Ferrell version of Bad News Bears with soccer, Kicking and Screaming.
Really, we can't stress how god-awful this film was. It's the sort of movie going experience that causes CC to loose faith in the whole thing. Shoddy editing (Hello? 180 degree rule? Continuity? Heard of them?), a soundtrack straight out of 2001, a inexplicable sub-plot about coffee addiction and a script that makes the brilliant Will look like a piece of dead wood on screen; this thing as a trainwreck. The saddest part is that it felt like a terrible kids feature that would be foisted on an unsuspecting babysitting Cinecultist. You think you're sitting the children down for 90 minutes of harmless, perhaps fun distraction but instead you just want to claw your eyes out from the pain.
At this point it would be oh so easy to lapse into some nearing-30-god-my-childhood-entertainment-was-so-choice ruminating but we'll spare you. You've see the Brady Bunch movie and the Starsky and Hutch movie and the trailer for Herbie Fully Loaded, you know what this looks like. Instead we'll just sign off with a worry for the future cultural well-being of the little children. Don't do this to the kids, Will Ferrell and producers et al! Think of them and their fragile little personalities forever warped by Kicking and Screaming being in the world! It's worthy of a telethon or something.
Today the Cinecultist, aka the writer otherwise known as Karen, turns 28. And this blog just completed it's second year of existence. And our tenure in New York is nearing the four year mark, so it's a time for celebrating and neurotic reevaluations.
According to our friend Jen, 28 in Chinese is a lucky number because it sounds similar to a phrase about becoming wealthy. So we figure, this is the year where we really cash in on this film critic stuff.
By the way, not tonight because CC is a slave to the man, but on Saturday there will be drinking in the Lower East Side. In the meantime, please show us some birthday sugar in the comments. Because as we said, being this much closer to three-oh is praying on our nerves and we need as much reassurance as we can get.
Oh wait. Did you think that headline meant that the Cinecultist was blogging to you from the South of France? Ah dear readers, if only. If only. Can you imagine? 12 days of red wine, sandy beaches and movies as far as the eye can see. Sounds heavenly, n'est pas?
No, we're referring to the New York Times' current feature on their site of Dargis and Scott movie blogging live from le Croisette which is peppered with "delightful commentary" about how Scott missed a screening and Dargis can't get any good WiFi in France. How very droll. [BTW, indieWire, the original from the trenches movie blogging site, has a excellent-as-always Cannes blog worth checking.]
From our reading on Variety and other review sites, Cinecultist's interest is peaked this year thus far about Last Days (the Kurt Cobain "inspired" biopic directed by Gus Van Sant and starring our fav greasy NYU alum Michael Pitt), and Match Point (a new Woody Allen everyone's raving about, set in England surprisingly and starring Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan "yummy" Rhys Meyers and Matthew "also yummy" Goode). Also, on behalf of our former contributor Josh Cultivated Stupidity, we'll say that we're always ready to see a new Atom Egoyan. That Canadian-Armenian delivers the intriguing stuff.
What we'd like to know is, what do the French make of Diary of a Mad Black Woman? CC's an American, though granted not of African descent, and we could barely make heads or tails of it.
If you're a frequent Gawker reader or just a magazine newsstand stalker like the Cinecultist, you will be aware of the relaunch of Maer Roshan's Radar magazine, the intellectual's US Weekly. The third issue, or maybe it's being called Volume 2, Issue 1, anyhow it's not out for another couple of weeks but you can check out the brand-spanking new website. We've been hearing about the building of this web space for quite a few months, so we're pretty excited to have a one stop shop for gossip, politics, culture written smartly.
Plus, if you sign up for the e-mail newsletter, you get an e-mail thank you from our pal and the site's editor, Remy Stern who you may remember from the seemingly now-defunct newyorkish.com. Remy's smart peoples (he's a Cinecultist fan, after all) so we have high hopes for this venture.
Cinecultist is just a captive audience for certain new releases. Romantic comedies, no matter how abysmal looking. Crap starring Jennifer Lopez. Sci-fi and historical epics. We're like a disappointed lover listening for the key in the door; we wait for that particular magical experience to be repeated though, lord knows we expect it not to really be the same.
In all of the pre-release speculation on Ridley Scott's newest, Kingdom of Heaven a bunch of box office stinkers of various degree were trotted out as examples of the filmmaker's folly: Troy, Alexander, King Arthur. Everytime we read about these, CC'd look around, shifty-eyed and guilty-like. We saw all three of those in the theater the weekend they came out. CGI some castles or forts, throws some fiberglass shields on that mass of extras you've got in the deserts of Lodi, Cinecultist is totally there in the plush seat.
Frankly, we're still working out what compels us so. It might have something to do with Queen Margot. For some reason, it might also have something to do with David Lynch's Dune. Anyhoo! That's the long way of saying we watched Orlando Bloom make a mad dash for leading man status this weekend. He's a fast runner that Bloom and he can haul the broad sword above his head in a realistic fashion, but we're not sure if he's got the stuff that made Russell Crowe an action star AND a serious actor all in one fell swoop. Especially when he's sharing the screen with such fascinating beasts as Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons or even just the voice of Edward Norton (who plays the disfigured King pictured above).
So between Ed in the silver mask, some nicely choreographed battles, a sprinkling of camels (we rode one once! they spit and make funny noises!) and Eva Green with her bewitching kohl eyes, it took the full 2 hour plus running time in addition to the time it took to hit the street before we realized we couldn't really follow the plot. Crusaders, filial duty, Christian guilt, respect for the exoticized Muslims -- we don't know. There was a story in there somewhere but it was difficult to follow despite its event laden timeline. Now, it's but a smush of sensory overload in our brain, not nearly the thought-provoking engagement with Middle East relations promised by the pre-release think pieces.
Somehow, it seems more honest to market a Troy or King Arthur as randy historical reinterpretation or Mike Bay rambunctious po-mo fun rather than this political discourse with boiling oil scenes junk. As a critic, we guess we like to draw meaning from the meaningless instead of the schlockmeisters promising that there will be something intriguing inside of the summer action blockbuster. That may seem ass-backwards but we don't want the work done too much for us.
Joan Crawford loves you, even if you're a money grubbing, horrible little wench who's secretly seducing her no-goodnick second husband. Now that's what Mother's Day should really be celebrating.
Spending Saturday afternoon in the dark with the loons at MoMA watching the classic women's weepy, Mildred Pierce is sure to skew your perspective on Mom's Day. Coincidentally CC's maternal grandmother was named Mildred, but we'd never ever have thrown it in her face that she made pies to buy the new convertable in the drive. *Sniff* Stupid Joan makes us tear up every time. Don't forget to call your Mommy to say you love her.
And Cinecultist thought that seeing Tom and Katie canoodling [was there ever better call for this word?] in Roma would be the #1 thing to turn our stomach this week. Thanks Colin Farrell, you big skank. Leave it to your prolifigate, greasy Irish ways to show us where new bottoms are. Cheers!
[Dame Eileen] Atkins revealed the Irish lothario spent nearly three hours begging her to sleep with him, but despite his stunning looks, she turned him down because he is 42 years her junior. She explains, "Three weeks before my 70th birthday, a simply stunning, gorgeous big film star came into my hotel room for sex without strings. I spent two and a half hours saying no, but it cheered me up fantastically."
Previously: Cinecultist on C.F.'s need to grope entertainment journalists. (It's sort of a given that we kinda secretly hope someday we should be so lucky, right?)
Cinecultist thought they had rules about re-using the same title for more than one film? Maybe there's a James Spader loop hole we're just not aware of... [Oddly, if you google "crash movie" the 1997 David Cronenberg flick which where people fulfill their sexual desire via car crashes is the number one hit.]
When we saw Crash last week (ie. the picture on the right) courtesy of James and Jen*, Don Cheadle, Larenz Tate, director Paul Haggis and the Reverand Al Sharpton were in attendance (and participated in a post-screening Q&A). Al loves this movie. He's seen it four times. He's a fan.
At Q&As at the Film Society or various film festivals, audience members usually use this a time to make sure the panelists know they are thoughtful, insightful film viewers who can use phrases like "authorial intent" or "motif" in conversation. However, when the film screening is for a humanitarian organization like this one for Crash, questioners make comments about the film being more about power than race, don't you think Mr. Cheadle?
Gawd, people. It's so easy to just hate them sometimes, don't you find?
* Jen has watched quite a few films with the Cinecultist, but apparently she didn't realize we'll cover our eyes for melodrama as well as horror. We don't like anticipating random violence befalling even the most cliched stock character. We're sensitive that way.
Sometimes Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti seems to like making all other writers about movies just look bad. Here he did it again, with a simple Darth Vader song. Sigh. Damn him, it's too brilliant.
If you think Cinecultist plays the movie geek online, you should see us at the Day Job. We're positively "that's Cah-yay d-oo Cin-eh-ma, you neophytes!" annoying. But occasionally, the co-workers put in a specific recommendation request and following our recently wrapped Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto-themed issue one of our favorite but soon-to-be-departed c.w.s, Miss Chiaki Bates, asked for an Asian film tutorial. Here is our list for her, most of which are suitable for a quick click thru to your Netflix queue for simple adding.
Mainland China: Red Sorghum -- Sadly, Zhang Yimou's first feature and one of the film's that made the world sit up and say "hey, they make movies in China!" in the mid '80s is only available on VHS. However, having to drag your dusty tape player out of storage is no reason to by-pass this gorgeously shot historical drama. Anyone who caught Zhang's recent Hero or House of Flying Daggers knows the guy loves to use bold colors in his shot composition but Red Sorghum, a tale of a young peasant bride as recounted by her son, even has the signature hue spelled out conveniently in the title. If you're anything like CC, and Zhang for that matter, this movie will trigger a long love affair with the stunning Gong Li who was the It Girl of the 5th Generation. [Psst: Each group of Chinese filmmakers educated by their government is dubbed a generation and the '80s wunderkinds were called the Fifth.]
Korea: Chunhyang -- We're a sucker for a well-made historical drama and this retelling of a famous Korean folk tale by director Im Kwon-taek is completely gorgeous. A courtesan is wooed by a handsome, young scholar but will he stand by their secret relationship when the local magistrate wants to claim her? The film cuts back and forth between this world imagined by the filmmaker and a modern Korean audience listening to a traditional folk performer singing the old tale. Like we know the end to Cinderella, these listeners already are certain how the story ends yet the film's viewer can see the power of this man's voice still brings them to tears. If a story makes you weepy on the five millionth listen, imagine how it could blow you away the first time.
Taiwan: The Hole -- Jumping forward from the past to the uncertain future, Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang composed his idea of what 2000 might look like for a French television series commissioning films before the turn of the millennium. In this future dystopia it will not stop raining and people seem to be coming down with some sort of weird disease that makes them act like cockroaches. In a quasi-abandoned Taipei apartment building, an isolated man and woman are still trying to eek out a day to day routine, going to work, making noodles, trying to fix the leaks, that sort of thing. A handyman creates a literal hole between their apartments floor/ceiling but it also opens up a metaphorical connection between them. But where that plot description might make this film seem like it might be logical or causal, it's artistic and moody and delightfully confusing. Modern malaise tempered with musical interludes, imagined perhaps. Awesomely weird, this movie is.
Hong Kong: Days of Being Wild -- It has the perfect HK triumvirate of Cheung-Leung-Cheung (aka Leslie, Tony and Maggie) and it's directed by Wong Kar Wai, a filmmaker whose use of Christopher Doyle's stunning cinematography with Wong's trademark measured pacing makes movies for savoring. Sure, Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love, Happy Together and hopefully, 2046 are all essential viewing at some point too, but D.o.B.W. has a freshness and a wit that tempered by the pathos and all of that freakin' typhoon-level rain makes it a wonderful intro to this national cinema.
Japan: All About Lily Chou-Chou -- You might think we'd recommend to little Chiaki something from Japan perhaps starring her namesake that has some ass-kicking or manga-style. However, the lyrical loveliness of Shunji Iwai seems like it could be up her alley and if you haven't seen Chou-Chou, we urge you to watch it as well. Based on a fictional pop star the director invented, created a web community for and then recorded the postings of her rabid teenage fans, All About Lily Chou-Chou treads in the very stuff of Japanese modernity, juxtaposing shots of endless rice paddy in a Tokyo suburb with obsessive text messaging and an electro-pop soundtrack.
By the way, don't be mad that we left out films from India or Thailand or Singapore or any of the other amazing Asian national cinemas finally tickling our shores. These are just a few flicks to get started with, hopefully a sampling like this will encourage the more casual movie renter out of the well-worn new release aisle at the video store. Stop the Hollywood hegemony! Oops, sorry. There goes our virtual megaphone when we just wanted to offer a few friendly suggestions.
Cinecultist is quite pleased with ourselves -- we actually made it to a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival courtesy of our friend William. Granted, he had to call with free vouchers in hand Friday afternoon and tell us which screening we were going to attend (Friday night, 11:30 pm) but we made it to the Battery Park Regal Cinema none the less. Scheduling triumph! Standing in the springtime drizzle, CC surveyed the scene. Who knew there was an Applebee's, a giant DSW shoe store and this random bagel chain place deep in the Westside? Multiple lines divided by metal temporary fencing snaked around the cineplex segregating the viewers into ticket holders and ticket purchasers. Various staff people directed the flow of traffic, as queues of film fans were let into the theater for their show times. Movie theaters in Manhattan don't go out; they go up and up we went, escalator after escalator.
Tribeca is a pretty slick affair and the sheer number of films on their roster, from new releases like The Interpreter and 2046 (which we tried to get into the next night and at which the guy at the ticket booth nearly laughed right in our face) to more obscure docus and foreign fare, is pretty overwhelming. Everytime CC visited the website's handy schedule, we felt our eyes glazing over from the volume of possibility. So then ending up at Shutter, a Thai horror film about a photographer who sees ghosts in his snapshots, was a bit out of character for CC. However, there's something to be said for having no choice and/or letting someone else pick the movie for you, because you never know what might unspool on screen.
Like Ringu (or so we've seen from clips only -- we hear it's pretty scary), Shutter's ghost once we see her finally has lanky black hair and the tendency to crawl out of pools of water. The protagonist and his incredibly understanding girlfriend begin exploring the concept of "spirit pictures" after they have a I Know What You Did Last Summer-style car accident on the way home from a wedding. Is the girl they mowed down haunting his graduation snaps? Why would she do that? Why?
And in a slightly different vein, what's up with Asian cinema and revenge plots, particularly from rejected women? Are Asian women scorned actually just scarier, as the directors postulated in broken English during the post film Q&A? Like the girl sitting next to the screening's questioner who turned to ask her "are you?", we'd have like to give the elbow and glare to the directors for saying that but maybe there is this feeling, out there in the ether. Or perhaps it's just jerk-head filmmakers who dicked over their former flames who generally fear some otherworldly retribution. Cinecultist says to those romantic idiots with DV cameras, you're right karma still exists and if you've been an ass, you better start looking over your shoulder. Or under the bed and in that dark room of yours, as the case may be.
BTW: If you attended Tribeca and have some opinions about its organization please pass them along to our buddy Aaron, who has finally surfaced from those 14 plus hour days programming the sucker. Good job dude, we're proud of you! Hope we get the chance to remember what you look like sometime soon!